Thursday, February 24, 2011

The PI as Homebody

By Michael

Joe Kozmarski spends most of his waking hours (which include a lot of hours when he should be sleeping) driving around Chicago and getting into assorted ugly predicaments. But he really is, or would like to be, a homebody.

He would love to spend more time with his eleven-year-old nephew Jason, who lives with him and who depends upon him for safety and shelter but has awakened many mornings to an empty house. Not that Joe wouldn’t prefer to be toasting Eggos and packing a school lunchbox, but it’s hard to be in two places at once, especially when one of those places is the Cook County jail, where you’ve been locked up after killing a police officer, or the backroom of an ironworks where you’ve been bound and stripped of all belongings that won’t incinerate in an industrial furnace.

And Joe would love to keep rehabbing the house that he bought after his divorce. He enjoys the feel of wood in his hands and loves to saw and hammer. But in the first three books of his mystery series, he has yet to pick up a tool of home improvement and when he does eventually pick one up, he’ll undoubtedly use it for the purposes of self defense and the results will be grisly.

He likes nothing more than a home-cooked meal. But he lives on restaurant food (mostly Asian and greasy spoon) and eats home cooking only when he visits his mom, who stuffs him full with pierogi, golabki, and kolachke. His own pots and pans are as neglected as his home-improvement tools.

When he does have a few minutes at home, he rarely watches TV, partly because he prefers to avoid seeing his own face flashing on the screen in news updates on the latest ugly crime to beset Chicago. Shamefully (though he’s unashamed) he reads little other than newspapers (the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, both) – turning the page from the articles about him. He loves music and wishes he had more time to listen to it, his tastes running (somewhat conventionally) to jazz but also including Chicago blues and most bands sporting ridiculous names.

In some future book, I’ll give Joe what he really wants. In an interlude between crimes, he’ll mark out a couple of hours of home time. He’ll clear the tools from the dining room table, turn on Latin jazz, cook something with rice and vegetables and meat and spice, and sit down for dinner with his nephew. Then, his ex-wife Corrine will knock on the front door with a bottle of wine in her hands and romance in her eyes. And ten minutes later his work partner and occasional lover Lucinda will show up with another bottle. And then Corrine’s bedroom eyes will turn murderous and so will Lucinda’s, and just before violence erupts Joe will slip out the door with his nephew, and they’ll drive through Chicago’s nighttime streets, looking for ugly crimes. That will seem safer than staying home.


(A book in which Joe rarely stays home)




(Coming in June: A book in which Joe still more rarely stays home)

12 comments:

Meredith Cole said...

I'd like to imagine that between books he gets a little leisure time, or time at least to work on his house. Poor guy! We're so hard on our characters...

Michael Wiley said...

I would like to imagine that too. Maybe better writers than I can make woodwork gripping for readers. Wood-destruction seems to interest us more, though.

Kelli Stanley said...

Poor Joe ... he'd be so much more comfortable in a cardigan, with his feet propped up, munching on home-baked potato skins and watching football! ;)

You're cruel, Michael ... very cruel ...

Great cover for A BAD NIGHT'S SLEEP, too!! :)

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Poor Joe! I'm glad he at least gets half a home cooked meal before the various women show up to cause him trouble.

I'm feeling marginally less guilty for the things I put Hannah through now.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks for the sympathy, Kelli. To tell the truth, though, he's not much of a football fan, and he prefers non-American food to American staples (for no good reason other than that I do) -- So, a good dinner and conversation would be enough for him. Oh, yeah, and a cardigan sweater.

Thanks too for your comment on the cover. I love this one.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Rebecca. He manages to keep his weight on in spite of the troubles he finds. It's amazing how many murderers one can fight while eating a taco.

One of the pleasures of writing mysteries, I suppose, is putting Hannah and Joe and all of our other protagonists into tough situations . . . and then walking away from our computers and eating good meals.

Reece said...

I really like the title and cover for A Bad's Night Sleep. Looks like Joe won't be getting any time off this summer. I'm also glad to see that Joe appreciates Chicago blues, which I got hooked on when I went to school there.

Michael Wiley said...

Thanks, Reece. Yes: there's nothing better than Chicago blues -- except, maybe, Mississippi blues, if you're in that mood.

Gabi said...

If there are no Eggos in the big house, I'm not going.

Gabi said...

And I could make woodworking interesting. It's not a good thing...that word interesting covers a multitude of "I haven't read the directions" and "my mother won't allow me to operate power tools" sins.

Michael Wiley said...

I'm with you on the Eggos, Gabi. We burn through dozens of them each week in my house. As for woodworking, if you don't read the instructions, then it's no longer woodworking; it's do-it-yourself amputation. And, yes, that's interesting.

Shane Gericke said...

Bless him for reading the Chicago papers. There's still a few of us left. Sadly, not all that many.