My Guest Author – Mar Preston: A Day in the Life of….Homicide Detective Dave Mason
A Day in the Life
with Author Mar Preston
I thought it would be fun to invite Mar to write about a day in the life of one of her main characters with some details about them as a person, about which her reader’s may or may not be aware.
So here goes. I hope you all enjoy reading this and that you’ll let us know your thoughts later.
I asked her:
How does your character’s day usually begin? Let us know how your character might spend a typical day, working or being a parent, whatever it is they might get up to. Perhaps they have two jobs, or are retired?
Dave Mason is 37 and a homicide detective in the Santa Monica Police Department. Santa Monica is an upscale glitzy seaside suburb of Los Angeles and hardly the murder capital of the world. Santa Monica is home to the homeless, a city of haves and have nots, ripe for dirty politicians, psychopathic homeowners, car thieves, and celebrity troublemakers. So Mason works homicide as well as major crimes against persons. His 10-hour shift four days a week starts with checking his phone and email for a message from his nine-year-old daughter who lives too far away with her mother and new step-Dad, a comic book artist. When he finds something from her in his email box, it makes him smile. Most days he meets with his partner Art Delgado at the Public Safety Building two blocks from the ocean in downtown Santa Monica, a few blocks from the mall, which brings tourists from every corner of the world.
Today he’s scheduled for a krav maga training, the Israeli self-defence system. He and his partner Art will pull themselves away from the minutia of the four or five cases they’re working for an hour or so of dirty street fighting practice that will get his blood up. With the high tension anxiety/sudden low tension life he leads, the irregular meal times, and too much coffee– like a lot of detectives– Mason struggles to keep his weight down. He played beer league hockey until a few years ago but then his knees went.
He and Art Delgado head down later to the basement forensic specialist lab to check the white board where any hits on cases they’re working are displayed. It’s also a chance to hound the forensics people on some fingerprints they sent in two weeks ago. Mason takes a call from his long-time lady love Ginger McNair at 10:15. Another non-profit fundraising job is about to collapse under her, no fault of Ginger’s. Mason doesn’t always say the right thing to Ginger—he always knows how to talk to some dirt bag in the interview room–but this time he does. They arrange to meet for lunch at Chez Jay’s on the bluff above the oceans. Both of them know a detective’s life is iffy. Anything could happen at the last minute—and does.
Mason and Delgado usually work cases together but when one of the occasional whodunit murders comes along that eats up the budget and gives Mason hives, Laura Fredericks is assigned to them. Fredericks is an over-eager, loud and brassy investigator with a crush on Mason. 11:15 a.m. and they get a report of a dead body in the high-end real estate part of the town. Is it a natural death, a suicide, or a homicide? Delgado has to testify in an old court case, and so Fredericks is assigned to go with Mason to check it out. Even cops can’t get through the traffic in Santa Monica quickly.
Fredericks fusses and fumes, cursing slow drivers. Mason goes silent while she brags through the entire 8-square mile city about taking down the krav maga instructor. She could put Mason down in a heartbeat and she knows he knows it. Finally he tells her to tame down her mouth or get out and walk. Her red-head freckled face goes pink with embarrassment. Sometimes she can’t stop herself. Mason makes a string of short calls on his cell phone keeping other cases going. Illegal use of cell phones while driving really sets a good example for the citizens.
The dead body is a suicide so Mason and Fredericks are back at the station for a meeting to update the Sarge. Their major cases are 459 burglaries. Then a call comes in that the new subway to the sea that’s in the test phase has crashed into a truck. A sign of things to come some hot August Sunday when the subway brings half a million people to the beach looking for a good time? Back about 3 pm to snatch a half-hour writing reports, which usually takes up too much of his day. Eighteen new emails: updates from the forensic specialists, stupid cop jokes, BOLOs, notifications from the FBI and Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Four insistent phone messages he can’t ignore. He postpones his weapons qualifying test for another week hoping sometime this weekend he can get in some practice. Gnawing hunger pains at 4 o’clock. He clatters downstairs to the vending machine in the lobby for a candy bar.
Another call: a disgruntled girlfriend diming out the cheating boyfriend Mason’s been dogging for a two-year-old gang murder in a low end part of the city (which might be high-end anywhere else.) Is she believable? Will she change her mind if this goes to court? Go now. Move it, Mason. Down to a beach parking lot…more traffic. She isn’t there, but now he’s got a name and a phone number.
