September 2020-A chat with northwest mystery writer Rick E. George

Rick E. George has been a sportswriter, a wildland firefighter, and an educator. He is the author of Vengeance Burns Hot, published by Unsolicited Press (2019) and Cooper’s Loot, published by The Wild Rose Press (2019.) His short fiction and poetry have been published in various literary magazines. He lives with his wife April in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State.

About the book:

It’s 1972, but the Neanderthal editors of reporter Bev Wikowski’s newspaper don’t have a clue. They’ve assigned her to the Women’s Pages and put her desk near the door so she can greet newsroom visitors. It’s a wonder they haven’t asked her to make the coffee. Then Bev meets a buddy of the infamous hijacker DB Cooper. Cooper has sent him to gather a posse to find and dig up the loot he buried in the Cascade Mountains. Would Bev like to join the group? Suddenly, Bev’s looking at the possibility of a front-page story in every newspaper in the nation—and maybe a Pulitzer Prize. The young widow leaves her four-year-old daughter with her parents, hides her work identity, and joins the group. But it doesn’t take long before an even bigger challenge demands every ounce of Bev’s strength: Survival.

From my interview with Rick:

1. How did you come to write a novel based on the DB Cooper mystery

People love real-life unsolved mysteries, especially when nothing is harmed except the bank accounts of the fabulously rich. DB Cooper, whoever he is, pulled off a daring feat and got away with it. In doing so, he spawned a small regiment of armchair detectives who still take great pleasure in advancing their theories about who the real DB Cooper was and what happened to him. It’s fun stuff.

2.  What aspects of Cooper’s Loot are true to what is known about the Cooper Hijacking?

I did a lot of research about the hijacking. The setting is quite feasible, as is the hullabaloo surrounding the event, the outlaw folk-hero mystique, the manner of cash Cooper made off with, and the societal conflicts of the Vietnam era. But mostly it’s a story about a young female reporter whose striving for professional respect prompts her to take a big risk that ends up placing her in a life-or-death predicament. I worked in the newspaper business around the time of the hijacking, and I saw first-hand how women were frequently denied meatier assignments and ushered instead toward feature writing and the Women’s Page.

3.  How does the story deviate from the facts?

Everything about the hijacking and getaway is true to the facts, but beyond that it’s a completely fictional story.

3. You’ve said your book was influenced by both Agatha Christie and by the John Huston film, “The Treasure of Sierra Madre.” How so?

“The Treasure of Sierra Madre” begins in a bar, where they’re enticed by a tale of hidden gold. The characters make a pact—they’ll stay loyal through all privations in their quest to find it, but once they do find it, their commitment to each other turns out shakier than they thought. In Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, a group of strangers ends up stuck on an island, and one by one they meet a terrible demise. All these elements occur in Cooper’s Loot.

4. What’s the theme or message behind the story?

A current of feminism runs through the story—how women are demeaned and regarded as less capable than men. In her acclaimed essay, Chimamanda Adiche asserts, “We should all be feminists.” My story makes a case for why.

5. How would you describe your writing process?

I plan and write and cut and revise and change and write it all over again, compiling miniature novels of character journals, plot journals, and revision notes. I am fortunate to be part of a great critique group, and they’re not shy about telling me what isn’t working.

6. How long did it take to research and write the book?

One year.

7. How did Cooper’s Loot come to be published

It’s a traditionally published book. I pitched the novel to an editor from The Wild Rose Press at a Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference; she asked for the manuscript and liked it enough to take a chance on publishing it. 

8. What are you working on now?

I’m currently pitching a novel entitled Syrian Winter to literary agents. The elevator pitch: While trying to cope with their unexpected feelings for each other, a rookie FBI agent and his Arabic interpreter try to rescue Syrian refugees before they’re forced into a sex trafficking operation. I’m working on a sequel while I await the agents’ verdicts.

Copies of Cooper’s Loot ($19.44 paperback; $4.99 e-Book) and Vengeance Burns Hot ($17 paperback; $4.99 e-Book) are available wherever books are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ordering through your local bookstore.

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