In Reference to Murder: Authors

Authors

Author R&R with Mark Edward Langley

Mark-E-LangleyMark Edward Langley was instilled with a love for the American West by his father. After many visits, his connection to the land and its people became irrevocable, but he was appalled at the way he saw Native Americans being treated. After spending almost thirty years working in the corporate world, he retired at the end of 2016 and began to focus on realizing his goal of becoming an author. He created a strong Navajo protagonist, a U.S. veteran who fights for his people and their land. Langley’s first novel, Path of the Dead, was released in August of 2018, and the follow-up, Death Waits in the Dark, was the recipient of the 2021 Gold Medal for Best Mystery of the Year in the Feathered Quill Book Awards.

Here's the description of the book:

Death Waits_Fethered Quill AwardIn Death Waits in the Dark, as Arthur Nakai is attending the wake for a man he considered a brother while serving in the U.S. Marines, he receives a call from an old girlfriend whose sons have just been murdered. Feeling a deep and responsible obligation, Arthur investigates and soon finds himself embroiled in the multi-billion dollar world of oil and gas, coming face-to-face with an old adversary, Elias Dayton. Their paths crossed when Arthur was a member of the Shadow Wolves, an elite tactical unit within U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Now Dayton runs Patriot Security, a Blackwater clone that keeps the oil rigs, gas wells, and "man camps" secure from the Water Protectors, protesters pushing to stop the fracking and poisoning of Native lands.

While Arthur works through the case from his end, Navajo police chief Jake Bilagody tackles it from another angle, looking into the strained relationship between the oil company and the Navajo people, all while searching for a missing Navajo man who may have become an unwilling pawn on the reservation chess board. But when Arthur learns the identity of the boys' killer, he struggles to make sense of itbecause if the clues are right, he will be forced to make a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life.

Today, Mark stops by In Reference to Murder to take some Author R&R about writing and researching his novels:

 

I’ve been told by other authors that I do things a little bit backward. I start with a title, then create a story that fits it. Once I decide what the novel will be about, I begin by researching online anything that might fit the narrative. As with Death Waits in the Dark, I looked up everything I could about fracking because there are over 2,500 wells in the ninety-mile stretch of Highway 550 between Bloomfield, NM and Cuba, NM. I thought that would be a great backdrop for the story. Then, since I don’t live out there yet, I researched the pros and cons of it, followed by the native reactions given during meetings at local Chapter Houses to discuss the issue. I don’t like beating people over the head with viewpoints; I give all viewpoints and let the reader make up their own mind.

My reaction from the Navajo people concerning my writing is that they like the fact that I am bringing to light things that affect them on a daily basisthe alcoholism, the drugs, and poverty and the resulting and lingering affect the oil and gas industry is having on their beloved sacred land. With each book, I end up with a large four-inch binder of research to draw from. Since my stories represent life on and off the reservation, I have been lucky enough to develop a contact with the Navajo Nation Police Department, which is headquartered in Window Rock, AZ. They have been very helpful.

It wasn’t until researching my third book in the Arthur Nakai series, When Silence Screams, that my research began to affect me. The novel concerns itself with a fictional 19-year-old girl, April Manygoats, who was befriended by someone online with whom she arranged a meeting in Santa Fe. She was never heard from again. Then a 15-year-old girl goes missing, leaving behind nothing but her bicycle hidden under a bridge over an empty desert wash. To make matters even worse, a 22-year-old woman has been fished out of a power plant cooling lake on the reservation, missing something unthinkable.

Are the cases related? Or are they simply part of a bigger, more horrifying picture plaguing his beloved Dinétah? Butmore importantlywill Arthur be able to piece together enough of the sadistic puzzle that will locate April . . . or is he already too late?

This story was sparked by the 5,712 missing and murdered indigenous girls and women who disappeared during 2016 alone on the reservations in the US and Canada. I listened to many interviews with family members, watched news reports, read stories, and printed out all of the fliers created during 2017 for the girls and women who were reported missing. My research then led me to the dark worlds of human trafficking, prostitution, and BDSM torture, all things I knew nothing about and wished to convey accurately.

As you can imagine, a great deal of time is spent plowing through anything that could be used in my novels. In fact, I am always collecting ideas for stories. I have an entire file drawer in my office filled with possible ideas. Since my subject matter is the land that I love, I feel a kinship with the people and the land itself, so my take on things is personal as far as where the stories take place, who is involved, and what the outcome will be.

To me, you can never have enough research. In fact, the next book I’m working on took me to a Zoom meeting with the Deputy Director of the New Mexico Livestock Board. I had emailed him explaining that I am a writer and was looking to develop a new series that would be built around some of their case files I had requested. He answered my initial questions and we set up a time to meet virtually. When I received the detailed case files, I read through them and began shaping how the story would play out and which characters would inhabit this particular world. The Deputy Director even invited me to take ride-a-longs with some of his inspectors so I could experience their daily duties first-hand. I am looking forward to that aspect.

Research is the backbone of your story; it's what drives your characters to do what they do and how they might react. I outline each chapter, but once I begin writing, the characters take over, and no matter how well I plan, they always lead me to a new level of dialogue, action, or outcome.

 

You can find out more about the author and his books via his website and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Bookbub. Death Waits in the Dark is now available via all major booksellers and Blackstone Publishing.


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