Interview with Lee Alvarez from Murder is a Family Business by Heather Haven
A – I always tell the truth, except when I prevaricate. But here’s something nobody knows. I’ve always wanted to play the ukulele. In fact, I have one gathering dust under the bed. It’s been there for three years. I tried to play it when I first got it, but it’s really hard. For about two weeks I would practice every day. The tips of my fingers were raw. I asked a musician friend and he said that if I practiced for the next two years or so, maybe I could advance from ‘horrible’ to ‘amusingly bad.’ I don’t know if it’s pride or just the time factor – I mean, I do spend the majority of my life investigating the theft of intellectual property and software piracy, with a few murders thrown in every now and then. Do I see myself like Sherlock Holmes and his violin? Maybe. Maybe I’ll pick up my uke one of these days and play Tiny Bubbles for all the world to hear.
Q. Having murder as part of the family business must be difficult. How do the events around you affect you as a person?
A – OMG, I can’t tell you the stress. My kid brother, Richard, head of the Discretionary Inquiries Research and IT Department, is always giving me some new fangled piece of equipment no bigger than a cigarette lighter and then yelling at me because I can’t get to work. I mean, I’m chasing down murderers in the middle of San Francisco winter storms and it’s my fault his stupid scanner doesn’t work? I haven’t read the instructions? I don’t think so. And then there’s my mother, the lovely Lila Hamilton Alvarez, a serious fashionista. She sends me out on jobs no other self-respecting gumshoe would take and then it’s my fault if somebody gets killed on my watch? And God forbid, I should be wearing navy blue with black. She’ll tell me to stop chasing the perp and go change clothes. At least I have Tío, my wonderful uncle, a retired Mexican chef who can do things with chorizo and cheese that stops traffic in the streets. Speaking of streets, there is a new addition to the Alvarez Family, a little kitten I found wandering the streets in the rainstorm. I’ve named him Rum Tum Tugger. He’s my new guy. I’ve been getting into a lot of messes lately, so I’m lucky I’ve got my family around, warts and all.
Q. Why do you do what you do and not take up some dream job in a part of the world no-one’s ever heard of you?
A – There’s a dream job in some other part of the world? Lead me to it. Just kidding. Detective work is the family business. Before Dad’s sudden death two years ago due to an aneurism, he taught me everything he knew about being a good detective, hoping I would follow in his footsteps. He built up this thriving business specializing in tracking down law-breakers in software and intellectual property computer fraud, here in the Silicon Valley. But in my heart of hearts, what I really wanted to become was a ballerina. I studied every since I was five years old. I worked really hard at it. But the truth? There’s no substitute for talent. I am, at best, a mediocre dancer, no matter how hard I work at it. It doesn’t help that I’m 5’8” tall, either. A good ballerina is usually around 5’4” in height. Anyway, at about sixteen-years old I had to face it. I could never get a job in anything more than the chorus of a second-rate ballet company. We all have secret mournings, things we wish had turned out differently. But I’m smart enough to know that not being able to do a first-rate glissade arabesque is probably one of life’s better regrets.
Q. What makes your style unique, what is your trade mark?
A – I like to read Dashiell Hammett detective stories and watch old black and white movies. I’m sort of a California gal PI, who dresses in Vera Wang clothes, but cheerleadering for Humphrey Bogart. I think of myself as colorful. At least, that’s what I say to try to convince my mother. She’s not buying any of it, though. She wants me to stop being impulsive, think ahead before I leap, that kind of thing, and for heaven’s sake, act like a lady. Ha ha.
Q. What’s the one trait about your partner (hero/heroine) that drives you up the wall and makes you insanely happy?
My mother and boss, Lila Hamilton Alvarez, is the perfect woman, and she makes me crazy. I often call her the ice-princess (behind her back, never out loud). Not only is every blond hair on her perfectly coifed head in place morning, noon and night, she always looks like she stepped out of one of the pages of Vogue Magazine. My mother is, and always has been, extremely confident and beautiful.
Not that I’m a bowser, don’t get me wrong, but I’m just one of your ordinary mortals; good days, bad days. Sometimes my wavy, dark hair looks like I stuck my finger in a light socket. Sometimes I get a run in those stupid pantyhose Mom insists I wear to work or limp around in a pair of blasted 5” designer stilettos, heels that have seriously altered my brain waves, but I won’t take them back because I got them on sale. I know I can count on getting a zit in a prominent place on my face right before a first date, rare though those have been. You get the picture.
What makes me happy? Well, it certainly isn’t my mother. How about a Sapphire Bombay Gin martini – shake that sucker, please — two olives, served icy cold. Throw in a bowl of mixed nuts, and a Bette Davis or Barbara Stanwyck movie, tearjerker, of course. Curled up with my cat and my Snub Nose Lady Blue Detective Special, life doesn’t get much better. OMG. I just reread that. It sounds pathetic.
Q. If you could have anything at all what would you want or need to make your life complete?
World peace. No kidding around. I’m lucky and I know it. I have a wonderful but weird family, who loves me despite my many faults. I live in one of the most beautiful spots on the planet, California’s glorious Bay Area. I have a great job as a PI in our family business. My health’s good, I’m pretty smart, and reasonably attractive. In the best of all worlds, I would like to have someone to share my Kashi GoLean cereal and blueberries with most mornings, but I’m working on it, I’m working on it.
About Heather Haven
Heather is a story teller by nature and loves the written word. In her career, she’s written short stories, novels, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and even ghost-wrote a book.
One of her first jobs as a writer was given to her by her then agent. It was that of writing a love story for a book published by Bantam called Moments of Love. She had a deadline of one week and then promptly came down with the flu. She wrote “The Sands of Time” with a temperature of 102 and delivered some pretty hot stuff because of it. Later on, she wrote short comedy skits for nightclub acts and ad copy for such places as No Soap Radio, where her love for comedy blossomed. Many of her short stories have been seen in various publications, as well as 2 one-act plays produced in Manhattan, one at the well-known, Playwrights Horizons.
Her novel, Murder is a Family Business, the first in the Alvarez Murder Mystery series, has been epublished by MuseItUp Publishing in January, 2011. The second in the series, A Wedding To Die For, debuts April 22, 2011. She is currently writing the 3rd of the series, and says they are a joy to write. Heather gets to be all the characters, including the cat!