More report writing. More knock and talks on doors looking for a witness to an assault on a Korean tourist staying at one of the luxury a B&Bs overlooking the ocean, the pier and the little roller coaster. His daughter calls and Mason’s face brightens as they plan a weekend together with Ginger. Ginger knows how to have fun. His day ends with a call from the wife of the victim of a carjacking. His spirits sag. No, nothing new to tell her. He slaps his partner on the shoulder as he passes his cubicle, checking out for the day. Maybe Ginger will have a frozen dinner to heat up for him in a hurry. He knows he’ll feel more energy when he hits the tango lesson and the music starts flowing through him.
Mason passes the Watch Commander’s office with the dancing display of the map of Santa Monica showing the location of all the cars out on patrol around the city.
He accomplished something today he hopes.
The dirt bags haven’t taken over yet.
Wow, that was really cool, so Mar tell us:
Does he juggle a career and a family? If has either/both, does his career drive him to the detriment of everything else, home life for example?
Mason’s divorced now for a few years, a move by his ex-wife he didn’t see coming. He’s a little obtuse sometimes, surprising in an investigator who’s tuned in to a bad guy’s every secret thought. His daughter lives 70 traffic-choked miles away through the Los Angeles sprawl. At nine, she likes spending time with her old Dad, but he worries about when she becomes a teenager. Her mother has a new baby and a new life and the custody arrangement is now amicable. Mason knows all about cop divorces and is grateful that he and Haley’s mother have sorted things out in a friendly way.
That’s cool, so I asked Mar:
Does Dave have a love interest? How does this ‘interest’ impact his story? Does this significant ‘other’ often drive the story, interfere with his character and his plans? Are they important to the story or just there in the background? If there are kids, how do they fit into Dave’s story?
Mar gave us the lo-down:
Mason’s love interest in Ginger McNair, his long-time girlfriend. They are political opposites, a factor which appears in the books in a minor way. Her perspective on the world is a lot more trusting than Mason’s. He’s asked her to marry him but she says, “Oh yeah, cop marriages. You want me to be number two out of four?” Maybe she’s right.
Ginger skids from one non-profit fundraising or public relations job to another. Contracts get cancelled, agencies get blown up, and executive directors embezzle. It’s discouraging for Ginger. She bounces back, but every job loss takes a toll on her. Mason keeps telling her it’s not her fault and he’s always there to encourage her to go on. Yeah, she knows he’s a great guy. But he’s a cop and growing up in a law enforcement family with her father and brother deputies in the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, she knows the averages. But she loves Mason and his daughter Haley. Maybe someday she’ll marry him when he’s retired from all his cop business. She did persuade him to take tango lessons and they’ve gotten pretty good. They’ve made up some bad fights on the dance floor.
Cops and their love lives eh! Next I asked:
I asked Mar:
When you first envisaged Dave’s character, did you have his whole life mapped out?
I wish I could say I had Mason and Ginger’s life mapped out from my first novel No Dice. It astonished me that I could write 300 plus pages and it never occurred to me they would be series characters.
Does he have political views? Strong views about controversial topics for example? Perhaps you steer clear of involving your character in strong viewpoints, being vocal about them – why?
Mar replied, mentioning Santa Monica, a place I know well:
Mason never had strong political opinions until he met Ginger who was running a Santa Monica election campaign. Like a lot of cops, he came out of the box cautious and conservative. Ginger is an avowed progressive. She faces him down nose to nose with arguments that make him think. There’s not much chance either will ever change fundamentally. These arguments are played out in the books around the ideas of urban development. Santa Monica, also known as Silicon Beach—is a leftist, progressive city for the most part. People have strong opinions about urban development, environmental regulations, and smart growth. This is back ground for some of the books and sometimes the McGuffin.
Oh, I miss that place. So Mar…
Do you think Dave’s views might alienate him in some way from his readers, or perhaps stimulate their interest in his character even more, even though Dave’s views and opinions might be worlds apart from their own? Are you worried about writing anything too controversial?
I’m hardly worried about tackling controversial topics. My book On Behalf of the Family featured an honour killing in a rich Muslim family in Santa Monica.
Wow, very topical, so I asked:
What made you decide upon the physical attributes of Dave’s character? Is he the amalgamation of several people you know, or have you created him from scratch? Your perfect man for example – someone you might/might not care for if you met them in real life?
