John Riggs to sign his new book Saturday

Thursday, November 10, 2011

After a more than 10-year hiatus, local author John Riggs and his newspaper editor sleuth are back with a new mystery, "Nothin' Short of Dyin'."

The 14th installment in the Garth Ryland mystery series, the novel has been published by Authorhouse in Bloomington and will be available from Riggs at a book signing Saturday, Nov. 12 from 10 a.m. until noon at Ambler Hill Florists, Greencastle.

The familiar folks of small-town Oakalla, Wis., are back as well. Newspaper editor Ryland and housekeeper Ruth are central figures with Cecil Hardwick, now the town marshal.

Beyond Hardwick and Oakalla, there are other Putnam County references as well, which always makes Riggs' books a fun read for locals.

The story picks up where the last book, "The Last Scout," left off, Riggs noted.

"This one's been written for 10 years or so," Riggs said, explaining that his old publisher went out of business and he fired his agent, so it has taken some time to go from Riggs' handwritten pages to publication this time.

"One thing that's different," he added, "is I did all the editing myself. So if it isn't any good, I've got no one else to blame."

The Greencastle author says the plot tackles some issues he hasn't touched on before. He takes on the church "a little bit" through Ryland's attitude toward it.

"I take on some thorny issues in it and how they affect our lives," Riggs said.

His mysteries are essentially a year in the making "by the time all is said and done," Riggs said. That includes hand writing the story at least three times.

"I'll have six or seven writings in this one by the time I'm done with it," he said. "I'm just the slowest typist in the world."

He actually has two more installments written, and since the end of August has been editing those books and putting them on the computer.

"I really feel I'm a better writer now than I ever was," Riggs said. "I just don't have the energy, that's the bottom line."

So is central character Garth getting older, too?

"Not as fast as I am," Riggs smiled, "but he's getting older some."

Meanwhile, much has transpired in the 10 years since the last Ryland story. Cell phones were only in their infancy back then, and in another of Riggs' books he's been trying to get published, use of a pay phone even plays a part in the story.

So there have been some necessary adjustments.

Yet Riggs' day job is still in the archives at DePauw University's Roy O. West Library and he continues to work part-time at Co-Alliance in Bainbridge, mixing chemicals.

Chemistry is good in his stories, too, which is why his writing has had an avid following and elicits praise like Publishers Weekly calling Ryland "an exemplary series hero."

Where Riggs once came oh-so-close to seeing his mysteries turned into a series of made-for-TV movies starring soap opera regular Robert Woods of ("One Life to Live"(who optioned the Ryland series), Riggs now owns all the rights to his work. So if a TV or movie producer wants to turn Garth Ryland into the new Columbo, he now has to go through John Riggs.

Whether that ever happens or not, Riggs is content with his work and its reception.

"I have no regrets," he said. "I love to write. I've even done a bunch of essays over the last few years just because I wanted to write."

A fine writer who loves to write? Not much mystery in that.

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  • We have known John for many years now,and its amazing how he can live into his writings.This makes his books a fantastic read for anyone. Good Luck John!!

    -- Posted by Ya THUNK on Thu, Nov 10, 2011, at 7:59 AM
  • glad to see that john is still at it, was wondering what he was up to. congrats on the new book john, wish i could be there to have you sign it, but in greenbay right now, and if you never have read any of this mans work, you need to. there very good and very well written

    -- Posted by lleonard47 on Thu, Nov 10, 2011, at 6:57 PM

    -- Posted by Michele1953 on Fri, Nov 11, 2011, at 1:56 PM
  • Good to see Mr. Riggs is still doing well. Not only a good writer, but he was the best teacher of my high school years.

    -- Posted by aveben on Fri, Nov 11, 2011, at 6:14 PM
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