Zubro, Mark Richard
Zubro, Mark Richard
Home—Mokena, IL. E-mail—[email protected]
Novelist and high school teacher.
Mystery Writers of America.
Lambda Award for Gay Men's Mystery, Lambda Literary Foundation, for A Simple Suburban Murder, 1989.
"TOM AND SCOTT" MYSTERY SERIES
A Simple Suburban Murder, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.
Why Isn't Becky Twitchell Dead?, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.
The Only Good Priest, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.
The Principal Cause of Death, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.
An Echo of Death, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
Rust on the Razor, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
Are You Nuts?, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.
One Dead Drag Queen, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2000.
Here Comes the Corpse, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2002.
File under Dead, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2004.
Everyone's Dead but Us, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2006.
Hook, Line and Homicide, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2007.
"PAUL TURNER" MYSTERY SERIES
Sorry Now?, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.
Political Poison, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.
Another Dead Teenager, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
The Truth Can Get You Killed, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1997.
Drop Dead, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
Sex and Murder.com, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2001.
Dead Egotistical Morons, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2003.
Nerds Who Kill, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2005.
As the author of two well-established mystery series, Mark Richard Zubro has made a name for himself as the creator of crime stories centered on gay characters and as a writer who focuses as much on the personal interests of his protagonists as on the crimes being investigated. Zubro draws upon his own experiences as a high school teacher in his series following the amateur sleuthing of Tom Mason, an ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran who is now a teacher. In the series, Tom investigates with his partner, Scott Carpenter, a professional baseball player who is not openly gay. Zubro also writes stories featuring police detective Paul Turner, who is quiet about his sexual orientation on the job, but repeatedly faces challenges to his don't-ask-don't-tell approach. Both series are often set in Chicago.
In the first Tom Mason mystery, A Simple Suburban Murder, a murder reveals that Tom's workplace harbors a variety of vile behaviors. The victim is math teacher Jim Evans, who proves to have been a bookie, blackmailer, and child abuser, as well as part of a homosexual child prostitution ring. Tom begins his own investigation when a former student becomes a suspect and then disappears. Enlisting the help of his lover, Scott Carpenter, Tom begins looking for the boy in gay bars. In the end, they succeed in shutting down the prostitution operation as well as the associated production of snuff movies. Zubro's debut earned mixed reviews that warned of the book's sometimes gruesome subject matter. A Kirkus Reviews writer deemed it "seamy yet juiceless." However, Tribune Books writer Alice Cromie noted that the "gripping story" is full of "sympathetic characters." Similarly, a Publishers Weekly reviewer said the book was "surprisingly entertaining."
The murder of a student sends Tom on his second investigation in Why Isn't Becky Twitchell Dead? Tom gets involved when a remedial student is arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. In The Only Good Priest, Tom and Scott are asked to look into the death of a Catholic priest who was active in the gay community. Father Sebastian's death by poison seems to be getting inadequate attention from both the church and the police department. Tom's interest increases when his nephew Jerry is kidnapped after overhearing a priest talk about being implicated in the death. Reviewers of The Only Good Priest felt that Zubro's criticism of the church got in the way of his story. A Kirkus Reviews writer said that the book's events "seem to suggest that most lesbians are thugs and most priests are homosexuals and duplicitous."
According to critics, the next mystery in the series, The Principal Cause of Death, was more successful than The Only Good Priest. In the story, a school principal's death reveals that he was almost universally disliked. Booklist reviewer Charles Harmon called the book "delightful" and commended the fast-moving plot and enjoyable characters. "Anyone who's ever worked in a school will relish the faculty infighting and the gossipmongers," he wrote. A Kirkus Reviews critic also commented that "the school politics are dead-on."
The story line in An Echo of Death shifts the focus away from Tom's workplace to Scott's career in the major leagues. The lovers find Scott's former teammate, Glen Proctor, dead in their apartment. Their sleuthing leads them on a dangerous chase through Chicago. In Rust on the Razor, Scott holds a press conference to announce that he is gay. The couple is about to be interviewed on Nightline when Scott's father has a heart attack. They travel to Scott's birthplace in rural Georgia, where most of the Carpenter family is less than thrilled with the news about Scott. But things get much worse when the town's homophobic sheriff is found dead in Tom and Scott's rented car. Reviews of Rust on the Razor included praise and consideration of the book's appeal to heterosexual readers. In the Armchair Detective, Mark Terry noted that "Tom's observations about his lover and other attractive men … may make even the most open-minded of straights uncomfortable. Which is not necessarily a bad thing." A strongly enthusiastic review in the Lambda Book Report came from Richard Auton, who described Rust on the Razor as "a pulsing mystery which moves so swiftly there is scant time to ponder the outcome."
