Michael Allen Mallory’s Novels Feature Mystery’s First Zoologist Detective
Michael Allan Mallory has degrees in English Literature and Electronics and worked in the Information Technology field for decades until he retired. He is the co-author of two novels featuring mystery’s first zoologist sleuth, Lavender “Snake” Jones who first appeared in Death Roll in 2007. She returned in Killer Instinct, which was called “a tale that will enchant you and even keep you guessing” by the Mysterical-E book review site. Michael’s short fiction has appeared in numerous publications. He was an editor for the Minnesota Not So Nice: Eighteen Tales of Bad Behavior mystery anthology, which was a finalist for the 2021 Silver Falchion Award for Best Short Story Collection. He lives near Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife, who enjoys his crime fiction, and two cats that couldn’t care less.
Tell us a little bit about your book. What is the title?
MAM: The Lost Dragon Murder is my latest novel. The back cover sums it up: “The murder of an art expert and the disappearance of a priceless artifact propels Detective Henry Lau into the nebulous world of ancient antiquities. Complicating matters is a parade of dodgy suspects who wouldn’t know a truthful statement if it bit them on the leg. Unlocking the mystery may hinge on deciphering a cryptic message left by the dead man.”
The main characters of your stories – do you find that you put a little of yourself into each of them or do you create them to be completely different from you?
MAM: There’s always a good chunk of me in my main characters, also in some of the support characters. There are two protagonists in The Lost Dragon Murder and there are bits of me in each.
When growing up, did you have a favorite author, book series, or book?
MAM: I still remember discovering the original Sherlock Holmes stories in high school. It was a thrilling, magical moment that sparked my love of the mystery genre. John Dickson Carr stoked that passion further. He wrote some amazing novels during the Golden Age.
Where do you write? Set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting? Or do you write at a coffee shop or other location?
MAM: I usually write late at night after my wife goes to bed. I’m on the living room couch with a laptop computer and a cat or two nearby. The room is quiet; the outside world is dark and silent. Pre-COVID I’d also occasionally go to the library a block away in the morning. I also hand scribble things out in a little notebook or go on long walks around a lake to think things through before I committed them to the computer that evening.
Focusing on your most recent book, tell our readers what genre your book is and what popular author you think your writing style in this book is most like.
MAM: The Lost Dragon Murder is a traditional fair play detective novel, a whodunit with humor and moments of poignancy. I really don’t know who my writing style takes after; it’s a beef stew of this and that. Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster Ellen Hart referred to the novel as having “…nods to both Dashiell Hammett and Agatha Christie…” Those authors are definitely among my influencers.
Many authors have said that naming their characters is a difficult process, almost like choosing a name for their own child. How did you select the names of some of your lead characters in your books?
MAM: I agree! A name does so much; it can preload a vision of the character in the reader’s mind. As a writer, the character doesn’t seem to click until after I get their name right. Some years back I wrote a short story set in Switzerland, in towns I’d recently visited. It took two weeks before I found the name of the female protagonist: Giselle. Once I had her name, I could see this young Swiss woman clearly in my mind.
Have you ever had a character take over a story and move it in a different direction than you had originally intended? How did you handle it?
MAM: Nope. I know that happens to some authors. Part of the reason it doesn’t happen to me is that I must know the ending of the story before I start writing. I don’t work out everything, but I have destination points. Basically all story threads (or nearly all) must lead toward those points and the ending. Occasionally a character might exhibit some unexpected behavior. I’ll indulge them if it improves the story but doesn’t derail the destination. No backseat drivers!
Is there any lesson or moral you hope your story might reveal to those who read it?
MAM: An undercurrent in The Lost Dragon Murder has to do with how not everyone who chases a dream catches it. What happens then? What’s your plan B? What are the things that really matter in your life?
Is there anything else you want your readers to know about you? Include information on where to find your books, any blogs you may have, or how a reader can learn more about you and writing.
MAM: I love a great detective story, one with a puzzling mystery that sends me through a maze of intrigue and discovery, one with great characters and secrets to uncover. Even better if there are fair play clues to decipher. I’m a sucker for those. My goal was to put these elements in The Lost Dragon Murder and make it a fun read. Fun and, I hope, touching.
The book can be purchased on Amazon, or, if you prefer working with an independent bookstore, there’s Once Upon A Crime in Minneapolis. It’s a wonderful little store. It won the Raven Award from Mystery Writers of America. They do mail orders. https://onceuponacrimebooks.indielite.org But any bookstore can order the book through Ingram. Thanks so much, Vanessa, for letting me appear on your blog!
And thank you, Michael, for sharing your writing process and your work with us,