When a physicist turns to writing novels, expect vengeance

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Today I'm delighted to welcome novelist (and physicist) Harry James Krebs to my blog. He's the author of a cool new mystery suspense series that starts with Vengeance is Mine. 
  • When a best-selling crime author turned amateur sleuth tries to solve the mystery of decapitated females, you can expect a gripping roller-coaster ride. 
But what about when a physicist turns into a novelist... with a dog?

Enjoy this post from physicist novelist Harry James Krebs, then read on for an excerpt, links to more posts, and a great giveaway!

How does a physicist become a novelist,
and which skills are required by both?

Vengeance is Mine-Harry Krebs photo Harry-James-Krebs.jpgI have worked almost forty years supporting Ph.D. Physicists at the nation’s high energy physics particle accelerators. These mammoth machines are extremely expensive, unique, and very much in demand by the scientific community. This results in an extremely aggressive research schedule with the accelerators running twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. The machines are only down during rare periods for maintenance or repair, and also over the Christmas holiday break. There is great pressure to minimize those downtimes.

My job in Physics research was exciting, but it was also extremely demanding and, in some cases, all consuming. During data taking for the BaBar Experiment, which studied charge parity violation of B mesons, I ended up working through eight consecutive Christmas breaks to take advantage of the machine downtime, and install experiment upgrades or enhance the machine background shielding.

During normal running time, I was on-call continuously, an inconvenience if one lived close to the laboratory. But the homes near the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory are obscenely expensive. A very small three bedroom home with a one car garage could cost well over a million dollars. My wife and I chose to live in a small community on the other side of the bay, fifty-one miles away. Much of my non-work time was spent on the hour and forty-five minute commute each way. This was extremely grueling, and it was compounded when I would drive that distance home only to be called back to work.

I thought about work continuously—in the evening, on the weekends, and even while in bed. In the mid- to late-1990s, I did a lot of international traveling as well. The time spent on an airplane was a rare chance for a few hours of escape, and I would pick up a mystery novel at the airport to read during the flights. I enjoyed the intricate plots describing a protagonist in his pursuit of some maniacal killer. It kept my mind occupied and made those trips tolerable.

However, the work and the science were exciting. It’s very easy for some people to get caught up in it to the point where retirement is never an option. I have literally seen some of my colleagues work until the day they died. I decided years ago that I did not want to have an H. James Krebs memorial tree planted on the Stanford University campus. So I decided that, unlike some of my co-workers, I would actually retire from science. I wanted to do something completely different. This is where my long drive to and from work helped me. I had plenty of time to reflect on the mysteries that I had read while traveling overseas, and I was convinced that I could develop stories of the same quality that were equally as interesting.

So, on those trips back and forth to work, I developed a mental image of my main characters and the plot lines for three novels describing the fictional adventures of true-crime author, Benjamin Franklin Tucker. Over the next several years, I worked out the details, one by one, until in 2010 I finally sat down to write my first novel, Fractured Persona. It was intended to be a practice novel—a prototype. When the novel won three national awards, I finally had the confidence to begin my Benjamin Tucker mystery series.

My scientific background has helped me in a number of ways. First, I planned several detector upgrade projects from beginning to end, detailing management, design, fabrication, purchasing, and installation activities. This experience helps me tremendously in the planning of the plots of my stories to a great level of granularity. Also, I have always been an extremely detail-oriented individual, which is necessary to track the various twists and turns in a good, complex mystery. Finally, my scientific background gives me a sound foundation for understanding the intricacies of forensic science to a point where I can write about it intelligently.
My plan to completely retire from science has not yet come to fruition. I still work remotely a few hours a week as a consultant for the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in California. What can I say? Science can be addicting.

