A warm welcome to the author of extraordinary mysteries, Jerold Last, whose latest novel, The Origin of Murder was recently published. He finds storyline and character in unusual places, most of all, in the rustling of his South American memories. Hence, his guest post:
The Iranian Connection
The Uruguayan economy, as was the Argentine, was mainly based on beef, leather, and dairy products for almost two centuries. Before commercial scale freezing and shipping of beef and beef by-products after World War II created competition from Australia and New Zealand, corned beef, canned beef, dried beef, and leather goods from Uruguay were shipped to Europe. Exported beef products were the source of enough wealth that the Uruguayans had one of the highest per capita incomes in the entire world. They used this money to build a functional economy that featured free universal health care, free education through college and post-graduate (law, medicine, etc.) professional training for all who wanted it, and a more than adequate system of Social Security for the elderly.
I decided to do
some research on what had happened
to the Uruguay-Iran trade partnership
during the intervening 30 years
since my first visit there,
especially in light of the U.S.-backed
sanctions against trade with Iran.
What I found in my research,
only slightly augmented by my imagination,
serves as the basis for the plot
in the novella “The Body in the Bed.”
Post-World War II Europe needed meat it couldn’t produce in war-ravaged countries, and imported it in large amounts from the USA and South America. But with competition from many other countries that had cheap land for ranching and with European farm recovery the bottom fell out of the beef export market for Uruguay, and they became a poor country within a single generation. They suddenly had a very high cost of living due to large Social Security (for the elderly and disabled) and free universal healthcare systems for an aging population. Only now are they beginning to recover economically from their former total dependence on the beef industry, and they still are dependent on high quality free range-grown beef as an export item.
When I lived in Montevideo for my first time in 1982, among other things I learned was that almost all of the beef that wasn’t made into leather, steaks, chops, sausages, or organs for eating in the parrillada compleada, or exported to Brazil and Chile as premium beef, was ground into a “beef flour”, which was freeze-dried and shipped off in 55-gallon drums as a high protein supplement for use as an additive in processed foods. The largest trading partner for the dried beef byproducts was Iran, who paid for huge quantities of beef flour with crude oil, shipped by tanker to Montevideo where it was refined into gasoline and diesel fuel to fill most of Uruguay’s needs.
When I was working out the plot for the novella “The Body in the Bed”, I envisioned the key scene where Roger and Suzanne find the body in the bed from the very beginning of the thought process. Early on I had to decide which of the characters from my previous novels that I had assembled in Montevideo for the story was going to be most involved with Roger and Suzanne in solving the murder. In large measure, that required figuring out who was going to be the central character of the plot in the novel and why that particular individual was involved. One of my options was to find a motive that involved a conspiracy with political implications. I remembered beef flour and the Iranian connection and wondered if that was something that could be used as a plot element.
I decided to do some research on what had happened to the Uruguay-Iran trade partnership during the intervening 30 years since my first visit there, especially in light of the U.S.-backed sanctions against trade with Iran. What I found in my research, only slightly augmented by my imagination, serves as the basis for the plot in the novella “The Body in the Bed”. A surprising amount of what Roger, Suzanne, and their friends uncover while they try to solve the murder that gives rise to the book’s title is taken from contemporary news media rather than from my imagination. I hope the mixture of fact and fiction in “The Body in the Bed” gives value-added to the readers of this novella.
“The Body in the Bed” is a suspenseful 4.4-star whodunit $0.99 Kindle e-novella. One reviewer says, “5 Stars. I was quickly captivated from the very beginning. Even though the pacing is fast, the plot does not seem rushed at all. It is actually very compact and flawlessly written with its international conspiracy, which is very impressive. Together with a strong dialogue, author Jerold Last also presents readers with vivid portrayals of the Uruguayan culture through his adroit prose.”
Jerold Last is a Professor of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California’s Medical School at Davis, near Sacramento in Northern California. Jerry writes “tweener” mystery books (hard boiled stories that follow the cozy conventions of no graphic sex and no cussing) that are fast moving and entertain the reader, while introducing the readers to a region where he has lived and worked that is a long way from home for most English speakers. He and his wife lived previously in Salta, Argentina and Montevideo, Uruguay for several months each. Jerry selected the most interesting South American locations he found for Roger and Suzanne to visit while solving the miscellaneous murders. Montevideo, Salta, Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, and Iguazu Falls are characters in these books, and the novels portray these places as vivid and real. Jerry and his wife Elaine breed prize-winning German Shorthaired Pointer dogs; Elaine also provides technical advice for Jerry’s novels like The Deadly Dog Show and editing for all of the books.
Jerold Last’s Novels and Novellas:
Newest novel (just released): The Origin of Murder
Five Quickies For Roger And Suzanne, a novel-length anthology of five stories—three short stories (including “The Dog With No Name” for dog lovers, an off-beat paranormal mystery “The Haunted Gymnasium” set in Fortaleza, Brazil, and an old fashioned whodunit entitled “Someone Did It To the Butler”), a novella (The Empanada Affair) where Roger and Suzanne meet for the first time, set in Salta, Argentina, and a novelette, “The Body in the Parking Structure”, another fast-paced whodunit in Los Angeles—feature the regular characters from this popular South American mystery series