Friday, January 13, 2012

The MacGuffin by Michael Craft: Review & Author Interview

Murder-mystery fans get ready, this is one to add to your to-be-read pile for sure!  An edge of your seat thriller, this one will have you guessing until the end.  Many thanks to Pump Up Your Books for securing me a spot on this tour!

About the Novel:

A cold-case murder fifteen years ago halted promising developments in the quest for clean energy when the rumored prototype of a groundbreaking water engine was stolen or destroyed. Now the race is on to repower America, and Cooper Brant, still grieving that long-ago murder of his father, suddenly finds his family visited by a second violent death, raising the stakes to unearth lost secrets. When Coop discovers how the two crimes are linked, a grim message becomes clear. He’s next.

About the Author:

 Michael Craft is the author of a dozen prior novels and three stage plays. As a mystery writer he has been known for many years as the author of the popular “Mark Manning” series, set in the Midwest, as well as the “Claire Gray” series, set in California. Three of his novels have been honored as national finalists for Lambda Literary Awards. His latest mystery novel, The MacGuffin, features a new protagonist, architect Cooper Brant. In recent years, Michael Craft has broadened his creative focus to include playwriting and screenwriting. He lives in Rancho Mirage, California.

You can visit his website at

My Thoughts:

Michael Craft certainly knows his "craft," that much is for sure.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, it was a great read with some interesting twists and turns along the way.  Predictable is not how I would describe this novel.

Coop was a great character and Craft did a great job illustrating him to me as a reader, and the supporting characters added a lot to the novel as well.  I loved the idea of a cold-case murder mystery that is not solved and enjoyed reading how Coop worked his way to solving it.  The setting was amazing and added much to the storyline.

Pick this one up for an intriguing won't be disappointed!

Author Interview:

What book are you reading now?

This week I’ve begun reading a book that was given to me for Christmas, “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield. While the title may sound like a romance novel, the book is in fact a history and appreciation of type—that is, typefaces, or fonts. I’m enjoying it immensely. My undergrad degree is in graphic design, and I’ve always considered myself something of a “type freak,” so this is right down my alley.

> What are your current projects?

I’m a bit torn right now between two projects—a sequel to “The MacGuffin,” plus a play I wrote a few years ago that I now want to pick up again for a major rewrite at both the structural and thematic levels. Having two ideas vying for my creative focus honestly strikes me as an abundance of riches.

> Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

The gay community. Many of my earlier novels had a distinctly gay focus, and gay readers really appreciated that, especially during those years when gay culture had not yet become so mainstreamed as it is today. Curiously, during those same years, I discovered a substantial audience of straight women who were far more openminded than I would have guessed!

> If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Back in my early days as a graphic designer at the Chicago Tribune, a crusty old copyeditor once told me, with no small measure of pride, “Kid, I could trim the Lord’s Prayer.” A valuable notion stuck with me: nothing has ever been written that cannot benefit from further revision. And although I truly strive for a level of polish (“perfection” may be too strong a word) in my novels, I have no doubt there is always room for improvement.

That said, I am really quite pleased with “The MacGuffin,” which has been through numerous revisions—early on, at the plotting stages, and later, at the surface level of the text. I’m not itching to get back to the story and make changes. If I had felt that way, I would have done it. Now that it’s published, it is, to my mind, finished.

> Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I have always enjoyed writing, and by the later years of grade school, it was evident that I had a knack for it. During college, I began to get the itch to write a novel “someday,” but since I was a design major at the time, focusing on building a career in the visual arts, there was nothing much to push me toward that first book. The motivation finally arrived around the time I turned 30, when I discovered the novels of Ayn Rand. I read all four of them that summer, and what impressed me was that she used her storytelling skills to convey deeply held thematic notions (in her case, the philosophy known as Objectivism).

Also, at 30, I felt that I had accumulated sufficient life experience to have, at last, “something to say.” I resolved that summer to knuckle down and write a publishable novel. Producing a manuscript proved relatively easy; finding a publisher took 12 years.

> Can you share a little of your current work with us?

“The MacGuffin” deals with two murders that have touched Cooper Brant’s family, one occurring 15 years in the past, the other in the present. The following brief excerpt deals with reactions to the second murder. Some readers may prefer to wait and read these details within the context of the entire book:

The officer signaled a partner stationed at the barricade, who lifted the tape for Stasia Emery-Brant and pointed the way to Coop. She ran through the bramble, looking more frightened than grieved, meeting him halfway and holding him tight. “What happened?” she asked. “Tell me. Someone said it was Kavanall.”

“Oh, Stasia”—he nodded slowly—“I’m so sorry.” As she heaved a deep cry of pain, he repeated, “I’m so very sorry,” cradling her head, kissing her hair.

A mechanical noise—the sound of the gurney being ratcheted to its full height—drew everyone’s attention. Then the police crew stepped aside, parting, clearing a path for Kavanall’s handlers as he was carted, bumping and jostling, across the thick undergrowth that circled the pond. A boxy fire-department ambulance had backed up to the police tape, its doors flung wide to receive the remains.

“I’ve got to see him,” said Stasia, pulling away from Coop.

“No,” he insisted, pulling her back, “no,” recalling a sight that she should never see, a sight that no parent should even imagine.

As the shrouded gurney was hoisted into the truck, tears began to stream from Stasia’s disbelieving eyes, and the easily summoned strength that had so surprised Coop now vanished. He could not control the bile rising in his throat, and the hand at his mouth could not stop the vomit, which spread through his fingers in gobs, falling to the ground, fouling the toes of his cleated shoes, which he would never wear again.

> Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?

No. Relatively few authors are “big enough” to warrant full-blown publisher-paid book tours, and I have never been one of them. But with 13 titles in print, I do have a loyal following, and I try to keep my readers informed through my website and other online venues. During the years of the career that served as my day job, I frequently traveled on business, and I always tried to set up appearances to coincide with publication of a new book, but now that I’m retired, that travel has largely ended. The timing of this transition feels right, however. This is my first “virtual book tour,” which seems like a great way to reach readers of both print books and e-books.

> Who designed the covers?

“The MacGuffin” is my first self-published novel, so that graphic design degree came in handy; I designed the cover myself. The covers of the prior 12 novels, all traditionally published, were designed by their respective publishers. I often found it painful to turn over the “packaging” of my books, and sometimes, frankly, the results were disappointing.

> What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Getting started, hands down. Waiting for that nugget of inspiration that will tell me what the next book will be about, that’s always a scary period for me. But it seems the idea always comes—bang—and once it does, I’m off and running. I truly love the entire process of writing book-length fiction (planning, drafting, and revision), but my hands are tied until I have that “ah-hah!” moment. 


  1. Lindsay, thank you so much for sharing your enthusiasm for "The MacGuffin." And I truly appreciate the opportunity you've given me to share some of my own musings with your online family. Happy reading and best wishes -- Michael Craft

  2. You can definitely see your expertise in the work you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.
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