Greetings, Awesome Readers, and thanks for joining us for another edition of Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews! Today we have DSP Publications author Don Travis who’s come by to chat and tell us about his new Mystery & Suspense release The Bisti Business. So let’s have a look at what he’s brought us.
The Bisti Business
Although repulsed by his client, an overbearing, homophobic California wine mogul, Confidential Investigator BJ Vinson agrees to search for Anthony Alfano’s missing son, Lando, and his traveling companion—strictly for the benefit of the young men. As BJ chases an orange Porsche Boxter all over New Mexico, he soon becomes aware he is not the only one looking for the distinctive car. Every time BJ finds a clue, someone has been there before him. He arrives in Taos just in time to see the car plunge into the 650-foot-deep Taos Gorge. Has he failed in his mission?
Lando’s brother, Aggie, arrives to help with BJ’s investigation, but BJ isn’t sure he trusts Aggie’s motives. He seems to hold power in his father’s business and has a personal stake in his brother’s fate that goes beyond familial bonds. Together, they follow the clues scattered across the Bisti/De-Na-Zin wilderness area and learn the bloodshed didn’t end with the car crash. As they get closer to solving the mystery, BJ must decide whether finding Lando will rescue the young man or place him directly in the path of those who want to harm him.
Carole: Okay, we’re winded just from that blurb! It’s categorized under Mystery & Suspense, but it sounds like an Action/Thriller too.
Don: Because genres tend to blur these days, I never give much thought to them. First and foremost, The Bisti Business is a mystery. Probably an old-fashioned mystery. I often say I came kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and my writing probably reveals that attitude. (I put away my quill and inkwell only recently.)
Bisti is also an understated love story. This is the second book in the series, so the meeting and growing love between BJ and Paul Barton, a grad student at UNM, takes place in The Zozobra Incident, which predates this book. Nonetheless, I hope I have adequately portrayed how precious their union is to both. I also tried to reveal to the reader how fiercely independent Paul—the junior (although by no means subservient) partner is. He fights to maintain his own identity and carry his own weight even though BJ would gladly see to his needs.
Carole: Tell us something about The Bisti Business we don’t get from the blurb.
Don: One of the DSPP editors who worked with me on this book chastised me because the protagonist BJ Vinson uses a tape recorder. I refused to modernize because that’s what BJ told me he uses. (All of our characters speak to us, you know. And some are quite emphatic about what they say.) It is not until the fourth book in the series that he reluctantly bows to pressure and switches to a digital voice recorder.
All of my books, including Bisti, are designed to showcase the wonders and beauty of my adopted state of New Mexico. I likewise attempt to insert some of the local culture. This book introduces us to the awesome Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, as well as the magnificent moonscape of the Bisti/Da Na Zin Wilderness Area. And these are only two places of note in the state.
We move through New Mexico as BJ searches for two California college students roaming around in a bright red Porsche Boxter. One is rich; the other, proletarian. Both are gay. Both are in mortal danger. Does that same menace threaten BJ because he is gay, too?
The most important fact about the book? I had fun writing it.
Carole: The books are obviously diverse as far as sexuality goes, but it sounds like that’s not where diversity ends in this series. Tell us how you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book.
Don: How do I consider diversity? About the same way I do genre. I don’t pay much attention to it. I tend to think that BJ is no different from any other handsome, smart, efficient individual. I suspect he thinks that way, too. Of course, that’s not totally correct because in a later book he’s happy for his elderly office manager cum surrogate mom achieving marital bliss while lamenting his and Paul’s inability to do the same. The books are set in an era when gays could only dream of such unions.
Additionally, BJ has gone through a process whereby he’s reconciled his homosexuality with his own personal doctrine of faith. That necessity alone highlights diversity. Having served in the US Marine Corps (voluntarily) and been an Albuquerque cop for number of years, he’s secure in his masculinity, happy with his contra-side, and goes about his business moving easily through every strata of New Mexico life. The book treats homosexuality with the casualness it deserves.
Bisti addresses diversity in cultures (Native American, Hispanic, Anglo) as much as in sexual tastes (Gay/Bi). It also takes a look at the diversity within the gay community when BJ’s search takes him to a large Bear and Leather club near the Continental Divide.
