Tag Archives: Chris Knopf

A Conversation with Sam Acquillo by Chris Knopf

Cop JobMy parents, the Acquillo people from Montreal, named me Sam. Not Samuel, and no middle name, which should tell you something.

I only live in the Hamptons because my father built a shack back in the fifties on the Little Peconic Bay, in the North Sea area above Southampton. He didn’t have much money, and it wasn’t much of a house, but he wanted a place to stick his family during the week while he worked as a mechanic in the Bronx. I ended up inheriting the place, which was a lucky thing, since I’d lost everything else over a bad temper and poor choices in marriage and personal behavior.

One of the things I lost was my job running R&D for a big hydrocarbon processing company. Having worked around construction while growing up in North Sea, I had that to fall back on, so I’m twice lucky. I know a couple of really rich people, but I mostly stick with my own kind – the cops, illegal immigrants, builders, bartenders and bar-stool sitters who do all the hard work that keeps this fantasy land going. Nowadays I try to keep the poor choices to a minimum, but it’s hard to live around the people I know without running into trouble once in a while.

This latest thing was a guy I knew, a veteran of the Second Iraq War, who also had the misfortune of developing paranoid schizophrenia. That’s what caused the accident that put him in a wheelchair, not the enemy fire he took in the Iraqi desert. And then to cap things off, somebody drops him and his chair in the harbor near where I keep my sailboat.

This upsets me. I don’t like people killing helpless guys in wheelchairs, especially when they’re sort of friends of mine. And Jackie Swaitkowski’s, who happened to be his pro bono lawyer and a ferocious avenger in her own right.

We’re on the case, even though some people, probably well-connected and determined themselves, want to get in our way. This only means we double down, and that’s how it goes.

It’s probably some sort of mental problem, but when I put my mind to something, and my wiry old body, I can’t seem to give it up. Jackie’s the same way, which is probably why we’re friends. We’re going to catch these bastards, and when we do, it won’t be pretty.

Welcome to my side of the Hamptons’ tracks. The dirty side nobody writes about in the glossy magazines. Nobody wants to it know exists.

But it’s there, and somebody has to look after it.

You can read more about Sam in Cop Job, the sixth book in the “Sam Acquillo Hamptons” mystery series, published by The Permanent Press. The first book in the series is The Last Refuge.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on Friday, October 2 for the chance to win a print copy of Cop Job. (US entries only, please.) Good luck everyone!

About the author
CHRIS KNOPF is the author of two mystery series set in the Hamptons, one starring Sam Acquillo: The Last Refuge, Two Time, Head Wounds (winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Mystery), Hard Stop, Black Swan (one of four mysteries reviewed by Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times Sunday Book Review) and Cop Job. Also a spin-off featuring Sam’s lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski – Short Squeeze, Bad Bird and Ice Cap. He’s published a standalone, Elysiana, and a thriller trilogy, Dead Anyway (winner of the Nero Award), Cries of the Lost and >A Billion Ways to Die. He lives in Avon, Connecticut, and Southampton, New York, where he sets sail on the Little Peconic Bay.

Visit Chris at www.chrisknopfmystery.com

Ice Cap by Chris Knopf

Ice Cap by Chris Knopf is the third book in the “Jackie Swaitkowski” mystery series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, June 2012

Crazy weather, crazy artists, organized crime and digital wizardry all play a role in a murder mystery that could only happen in the Hamptons.

Jackie Swaitkowski has made the transition from lackadaisical, pot-smoking real estate lawyer to obsessive, pot-smoking criminal defense attorney. And now, in the middle of the worst winter on record, her ne’re-do-well client is headed for a first degree murder rap. The case pulls Jackie reluctantly back into her late-husband’s extended, and famously outrageous family. Complicating matters is a handsome journalist whose interest in Jackie exceeds the professional.

I know when I read a Jackie Swaitkowski novel that I’m in for a thrilling ride that I don’t want to see end. In this case, Jackie defends her client against a murder charge that involves a member of her deceased husband’s family. And the fun begins as Jackie pursues her case with her usual aplomb but runs into some tumbling blocks that may put her in harm’s way. One of the things I love about this book is the comfortable tone the author presents. There are so many twists and turns in who-did-what-to-whom that kept me guessing until far into this intriguing mystery. Jackie is such a fun character that you can’t help but love her eccentricities as she navigates the world she lives in the pursuit of justice. Harry, Joe and Sam also make appearances as Jackie’s trusted friends. With this great cast, excellent dialogue and the beautiful setting of the Hamptons (in the winter), this was one of the best book in this wonderfully exciting series.

Meet Chris Knopf

When a male author writes from a 1st person female POV, it’s not surprising that people are curious about how that works. My easy, and completely unsatisfactory answer, is “not sure”.

A more legitimate answer is that novelists put themselves into the minds of all sorts of people who are not like them. No one questions a writer who has written a 1st person book about a serial killer (“Excuse me, have you killed multiple people?”), so what’s a little gender flexibility?

In my case, this is the best explanation. Jackie Swaitkowski, the heroine of Ice Cap, was already a fully developed, and highly popular, character in the Sam Acquillo series that I started ten years ago. Sam’s descriptions of her gave me a huge head start. I knew what she looked like, how she talked, how she deported herself, her likes and dislikes, her loveable traits and peccadilloes.

