Pignon Scorbion & The Barbershop Detectives, the debut novel by Rick Bleiweiss
Author Info + Author & Book Info + Author Pet Corner
“Bleiweiss’s novel is a worthy addition in the tradition of Conan Doyle and Christie. Holmes and Poirot, please make room for Pignon Scorbion.”-Reed Farrel Coleman, New York Times bestselling author of What You Break
For fans of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, author Rick Bleiweiss’s quirky new detective and ensemble cast of characters set against the backdrop of small-town England in the 1910s will feel both comfortingly familiar and thrillingly new.
The year is 1910, and in the small and seemingly sleepy English municipality of Haxford, there’s a new chief police inspector. At first, the dapper and unflappable Pignon Scorbion strikes something of an odd figure among the locals, who don’t see a need for such an exacting investigator. But it isn’t long before Haxford finds itself very much in need of a detective.
Luckily, Scorbion and the local barber are old acquaintances, and the barbershop employs a cast of memorable characters who—together with an aspiring young ace reporter for the local Morning News—are nothing less than enthralled by the enigmatic new chief police inspector.
Investigating a trio of crimes whose origins span three continents and half a century, Pignon Scorbion and his “tonsorial sleuths” interview a parade of interested parties, but with every apparent clue, new surprises come to light. And just as it seems nothing can derail Scorbion’s cool head and almost unerring nose for deduction, in walks Thelma Smith—dazzling, whip-smart, and newly single.
Has Pignon Scorbion finally met his match?
For fans of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, author Rick Bleiweiss’s quirky new detective and ensemble cast of characters set against the backdrop of small-town England in the 1910s, will feel both comfortingly familiar and thrillingly new.
To purchase Pignon Scorbion & The Barbershop Detectives, click on any of the following links: AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE, WALMART & BOOKSHOP.ORG
Pignon Scorbion & The Barbershop Detectives — The Interview
Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives is such an unusual name! How did that evolve?
When I decided to write an historical mystery and the idea for a protagonist like Scorbion popped into my head, I realized that I wanted him to have a name that was unusual but also one that people would remember. To me, the names Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot are both like that.
As I started to write the story, it just came to me that he would have an Egyptian father and a Haitian mother, so first I started researching what his family name would be, and came upon Scorbion, which stood for many of the character traits his father possessed – adventurous, fair, entrepreneurial, to name a few. I like that about that name as well as that it was close to the word scorpion, so it would have a comfortable, familiar sound to it.
For his surname, in my research for the book, I learned that in Haiti there were both a mountain and a valley named Pignon, and that both were named after the French explorer who first came to the region. In the book that is where the father and mother met, so I thought that naming their son after that region would be appropriate.
I really liked the combination of the two names, Pignon Scorbion.
Regarding the full title of the book, I was originally calling it The Pignon Scorbion Case Files, but wanted something catchier and fresher. After racking my brain for possible alternative titles, I realized that the book was essentially about Scorbion and the characters who solve mysteries with him in the barbershop, and what is now the title of the book, just came to me one day as the natural title. I guess sometimes, the most obvious things are the best.
Your Debut is set in 1910 in the quiet English municipality of Haxford. What drew you to that place and era?
To begin with, I have been an avid reader of period mysteries my whole life, having grown up reading all the Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot books and stories, as well as others from that era. So, I had a familiarity with, and love of, that style of writing and time and place setting.
I have been to England a number of times, including touring the countryside, visiting castles, and participating in a crossbow competition, and I felt a great deal of ease in using that location as a setting. Additionally, I wanted to write a book in the classic whodunit style of writing – I was comfortable writing in that manner and believed I could capture it and bring it back to life.
But possibly even more influential to why I wrote about that time and place is that stories just appear in my head, and I find it is my job to capture for the reader what I am seeing play out in my brain. The Scorbion story, including being set in countryside England in 1910, came to me in just that manner, so it was there for me to write down (or more accurately, to type out).
Tell us about the road to publishing your first novel:
I’ve written my whole life. I wrote and published a sports newspaper when I was quite young and sold carbon copies to my neighbors. A few years later, in my teens, I wrote a play – while at the same time I started writing songs. When I was in college I majored in filmmaking and wrote screenplays for my class projects. Throughout my career I wrote articles and columns for magazines and newspapers and contributed chapters to both fiction and non-fiction short story anthologies.
