Though he now lives in Central Florida with wife Diane and cats Sawyer and Lilly, Jim Van Loozen is an active member and contributor to RBWG and a disciple of Maribeth Fischer. His first novel A Ghost of a Chance: The Haunting of Detective Tory Alston has been self-published through iUniverse, and his second, Coming Around Again is in production. He is editing two other novels he has written, as well as considering publishing a volume of poetry.
A retired government executive and former journalist, he is the recipient of the U.S. Postal Service’s Benjamin Franklin Award, its highest honor. He also has received the Postmaster General’s Award for Excellence and had the unique honor of having the Jim Van Loozen Award (given to the best performing postal field communicator) named in his honor. He received honorable mention as the Suburban Newspaper Association’s Journalist of the Year, and one of his columns is enshrined in the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge.
About A Ghost of a Chance: The Haunting of Detective Tory Alston
What would you do if you became a ghost suspended on Earth to help solve your murder and the case you were working? That is the predicament facing private eye Ransom Stone who is destined to work with police Detective Tory Alston to unravel the plot behind both his murder and the disappearance of the Washington intern he was tracking. A look in preview is available at Amazon.com bookstore.
A Ghost of a Chance (excerpt)
If it hadn’t been for the rain and the pending decision of whether Heaven or Hellawaited the arrival of my soul, I might have embraced the last day of myconnection with Planet Earth with a sense of joyful expectation. But although Iknow that it is the mother of all clichés, it was a dark and stormy day. That’s the best way it could bedescribed.
It had been raining the proverbial cats and dogs off and on since about 3:30 a.m.,which was five hours ago. The day dawned on one of those gray amorphous masseswhere the clouds are sucked down to the ground and the air is an ugly mixtureof fog, hanging mist, and intermittent rain showers. The effect was likelooking out through dirty lace curtains. The ugliness of the city was suddenlyexposed, every living and inanimate thing seemed like an apparition.
When I was detecting, I abhorred days like this. May flowers? Okay, I’d stop tosmell the roses, but you could keep the April showers. That was my attitude.
When you did most of your legwork, so to speak, watching with your backside plantedon a car seat and your window on the world was the fogged up windshield of anaging but dependable Subaru Outback, rain was an occupational nuisance. Itwould stream down the glass and offer an at best distorted view of a world Ialready considered to be warped.
In my line of work, I saw more of the worst than the best people could be. Overtime, it wore my optimism down and made me hate the rain, especially winterrain that chilled both the body and the soul without actually touching either.
Instead of a last rainy day, I wished it was snowing. Snow covers up a lot of humanexcesses and transforms the worst cityscapes into soundless pristine postcardsthat hint at the beauty of newness and fresh starts. That seemed like a perfect sendoff to me.
Not so the rain. Taking photographs on rainy days was similar to having cataracts.The nature of private detecting was being a legal Peeping Tom, although I nevertook any voyeuristic pleasure from the spying. The camera was just one of my key tools, not some pleasure toy.
Unlike combat photographers, who documented the horrors of war, or news photographers,who captured the horrors of peace, my galleries were freeze frames of theseedier side of everyday life, if you called that living. I recorded histrionics, not history. My subjects weren’t artistic or noble: cheatingspouses, workers’ compensation frauds, shoplifters, petty thieves of all kinds.Rain made the job of recording their transgressions more difficult.
When I was a kid growing up in southern New Jersey, and hadn’t yet come to hate therain, I would think of days like today as the best days for hunkering down witha good book or watching old movies on television. Or, perhaps, for gathering afew friends in the gloom of the backyard clubhouse we had fashioned from an oldrusty tool shed and telling stories while the rain drummed out its cadence onthe tin roof.
With the imagination of youth as our guide and the dreariness of a sputtering camplantern as our inspiration, we would inevitably turn to ghost stories. Like theone I am about to tell you.
Review of A Ghost of a Chance
Jim Van Loozen adds a touch of Stephen King to the genre of the hard-boiled detective. His guy, Ransom Stone buys the proverbial farm at the very beginning of the A Ghost of a Chance and spends the rest of the book moving in and out of the lives of the police detectives who are investigating his death. The format, which I admit seemed a bit odd to me at the beginning, enables Van Loozen to look at the genre with some interesting irony at the same time he moves a plot briskly forward. His prose makes you remember how charmingly off-beat Philip Marlow was on the pages where he wasn’t in the throes of mortal combat. I confess to having gone from wondering, “how is this going to work out” when I opened it to being pleasantly surprised six hours later by the short meditation on good, evil, and eternity that wraps it up.Tom Hoyer, RBWG