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A BOTTLE OF RUM
A Spider John Mystery #3
BY STEVE GOBLE
“A twisty, suspenseful story full of murder and—unexpectedly—of friendship, A BOTTLE OF RUM is a darkly funny, bloody good time.” — Kristen Lepionka, Shamus and Goldie Award-winning author of the Roxane Weary mystery series
“A Bottle Of Rum entertains from the first knife thrust to the final explosion. Goble’s mystery-solving pirate, Spider John, comes ashore in his latest adventure, but the swashbuckler’s trademark ingenuity, loyalty and mind-boggling profanities are on full and dazzling display as always.” — Andrew Welsh-Huggins, editor, Columbus Noir and author, the Andy Hayes private eye series.
August, 1723 — Spider John Rush believes he has escaped piracy forever. Enjoying rum and chess in a dark Lymington tavern, he dreams of finding passage to Nantucket to reunite with his beloved Em and to finally get to know the son he remembers only as a babe in arms, though the lad must be dreaming of going to sea himself by now. But when a lazy taverner is stabbed to death, one glance at the victim tells Spider the pirate life has followed him ashore and he cannot possibly ignore this bloody crime. The wise maneuver would be to run before authorities arrive, but Spider is denied that choice because he’s already deeply, connected to the crime—he fashioned the murder weapon with his own hands.
The knife was a gift to a young man, one who ran off with the notorious Anne Bonny before Spider could drag him into a respectable life.
Soon, Spider John and his ancient shipmate Odin are dodging accusations and battling smugglers on a trail that leads to a madhouse where patients are dying one by one. Spider finds himself tangling with a horribly maimed former shipmate, vengeful pirates, a gun-wielding brunette, a death-obsessed young woman, a sneaky farmhand and a philosopher engaged in frightening experiments. But death seems to be winning at Pryor Pond, and the next life lost may be the one Spider desperately wants to save.
Spider must brave sharp steel, musket balls, gunpowder bombs, dangerous women and gruesome surgery if he is to find his foolish young friend alive and try once again to put piracy in their past.
Before we get started talking about your writing, tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from, what you do for a living (if you’re not a full–time writer) what hobbies you have, etc. Whatever you’d like to share to introduce yourself.
I have lived in Ohio all my life, and most of my professional career was in community journalism. I did everything from reporting to writing columns to, eventually, being part of the team that made sure all the stories, photos and videos made it online and onto social media. But the constant job cuts and downsizing eventually sent my job to Nashville and I didn’t go with it. So I found work at a cyber security and digital investigations company, first as a blogger and writer and now as a forensic analyst. Basically, I sift through the recovered data on phones and computers to help settle criminal and civil cases. The research potential for my planned series of modern-day detective novels is astounding.
As for hobbies, I read just about everything, love Godzilla movies, follow Buckeyes football and play bass guitar in a garage band with my old high school buddies.
My wife is an amazing person and an excellent writer who affords me time to write and helps me edit copy and unravel plot knots, and we have an 18-year-old who writes fantasy stories. So, imagination runs rampant around our house, and I like it that way.
1. What’s your favorite part of the writing process?
I love the daydreaming part, in which I think about who my characters are and how they might respond to various situations. I love putting them in bad situations first, and only then trying to figure out how they might cope. I love imagining each chapter of my story from the vantage of several characters, because it complicates things and adds some depth to my characters.
2. If you were to choose one superpower, what would it be?
I want to be able to pop into fictional universes at will. This would allow me to eventually learn to use the Force and collect a lightsaber, train with the Batman, sail the seas with Spider John, visit John Carter on Mars and obtain a radium gun. Can you tell I’ve maybe given this question a little bit of thought.
3. Do you ever get stuck when you’re writing a book? What do you do to get “unstuck”?
I do, now and then, put Spider and his friends into a nasty situation before I have any idea how I am going to get them out of it. I do that on purpose, because it is fun for me. My minor characters sometimes put me in a bind, too, because when I think of the story from their vantages they sometimes reveal goals that complicate my life.
When those things happen, I get away from the keyboard. Life is too short to stare at a blank screen wondering what to write. So I go about my business, and mull over plot details anytime my brain is not occupied with anything important. If I get really stuck, I share the details with my wife, Gere, and she asks questions or makes suggestions that usually help. These are tricky conversations, because I don’t want to tell her too much. She is one of my first readers for any new book, and I want her to read it while trying to solve the mystery, just like anyone else would. That way she can tell me if my plot and clues all make sense.
Once I have things sorted, I go back to the keyboard knowing what I am going to write, and can usually bang out one or two thousand words in an hour or so.
4. What is your least favorite part of writing?
I sometimes find scene setting to be a bit tedious. As a writer and a reader, I focus on characters and plot. When writing the first draft of a chapter, I often type “insert weather here” or “don’t forget to describe the ship” and just plunge headlong into the “what happens next” part. I do the descriptive stuff in editing, then repeat the process for the next chapter, etc.
5. If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?
I would entice my wife to make her chili, because it is really delicious, and I would share my wide array of hot sauces with all the guests. I generally have several bottles open at any given time, because I love a variety of flavors — ghost pepper and blueberry, for example, or jalapeño and green apple. Anyway, we are fairly informal folks most of the time, so chili fits the bill. The evening probably would include board or card games, or perhaps really bad movies so we could do some “Mystery Science Theater 3000” riffing.
