Back in the 90s, I published 5 books featuring Matt Murdock, a war vet and ex-cop who didn’t necessarily work within the law but was always on the side of the good guys. Matt has been in cold storage for a while, but now he’s back and–thanks to the leeway fiction gives us–not too much older than in his last adventure. The main difference is that now he has a sidekick, Helene Steinbeck—also an ex-cop and the daughter of a very bright NYPD detective.
Helene came to fiction from The Weekend Novelist Writes a Mystery, the how-to book I wrote with Jack Remick. She was the model sleuth who solved the ugly crime. In this new Murdock, she came to Taos for a writing workshop and couldn’t make herself leave. She felt the magic, she loved the area. She’s pondering her future when she stumbles onto a corpse on Angel Mountain. Arrows rain down. Helene collides with Murdock. Angered by the death of this young girl, Helene joins Murdock on the hunt for the killer. She’s tough, smart, beautiful. When someone needs shooting, Murdock nods at Helene—she does not miss. With a beautiful sidekick, Murdock’s future brightens. His loneliness ebbs.
I set the book in Taos because I’d been making yearly visits since I was twelve. I grew up in Texas, a windy town called Amarillo, and if you wanted to see mountains, the startling Sangre de Cristos, snowcapped in early summer, were only five hours away. My mother was an artist who loved the light in New Mexico. She bought a cabin, the original fixer-upper, in the hills above Eagle Nest. Taos was the nearest town. It had a Furr’s super market. A real drugstore with comic books, all my heroes. A Pueblo that dated back hundreds of years.
With the Taos setting, I was hoping to catch a shimmer of the unmistakable Taos magic. That mysterious magic that brought people like D.H. Lawrence from England and Georgia O’Keefe from New York City. That same elusive magic brought the Hippies in the sixties; it still lures tourists in shorts and flip-flops; and today it attracts the drivers of the pricey vehicles that cruise the Plaza at noontime, seeking a parking slot. The Taos area, with its new money conflicting with its old ways, is the perfect setting for a murder mystery.
Try this: sit in the Plaza at noontime, basking in the high desert heat of Northern New Mexico, making like a detective as you observe the beautiful people, sleek women and powerful men, climbing down from their air-conditioned vehicles—a Lexus here, a Mercedes there, a silver Humvee sporting a chrome-tooth grille. These are big city people, people with perfect tans and perfect mountain clothes, wearing expressions of total entitlement. They look bored. If the universe were for sale, they would buy it. They are in Taos on the quest for something different, something fresh, some new taste or naughty experience—creating an ugly event that drives the story. Observing these people, you shiver: they were born to join the cast of a mystery book.
I am thrilled to have Murdock re-born and back in action. Thrilled also to be re-published by Catherine Treadgold and Camel Press. A good detective is timeless in certain ways, but sometimes he needs a little spiffing up, which is what happens in Murdock Tackles Taos. A new villain, a new setting, a New Woman—and this one acts like she means to stay.
I hope you enjoy the new book. It’s due out in mid-summer. If you haven’t read Murdock yet, give this one a try.