Sunday, October 28, 2018

In today's Spotlight is the
Damien Dickens Mystery series
by Phyllis Entis


Celine Sutherland is dead - her body half-hidden under the Atlantic City Boardwalk - and Damien Dickens, P.I. killed her. The cops found Damien's gun and wallet near the crime scene, and discovered Celine's cash-filled, emerald-studded evening bag hidden in Damien's apartment. Sylvia Sutherland, Celine's older sister and CEO of the family's tobacco empire, insists that Dickens pulled the trigger. Even Millie, Damien's loyal secretary and sidekick, deserts him after he is arrested for the murder. 

Damien knows he has been set up, but can't prove it - unless he can find Celine's killer.


A mortally wounded Miss America entrusts a mysterious Russian coin to Damien Dickens, P.I. before she dies. After Damien disappears while researching the significance of the coin, Millie tracks her husband's abductor to Florida. When his captor falls to his death from the balcony of a 7th floor apartment, Damien escapes; then, he and Millie join forces to unravel the web of intrigue surrounding the Russian coin and its connection to the murder of Miss America.


A dodgy travel business. A journalist in danger. Tainted chocolates.
Hotel/casino magnate Derek Turpin is flexing his muscles in Atlantic City. Even the cops are not immune to his influence. Can Damien and Millie thwart his unsavory plans?


A missing boy. A stolen nugget. A shocking revelation.

Derek Turpin is set on revenge, and no one is safe, least of all Damien and Millie. Yet, duty and friendship call, pulling the detective duo in opposite directions. While Damien is engaged in a race against time to rescue young Artie Sutherland, Millie goes to the aid of a sister-in-law she has never met.

LKBR:  Thank you for being here today, Phyllis!

Phyllis: I’m delighted to have the opportunity to visit with you.

LKBR: Please tell us a bit about your Damien Dickens Mysteries series.

Phyllis: The first of the Damien Dickens Mysteries, The Green Pearl Caper, was set in 1979. I skipped a couple of years between the third and fourth books, setting The Gold Dragon Caper in 1983. I like to describe the series as teetering on the cusp between cozy and noir-ish.

My protagonists are a husband-and-wife team of private investigators. Except for The Gold Dragon Caper, the action takes place up and down the East Coast - Atlantic City, South Florida, Montreal, and Vermont. The tone is a throwback to the classic noir-style mysteries. Think Thin Man (Nick and Nora Charles).

All four Damien Dickens Mysteries are available in ebook, paperback, and audiobook editions.

LKBR: How did you come up with the concept?

Phyllis: It was totally unplanned. I was attending a drop-in writing workshop and was given a writing prompt of a rope of green Mardi Gras beads. In my mind, the plastic beads transmuted into a rope of valuable green pearls worn by a dame (she was no damsel) in apparent distress. The dame walked into the offices of the Dickens Detective Agency and, next thing I knew, I was writing a novel.

LKBR: What are your future plans for this series? Any hints or spoilers you can give us about the next book?

Phyllis: I can promise at least one more book in the series. I’m starting to play with plot ideas, but haven’t reached the ‘aha’ moment that tells me to start writing. I can say that most of the action in book #5 likely will take place on the West Coast.

LKBR: Is writing an energizing experience, or does it take a lot out of you?

Phyllis: I love writing. At times (especially during some of the scenes in The Gold Dragon Caper), it is cathartic. In these turbulent times, I appreciate being able to create my own world, one in which the characters do what I tell them to do (at least some of the time), and get killed off when they should.

LKBR: Once you knew you wanted to be a published writer, who was the first person you reached out to for help? 

Phyllis: I am a food safety microbiologist by training and temperament. You can take the gal away from the microbes, but you can’t take the microbes away from the gal. My first book was non-fiction. I approached ASM Press (the publishing arm of the American Society for Microbiology) with a concept and a sample chapter, and they went for it. ASM Press published Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives in 2007.

