My Article About My Small Town Cops in Mystery Readers Journal
Rocky Bluff P.D. Mystery Series
by F. M. (Marilyn) Meredith
Rocky Bluff is a fictional small beach community located between Santa Barbara and Ventura, in Southern California. It is much like the beach community where I lived with my family years ago. My son-in-law began his police career in the real town and his tales about what went on during his shifts and other times are what inspired me to create this series.
Besides the mystery, the plots also include what is going on with the officers’ families and how that affects the job—and of course how what happens on the job affects the family.
The first in the series, Final Respects, introduces several characters who continue through the rest of the series. Officer Doug Milligan who is the main character in this mystery often plays the starring role in subsequent stories.
Officer Ryan Strickland, a publicity hound, has a pivotal role in this first book. As the series continues, he is the one who changes the most.
When I wrote this, I had no idea it would be continuing series.
An officer shooting in the town where I lived got me started with this first mystery. The fact that in many small towns, coroner’s duties were done by the local mortician intrigued me. Expanding on that theme, I thought it would be fun to add the mortuary owner’s three young daughters in the mix. Way back when I was writing this book, my youngest daughter had three girlfriends whose father owned a mortuary and I learned that the girls played hide ‘n seek among the coffins. This became an important thread in the plot.
Because I wanted to find out what happened next to those men and women on the RBPD, I wrote the next book, and then the next, and so on, until I am now working on the thirteenth in the series.
As the series continued, I wrote about the delivery of bad tidings; a bad cop who used the fringe benefits of the job for evil; the smell of death; two churches, two ministers, their wives, and murder; a police officer who has one problem after another including romances that never work out; promotions, a wedding that almost doesn’t happen; a false accusation, and lots of family problems that the officers and their wives must face.
Of course each book contains a mystery, and though family issues continue from one novel to the next, the mystery is always solved by the end.
One of the advantages of using a small town in this series is the fact that the department doesn’t have much money or more modern forensic equipment. The detectives concentrate on solving crimes the old-fashioned way—talking to people, searching for clues, and figuring out what actually happened. If they need help with forensics or more scientific processes, they turn to the nearby and much larger and better equipped Ventura County facilities.
The publishing history of this series has been a bit on the rocky side. After the first two books in the series, the publisher and I parted ways. Though it didn’t take long to find another publisher, after two books, she decided the business wasn’t for her. I met my next and present publisher, Oak Tree Press, at a writing conference.
One of my favorite characters is Officer Gordon Butler, who is always“by-the-book” though things seldom work out for him. He’s also popular with my fans. So much so, that once when Butler had trouble finding a place to live, a reader emailed me to offer him an extra room in her house. I gently reminded her, he wasn’t real.
A new character I’m enjoying writing about is the new police chief, Chandra Taylor, the second African American on the department. Knowing she’d gone as far as she could career-wise with a big city department, she took the job as chief in Rocky Bluff. Almost immediately her life is threatened by someone she arrested many years ago.
I’ve included surfers, religious fanatics, the homeless, mental illness, three old guys who hang out at McDonald’s, unusual murder weapons, a big earthquake, a mother with Alzheimer’s, a baby with Down Syndrome, and many issues people in everyday life must face.
My intent has always been to show the men and women who serve as police officers are like all the rest of us, who besides the challenges and dangers of the job, have many of the same problems as the rest of us.
To me, this has been easier to accomplish because Rocky Bluff is a small town.
F. M. (Marilyn) Meredith
Link to the Journal: