- If you were not a writer what would you be doing ?
I would train guide or service dogs. Of everything dogs do for humans—and they do an incredible amount, way more than we appreciate—helping a challenged or visually impaired person achieve independence and live a full life is by far the most wonderful. When I see a guide or service dog at work, it always puts a lump in my throat.
- If you wrote a book about your life what would the title be?
The Color of Autumn: Celebrating a Life Lived with Irish Setters
- What is the hardest thing about being an author?
The stock answer: Overcoming procrastination and forcing myself to keep at it, day after day. John Sandford refers to writing the middle of a novel as “slogging through the swamp,” or something to that effect. I relate, big time.
- What is the best thing about being an author?
The autonomy, of course.
- Have you ever been star struck by meeting one of your favorite authors? If so who was it?
Twice. The first was Andrew Vachss at a book signing in Chicago many, many years ago. When I handed him my copy of his new novel, Sacrifice, he fixed me with a piercing look with his one eye—he wears an eyepatch over the other—and growled, “All right, let’s do it!” He signed my book and handed it back and if I managed to thank him, my voice probably came out in a Mickey Mouse falsetto. The second time was Lawrence Block at a reading/signing in Des Moines several years ago. He’s a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America and I was simply struck dumb in his presence, although I think I did manage to thank him for signing his new memoir, Step by Step.
- What book changed your life?
There are several, but the first one that comes to mind is James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss. In that novel Crumley gave me a goal to shoot for by accomplishing everything I’ve always hoped to achieve in my own work—a taut, brutal (and tragic) storyline; compelling language (clever dialogue and narration), an authentic, memorable setting and vivid, flawed but gutsy characters, one of whom is a beer-drinking bulldog named Fireball Roberts. How could you not love a book like that?
- What were your some of favorite books growing up?
Albert Payson Terhune’s books about his Sunnybank collies; Jim Kjelgaard’s Big Red series and others about boys and their dogs in the outdoors; Fred Gipson’s Old Yeller and Savage Sam; Jack London’s The Call of the Wild (which I subsequently taught in some of my college English classes). I became a dog lover at an early age, obviously.
- What books are currently in your to be read pile?
The Shaming Eyes by Dwight Holing, Father of Lions by Louise Callaghan, The Outsider by Stephen King, River of Doubt by Candice Millard, The Shameless by Ace Atkins and Helsinki Blood by James Thompson.
- Which do you prefer ebooks, print, or audio books?
Print, definitely. Nothing beats the thrill of cracking open a brand new book…I always inhale deeply because I even like the smell of the paper and the binding.
- If you could live inside the world of a book or series which world would it be and why?
I’m not sure about actually living there, but I would love to have visited Albert Payson Terhune at Sunnybank and met some of his dogs. (Terhune died in 1942.) Thousands of other Baby Boomers share this fixation…if someone ever invents a time machine, I’ll happily spend big bucks to pay a visit to Sunnybank during Terhune’s lifetime. I’d just hope I wouldn’t be too tongue-tied to carry on an intelligent conversation.
The Killer in the Woods
A Robert Vance Novel
Rick Van Etten
Genre: Crime Fiction/Mystery
A Robert Vance Novel
Rick Van Etten
Genre: Crime Fiction/Mystery
Publisher: Proud Point Press
Date of Publication: June 1, 2020
Number of pages: 254
Word Count: 78,000
Cover Artist: Eric Labacz
ROBERT VANCE IS A MAN WITH A SECRET…
Robert Vance is a magazine editor who works from home and lives in a house full of books. His neighbors think of him as a quiet, unassuming man. His passion for pheasant hunting with Preacher, his German wirehaired pointer, is typical of sportsmen living in the Midwest. But what isn’t so typical—and what his neighbors don’t know—is that occasionally Robert hunts something besides pheasants.
Robert hates bullies and injustice. When someone has a problem with either, he or she can hire Robert to make the situation right.
But Robert isn’t—in his own mind—just a contract killer. He lives by a set of rules that dictate who, where, and why he can kill. So when a well-meaning citizen discovers Robert’s latest target and winds up being charged with the killing, Robert must take steps to ensure the man’s freedom.
