Meet a Writer: Jim Courter of St. Paul, Macomb, pens detective mystery novel

Jim Courter is a writer and emeritus writing instructor at Western Illinois University, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and a winner of an Illinois Arts Council award for short fiction. This year his first novel, “Rhymes With Fool,” a detective mystery with a Catholic protagonist, was published by Peasantry Press in Winnipeg. Courter lives in Macomb with his wife Susan.

What inspired your new book?

I got the idea for “Rhymes With Fool” some years ago when a young man in Illinois who had fallen under the influence of a neo-Nazi leader went on a shooting spree that lasted several days and ranged over three Midwestern states, targeting his victims for their race and killing several. When I decided to work that into a fictional story, I plugged it into a setting that I was familiar with for having spent time there over the years — Milwaukee and Wisconsin’s north woods. The rest of the plot and the character of Barry Pool fell quickly into place. At times it felt like the story was writing itself.

Tell us about that Catholic protagonist

One of my goals when writing “Rhymes With Fool” was to go against the stereotype of the urban, male private eye, and the foundation for that is Barry Pool’s Catholicism. One reviewer has called it “a book-length examination of conscience.” While Barry Pool is explicitly Catholic, this is by no means a “Catholic novel,” as I understand that term. It deals with some tough issues in a realistic manner. The language is clean, but the plot takes Barry Pool into some rough terrain, ethical and otherwise. He’s not a saint. Far from it.

Who is your target audience?

“Rhymes with Fool” should appeal to readers of character-driven detective mystery fiction who are also engaged with the serious issues of race, crime, criminal justice and politics. My hope is that it entertains and at the same time stakes a claim to being a work of literature about crime as opposed to a mere genre piece.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Rhymes With Fool” is available through and most major booksellers.

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