Jack Thigpen works in Detroit, nicknamed The Motor City, the perfect place for a fraud investigator who specializes in car insurance scams. He is on a case he believes is a typical, low-level crime, but it quickly turns into a situation with ominous international consequences. Ironically, as he is targeted for death because of his investigation, Jack is diagnosed with a fatal disease that is untreatable, a disease that will end his life within months. And instead of killing Jack, the hit man shoots Jack's best friend. Struggling to come to terms with his impending death, Jack vows to track down his friend's killer.
Jack plunges into the world of corrupt car dealerships, chop shops, and fraudulent auto repair shops. He is soon swept into the darkness of Detroit's criminal underbelly to uncover the truth about power struggles within organized crime rings. Death is staring him in the face, but Jack doesn't back down. He pushes ahead, plowing through perilous roadblocks planted by his enemies, propelling himself toward the finish line and a teeth-gritting, heart-pounding conclusion.
Researching My Main Character’s Occupation
by Doug Hewitt
When I set out to write The Dead Guy, I wanted to write a good mystery novel, and the standard advice to authors is: write what you know.
That advice is very sweeping, though. What does it mean? One of the basic questions an author faces when laying out a new novel is where to set the action. I decided that I would place my mystery in Detroit. I grew up in a Detroit suburb (Mt. Clemens, to be specific), and I wanted my mystery to have a sense of place.
Okay, I was off to a good start. I would be writing about a place that I knew very well. Another thing I learned about writing is that in the best novels, the setting plays an active role in the storyline. So, I knew the ideal role that Detroit (the Motor City) would have in my novel would involve cars.
Now I was getting somewhere! Now, what about my main character, Jack Thigpen? What possible occupation could he have in the Motor City that would tie into the automobile theme and the sense of Detroit as a place in which cars carry more meaning than in other cities? Cars are the lifeblood of Detroit, and I wanted Jack Thigpen to have his fingers on the pulse of the city.
And so I decided he would be an investigator of car insurance fraud. This fit in perfectly with what I wanted, an amateur detective. Jack would know about investigative techniques, but murder would be way out of his league (or so it would seem, at first).
I began reading Internet forums that were dedicated to insurance fraud. I was surprised to find there were plenty to choose from! I also looked at online resumes. After reading these forums for a few weeks, I looked at some employee descriptions of insurance fraud investigators, and I found a few resumes online.
And so Jack Thigpen’s occupation was born! Jack was born to the job (of course), and it suited him perfectly. He finds himself investigating a low-level insurance scam, and suddenly there’s a murder attempt on his life. Instead of killing him, though, the hit man kills his best friend. Avenging his friend’s death becomes the driving force of The Dead Guy.
Doug was born and raised near Detroit, Michigan and now lives in North Carolina. Along the way, he did a four-year stint in the Marine Corps and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics. He has been writing short stories for over 20 years and has been getting them published for most of that time, with over 80 stories in print. His stories have appeared in anthologies such as The Dead Inn and 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories. He has appeared in the premier issue of Apex Digest and has seen his chapbook, Slipstream, published by Scrybe Press.
He turned his attention to longer works and had his first novel Spear published in 2002. The Midwest Book Review calls Spear “a thrilling and deftly crafted novel.” After remarrying in 2004, he and his wife, Robin, founded HewittsBooks. In addition to authoring a non-fiction parenting book, The Practical Guide To Weekend Parenting, Doug and Robin teamed up to write The Joyous Gift of Grandparenting.
Doug returned to his original passion, writing fiction, and wrote The Dead Guy, which St. Martins author Lynn Chandler-Willis calls a “high-octane, pedal-to-the-metal ride through the criminal underbelly of the automotive world.”
This guest post first appeared at The Book Connection.