STEPS THAT WILL MOST LIKELY INVOLVE KILLING AGAIN…
Excerpt Chapter 1
The money is good, but that’s not why I do it.
Kill people, I mean. That’s what I do, and I’m very good at it. And yes, the compensation is usually more than adequate.
But don’t start jumping to conclusions. I’m not a spook. I’m not some ex-Agency, ultra-ultra-deep-cover, government-trained assassin who got my start in the military and, having discovered a unique talent, couldn’t let it go. Nor was I ever encouraged by my “Uncle” to put my special skills to use for the common good, in which capacity I might still have the occasional brush-up with colleagues who might or might not be among the so-called good guys and might or might not be people I should trust.
No. I don’t play at espionage. I don’t call secret phone numbers and get my orders from people who use lots of acronyms and won’t allow their names to be spoken aloud on an open line, and I don’t have hidden files tucked away somewhere that I can use as leverage if I find myself running afoul of a power player. I never served in the military, and the extent of my contact with the government consists of filing my income taxes every year, renewing the registration on my SUV and voting in the occasional election. The few times I’ve been called for jury duty I’ve managed to get myself excused.
Sounds pretty dull, doesn’t it? You’re right; it is. And that’s by design.
If you saw me on the street or in a restaurant or a shopping mall or an airport—and there’s a reasonable chance you have seen me in some of those places—you’d most likely give me no more than a passing glance. There’s quite a bit about me that’s just plain average—size, looks, clothing. I wear glasses, and my hair is getting thin on top.
I dress comfortably and rather conservatively. I recently became eligible for Social Security—I’m old enough to have served in Vietnam, but I was in college at the time and my number in the draft lottery was high enough to keep me there.
I don’t go out of my way to attract attention, but neither do I live an introverted, reclusive life. I’m not married, but I date casually, and I occasionally get invited to parties and cookouts and can hold my own in a conversation on a variety of subjects. People usually laugh at my jokes, and I keep myself reasonably well informed about most current events. I read extensively, and my house is full of books.
I also have a Browning gun vault full of shotguns, but those are primarily related to my regular job—I’m the editor of an outdoor sporting magazine, a “hook and bullet rag,” as such publications are irreverently referred to within the publishing industry. I’m a bird hunter by avocation, and a six-year-old German wirehaired pointer named Preacher—for Clint Eastwood’s grizzled character in the movie Pale Rider—shares my home.
Sometimes I use one of my shotguns for something besides upland game or waterfowl. That’s a safe enough practice, as I’ll explain later. When a shotgun is too large for the job at hand—when it’s necessary to get up close and personal to the target, in other words—I’ll occasionally use a handgun. But I never keep these after the job is finished. That’s Rule Number 3.
I travel a good bit for my job—I get quite a few invitations from advertisers throughout the hunting season, and by taking advantage of these invitations I’ve hunted in many locations and at many top-drawer facilities around the world. Sometimes—not frequently, but once in a while—my two jobs overlap. The advertiser picks up the tab for my hunt (in exchange for some editorial ink), and by staying an extra day or two—usually on the pretext of visiting an old childhood friend or a seldom-seen relative and always at my own expense—I manage to take care of the other assignment while I’m at it. It doesn’t happen that way very often, but it’s convenient when it does.
OK, so if I really don’t do it for the money, why do I do it?
There are two things I can’t abide in this world—a bully, and injustice.
The two often go hand in hand, and when I encounter either, I bristle. When someone else has a problem with either, he or she will sometimes seek me out to make the situation right.
Over the years, I’ve become very good at this. And that’s my real motivation—the feeling of satisfaction that comes from having done a job well, righted a wrong, balanced the scales or eliminated an oppressive threat.
It’s my way of leaving the world a little better place than I found it.
About the Author:
Rick Van Etten is a former college English instructor, corporate communications professional and retired magazine editor whose numerous articles and features have appeared in Gun Dog, Wing and Shot, Sports Afield, Ducks Unlimited, Game and Fish, Petersen’s Hunting, Farm and Ranch Living and Reader’s Digest. An Illinois native and lifelong upland bird hunter, Rick now lives in Iowa with a middle-aged Irish setter and an elderly tortoiseshell cat. The Killer in the Woods is his first novel.