Tuesday, March 16, 2010


If your'e looking for a new mystery writer to pick up, I'd highly recommend Mr.Tom Schreck. His "Duffy Dombrowski" mystery series, just fly's off the pages. They are funny, but not to the point of being silly, and can be funny one moment and deathly serious the next. Reed Farrel Coleman recommended him to me right after "On The Ropes" came out. I am grateful. Tom is also a super nice guy and an even better person. He has 3 books out to date, "On The Ropes", "TKO" and "Out Cold". They are all in the Duffy Dombrowski series and in the order above. It is with much pleasure that I share with you a recent interview that Tom gave us here at "Signs & Wonders". Enjoy !!

1)You recently posted a terrific short story entitled "Planters Punch", on
your blog-site. You co-wrote it with J.A. Konrath, (of the Jack Daniels
mystery series). What were your initial thoughts when the idea was first
presented to you?

Joe Konrath has been incredibly nice to me as a writer. Having said that,..
the guy's nuts. I mean certifiably nuts.
Joe contacted me at a time last year when I was really, really busy, but I
didn't want to miss the opportunity, so I dropped everything to do the
story. It was a hell of a lot of fun.
He's also a hell of a craftsman. We wrote segments of the story, emailed them
back and forth, and smoothed them over.
Clearly... letting Joe write with me has revived his sorry career.

2)There are alot of similarities between you and Duffy. I'm talking about
your personal background,(boxing, karate, social work, dogs, etc.) Is it
a case of "Know what you write, write what you know"?

Duffy is a comic book version of me.
I box, I'm a social worker, and I used to do karate. I have not one, but three
hound dogs, and I drive a two-ton Lincoln that's 10 years old. Cadillac's
have gotten way too small.

3)Duffy is not above fighting dirty (within good measure) or planting
evidence to assure a bad guy gets what he deserves. Do you feel the end
justifies the means?

Exactly ! I didn't want an anticeptic character. I wanted a guy who would
say "Screw it" and do what he had to do for what he deemed the greater
I wanted him flawed, a little neurotic, and a sensitive, almost liberal guy
who could kick ass. Duff isn't a simple liberal, and he's not a conservative.
He's a guy that works with real people on a daily basis.

4)Your background gives a added level of authenticity to your work. Could
you have written these same books without first experiencing it yourself?

Nah, the education you get from running an inner city drug clinic doesn't
come in books. You can't write about being punched or being in the ring in
the same ways without experience.
I try to tap into the emotions I experience while I do the things I end up
writing about.

5) You have some really cool "Duffy Dombrowski" clothing apparel for sale
on your website. Where did you come up with the marketing idea for that &
why don't more mystery series writers do that? I love my Duffy T-shirt
by the way !

I wanted a line of "Old School" stuff that looked like the hotel t-shirts
you'd see Sonny Liston training in.
The basset hound people love the "Float Like a Basset Hound, Sting Like a
Bee" shirts.

6)You share so many of Duffy's qualities, a background in boxing, karate,
social work, dogs, Elvis....so can we assume you only date psychotic
women who will soon be in therapy?

Mrs. Schreck would probably object to me dating anyone other than her
these days.
(that's a pretty clever way of ducking that question, don't you think?)

7) You & Duffy both seem to want to help people or animals that are
vulnerable. Where does that desire come from?

Well, I like it when the underdog wins. I think we all connect to having
the odds against us.
You know, I do fundraisers with lots of basset rescue people. I get a lot
of credit for being this swell guy who sells books and gives money to the
rescue groups.
The heroes are the men and women that get in a truck and drive for three
days and nights to Arkansas, so some scumbag who's getting out of the puppy
mill business doesn't shoot his left over hounds.
These folks round up the hounds, get them to vets, and then find homes for
all of them. They're up night and day for neglected and abused animals.
How can you not get behind that?
And, there's a special place in hell for people who run puppy mills.

