"Tim Wohlforth puts intrigue into print with NO TIME TO MOURN."
Having survived the radical Sixties, Tim Wohlforth is content to limit his intrigue these days to the printed page.
"I'm much more mild-mannered now than I once was," says the 2003 Pushcart Prize nominee.
Not so PI Jim Wolf who's appeared in dozens of Wohlforth's short stories and is now featured in the author's first novel, NO TIME TO MOURN, released in April by Quiet Storm Publishing.
In NO TIME TO MOURN, the first book in a three-part series, a widow hires Wolf to find her husband's killer. When she's murdered, Wolf has to find the hit man before the hit man finds him.
To 71-year-old Wohlforth, the story's success comes from making it personal - to a degree, of course.
"I believe the best source for writing ideas come from inside the writer," he says. "The writing becomes evocative if the writer himself is personally involved, if the writer feels pain, fear, longing, as he writes. This means the mystery writer in particular should go beyond the clever plot. The story must have content."
That content comes from his attention to detail. While he finds inspiration from incidents in his own life, he often has his protagonist going in the opposite direction.
"I was adopted and so was Jim Wolf," he explains. "This has given both of us a kind of outsiders way of looking at the world, but Jim is much more of a loner than me. In that sense, when I enter his head, I react as he reacts, not always as I would."
Wolf's emptiness and search for his past are elements that not only add another layer to the book's 'noirish' feel, but also help make him a more developed character, the author says.
"As long as you're developing that character, you're learning about that character," he says. "In trying to develop the person I created, he confronts the past so the past becomes the present."
Set in familiar surroundings, the book takes place in and around Wohlforth's semi-fictionalized hometown of Oakland, California.
The character of Wolf actually came to life five years ago in one of the mystery writing classes Wohlforth took at the University of California-Berkeley extension.
As a former editor who worked with more straightforward subjects from diesel engines, to the restaurant and tobacco industries, Wohlforth liked his fiction with a tinge of reality, too, a la Chandler or Lehane.
So when challenged in a class assignment to create a scene similar to the one from Walter Mosley's first book, THE DEVIL IN THE BLUE DRESS, it was right up his alley, so to speak. And in walked PI Jim Wolf.
"I saw him walking into this bar, and for whatever reason, he saw this woman in the seat," Wohlforth says. "I knew she was doomed. I didn't know why."
The book was written and rewritten. Between at least five rewrites, he admits, Wohlforth involved his PI character in many of the 45 short stories he's gone on to publish.
Not surprisingly, Wohlforth came to know his character, "quite well," he says. At least well enough to have completed book three and have book two almost finished.
His hope now is that others will get to know Wolf - and like him as much as he does. He describes him as a man who loves scotch malts, calls a moored sailboat home and likes the ladies.
"And, of course, he has far more adventures than I," Wohlforth admits.
So, some may ask, what's not to like?
"Lori gestured with her head toward a shape bent over a drink at the end of the bar. Hardly human. More like a bundle of black clothes someone had left on the barstool ...As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, the bundle morphed into the semblance of a woman. She was around fifty with high cheekbones and a touch of wrinkle around eyes with dense pupils. Her black suit exuded quality, Neiman-Marcus or Saks. Full red lips that matched bright dyed hair provided the only color. It was as if an artist had begun to colorize her just before she walked out of a frame in a 40's noir movie."
WORST WRITING MOMENT:
"I have a worst writing moment almost every time I write a short story or novel. This is because of the way I write. I start with a beginning scene. I have absolutely no idea where this scene will lead. There is a moment of fear that it will lead nowhere."
BEST WRITING ADVICE:
"... If the writing doesn't touch the emotions of the writer it will not touch the emotions of the reader. This is why I believe all good mystery writing is about something in addition to who done it."
NO TIME TO MOURN, Quiet Storm Books, ISBN: 0-9749608-2-9
ON THE EDGE: POLITICAL CULTS RIGHT AND LEFT.