New York Times bestselling suspense author Jan Burke has a brand new e-book collection out oh so soon! Since it features beloved characters Frank Harriman and Irene Kelly, Jan chats with us about what it was like to write these brilliant and lovable people.

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Caught Red-Handed, an e-book collection of four of my short stories, out on January 20th, and begins with a new story, “The Privileged,” which features Frank Harriman, seen as a young man just beginning his career in law enforcement.  It also includes three stories from Eighteen: “The Loveseat,” “Ghost of a Chance,” and “White Trash.”

I could blog all-day about those three stories, but I really want to let you know more about the new one.

In “The Privileged,” Frank hasn’t yet married Irene Kelly.  In fact, he hasn’t met her yet.  I thought it would be fun to write about my characters in a time long before the Irene Kelly series begins.

I will confess something here.  When I started writing my first book — Goodnight, Irene — I never planned for Frank and Irene to get together.  Frank was supposed to be what I have since started calling the “file drawer” character, a character typical of many amateur sleuths in mysteries.

If you read crime fiction, you’ve seen lots of file drawer characters.  They are in the mystery to provide the information the sleuth needs from authorities, but has little or no business receiving.  They’re almost always male, and usually the protagonists’ ex-husbands, old boyfriends, guys who served in the army with the detective, guys whose lives were saved by the protagonists.

Against their superiors’ wishes, they are pulled into the narrative by the protagonist, deliver to our hero what the police know about the case, and then get shoved right back out of the story. Their last lines are usually something like, “This is a matter for the police.  Stay out of it.”  The protagonist then goes on to solve the case before the police can finish barking up the wrong tree.

So my idea was that Frank and Irene would have met years before, when she worked for the Bakersfield Californian as a green reporter for the her first newspaper job.  I thought it would work best if they had felt some attraction, but given their jobs, would not have acted on it.  Later, when she was looking for information from the police about the murder of her close friend and mentor, O’Connor, she’d run into Frank Harriman again, now a homicide detective in their fictional beach city, Las Piernas.  Frank would tell her what the police knew, and then adios.

Frank and Irene had other ideas.  As soon as I had them on the page together, I noticed that sparks were flying.  Irene seemed not to be paying any attention to my big ideas about not getting together with Frank.  Eventually it dawned on me that having a reporter and a homicide detective work out their relationship could provide better drama than going with the expected.

“The Privileged” takes place before said sparks can fly, but I think you’ll see why I get so many emails and letters that say things like, “If Irene ever breaks up with him, I want Frank’s phone number.”

The story is set in Bakersfield.  At one point, I walked around saying that I had learned my lesson — the next love interest was going to come from Paris, France.  I was tired of writing off trips to Bakersfield, even if the IRS never questioned them.

No insult at all to all those adorable Frenchmen out there, in whose language even “the baby’s diaper is dirty” sounds sexy, but Frank had to come from Bakersfield.  It’s really part of who he is.  He’s salt-of-the-earth, he’s mistaken for being less sophisticated than he is, and he sees beyond the superficial.  This story will give you some idea of how he became who he is.

So enjoy meeting this gorgeous, decent man.  I think you’ll come to love him almost as much as Irene does.