Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Wrath of Grapes: Guest post by Chuck Greaves

Today I welcome Chuck Greaves. Chuck Greaves’ debut novel HUSH MONEY, the first in the Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries, won the SouthWest Writers’ International Writing Contest, received starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, was a Critics’ Pick from Kirkus Reviews, and was a finalist for the Shamus, Rocky, Reviewers’ Choice, and Audie Awards, to name a few. THE LAST HEIR is the third book in the series, following last year’s GREEN-EYED LADY. Chuck also writes literary fiction as C. Joseph Greaves when he’s not tending his viognier and pinot noir grapes. To learn more, please visit Chuck is on booktour now and will be in the San Francisco Bay Area next week. July 1: Books Inc (Berkeley -7 pm.), July 2: Copperfields (Healdsburg - 7 p.m.)


“I have the greatest job in the world,” a winemaker once told me. “If I come home from work and don’t smell like wine, my wife wants to know where the hell I’ve been.”

Wine and I have a history, you might say. When I reached drinking age (18, but I date myself) on Long Island at a time (the early 1970s) when the North Fork – which today is cheek-to-jowl wineries – was home only to potato and duck farms, I was strictly a beer drinkin’ man. Wine to me meant Mateus Rosé, or Lancers, or maybe a cheap Chianti in a basket-bottle that could later serve as a candleholder. It wasn’t until I’d reached California in 1975 that I realized wine could be something much, much more, and made my first pilgrimage to wine country – Sonoma County – in search of exactly what that was.

Suffice it to say that I caught the wine bug, and that I caught it rather badly. Like most obsessions, it began innocently enough. Visits to Napa Valley. Joining a wine club or two. Subscribing to Wine Spectator. Signing onto a few cult-wine futures lists (like Kistler and Williams-Selyem, to name two.) Suddenly finding myself on a first-name basis with my local wine merchant.

Wine tourism followed naturally, and not just Paso Robles and the Willamette Valley, but also places like the Loire and the Cape Winelands. When my wife and I house-hunted in the early 1990s, a wine cellar was high on the list of requisite amenities, and we found a doozy in Altadena – a walk-in cave that, once I’d installed the new redwood racking, held roughly a thousand bottles. Which, I’m chagrined to admit, we filled in a matter of months.

We hosted some memorable tastings. At a meeting of the Pasadena branch of the International Wine & Food Society, held at the Caltech Athenaeum, Joe “Trader Joe” Coulombe and I co-hosted fifty for a black-tie tasting of two cases of 1961 Chateau Latour. Then there was the Martha Stewart Living feature on our summer garden party/wine bacchanalia . . .

You get the picture. I was up to my bloodshot eyeballs in wine and its alluring culture.

Then in 2006, I had what you might fairly call the Mother of All Mid-Life Crises. But instead of having an extramarital affair, or buying a Lamborghini, I resigned my law firm partnership and began writing crime fiction on a full-time basis. I created a wisecracking lawyer/detective named Jack MacTaggart, and I unleashed him on an unsuspecting world of wealth and privilege. For those who haven’t met him, Jack is a lunch-bucket kind of guy who gets himself invited to the tea party and winds up breaking most of the china.

It was inevitable, therefore, that Jack would one day make his way to Napa Valley, which he finally does in THE LAST HEIR, in bookstores on June 24 from St. Martin’s Minotaur. When the heir to Napa’s most storied winery goes missing, Jack is hired to oppose an action by the missing man’s brother to declare his sibling dead. But is he really? And if he is, then who in the family will survive long enough to become The Last Heir?

Meanwhile, you ask, what became my wine addiction? I’m happy to report that leaving California to pursue a life of letters has tempered if not my love of fine wine, then at least my rate of acquisition. Which probably explains why I bought that vineyard . . . 

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