We are delighted to announce that we have a new misterio author, Sasscer Hill. Please help us welcome her to our happy band of mystery writers! (She was already scheduled for a crime writer’s interview when we invited her to join us.)
Sasscer Hill was involved in horse racing as an amateur jockey and racehorse breeder for most of her life. She sets many of her novels against a background of big money, gambling, and horse racing. Her mystery and suspense thrillers have won multiple awards and many award nominations.
Her newest title and first non-horse racing mystery, is Travels of Quinn, a mystery-thriller based on a real American group of gypsy con artists.
Kass (on behalf of the whole gang: I am so pleased to welcome you to misterio press, Sasscer! What can you tell our readers to help them get to know you better?
Sasscer Hill: I was born with horses in my veins and started galloping about the family farm on a stick horse when I was four years old. By the time I was seven or eight, I was sneaking rides on the Belgian plow horses. I did this because my father didn’t like horses and considered ponies dangerous. So instead, I drummed my heels on the sides of a 2,000-pound draft mare, while grasping whatever string or rope I managed to tie to her halter.
When I was sixteen, my father passed away. Shortly after that, a wealthy banker and racehorse breeder, Alfred H. Smith, Sr. took me under his wing and gave me a right-off-the-track steeplechase horse to ride.
At sixteen, I was fearless, and by the time I was thirty-six, I was breeding racehorses on my family farm and even rode in and won a timber race in Potomac, Maryland.
Because I had so much experience breeding, raising, training, and racing my horses, writing a horse racing mystery seemed logical. My first book, Full Mortality was nominated for both Agatha and Macavity Best First Book Awards.
Kass: What subgenre of mysteries do you write—cozies, traditional whodunnits, historical?
Sasscer: I call my subgenre, “Edgy Cozies.” Some of my characters swear every so often, and sex fires a bit of heat in some of my books.
Not the kind of graphic, gratuitous sex you find in some romance novels, but if there’s a particularly handsome and sexy male in the story my heroine will always look twice, and sometimes more if it moves the plot forward.
Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?
Sasscer: My favorite childhood book was The Black Stallion by Walter Farley. I loved all his wonderful action-adventure horse stories and devoured them, starting with a picture book of The Black Stallion given to me when I was three or four.
I’ve always loved books filled with mystery, action, and adventure. After reading everything by Walter Farley, I graduated to the Dick Francis horse racing mysteries. As I got older, I read everything by Robert Parker, then went through all the Dorothy Sayer, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and other excellent writers of British mysteries.
The spare writing style of Francis and Parker is what I loved best, and my style tends to go in that direction. I’ve never liked books where the author wanders off into tangents and long descriptions. Anything that slows the pace down too much is a turn off for me.
Kass: So, you already have several books out, most traditionally published. With the latest book, what led to your decision to become an indie author?
I never fit in all that well in the work world. I much prefer self-employment. Novel writing is wonderful; if you write a good story, the readers don’t care if you’re the independent type.
I’ve been with two traditional publishers, one a very small press and the other a larger, better known one. I loved my editor there, but neither publisher did much in the way of marketing—despite the fact that Flamingo Road (my first book with the second publisher) received excellent reviews, including an editor’s pick in the Toronto Star, a starred Booklist review, and it won the $10,000 Ryan Award for Best Book in Horseracing Literature.
When I started working on Travels of Quinn, I suspected it was different enough that traditional publishers wouldn’t be interested. My agent did make an effort to sell it to several of them, but I became tired of the waiting game and self-published it in February of 2020.
Kass: And I read it and loved it, and that started the whole process that culminated with you joining us here at misterio. By the way, huge congrats for winning the Ryan Award!
Tell us, has there been anything particularly interesting you’ve ever had to research for your books?
Sasscer: The oddest thing I’ve ever researched was for the first Fia McKee book, Flamingo Road. There is a drug called Demorphin that was first used at Remington Park racetrack in Oklahoma. It is up to 100 times stronger than morphine and a few of the shoddiest and most horrible trainers were using it. Their sore or injured horses would run through the pain and win—if they didn’t break down before the finish line. The drug was made from enzymes and peptides collected off the skin of a certain South American tree frog. Race trackers referred to the drug as “frog juice.”
I got a tip from a former trainer that I should call Dr. Craig Stevens, a professor of pharmacology at Oklahoma State University. I did and he was delightful. We talked about everything from frog juice to how much we loved the series, “Breaking Bad.” Stevens was the doctor who produced the first test for Demorphin. Thanks to him, trainers were stopped from using this drug.
But I needed frog juice for my book and asked him what if there was a different South American tree frog which also produced a Demorphin-like substance? And what if the chemical makeup was different enough that Stevens’s test wouldn’t catch it in a horse’s bloodstream? He said it was possible, and I almost did a happy dance knowing I had my drug for Flamingo Road.
In the recent Travels of Quinn, I had to write about Quinn’s time in prison. The novel takes place here in Aiken, SC, and I was lucky enough to meet with Capt. Nick Gallam, who runs the Aiken County detention center. He took me on a tour of the entire facility and answered every question I had.
Armed with accurate information and mental images of the women I’d seen in this prison, I was confident and enthusiastic as I wrote about Quinn’s experience in jail.
Kass: What are you working on now?
Sasscer: I was able to get the rights back for my Nikki Latrelle series. I’ve re-released them with new covers. My novel in progress, Shooting Star, will be my fifth Nikki Latrelle book, and I am delighted to be bringing it out with misterio press!
Kass: And we are delighted to have you as a misterio author!! Folks, see Sasscer’s new book, Travels of Quinn, below…and you can see my review of it on BookBub HERE.
Born into a subculture of American gypsies, Quinn’s father and stepfamily raise her to be a con artist. Can she escape a binding marriage contract and a life of crime?
Jailed for theft, Quinn pays restitution working on a horse farm. Unfamiliar with horses, her love for them surprises her. They make her hope for a better world.
Until the farm’s owner is brutally murdered and Quinn is the prime suspect.
On the run, Quinn uses every scam and con she knows to save herself. Can she find the real killer before she’s imprisoned for life or murdered because she knows too much?
A mystery-thriller of deceit, murder, greed and hope, by multiple award-winning author, Sasscer Hill.
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