He’s back! And this time New York native, author, teacher and photographer Chris Forman serves our Port City a second helping of his beloved, fun and whimsical reads from “The Port City Mystery Series.” Published last September, I was lucky enough to recently receive my copy of “Killer Surf.” Keeping in tune with his first edition (“Killer Cuisine”—Forman loves food and even has a blog dedicated to it, burgersandbrewsfoodreviews.blogspot.com), “Killer Surf” doesn’t disappoint the humorous and light-hearted literary appetite. In fact, it’s full of the same flavorful flair: our Port City’s tastiest dining hot spots as backdrops and a plot that involves the same characters readers have come to love. Only this time around, they have grown in depth and dimension in their own individual subtle ways.
Within “Killer Surf,” Forman has a kilt-wearing food writer and photographer as his main character, Ian Porthos Wallace, involved in yet another murder. One morning while on a walk, he trips over a dead body washed ashore on the beach. When he looks closely, he astoundingly realizes it is the body of his neighbor, Brenda Dexter. Of course, this is a mystery Ian must solve—and so begins another trip into Ian’s world as he recruits Detective Jim Halstead to solve the murder. Together, they look into Brenda’s odd and sketchy past. But how? Well, how else? By interviewing (once again) Ian’s quirky neighbors, all of whom we have become acquainted with in the first installment.
Readers will find the two old ladies who order products from infomercials constantly and the guy who sits on his porch all day in his bathrobe, smoking cigarettes and drinking nothing but beer. “I particularly like writing the old ladies, because they remind me of my grandmother and my aunt who have passed,” Forman says. “They (my grandmother and aunt) weren’t as daft, but they argued constantly and I picture the two of them when I put them down on paper.”
Port City Mystery Series also welcomes back its staple characters, the minister, the police officer and, though tossed in jail, the remnants of the man in the bathrobe. They are all Forman’s favorites to construct because they aren’t bland, boring or tasteless—much like how Forman prepares his meals. “I like to add flavor and spice and pizzazz to everything,” he says.
Though Forman chose not to add new characters in “Killer Surf,” there are plenty on the plate to keep our taste buds ready for the next bite. Truly, the need for new faces isn’t that important here. As Forman said himself in our interview (we both find ourselves in the high north for the time being), it’s better to sometimes stick to characters you know so well and help them evolve rather than confuse readers with unnecessary additions.
“I have a tendency to throw too many people in my writing, and I’m trying not to do that here,” he admits. “I don’t want too many faces all over the place. I’m trying to keep the basic core characters. This is what’s important to me.”
Insofar his process in devising off-the-wall worlds of Ian Porthos Wallace is nothing but sheer satisfaction. The only difference, Forman explains, was staying true those whom he had created without deviating too far from their hearts and souls.
“I had to really sit down and remember [them] and really get to know them [again],” he says. “I had to remain consistent.”
As so many writers can agree on, self-editing is the hardest approach to any story. For Forman, he struggled with deciding how much back story to include. “You don’t want to put too much,” he says,
“but enough to allow the reader to pick up my novels and read them in nonconsecutive order.”
Like the people many have come to love, locals will see places they frequent, too, like Front St. Brewery, downtown Wilmington’s Riverwalk and the beach, as they read through the pages. “I did add in a strip club,” Forman notes.
While we’re downing his current killer platter of words, Forman’s already 4,000 words entrenched in part three, “Killer Ratings.” It will center around a food cooking competition and the rest, well, we’ll have to wait and read. “You just have to keep going back for more,” Forman says.
For more details about Forman’s upcoming projects or to order “Killer Surf,” visit www.mariahartmysteries.blogspot.com.