Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries. The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, Candidate for Murder, was released on June 9, 2016.
Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.
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Anyone who has read any of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries knows that I love to create intriguing characters. I have as much fun creating the suspects and villains as I do the protagonist and regular recurring characters.
I make no pretense of basing Candidate for Murder on our current presidential election. There was just too much material to resist writing this satirical murder mystery. As a matter of fact, I was so inspired by the going-ons in both parties during the primaries that I set aside Killer in the Band, which will be released in September/October, in order to write Candidate for Murder.
Both reviewers and readers have been struck by the similarity of the two mayoral candidates to our current presidential candidates. Make no mistake, I was not partisan in my characterization. Readers should note that I am a card-carrying independent and in creating the fictionalized characters I trash both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump equally.
While writing Candidate for Murder, the amateur pop-psychologist in me would not allow me to stop at the public persona of Clinton and Trump. Candidates Nancy Braxton and Bill Clark are actual characters playing active roles as murder suspects in the mystery. As a writer, I had to dive deeper into their psyches to discover what motivates them to act or react the way they do. Not only did I ask “What if…” which leads to the plotline, but I asked “Why?” which took me into their heads to develop the backstory of the characters.
Imagine what a scary trip that must have been.
For example, in Candidate for Murder, I dove into Nancy Braxton’s (based on Hillary Clinton) repeated, some would call it pathological, need to lie. Just in recent weeks: sending classified material in emails, Benghazi video, then lying saying she never said there was a video and the Benghazi victims’ families are lying about her lying, etc.
For the fictional character of Nancy Braxton, I could not resist digging into what would make a public figure, who has to know about YouTube keeping track of her tall tales, tell such blatant untruths—as illustrated in this excerpt from the mayoral debate in Candidate for Murder. The Somalia sniper story is based on Hillary Clinton’s infamous Bosnia sniper story. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZHO1vo762c)
“It’s simple,” Nancy said. “I’ll bring people from both sides together, and we will reach across the aisle to come to a solution that will make everyone happy.” Upon hearing doubtful grumbles from the audience, she added, “I’ve done it before. I was the one who negotiated the release of a hundred hostages taken prisoner by pirates in Somalia!”
“Somalia?” Bogie said in disbelief.
He saw the journalists on the stage furrow their brows. Judging by how her mouth was hanging open with awe, Journalist Salma Rameriz was buying every word, which spurred Nancy Braxton on.
“The secretary of state was too busy negotiating with Iran. But my heart went out to the families of the victims who had been snatched from their boats by pirates in Somalia.” Nancy furrowed her brow in a well-rehearsed expression of sincere compassion. “So I offered to try to rescue them myself. Because the secretary was afraid that I would be taken hostage, he assigned me a security detail.”
Trying not to disrespect the mayoral candidate, Bogie turned away from the audience. Dallas’ eyes were wide with disbelief.
“I flew into Somalia.” Nancy waved her hand to indicate the plane’s flight. “And they told us that there were Somali snipers at the airfield. So when we landed, my security detail surrounded me, and we had to run across the airfield with our heads down, ducking the snipers’ fire.”
The audience didn’t know what to make of the candidate’s story. Murmurs of both doubt and admiration rose from the audience.
“Then I had the Somali pirates brought to my hotel suite, where we ate dinner and talked. They told me their problems, and I listened. That’s all they needed—someone to listen to them. Then finally, they agreed to let a hundred American hostages go.”
“Lady, you have way too many cobwebs in your attic,” Dallas said. Shaking her head in disbelief over the fact that the moderator seemed to be buying Nancy’s story hook, line, and sinker, she turned away and caught a glimpse of (state party chairman) George Ward and (Nancy’s assistant) Erin, who were engaged in what appeared to be a serious discussion.
Nancy pounded the podium. “When I’m mayor, I will get it done! I am the only candidate here on this stage who can!” She pointed a finger at Gnarly. “No dog can work to build bridges so that we can all live together in peace and love!”
It started as a single outburst from one voter. Then two more joined in and were followed by four more and then eight more and so on and so on until the whole audience was chanting “Bigot! Bigot! Bigot!”
Her eyes bulging, Salma Rameriz stood up to face down the audience members who had dared to disrespect her favored candidate.
Refusing to back down, Nancy shouted into the microphone. “It’s the truth!”
“You wouldn’t know the truth if it bit you in the butt!” a man in a plaid shirt said, prompting laughter.
It would have been so easy as the author to portray Nancy Braxton as a callous, manipulative witch who will say and do anything for power. However, as the author of character driven books, I could not stop at the surface. Then, readers, no matter what their political leaning, would have seen her as nothing more than a cardboard cutout.
Through the character of Dallas, an investigative journalist, the reader discovers the root of Nancy Braxton’s lies, revealing her to not be just a power hungry politician, but a pathetic woman with deep emotional problems which have been enabled her entire life. Everyone around her knows that she is emotionally unqualified to be mayor, but no one has the courage to do anything to stop it.
Likewise, with the character of Bill Clark, who many readers have recognized as being based on Donald Trump. This character is loosely based on Trump since he is new to politics. Fans of the Mac Faraday mysteries will recognize Bill Clark who has appeared in numerous installments. He has been a resident bully, crooked politician, and general thorn in David O’Callaghan’s side since It’s Murder, My Son.
In Candidate for Murder, readers get a sense of what drives Bill Clark in his quest for power. In the end, they will find, as with the case of Nancy Braxton, that he is not “just a bully.” If he wasn’t such a despicable person, readers could almost feel sorry for him.
I would have to say that in the journey that I go on with each book, it turns into a trip of discovery where I uncover new and wondrous things not only about the world around us. Always, without fail, after I type the words “the end” I come away seeing the characters who make up our world just a little bit more clearly.
My hope is that my readers do so as well.
Candidate for Murder
A Mac Faraday Mystery
It’s election time in Spencer, Maryland, and the race for mayor is not a pretty one. In recent years, the small resort town has become divided between the year-round residents who enjoy their rural way of life and the city dwellers who are moving into mansions, taking over the town council, and proceeding to turn Deep Creek Lake into a closed-gate community—complete with a host of regulations for everything from speed limits to clotheslines.
When the political parties force-feed two unsavory mayoral nominees to the town’s residents, David O’Callaghan, the chief of police, decides to make a statement—by nominating Gnarly, Mac Faraday’s German shepherd, to run for mayor of Spencer!
What starts out as a joke turns into a disaster when overnight, Gnarly becomes the front-runner, and his political opponents proceed to dig into the canine’s past. When one of the mayoral candidates ends up dead, it becomes apparent that slinging mud is not enough for someone with a stake in this election.
With murder on the ballot, Mac Faraday and the gang— including old friends from past cases—dive in to clear Gnarly’s name, catch a killer, and save Spencer!