Isn’t your protagonist always some reflection of yourself? Like a lot of cops, Mason is tall, strong and assertive, and aggressive when he needs to be. I’ve met a lot of cops who are like him: most of them I’ve liked. I’m not so blinded that I don’t realize there are cops who need to be chained up in the back of the station. But Mason’s not one of them. I wouldn’t want to meet him on the inside of the crime tape, but I’d love to dance with him.
If only our characters popped into the ‘real’ world now and again!
What made you decide upon Dave’s personality/character? Was his profession or personality the driving force behind you creating him? Is he a music fan? Which genre and why? Does he read? Which authors and why? Help us get to know something about Homicide Detective Dave Mason.
Cops aren’t great readers, and mysteries and TV cop shows make them laugh. Tango and fado music have gripped Mason in a way he can’t understand. This, along with the tango, he keeps to himself.
What are Dave’s character’s flaws/faults or failings? You’ve created him with these if he has them, why was that? Did you want a perfect all rounded lead character or a flawed one? Is he kind and caring or a bully, arrogant, cruel….?
Mason’s life-consuming job and his dogged pursuit of every case makes him a less-than-good romantic partner, especially when his second priority is his daughter Haley. Ginger, his girlfriend, has no illusions about where she features in his life, and it’s good that she has she is self-sufficient, which bothers Mason.
Does your character, Dave, convey a moral message or aren’t you bothered about that sort of thing?
I don’t know. I hope not. I’m too old and disillusioned to preach some kind of moral message to anybody else.
I always want to ask authors this:
Does your story write itself or do you plan and outline in advance, every aspect about your character and their life and exploits? Was this difficult to write, especially if it was not part of your ‘plan’ for them originally?
I wish I could outline in advance. It would save me so much agony and rewriting. But I get an idea in a blinding flash and just race in, hitting a white wall by about page 50.
Think we’ve all been there:
Setting for a character and their story is important. What made you decide upon the setting you have chosen? Is the setting fictional or one you are familiar with?
The setting for the Dave Mason Santa Monica series is an exciting city where I lived for a generation. I wish I hadn’t left for many reasons. Now it’s far too expensive to move back. The setting for the Dex Stafford Kern County Sheriff’s Office series is the tranquil mountain village in central California where I’ve lived more recently. Of course, only nice people live here and there hasn’t been a murder for thirty years, so using Pine Mountain as a setting requires a devilish delight in crime and bloody imagination to write well.
Mar, is your life style similar to your character’s life style in any way? Similar background/family/occupation/profession, education?
I only wish I’d lived such an exciting life. My paid work was as a social science researcher. Good work in itself, but not nearly so exciting as my fictional cop Dave Mason and Dex Stafford.
In and around Santa Monica life can be very exciting not just for the cops, Mar.
Would you like to be your character? What do you like/admire about Dave the most?
I never wanted to be a cop or date a cop. But I admire the good ones and they are the overwhelming majority of every law enforcement organization. They are inspired by the true desire to help people and get the bad guys off the street so that the rest of us are safe.
Thanks for the fab insights into Dave Mason’s day.
Mar, please write a little about your recent book/story involving Dave and why he is experiencing what is happening to him in this particular story. Is Dave Mason character part of a series? List all your books featuring him.
My recent book is A Very Private High School which draws Mason into the world of elite private education, fraud, and carjacking. Mason is a series character and appeared first in No Dice, then Rip-Off, and On Behalf of the Family.
Dex Stafford, a sheriff’s homicide investigator based in the dusty flatlands of Bakersfield, California appeared first in Payback and will appear soon again in a yet untitled novel in 2016.
Looking forward to this Mar, good luck with it.
Tell us briefly about yourself and why you write, and why you write in this particular genre. What is your inspiration? What is your next project?
I write because I’d like to live in a life more exciting than the one I actually live. I can chase bad guys down dark alleys, have guilt-provoking romances, and make myself tall, strong, and young. Hey, what a deal! You should try it.
I’ve also written three eBooks on Writing Your First Mystery available on Amazon
Mar, thanks so much for being such a good sport and taking us into a Day in the Life of Dave Mason and for telling us something about yourself and your writing and books. It has been fab.
I do hope everyone enjoyed this as much as I have. Do comment here and let us both know your thoughts.
Thanks so much and good luck with your books present and future.
For links to Mar and her books, take a look below:
A fourth is about to be published called Finishing Your First Mystery
Mar’s website is http://marpreston.com
YesMarPreston is her twitter handle
And her Facebook Author page is https://www.facebook.com/Mar-Preston-136299239777273/
Mar’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org