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Chasing the Case

There’s a Bar on Every Novel

I recently wrote this blog post for Jennifer C. Wilson, who just had her latest Kindred Spirits Westminster Abbey released. I thought it was worth sharing on mine. It includes a fun excerpt from my own recently released novel, Chasing the Case. Enjoy yourself.

One constant is my adult fiction is that each one has a bar. In my new mystery, Chasing the Case, the local watering hole is called the Rooster Bar and Grille. It was Chasing the Case cover copythe Do-Si-Do Bar (that’s a move in square dancing) in my previous novel, The Sweet Spot. There are others.

I will confess I’m not a big drinker — one good craft beer will do it for me — or someone who hangs out in bars. But I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent in them, raising a glass or bottle, and dancing with my husband when there’s a band. I especially like bars where the cliental knows each other, and those are the kinds of bars I have in my novels. For many small rural towns, bars are gathering spots for the locals. Many don’t have them. In my mystery, the town of Conwell only has one — the Rooster — but then again, it only has a thousand people.

Early in Chasing the Case, the protagonist Isabel Long takes her mother, who lives with her, to the Rooster for dinner. Isabel, who has left a long career in journalism, is seeing if she could hack being a private investigator. Her first case involves a woman who disappeared 28 years earlier from Conwell. Isabel ends up getting a part-time job at the Rooster, in part to get up close and personal with many of the people connected with the case.

Jack Smith, the Rooster’s owner, runs a friendly bar, but do something stupid and you’re out for six months. Do it again, and you might be banned forever. There’s music on Friday nights and his sister, Eleanor serves food Thursdays through Sundays. There’s a jukebox and televisions, so customers can watch sports.

Isabel used to go dancing there with her late husband, Sam. That’s another big change for her — being a widow. But she enjoys her new job and being in the middle of things.

In this excerpt, Isabel is working on her first night at the Rooster.

It’s Friday night and I’m behind the bar, fetching Buds for two guys who want a fun night out. They order four because two women wait for them at a table. I flip the caps, toss them in the can at my feet, and slide the cold bottles across the countertop toward them. One of them has the dollar bills curled in his hand. 

“Keep the change,” he says. 

“Thanks. Enjoy yourself.”

 They leave me an extra buck, which appears to be the standard tip for a round. I know Sam always did. I stuff the buck in the tip jar with the rest of the bills.

The Rooster is full. My station is behind the bar. Jack is on the floor, taking dinner orders and carrying the food out as fast as Eleanor can dish it out. She and I only spoke a few words. She grunts when I ask how she’s doing. She grunts, too, after I ask about her dogs. I get the feeling she’s not happy I’m working here, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Jack, who keeps up a friendly banter whenever he passes. Jack grins and winks. He’s what I’d call a big tease.

I pop caps off beer bottles. The King of Beers reigns supreme at the Rooster. I’ve only had two requests for beer on tap by newcomers, of course, and I was pleased I got them done correctly.

I call home once to see how Ma is doing. She tells me she and the cat are fine. She’s watching an old movie. I say I’ll be home around eleven. I would tell her not to wait up, but that’s not necessary. 

The music started a half-hour ago and the Lone Sums are stinking up the place. I didn’t think you could blow a song like “Sweet Home Alabama,” but these guys are doing just that. Just wait until they try “Free Bird.” Somebody always requests that one, usually one of the young drunks, who’ll shout it from across the room just for the hell of it. 

“These guys play here before?” I ask Jack when he brings a tray of empties behind the bar.

“Nah. I doubt if I’ll bring ’em back,” he says as he drops the bottles into the carton at our feet.

 “They’re pretty bad. But I guess if you drink enough you can dance to almost anything.”

MORE: Like what you read? Then get your own copy at http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: A window box outside Nancy L. Dole Books in Shelburne Falls and a couple of books to tempt readers inside the store.

 

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