Proof Of Life by J. A. Jance brings back retired detective J. P. Beaumont. The difference between these novels and the other series Jance writes is that these blend sarcastic humor within the mystery. Now retired Beaumont (Beau) searches for something to keep him busy. But thanks to his longtime nemesis Seattle crime reporter Maxwell Cole, Beau becomes entangled in an investigation. It seems Cole put in his will that Beau should scrutinize his death. Although ruled an accident, it appears that there are clues that lead to the death possibly being ruled a homicide. It is up to Beau and his police chief wife Mel Soames to sort everything out and connect the dots.
Elise Cooper: Since this introduces a new character Rambo the dog did you do it as a dedication to your dog Bella, who recently had to be put down?
J. A. Jance: No. The character Rambo is based on the Irish Wolfhound we adopted years ago named Boney. Also, our daughter has a big black mutt called Storm. In personality Rambo resembles Boney, while in looks she resembles Storm. Even though he is a she I named the dog out of perversity since Rambo is really tough.
EC: You speak of the Academy Of Canine Behavior. Are they a real organization?
JAJ: Yes. All our dogs and granddogs are graduates. They go there for a six-week boot camp. Boney was the first one who went because of his rambunctiousness. While chasing a tennis ball he crashed into our table and broke his tooth. We needed to go to a vet Dentist who had to perform a root canal on Boney. Because he was not properly anesthetized he took a chunk out of the dentist’s hand. He claimed Boney was vicious and should be put down immediately. Our vet who knew Boney was from a shelter and separated from his mom at too early an age recommended this Academy. They turned him into a complete gentleman of a dog. BTW: They do take in rescues for a week to see if they are a good fit for the family and do not charge for the assessment.
EC: So Rambo was taken from personal experiences?
JAJ: Almost all of my writings have some of my specific background hiding in them. There are pieces of my heart lingering in the stories. I want readers to understand that if they are like Beau who never had a dog it can be a shock to the system. But after that wears off they understand why Rambo became family very quickly.
EC: What other personal experiences were put in your books?
JAJ: In Downfall, a Joanna Brady book, I explored the mother-daughter relationship. A lot of us have issues with our mothers; I know I did. I remember after getting my college degree looking down on my mother with her sixth grade education and just being a housewife. This was terribly arrogant of me. Once I had children my mother began getting smarter. What I have written is not exactly my mothers and my relationship, but it is certainly related.
EC: Can you explain the book quote, “The second-guessers of the world-the Monday morning quarterbacks who have never once put their own lives on the line-who wants to turn every police shooting into a media crap storm.”
JAJ: It is a shout out to the police who have a terribly difficult job. Until anyone is faced with that shoot/don’t shoot decision no one knows what it is like. I am with the police. A number of years ago I did a Citizen’s Academy course. The first night I thought I could sit in the back and be unobtrusive. But it turned out the guy teaching was a fan of my books. He dragged me up to the front, gave me a weapon, and did a virtual reality demonstration. As I entered the backroom this guy came at me with a pipe, so I plugged him. This was a powerful lesson for me on how these things happen in real life.
EC: What is the backstory on the Seattle reporter Max Cole and retired detective Beau?
JAJ: He was upset with Beau for taking away his flame and marrying her. Then he becomes the crime reporter when Beau is a detective. Cops of all kind, but especially homicide cops, had been the targets of Cole’s many published diatribes. Since they had a long history of antagonism I thought that would be interesting to explore how Max wants Beau to investigate his death.
EC: Is S.H.I.T. a real organization?
JAJ: No. It stands for the Special Homicide Investigative Team. I joke that whoever gave this organization its name did not understand what an unfortunate acronym it turned out to be. They investigate cold cases and homicides. Beau is a part of it. I think the point is there is still life in the old guy and he is not ready to give in to retirement. I think he will probably become a PI.
EC: Can you tell us about your next books?
JAJ: Out in the spring will be an Ali Reynolds book. The next Beau book will be out two years from now because every year is an Ali book and the second book that comes out alternates between Beau and Joanna Brady.