Living/Writing in a World of Crime, an essay by Archer Mayor

Join Archer Mayor, New York Times bestselling author of the Joe Gunther police procedural series, as he shares how writing has provided a healthy outlet to explore his experiences as an emergency responder. And sign-in/comment on the post below for a chance to win one of three advance reader copies of Bomber’s Moon, Book #30 in the Joe Gunther series which comes out in September.

I am often asked if any of my old law enforcement and/or medical examiner investigations have ever made it into my thirty Joe Gunther mysteries.

It’s a natural line of inquiry. I have been responding to emergency calls—at first as a firefighter/EMT—since before the series began in 1988.

The raw materials of crisis, loss, and stress have commingled with repeated exposure to happenstance, mean-spiritedness, and stupidity, and seeped into my soul. The fact that I’ve done all this in rural Vermont has been an ironic blessing: I am the first to acknowledge that, regardless of what I and my colleagues have seen up here, it holds no comparison to the onslaught in crowded urban environments.

Still, I have been witness to my share of suffering and sorrow. It doesn’t take a psychiatrist to suggest that such exposure to toxicity might take a toll.

In simple terms: Where do you put those feelings?

In my case, I don’t drink alcohol, or engage in extreme sports. My pets don’t suffer from excessive outbursts of anger. I don’t overeat, or speed on my motorcycle, or find solace in drug use, or even garden obsessively.

I write.

I have created a parallel universe that I visit almost every day. It is populated by confused, anxious, angry, and sometimes criminally-minded people—just like my real world—but it is also filled with Joe Gunther and his friends and colleagues. And these people—although sometimes conflicted and challenged—remain predictably and reliably thoughtful, considerate, hard-working, and just.

In their company, I replay some of the awful things I have visited in truth, place them within fictional settings, and call upon Joe and the others to process them according to their baseline standard of common decency.

I have worked side-by-side with firefighters, EMTs, police officers, ski patrollers, hospital staffers, social workers, judges, attorneys, and others of similar stripe, in all kinds of circumstances. I am hard-pressed to think of a single one of these people—despite a vast and varied spectrum of personalities, beliefs, and experience—that didn’t share the fundamental integrity to be found in my fictional characters. Were some of these people I can barely stand? Of course. Were some of their politics at odds with mine? Yes. Did a few have a moral scale and ethical scale I found wanting? Occasionally.

But they stood in the trench I was in at the time. We learned to do the job in unison. We knew enough not to probe where it wasn’t necessary for the job. We cut each other slack.

I have one character most of my readers love to hate, or hate to love. His name is Willy Kunkle, and he’s as grouchy, thin-skinned, and dismissive a man as you can imagine. He is also a tortured soul and a battered spirit who’s had the good sense to keep close the people who see beyond his ill manners. He’s also a warning for those who believe that one’s outer, social behavior is a clear lens into a person’s inner workings. I like Willy—I’ve even been accused of being Willy—precisely because of the mixed message he presents.

All of the above being said, however, I must address the opening question—has a case ever made it into a book?—by answering with a qualified “no.” Given the world I inhabit, of laws and procedures and protocols, it would be unethical—not to mention unseemly—for me to ever bring an actual investigation into one of my fictional plots.


There was one, now quite a few years ago, where my co-investigator and I (I was there wearing my medical examiner’s hat; he was police) were stumped by the cause—and therefore the manner—of this person’s death. She was middle-aged, reasonably healthy, living alone, and—our research revealed—in mourning, unhappy, and broke. Based on our experience and findings, it presented as a suicide.

Except it wasn’t.

An autopsy was conducted, to no avail; toxicology was run, with no telling results; the investigation was broadened, with no joy in the end. My colleague and I were officially stumped, and the case was finally listed, “Undetermined.”

That was frustrating enough. The pathos of what we’d found, however, cut deeper. Given that we’d found nothing probative, any remotely likely alternative theory began to have merit.

