Caught red handed or off scot-free?

I tried really hard to make my characters different from the people on which they were based,  because I really didn’t want to get sued for slander or libel, but apparently I didn’t do a very good job, because numerous people have recognized them.

This was most true of my first book, Murder under the Microscope, which was based on an incident that happened over 30 years ago, when I was the solo pathologist at the Twin Falls Clinic & Hospital. One of the surgeons who had been there at the time recognized who Sally Shore was based on, who Tyler Cabot was based on, and thought it was so cool that I had killed both of them off.

One of the doctors asked me which surgeon had had a coronary bypass, allowing Sally Shore to be his temporary replacement, and was quite disappointed to learn that I just made him up.

A physician on the staff of the hospital in another town recognized George Marshall, the curmudgeonly gastroenterologist of Gnarly Finger fame.

Most of my techs that worked for me back then recognized who Lucille was based on.

My second book, Too Much Blood, was based on a sleazy lawyer that got all the Clinic doctors (except me) and many others involved in a scheme to avoid paying taxes. It worked quite well for five years until Black Monday happened and it all came crashing down. Everybody involved found themselves liable for hundreds of thousands in back taxes, interest, and penalties. This adversely affected the bottom line of the Clinic, which was doctor-owned, for many years thereafter and I really believe it contributed to our necessity to sell out to the county hospital in 2001. Everybody around here knows who that was.

I spoke at Kiwanis last year about my books, and I had a few there to sell if anybody wanted to buy one. One of the members requested the one about Jay Braithwaite Burke using the name of the person on whom he was based.

My third book, Grievous Bodily Harm, was about an administrator whose ambition was to become CEO of a behemoth hospital system and didn’t care whom he had to step on to get there. He was not above blackmail and sexual harassment to get what he wanted. The administrator on whom Marcus Manning was based was a pathological liar and treated employees like s**t. He’s long gone. And strangely enough, nobody has mentioned that they recognized him. I find that hard to believe, but there it is, don’t you know.

My friends and I go out for breakfast on Saturday mornings, and one of the waitresses told me once that I needed to write a book about sexual harassment, and I said, “You haven’t read Grievous Bodily Harm, have you?”

She hadn’t, but I bet she did right after that.

As I’ve said before, my first three books were my way of killing off three of the most threatening people in my life. They were a catharsis. The characters in the other books are totally made up, with the exception of three physicians. No, four. Oh yes, and Rollie Perkins, the coroner, is based on a local mortician who was one of my favorite people. Sadly, he has passed on. The Commander is based on a retired cop who was also one of my favorite people.

I’m always willing to use real names in my books upon request. My ophthalmologist, Robert Welch, MD, asked me to use his name in The Body on the Lido Deck. He was the ship’s doctor, and quite disappointed that I’d made him look like Richie Cunningham instead of George Clooney.

Everybody laughs when they think they recognize somebody. So far, to my knowledge, nobody has been offended.

Nobody, so far, has told me that they recognized themselves.

Boffo reviews from the Big Guys

Boy am I jazzed. Beyond jazzed. Both Murder Under the Microscope and Too Much Blood got RECOMMENDED ratings from the US Review of Books. They’re both listed in the June issue of the USR newsletter. Here they are.

Any authentic work must start an argument between the artist and his audience. -Rebecca West  

Murder Under the Microscope
by Jane Bennett Munro
iUniverse
reviewed by Carol Davala

“‘Nobody is above suspicion in the eyes of the law,’ Elliot said pompously. ‘Sometimes it’s the last freakin’ person you’d suspect.'”

Jane Bennett Munro has taken her 30-plus years experience as a hospital pathologist and her love of mystery novels, and intertwined them into an exciting new career. The result is an engaging whodunit that revolves around Toni Day Shapiro, a smart, inquisitive, and determined pathologist working in the fictional Perrine Memorial Hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho. From the story’s opening line, “There was a dead body in my office. It wasn’t mine, and I didn’t put it there,” Munro’s first person approach and hint of humor draw readers directly into the mystery of Toni’s being framed for the murder of a visiting physician.

Each chapter brings a new dimension to the plot, ultimately to include a stalking ex-boyfriend, a stolen identity, a hit-n-run, kidnapping, rape, bigamy, embezzlement, and suicide. Simultaneously, Munro opens chapters with great little quotes that smartly set the tone for ensuing action.  From Shakespeare to Agatha Christie’s “Every murderer is probably somebody’s old friend,” the words ring true. Characters are prevalent, from hospital staff to lawyers and detectives. Toni’s English “Mum,” with a penchant for making lists, pleasantly helps Toni and readers alike put all the facts in perspective.             

Munro clearly draws upon her personal pathology expertise to finely detail hospital and lab activities and settings. While the crimes within the storyline are often dangerous and/or deadly, the author stylistically refrains from gratuitous explanations of violence, beyond their necessity to the investigation. In true mystery style, the writer keeps us guessing. Munro’s book is well-crafted with steady pacing that keeps readers turning pages, analyzing suspects, and looking for answers, right along with Toni.                             Murder Under the Microscope is an exemplary first novel. Here the author presents a likeable main character and the necessary quality elements that draw readers to  mystery and make it such an enjoyable literary genre.

RECOMMENDED by the USR

James  

Too Much Blood
by Jane Bennett Munro
iUniverse
reviewed by Barbara Deming

“You’ll never guess what just happened?”

Jay Braithwaite Burke, sleazy, ponzi-scammer attorney is on forensic pathologist Toni Day’s autopsy table. He had bilked people out of thousands of dollars, and, when the scheme collapsed, he disappeared. Where has he been? Why did he return to the scene of his crimes only to wind up dead?

The autopsy and lab work shows Burke died of a brain hemorrhage. His local doctor had treated him for a heart problem. Was he given the wrong drug which caused excessive bleeding?  Or did someone give him an overdose? The lack of concrete reasons for accidental or natural cause of death warrants Toni’s conclusion that this is a case of homicide. Complications with the case are almost as worrisome as the verbal skirmishes with her husband, and the anger/fear over her suspicions that Hal is having an affair. But when disaster strikes in mega doses, she temporarily puts her personal angst aside and hits the investigative trail.             

People connected to him and his scheme are Toni’s co-workers. Several homes burn to the ground. Some family members fall ill. It appears Burke has two wills; the first one leaves money to women he had affairs with. But he claimed to be broke, didn’t he? And then a mysterious bleeding illness attacks those people involved with the disgraced attorney. Police cry, “Murder!” As Toni would say, “Christ on a crutch, what is going on here?”                                                        Author Munro, a semi-retired pathologist, has written a can’t-put-down tale of murder and poisoning seen through the eyes of a pathologist bent on solving crimes. Munro’s writing is entertaining, believable, and fast-paced. She takes you into the autopsy room, shows the fragility of the characters, and makes the reader feel they are inside the story. Readers will definitely be looking forward to solving more cases with this character.

RECOMMENDED by the USR

Thank you thank you thank you!!!