February 19, 2014

Author Interview: P.L. Doss.

Enough Rope

Enough Rope, by P.L. Doss.

About the Book:

"During an early morning jog, Atlanta attorney Tom Halloran discovers the body of his friend and colleague, Elliot Carter, hanging from a tree in Piedmont Park. Even worse, the private and dignified Carter is grotesquely dressed in women’s clothes. Halloran is convinced that Elliot’s death is murder, not a tragic accident of autoerotic asphyxia-gone-wrong. 

But the medical examiner’s investigator, Hollis Joplin, is skeptical. He knows how difficult it would be to fake that kind of death, and he’s seen too much in his years on the Atlanta streets to be surprised by what people are capable of doing—to themselves or others. Then two more people die, and the clues lead back to a twenty-year-old kidnapping. 

The under-staffed Atlanta PD can’t give the case attention unless Carter’s death is ruled a homicide, so Joplin, with an eidetic memory that allows him to recall in three dimensions everything he’s seen, sets out to investigate it himself. Piece by piece, he and the relentless Halloran unravel a tale of greed, revenge, and family secrets—and put themselves right in the crosshairs of a calculating and ruthless killer."

P.L. DossAbout the Author:

While completing a Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice at Georgia State University, P.L. Doss served a graduate internship at the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s office. Assigned to the investigative division, she discovered how important the duties of the investigators were in helping the forensic pathologists determine the cause and manner of death. She was also able to observe the autopsies—an experience that proved to be invaluable in toughening her up for her career in law enforcement, first as a volunteer analyst in the Missing Children’s Information Center at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and then as a probation officer and supervisor of officers at the Georgia Department of Corrections. She currently lives in Atlanta.


Can you tell us a little about yourself and your book ENOUGH ROPE?

While my children were little, I wrote freelance magazine articles. I then wrote an Agatha Christie-type murder mystery and managed to get a New York agent, but the book didn’t sell and the agent died. Convinced that I knew nothing about the criminal justice system, I decided to get a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice at Georgia State University. While there, I opted to do a graduate internship at the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office and was assigned to the Investigative Unit. I got to see a lot of autopsies, which were fascinating to me. I was also able to participate in the work the death investigators performed and learned just how crucial it was in helping the pathologists determine cause and manner of death. So when I decided to write ENOUGH ROPE many years later, I knew I wanted to have a death investigator as a main character.

What inspired you to write a mystery book?

I’ve been reading mysteries since I was a young teenager; they’re still my favorite type of book. Over the years, they’ve helped with bouts of insomnia, provided escape, and (usually) entertained me. I wanted to write something that might do the same for other readers. And, given my years in law enforcement (after getting my Master’s, I spent the next thirteen years in the criminal justice system, first as a volunteer analyst at the GBI, then with the Probation Division of the Georgia Dept. of Corrections), murder was something I could write about. I also think a mystery—whether it’s a “cozy” type or hard-boiled or very graphic—is the perfect vehicle for exploring human nature and big themes like good and evil.

Are any of the characters in ENOUGH ROPE based on real people you know?

ENOUGH ROPE is dedicated to my late husband, Clayton Bradley Doss, and states: “He was both Halloran and Joplin…and everything to me.” Brad was raised in a small town outside Atlanta like Joplin and was the first person in his family to go to college. He went on to get two Master’s degrees and a Phd and taught at Georgia State University for twenty-five years. Physically, and in his manner and personality, he was most like Halloran, but his background and his perspective on life was pure Joplin. I took these two very different sides of him and made two characters who pursue Elliot Carter’s killer, each in his own way: Joplin in a very intuitive “gut reaction” way, based on his years in law enforcement and Halloran in a very analytical way, in keeping with his profession as an attorney. It’s only when they finally start sharing what they’ve uncovered, however, that the murderer is caught. Brad was able to combine two seemingly very different ways of learning and dealing with life, which is something I don’t think most people can do. He was one of the smartest, wisest people I’ve ever known, and I hope he will live on in these two characters.

When writing this book, how did you finally decide that you wanted to kill Elliot Carter through “autoerotic  asphyxiation”?

I was working on a forensic article about suicide notes with one of the pathologists at the M.E.’s office and asked him how he would murder someone and get away with it. He said, “I’d make it look like an autoerotic death.”  I didn’t know much about that and began to research it and was fascinated. It also allowed me to write about the “choking game” that a lot of kids and teenagers get involved with, even now. It’s a very dangerous game that I don’t think most parents are even aware of. I’m pretty sure that a young boy I knew when I was thirteen died as a result of this practice, but it just wasn’t talked about at the time.

The end of the story was a complete TWIST! Did you already have the killer planned out at the beginning of the book, or did that come along while writing?

Plot is one of the most important things to me when I read fiction, especially mysteries. I hate to get to the end of one and be let down by a writer who hasn’t thought things through or resorts to wildly implausible “solutions.” So, yes, I knew who the killer was before I started the book, but I also believe the plot has to be character-driven, and my characters often had minds of their own. They would change little things along the way and make me throw away various plot lines that didn’t fit them. I think a writer has to be flexible that way and let the characters talk to him/her.

Do you have another book in the works? Can you tell us a little about that and what readers should expect?

Yes, I do. It’s called BLOOD WILL TELL and picks up about three months after ENOUGH ROPE ends. It’s Hollis Joplin’s first day back on the job after a long recuperation. Readers will find out what’s happened with his relationship with Carrie Salinger. They’ll also learn a lot about blood spatter evidence. Joplin will be forced to work with Tom Halloran again, because the victim—the young, beautiful widow of a very old, very wealthy Atlanta businessman—is one of Halloran’s clients. I’m really enjoying writing this one and have already worked out the plot, but as with ENOUGH ROPE, the characters will tell me how to get there.

Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to answer a few questions! I will HAVE to pick up Blood Will Tell, and see how things will go between Hollis and Carrie. Again thank you!

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