Author Profile: Jack Fredrickson

A former Library Trustee and current President of the Friends of the Hinsdale Public Library, mystery writer Jack Fredrickson is a delightfully enthusiastic advocate for public libraries. If you’ve featured any of his books in your newsletter or on your website, you may have even received a hand-written note of thanks. (Though, given his sense of humor and penchant for self-deprecation, you may have mistaken it for an apology.)

In honor of Booklist’s Mystery Month, I sat down for a “quick” chat with Jack, whose latest Dek Elstrom mystery Hunting Sweetie Rose came out this spring and is just as quirky and enjoyable as its predecessors.

It’s not a huge surprise that Jack became a writer, some of his strongest and earliest memories are of checking out armloads of books from the Park Ridge Public Library. (He even earned his Boy Scout Troop’s very first merit badge—for reading.) Once he was old enough to head into downtown Chicago on his own, he’d take a ten-dollar bill he got for Christmas and case Kroch’s and Brentano’s for hours, plotting which 35-cent paperbacks to take come. He’d start reading on the train and not remove his nose from his books until school started.

Serious mystery writer headshot. (Perhaps the only time I've seen the author not smiling.)

Reading remained a passionate hobby, but writing was limited to a couple of business books he wrote in his post-MBA days. (To read more about Cost Reduction in the Office and Designing the Cost-Effective Office, go to the cheekily named “Sleep Aids” page on his website.) After working in management consulting and industrial engineering, Jack ran a successful office furniture business. He retired early and gave himself three years to be irresponsible. Scuba lessons, Appalachian banjo-building lessons, and a string of other adventures followed.

Up for anything, Jack agreed to take a writing class at a local community college with a friend. The friend was not aware that Jack already had a manuscript in a drawer, a story that had been the reason Jack would sneak into the office early or offer to lock the place up at night. The positive feedback he received from this workshop gave him the courage to submit a short story to Ellery Queen magazine. Months later (April Fool’s day, actually) he bought himself a straw hat from Target when he learned it would be published.

Jack continued taking classes and finally went to the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where an instructor read the first draft of The Gateville Explosions (later to be published as A Safe Place for Dying) and suggested that he send it to an agent. That first agent didn’t bite, but the book did eventually catch the eye of an editor at St. Martin’s. The rest is history. (With a long interlude including lunch at the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station, a scrambled phone call to his son in which some lady from New York left a message about Jack looking for a place to die in New York, and a trudge to the Flatiron Building. Get Jack to tell you about it sometime.)

Thus, Dek Elstrom, the turret-dwelling, hypocrisy-hating, ex-wife-pining, Ho-Ho-eating former P.I. was released upon the reading public. About Dek’s destiny, “I don’t want to know,” Jack says. “I only know about 10 minutes in advance what’s going to happen.” Which is probably a good thing. Part of the charm of this series is Dek’s casual befuddlement. I think of the Dek Elstrom books as Elmore Leonard on good behavior. They’re not quite cozies, not quite capers. Easily recommended to fans of Lawrence Shames or G.M. Malliet, the characters and irreverent sense of humor are the big draw to this enjoyable series. Now that I think about it, the same can be said of the author.

Comments

comments

About the Author:

Karen Kleckner Keefe is the director of the Hinsdale (IL) Public Library, a Booklist reviewer, and one of Library Journal's 2009 "Movers and Shakers." Follow her on Twitter at @KarenKleckner.

Post a Comment