But it wasn’t until I joined a writing group in Ashland, Oregon (after I moved there from New York City in 2003) that I attempted to write a full book. My first completed effort was a magical realism story called Lucky Lenny & Hector Go to Vegas. I sent it to a few agents who said that ‘road trip’ stories make better films than books, and nothing ever came of it. Then I wrote a science fiction novel titled Tourists From Other Dimensions, which also got rejected. I wrote and self-published a short humor book under a pseudonym that I had a friend’s daughter illustrate. It won some awards but sold virtually no copies.
During this same time, I was also writing short stories, which I have compiled into a book that also has never been published. Scorbion started as a story for that book, but the members of the writing group enjoyed it so much they encouraged me to expand it into a full novel, and that’s exactly what I did.
I showed the book to literary agent Nicole Resciniti, owner of the Seymour Agency, who I was acquiring titles from in my role at Blackstone, and she really liked it. She is now my agent and represented the book. After rewrites that Nicole and Julie Gwinn (the president of Seymour) helped guide me with, they took the book out to publishers. To our great joy, it received multiple offers, and I ended up choosing to have it published by Blackstone – for two important reasons. First, their reviewer absolutely loved the book and Blackstone’s CEO, Josh Stanton, told me he really wanted to publish it and offered me a multi-book deal. Secondly, Blackstone is where I wanted to be. It is where I have worked as an executive for the past 15 years, it is where I am most comfortable, and I believe strongly in the company and the people who work there. I was thrilled that Josh was as excited as he was about Scorbion, which matched my excitement at wanting to be with Blackstone.
And now at the age of 77 I have my first novel being published. How cool is that?!
Prior to turning your attention to fiction, you worked in the music industry, working with stellar musicians and singers. That’s very different than working on a novel! How do those two paths in your life intertwine?
My career in the music industry took place on two paths, and at times I did both at the same time while on other occasions I did one or the other. The first track I was on was a creative one. I started as a songwriter and musician in working rock & roll bands, and eventually became a record producer (over 50 singles and albums, including one that was Grammy-nominated and another that was a top disco hit) and an artist manager. The second journey I went on in the music industry was as an executive in record companies, especially focusing on marketing, sales, and promotion. Both of those experiences prepared me for my endeavors as a novelist (and as I mentioned earlier, I was writing various articles and stories while doing my ‘music thing’).
I believe that the creative process is not that dissimilar no matter what field you are working in – whether you are writing, recording or producing a song, or writing a novel. The craft is different from one artistic genre to another, but in a very real way, the art is the same. For the craft, you have to learn, and be adept at, what goes into creating a good product whether it be a song, a film script, a painting or a book. Each of those disciplines has its own best practices and specific ways of doing things that you utilize to create the best possible outcome for each project you work on. But when I say the art is the same, to me it all comes down to inspiration and the intangible ‘talent.’ The media may be different, but the process is similar.
Many, if not most, of the recording artists I worked with, no matter what genre they were in, had talent, the songs they wrote just popped into their heads the same way as the stories I wrote came to me, and then they used their craft and abilities to fine-tune and hone their songs and recordings.
I think that is exactly true for all types of creative endeavors. I recently watched a concert that James Taylor and Carole King performed together, and in discussing her song “You’ve Got A Friend,” King said she sat down at the piano and the song just flowed out of her, intact, the way it ended up. That’s what many creative people have as an experience no matter whether it’s writing a song, a book, a screenplay or creating a painting or a sculpture.
But to be able to have that experience and maximize your abilities, you must know the craft of the discipline you’re working in. Most songwriters play an instrument. One that they had to learn. Most novelists need to have some idea of the rules, conventions and ways of writing, including grammar, sentence structure and things like that which are the crafts of that discipline.
Over the course of my career in the music industry I had many conversations about the creative experience with successful recording artists, from Buddy Guy, to Paul Winter, to Melissa Etheridge, to Richie Havens to Bobby Rydell, to Whitney Houston, to Brooks & Dunn, Gene Simmons and many others. And there appeared to be a number of things that they all had in common – talent, drive, a complete understanding of their craft, and a desire to succeed and bring enjoyment to their fans. I have found it to be no different when I speak with best-selling authors like PC Cast, Catherine Coulter, Andrews & Wilson, Rex Pickett, Heather Graham.
One other thing that I found that was common to my experience in both music and book publishing is that because I have been on ‘both sides of the desk’ – on one side as a creative person and on the other as a business person – it has given me a somewhat unique perspective into how the creative people want to be treated, and as a result, I have always conducted myself on the busines side as I would want to be treated if I were on the creative side of the desk. I never forget that the products that creative people turn out are their livelihoods and should always be given the best chance to succeed that they can possibly get from the people on the business side – no matter what the artistic field is.