Vengeance is Mine photo Vengeance-is-Mine.jpg Title: Vengeance is Mine
Author:  Harry James Krebs
Published:  January 30th, 2014
Publisher:  Peak City Publishing
Word Count:  96,000
Genre:  Mystery
Content Warning:  Profanity, Aftermath Violence
Recommended Age:  16+
Driven by a traumatic, violent event in his teenage years, Benjamin Tucker, bestselling true crime author, is obsessed with helping authorities solve savage crimes near his home turf of Holly Springs, North Carolina. When a series of decapitated female victims is found in neighboring communities, he is helplessly drawn in to the investigation to help bring the killer to justice. But in a bizarre twist of events, the psychopathic murderer becomes fascinated with Tucker and stalks him, presenting him with unimaginable, grotesque gifts. The hunt for the killer turns personal and Tucker is not sure if he’s become the killer’s idol or his next victim. Vengeance is Mine, a gripping thriller with a healthy dose of droll humor, is a tale of sadistic revenge guaranteed to keep readers on the edge of their seats until the very last page.
Excerpt from Vengeance is Mine
Another ten minutes passed before I answered the call that would change the entire investigation–for me.  
“Crime tip hotline,” I said.

“Is this Benjamin Tucker?” It was a male voice.

“Yes, it is. I need to tell you that this call is being recorded.”

“I was expecting it would be. May I call you Ben?” 

“Yes, how can I help you?” 

“I’m the man you’re looking for. I’m Jack Plum.” 

I rolled my eyes. “I’m sorry if I sound skeptical, but you’re the third person today to make that claim. Can you give me information or some detail that will confirm you are, in fact, whom you claim to be?” 

His next words made my blood run cold. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” 

I jumped out of my chair, snapped my fingers twice, and pointed to the phone. The dispatcher understood, nodded, and immediately dialed someone to begin a trace of the call.

I took a deep breath. “You have my attention,” I said.

“Is this call being traced?”
“No. All calls are anonymous unless requested otherwise.” “You’re lying to me, Ben. But it doesn’t matter. I saw you on TV the other night, and I knew when I saw you that the two of us have a destiny.” The dispatcher had patched into the call and was now listening. She gestured for me to keep Plum talking. “How do you figure that?” I asked. “You are the one to write my story. I read your book and it was … inspirational. I knew you were the one. I researched you, and now I know everything about you…and that rich wife of yours. She’s very beautiful … so is Sally Briggum.” The statement scared the hell out of me.
 “Let’s leave them out of this,” I said. “Why is it you’ve taken the lives of two women?”
“In due time, Ben. In due time.”
“Will you surrender to authorities? I can make arrangements so you’ll be safe.”

The caller laughed softly. “Please. Don’t insult my intelligence. Besides, I’m not through yet. I’ve only just begun. I can’t tell you how much I’ve been invigorated since finding you.”

“Please don’t hurt anyone else. Maybe we can meet–just the two of us. We can talk–figure things out.”

The dispatcher was violently shaking her head, as if saying, “No! Are you freaking crazy?”

“We will meet, Ben … someday.” He paused. “I have a gift for you … a very special gift. I’m looking at it right now.”

I became nauseous. “What is it?” I asked. There was no reply. The dispatcher motioned for me to keep him talking.

“Jack?” I asked. “Talk to me. Hello? Jack? Are you there?” I put the system on mute, and turned to the dispatcher.

 “I don’t think he’s there anymore,” I said.

She looked at her control console. “The line’s still connected so try and get him to talk.”

“Jack? Let me know what you want. I can get you some help. Jack? Are you there? Hello?”

The dispatcher jumped up and I muted the system again. “We have it!” she said. “237 West Bradford–about three miles from here!”

Ice ran through my veins, and I tore the headset off as I instantly recognized my former address. I collapsed in my seat with my face in my hands.

“Oh good Christ!” I cried. “Amanda Jane!”

About the Author:
Vengeance is Mine-Harry Krebs photo Harry-James-Krebs.jpgHarry James Krebs was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. After receiving his BA in applied physics from Aurora University in Illinois, Harry spent thirty-seven years with United States Department of Energy Contractors as a senior mechanical engineer. He designed, built, maintained, and operated large experimental detectors for high-energy physics experiments at national laboratories such as the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the Superconducting Super Collider, and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford University. Krebs always wanted to write mystery novels, but his engineering career left him little time to write until now. The author and his wife currently live in Raleigh, North Carolina with their Chihuahua, Lucille.

For more stops on this tour, visit:
Vengeance is Mine by Harry James Krebs:

Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • 1 Print copy of Vengeance is Mine
  • 1 Print copy of Fractured Persona
Giveaway is International.
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