Author of the Month
Michael Allen Dymmoch
[March 2006]
Chosen by reviewer & mystery author Dennis Collins, MyShelf.Com

    Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to read a few of Michael Allen Dymmoch’s John Thinnes/Jack Caleb mystery novels and must say that I’m quite impressed with everything about the books. The plots are fresh, the writing style flows freely and is easy to follow, and the characters are believable and interesting. I made it my mission to catch up to her and beg for an interview. The friendly author readily agreed.


Interview

Dennis Collins: When did you begin to write and what made you decide to become a writer?

Michael Allen Dymmoch: I started writing in ’79 or ‘8o when I discovered Maybe You Should Write a Book by Ralph Daigh (Prentice Hall 1977) in my local public library. The book’s premise is someone writes books; if you have an idea for a book that someone might as well be you. Before reading the book, I never considered writing something that wasn’t required. I never really thought about who writers were--I guess I thought they were geniuses inspired by God or born with a writer gene.

It took me about four pages to discover that I had no idea how to write fiction. So I went to the library and took out every adult writing book they had. First I tried science fiction (never finished), then switched to short stories. Finally I did a couple of screenplays. When I couldn’t get anyone in Hollywood to look at those—and at Barbara D’Amato’s suggestion—I novelized them. The Man Who Understood Cats (St. Martin’s Press, 1993) was the first, The Cymry Ring (Five Star, 2006) the most recent.

 

Dennis: Was there a particular writer or anyone else who influenced you? If so do you emulate them?

Michael: I’ve had a book-a-week habit since I was seven, so it’s hard to say who influenced me. I can remember the first book that went directly from the page into my head: Lad, A Dog by Albert Payson Terhune. It was a hit of my powerful drug, and I’ve been hooked on reading ever since. Certain books and authors stick in my head: Crime and Punishment, Mark Twain, Mary Stewart, Dick Francis, John D. MacDonald, The Count of Monte Cristo, Beau Geste, Zane Gray, Jack London, Conan Doyle, Brave New World, Catch-22, (This could be a very long answer—you get the idea…) I’m not sure if anyone’s style influenced me particularly. All I can tell you is that my words have to have a certain cadence to sound right to me.

 

Dennis: You have five books in your Jack Caleb/John Thinnes series. How long will it continue?

Michael: I have plots for seven more Caleb/Thinnes books and if I live long enough I’ll write those. I’ll probably come up with more ideas as I go along.

 

Dennis: Do you have other projects as well?

Michael: I also have ideas for another dozen books, including six sequels to Death in West Wheeling, due out from Five Star in September

 

Dennis: What are your hobbies when you’re not writing?

Michael: I’m an enthusiastic if unskilled photographer and gardener (though, since I moved to downtown Chicago, I’ve had to limit my gardening to weeding the local parkway trees and repotting my houseplants.) I also love movies, Shakespeare, and the odd stuff you find in a large city—street fairs, art galleries, street musicians (the ones who actually play music), urban falcons, etc.

 

Dennis: Thank you very much for your time.

Michael: You’re welcome… M


Reviews

The Man Who Understood Cats
By Michael Allen Dymmoch
Avon Mystery - February 1995
0380722658 - Paperback
Mystery/Thriller
Reviewed: 2003
Buy it at Amazon

Reviewed by Dennis Collins, MyShelf.com

Not being much of a cat fancier myself, I was somewhat reluctant to review a book with the word "cat" in the title. However, when a story has a good plot, great characters, and is well written, it doesn't really matter what species of animals are in it. I must admit that it helped to discover that the cat did not solve the crime.

Allen Finley, one of Dr. Jack Caleb's psychiatric patients, is found dead, and appears to have committed suicide. Dr. Jack rejects that theory on the basis of his relationship with the deceased. In his opinion, the victim had no suicidal tendencies.

Chicago detective John Thinnes shares that view, based on a cop's natural tendency toward skepticism and his assessment of the crime scene.

The two men follow distinctly different, though cleverly interwoven paths to prove that the death was actually a homicide.

Through much of this novel, Detective Thinnes regards Dr. Jack Caleb as a suspect, gleaning what information he can while tiptoeing around the sin of sharing police information with a civilian.