Tell us about Blackstone Publishing:
The first thing I can tell you is that working at Blackstone is a fabulous experience. It’s a rather unique company in that people keep their egos in check and work together to help the company succeed to the fullest it can. It was family-founded and is still family-owned and truly does foster a family/team culture. Many companies say they operate like that, but really don’t. Blackstone really does.
Craig and Michelle Black founded Blackstone in 1987 in their garage in southern Oregon and is still headquartered there in Ashland, but has grown exponentially since, and now has a New York City office as well as many employees scattered across the United States. Over the years Blackstone has become one of the most successful and respected companies in the audiobook industry, winning numerous Grammy, Audie and Earphone awards, and producing the highest quality audios and graphics.
We have always been technology oriented, being the first company to publish audiobooks on MP3’s, we were one of the very first companies to sign up with Audible when they launched, we have licensed our technologies to other companies, and we have a website, Downpour.com, that sells the entire industry’s audiobooks. We always try to stay ahead of technology and anticipate where it is going so that we can maximize our books and audiobooks for the benefit of our authors, agents, licensors, and ourselves.
We have been manufacturing physical audiobooks (on CD) for many years in our own facility in Ashland. In addition to the over 1200 new audiobooks that we publish every year, we manufacture, sell, and distribute audiobooks for Disney, Marvel, Recorded Books, Naxos, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and many other publishers, and as a result, our audiobook catalog now includes over 30,000 titles.
In 2015 Blackstone began publishing print books and eBooks and we have built a roster of fabulous storytellers, publishing books from a myriad of best-selling authors including the entire catalogs of James Clavell and Gregory McDonald, plus titles by, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, P.C. & Kristin Cast, Rex Pickett, Catherine Coulter, Leon Uris, Catherine Ryan Howard, Natasha Boyd, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, Andrews & Wilson, Cory Doctorow, Meg Gardiner, Pamela Binnings Ewen, Shelley Shepherd Gray, MC Beaton, and many, many more top authors. In addition, we are building the careers of dynamic new voices in literature while also focusing on bringing the stories of many celebrities to the public in print and ebook, including Norman Reedus, Atz Kilcher, and the very recently signed Ramsey Lewis and Al Di Meola for their memoirs, with other blockbuster names soon to be announced.
We have also just begun a partnership with Weird Tales magazine to create novels under their brand written by both well-known and debut authors, as well as digitally distributing the magazine. That is part of our expansion beyond traditional book and audiobook publishing.
Because we have become more a full-service publisher and media company, we have started using the name Blackstone Publishing. Initiatives we have undertaken in the last year include expanding into foreign rights exploitation and licensing, selling merchandise (t-shirts and more) based on our books, doing video games to further brand our books, and we have created a film/TV division that is led by an industry veteran, who in just his first four months arranged movie or TV deals for 8 of our books. And lastly, we have converted our warehouse into a state-of-the-art printing facility, so that we now print all of our own books. Because of that, none ever go out of print or ever go into backorder. And there are more areas we are expanding into as well.
All of our initiatives go to support our central precept that we are engaged in storytelling and with storytellers, no matter the medium, and that it is important that no matter what we do, everything is of the highest quality, be that our recordings, books, artwork, materials, authors and people.
What are you working on now?
I have just completed writing Pignon Scorbion & the Barbershop Detectives, Book 2 and am in the process of self-editing it until it goes to full developmental editing at Blackstone. The book continues telling the story of the lives of the main characters from the first book with some colorful new ones added in as well. It contains a number of challenging mysteries – a hot air balloonist who is killed while alone in the gondola, a blacksmith who is murdered on his way home after helping birth twin calves, a moneylender who dies suddenly while having his hair cut in the barbershop, and more surprises.
Next up, I have a story in an anthology of mystery short stories that Blackstone is publishing in May, called Hotel California. Andrew Grant has contributed a wonderful new Jack Reacher story to the collection which also includes fabulous tales from Heather Graham, John Gilstrap, Don Bruns, Jennifer Dornbush, Amanda Flower and Reed Farrel Coleman. My story centers around a NYC hitman who becomes the target of a hit and escapes to Maui where he engages in a cat and mouse game with the hitman sent to finish him off.