Carole: The Bisti Business and The Zozobra Incident before it are published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in this series and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Don: Perhaps because romance (and consequently sex) are subtopics for my novels, they are a good fit for DSPP. Bisti is a “thinking detective” book, but I wanted to humanize the hero. To be a complete Man (note the capital), he needs a home life, a love life. Why is he gay? Why are any of us gay? He’s convinced it is not a choice but that he’d “hard-wired” to respond to other males. He gives himself only sparingly. One-night stands are odious to his nature. In all his thirty-five years, he’s had only two long-term relationships, and he only shed the first one because he was betrayed by his lover while recuperating from a gunshot wound. He’s celibate until he finds Paul, and responds to the good-looking athlete haltingly at first, and then totally. This is not a gay book. It is a novel about a man who happens to be gay.
Carole: (Oh, Awesome Readers, how much do we love that answer?) Okay, moving on to my favorite topic: tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of The Bisti Business?
Don: My novels grew out of a fascination with my love for New Mexico. I began to look for special things or places and began spinning stories in my mind about them. It finally struck me that inevitably these mind games took the form of a mystery. That was fine. I like mysteries. Would that I could spin them so finely and tautly as James Lee Burke (probably my favorite) or J. J. Janice. But a famous or exciting place or ritual or event with a mystery surrounding it was not enough. I needed a protagonist to be different. Handsome, virile, quick thinking (hey, I’m human, right?), and brave—but not commonplace. Something to make him different. So he became gay. That would give him another obstacle to overcome when dealing with some people. But BJ fooled me. It really wasn’t a problem. He’s gay but neither hides the fact nor advertises it. He goes through life pretty much like anyone else. By the time I discovered this… it was too late. He was cast!
Carole: And what about the names? What goes into naming characters for you? Do the names have significance?
Don: The only name that has significance to me is Burleigh J. Vinson, my protagonist. That name was born the day I was introduced in a business venue to a man named Burley. Much of the talk around the three-martini lunch table centered on that name. It intrigued me, so my hero became Burleigh (his maternal grandfather’s name). But I didn’t want to call him that, so I attached a J, to the mix with the last name of Vinson. Why Vinson? Because I like the name Vince. So that’s what his lover calls him while the rest of the world knows him as BJ. When the full name is given, it becomes B. J. Vinson, but when used informally, it’s BJ.
Carole: You said you’d been spinning stories in your head long before you started writing them. What spurred you into finally making that transition?
Don: I have always been of a creative bent, perhaps because I suffered from childhood tuberculosis and grew up thinking I could not participate in sports. But I came to love the library. I read voraciously and was fascinated by different cultures, especially Native American cultures. At an early age, I began writing essays on various Indian tribes, clans, and individuals. It was a short trip from there to making up stories about them. My horizon gradually expanded beyond a single race of people, but my interest in history never faltered. I digressed from time to time to try my hand at paint art, and for a while, I thought that would be my principle interest, creatively speaking. But I found that the closer I came to finishing a painting, the more tense I became. So I put down my brush, cleaned the oil paint from beneath my fingernails, and started writing again. I have never regretted my decision.
Carole: And neither do your readers, Don. 🙂 Thanks so much for being here with us today.
Don Travis is a man totally captivated by his adopted state of New Mexico. Each of his mystery novels features some region of the state as prominently as it does his protagonist, a gay ex-Marine, ex-cop turned confidential investigator. Don never made it to the Marines (three years in the Army was all he managed) and certainly didn’t join the Albuquerque Police Department. He thought he was a paint artist for a while, but ditched that for writing a few years back. A loner, he fulfills his social needs by attending SouthwestWriters meetings and teaching a weekly writing class at an Albuquerque community center.
We’ll see you next time on Genre Talk when we welcome author Andrew Q. Gordon, who will be bringing us a special treat to celebrate his upcoming Fantasy release Child of Night and Day, book four in the Champion of the Gods series.
Until then, that’s all for this week. On behalf of me and Co-pilot ExtraordinaireElizabeth Noble, thanks for spending some time with us, and have a great week!