November 2013 
No. 10

 Sit back, relax, and let these guys solve the crimes.

Table of Contents


Exclusive Q&A with E. Michael Helms 


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What's the best thing about hitting retirement? For veteran Mac McClellan, it's finally being able to relax on a fishing trip.  But when he finds a dead body on the first cast of the day, he quickly learns this dream vacation will be anything but peaceful. 


We sat down with E. Michael Helms, the author of Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery, to talk about his debut mystery. 

shamesQ&A with E. Michael Helms


'Zine of the Crime
: You've written two other books, but Deadly Catch: A Mac McClellan Mystery is your first mystery. How has writing this book been different from writing your others?


E. Michael Helms: My first book, The Proud Bastards, was a memoir of my combat experiences with the Marine Corps in Vietnam at the height of the war during 1967-68.  I waited twenty years to write it because the subject matter was so painful. I had lost so many friends over there, and I knew they would never have the opportunity to tell their stories. So, I gutted it out over a year of intense recollection and unpleasant memories. When finished, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The process, though not easy, proved to be cathartic.


The next book I wrote, Of Blood and Brothers: Book One, is a historical fiction saga based on the true story of two brothers who fought for opposing sides during the Civil War. I grew up in the Florida panhandle near where these brothers lived, and had been fascinated with their story since childhood. It took years of researching family records and battle reports to bring their story to life. A great deal of time and work!


I really wanted to write something that involved less stress, research, and personal strain. After reading several mysteries, I decided that genre might be a pleasant change of pace, where I could be free to wander wherever the "voices" took me.  I figured a setting I was familiar with would be a good place to start. Soon, the voice of Mac McClellan, a recently retired Marine on vacation trying to decide what to do with his post-Corps life, began speaking to me. And then the opening scene came to me. I then simply let Mac and Kate Bell take over, and Deadly Catch came to life. It proved to be a great deal different and much less stressful than my earlier works.




Your main character Mac McClellan is a retired vet, and so are you.  How much of yourself did you put in Mac?


A lot. First off, the name McClellan comes from my ancestor, Sandy R. McClellan, who fought for the Confederacy and was wounded three times, including at the bloody battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam, for those north of the Mason-Dixon line).  As a combat veteran myself, I developed "gallows humor," and a fatalistic outlook on life. That has mellowed for me through the years, but Mac's wartime experiences (the First Gulf War, and the later invasion of Iraq/Battle of Fallujah) is still freshly imprinted on his psyche. He tries to cover his cynicism with humor. Mac's easy-going attitude is interrupted by explosive outbursts that can erupt with little or no warning. He doesn't realize it yet, but he's suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.



E. Michael Helms
Photo Karen M. Helms

Are any of the other characters in Deadly Catch based on people in your life?


Some characters are composites (Sheriff Bo Pickeron and Police Chief Ben Merritt, for instance). Kate Bell was greatly influenced by my wife, Karen, who actually worked at a marina, and knew more about tackle and fishing than most men coming down from parts north for a fishing vacation.




Your love of Florida coming across in your writing is one of the many things readers praise about the book. What made you leave your hometown?


I love the panhandle of Florida, and still have most of my family living there. But as the years progressed and the area grew more and more, it was beginning to lose its quaintness, and the beautiful sugar-white beaches and tall dunes were falling prey to development. Also, as I grew older, the heat and humidity began to grow oppressive. I've always loved the mountains, so the Upstate of South Carolina, within the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, seemed a logical choice. I live on a small, productive (fishing-wise) lake, and can be in the mountains in thirty minutes. There are over twenty major waterfalls in Oconee County alone, and hundreds of miles of hiking trails, plus abundant camping opportunities. Throw in the four seasons and it's hard to beat!




What are your plans or thoughts for future books?


I believe Mac has more stories to tell. I've already completed the third Mac McClellan Mystery, which my agent thinks is the best yet, and I'm closing in on halfway with the fourth. Mac thought he was ready to retire, spending his time fishing and relaxing after an intense career in the Marines. Now he realizes he isn't ready to sit back and watch life pass him by. I'd like to see Mac continue on for a long time, with someone special by his side, until it's time to put him out to pasture. Semper Fi, Mac!


You might also like. . .


If a quiet southern setting is what you're after, you're going to want to head to Jarrett Creek, Texas, where former Chief of Police Samuel Craddock is finding it impossible to stay retired. With the current chief always in the bottle and community members turning up dead, Terry Shames's memorable hero is the only man who can untangle a web of small-town secrets.


The Toronto Star calls Samuel Craddock "a sleuth for the long haul."



We hope you enjoyed taking this trip down south to meet some of our favorite retired heroes! Don't forget to join us on Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter for the latest inside scoops on all our crime fiction books. 


Lisa Michalski  

Seventh Street Books™, an imprint of Prometheus Books