- Interview by MysteryPeople Scott
We’re happy to have Ben Rehder joining us for our Lone Star Mystery authors panel September 28th. In Bum Steer, Rehder’s latest novel to feature John Marlin of Blanco County, Marlin solves the mystery behind two dead bodies: a man and a steer. We caught up with him to talk about the book and the real and fictional Blanco County.
MysteryPeople Scott: You often use news items or current events for your Blanco County books. Did a real life event inspire Bum Steer?
Ben Rehder: Not any single event, but cattle rustling in general had been in my head for a while. I think some people are surprised to learn that rustling still takes place, but it does, and there are special rangers who investigate those thefts, along with theft of farm and ranch equipment. Imagine trying to steal a thousand-pound animal that doesn’t want to cooperate. That was the germ of the idea that grew into Bum Steer.
MPS: You ratchet up the tension by having Marlin work with a Texas Ranger who was an old flame. What appealed to you about that situation?
BR: I think Marlin, like most of us, has plenty of memories from his youth that he likes to revisit on occasion, and I thought this would be a good one—a girlfriend from his college days. And how would he explain the situation to his wife, especially when he learns that he might be working with the ranger, Lauren, on a long-term basis?
MPS: Who in Blanco is the most the most fun for you to write for?
BR: Hands down, it’s Red and Billy Don, the two redneck poachers, and they also seem to be the characters who get the most comments from readers. It’s always fun to see what kind of nonsense I can get Red and Billy Don into. It just wouldn’t be a Blanco County mystery without those two guys involved somehow. Maybe they need a spinoff.
MPS: What is most difficult to maintain in one of these books, the humor or the plotting?
BR: The plotting. I don’t outline. When I start a book, I have only a general idea of where I want it to go, and things might change as a write it. So the plotting is the toughest part for me.
MPS: Has the local changed since you started writing about it?
BR: Really, it hasn’t changed too much, except for some faces coming and going. The county itself is still sparsely populated and has a rural feel—both in my books and in real life. I hope it stays that way in both worlds.
Ben Rehder joins us Monday, September 28th, at 7 PM here at BookPeople for a Lone Star Crime panel. He’ll be speaking and signing his latest novel alongside Reavis Z. Wortham and Bill Crider. You can find copies of Bum Steer on our shelves.