“And they’re off and racing!”

I’m very JAZZED that I have begun writing my NEXT Milan Jacovich novel this very morning. No, not “Whiskey Island,” which has not yet been published. (Look for it late this summer.) This is the NEW new one—all about harness racing! And the title of this post, “And they’re off and racing!” happens to be the very first sentence in that book.

I don’t know yet what I’ll name the novel. Sometimes I do, of course. The last three Milans were titled before I ever typed a word (“The King of the Holly Hop,” “The Cleveland Creep” and “Whiskey Island”). The eventual title of this one, I’m hoping, will have much to do with harness racing.
I didn’t know the first thing about the subject until Dan S. Kennedy, who is a horse owner AND driver, approached me with the idea. He will be helping me write this book—the first time I’ve ever collaborated with anyone. But I’ll do most of the actual writing, and he’ll help me along and tell me what I need to know—and keep me from making ridiculous mistakes! In the past two months he’s sent me so much research to study and absorb, and I look forward to finding out more as I go along.

For instance, until I read some of the vocabulary he sent that is unique to the sport, I always thought the guys sitting in the sulkies were JOCKEYS, just like in thoroughbred racing (THAT, as Meredith Willson once wrote about in “The Music Man,” is a sport where they sit down right on the horse). Well, harness racing refers to them as DRIVERS. Also, they don’t wear SILKS, as the jockeys do, but COLORS. Before I began writing today I spent about an hour poring over some of the other research material. I’m certain I’ll learn several new things every morning!

Dan has also included some character studies of the people who hang around at Northfield Park, in a southeastern Cleveland suburb. Some of their stories and peccadilos I couldn’t have made up if I tried, and they’ll be in this book, too.

Have no fear, there will be the usual cast of regular characters along for the ride. For all of you who read “The Cleveland Creep,” Milan Jacovich’s new assistant, Kevin O’Bannion (“K.O.”) is now a permanent part of the series—with the young woman with whom he became so entranced, Carli Wysocki. And oh yes—this time Milan has a special woman as well—but you’ll have to read “Whiskey Island” this summer to find out more about her.

I’d write a longer blog but I have to get back to my REAL work—writing this harness racing novel. I just wanted to give you a little taste—and I hope it excited you, as it has ME.

About Les Roberts

Author, Internet and Radio Personality (www.greenlightreviews.com), Teacher, Critic, not a bad jazz piano player, Cleveland lover.
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6 Responses to “And they’re off and racing!”

  1. Teresa Crowley says:

    I can’t wait for Whiskey island, you don’t know how much I love your books, now with you working on another one and about horce racing, I just love horses and the races of coarse!
    There is alot to write about in cleveland and I am so happy you found cleveland.
    Keep those books coming

    • Les Roberts says:

      Thanks, Teresa. Whiskey Island is a fictional take on the corrupt Cleveland politicians we hear about every day. Each morning when I read the paper, I’d see something else going on and say, “Oh, I’ve got to go put THAT in the book, too.” It took longer to write than usual because I kept adding things—and then naturally I had to CUT other things because the novel would have been far too long. It’s also written a bit differently than usual, since Kevin O’Bannion (“K.O.” from “The Cleveland Creep”) is in this one also, and will be a regular from now on. So I’m just getting started on the harness racing book, and will do much more research than usual—but I hope to finish it within the next six or seven months. I appreciate your support and am delighted you took the time to write me.

  2. Lynn S says:

    Les, I’m a new fan but a native Clevelander. Although I started a book club six years ago, we have not yet read one of your books. Perhaps we’ll read Whiskey Island and you could join us for a discussion?
    A story line with horse racing as a theme sounds wonderful. However, in all honesty, I’m partial to thoroughbreds! There’s a big difference between a racehorse going 37 mph versus a trotter. And the history of the Ohio Derby could be celebrated in an intriguing plot. What do you think? Either way, it will be one terrific novel; looking forward to it. Thank you for your attention to Cleveland!

    • Les Roberts says:

      I appreciate that, Lynn. I’m learning more about racing, specifically harness racing, than I ever knew before. I guess one of the reasons I’ve kind of avoided writing a mystery about thoroughbred racing is because Dick Francis wrote more than thirty of them! He was himself a jockey in Great Britain, and his books were really wonderful. I’m getting so much help from friends who actually worked with trotters and pacers, and from a man who owns and drives several horses and is actually assisting me in writing the book. In fact, a few weeks ago at seven o’clock in the morning, I visited the backside (the barns, exercise areas, etc. that regular fans don’t ever get to see) and got to feed and play with the horses and even took a mile-long ride around the track. It was an amazingly fun time for me, I practically filled up a recorder with my notes, and am enjoying putting so much of the business itself, and of the fascinating characters I met personally. Of course, I have to change their names or I’d be in big trouble—because every characer in my mystery novels is a suspect in the murder (or murders)—and whether or not they are the chief villain, they are all in one way or another corrupt.
      Sure, I’d be happy to join your book club some evening for a discussion. Just let me know where and when.

  3. Heather A says:

    Hi Les,
    I can’t begin to tell you how unbelievably excited I am right now to find out there is actually going to be a Harness Racing Novel!!!! I spent the last 10 years racing these amazing horses, which changed my life forever. I worked and trained with some of the top trainers, horses and drivers on the East Coast, as well as owned my own horses. Harness Racing was not a hobby or a career it was a lifestyle. I lived it and was obsessed as anyone gets, who is involved in this business. Once you are involved in Harness Racing its in your blood for ever!! There are so many up, downs and ins and outs, I miss living that high roller life ; -). I’m sure I could write a book if I was a writer with all of the crazy stories I could tell about Harness Racing…lol. I hope you get to experience the true some times scandalous life of Harness Racing and get to know the people who keep it alive. I can’t wait till the book comes out, I will tell all my racing friends! I have missed racing so much since I moved to Alaska, thank you so much for writing this book, i will be able to get my fix!

    PS. When will the book come out?

    • Les Roberts says:

      Hi, Heather –

      VERY nice to hear from you. I’m working with a driver/owner at Northfield Park just south of Cleveland, and he’s given me TONS of material! Some of it is indeed scandalous, most is the nuts and bolts of horse racing, and I’m having an absolute ball writing it.
      The tentative title is “Dead Money” (I’m sure you know what that means), and it will come out some time in 2013. Can’t give you a more definite date because I’m only about 15% finished WRITING it! But please keep in touch with me and I”ll make sure you’re up to date on everything.


      Much thanks,