this prequel to Bad Policy and Cabin Fever, Seamus McCree escapes his
desk-bound duties as a financial crimes investigator and takes the field to
combat the evil behind two heinous crimes.
In his first official field assignment, Seamus breathes life into a moribund
the botulism killings of thirty-eight union retirees at their annual Memorial
outside Chillicothe, OH.
Seamus also worms his way into the Cincinnati Police Department's murder
investigation of a church friend's fiancé and determines police have developed
neither suspect nor motive and are speculating the hit may have been the
mistake of a dyslexic killer.
In each case, Seamus uncovers new, disturbing information of financial
chicanery and in the process makes himself and his son targets of those who
have already killed to keep their secrets.
Jim Jackson’s main character,
Seamus McCree, investigates crime or potential crime in the financial realm. The results of Seamus’s analysis reveal motive for
murder. Jim put Ant Farm in a drawer
for thirteen years while he improved his writing skills. This act of discretion
amazed me because the book captured my attention, grounded his series, and
introduced me to characters that I’d met before but from whom I felt alienated.
In Ant Farm, those characters come
I have to admit, when you start reading
Jim’s series, I recommend reading Ant
Farm first. It sets the stage for Bad
Policy and Cabin Fever. The cases
presented in this book ricocheted, catapulting the action and kept the plot
moving. It’s my personal favorite so far.
Please welcome Jim Jackson as author,
not blogger, to WWK. E. B. Davis
Why present a prequel to your
readers, Jim, or was that novel lying in the drawer just bugging you?
For years I had referred to Ant Farm as my practice novel. I actually abandoned it in 2006. I
knew many series authors used their first novel as a marketing tool. Not having
that flexibility because of my traditional publishing contracts, I wondered if Ant Farms’s basic story had legs. It
did, but needed a total rewrite to reflect my much-improved writing skills.
However, I would not publish it unless it was at least as
good as Bad Policy and Cabin Fever. Early readers agreed with
your assessment that it passes that test.
Paddy and Seamus are often at
odds. It’s not surprising given that Paddy is a younger, college-age student,
but they lie to each other at times by omission. Why, and why doesn’t Seamus
Seamus is once burned, twice shy. When Paddy was in high
school, he hacked a defense department computer system and published some
embarrassing expense reports. The FBI did not look kindly on that escapade. Paddy
cooperated and showed them how he accessed the data. They threatened to put him
away if they caught him again. Seamus is in some ways an overprotective parent,
and in Ant Farm Paddy is still
working to be independent.
When a younger member of
Seamus’s church choir asks him to help solve her fiancé’s killer, Seamus
doesn’t want to take the case, but he does. Why?
Seamus knows he is not a licensed investigator, but he loves
to solve problems—especially if other people can’t. And he likes to help
people. The combination in this case is too much to resist once he figures out
how to work under the auspices of the Cincinnati police department.
CIG, Seamus’s employer, is hired
to investigate the botulism deaths of twenty-eight people at a company picnic.
Why does the Ross County sheriff’s department suspect anything other than
They are sure the
botulism deaths are murders because the only foods infected were those at one
particular Labor Day picnic, even though food used at other picnics had been
prepared at the same time and place. What they can’t figure out is the motive.
They ask Criminal Investigations Group (CIG) to investigate the company’s
financials to see if there is anything suspicious.
Lt. Hastings and Detective Bear
are wonderful secondary characters. They are in comparable positions, but the
large, urban Cincinnati police department employs Hastings, whereas Bear is a
detective in the smaller, more rural Ross County Sheriff’s department. While
Hastings not only welcomes Seamus’s help, she also gets a contract for his
company. Bear thinks of Seamus’s involvement as interfering even though his
sheriff requested help. Tell our readers about these characters and why they
have such different approaches?
I love creating interesting secondary characters. Lt.
Hastings is the first female African American to head the Cincinnati homicide
division. Bear is a local sports hero come home. Hastings is overworked,
understaffed, and has had success with Seamus and CIG on a previous case. She’s
not particularly interested in bureaucracy; if someone can help her out, she’s
all for it.
Bear works for a small county sheriff’s department beset by
a huge murder investigation. The sheriff (a politician) crams CIG and Seamus
down Bear’s throat. He takes it as criticism of his abilities. I doubt any of
us would be too happy under those circumstances, but to Bear’s credit after
Seamus gives him an out, he admits he could use help understanding who might
have financially benefited from the murders.
In previous books, Seamus and
Abigail have a romantic relationship. You introduce her in Ant Farm, explaining how the two came together. From the start,
there is mutual attraction, but then Seamus also has a flirtatious relationship
with Lt. Hastings. Is Seamus a typical middle-age divorced male on the prowl?
Seamus was divorced when Paddy was young and for years shied
away from any permanent entanglements. He didn’t want to do anything that jeopardized
taking care of Paddy. (I think many real women have made similar choices.)
Paddy is now in college. Seamus was interested in Hastings when they first met
(a bit before Ant Farm), but Hastings
was hooked up with a Cincinnati Reds baseball player. She’s available now and starts
to return the interest. Seamus is not sure how to react.