I relied heavily on some stalwart beta-listeners (including my husband and some members of that drop-in writing group) for initial feedback on portions of the first draft of The Green Pearl Caper. I still read an entire manuscript to my husband as part of my revision and editing process. He’s great at picking up false notes in dialogue and description. Once I’ve done some rounds of editing, I share a draft with several beta-readers, including some fellow authors and my sister, who is an avid reader of mysteries.

LKBR: What sort of research do you do for your books? Is it more computer based or hands on?

Phyllis: My research is mostly computer based. The internet is a wonderful invention. If I can’t find what I’m looking for (for example, the location of the Las Vegas Public Library in 1983), I reach out by email with a question. People are very helpful at providing information.

LKBR: What is your writing process? Place, time of day, by the hour or word count?

Phyllis: This varies. I have no set time of day or word count goal. When I’m writing a first draft, I try to complete a scene before stopping. Most times, I write at my desk. On the other hand, I have been known to scribble a scene while in a dental office waiting room. I do most of my copy editing and proofreading on a hard copy or on an iPad, curled up in my favorite reading chair.

LKBR: How do you come up with character names?

Phyllis: It varies. ‘Dickens’ is a tip of the hat to one of my favorite authors, and lends itself to the nickname ‘Dick’, which I thought was perfect for a private eye. I love alliteration, so ‘Damien’ seemed to fit. As for the other characters, I tried to visualize something about their personalities or backgrounds, and played around with names in my head until something fit. When I get stuck on a name, I search for common names from the birth year of the character and poke around until something hits me.

LKBR: Is it difficult to write characters of the opposite sex? Do you have someone you use for advice?

Phyllis: Writing believable, multi-dimensional characters of either sex can be difficult. I try to develop a significant backstory for each major character, even though the backstory may not form part of the plot of the novel. My husband is very good at spotting dialogue or description that is inconsistent with what a male character might say or do.

LKBR: Do you read reviews of your books? If you do, and a review is bad, what effect does it have on you? (I know some reviews are mean as opposed to constructive.)

Phyllis: I always read reviews, and I would be lying if I told you they have no effect on me. I can ignore the mean reviews (fortunately, there have only been one or two). The ones that hurt the most are the lukewarm reviews. I have learned that I can’t please everyone with every book.

LKBR: What are 3 things readers may not know about you?

Phyllis: 1. We live in one of the quirkiest cities in the US (Carmel-by-the-Sea, California), where dogs have free rein at the beach and stiletto heels (higher than 2”) are prohibited by city ordinance.

2. My husband and I share our lives with an Australian Cobberdog.

3. I recently was invited to audition for Jeopardy.

LKBR: Where can readers go to learn more about you and your books?

Website (Gone Writing):

LKBR: Thank you so much, Phyllis, for letting us get to know you better!

Phyllis: Thanks for the invitation, Lisa. I’ve enjoyed our conversation

Phyllis Entis is the author of the Damien Dickens Mysteries series, which includes The Green Pearl Caper, The White Russian Caper and The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper. Her debut novel, The Green Pearl Caper, was a Library Journal SELF-e Selection. Phyllis is a free-lance writer and retired food safety microbiologist with degrees from McGill University and the University of Toronto. In 2007, ASM Press published her non-fiction book, Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives. 

Phyllis lives in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California with her husband and their Australian Cobberdog, Shalom. When she's not writing, Phyllis usually can be found walking around town, browsing in the local library, or enjoying her 

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  1. Thank you for introducing me to a new to me author and to her wonderful books. Can't wait to read the Damien Dickens Mystery series.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  2. Thanks for sharing the wonderful interview and these books! I love the genre and always thrilled to find a new author. They sound fun and I love the covers. Clever to use those colors in the titles. Grabs your attention quickly:)

  3. Great interview, Phyllis. This is such a fun series!

  4. Great interview. I LOVE the Damien Dickens Mystery series.

  5. Great interview! I love Phyllis's books and I'm thrilled to learn more about her here. Who knew there was a place where stiletto heels are outlawed? It sounds like my kind of place. I'm happy to hear that there will be a book #5 in the Damien Dickens series.