Please join me in welcoming Claire Booth to the blog, today. Claire is a mystery writer with a fascinating history as a journalist covering true crime. The latest installment in her Hank Worth Mystery series was released in the U.S. early last month, and it was great fun to read.
MB: Claire, thanks for being on MurderBooks, today. You’re not only a crime fiction writer, you’ve also written a true-crime account. Tell us about this.
CB: I did start out in true crime. My first book was about a case I covered while working as a newspaper reporter. A man passing himself off as a pseudo-cult leader killed five people near San Francisco. It was an extremely complicated case that took four years to resolve in court (which I’m sure you can appreciate with your legal background!). It ended up involving three suspects, dozens of law enforcement investigators, a massive missing-person search, a Playboy centerfold, and a practicing Wiccan. I wrote dozens of articles about it for the paper, but I could never fit in more than a fraction of the details. I knew that a book was the only way to do it justice. It’s called The False Prophet: Conspiracy, Extortion, and Murder in the Name of God.
MB: I’ve lived in a lot of places, but chose to set my crime fiction in a place close to my origins. Your work as a journalist took you to a number of places across the country, so I’m curious why you chose Branson, MO as the setting for your novels.
CB: That’s a really good question. I went to college at the University of Missouri, where I met someone who grew up in Branson. I ended up marrying him and as a result, becoming quite familiar with the town, even though I’ve never lived there. And it’s a fascinating place. It’s not a big place (less than 15,000 people) and has many small-town issues, but it’s also huge because it gets more than six million tourists a year. So it has this duality that makes it a great place to set crime novels.
MB: Your novels revolve around Sheriff Hank Worth, a really good-hearted guy who knows a thing or two about crime-solving and the subtleties of human psychology and motivation. Where did the character of Hank Worth come from?
CB: Hank came to me pretty much fully formed. His personality began to come out as soon as I started writing dialogue. I do think he’s the result of the influence of the many decent, down-to-earth men in my life.
MB: The Branson, MO portrayed in your writing feels so real–not just the place, but the people, patterns of speech, social structures. Are there real people behind any of your characters?
CB: Not really. I do see bits and pieces of real people come through in my characters’ reactions, but I haven’t modeled a character on anyone specific. In the future, though, I just might . . .
MB: Some authors say their main characters are more or less with them all the time, rarely far from their thoughts. Is this the case with you?
CB: I go back and forth. The character haunting my thoughts is usually the one I’m focusing on at the moment. They pester me until I can figure out what they’ll do next. If it’s a complicated scene or plot point, I have several of them going at once. It can get quite crowded in my head.
MB: Why crime fiction?
CB: It’s very much a case of “write what you know.” I covered crime when I worked as a journalist. I’ve always found it fascinating, and it was the natural subject for me when I started writing novels.
MB: When you start a book, do you already know the ending?
CB: Oh, goodness no. I have no idea. I am definitely not someone who outlines everything beforehand. I just start writing and see where it leads me.
MB: Who’s more fun to write, the good guys or the villains?
CB: Hmm. That’s a tough one. I do know that writing the good guys is more difficult. You have to make them interesting and complicated; you can’t let them become boring. I don’t have any trouble keeping a villain from being boring!
MB: What’s next from the pen of Claire Booth?
CB: Right now, I’m working on a stand-alone novel that’s set in California, and starting the fourth Hank book. I’m also putting together another true-crime project—going back to my roots, so to speak.
MB: Claire, thanks for taking the time to be on MurderBooks, today. Best of luck with your current writing projects.
Claire Booth spent more than a decade as a journalist, much of it covering crimes so strange and convoluted they seemed more like fiction than reality. Her first book, The False Prophet: Conspiracy, Extortion, and Murder in the Name of God, is the true story of a multiple murder case in California. After that, she took a step back from the real world and decided to write novels instead. Her Sheriff Hank Worth mysteries take place in Branson, Missouri, where small-town politics and big-city country music tourism clash in—yes—strange and convoluted ways. The latest in the series, A Deadly Turn, was released this month. www.clairebooth.com.
Claire was interviewed for MurderBooks by Roger Johns.