6. What do you wish you’d done differently when you first started the publishing process?
I almost wish I’d written my second Spider John novel, “The Devil’s Wind,” before trying to get the series debut published. I think I learned a lot in writing the first book, “The Bloody Black Flag,” and those lessons show up in the subsequent titles. So I might have done some things differently in “Black Flag,” and I’d have had two novels to shop to publishers instead of just the one. I did have, however, pretty solid notes for the future books, and I think that helped entice a publisher to take a chance on me and my weird “pirate murder mystery” idea.
7. What is most difficult for you to write? Characters, conflict or emotions? Why?
Emotions probably are toughest for me. I’m pretty good at getting into my characters’ heads, whether they are heroes or villains or somewhere in between, and conflict is always interesting and fairly easy for me to depict. All I have to do is know who my characters are deep inside, and what they want to do. But emotions are tricky. First, it is difficult to handle emotions without being too sentimental or too melodramatic, at least for me. I don’t want to veer into angsty poetry; that’s just not what I do.
Second, I write the Spider John books entirely from Spider’s point of view— if he doesn’t experience something, neither does the reader. So, while readers will usually know what Spider’s emotional state is at any given point, they learn about everyone else’s emotional state through the filter of what Spider thinks and experiences. If Hob is upset, Spider discerns that by observing his friend’s actions and listening to what he says. If someone is hiding a hidden motive, Spider has to figure that out. It can be challenging to depict all that.
8. A penguin walks into your office, right now, wearing a sombrero. What does he say to you and why is he here?
“Hello, Steve. I am Paco Penguin, and I am a character in a short story your friend Tom Williams asked you to critique three days ago, and why the hell haven’t you done that yet?”
9. If you could wave a magic wand, what ill in the world would you solve and why?
Hunger, poverty and all childhood diseases would be the first things to go. Trump would be next. Then I would confer with friends over a lengthy list and set priorities, hoping my friends and loved ones would prevent me from going mad with power.
10. Tell us about your next book & when is it being published?
“A Bottle of Rum,” the third Spider John novel, will be released Nov. 12. It finds Spider and his friend Odin on land for a change, but still dodging pirates and musket balls as they try to track down a shipmate in trouble. I think the change of setting will make things fresh for returning readers, and I think the bonds between Spider and his friends are growing.
Steve Goble writes historical mysteries. He is the author the Spider John Mysteries, which combines his love of swords, pirates and murder to follow a pirate detective on water and land. A BOTTLE OF RUM (Nov. 12, 2019; Seventh Street Books) is the third installment in the series.
A former journalist, Goble now works in communications for a cybersecurity firm as a digital forensics analyst. Goble helps examiners analyze evidence from computers and smartphones to help resolve a variety of civil and criminal cases.
Goble also writes fantasy, horror, science fiction and poetry. An avid craft beer lover, he previously authored a column called “Brewologist”, which appeared on USA Today Network-Ohio, where he resides.
Praise for Spider John Mysteries
“Steve Goble’s third installment in his Spider John mysteries takes his pirate-detective into strange waters, or rather land, when he follows a twisted trail in search of a lost shipmate and friend. Treachery, bloodshed, wenches and dark secrets abound as Spider and his one-eyed companion, Odin, face death and damnation to quench their thirst for justice, and perhaps a swig or two of Rum.” — Bradley Harper, 2019 Edgar Finalist for A Knife in the Fog.
“Avast, me hearties, here be an excellent read! Spider John and one-eyed Odin are back with a swashbuckling, page-turning plot and a treasure chest full of the most original characters to ever swagger, steal, and sleuth their way through a mystery. Once again, Steve Goble proves himself a master of piratical prose and mysterious mayhem.” — Susan Spann, bestselling author of the Hiro Hattori mysteries
“Goble adroitly combines action and deduction” — Publisher’s Weekly
“A pirate detective? Ahoy, mateys! Steve Goble presents us with an extremely likable swashbuckler with a brain; a murder mystery whodunit with diabolical twists, fiery damsels, quirky characters, and historical accuracy; and sea-bound action that would make Errol Flynn proud. An immensely fun read!” — Raymond Benson, author of In the Hush of the Night and several James Bond thrillers
“You may have read a locked-room mystery, but never one like this! Spider John is back, and he’s better than ever, solving murder on the high seas with a lusty lot of pirates muddying the waters.” —Nichole Christoff, award-winning author of the Jamie Sinclair private eye series
“In this second seafaring adventure, Goble lures readers into the pirate-infested waters of the Caribbean, where danger lurks around every spar and where men—and women—must rely on their sharpest wits to survive. Grab your cutlass and prepare for a rousing voyage into another perplexing mystery!” — Alyssa Maxwell, author of the Gilded Newport Mysteries series
“The Devil’s Wind combines top-notch mystery writing with gritty portrayals of pirates that never stoop to clichés. It’s an intriguing, adventurous, and page-turning read.” — Andrew Welsh-Huggins, author of the Andy Hayes private eye series and winner of the 2017 Al Blanchard prize for best New England short crime fiction
Links to Steve’s Website, blog, books, etc.
Thanks, Steve, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!