“Lady Killer” by Jeff Richards
Mitch Lovett, a recently divorced father of two, wasn’t looking for anything serious—but when he fooled around with an old friend, Dee Wynn, serious was what he got. Dee has decided that Mitch will be hers and nothing is going to stand in her way. But Gail, another member of their college group (and now their babysitting co-op), has had her eye on Mitch as well—nevermind the fact that she’s married to a jealous, abusive husband who just happens to have received a new gun for his birthday. When Mitch and Gail consummate their long-standing attraction—recklessly following their heart’s desires—they set into motion a series of events with ultimately tragic consequences for all involved.
Set in Takoma Park (a close-knit liberal community that borders Washington, D.C.) among a group of college friends now raising families together, Lady Killer explores spousal abuse and the ways that both long-standing friendships and marriages can unravel when put to the test. Ultimately, both Mitch and Gail will have to decide who they really are and what they really want—both for themselves and their children.
Q&A with Jeff Richards
Why do you imply in your novel that it “takes a village” to commit a murder?
Ultimately, the responsibility for a murder belongs with the murderer alone. But a murderer does not live in a vacuum. In Lady Killer, I try to show the inevitability of the murder through the actions of others. Mitch Lovett, a recently divorced dad of two, carries on two affairs at once with old college friends, Dee Wynn, a single hard driving executive who will not take no for an answer, and Gail Strickland, who has given up her career to raise a child with an abusive husband–who happened to have received a new gun for his birthday. The murderer was a high school jock who was sidelined by a college injury. He is like O.J. Simpson. He never lost his sense of entitlement. His respect in the community, in the baby sitting co-op where he, his wife, and Mitch are members, is at an all-time low. Mix in a few accidents here and there, some bad luck, and a woman who will not take no for answer, and you have a recipe for disaster.
What are you trying to suggest about responsibility in the book?
I am trying to suggest that we are not only responsible for our behavior, but the effect our behavior might have on others. When Mitch and Gail consummate their long-standing attraction – recklessly following their heart’s desires – they set into motion a series of events with tragic consequences. They know beforehand what those consequences might be. They might bruise the murderer’s ego. The murderer, in turn, will end the life of the victim and drastically alter the lives of friends and family, even the community where the victim lives. I guess what I am saying is that you have more power than you think so it’s a good idea that you think ahead before you do something. I guess I’m a pragmatist.
You are trying to deal with a lot of issues in this story such as gun control, abuse, and male anger. What is the purpose of bringing all these issues together and are there other themes that inform this novel?
In Lady Killer, the killer is a bully. He tries to get people to do what he wants them to do through intimidation. I suggest that he learned this behavior through his father. He is angry because, in the end, you can’t always get what you want, especially when you’re dealing with other people–in this case, his wife. This leads to spousal abuse, which leads to more male anger. It’s a vicious cycle. Perhaps, the killer needs to attend anger management classes as Mitch Lovett suggests. But the killer, being who he is, would refuse to attend. It would be a sign of weakness. Besides, the killer is a hunter. He has a collection of guns that he keeps under lock and key. He is a scary guy and everyone is afraid of him. So what do you do? You can take away his guns, you can force him into treatment, or both. Since he hasn’t done anything yet, there is not much you can do under the present system of laws to stop his murderous intents.
Why set the story in a babysitting co-op?
My wife and I belonged to a baby sitting co-op when our kids were toddlers. Many of the adult members were born and raised in Takoma Park as well as attended Blair High School and the University of Maryland. Some married spouses from the community. Some from outside. I thought what a perfect hothouse for shenanigans. There was actually a murder in our community involving one Blair graduate murdering another over sleeping with his wife. What I didn’t count on until I was well into the book was how perfectly the baby-sitting co-op fit into the overarching theme of personal responsibility. One of the important jobs of parents is to teach their child how to be civilized. One of the child-rearing theories floating around when my kids were preschoolers was the Theory of Consequences. You teach your kids the consequences for their actions. For instance, your kid doesn’t want to wear his shoes outside. So you let him go outside barefoot. He hurts himself. He learns the consequences of his action. He won’t go outside barefoot again. (Fat chance!) In these ways kids are mini-adults. They may have problems with concepts and for that reason they may persist in actions that have bad consequences. Adults, on the other hand, may understand concepts but they may persist in actions that have bad consequences as well out of pure cussedness, anger, or any other number of reasons. It’s like the blind leading the blind.
Thrilling Short Novels of 2019
If you like a little suspense in your life—“little” being the operative word here—then here’s a list of both already-published and forthcoming Thrilling Short Novels of 2019 to get your quick fix in 200 pages or less.
By the award-winning author of Sleeping Giants, The Test explores a British immigration dystopia and was described in one Goodreads review as “basically a Black Mirror episode in novella format.” Color me intrigued.
This 20-page retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s William Wilson is part of Disorder, a “collection of six short stories of living nightmares, chilling visions, and uncanny imagination that explore a world losing its balance in terrifying ways” available for free on Kindle Unlimited.
Lady Killer is on my TBR list, as I recently received an ARC from the author’s publicist. It follows a group of long-time friends who formed a babysitting co-op called The Stork Club that is starting to fall to pieces thanks to the entangled web of lies and deceit the members are weaving around themselves. Excited to sink my teeth into this one!
A psychological thriller, Looker focuses on a woman who is obsessed with her neighbor, an actress. And if we’ve learned anything from books like The Girl on the Train, this type of obsession never leads anywhere good!
Okay, so this goes over the page limit by eight pages, but since this is a collection of short stories it still counts. Reading a short story about a serial killer with memory loss is enticing enough, but there are other stories in this collection that I’m sure will prove just as interesting!
Post submitted to Fictionophile by Jessie Glenn (Director, Mindbuck Media Book Publicity)