The novel Are You Nuts? opens after Tom and Scott have completed the summer talk-show circuit discussing Scott's coming out. Exhausted, Scott is less than thrilled when Tom's friend Meg is questioned in connection with the murder of a union figure and Tom naturally becomes involved in the case. In One Dead Drag Queen, both Tom and Scott are threatened by an anonymous figure, someone who hates both their homosexuality and Tom's volunteer work at an abortion clinic. The clinic and Tom's truck are bombed, putting him in the hospital in a coma. In Here Comes the Corpse, longtime lovers Tom and Scott finally decide to solemnize their relationship and marry in a lavish ceremony. The appearance of uninvited guest Ethan Gahain—Tom's very first lover from high school—threatens to disrupt the ceremony, especially after he claims he urgently needs to talk to Tom. Ethan's mission remains unfulfilled, however, as Tom finds him bleeding and dying in the restroom. A Kirkus Reviews critic noted that the book is "a touch more sexually explicit" than previous installments in the series, but Booklist reviewer Whitney Scott concluded: "Zubro's fans will cheer just about everything in the new Tom and Scott mystery" novel.
Tom and Scott find themselves targeted for murder while vacationing on a remote Aegean island in Everyone's Dead But Us, "a gay take on Christie's Ten Little Indians," remarked a critic in Kirkus Reviews. After discovering the dead body of a wealthy resort owner, the pair takes off through a blinding rainstorm to seek help, just as a tremendous explosion rips through the compound, killing a number of the resort's staff and leaving the survivors without power or a means to communicate with the mainland. "While no vessel can make it past the roiling waves," observed Booklist critic Whitney Scott, "the corpses pile up amid ugly accusations and uglier I'm-so-rich-you-can't-touch-me attitudes." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Everyone's Dead But Us a "smoothly written" mystery.
Officer Paul Turner, the protagonist of Zubro's second mystery series, has chosen to be relatively quiet about his sexual orientation, but it is no secret to his straight partner on the force, Buck Fenwick. The real challenge comes when their investigations deal with gays and homophobes. In the first book of the series, Sorry Now?, the daughter of a senator is murdered. The investigation reveals that the senator's son is rumored to be gay and suggests that a radical gay group may be responsible for the girl's death. Sorry Now? also introduces Paul as the father of two boys, one with spina bifida, and follows his home life as well as the murder case.
Some critics found Turner to be too nice a guy, even when they did not agree on the book's other attributes. In the Los Angeles Times Book Review, Charles Solomon stated that "Zubro describes a comic-strip world where the good characters are too good and the bad ones too bad." A Kirkus Reviews critic commented that the book's "calculated, middle-class view" and Turner's quiet, fatherly existence resulted in a work that was "sort of dull, even with murder around the edges." A Mystery Guide Web site reviewer called the prose "spare and flat," and identified "descriptions of everyday life" as Zubro's strength. A stronger recommendation was voiced in Publishers Weekly, where a critic said that Zubro's "blend of personal and political concerns makes this story compelling and even urgent."
The next installment in the series, Political Poison, again puts Turner in the middle of political intrigue. When a University of Chicago professor-turned-alderman is poisoned, his powerful political opponents become murder suspects. In The Truth Can Get You Killed, a novel about the death of a homophobic federal judge, Turner's investigation is hampered when an important witness, a gay runaway, is found dead on a Chicago street. In a review for Booklist, Charles Harmon recommended the novel to Zubro's fans and called it "the year's best gay mystery to date." A Kirkus Reviews writer praised the novel, noting that it "adroitly exposes the limits of [Turner's] uneasily semipublic attitude toward his own sexuality." A Publishers Weekly critic observed that the book is "a mystery that focuses as much on the difficulties of being gay in a straight world as it does on the murder of a federal judge."
In Another Dead Teenager the detectives are given a case in which two teenage boys have been murdered in a warehouse. They come from prominent Chicago families, which puts added pressure on the detectives to quickly solve the case. In Drop Dead, the world of fashion proves to be unfamiliar territory for Turner when he investigates the death of a famous underwear model. Reviewers relished the change of scene for the detective team. A Kirkus Reviews writer commented: "Zubro expertly keeps up the flow of deliciously catty rumors and counter-rumors," but concluded that "low-level cop humor and satiric lobs at safe fashion targets" minimized the book's impact. A Publishers Weekly critic enjoyed the partners' good-cop and bad-cop interactions and noted: "Turner in particular is attractive enough to make this lightweight mystery worth reading." Whitney Scott commented in Booklist that Zubro filled the dialogue with "plenty of zingy one-liners."
In Sex and Murder.com, Zubro puts his detectives in another business hot spot, the computer industry. Two highly successful software partners are stabbed to death after competing to see who could attract more sexual partners, gay or straight. In Dead Egotistical Morons, murder strikes the teenage heartthrobs of the boy band Boys4U. Turner and Fenwick investigate when band frontman Roger Stendar is found dead—perhaps executed—with a bullet to the head. But Stendar apparently was not the only target. The band's stock of bottled water is contaminated, safety equipment used in the band's performances has been rendered useless, and bullet holes appear in the stage. "Slogging, steady police work, mostly by Paul, reveals not only sordid sexual demands made on the boys but betrayal by someone they most trusted," noted a Kirkus Reviews critic. Booklist reviewer Whitney Scott remarked that the book is "sure to please and to grow Zubro's fandom."
