Today I have the pleasure of shining the spotlight on Jeff Richards and his soon to be released novel, Lady Killer, courtesy of Emily Keough at Mindbuck Media Book Publicity.
About the Book
Mitch Lovett, a recently divorced father of two, wasn’t looking for anything serious—but when he fooled around with an old friend, Dee Wynn, serious was what he got. Dee has decided that Mitch will be hers and nothing is going to stand in her way. But Gail, another member of their college group (and now their babysitting co-op), has had her eye on Mitch as well—nevermind the fact that she’s married to a jealous, abusive husband who just happens to have received a new gun for his birthday. When Mitch and Gail consummate their long-standing attraction—recklessly following their heart’s desires—they set into motion a series of events with ultimately tragic consequences for all involved.
Set in Takoma Park (a close-knit liberal community that borders Washington, D.C.) among a group of college friends now raising families together, Lady Killer explores spousal abuse and the ways that both long-standing friendships and marriages can unravel when put to the test. Ultimately, both Mitch and Gail will have to decide who they really are and what they really want—both for themselves and their children.
Lady Killer is due to be released on October 27th and Jeff will be having a release party on that date at DC’s Busboys & Poets bookstore.
Why do you imply in your novel that it “takes a village” to commit a murder?
Ultimately, the responsibility for a murder belongs with the murderer alone. But a murderer does not live in a vacuum. In Lady Killer, I try to show the inevitability of the murder through the actions of others. Mitch Lovett, a recently divorced dad of two, carries on two affairs at once with old college friends, Dee Wynn, a single hard driving executive who will not take no for an answer, and Gail Strickland, who has given up her career to raise a child with an abusive husband–who happened to have received a new gun for his birthday. The murderer was a high school jock who was sidelined by a college injury. He is like O.J. Simpson. He never lost his sense of entitlement. His respect in the community, in the baby sitting co-op where he, his wife, and Mitch are members, is at an all-time low. Mix in a few accidents here and there, some bad luck, and a woman who will not take no for answer, and you have a recipe for disaster.
What are you trying to suggest about responsibility in the book?
I am trying to suggest that we are not only responsible for our behavior, but the effect our behavior might have on others. When Mitch and Gail consummate their long-standing attraction – recklessly following their heart’s desires – they set into motion a series of events with tragic consequences. They know beforehand what those consequences might be. They might bruise the murderer’s ego. The murderer, in turn, will end the life of the victim and drastically alter the lives of friends and family, even the community where the victim lives. I guess what I am saying is that you have more power than you think so it’s a good idea that you think ahead before you do something. I guess I’m a pragmatist.
You are trying to deal with a lot of issues in this story such as gun control, abuse, and male anger. What is the purpose of bringing all these issues together and are there other themes that inform this novel?
In Lady Killer, the killer is a bully. He tries to get people to do what he wants them to do through intimidation. I suggest that he learned this behavior through his father. He is angry because, in the end, you can’t always get what you want, especially when you’re dealing with other people–in this case, his wife. This leads to spousal abuse, which leads to more male anger. It’s a vicious cycle. Perhaps, the killer needs to attend anger management classes as Mitch Lovett suggests. But the killer, being who he is, would refuse to attend. It would be a sign of weakness. Besides, the killer is a hunter. He has a collection of guns that he keeps under lock and key. He is a scary guy and everyone is afraid of him. So what do you do? You can take away his guns, you can force him into treatment, or both. Since he hasn’t done anything yet, there is not much you can do under the present system of laws to stop his murderous intents.
Why set the story in a babysitting co-op?
My wife and I belonged to a baby sitting co-op when our kids were toddlers. Many of the adult members were born and raised in Takoma Park as well as attended Blair High School and the University of Maryland. Some married spouses from the community. Some from outside. I thought what a perfect hothouse for shenanigans. There was actually a murder in our community involving one Blair graduate murdering another over sleeping with his wife. What I didn’t count on until I was well into the book was how perfectly the baby-sitting co-op fit into the overarching theme of personal responsibility. One of the important jobs of parents is to teach their child how to be civilized. One of the child-rearing theories floating around when my kids were preschoolers was the Theory of Consequences. You teach your kids the consequences for their actions. For instance, your kid doesn’t want to wear his shoes outside. So you let him go outside barefoot. He hurts himself. He learns the consequences of his action. He won’t go outside barefoot again. (Fat chance!) In these ways kids are mini-adults. They may have problems with concepts and for that reason they may persist in actions that have bad consequences. Adults, on the other hand, may understand concepts but they may persist in actions that have bad consequences as well out of pure cussedness, anger, or any other number of reasons. It’s like the blind leading the blind.
About the Author
Jeff Richards is a native Washingtonian who lives in Takoma Park, Maryland with his wife and two dogs. His second novel, Lady Killer, a murder mystery that deals with the war between the sexes in a babysitting co-op, will debut in October 2019. His first novel, Open Country was published in 2015. He is shopping around Where We Want, a collection of short stories, and presently working on Nothing Left to Lose, a memoir of the sixties. Richards loves the past because it does not go anywhere unlike the present which is as slippery as a greased pig. He is also an ancestor worshipper.
Richards’ fiction, essays, and cowboy poetry have appeared in over 30 publications and four anthologies. He was the fiction editor and board member of the washington review, a college teacher for many years principally at George Washington University and has also taught at the high school and elementary level. He has worked as a dishwasher, door-to-door salesmen, farm worker, wilderness counselor, newspaper carrier, radio reporter, and busboy. He has hitchhiked across the country five times, but that was a while back. He is a graduate of the Hollins Writing Program and the parent of two children who live in Colorado.