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Friday, December 09, 2016
J. Mark Bertrand

J. Mark Bertrand

J. Mark Bertrand has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. After one hurricane too many, he left Houston and relocated with his wife Laurie to the plains of South Dakota.
J. Mark Bertrand: Pattern of Crime Fiction

J. Mark Bertrand: Pattern of Crime Fiction

(July 2011)
Diehard crime procedural fans were enthralled with J. Mark Bertrand’s brittle and dangerous picture of the life of a homicide detective in modern-day Houston. Through the eyes of the unforgettable yet broken Roland March, Bertrand deftly navigated readers through a chilling mystery full of complexity and clever clues. That was Back on Murder.

Now with
Pattern of Wounds, Bertrand returns with another haunting case that solidifies his right to be grouped with such reader favorites as Steven James, Michael Connelly, and Tim Downs. Having survived one of his darkest hours, and with a reputation only gingerly repaired, March must continue to put back together the pieces of his life, as well as the clues of an old case, when new evidence suggests he put the wrong man behind bars.

Q: What led you to write Pattern of Wounds?
All my Roland March crime novels center around some cultural obsession of ours. In the first book, Back on Murder, it was the phenomenon that’s been dubbed “missing white girl syndrome.” The second March novel, Pattern of Wounds, explores our serial killer obsession. What is the appeal of serial killers? They seem to impart order and even a twisted kind of meaning to the randomness of murder.

Q: How did the story develop?
It all started with a single character, Tammy Putnam, whose brother went missing as a young teen decades ago. Now her life is devoted to a campaign to reclassify her brother as one of the victims of a serial killer who terrorized Houston in the 1970s. She’s obsessed with this, because she thinks getting his name on that list will somehow give her brother’s death meaning. This woman’s need to see her brother as a serial killer’s victim inspired the book’s preoccupation with patterns, hidden meaning, and so on.

Q: Did this book challenge you more as a writer than Back on Murder did?
Part of Roland March’s fame as a homicide detective derives from a true crime book written about his first big case, Brad Templeton’s The Kingwood Killing. This imaginary book-within-a-book is mentioned in Back on Murder, but as Pattern of Wounds progresses, it becomes central to the plot. March’s famous conviction is starting to unravel in a big way. As an author, I was faced with a challenge: how could I write about this imaginary book and keep the details straight? There was only one answer: I had to write it. So in addition to Pattern of Wounds, I found myself writing a set of excerpts from Brad Templeton’s The Kingwood Killing–– and the styles couldn’t be more different. Templeton is a journalist, recording March’s adventures in an objective -- if somewhat sensational -- narrative. In the end it was a lot of fun, and readers who want to dig deeper into the plot can read The Kingwood Killing online.

Q: What is Pattern of Wounds really dealing with at its core?
Pattern of Wounds is about the face of evil and our desire to personalize tragedy, in particular our need to place the blame. It’s also about the way we impose order on seemingly unrelated events––in this case, a series of brutal murders over the course of a decade.


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