Isabel Long Mystery Series

A Bar in Every Isabel Long Mystery

One constant in my Isabel Long Mystery Series is that each book has a bar. Make that two in Missing the Deadline, the seventh, which has Dec. 21 release.

The fictional hilltowns of Western Massachusetts are the setting for this series. I am talking about towns that have a thousand people or so. Many are a one-store, one-school, and one-church kind of town. Some might even have one bar, and for those that do, it is often a gathering spot for the locals. That’s certainly true in Conwell, where Isabel Long, the series’ protagonist, lives. 

Jack Smith owns the Rooster Bar and Grille, and Isabel pours beer and the occasional mixed drink or cheap wine from a box on Friday nights when a band plays. She and Jack have a relationship, which makes for some interesting interaction since he’s a local guy and she’s a newcomer.

And the Rooster’s customers, especially those Isabel calls the True Blue Regulars, are often great sources for the cold cases she’s taken on as a private investigator. Keen-eyed Isabel also observes the romances, lasting or not, that happen at the Rooster. My lips are sealed but Missing the Deadline has one of the most unlikely romantic hookups that starts at the Rooster.

Jack Smith runs a friendly bar, but do something stupid and you’re out for six months. Do it again, and you might be banned forever. It took an intervention from Isabel to allow the Beaumont brothers back in, but then again, they did come to her rescue in a couple of her cases.

Baxter’s is another bar in my series. It’s more of a biker bar, and Dave Baxter, the owner, isn’t so particular about who drinks there. In fact, many of the people who got kicked out of the Rooster are customers. Isabel will visit Dave because he knows what’s going on in the town of Caulfield and beyond. Sometimes she meets people of interest there. It’s a little tricky because Dancin’ Dave, his secret nickname, obviously has the hots for Isabel, but the feeling isn’t reciprocal.

One other bar has appeared in my series, Red’s Corner Lounge, in Dillard. This is a seedy little joint that was the setting for a pivotal scene in Killing the Story, the fourth in the series. The way the eighth book is going, I imagine Isabel will be making another visit there.

My hilltown books that are not part of the series have their own bars; The Sweet SpotThe Sacred Dog, which is actually the name of a bar, inspired by the owner’s loyal pet; and Northern Comfort

One of the fun parts about writing this series is coming up with the band names. Here’s a sampling: Junkyard Dogs, The Plowboys (all highway workers), and Country Bumpkins. Their genres as you might imagine are country, rock and maybe a little bit of blues.

I’m not a big drinker — one good craft beer will do it for me. But I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve spent in bars, raising a glass or bottle, and dancing with Hank when there’s a band. And bars are great place to people watch, a definite hobby of mine, and have conversations with people you barely know. 

I actually dedicated one of the books in the series, Working the Beat, to the former owners of a country bar in the hilltown where we once lived that has definitely been an inspiration.

And I feel fortunate our son, Zack, has created Floodwater Brewing in Shelburne Falls, the village where we live in Western Massachusetts. That’s a glass of one of his hand-crafted beers in the photo above.

Here’s a scene from Missing the Deadline. Isabel shows up on a Thursday night. Fred is Jack’s often annoying cousin who Isabel has dubbed ‘el Creepo’ for past misdeeds.

Jack greets me with a “Here’s my gal” as I walk through the front door of the Rooster. I don’t normally come Thursday nights. It’s typically quiet, so my services behind the bar are not needed. Burgers and fries are solely what’s on the menu. The only music comes from the jukebox, currently playing Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar,” which could be a theme song for many of the drinkers here tonight. Although most have another workday tomorrow, they’re getting a jumpstart on the weekend, playing pool or just hanging around drinking and yakking about what’s going on in their lives or somebody else’s. As I’ve mentioned before, gossip is the biggest pastime in this town. The television in that part of the room broadcasts a baseball game with the sound off, but nobody is paying much attention since the Red Sox aren’t playing.

I take a stool opposite Jack, who places a cold draft in front of me. 

“You can put it on my tab,” I joke.

“I believe it’s time to make you pay up, Isabel,” he says, winking.

Jack’s cousin, Fred aka el Creepo, who sits four stools down, groans. He and I are the only ones at the counter. Fred’s got the best seat in the house, the one where you can rest your back against the wall that’s shared by the men’s room. Of course, the sitter is privy to whatever is going on there, which can be entertaining or disgusting. Maybe someday I’ll time how long the men in there take to drain a bladder full of beer and make a score board. I’m only kidding. 