He has an active libido, but he’s not really on the prowl. He
knows something major is missing in his life; he’d like to have a lasting
relationship, but he’s not sure how to go about it.
Your motive for murder is
totally reprehensible and amoral. A slap on the face. Explain the annuity
balance sheets and stock price affects for our readers. Was your case based on
I’ll answer the second
question first. I made this all up. However, I am aware of people who have
manipulated pensioner databases for criminal purposes.
If you don’t like spoilers and have a good memory, skip the
rest of this answer.
Annuities are promises to pay a certain amount each (usually)
month for as long as the annuitant lives. There may be death benefits, but
let’s ignore those. If a private employer or insurance company is on the hook
for paying your annuity, they have a financial incentive to kill you. If you
die prematurely they don’t have to pay you any more money. As a corporation,
that gain adds to their profit. Increased profit generates increased stock
prices. In this case, the folks who sell annuities are insurance companies.
Therefore, if an insurance company killed its annuitants, it would reap
additional profits, and its stock would go up.
Seamus’s life is threatened many
times in Ant Farm. Most of the book
he is trying to heal from a car accident, which wasn’t really an accident. His
shoes, tires, SUV are destroyed. He picks up the tab for several airfares and
pays out of pocket for many items while on the case. Is he rich or does he have
a large expense account?
Seamus earned a lot of money when he worked on Wall Street
as a stock analyst. Not the huge sums investment bankers earn now, but still
enough. He quit when his bosses changed one of his reports because it was
negative about a client of his employer. While not super-rich, he doesn't have to worry about money and can afford to accept financial expenses that regular
A contract killer has been employed to execute Seamus.
Your book is mainly written in first person. However, you chose to acquaint the
reader with the professional hit man by writing his chapters in an anonymous
third person. Why? What compelled you to write him into the story in this
I included the Happy Reaper’s perspective for two reasons. Readers
know things Seamus does not, and that makes them worry about what will happen.
Second, Seamus and the Happy Reaper have a lot in common, which suggests the
question whether Seamus could go over to the “dark side.”
I couldn’t help but think of
Rand, Seamus’s boss at CIG, as sort of a John Bosley in Charlie’s Angels. He’s not a hands on sort of guy but calls the
shots from over the phone. Seamus likes to make his own decisions, which defy
Rand’s decisions many times. Why doesn’t he fire Seamus?
Funny you should notice that similarity, E.B, because I had it
in mind when I created Rand. We never see him, yet he has a presence. I think
of Rand as something of a father figure. He is so prim and proper, yet he cares
deeply for his employees—as evidenced by his behavior toward Seamus. He gave
Seamus a meaningful task (to create the financial crimes group for CIG) when
Seamus left Wall Street in a huff.
I suspect Rand tears his hair out when Seamus veers off the
path he wants him to travel. Like a good parent he gives Seamus room to grow,
but then worries he has provided too much space so Seamus will come to harm.
Eventually Rand and Seamus will either have to agree on limitations or Seamus
and CIG will need to part company. Stay tuned.
Would you like to explain the
symbolism of your title, or would you rather leave that up to reader interpretation?
Seamus and Paddy are talking and Seamus describes what he
does as a financial crimes consultant in terms of having an ant farm:
“The financial records are like the glass walls: they make
everything transparent. Any business activity leaves accounting trails. You can
see where people are currently working, where they worked in the past. It shows
traces of abandoned work where the ant trails are partially caved-in. You can
anticipate where new trails are headed, even before the ants get there.”
“And the ants don’t know you’re watching them,” Paddy added.
You leave the relationship
between the contract killer and Seamus open. Will readers meet Mr. “Guaranteed
I know the basic plot of the “E” novel (Empty Promises), which will take place in the Cabin Fever environs of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (this time in
warmer weather), and “F” (not titled), which revolves around Boston. I don’t
want to give away how, but the Happy Reaper and Seamus will meet and compete in
Did you regret that your first
book in the series ended up coming third in sequence but not time?
If you alphabetically line my books on a shelf you’ll read
them in Seamus order rather than publication order. Fortunately, each book is not
only part of the series, but a standalone novel. Readers can enter the series
through any book and go back and forward in time.
What’s next for Seamus McCree,
I am working on the (I hope) last rewrite before submitting Doubtful Relations
to my publisher. Seamus’s
ex-wife’s husband goes missing and the whole extended family gets involved searching
for answers. I have the premises for two more sketched in my mind.
In Empty Promises
Seamus stumbles over the
body of a guy who works for an organization that is planning an open pit mine
near Seamus’s home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That novel will address
mining and drug issues in the U.P.
In the “F
novel, Seamus’s “Uncle” Mike is murdered. Seamus is his executor, as he settles
the estate he uncovers unexpected assets and history relating to his family
(naturally, while trying to find the murderer).
I’m having a great time writing about Seamus and friends. Of
course I can continue only if people enjoy reading what I write. I’m so glad
you liked Ant Farm¸ E.B, and thanks
for the great questions.