Looking for a change of scenery? Consider a trip to Kentucky to solve the "Death in the Holler" along with Game Warden Luke Ryder and Sheriff Jim Pike.
The mystery novel, written by John G. Bluck of Livermore, was released on Monday in paperback and digital form on Amazon.
An unknown man is found shot dead by an unusual flintlock firearm on a farm near a "food plot," where fodder is left to attract deer to be hunted.
"It is potentially a real place," Bluck said. "My brother-in-law used to hunt deer a long time ago, and he had a food plot."
His son-in-law is also a Kentucky hunter, and his daughter works at a hospital in Lexington.
"I have been back there quite a few times, and I've been to two food plots," Bluck said.
Action also takes place in Lexington, about an hour away, and Louisville, and the book includes bar settings, love scenes and some unsavory characters. Through all the action, readers will be pulling for Luke Ryder as he works to reveal the killer as well as struggling to fight the demon drink.
Author Bluck retired from NASA in 2008 as a public affairs officer at Moffett Field. Earlier in his career, he worked as a TV cameraman in Washington, D.C., where he covered news stories such as President Richard Nixon's resignation but also homicides and bank robberies.
"I feel like I'm there," Bluck said of the crime scenes in his novels. "I can get some reality."
He also wrote the mystery novella, "The Knight Prowler," and two science fiction novels, "The Ship Finder" and "The Aliens of the Valtrit," as well as a book of short stories, "Venus Warning & Other Tales."
"'Knight Prowler' is about a TV reporter, a cameraman who works in San Francisco. His brother is a detective in Livermore," Bluck said. "I decided to do more of that."
This latest mystery has a slight science fiction element -- "Death in the Holler" is set in the year 2029, although the world is pretty much the same as it was in 2019 with references to Netflix, Kleenex and Miller Lite.
"Science fiction can explore human interaction," Bluck noted. "What you invent could very well change things dramatically, be used for good or evil."
Bluck was born in Chicago and earned a bachelor's degree in communications and a masters in radio and television news from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. During the Vietnam War, he served as an Army journalist and radio newscaster at Fort Lewis, Wash.
He said that as he commuted on ACE train for many years from Livermore to Mountain View, he had time to write for his own pleasure.
"I kind of eased into writing," he recalled. "I wrote one short story, 'Venus Warning,' where lizards on Venus start dying off with global warming -- we were worried about global warming even back then."
Bluck is working on another short story book, "Florida Grand Theft and Other Tales."
"I need to write another half dozen stories for that," Bluck said. "I'm shooting for September."
"I'm probably doing more writing now because I am not playing golf," he added with a laugh.