Sid Chance is Chester Campbell's detective in his new work, The Surest Poison. Sid was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his life and work.
Sid, you have a long and varied career, including stints as a cop and a National Parks Ranger. So how did you end up as a P.I.?
I had a great job as a small town police chief. I had planned to retire there. But I made the sheriff mad because I wouldn’t go easy on his cronies. So when he got the chance, he accused me of bribing a drug dealer. I was exonerated, but I was so angry I quit. I was too disgusted to be around anybody. I built a cabin in the backwoods and lived off the land for three years. Then I got lured back to the city to do a private investigation and wound up a Private Eye.
I understand you’ve been working with another private investigator?
She just got her PI license so she can work with me when I need help. She’s a former cop, and she’s good. But her main job is keeping tabs on the sizeable company she inherited from her father. It was an investigation for her company that lured me off my wooded hillside.
Your mother was a high school English teacher; why did she name you after the poet Sidney Lanier?
Mom was an American lit major and Lanier was her favorite poet. He was also a musician, played for the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in Baltimore. She loved music, too. Her favorite of his poems was “The Symphony.” Its last line was “Music is Love in search of a word.”
You seem like a romantic soul; who is the love of your life?
I’m too busy getting my life back in order now to think about love. There’s a young woman I very much admire, though. We’ll just have to see where it leads.
What’s the case you’re currently working on?
I just finished a case involving a toxic chemical dump behind a small plant near Nashville. When the state came after the owner to clean up the pollution, which would cost hundreds of thousands, he said it happened before he bought the place. The former company went out of business a dozen years ago. Nobody knew anything about it. The guy’s lawyer hired me to find who was responsible. There were lots of health problems in the area. It was a tough case. I found people willing to kill to keep the truth secret. I’d tell you how it wound up, but there’s a writer who’s been pestering me for an exclusive.
Could you give us his name?
It was Campbell something. Oh, yeah, Chester Campbell.
Ah, yes. Chester's a great guy. :)
Given your pursuit of this most recent crime and your career as a Ranger, I’m guessing you’re someone who cares deeply about the earth.
I grew up on my grandpa’s small farm just outside the city. I trained with Special Forces during Vietnam and learned to live close to the land. Then 19 years protecting the parks left me with a deep sense of responsibility for preserving the gifts of nature that God gave us.
Are people going to be able to save the environment, Sid?
I’m an optimist. There’s an old saying, “It’s a foul bird that defiles its own nest.” People have got to be smarter than birds. Surely we can find ways to clean up the mess we’ve made of the earth and get it back to some semblance of the way we found it.
Those are deep questions, so here’s a lighthearted one: what’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you?
Lewisville, the little town where I was police chief, doesn’t have many bank robberies, but we had one I’ll never forget. A young guy was getting married and didn’t have money for a honeymoon. He’d read about bank robberies and thought it sounded simple. He borrowed an air pistol and parked outside the bank. Then he remembered that robbers handed notes to tellers saying “Give me you money.” He found an envelope on the seat, scrawled a note on the back, and went inside. As soon as he scampered outside with the cash, the teller turned over the envelope, opened it, and saw a bank notice for his overdrawn account. I went to his house, found the money, and arrested him.
Recent gossip has linked you with the lovely (and wealthy) Jaz LeMieux. Any truth to those rumors?
Let’s just say she could be the young woman I mentioned earlier. One thing I’ve learned in my years of living close to nature, though, is everything has its season.
Jaz and you have some pretty expensive home security systems. Do these really keep people safer, or is it an illusion? As a private eye, how would you suggest people stay safe if they CAN’T afford state of the art computers?
Monitored alarm systems aren’t that expensive, about 30 dollars a month. Just the sign out front is a deterrent. If a burglar has a choice of a house with an alarm and one without, he’ll take the safer option. Put lights on a simple timer when you’re away. Have newspapers and mail picked up regularly. Keep doors locked and your car in the garage if possible. Just elemental cautions will go a long way.
What’s next for you, Sid?
Right now it’s back to chasing down missing persons, doing background checks, a fraud case, whatever comes through the door. Thanks to Jaz, I’m making some good business contacts. I don’t look for cases involving nasty guys who’d like to put my lights out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if something exciting turns up soon.
Thanks for talking with me!
Today marks the end of Chester's blog tour for The Surest Poison. As of 8:00 p.m. CDT, he will gather names from everyone who has left comments during the tour and do two drawings. The first will be for an autographed copy of The Surest Poison. The second will be for the Grand Prize, signed copies of all five of Chester's books, including four in the Greg McKenzie series. Leave a comment here and get your name in the hat.