8)You do volunteer work I believe on a suicide hot-line. How did you get
involved with that and what kind of training do you have to get to do

I got a masters degree in counseling and I worked as a therapist for 18
years. It keeps me in that profession. The place I work at now had special
training on their mission and techniques.
Why'd I get involved? It gets me out of walking the hounds that day.

9) At some point can we expect to see Duffy stop being "her emotional
tampon", and find a nice gal & settle down. Maybe with Jack Daniels?

I see you like "emotional tampon." I stole that from Sam Kinison, you know.
Duffy winds up staying in a legal brothel for a month in the next book.
I'm sure he'll meet someone nice there.

10) Is A.J's Grill based on a real bar in your area?

Yep. I was there three days last week.

11) What is it about the YMCA? I was in one about 10 years ago, and I walk
into the locker room and there sits 4 guys completely naked ( 1 had on a
Cubs hat ) in lawn chairs drinking beer & watching a ballgame. Are they
all like that?

It's not just the Y's. I was the towel boy in the Albany Jewish Community
Center in college. Those guys came in, got naked, took a schvitz (a steam)
and then played naked bridge for five hours. Occasionally one would ask me
for a Q-tip and I'd throw up.
Ask Coleman about it sometime.

12) The Fearsome Foursome at AJ's are great. They kinda remind you of Ken
Bruens sentinels in the Jack Taylor novels. Are they based on real people
or just composites? And, did you take the name from that famed LA Rams
line of Deacon Jones & Merlin Olsen?

Yep, God rest Merlin's soul.
Any time you want to compare me to Ken Bruen I'll listen. I love that man.

13) I believe you've said 95% of their conversations (Fearsome Foursome)
comes from conversations you've overheard in bars yourself. Is that

I believe I said that but it's now up to 97.3%

14) We know your a big ELVIS fan, but who else do you enjoy listening too?
Will Duffy ever grow musically..or Elvis it for him?

Grow? After Elvis?
You're starting to piss me off, you know.

15)Will we see Duffy grow or stretch in his personal favorites as the
series continues, or is Duffy simply a guy who knows what he likes and
thats it ? Don't fix what ain't broke.

I think Duffy is a guy who likes what he likes and doesn't feel like
changing just because of his environment. Hence, the '77 Eldorado

16) Lets talk boxing for a minute, Duffy's favorite is Willie Pepp. Who
are some of your all- time favorites?

Willie Pep
Hector Macho Camacho
Pernell Whitaker
Manny Pacquaio
Roberto Duran
Oscar Delahoya

I love crafty, defensive fighters. It's the highest form of the art.

17) Whats the best fight you've ever officiated & have you ever
accidentally got tagged?

I judge, I don't ref, but in the last world title fight I did, Yurikis
Gamboa stepped on my pinky.
I've judged about 15 world title fights. I did Miguel Cotto versus Zab Judah, in
a sold out Madison Square Garden. That was pretty cool.
I did Manny Pacquaio and Marco Antonio Barerra, in Vegas and that was cool.
I judged the heavyweight title twice in the Garden...that was cool, too.

18) Pound for pound, who's the greatest fighter ever?

Willie Pep. 220 wins, went down in a plane crash and was told he wouldn't
walk again. Six months later, he won the title back.

19) We've had in the past 35 years so many great fighters, ( Ali, Holmes,
Foreman, Frazier, Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, Spinks Bros, Hearns, Tyson)
to name a few. Whats the current state of Boxing today and can we ever
regain the magic of those earlier years?

We're in one of the best periods ever. It's just not at the heavyweight
Pacquaio, Mayweather, Mosley, Cotto and others from 140-154 are
terrific right now.
The problem is the fights are on pay TV, so the average fan doesn't realize
how good things are.

20) Who wins Duffy Dombrowski or Gerry Cooney?

I've met Gerry and he's a heck of a nice guy. In the fiction world, Cooney
at his prime is better than Duffy in his prime. Duffy would be an
opponent for Gerry.

