After publishing Angel with a Broken Wing last Summer, my next thought was… what do I do now? Go to the beach?
After much rumination, I decided to write another book. I wanted to create a hard-boiled detective novel that took place near Philly. Is there a scarier city somewhere across the river? Should I try to make a story inspired by true events?
I also wanted to make it about a couple of guys that were friends who decided to go into business together. Using the classic Hitchcockian premise of the common man getting caught up in extraordinary circumstances. I wanted to explore some of the darker sides of life, but seen through the eyes of lighthearted, unique characters. I also wanted something with a shorter, tighter timeframe than my previous book.
Below the Wheel takes place over two weeks in the lives of the characters in Camden, New Jersey in the Summer of 1998.
Alex Hunter and Scott Appel are two ex-investment brokers turned private investigators. Burned out from the competitive sales environment of buying and selling stock, they open the Watchman Detective Agency in Camden New Jersey. They spend their days investigating disability claims for insurance companies and law firms. Occasionally, they perform surveillance on errant spouses and even solve a crime now and then. But Alex and Scott aren’t taken seriously by local law enforcement. Especially detectives, Lt. Ezra Chambers, and his belligerent assistant, Sgt. Otis Guth.
Alex is the obsessive, suit and tie-wearing overachiever, who drinks too much and lives dangerously. Lately, he’s been trying to tame some of his vices by quitting smoking and seeking advice by attending church, and getting spiritual guidance from a local pastor. His life at the agency is a bit mundane, but Alex dreams of one day solving a really high-profile case.
Five years ago, he invested the inheritance of an attractive local television newswoman, Alyssa Ward. He was immediately smitten with her. But the portfolio tanked, and she lost a small fortune. She blamed Alex for the loss and never spoke to him again. Recently, her younger sister Jennifer disappeared, and Alex has taken it upon himself to find her. Jennifer always had a wild streak, and Alex thinks she may have been recruited to work in an exclusive sex club somewhere in Camden. The only problem is, no one knows where the club is located, or if it even exists.
His partner Scott, is the laid-back one. He enjoys watching cartoons, listening to heavy metal, and smoking weed. He’d be happy to just work the cases they get referred, keep the agency in the black and leave the exciting stuff to the police.
The guys share the office space with an insurance agent named Genevieve Bouchard. She’s an independent, hard-working woman, but is trapped in a toxic relationship with her abusive common-law husband, Bruno Cartiglio. When Bruno’s not involved in some sort of sleazy activity, he’s working construction on one of the nearby bridges. Genevieve hates her life with Bruno but is afraid that if she leaves him, he’ll hurt her. Scott’s attracted to Genevieve, but she’s already involved in some dangerous extracurricular activities.
During an unbearable heatwave, the boys are caught up in a bizarre case. The Camden Strangler, as the media call him, has been murdering prostitutes in the area.
A teenage girl named Luna, whose mother was the latest victim, turns to Alex and Scott for help. Scott’s reluctant to take on a client who obviously can’t pay, but Alex sees it as an opportunity to be a hero and takes the case pro bono.
Alex enlists the help of coroner Ignatious Feeny, who gives him access to the morgue and autopsy information on the victims. Alex also picks the brain of the brilliant but cantankerous Robert Wick. He’s a professor of criminology at Rutgers University. Although he’s bound to a wheelchair, he’s a master of criminal profiling. He tells Alex that the only way to solve the case is to go where the killer goes and see what he sees. Subsequently, Alex is drawn into the dark and sleazy world of the skin trade.
The boys work the case, and it’s full of twists, turns, and red herrings. Will they ever figure out who is doing the killings in Camden? Will Alyssa’s sister ever be found?
You’ll have to read the book to find out.
First and foremost, I want to thank the incredibly talented artist, Kellie Stiles who designed and painted the cover for Below the Wheel. Without her tireless efforts, we’d have… well… a book without a cover!
Special thanks to my wunderkind daughter, Kathryn. You’ve always been my greatest inspiration. A brilliant artist and musician in your own right. I appreciate you listening to me complain endlessly about the process of creating new literature and writing in general!
Thanks to the amazing team at Amazon Kindle. Without you, I’d be lost in a sea of technology. I can write the words, but you guys help me turn them into books.
Thanks to everyone at Amazon. I became a member over 25 years ago when you were just a giant bookstore. After crawling on my hands and knees to agents and publishing houses for years, Amazon finally gave me the biggest platform on Earth to bring my literary work to the world.
A special thanks to everyone at WordPress. Without you, I couldn’t publish Phicklephilly every day for the last five years! Now we’re a dot-com and I’ve monetized the site with ads from companies I’ve acquired, and we’ve also added Google AdSense! You gave me a home to bring my work to everyone! Thank you!
Thanks to all the folks over at GoDaddy. You made the transition from just another blogger to a dot-com look easy. Thanks for always being there when I needed you. You’re the best!
And of course, I have to thank my agent, JR for keeping this rocking boat afloat, and getting me steady commercial writing work to put food on the table for me and my daughter!
And last, but certainly not least…
Thank you, dear readers and subscribers, (2300 strong!) for your support over all the last 5 years I’ve been writing this little blog. What started out as a hobby to write about all my crazy dates, relationships, and people in my life has grown exponentially! You all got me to a quarter of a million page views this year! I appreciate you all and try to respond to all of your comments.
Please buy my new book. I assure you, you won’t be disappointed. It’s quite a ride! You can read it on the beach this summer!
You can get it in paperback or kindle here:
We did it again in 2021!
Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish every day.
You can check out my books here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=charles+wiedenmann&ref=nb_sb_noss_1