Wednesday, November 7, 2012

VBT Smoking Ruin by D.R. Martin

Today I would like to welcome Mystery author D.R. Martin to the blog. I appreciate you taking the time to stop by. He is here with an interview with his Heroine. 

The Author Interviews His PI Heroine: Breakfast with Marta Hjelm

It’s been nearly two years since I’ve had a chance to visit with private investigator (PI) Marta Hjelm and her boyfriend Rick Mueller. Their involvement in the Gottwaldt ad agency case was the subject of my mystery novel, Smoking Ruin. Those were tough times for the couple and I wanted to see how they were doing. I met them for breakfast at the Ace Cafe in downtown St. Paul—just downstairs from their office in the Amalgamated Manufacturing Building. The place was packed this frosty November morning, redolent of frying bacon and brewing coffee.

Marta and Rick arrived just a few minutes after I did, and sat down opposite me in the booth. Both of them had big camera bags over their shoulders, and asked if it would be okay to park them next to me.

Marta, as usual, looked a little frazzled and tired—with circles under her brown eyes. She’d grown out her dark blonde hair a bit since I’d last seen her. She had on a pair of gray stretch cords and a navy fleece hoodie. The lady never did like flashy duds. She looked fit and trim, having shed a few pounds. For his part, Rick hadn’t changed a bit—a lanky, outdoorsy-looking guy in jeans, green plaid flannel shirt, and red down vest.

When one of the Ace’s convivial waitresses stopped by, I ordered some eggs and bacon. Marta and Rick both went for short stacks of sourdough pancakes.

“So what have you guys been up to?” I asked. “How’s the photo agency thing going?”

The two of them looked at each other and Marta kind of shrugged.

“Well, D.R., you know that we wanted to shoot and sell a bunch of stock photography,” she said. “Prepackaged images for websites or magazines or whatever. But there’s so much cheap stuff out on the web, it’s hard to earn a buck. We’re making headway. But it’s not a living yet. We can’t even keep our office upstairs. The rent’s gone way up and we have to move.”

“So herself here,” Rick said, with a sideways head nod toward his girlfriend, “is still in the PI game. Hasn’t retired yet.”

I figured as much. Like Rick, I didn’t think Marta would stay out of investigations very long—despite what happened at the Gottwaldt and Ryan ad agency.

“Admit it,” I said to Marta. “It’s in your blood.”

“Yeah, maybe,” she reluctantly agreed.

“What are you working on these days?” I queried. “Anything dramatic, like what I wrote about in Smoking Ruin?

Marta laughed and shook her head. “Fortunately, no. Skip traces. Retail work. I mean, I nearly got killed three different times on the Gottwaldt case. It might be fun to read about, huddled safely with your Kindle, but it sure isn’t fun when it’s your neck on the line. Anyway, light-fingered retail clerks rarely attempt to blow anyone up.”

“But didn’t the case get you a lot of publicity?” I asked.

“Marta here was hot news for about a month,” Rick said. “Then life went back to normal. Her fifteen minutes of fame.”

“So you wouldn’t want another high-profile gig like that?” I said.

“Tell you what, D.R.,” Marta chuckled, “if one drops into my lap, you’ll be the first novelist I let know about it.”

“Hey, I’m always looking for a good story,” I said. “Are you in touch with any folks from the Gottwaldt case?”

“Only Michelle Norton,” answered Marta. “She just started college out in Connecticut and met me for lunch before she went back east. Got a full ride, apparently, at some little school. Still has those family issues that you wrote about, but seems okay. I heard that Denny Ryan and Archie Gottwaldt are out of jail, on parole. The ad agency’s apparently doing well. Picked up a few more big accounts. And I forgot about Jennifer Nelson. She hired me for a few weeks last spring. Some trouble at her husband’s factory.”

I didn’t know if I should ask a certain, sensitive question, but I did. “And how’s Terry Rosen?”

A little dark cloud flitted across Rick’s face. I don’t think he liked to hear the name of his girlfriend’s ex—the third corner of the triangle I depicted in Smoking Ruin. For her part, Marta kind of glared at me.

“Let’s put it this way, D.R.,” she said. “We exchange Christmas cards. Nothing more.”

