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Interview: Michael Bigham, Author of Harkness

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Michael Bigham is a former police officer. He obtained an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. He is the author of Harkness: A High Desert Mystery.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Raised in the Central Oregon mill town of Prineville beneath deep blue skies and rim rock, I attended the University of Oregon and during my collegiate summers, I worked in a lumber mill and fought range fires on the Oregon High Desert for the Bureau of Land Management. After graduating from college, I swung from being budding hippy to cop work. I’m still wondering about how that came about. I was a police officer with the Port of Portland and after leaving police work, I obtained an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College. I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife, my daughter and a spunky bichon frise named Pumpkin.

What made you first decide to become a writer?

It wasn’t a conscious decision. In pre-internet days, there were things called computer bulletin boards. You’d call up the board on your modem and leave a message. One of them, the Backwater Message System, was a freeform affair where folks wrote stories. I took one look and was hooked.

Can you tell us about your latest book?

Harkness: A High Desert Mystery is the story of a Western sheriff who is investigating the disappearance of a star-crossed teen-age couple in 1952. Matthew Harkness is a complicated man who struggles just as hard with his own demons, an abusive childhood and horrific experiences in New Guinea during World War II, as with uncovering the killer. It’s set in the mythical Oregon high desert town of Barnesville.

What inspired you to write it?

My love of the Central Oregon high desert. It’s a stark, beautiful place, as of yet unspoiled by the modern world. It’s time is coming, but you can still walk back in time there.

What is one thing you hope readers will take away from this book?

That cops aren’t all the same. They’re individuals with their own struggles and complex interior landscapes. I’ve tried to tell the tale of one man who struggles to do the right thing.

Where can readers purchase a copy of your book?

Harkness is available as either an e-book or paperback from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

If you could meet any writer (living or dead) who would it be?

Flannery O’Connor. A strange choice for a mystery writer, but when I was pursuing my MFA degree, my advisors had me read her short stories. She was a stunning writer with amazing technical skills and far ahead of her time when it came to discussing race and religion. There’s a copy of her live reading of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” floating around the Internet. I highly recommend it.

What is one fact about yourself you wish to share with our readers?

That I love pickle and peanut butter sandwiches or that I’ve been a card carrying member of the Sierra Club for 20 years — seriously, I don’t know.

What is up next for you?

I’m working on the sequel to Harkness and trying to broaden his horizons. In this one, he’ll be investigating murder and flying saucers. Oh, and the FBI will come to Barnesville looking for communists.

Is there anything you would like to add?

You can find out more about my writing at my website: www.michaelbigham.com and at my blog: http://blueparrot.blogspot.com/. I really appreciate you taking the time to interview me. Thanks.

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About Cheryl C. Malandrinos