I’ve also recently written articles that will be in some literary magazines, I am updating my memoir with my publishing experiences to go along with all my music industry anecdotes and stories, and I am starting to work on an idea that I have for a story about seniors that I hope people will enjoy in the way they liked The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Words of Wisdom for Aspiring Writers:
First and foremost, write, and then keep writing. No matter whether your first efforts are well accepted or rejected, just keep at it. Most every writer I know, including myself, has had pieces they’ve written rejected – whether by agents, publishers, the public, friends, whomever – so expect to be rejected, and don’t be stopped by that or so disheartened that it stops you dead in your tracks. It comes with the territory for most writers. Believe in yourself. And consider submitting to magazines, agents, publishers or doing self-publishing – but in all cases, keep at it.
The same can be said about not being dejected by bad reviews. Keep this in mind, you can’t please everyone, and tons of great and successful books were rejected, or got bad reviews when they were published, so just ignore the bad ones and focus on the positives.
If you want to be published by a traditional publisher, get an agent. Many/most legitimate publishers don’t accept submissions directly from un-agented authors. Not having an agent diminishes your chances to get traditionally published. And to get an agent, do some research. Find out how to craft a great query letter and learn what each agent you submit to likes and represents, and then personalize each query letter so agents know you took the time to find out who they are and what they like. There are books and articles that you can get that will give you great advice on how to craft a great query letter and find out what agents are taking on. You might want to watch the episodes of my Chapter & Verse YouTube show with agents Mark Gottlieb, Richard Curtis or Nicole Resciniti & Julie Gwinn, as in each episode they talk about those things and give great advice.
There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing, but it’s a totally different way to go than being published by a publisher, so make sure you know what the differences will be between going either of those routes. And be careful not to believe everything you read on social media because there’s a lot of bad advice and opinionated views from people who have axes to grind pro and con self-publishing or traditional publishing. Learn the facts of what the differences are. And part of that is knowing what you want to achieve regarding sales and recognition, and what it will take to get whatever levels you want to achieve when you publish via either route.
Traditional publishers do not charge you to publish your works, they pay you. If a publisher asks you to pay part of the bill, learn if they are a vanity publisher, an ineffective scam, or if they are trying to minimize your costs in self-publishing. In general, be very wary if a publisher asks you to pay something and try to read reviews about them from other authors before you commit to anything.
And lastly, write what you know, or are passionate about, or are good at. That usually will end up creating the best results.
Author Pet Corner!
The third member of our family, besides my wife and I, is our 11-year-old Havanese, Gracie.
Most of you are too young to remember this, but George Burns and Gracie Allen were a very popular comedy duo in the middle of the last century, and when they closed their show George would say to Gracie,
“Say Goodnight, Gracie” and Gracie would then say, “Goodnight, Gracie.”
We named our Gracie after Gracie Allen so that every night we can say to her, “Goodnight, Gracie.”
RICK BLEIWEISS is an award-winning author, publishing executive, music producer, rock musician, record company senior executive and educator.
Prior to moving to Ashland, Oregon in 2003, Rick spent his life in New York City in the music industry. He was a rock performer & songwriter, produced over 50 records, including a Grammy-nominated album, and was a senior executive at major and independent record companies helping to launch the careers of Melissa Etheridge and the Backstreet Boys. He also worked on the records of Kiss, U2, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears and many other superstars, and specialized in marketing and selling major film soundtracks, including the first three Star Wars films, Saturday Night Fever, and Grease to name a few.
He has lectured at multiple universities on the business of entertainment and co-founded a sports & entertainment marketing program at Baruch College.
Rick has written articles for magazines and newspapers, contributed stories to a number of anthologies and is a member of the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association, International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America.
Since 2006 Rick has been an executive at Blackstone Audio where he has acquired works by many incredible authors including James Clavell, Leon Uris, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, HP Lovecraft, Catherine Coulter, Pablo Neruda, Rex Pickett, PC & Kristin Cast, and Nicholas Sansbury Smith, and co-created a book/audiobook series to preserve the wisdom, humor, stories and life experiences of First Nation elders.
Rick has a B.A. in Film and an M.A. in Communications from New York University and completed an accelerated business leadership program at Harvard University.
To learn more about Rick, click on his name, photo, or any of the following links: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok & YouTube
Elena Taylor is the author of All We Buried, available now in print, e-book, and audio book format at all your favorite bookstores and on-line retailers.
For more information on All We Buried, click on the link here to visit the home page.
Silver Falchion Award Finalist, Best Investigator 2020
Foreword INDIE Award Finalist, Best Mystery 2020