Clean Up on Aisle Seven (or, An Introduction to Ajax Clean)

I’m proud to announce that my very first crime thriller (i.e. no monsters. Just straight up criminal action and intrigue) is now up for pre-order on Amazon. Um, unless you read this post after December 25, 2015 (Christmas Day!). Then it’ll be available in both print and ebook formats. Because of this, I wanted to give you guys a little background into this strange change of direction in my usual monster/paranormal-heavy genres. I wanted to fill you in on how Ajax Clean, a professional forensic cleaner for the mob, came to exist and what you can expect from him and his adventures. 

Many of you know (and many more may not) that I’m not a full-time author. No, I have an actual day job. But that day job is no mere 9 to 5, punch the clock kind of gig. I am, in fact, a forensic death investigator. Have been for about twenty years now. What exactly is a forensic death investigator? Well, basically, I work for a medical examiner. I go to scenes of any unnatural or suspicious deaths and investigate them. Try to gather as much information about the circumstances leading up to the death as possible; then do all the observation stuff on the body, looking for injuries, strange markings, etc. I photograph the scene. Collect evidence. And report all I’ve seen, heard, and smelled back to the medical examiner, who will then proceed to determine cause and manner of death based upon my observations and the autopsy. In a nutshell, that’s my job. And yes, it is pretty cool, isn’t it?

The reason I told you all that was so that you would have a better understanding of Ajax Clean’s origins and of my reluctance to ever allow him to exist in the first place. You see, as I stated before, I’ve been doing this job for twenty years. As you can imagine, when I started writing professionally, I began being bombarded with people, friends, colleagues asking me why I don’t write crime novels. Forensic thrillers. Stuff related to my job.

Original mock cover design.
My answer: “Because it’s stuff related to my job.” I read books as a means of escape from reality. Writing is no different. It’s an escape for me. It’s a chance to experience things I would never experience in real life. So why would I want to delve into a world in which I work on a regular basis? It made no sense to me. I don’t like TV shows like CSI or really any police procedural in both visual and print formats. They’re boring to me because I see the real thing regularly and when it boils down to it, it’s just a job. Would you want to watch your job on TV? Or read a book about your job? Most people wouldn’t. I was no different. 

Until a simple conversation with one of my literary heroes changed all that. Late last year, Warren Murphy (the co-creator of The Destroyer series (Remo Williams)) and I were talking. He’d read my book, The Curse of One-Eyed Jack, and had enjoyed it. But invariably, he asked me the same question everyone else seemed to ask, “Why don’t you write a forensic thriller? I’d like to see what you could do with something like Quincy.”

The comment staggered me. This was my hero. The co-creator of one of my all-time favorite fictional heroes and series. And he wanted to actually see me write a particular kind of book. To me, this was a challenge. Something I simply couldn’t brush aside as I had so many times in the past. When your hero asks you to do something, you typically are going to try your very best to do it.

So I began pondering how best to approach this tale without boring myself to tears. I decided that if I was going to do this, I would have to write a story about forensics from a perspective that I don’t deal with on a daily basis. It would have to be from a point of view far removed from my own day to day world. It didn’t take long for me to discover precisely where I was going to find my character. 

The criminal underworld.

The myth says that the mob employs certain experts in forensics to go into a crime scene before the police are alerted to it in order to clean up any trace evidence left behind. We’ve seen a number of examples of this in movies, TV shows (like The Black List), and books of all kinds. Truth is, I’m not sure these people actually exist. If they do, I’d imagine there’s not very many of them. But I thought it would be interesting to create a character versed in forensics, but who wasn’t necessarily on the side of the angels. Not a cop. Not a CSI. Not even a ‘good guy’. Now that would be a character I might enjoy to write. 

But just because he’s not a ‘good’ guy doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not a nice guy. Or, even better, a bit of a nerd. And of course, someone with a great sense of humor. As I pondered the character, I knew I wanted to approach Ajax in a far different way than your standard criminal protagonist. Most of these characters tend to be hard-nosed tough guys. Gritty. Perhaps displaying glimpses of dry wit every now and then. But for the most part, these characters tend to be wound pretty tight and are not people you’d want to meet in a dark alley. 

Another mock cover design.
Ajax Clean definitely defies this stereotype. He’s an Asian man of slight build who doesn’t know a lick of Kung Fu. He loves comics and Firefly and wears geeky T-shirts with his favorite pop culture heroes on them. He, like me, is also a huge fan of Remo Williams and the Destroyer series. The Sinanju Master Chiun, who trained Remo how to be an assassin, is his all time favorite hero. And here’s a little trivia for you: I made Ajax Clean into a Korean man as a tribute to that same character. 
Clean has a propensity for disguises—the more over-the-top, the better. And of course, he has a wicked sense of humor to boot. Definitely not your typical criminal mastermind. 
However, don’t let him fool you. Unlike my other snarky, one-liner loving protagonists, this one definitely has bite. He may not know martial arts, but he’s deadly with a gun. And according to one super-secret government agency, Ajax Clean is a borderline sociopath. He has no qualms about doing whatever necessary to survive—or more importantly, to protect the people he cares about. This last little bit plays a pretty significant role in the Ajax Clean saga because you honestly don’t know how he’ll respond to any given situation. Maybe he’ll make a silly joke at someone who insults him. Maybe he’ll just shoot them in the face. I suppose it depends on the person or his mood or the circumstances, but you honestly can’t possibly know how he’ll respond because I, the writer and creator, am not entirely sure. That’s where the fun of the character lies and where I’ll have the most fun when writing the series.

So, basically, that’s the scoop on Ajax Clean and his first thriller, CLEAN EXIT. It’s a little background as you prepare to experience his adventures. It gives a little insight into how he came about. 

Of course, some of you might be asking, “Wait. I thought you were going to try to publish this one traditionally? What happened? Was it rejected by everyone?” Actually, not by a long shot. The overall impression of the title by agents and publishers was very positive. The big issue came down to schedules and time frames. The traditional approach naturally takes their own sweet time when making decisions. Once those decisions have been made, it then takes eons before the book would ever see the light of day. I understand this completely. They have so many people vying to be published, it simply takes time to go through them all. 

But as I waited for responses to come in, I pondered the process. I examined it from so many angles and I came to one wonderful conclusion: I’m an indie (independent) author. I’m proud of being an indie author. I’m good at it too. And I can honestly say, I think I’ll be perfectly content remaining an indie author until the day I stop writing. 

I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

CLEAN EXIT will be released for the Kindle on Christmas Day (Dec. 25, 2015). Print and other ebook editions will be released soon after. But in the meantime, you can pre-order the Kindle edition now for just $4.99! Click on the link to reserve your copy today:

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