Saturday, December 1, 2007

J.M. Hayes

J.M. "Mike" Hayes is the author of The Grey Pilgrim (2000), Mad Dog & Englishman (2000), Prairie Gothic (2003), Plains Crazy (2004), and Broken Heartland (2007).

Betty Webb recently interviewed Hayes for WebbsBlog. Their opening exchanges:

BETTY: Tell me a little about your new book. I hear it's another “Englishman” mystery.

MIKE HAYES: Sheriff English and his oddball, born-again Cheyenne brother are back for the fourth Mad Dog & Englishman mystery. Think Joel and Ethan Coen working with Garrison Keeler to make The Silence of the Lambs and you'll have the tone of the series. It's set in an imaginary Kansas county where English has been getting re-elected by small margins for years. Sheriff English is also known as Englishman. His half-brother, Harvey Edward Maddox, starred on the local football team where he earned the Mad Dog nickname. Since the glory days of his youth, Mad Dog has evolved into the local oddball — hippie, black power advocate, leader of the grape boycott, and now, a born-again Cheyenne. The boys' mother claimed to be half Cheyenne and half wildcat, though her Indian portion turned out to include Sans Arc, Mexican Cowboy, and Buffalo Soldier portions, as well as Cheyenne. After deciding he was a natural-born shaman, Mad Dog officially changed his name, and stuck the sheriff with his nickname. Once you've got a Mad Dog you've got to have an Englishman.

BETTY: Sounds like fun, and more than a little weird. How’d you come up with the idea for the series?

MIKE: I came up with the idea for Mad Dog & Englishman after the peaceful village where my father was born, Arlington, Kansas, went through the trauma of its first murder. My imaginary Buffalo Springs, Kansas is considerably less idyllic, but I thought it was interesting to consider how a community, in which things like murder never happen, reacts when one does, and how an under-funded and ill-prepared law enforcement agency goes about investigating such a horrific crime. For my own purposes, I thought it would be even more interesting if the sheriff's brother was the most logical suspect, and also happened to be determined to solve the case himself, though using Cheyenne Shamanism instead of police procedures. Then, to keep things moving, I decided to confine the book to one frantic twenty-four hour period. I wasn't expecting to write a sequel, as you'll discover in Prairie Gothic, Plains Crazy, and now Broken Heartland, when you watch me juggle a pair of characters who inconveniently share a name, but I've stuck with the formula in each of those books. Nothing ever happens in Buffalo Springs, but when it does, expect a Murphy's Law squared kind of day. With this addition to the series, that's four days, one each in summer, winter, spring, and fall, when all hell has broken loose in Benteen County, Kansas, and Sheriff English — an honest cop without much help or modern investigative equipment — sets out to find the villain and save the town while his brother, Mad Dog, gets in the way, draws suspicion, and otherwise complicates the sheriff's efforts to bring the guilty to justice.
Read the entire interview.

The Page 69 Test: Broken Heartland.

--Marshal Zeringue