New Books: The Dead Genius by Axel Brand (Richard S. Wheeler)
THE DEAD GENIUS
My Joe Sonntag mysteries grew from a fond memory of the old Dragnet TV series, with Jack Webb. I wanted to create a gumshoe detective who gets to the heart of things with interrogation and a keen grasp of human nature. So a lunchbucket cop, Detective lieutenant Sonntag, was born. He's operating in late 1940s Milwaukee, and takes the streetcar to work each day.
In the next Sonntag mystery, The Dead Genius ( Tekno Books, Five Star, publication August 10) the detective pays his respects to a little genius who pioneered forensic document examination, and put all sorts of forgers, bank robbers, and sharpers in jail. It was an ordinary death: a heart failure of a diabetic. But something about it troubles Sonntag's superior, Captain Ackerman, who insists that Sonntag take a close look at the death, and also find out why the document examiner had no known past. Gradually, what seemed a routine death from disease begins to look like something far more sinister.
I've just self-published another Sonntag mystery, Night Medicine, which is available on Kindle and from CreateSpace. Here is another mysterious death. It's summer, 1948 in Milwaukee. A lovely young woman is found dead at the Washington Park zoo, her body lying in a bed of ferns, her arms folded in repose, as if she were lying in state. Nearby, a lioness prowls her cage. Sonntag and his detectives soon are plunged into the world of illegal medicine, where compassion runs contrary to the law, and a cop with any sensitivity wishes he didn't have to call some things a crime, or pursue people whose purpose was kindness.
I'm writing a fourth Sonntag mystery, built around the violent labor crises that tore Milwaukee apart in the 1940s, a time when the mob was infiltrating labor unions (the Kefauver hearings came a couple years later), and Reds were manipulating the unions for their own purposes. The ones who got hurt were the working men who depended on a strong union for a good wage and a few benefits. And then a scab was shot; and later, the head of the machinists union. Look for it in the fall.
Axel Brand/Richard S. Wheeler