Eventually they become a team, combining a policeman's knack for defining detail with a psychiatrist's insight into the human psyche.

The plot is just diverse enough to keep you interested, but not so complex that it confuses you. The balance works well to provide an extremely enjoyable read. You'll get through this book in a hurry, simply because it's a pleasure to bury yourself in a story well told.

Chicago headquartered Michael Dymmoch has definitely increased her fan following. Consider me hooked. Her lyrical prose, picturesque descriptions, and gritty dialog blend beautifully as they carry the reader on an easy-to-follow adventure. This one's a winner.

The Feline Friendship
By Michael Allen Dymmoch
Thomas Dunne Books - May 2003
0380722658 - Hardcover
Mystery/Thriller
Reviewed: 2004
Buy it at Amazon

Reviewed by Dennis Collins, MyShelf.com

Detective John Thinnes and his psychiatrist pal Jack Caleb get back together to hunt down a serial rapist. Along the way, Thinnes picks up a new partner, Don Franchi, a beautiful female detective with a not-so-beautiful attitude.

Women in the Chicago area are being raped, beaten, and slashed by a psychotic assailant who has killed at least one and influenced another to commit suicide. He is a vicious and merciless attacker. Detective Thinnes recognizes a pattern early on and begins to put together a grid to see if he can devise a way to try to trap the man.

Friction between Thinnes and partner Franchi seem to threaten the progress of the investigation but, with a little help from Dr. Caleb, both eventually display a professionalism that gets them beyond their petty differences and focusing on the much more serious problem of catching a madman. A break in the case comes when they are able to tie the assaults to a series of very similar rapes that occurred in a different city.

The author does an excellent job of presenting a very sensitive topic in a way that doesn’t make the reader feel uncomfortable. Michael Allen Dymmoch is able to provide a ray of hope throughout this novel. She portrays the police as competent, determined, and methodical, which helps to put the reader at ease.

There’s just enough of Dr. Jack Caleb in this story, too. As a peripheral character in the investigation, he assumes a methodical, if somewhat understated, role, providing valuable insight into the thought patterns of the rapist.

This is a multi-layered plot that will have you turning pages. It’s an excellent story and skillfully told. This book is a real winner.

White Tiger
By Michael Allen Dymmoch
St. Martin's Minotaur - December 2005
0312323026 - Hardcover
Mystery/Thriller
Reviewed: 2004
Buy it at Amazon

Reviewed by Dennis Collins, MyShelf.com

Chicago Homicide Detective John Thinnes is pulled off the case he's working on because an anonymous phone call identifies him as the biological father of the victim's grown son. Detective Thinnes knew the murder victim as the Vietnamese wife of an old deceased army buddy, but he had never had an affair with the woman.

Thinnes refuses to be isolated from the matter, particularly when he hears murmurs of the infamous White Tiger resurfacing on the streets of Chicago. The White Tiger had been the scourge of Saigon back in the early seventies when Thinnes had served there as a military policeman. He keeps up-to-date through his female partner, Detective Franchi, and offers his comments along the way.

Detective Thinnes is shocked by the suggestion that he might have fathered the woman's son, especially since there was a night -actually the wedding night of his army buddy and his Vietnamese bride- when Thinnes was drunk and could not account for several hours and woke up naked in his friend's apartment. He seeks the help of his old friend, also a Vietnam vet, Dr. Jack Caleb, a psychiatrist. He needs to know what happened during those blanked-out hours. The therapy creates unwelcome flashbacks of war for both doctor and patient, but helps lead to the insight that eventually unravels the case.

Michael Allen Dymmoch is an extremely talented author and her work seems to get better with every book. Her characters speak in everyday language and appear completely natural and well-suited to their roles in her stories. Everybody is who they should be. The writing style flows so smoothly and easily that you never get tired or bored with her books. The plots keep turning up surprises at exactly the right places to keep the action moving nonstop.

This is a book for everybody. It makes bold statements. It's exciting without being gory, and worldly without being offensive. You'll fall in love with Dymmoch's style.


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Booklist -Amazon.com-

The Fall

The Feline Friendship

Incendiary Designs

The Death of the Blue

Mountain Cat

The Man Who Understood Cats

2006's Honorary List

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