Monday, October 15, 2018

Guest Blogger Rick Homan

I'm happy to welcome guest blogger, Sisters in Crime Norcal member, and debut author Rick Homan. 

Rick's a generous writer, an enthusiastic SinC attendee, and has worked hard on the three novels he's unveiling. He is a member of the writing community at The Mechanics’ Institute Library. He is also  a member of the Guppy chapter of Sisters in Crime. Prior to taking up the craft of crime fiction, he performed as an actor and guitarist in San Francisco and in Philadelphia. He was a professor of theater arts for thirty years. He writes the Nicole Tang Noonan mysteries. Dark Mural and Dark Exhibit were published as e-books in September. Dark Picasso will be published in winter, 2019. As someone who likes - and writes - art-related mysteries, I'm excited to see a colleague tackling the subject from his own perspective. And I love the cover! - Susan

A Sleuth is Born: The Nicole Tang Noonan Mysteries

By Rick Homan

I was a professor for thirty years, so of course the amateur sleuth in my debut novel, Dark Mural, is a professor. “Write what you know” is a call for authenticity; it’s also a way to avoid months of research. Why should I go out of my way to make my sleuth an optometrist?
Beyond that, I think a professor is a likely choice for an amateur sleuth. Throughout my career, when tracking down facts to challenge the common understanding of a historical event or the conventional interpretation of a play (my field was theater history), I often felt, “The game is afoot.” Scholars and sleuths have a lot in common. 
During my academic career I unlocked a few scholarly secrets, but none of them rewrote the history of my university, and none of them ever solved a murder. So the plot of Dark Muralinvolves some wish fulfillment. 
My sleuth, Nicole Tang Noonan, is an art historian from San Francisco, who gets her first teaching job at a small college in rural Ohio. In the oldest building on campus, a Civil-War-era chapel, she finds a mural that depictss the college’s origins in the religious communes of the 1800s. At the very least, she thinks, this discovery could yield a publication in an academic journal. 
Throughout the novel, she forges ahead with her study of the mural, digging ever deeper into its history and symbolism, until she unlocks a dark secret, which turns out to be the key to identifying the murderer.
Of course, I couldn’t just have her show up and solve the crime. Along the way, she had to suffer. Since she is the daughter of a Chinese-American mother and an Irish-American father, her appearance is unusual: an Asian woman with freckles. She finds out on the first page that someone doesn’t like seeing strange-looking people on campus or in town.
Also, she faces the bane of academics everywhere, colleagues who long ago made up their minds and stopped listening. Her innocent questions and comments regarding her courses and her department are not appreciated. 
Worst of all, the murder victim is one of her students, and another becomes the prime suspect. When the local sheriff narrows his investigation too quickly in Nicole’s opinion, she decides to investigate on her own. She does so partly to spare the student if he is innocent, but mostly to make sure the real murderer is caught.
Throughout the outlining, writing and rewriting of Dark Mural, I admit I was pleased with the elegance of its premise: a historian solves a crime by studying history. But, as we say in show-biz, what are you going to do for an encore? I couldn’t have Nicole discover something about the history of her college in every book. 
For the second Nicole Tang Noonan mystery, Dark Exhibit, (published simultaneously with the first), Nicole again solves the crime by looking at art, but this time she studies the paintings of a contemporary artist that include symbolic references to what is going on in the world today. I won’t tell you what she discovers, but, I promise you, the book was researched and outlined before the 2016 presidential election. 


Susan C Shea said...

I really like the premise of this novel. Weaving art and art history into a mystery is a special delight for an art lover. I look forward to reading it!

7 Criminal Minds said...

Congratulations on your series - sounds mighty interesting :-)

Terry said...

Welcome, Rick. I love the idea of a detective professor. It's such a treat knowing that your perseverance as a writer has paid off.

Rick Homan said...

Thanks very much, Susan. Most sleuths look for motives in the past. Why not put them a little further in the past and call it history?

Rick Homan said...

Thank you, Brenda! I hope you do find the series interesting.

Rick Homan said...

Thank you, Terry! Perseverance played a part, but I couldn't have done it without you and my other sisters and brothers in crime.