“Ooookay,” I said. “Now why don’t you tell me about some of your photo projects…”

Other books by D. R. Martin

Johnny Graphic and the Etheric Bomb, a kids’ ghost adventure; website at

The Karma of King Harald, a canine cozy written under the pen name Richard Audry, to be published in early December; website at

D. R.’s Goodreads author page is at

The Kindle Smoking Ruin page is at

You can contact D.R. at


Minneapolis PI Marta Hjelm failed to prevent a preventable murder. Her guilt has brought her right to the edge of burnout and dropout. But a prize specimen from her ancient past—her cheating ex-husband—appears out of nowhere with a gig too good to turn down. One last job, Marta figures, can’t hurt.

But hurt it does, as Marta tries to make sense of a terrorist plot at a major ad agency. In the dead of a long, bitter Minnesota winter, Marta struggles to survive attempts on her life. To understand her conflicted feelings toward an ex who wants her back, and toward the man who healed her when everything was dark. To make peace with the ghost of a victim she should have saved. And to crack open multiple conspiracies that lead to murder and smoking ruin.


Snuggled tight in the heated basement garage, the ad agency’s Lexus started like a charm. I touched the button on the remote door control, and drove up and out into the brutal January night. I turned right, through the back parking lot, and right again, around the end of the building, into the front parking lot, past my frozen Mercury Marquis.
A minute later I was curving north and east at a good clip, toward Wayzata, feeling like a rally driver. The sky was a deep azure, clear as glass and full of the stars you don’t often see in the city.
It was the first time that day I’d felt relatively on top of the situation. Sure, plenty of things were screwed up.
My boyfriend Rick needed calming down and getting home, where he belonged. I’d had to go to work for people I didn’t like, for a cause that gave pause. And my reaction to seeing my ex Terry again made me a little queasy. What’s up with that? I asked myself. But clear them all up—and I had no doubt that I would—and things looked a lot better.
I tooled over a narrow bridge, went left, then right, the lake only a dozen feet away. The headlights caught the glitter of ice on the road. I lightly tapped the brakes, but didn’t feel them catch. No anti-lock kicking in. Doing something wrong, I thought, as my heart accelerated and my gloved hands squeezed the wheel harder.
I feathered the brakes again—a reflexive, fluttery tapping of my right foot, from teen driving days—as I came onto the ice. I was going way too fast. Again, nothing happened. The Lexus kept rolling. 
Turning the wheel left, I could feel my heart coming up into my mouth.
The tires refused to find a purchase on the ice and the car began to yaw sideways.
I kept feathering the brakes, then pressed hard. The pedal went to the floor with a forbidding “thunk.”
The road curved left again, but the Lexus kept going straight.
A puny steel-cable guard rail came up fast as a shot and the front of the Lexus sheared through it with a percussive roar.
I was briefly airborne over eight feet of steep shoreline, starting to scream, when the car nosed down.
The frozen lake rushed toward me, brilliant in the headlights, like a wall of dirty, corrugated granite. 

Tour Schedule for Smoking Ruin by D.R. Martin

November 5th - Author Harlie Williams
November 6th - Harlie's Books
November 7th - Romance Book Craze
November 8th - My Reading Obsession
November 9th - House Millar

Giveaway Time!!!

D.R. Martin has graciously offered a copy of Smoking Ruin to one lucky commenter. You can pick either print or ebook (ebook only for our international readers). He is also offering one commenter a $25 gift certificate to Barnes and Noble. Be sure to stop at all the tour stops for the best chance of winning.

Fill out the rafflecopter below to sign up!


  1. Hi D.R., Rick and Marta. I loved the book. Give the photography some time. It will all work out in the end.

    Oh and Marta, we must hear about the case that you worked on with Jennifer. :)


  2. This sounds like a book I would really enjoy reading! Thanks for the excerpt and giveaway

    junegirl63 at gmail dot com

  3. This book sounds fantastic. Can't wait to read it. Thanks for the great excerpt and the giveaway.


  4. Harlie Reader, Maria, & Joanne... Thanks for your encouraging comments. It was a fun book to write and I hope I can do another Marta mystery before long.

  5. Love this interview...I could picture Marta and Rick---very likeable! This book I will want to read!

  6. pc... I really had fun writing this. It never occurred to me before to interview my own characters, but it worked out great. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  7. Great cover and excerpt, looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Thx for giveaway.

    blinkysthebest at aol dot com

  8. Lona, the cover was fun working on; I had an artist friend do it. Good luck with the giveaway.


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