- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Ben Rehder’s latest Blanco County novel, Point Taken, has his hero John Marlin playing straight man in a murder involving arrowheads, one scary meat salesman, and the redneck Abbott and Costello, Red and Billy Don, now flush with cash.
Ben will be joining Jonathan Woods and Lance Hawvermale for what is bound to be a fun discussion on Sunday, November 20th, at 5 PM. We got to him a little earlier to ask him these questions.
MysteryPeople Scott: While still very funny, this book came off a little darker than some of the other Blanco books I’ve read. Was that intended?
Ben Rehder: No, I didn’t intend that, and you’re actually the first person to make that comment. But I can see it. In hindsight, I have no problem with it being darker, and for a deeper explanation why, see the next answer…
MPS: A lot of of that tension comes from your psycho meat seller. How did he come about?
BR: Believe it or not, there was a door-to-door meat salesman making the rounds in my area, and he was almost as bad as the character in my novel. He was the subject of conversation on many neighborhood Facebook pages because of his aggression and, in some cases, veiled threats. It wasn’t long before someone found out who he was and dug up some old mugshots. This was a bad dude, and it really irritated me that he was harassing people, including kids, and getting away with it. I’ll just say that I prepared accordingly for him to show up at my door. Probably better for both of us that he didn’t. But I guess I owe him a debt of gratitude for being a big enough scumbag to stoke my imagination.
MPS: Arrowheads play a major part in the story. What surprised you on your research of the subject?
BR: Well, for one, I’d never heard of a wiggle pick, which plays a large role in the story. I also had no idea it was so prevalent for illegal diggers to readily trespass in the hunt for artifacts. It also never occurred to me that digging by amateurs, legal or illegal, can compromise a site to the point that any potential research value is lost. Last, I didn’t know that some of the artifacts were worth so much. A person could theoretically make a living, or at least a decent second income, digging artifacts.
MPS: How would you best describe the friendship of Red and Billy Don?
BR: I’ve had some readers say they are like an old married couple, and I think that’s pretty accurate. They bicker a lot, but they’d be lost without each other. Besides, nobody else would have them.
MPS: What has Blanco County an its citizens given to you as a writer?
BR: Lots of support, in terms of readership, and a fantastic setting. It’s the perfect environment for a game warden – roughly 10,000 residents in 713 square miles. Compare that to neighboring Travis County, which has well over a million people in about 1,000 square miles. Obviously Blanco County is much more rural, which is what I prefer. All it lacks is a lake, but hey, I’m writing fiction, so I made one up.
You can find copies of Point Taken on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.