21)You do alot of work for animal rescue shelters, what first got you
interested in this?

My first dog, Buddy was a rescue. Someone named him Buddy and then left
him at a shelter.
Buddy became a therapy dog and visited kids with autism and old folks in
nursing homes. He was really cool. I miss him all the time. He died too
I think of Buddy and my current rescue Riley. Riley was on death row twice
and someone saved him.
We found him on the internet after Buddy died.
That old lady who had him locked him in a cage for 24 hours a day until he
was rescued.
The lady called him "Rotten Riley."
Well, Rotten Riley is a therapy dog and has worked on the mental health
unit at our VA, in nursing homes and with autistic kids.
That old lady doesn't deserve to be called a "son of a bitch".

22) I like the way you take up the common man's causes & social wrongs,
such as the fate of migrant workers. But, you do it subtly without really
getting to political. Is this what you intended, making a statement but
not a judgment?

I hate being hit over the head with social issues. When you work with
really vulnerable people you learn real quick that all the bullshit talk
by politicians and pundits doesn't mean shit. They are real live people
with complex problems.
To pretend that they don't cause a lot of their own problems is stupid. To
pretend that they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps is equally
as stupid.
The vast majority of people have no idea what life is like for some
people. I mean liberals and conservative.
It's part of the reason I don't vote. There's too much bullshit.

23) Your dogs Muslim, your Boards president is Jewish, Duffy's polish, his
fan base Irish, and his trainers black. Was this point intended? I mean
to bring all these different ethnicity's together as friends, living side
by side in harmony.

In real life we rub against all sorts of people. Some are good people and
some are tedious assholes. They come in all shapes and sizes and no ethnic
group has a corner on "good-guy' status. I like the idea of really
messing with cliches and stereotypes.

24) I really believe we should take up a collection and buy Duffy a steel
cup & a shin protector. How much abuse can this guy take ? And, do basset
hounds really hit people in the nuts all the time? Ha

The original title of "On the Ropes", was "Duffy's Nuts".
Picture the size of a basset. Now... see them excited to see their human at
the end of the day. Okay? Good.
Now when they jump up, where are they going to land?
Uh-huh...about three times a day for me, my friend.

25) Is Crawford, N.Y. really the windiest city in America?

No, there is no Crawford NY.

26)In your opinion, what writers today are coming close to John D.
McDonald & Robert Parker in turning out terrific mystery series?

Today we got Konrath, Sakey, Chercover, Bruen, Krueger, RF. Coleman, Doolittle,
Maleeny...man I could go on forever

Final Question: What does Tom Schreck like to do for fun & relaxation?

I box, I walk the dogs, I listen to Elvis, I write, I watch the Yankees, I
go to Vegas, I shop at Flea Markets, I read and i spend time with my wife
who I'm crazy about.

Tom Schreck
OUT COLD,A Duffy Mystery 12/09 Additional Questions:

1) Tom, I gotta ask how far are your Irish goin in the big Dance?

Notre Dame, is, of course, God's school and they will win it all...just
like they've done in football recently !!

2) Who's gonna
win it all and what's up with Reed Farrel Coleman calling you his favorite
opponent? You weren't being nice to the big guy were you? You got some
explaing to do?

No, no, no Coleman's got some game. He's clearly the cream of the mystery
writers hoop crop. 'Course that's akin to being the smartest Spice Girl.
At the annual Bouchercon game he smoked me. In my prime I would've dusted him. In
fact, I would've dusted him last fall but I needed a blurb for "Out Cold" .
He didn't offer to box with me at the end of the game, either.

4) How many title fights have you done and when you first started
out did anyone ever approach you to fix a fight?

I've done about 15 title fights...maybe more or less, depending on what you
count as a title...
I've honestly never been approached with a bag of money or even heard of
that happening to anyone I know. Frankie Carbo is out of the sport.
What's kind of funny is when you're a judge the fight promoter is who pays
you. You get a weird look at the bank when you deposit a check signed by
Don King.