For the first time in my legal career, I entertained bringing this situation in for a fictional treatment.

I changed the gender, the location, the circumstances, and almost everything else about what I’d seen, and then allowed my make-believe characters to apply their magical processes to the case’s resolution. The end result—in The Second Mouse—gave me a sense of resolution that I’ve enjoyed to the present day.

People have told me that they read detective fiction to escape. I suppose, in that light, that I write it in part to restore my inner balance.

Check out an Excerpt of “Crosscut,” a new Joe Gunther short story by Archer Mayor

About Bomber’s Moon by Archer Mayor:

The murder of a small-time drug dealer snowballs into the most complex case ever faced by Joe Gunther and his VBI team.

It is said a bright and clear bomber’s moon is the best asset to finding one’s target. But beware what you wish for: What you can see at night can also see you. Often with dire consequences.

Bomber’s Moon is Archer Mayor’s latest entry in the Joe Gunther series and it may just be his best yet.

Two young women form the heart of this tale. One, an investigative reporter, the other a private investigator. Uneasy allies from completely different walks of life, they work together―around and sometimes against Joe Gunther and his VBI cops―in an attempt to connect the murders of a small-town drug dealer, a smart, engaging, fatally flawed thief, and the tangled, political, increasingly dark goings on at a prestigious prep school.

While Gunther and the VBI set about solving the two murders, Sally Kravitz and Rachel Reiling combine their talents and resources to go where the police cannot, from working undercover at Thorndike Academy, to having clandestine meetings with criminals for their insider’s knowledge of Vermont’s unexpectedly illicit underbelly.

But there is a third element at work. A malevolent force, the common link in all this death and chaos, is hard at work sowing mayhem to protect its ancient, vicious, very dark roots.

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Bomber’s Moon by Archer Mayor!

To enter, make sure you’re a registered member of the site and simply leave a comment below.

Bomber’s Moon Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at beginning at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) August 12, 2019. Sweepstakes ends at 4:59 p.m. ET August 26, 2019. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 120 Broadway, New York, NY 10010.

Learn More Or Order A Copy


  1. Sherry B Russell

    Looks like an interesting read.


    looks good to read truth be told ? thanks for the chance

  3. Anne

    fascinating and captivating novel. Love the books.

  4. Tina Myers

    Looks like an awesome read..

  5. Jackie

    would love to read this book

  6. Nissa

    Hope to win a copy.

  7. Paul Gada


  8. Pearl

    An intriguing and unique story which I would enjoy greatly.

  9. Suzanne M

    Full moon crazy

  10. Harold Moeller

    Great chilling entertainment

  11. Daniel Cuthbert

    This is one of those where the description alone has got me hooked…would be a fun one to read for sure!

  12. Beverly Laude

    I would love to win this book!

  13. Karl Stenger

    I love the Joe Gunther series.

  14. Pat Fayo

    I would love to receive an ARC of your book “Bomber’s Moon”. This book sounds fascinating!! You are a mew author to me so hoping I get a chance! Thank you for the opportunity!!

  15. William Hamilton

    Looking forward to Joe Gunther’s latest adventure.

  16. Mary Kearney

    Have read another book in this series and enjoyed it. Grew up in VT, so always enjoy reading books based in my home state

  17. Tom Mars

    Good insight. Thanks

  18. Darlene

    I love the Joe Gunther series and have been reading it for years! I’m looking forward to reading this newest offering!

  19. SeattleReader

    I love mystery novels set in Vermont. It’s such a special place! Would love to win a copy.


    I would like to read this book.

  21. cathleen penner

    never trust a prep school

  22. paul klumbach

    preppies are always guilty of bad stuff

  23. Amber

    Would love to read this! I am an emergency responder so this is right up my alley!

  24. Nicole Seabolt

    Like his writing process

  25. Mary Woods

    It’s very interesting to see how the author’s real life experiences on the job have influenced his writing.

  26. Richard Fohrenbach

    Look forward to a good read

  27. jopapa

    I recently discovered the Joe Gunther series and look forward to reading them all.

