Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Origin of Sticks Hetrick

Have you ever wondered what inspires a writer to create a mystery series?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but my adventure with Sticks Hetrick began early one morning as I drove to work. I was wire editor at the time, a position requiring me to be at my desk long before other members of the staff arrived.

As I headed to work that morning, a man in a green baseball cap emerged from a bank of fog and strode across the road. There wasn’t anything particularly striking about the fellow, yet his image kept recurring through the day, haunting me as had the woman at the end of the quay struck John Fowles and resulted in his French lieutenant’s woman. Did this character actually exist or had I conjured him through my imagination?

I used him in a short story, thinking that would dispel him.

Later, working on a story about a serial killer who seeks a mail-order bride, Hetrick returned, nudged aside my original plot and gave me a tale involving a theft of rare books which leads to murder in a rural community. It would be several years and a few detours before Whiskey Creek Press published Something In Common, the first of the Hetrick series in 2006.

In that first novel, Hetrick, a widower and former police chief bored in retirement, convinces a reluctant Aaron Brubaker to accept him as an unofficial consultant to the Swatara Creek police department.

That was followed the next year by Cruel Cuts, which introduced Hetrick’s protégés, Cpl. Harry Minnich and rookie officer Flora Vastine. This case, involving a poison pen campaign against an ambitious lawyer and animal abuses, smoothes out some of the wrinkles in the relationship between Hetrick and Brubaker.

With the publication of Practice To Deceive in 2012, the series went up to five novels. Sticks now has a new love interest and a new job as county detective, though he’s still called upon to back up his old friends.

In March, I signed a contract with Whiskey Creek for A Burning Desire, a sixth novel in the series in which an arsonist is stalking Swatara Creek. As I await assignment of an editor for this one, Flora began asserting a more leading role in another plot involving the murder of a school teacher who conducts birding tours.

All of the Hetrick books are available in both print and electronic formats from Whiskey Creek,, on Amazon and from other booksellers. Hetrick and his friends have also appeared in a number of short stories, two of which are now available from Untreed Reads.

What does the future hold for the series? I’m sure Hetrick and the other characters will let me know. By now I’ve grown quite fond of them all.


  1. I love this series and I'm always interested in how other authors come up with their characters. Great post, John!

  2. Thanks, Jennifer. Your support means a lot to me.

  3. Isn't it odd how a story can get started, sometimes with the image of a person in your head and sometimes with an idea. I used to belond to Curves and in my classes I would often see a woman with long golden blonde hair, blue eyeshadow and tangeroine lipstick. The image of her was so compelling, that like you, I wrote her into a novel, but I made her the villain.

  4. Love it, Lesley. We can find our heroes/heroines AND villains anywhere.

  5. Love it, Lesley. We can find our heroes/heroines AND villains anywhere.