A guest post by Naomi Hirahara.
For my past five mystery novels, I’ve been in the head of a man significantly older than me (although as the years pass, that gap is closing in!). His name is Mas Arai, a gardener in Southern California,
survivor, and, of course, a reluctant detective. Mas was modeled after my father and men like
him – working class and seemingly ordinary on the outside, but with intricate
secrets and strength within.
In April of this year, I’m embarking on a very different mystery protagonist, Ellie Rush. She’s, well, first female and considerably younger, 23 years of age. And the biggest challenge for me – she’s a bicycle cop with the LAPD assigned to downtown
Los Angeles’s central core.
Don’t ask me the last time I’ve ridden a bicycle, but take my word for it, I can. And in terms of shooting a gun, I have. In 2011, the same year my beloved father was battling terminal stomach cancer, I participated in a Southern California-based
once a week for two
months. There we learned about the
hidden perils of cigarette smuggling (usually this crime is linked to more
dangerous international gang syndicates), the adventures of going undercover,
and how to follow an arson trail. ATF Citizens
Providing a brief break from sharing care-giving duties with my mother, these sessions let me escape into the shoes of someone completely different from me. We even donned earpieces and stuffed wireless radios in our jackets to do surveillance at a local mall, wore bulletproof jackets and aimed pellet guns inside an abandoned office which, for our pretend purposes, was supposed to be harboring suspects, and finally went to an outdoor gun range, where we shot firearms of various sizes.
The biggest eye-opener for me is how essential it is for law enforcement officers to work together as a team. But what about the lone rogue detective that we see so much on TV, the movies, and novels? In crashing a drug pad, often the Number Two ATF man or woman has to pull the collar of the person in front. “Hey, not so fast!”
As a lover of basketball, I could totally relate to team coordination. Everyone has a certain role and purpose. I had always viewed law enforcement as powered by adrenalin and emotion, but for it to work properly, quite the opposite is true.
During that same year, I also agreed to step in as an instructor of a UCLA undergraduate writing workshop. As I gazed at the beautiful, fresh faces of these 15 young people, I was transported to my college days, when despite a sluggish economy, we also remained optimistic about our futures.
Somehow these two experiences – the
and the UCLA
writing class – intertwined in my brain.
The following year, my father passed away in a hospital bed in the room
where he had watched his favorite samurai and Japanese soap opera programs on
TV for decades. As I struggled with this
great loss, I grappled with focusing on something new and young. Slowly this young woman, Ellie Rush, emerged
– vibrant and enthusiastic, yet still wondering how she would make her mark on
this world. ATF Citizens
While the tone of the Office Ellie Rush mysteries are much lighter and breezier than my Mas Arai mysteries, there are still some common elements. I still want to take my readers on a tour of lesser known areas in my “homeland” of
And family and friends are important to both – although cranky Mas will
not admit it publicly.
Ellie has her first mystery adventure in
so the first book is titled Murder on Bamboo Lane.
Hope you might want to take a ride with her, and it won’t matter when
you were last on a bicycle.
Naomi Hirahara is the Edgar Award-winning author of the Mas Arai mysteries.
The first book in her Officer Ellie Rush Mysteries is being released by Berkley Prime Crime and is available in both mass market and ebook format. For more information, go to www.naomihirahara.com.
Berkley Prime Crime has generously offered a copy of Murder on Bamboo Lane to one of my readers. To enter, please comment below (US addresses only, please). Please don't forget to include an email address where I can contact you if you win.