Monday, June 13, 2011

Mitch Malone Mondays: William S. Shepard

Finally someone who understands an interview. Today’s guest is “Ask Martha” the columnist featured in the Coffee Break Mysteries by William S. Shepard. These are short stories that keep your attention and guessing who the culprit is and short enough to get you back to work before you’re fired. “Ask Martha” has a unique perspective on life and I hope to break the news on her real identity but I’m a little scared of Crusher Davis, a 6 foot 6 former football player who had a journalism major. Let’s see was Ask Martha has to say. How to I refer to you? Do you answer to Martha even though you don’t wear a skirt?
Pleased to be with you. I notice you are not wearing a skirt, either. Slacks are so much more comfortable, don't you think? Ask Martha is my advice column on The Chronicle, so Martha will do. I don't know how these rumors got started about my identity. I'm a football fan and an admirer or what Crusher Davis used to do for our high school and then college teams. And as you know he writes the business column here at the Chronicle, so we see each other a lot.

How did you get the gig of being “Ask Martha"
I applied for it, to the Editor of the Chronicle. They were shorthanded, and as the Editor, James Carstairs, explained to me, a man doing that job just wouldn't be credible. The column had to be written by a woman.

Do you have any life experiences to give people expertise when you respond to their questions? You don’t have any psychology background do you?
People have always trusted me to keep their secrets. That seems to come across in my column too. They write in and tell me the darndest things! Sometimes I think it is like a police confessional. Anyway, one thing and another, I am able through my column and contacts to solve local crimes - that recent arson spree, for example, or the stolen identity case.

How do you keep your identity a secret? Someone has to see you and wonder who you are?Most of my interviews are through the column, and when I get too busy and he has time, Crusher Davis does some interviewing, in his Business Editor reporting function. He did that in The Embezzler case, for example, over at Nolting Furniture.

Crusher, I can call you Crusher? Oh, I can’t. Okay, give me a little space here will you. I won’t break your story on the Ask Martha gig. I know how newspapers work. What’s next for you? Will you always be the advice columnist? As long as Mr. Carstairs is pleased with my work, I'll keep at it. And who knows? Bob Woodward was a reporter for the Montgomery County, Maryland Gazette before lucking into a job at the Washington Post.

How do you get along with the police?
Inspector Samuels of the Centerville Police is my contact for these investigations. He says my help is quite valuable, and he wants to continue that relationship. Now of course, he is always perceptive and can solve cases on his own, but what with budget cutbacks, his police department is shorthanded. As far as work is concerned, I'm lucky to have this job, and there is no such thing as "extra money." I didn't start off detecting crimes, but it just sort of worked out that way. Everyone confides through the mail with my Ask Martha column, so it works out well all around, for The Chronicle and for Inspector Samuels and, I hope, for my writing career.

Thanks for the interesting interview. I promise to keep your identity a secret. Us newspapermen have to keep our sources a secret! For more information about Ask Martha and the Coffee Break Mysteries, check out William’s website: Also watch for the newest Ebook, "The Great Detectives." A bit of insider information is that it will be a special for 99 cents for the summer. Get it quick!

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