“I don’t know how much of this I can put up with,” Fred says.

I take a drink before I dish back a comment.

“Where’s that gal of yours tonight? She dump you already?”

“Funny, Isabel. Very funny. Nah, she had to do somethin’ with her mother tonight. Things are just fine between us.”

“Glad to hear,” I tell him.

BOOK NEWS: Missing the Deadline has a Dec. 21 release on Kindle. Price? $3.99. Paperback readers will have to be a little patient. 

Isabel Long Mystery Series

Good Hearted Readers

I am fortunate to have a son who owns a microbrewery — Floodwater Brewing. Besides brewing great beer, Zack has created a community space in our Shelburne Falls Village for locals and visitors along with musical entertainment, games, and comedy. And I joke as his mother, I get free beer for life. Besides that perk, paperbacks of my Isabel Long Mystery Series are on sale. They even have their own shelf built by Hank.

Admittedly, the vast majority of my book sales are through Kindle as digital is the preferred way to read for so many people. I am also grateful that digital enables my books to be available to readers around the world. But then, there are those who prefer a book in hand, whether they’re old school readers or people who already spend a lot of time staring at a computer screen. So, for paperback readers, I offer them the books in my series at what I call the Floodwater Discount. I can do that since my son doesn’t take a cut, nice kid that he is. (He also named one of the beers and a tank for me.)

Sometimes it’s an impulse buy for a visitor to Floodwater. Sacha, one of the bartenders, recently sent me a text about a woman who came in on a Sunday afternoon and bought all five books. The woman hugged them — Sacha sent me a photo — and jumped up and down, excited to have the series. I am sorry I wasn’t there to thank her. 

There have been times when someone bought a book off the shelf, and then discovered I was sitting at the bar across from them. I went over to talk.

I have also done two readings at Floodwater and will likely do more.

Other times, people have bought the first, got hooked and continue through the series. That’s what’s happening with musician Scott Cadwallader, who performs at open-mic nights at Floodwater. On Sept. 2, he did a solo show. Scott plays the originals he has skillfully composed, no covers, but that night as a tribute to my series, he started his set with “Good Hearted Woman.” I believe Scott is onto book no. 3.

That’s Scott playing the tune in the photo above. 

“Good Hearted Woman” is a Waylon Jennings song about a woman who will put up with her man’s rowdy habits. The song is on the playlist for the bands that play at the Rooster Bar, where Isabel Long tends bar on Friday nights. It is the first song she and Jack dance to in Chasing the Case, the first in the series. It eventually becomes their song.

Here’s the first mention.

On the other side of the room, the Slim Jims gulp down beers before their next song. One of the Jims leans into the mike. “This is for all you bad hombres lucky enough to have a woman like this.” Then the crowd goes a bit nuts when the Slim Jims play the familiar opening to Waylon Jennings’ “Good Hearted Woman.” Yeah, I bet all the bad hombres in this room would like one of those gals.

Jack drops a full tray on the counter and before I take anything, he grabs my wrist. He tips his head toward the direction of the band.

“Come on, Isabel, let’s dance,” he says, and then he announces loudly, “The bar’s closed. No beer until this song’s over.”

I let him drag me onto the floor. I haven’t danced in well over a year. Jack’s a bigger man than Sam, but I’m surprised by his moves. I can’t recall seeing him dance before, but then I might have just been having too good a night out with Sam that I didn’t pay attention. I let him have the lead, and he’s got me twisting and twirling on the dance floor. I hear myself laugh. Jack laughs, too. The other dancers move aside for us. He’s got that big Jack Smith grin going. He’s spinning me this way and that, and even ends the tune with a corny, little dip. We get a cheer from the customers when he pulls me upright at the end.

I’m a little breathless, but I manage, “Thanks. That was really fun, Jack.”

He chuckles.

“We’ll have to do it again soon,” he says, and then he jokes, giving me a loud but friendly, “Now, woman, git back behind the bar.”

So thanks Scott for playing that song and for everyone who stops by Floodwater and buys one of my books. Stay tuned, Following the Lead will be out Nov. 3. Here’s the link to preorder and magically it will appear in your device that day:

Alas paperback readers will have to wait a little bit longer.

FLOODWATER: The brewery, owned and created by Zack Livingston, is within a short walk from the noted Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. Here’s the link to learn more