The detectives investigate murder and mayhem at a science fiction convention in Nerds Who Kill, the eighth book in Zubro's series. Muriam Devers, a popular author, is found dead in her hotel room, stabbed to death with a broadsword. Turner grows increasingly alarmed when he recalls that his son, Paul, attended the convention in costume, complete with loincloth and broadsword. In Nerds Who Kill, the author "takes gleeful aim at venal writers, editors, publishers and agents," remarked a Kirkus Reviews critic.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Armchair Detective, winter, 1994, Bernard A. Drew, review of Political Poison, p. 103; winter, 1997, Mark Terry, review of Rust on the Razor, p. 93.
Booklist, April 15, 1992, Charles Harmon, review of The Principal Cause of Death, p. 1509; October 1, 1994, Charles Harmon, review of An Echo of Death, p. 244; July, 1995, Charles Harmon, review of Another Dead Teenager, p. 1865; July, 1996, Charles Harmon, review of Rust on the Razor, p. 1811; June 1, 1997, Charles Harmon, review of The Truth Can Get You Killed, p. 1668; June 1, 1998, Whitney Scott, review of Are You Nuts?, p. 1736; June 1, 1999, Whitney Scott, review of Drop Dead, p. 1787; July, 2001, Whitney Scott, review of Sex and Murder.com, p. 1990; July, 2002, Whitney Scott, review of Here Comes the Corpse, p. 1829; August, 2003, Whitney Scott, review of Dead Egotistical Morons, p. 1963; May 15, 2006, Whitney Scott, review of Everyone's Dead but Us, p. 29.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1989, review of A Simple Suburban Murder, p. 91; February 1, 1990, review of Why Isn't Becky Twitchell Dead?, p. 145; February 15, 1991, review of The Only Good Priest, p. 218; July 15, 1991, review of Sorry Now?, p. 895; March 1, 1992, review of The Principal Cause of Death, p. 290; May 15, 1993, review of Political Poison, p. 628; July 15, 1995, review of Another Dead Teenager, p. 989; June 15, 1996, review of Rust on the Razor, p. 863; July 1, 1997, review of The Truth Can Get You Killed, pp. 989-990; May 15, 1999, review of Drop Dead, p. 759; June 1, 2000, review of One Dead Drag Queen, pp. 757-758; June 1, 2002, review of Here Comes the Corpse, p. 776; July 15, 2003, review of Dead Egotistical Morons, p. 943; May 1, 2005, review of Nerds Who Kill, p. 442; May 1, 2006, review of Everyone's Dead but Us, p. 517.
Lambda Book Report, March-April, 1995, John L. Myers, review of An Echo of Death, p. 48; September, 1996, Richard Auton, review of Rust on the Razor, p. 31; November, 1999, Kevin Allman, review of Drop Dead, p. 14; fall, 2006, Judith A. Markowtiz, review of Everyone's Dead but Us, p. 35.
Library Journal, March 1, 1991, Rex E. Klett, review of The Only Good Priest, p. 119; June 1, 1995, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of An Echo of Death, p. 22.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 13, 1992, Charles Solomon, review of Sorry Now?, p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, December 2, 1988, review of A Simple Suburban Murder, pp. 47-48; November 10, 1989, review of A Simple Suburban Murder, p. 58; January 12, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Why Isn't Becky Twitchell Dead?, p. 50; February 8, 1991, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Only Good Priest, p. 50; July 25, 1991, review of Sorry Now?, p. 40; May 10, 1993, review of Political Poison, p. 55; September 19, 1994, review of An Echo of Death, p. 55; July 10, 1995, review of Another Dead Teenager, p. 47; June 10, 1996, review of Rust on the Razor, p. 89; June 23, 1997, review of The Truth Can Get You Killed, p. 75; May 17, 1999, review of Drop Dead, p. 60; June 19, 2000, review of One Dead Drag Queen, p. 64; July 30, 2001, review of Sex and Murder.com, p. 65; May 15, 2006, review of Everyone's Dead but Us, p. 52.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), June 11, 1989, Alice Cromie, "Chicago Shows Its Ugly Side in Three Novels Full of Crime," review of A Simple Suburban Murder, p. 6.
BookBrowser.com, http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (June 8, 2001), Harriet Klausner, review of Sex and Murder.com.
Crescent Blues Book Views Web site,http://www.crescentblues.com/ (October 4, 2004), Stephen Metherell-Smith, review of Drop Dead.
Holtzbrinck Publishers Web site, http://www.holtbrinckpublishers.com/ (September 22, 2004), profile of Mark Richard Zubro.
Mystery Guide.com, http://www.mysteryguide.com/ (July 6, 1999), review of Sorry Now?