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Ooh, the musician in me is loving this title! I haven’t had an opportunity to read Murder Mezzo Forte, or the previous book in the series, Rhapsody in Red. But I think I need to! 🙂 Today we have the privilege of visiting with Donn Taylor about this newest novel, but before we begin, here’s a quick look at Murder Mezzo Forte.
Preston Barclay is a reclusive history professor who suffers from musical hallucinations. Mara Thorn is a headstrong professor of religion and a converted Wiccan. Earlier, the two solved a campus murder, but now the police say they formed two-thirds of an illicit love triangle with a newly murdered female colleague—and they’re probably guilty of her murder.
A leak of the alleged scandal to the college administration threatens their jobs. Their desperate attempt to prove themselves innocent of the triangle and murder plunges them into a tangle of unsavory corporate relationships among college trustees. And it puts their lives in danger from a mysterious criminal organization that seems to have tentacles everywhere.
Can this ill-matched pair’s stumbling efforts succeed against the entrenched forces of the police, the college’s incompetent administration, and that powerful but unseen criminal organization? If not, they may end up unemployed, in prison, or suffering a fate much worse…
Welcome, Donn! Murder Mezzo Forte has me intrigued! What inspired you to write this series, or this novel in particular?
Since I had taught for 18 years in denominational liberal arts colleges, I was familiar with the problems and tensions in that environment. From there it was a matter of what-ifs. What if a professor actually said what most of the faculty was thinking and didn’t dare say? Then I read that some people have musical hallucinations—constant streams of music involuntarily created in their minds—so I gave that problem to the professor. And what if a college’s “inclusiveness” resulted in hiring a heretic in the Bible department? That was the basis for Rhapsody in Red and its sequel, the present novel, Murder Mezzo Forte. Both novels are set against a background of very real problems in the academic world.
Wow! It sounds like you have the perfect background to create a realistic story! Do you have a favorite character in this book? Why is this character your favorite?
I have two. Professor Preston Barclay is the campus dissenter whose outspoken frankness keeps him in trouble. He’d love to just teach Renaissance history of ideas, but the world outside the classroom refuses to let him alone. Mara Thorn is a newly hired professor of comparative religions, determined to succeed on her own without help from anyone. I had a lot of fun with these incompatibles (in both novels) being forced to work together to defend themselves against false accusations.
It does sound like there could be some fun interaction between the two. Who is your favorite secondary character in this latest novel, and do you think you’ll include that character in a future story?
That would be Korean War veteran and retired history professor Lincoln Sheldon. Wheelchair bound and in assisted living because of a stroke, he fights boredom through computer research on anything he can think of to research. He figures prominently in both novels and will be in the next novel in the series.
Why did you choose this particular setting, and have you been there?
I chose the denominational liberal arts college environment because my teaching years gave me experience with its built-in conflicts of academic standards vs. commercialism, education vs. indoctrination, and Christian heritage vs. secularism. In that sense I have “been there.” But geographically, I located my fictitious college hundreds of miles away from the places where I taught.
That’s probably a good idea, lest anyone become suspicious… Do you have personal experience with any of the events in your story, and if so, could you share about that?
I had no personal experience with any specific event in the story. It’s an ironclad rule for me that I don’t represent any actual person or institution in fiction. That wouldn’t be fair because those people couldn’t fight back. So I construct events, institutions, and characters similar to those I have actually known, but I’m careful to avoid any specific identities.
Have you given any of your own personality quirks to your characters? If so, would you be willing to share about it/them?
Professor Preston Barclay has my love of puns and other wordplay. I have a very low tolerance for sham and pretense, though I usually keep quiet about it. But I gave Barclay an even lower tolerance plus an inner compulsion to expose it. That’s why he stays in trouble.
He sounds like a fun character! What do you hope your readers take away from this novel?
Chiefly, I hope they will feel that they have been entertained by a good mystery, interesting characters, and interesting situations. And I hope that for several days after they finish that they find themselves laughing as they remember comic incidents in the book. But I also hope they will become aware of colleges’ three built-in conflicts that I mentioned before. And throughout the novel there is a constant conflict between a person’s imagination and the reality outside him. As the book of Proverbs puts it, “The heart of man deviseth his way; but the Lord directeth his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).
A conflict between imagination and reality — that’s so true! And how often we act based on our own limited understanding of reality… Thanks for taking the time to visit with us today, Donn!
Your turn! Puns and wordplay — do you love them, too? Are you good at creating them?
More about Donn:
Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam, and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he earned a PhD in English literature (Renaissance) and for eighteen years taught literature at two liberal arts colleges. His poetry is collected in his book Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. His fiction includes a light-hearted mystery, Rhapsody in Red, and its sequel, Murder Mezzo Forte. He has also published a historical novel, Lightning on a Quiet Night (a Selah Awards finalist), and two suspense novels, Deadly Additive and The Lazarus File. He is a frequent speaker at writers’ groups and conferences. He lives near Houston, TX, where he continues to write fiction and poetry, as well as essays on writing, ethical issues, and U.S. foreign policy.
You can connect with Donn online:
I join several others in the blog http://authorculture.blogspot.
Also by Donn:
Preston Barclay is a self-made recluse (and he likes it that way). Teaching college history allows him time to grieve the loss of his pianist wife and find relief from the musical hallucinations that have been playing in his head since her death. But when he and a headstrong colleague, Mara Thorn, discover the body of another instructor on campus, Press’s monotonous solitude is destroyed.
When the preliminary evidence singles out Press and Mara, they must take some chances (including trusting each other) to build their own defense—by bending the rules just a bit.
They choose to form an unlikely alliance to stay ahead of the police, the college’s wary and incompetent administration, and whoever is trying to get away with murder. Otherwise, they both might end up unemployed, behind bars, or worse…
‘Murder Mezzo Forte’ Giveaway:
Donn has generously offered to give away a paperback or e-copy of Murder Mezzo Forte. Giveaways are subject to the Giveaway Policy. If you are unfamiliar with Rafflecopter or have trouble entering, you can find help here: How to Enter a Rafflecopter Giveaway.