I always build a much bigger back story for my characters than I reveal on the page. So I also had a ready reserve of information I could draw from as I told her story. The reverse was also true. Since I had no idea that this minor character would evolve into her own series, I exposed characteristics in the first book, effortlessly at the time, that forced me to stay within certain boundaries later on. Luckily, I inadvertently gave myself some leeway, so it worked out.

The other odd coincidence is Jacqueline was my mother’s name. And everybody called her Jackie. Since, as noted, I had no idea she would ever persist beyond a brief appearance in the first book, there’s little significance in this aside from happenstance.

The other cool thing about writing dual series in the same fictional world is one protagonist can comment on the other in ways that the other would hardly self-reveal. Since both are 1st person POV, all we get is their individual perspectives. The trick is to reinforce their perceptions of themselves, while flowing in new information that’s believable, but beyond the fictional characters self-perception.

There’s an even bigger issue than working between genders. Fans of Sam Acquillo, the original male protagonist in my Hamptons fictional world, can have a hard time with Jackie’s different perspectives. Of course, if she was too much like Sam, that would be cause for legitimate criticism. On the other hand, readers who have come into the world through Jackie are a little disoriented by Sam’s curmudgeonly ways. As the master of their respective consciousnesses, I feel a powerful obligation to keep them harmonious and separate at the same time.

If you happen to get a chance to read Ice Cap, and/or Bad Bird and Short Squeeze, let me know what you think. I relish feedback of any kind.

Meet the author
CHRIS KNOPF is the author of two mystery series set in the Hamptons, one starring Sam Acquillo: The Last Refuge, Two Time, Head Wounds (winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Mystery) Hard Stop and Black Swan, (which was one of only four mysteries reviewed by Marilyn Stasio in the May, 2011, New York Times Sunday Book Review.) And also a spin-off featuring Sam’s lawyer Jackie Swaitkowski – Short Squeeze and Bad Bird, with Ice Cap released June, 2012. He also published a standalone, Elysiana, and has another standalone thriller, Dead Anyway, scheduled for Fall of 2012. A copywriter by trade, Chris is CEO of Mintz & Hoke Communications Group. He lives in Avon, Connecticut, and Southampton, New York, where he sets sail on the Little Peconic Bay. Visit Chris at www.chrisknopfmystery.com

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

Bad Bird by Chris Knopf

Bad Bird by Chris Knopf is the second book in the “Jackie Swaitkowski” mystery series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, February 2011

Jackie Swaitkowski may not be the most buttoned-up lawyer in the Hamptons, but a plane crash before her very eyes is hard to miss. Just before the struggling air taxi takes a nosedive, its female pilot tosses out a camera case. To Jackie, the accident’s only witness, the case (so to speak) seems meant for her.

The camera’s memory card holds an unusual set of photos. Jackie recognizes more than a few of the faces in those pictures. Are they telling her the story of the crash? The pilot, a hard-nosed biker chick named Eugenie Birkson, came from a family tree filled with ex-cons, and boasted a passenger list packed with high society. And Jackie soon learns that solving the mystery of Eugenie’s death will mean uncovering some dark secrets from her own past as well.

All this and a freshly revived romance with gentle giant Harry Goodlander, and Jackie yet again has her heart and her hands full.

Award-winning mystery writer Chris Knopf returns to Southampton, a one-of-a-kind small town where the rich and the rest of us rub shoulders on a daily basis, generating all the frictions that might imply.

What a ride! When Jackie sees the plane struggling to stay in the air, they lock eyes and the the pilot tosses a case which proves to contain all the secrets that someone doesn’t want uncovered. With Jackie’s tenacious style and uncanny knack at getting the answer, this enthralling mystery will keep you on your toes. It was good to see Joe, Randall, Sam and the lovable Harry. I look forward to reading the next adventures with Jackie and friends.

Short Squeeze by Chris Knopf

Short Squeeze by Chris Knopf is the first book in the new “Jackie Swaitkowski” mystery series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, January 2010

The outside world thinks living in the Hamptons requires a Bentley, a face-lift, and a shingle-style home the size of Buckingham Palace. The truth is a lot more complicated than that. Dig a little deeper and you’re as likely to find a saint—or a Mensa genius—as you are a deviant or certified nut job lurking right below the surface.

I know this because these are my beloved clients.

Meet Jackie Swaitowski, a smart-aleck attorney whose legal turf is supposed to be the buzzing Hamptons real-estate market. But when a new client turns up dead, things take a sudden and decidedly dangerous turn. In a client’s pocket is an envelope that contains a shocking piece of evidence that suggests that the death was anything but an accident.

Jackie has bigger fish to fry—like her old flame Harry’s surprise return to town—until a late-night car chase changes her priorities. Now she has every reason to believe that the next name on the killer’s list is her own.

Chris Knopf has been praised for his quick-witted writing and broad knowledge of the highs and lows of Hamptons life, and his books have been included on best-of-the-year lists complied by The New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and others. Now, in Short Squeeze, he brings an irresistible new heroine to center stage.

This was a fun and entertaining read and I love the character of Jackie and her friends Harry and Sam. I plan to read the last book featuring Sam to get a better idea of what he is and does. Great mystery and look forward to reading the next book in this series.

*new-to-me author