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Local priest pens murder mystery

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As a priest, Father Michael Hay is concerned with eternal mysteries. But as a fiction writer, he trained his sights on a mystery of a more mundane kind — an old-fashioned murder puzzle, British style.

October 21, 2011

By Dan Andriacco

ARCHDIOCESE — As a priest, Father Michael Hay is concerned with eternal mysteries. But as a fiction writer, he trained his sights on a mystery of a more mundane kind — an old-fashioned murder puzzle, British style.

Father Hay, pastor of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Parish in Bridgetown, is the author of the recently published Salmon Surprise, featuring the sleuthing pursuits of an executive secretary named Miss Edna Winwood.

 

The novel, his first, “developed after a drive to Chicago with Father Ed Smith (pastor of Our Lord Christ the King and St. Stephen parishes),” said Father Hay, a long-time mystery reader.

 

“To pass the time, we made up names of characters and what they might do in a given situation. From that I found myself developing a plot line and eventually, a novel was there.  I have not had a long-time ambition of being a mystery writer.”

 

The biggest influence on his writing was Agatha Christie, although he also enjoys reading John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Ellis Peters and the earlier works of James Patterson.

 

Salmon Surprise is an English manor house mystery in the Christie vein, set in pre-World War II Surrey and London. Father Hay chose the pre-war time period, he said, “because of the nostalgia of old films I have seen and the fact that fewer people would be around to dispute inaccuracies.”

 

Father Hay has never traveled in England, so he researched online and using maps.

 

“The book took several years to complete because I only did it as a hobby type thing,” he said. “Sometimes I would not work on it for months. As the work came together more, I spent more time on it, tying up loose ends in the plot. I finished the actual composition just before I came to St. Aloysius four years ago.”

 

Unsuccessful in his attempts to find a publisher for Salmon Surprise, he turned to self-publication through Create Space.com, the publishing arm of Amazon.com. Sales and marketing are not a key issue for Father Hay.

 

“My hopes for Salmon Surprise are already fulfilled,” he said. “After spending years coming up with it, I wanted to see it in book form. That sort of brought it to closure.  Of course, if anyone out there knows Maggie Smith, I’d love for her to play Miss Winwood in the movie. She’s who I had in mind as I wrote that character.”

 

The subtitle of the book is “Introducing Miss Edna Windwood,” and there’s a reason for that.

 

“If there were enough interest, I do have a small series of adventures in mind for Miss Edna Winwood,” Father Hay said. “At the end of Salmon Surprise she is on her way to Ireland with a new employer. I have been to Ireland several times and setting a novel in Dublin would be a fun task.”

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