Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eric Keith, Nine Man's Murder

AUTHOR:  Eric Keith

BOOK TITLE:  Nine Man’s Murder

PUBLISHER:  Ransom Note Press

BUY LINK:  Amazon:
Barnes and Noble:

#1  Tell me a little about your book.

Nine Man’s Murder is an “attrition” murder mystery.  A group of people are
trapped on a remote, isolated mountaintop, out of communication with the
rest of the world.  They are murdered one by one, by a killer who is one
of them.  Attrition mysteries are a special kind of whodunit, since the
suspense is ratcheted up.  The reader feels that he is trapped along with
the rest of the victims, and murder could be lurking around every corner.

#2  What gave you the idea for this particular story?

I had read a few attrition mysteries, the most famous being Agatha
Christie’s masterpiece, Ten Little Indians.  There are not many attrition
mysteries out there, and for good reason:  If you are a mystery writer who
likes to surprise his readers with the murderer’s identity (as I am),
attrition mysteries provide a special challenge.  As the number of
suspects is dwindled down, it becomes more and more difficult to surprise
the reader—especially as you approach the number one.  I took this as a
personal challenge and was curious to find out how I would handle such a
challenge.  The result was Nine Man’s Murder.

#3  Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your
writing time?

I’m beginning to believe that the difference between a part-time writer
and a full-time writer is that a part-time writer actually sometimes has
time to write.  I have seen that a published writer has so many
obligations—marketing, social networking, blogging, public speaking,
community events—that it becomes increasingly difficult to find the time
to sit down and write.  I was gong to call myself a “full-time writer,”
but I realized that implies I’m writing full time, and I’m lucky if I get
to write even part time.

#4  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I was in college, when one day, out of the blue, it just struck me that I
wanted to be a writer.  For no apparent reason.  I figure I must have
looked down the road and unconsciously asked myself, “Do you really want
to spend the rest of your life laboring day and night at a job that will
deplete your energy, take your soul, for which you may receive little
recognition and even less pay?”  And answered, “Yes.”

#5  What do you hope readers will take from your writing?

Well, I’d love them to take my children.  But as a second choice, I think
mysteries can present readers with a world in which things are not what
they seem and surprises abound.  Since one encounters this in “real life,”
reading mysteries can be good practice for reevaluating one’s assumptions
and expectations.

#6  Which genres do you write, which do you prefer, and why?

Nine Man’s Murder is my first novel, a mystery.  I will continue to write
other mysteries:  whodunits, locked-room mysteries, thrillers, caper
tales.  I will also be writing science fiction and fantasy novels, as well
as novels in a genre that doesn’t seem to have a label at this time.  I
suppose, however, that I would have to call mystery my favorite genre,
because even my science fiction and fantasy novels are basically
mysteries.  The mysteries may not be “whodunit,” but answering mystifying
questions plays as large a role as achieving a life-and-death objective.

#7  What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past

For me, the toughest part of writing is the publishing industry itself.  I
have seen, through my own experience and that of other authors, that you
can have a good book and yet be unable to find an agent who will represent
it or a publisher who will publish it.  I have seen this situation
frustrate countless authors.  The way around it, I believe, is to be aware
that there are alternatives available now that never were available
before.  Today one can self publish.  In the past, this option was
available, but it was cost prohibitive to most authors.  Nowadays, the
self-publishing option is virtually free to all, so that authors who in
the past would never see print can today publish and market their own

#8  Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event?  If so,
tell us about it.

Since Nine Man’s Murder is about a killer who murders a group of people, I
am pleased to say that nothing in my experience bears any similarity to
the events in the novel.  Although every parent of a large family is
probably familiar with an occasional fantasy of one person permanently
silencing a group of others.

#9  How much is your protagonist like you?  How different?

Given that everyone in Nine Man’s Murder is a suspect, there is no single
clear-cut protagonist, they’re all protagonists.  And I’m afraid that they
are all probably a good deal braver and more clever than I am.  Although
understandably terrified to find themselves trapped on a mountaintop with
a psychotic killer, my characters manage to keep their wits about them
enough to try to reason out the identity of the murderer.  If I were in a
situation like that, I would probably hide under the nearest bed and
refuse to come out until the author let me write my own ending.

#10  What kind of research did you do for this type of story?

Well, when you’re writing about murdering a group of people, you want to
be careful about research.  You certainly don’t want to learn firsthand
about being one of the victims.  I think I did the same type of general
research any mystery writer does.  Nine Man’s Murder bears some
resemblance to the board game Clue (a fact exploited by the cover design),
in that a number of murder methods are employed to dispatch the various
victims.  So you have to learn something about different poisons and their
effects, for instance, or, if one of your victims is to be stabbed, a
little knowledge of anatomy helps you know where to have him stabbed.  As
a matter of fact, that latter detail is one of the clues in Nine Man’s

#11  Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you.  Why or why not?

