By Sally Parsons
The 13th in a series of mysteries featuring the capable sleuth Tom and his hubby, Scott, Another Dead Republican ($16.98; MLR Press) comes with a warning. As readers of Mark Zubro's books know, he loves to poke fun at Republicansand his newest book is no exception. Set in fictional Harrison County, Wis., this mystery plays off an anti-union governor (the fictional counterpart to Scott Walker) and a rigged recall election.
Tom is called upon by his sister, Veronica, to assist in finding the murderer of her husband, Edgar Grum, who was knocked off at campaign headquarters on election night.
For those who have never read a Tom and Scott mystery, Tom is a high school teacher and Scott a pro baseball player. They are likeable, well-grounded and loving. In this book, written in a straightforward and uncomplicated style, we have the most fun watching the antics of the various members of the Grum familyrich, vulgar, obese and totally in control of politics in Harrison County.
Zubro, who lives in Mokena, taught eighth-grade English until his retirement in 2006. In addition to the Tom and Scott mystery series, he also pens the Paul Turner mysteries, which are about a gay Chicago police detective. Zubro was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Men's Mystery for A Simple Suburban Murder, the first in the Tom and Scott series. He has since been nominated for six additional Lambda Literary Awards in the same category.
Windy City Times: Two seriesPaul Turner and the Tom and Scott series. How do you keep them distinct?
Mark Zubro: The Tom and Scott series is written in first person, the Paul Turner series in third person. The cast of characters never mixes and that helps to keep distinct. With Tom and Scott, with their relationship, and Paul and his relationship with his husband and his son, it keeps it all very different.
WCT: Have you had contact with police detectives to sort of get the inside view of how that works?
Mark Zubro: I do a lot of research reading police information-type stuff. I'm in a reading group with several mystery writers. One of them, Hugh Holton … he was wonderful. He was a commander in the Chicago Police Department and had lots of good information and he was able to get me into ride-alongs with regular Chicago police officers for one evening, and then with a tactical team another evening, and also with a pair of detectives for a third evening.
WCT: What first interested you in the mystery genre?
Mark Zubro: It was Freddy the Pig and Sherlock Holmes. Freddy the Pig is a character in books by Walter R. Brooks. Freddy went into a detective agency with Mrs. Wiggins the cow. Freddy had all the ideas and Mrs. Wiggins had all the common sense. It was a perfect combination. And in that book Freddy was also reading Sherlock Holmes, which prepared him to be a detective. This was about third or fourth grade. And so I thought if Freddy could read Sherlock Holmes, I could read Sherlock Holmes.
WCT: Scott is a pro baseball player. Are you a baseball fan yourself?
Mark Zubro:: I certainly grew up as a baseball fan. Nowadays, if I were to turn on a World Series, but I might actually be reading a book or something, and there was like, if Justin Verlander was pitching for Detroit, I would pay attention because Verlander, I find to be a very, very attractive man.
People have asked me why is it I made Scott a baseball player. Basically, [it's] because I've always wanted to date a baseball player. As a fantasy, it certainly works.
WCT: What political leanings did your parents have?
Mark Zubro: They were good Democrats.
WCT: Regarding your very fervent views and stances on politics, what's the source of all that?
Mark Zubro: Dad and mom read the newspaper every day. I read the whole newspaper. Both mom and dad [were] voraciously interested in what was going on in the world.
WCT: What made you first decide to incorporate your political slant into your writing?
Mark Zubro: In 1987, having a gay character in a book was political in itselfand, unfortunately, it still kinda is. … Someone [asked] me ages ago, "Should we [gay mystery writers] try to hide/disguise our politics or sexual orientation? And I said no. And somebody said to me, be exactly what you are. Don't hide it. I agree with that.
When my first book came out, everybody said I should use a pseudonym. I said, I'm going to use my name. Partly, it made me angry. … I used all three names [Mark Richard Zubro] because I was angry at the time. I'm going to have to hide something I'm so proud of? I'm using all three names so there can be no doubt it's me.