  28. Karen Parisot

    I love great detective fiction. It’s so much fun to try and figure out whodunnit as the story goes along.

  29. Anne Whalen

    As a Vermonter-in-exile, I do love Mr.Mayor’s books. They always get the locals right without any condescension – some authors, I won’t name names, write like flatlanders. Mayor never does.

  30. Shirley Evans

    Bomber’s Moon looks oh so good! Would love to win a copy.

  31. Karen Terry

    Never read this author and sounds like an interesting read.

  32. Glen Davis

    Sounds very interesting. What a unique blend of genres.

  33. kathy

    I can’t wait to read it.

  34. Diana

    It sounds like a really interesting book.

  35. Steven M Simon


  36. sue

    This sounds like a great story

  37. martin bodnar

    Thanks for the chance to win … .. . ..

  38. Lesa Neace

    Thanks for the chance to win a copy!

  39. Jamie Rutland Gillespie

    I would love to win and read/review this book! Thank you for the chance!

  40. Karen Hale

    Wow! Sounds like an interesting read!

  41. Jean Boe

    Sounds good…look forward to reading it.

  42. Michael Carter

    Bombs away!
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.
    Thanks —

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  44. rd6066

    Looking for a good mystery read.

  45. Rose Jones

    Would really like to read this book.

  46. Desmond Warzel

    Count me in, please!

  47. Ann Leazenby

    Love that your past professions help give you a foothold in creating realistic and believable writings that suck in the readers! Hope to read more of your work!

  48. Rebecca Joy Mensinga

    Seems exciting!

  49. Janice Milliken

    Can’t wait to curl up with my copy of Bomber Moon!

  50. Robin Weatherington

    Wow! Can’t wait.

  51. Phyllis McGuire

    Would enjoy reading this book and learning about the author. Thanks!

  52. Theresa Blundell

    This sounds amazing!

  53. Erika Acosta

    This book sounds great! & such a cool giveaway!

  54. amy marantino

    Archer Mayor is one of my favorite authors

  55. Deborah Dumm

    You are a new to me author. I live in a small town and I still go to the library to get my books. I prefer “real” books over ebooks. I will see if the library has your books. Thank you!

  56. pat zashkoff

    Would love to read this book

  57. Susan Morris

    Thank you for your previous service as an emergency responder. And I am happy that you channel those experiences into your writing.

  58. Marisa Young

    Interesting article. Would like to read the book.

  59. Margot Cox

    I’m excited to see new characters coming into the picture, while I also indulge in my love of Joe, Beverly, Willy and the others.

  60. Amy Baldwin

    So interested in your work can’t wait to read this book. Thank you for the opportunity. I love this type thrillers.

  61. Janet Gould

    Writing is always a great outlet. The book looks intriguing.

  62. Beth Talmage

    This is the 30th book in this series? It is about time I read one of them! I’m always thrilled when I discover a new-to-me series that is well-established, so I can dive in and have the fun of catching up.

  63. Christal M

    Looks like a great read!

  64. Jay Roberts

    I can’t wait to read the book and the chance to get a copy is too good to pass up!

  65. Trina Jackson

    Interesting novel

  66. Tiffany

    Can’t wait

  67. Roxanna Buck

    Super excited for this book!!!

  68. susan beamon

    Now this is a book I’d love to add to my library.

  69. Aimee Bolt

    I have been reading the Joe Gunther series for many years and I find it irresistible. I think I eagerly await each new entry because Mayor allows his characters to grow and develop. Job changes, new attachments and new characters are stirred into the mix.

    The crimes that are involved are very timely. This novel blends “me too” with blackmail, drug use, computer hacking and brilliant police work. It really has it all. Joe is surrounded by a group of colleagues, each developed, with reminders for the readers of previous novels.


    I need a new author thanks for the chance

  71. JeffThorsen777

    Interesting article! I would love to read this book!

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