Nine Man’s Murder is written in the classic Golden Age tradition of
whodunits from the 1920s, which could be read by young and old alike,
without parental concern.  Like those novels, there is no explicit
violence, language, or anything that would be considered inappropriate for
young adults in my novels.  Nine Man’s Murder was written to double as an
adult and Young Adult novel.  I am eager to expose younger readers to the
mental stimulation of Golden Age mysteries, and in particular the “puzzle”
mysteries pioneered and popularized by Agatha Christie.  These novels not
only entertain, but they also stimulate and challenge the mental faculties
of young and old readers alike.  I consider this a valuable experience,
for readers of all ages, but I feel it is of particular benefit to younger

#12  What about your book makes it special?

What makes Nine Man’s Murder special is that it marks a return to a type
of mystery that enjoyed its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s, yet still is
missed today.  The fact that Agatha Christie is still a big seller
illustrates the hunger people still have for this type of novel and for
the implied battle of wits between author and reader that the reader
enjoys trying to win yet secretly hopes to lose, because people love to be

#13  What is your marketing plan?

I am currently working on a “sequel” to Nine Man’s Murder, which will
appear in installments on my website,  It’s
primary purpose is to entertain:  You do not have to have read Nine Man’s
Murder to follow the twists and turns of this follow-up tale.  But a
secondary purpose is to expose Nine Man’s Murder to those who have not
read it.  I hope this will be ready early next year.  I will announce it
on my website and on my Twitter site @EricKeithMystry.

#14  Where can people learn more about you and your work?

You can learn more about myself and Nine Man’s Murder on my website,

#15  Any tips for new writers hoping to write in the genre of your book?

You will experience a great deal of rejection as you search for an agent
or publisher for you book.  You will also learn, from your own experience
and that of other writers, that the reasons for rejection are varied and
surprising, and often have nothing to do with the quality of your work.
The trick—one by no means easy to master—is to never take rejection as a
reflection of the quality of your work, unless you yourself find something
wrong with it.  Have faith in yourself and your work, and you will find a
way to plough through the obstacles.

#16  What’s in the future for you?

I will be writing many more novels in many genres, including mystery,
thriller, science fiction, and genres that currently have no name.  In
fact, I have so many projects I intend to work on, I’ve made a timetable.
Unfortunately, I don’t get my first vacation until I turn 180.

                            SYNOPSIS OF NINE MAN’S MURDER

    Nine graduates of Damien Anderson’s Detective Training School attend what
they believe to be a fifteen-year class reunion at Moon’s End, Damien’s
mountaintop lodge.  Until they find their host’s dead body in a closet.
They soon learn that the “reunion” is actually a deadly game of “Nine
Man’s Murder.”  One by one they will be murdered, and the winner will be
the one who survives.  A blown-up bridge traps the “guests” on the
mountaintop with a maniacal murderer—who, they soon realize, is one of


                                                December 12

    The railroad station was deserted.  Not a soul in sight.  Bryan West had
arrived before the others, it seemed.
    What if no one else showed up?  No, the invitation had been too
intriguing to pass up.  Still, it was over three hundred miles from Los
Angeles.  The sun had beckoned after him when Bryan had left the hub of
southern California this morning; here glowering thunderheads were strung
across the sky like No Trespassing signs.  Best to wait inside.
    It would be a well-earned vacation.  Bryan had been working too hard,
pushing himself to build an empire out of the bankrupt carcasses of his
competitors.  A ruthless game, but it had to be played.
    Absently he fingered the knotted cord dangling from his neck, the
necklace Prissy had made for him.  If it were not something that could be
damaged in the shower, it would never leave his body at all.  Was it only
yesterday he had last seen her?  Thursday… yes.  Twice a week he saw his
sister, regular as clockwork.
    We were all victims of the kidnapping, Bryan thought.  Mom.  Dad.
Priscilla.  Me.
    Bryan glanced around the large, ghostly station.  He was alone.  He
slipped the note from his jacket pocket and read it once again with a
frown.  Typed.  No clues as to the author.  All his adult life he had
been investigating threats like this to other people; but now that it was
personal, he understood why his clients had always been so unnerved.
    The unexpected sound left him little time to thrust the note back into
his pocket.  A creaking of metal and slow muffled footsteps echoed behind
    “Move and you’re dead.”  The footsteps drew nearer.  “Now raise your
hands and turn around.  Slowly.”
    With arms raised, Bryan turned, green eyes faintly aglow, to confront
the muzzle of a small silver handgun.
    Bryan studied his assailant.  Taller than Bryan, with a wiry frame.
Sleek black hair swept carelessly across a tawny forehead, wrinkled with
care and browned as much by the sun as by his Latin heritage.  Cool brown
eyes with a hunted look, like a man running from something.
    “Well, if it isn’t the late great Bryan West,” said the newcomer.
    Bryan glanced at his wristwatch.
    “Actually, I’m a bit early.”
    “Still the same old wise guy.  Just like when we were partners.
Cool-headed, always one step ahead of your adversary.  Fiercely
competitive, to the point of stealing clients from rivals.”
    “Funny, you never complained when my tactics failed.  Only when they
worked.”  Bryan stared at the gun.  “Do you really need you to point that
thing at me?”
    “I do if I want to shoot you.”
    The explosion muffled Bryan’s protest before he could utter it.


  1. Thank you, Penny, for allowing me to appear on your site. It was a great pleasure to answer questions without the hot glare of lights in an interrogation room.

  2. My pleasure, Keith. I have enjoyed this type of mystery for many years.