Tag Archive for The Case of the Hat Burglar

The Case of the Hat Burglar: A Visit to the Lab of Reginald Pinkerton Armitage III

Here’s the setup for this short excerpt: somebody has been taking items from the school’s “Lost & Found,” but no worries, Jigsaw Jones and Mila are on the case. However, they can’t possibly keep a watchful eye on the crime scene all day long. So they pay a little visit to Jigsaw’s old pal, Reginald Pinkerton Armitage III, a dapper lad who dabbles in gadgets and gizmos.

Now I’m a writer who loves process, especially the particular alchemy performed by illustrators when they turn rough sketches into final art. Here’s R.W. Alley’s sketch of the scene in Reggie’s lab:

If you are getting a James Bond-visits-Q vibe, you are on the right track. I’m paying tribute to that character and those old movies that I liked as a kid. 

From the book:

A while back, Reginald had started his own “secret agent” business. It didn’t work out so well. He thought being a detective would be fun, a chance to play with fancy gadgets and gizmos. But Reginald learned that solving mysteries could be a rough business. It took hard work and brainpower. Reggie was a nice kid, but he was as tough as a silk pillow. He promised I could borrow his gadgets anytime.

Today, I needed him to keep that promise. 

Reginald pushed open a door, then said over his shoulder to Mila, “Please come into my research room.”

I’d been here once before. The room looked like a laboratory. Various objects had been placed on marble countertops. “This is all your spy equipment?” Mila asked.

She picked up an old boot.

It was a mistake I’d once made myself. “Be careful, Mila,” I warned.

Sploinnng! A suction cup attached to a spring popped out of the shoe.

“Whoa,” Mila said, jumping back in surprise.

“Suction-cup boots,” Reginald explained. “For walking on ceilings.”

“It really works?” Mila asked.

Reginald shrugged and admitted, “I’m afraid to find out.”

Mila picked up two plastic goldfish. “What are these?”

“Underwater walkie-talkies,” Reginald explained.

“Glub, glub,” I commented — for no reason at all.

“And this?” Mila pointed to a tray of cucumber sandwiches. “Let me guess. Is it some kind of secret listening device?”

“No, it’s a tray of cucumber sandwiches,” Reginald said. “For snack time.”

“Cucumber sandwiches, yum,” I groaned. It was the last thing in the world I’d want to eat. I was a peanut-butter-and-jelly kind of guy. “Sadly, Reggie, we don’t have time for snack. We’re here on business.”

 

And here’s how it all looks in the book across two pages . . . and yes, I’m blessed to have R.W. Alley illustrating these books. 

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #294: In Which Ryan and Harper Turn Me Into a Turkey Man!

 

A couple of letters arrived recently along with art work, always a bonus. Please take a gander at these portraits of yours truly. 

 

So, yeah, gobble-gobble. That’s me . . . as a turkey. The art projects tied into Thanksgiving, I presume. Look at my ankle in the bottom one. Must be sprained. And look at my nose-beak on the top one! 

Oh dear. Oh me, oh my. I can’t stop staring at these!

Here are the letters and, below that, my reply. 

 

 

Dear Ryan and Harper,

I’m combining my response in one letter because I received your artwork in the same envelope. I’ve included a copy for each of you, via snail mail, to bring home, where you can treasure it always or shove it in the back of your closet or, hey, both!

Just don’t let the hamster poop on it! That’s all I ask. 

So I’m looking at your artwork . . . and I’ll be honest.

I’m a little freaked out.

You’ve turned me into a Turkey Man.

I repeat: A TURKEY MAN!

Complete with beak and feathers and goatee and, in Harper’s case, a wattle!

If I’d ever wondered before what I’d look like with a wattle, well, now I know. At least that question has been answered once and for all.

And Ryan, thanks for those feathers. “Caring” is my favorite.

I was so delighted by your artwork, in fact, that I shared it on Facebook with my very close, intimate group of 1,000-plus “friends.” It was “liked” by more than 100 people and generated quite a few comments:

Padi said, “The likeness is uncanny.”

Larry said, “Spitting image.”

Liza asked, “Did you get a nose job?”

Sigh. These are, supposedly, my friends!

Anyway, and in all seriousness, awesome job, Ryan and Harper. Now, let’s see, you also wrote letters. Thank you for those, too.

Ryan, I appreciate your encouragement. I will keep writing! Honestly, it’s readers like you who make it all feel worthwhile.

Harper, thanks for reading the latest Jigsaw Jones book, The Case of the Hat Burglar. I’m so glad that the ending surprised you. Did you fall off your chair? That’s my goal. Someday I want to write a book with a surprise that’s so unexpected readers all over America fall off their chairs. Whoops, tumble, thunk!

Thank you both for your kind notes and artwork. I love them!

Your friend,

THE TURKEY MAN!

(James Preller)

P.S. My regards to your fabulous teacher, Ms. Lukingbeal. I visited Hudson, Ohio, not too long ago. It was a wonderful week of school visits. I even got to eat dinner with her! If you ask her, she might tell you that I pecked at my food.

Fan Mail Wednesday #292: On Jigsaw Jones, Ghosts, and Treehouses

 

Here’s one from a mystery lover in Indiana . . . 

 

Dear James Preller,

I really like your book, The Case of the Spooky Sleepover, because it makes me laugh. I like it because it talks about the treehouse. I think treehouses are cool. Who built the treehouse in the story? My favorite part of your book is the treehouse, I want a treehouse, I like the joke Justin played on his brother too. When he tried to scare him and his brother friends, it made me laugh. Do you believe in ghosts? Thank you for writing this book. I really enjoy reading your book.

Sincerely,

Alexander

I replied . . .

Alexander,

Oh, what a nice email! It always makes me glad to hear from a real, live reader.
I’m especially fond of The Case of the Spooky Sleepover, there’s a lot of nice moments in that book. Peeled grapes do feel a lot like eyeballs, don’t you think? Of course, I haven’t felt very many eyeballs, I’m happy to report. 

Illustration by R.W. Alley from THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE.

As a little boy, I always wanted a treehouse. It just seemed so cool. A house — in a tree! What could be better than that? Unfortunately, my father was not one of those “handy” guys with a hammer and a saw. I never got that treehouse. When I started writing Jigsaw Jones, I remembered that childhood feeling. I wanted Jigsaw to have an office of some kind. You know, a classic detective, meeting clients, looking at clues. So I decided to give Jigsaw the treehouse that I never got. Who built it? I guess I did! However, you might notice that his treehouse isn’t anything fancy. It’s pretty basic. But that’s Jigsaw — he’s just a regular guy.

Do I believe in ghosts? Not in the daytime, no. But when it gets dark, very late at night, I’m less sure.
Keep reading, Alexander, and have a happy halloween. Boo!
Your friend, 
James Preller
NOTE: The newest Jigsaw Jones book, The Case of the Hat Burglar, just came out this August! Somebody has been stealing items from the school’s “Lost and Found.” Who’s the burglar? And what in the world is he doing with all those hats?!

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #291: From New Zealand, Via GoodReads

This one came to me in a roundabout way, via GoodReads, where I’m not a member. In fact, I tremble in fear at the very thought of GoodReads, imagining only cruel reviews. I’m not cut out for that. But somebody there did me a solid by going to the trouble of forwarding this message to me, and I’m grateful for that kindness. Thank you, Maria Fernanda. Here’s Graham (my reply is below):

 

Just like to let you lot at GoodReads that James Preller is a very good book writer. I have started to collect his Jigsaw Jones book here in New Zealand. I have rated 2 books in your website. So I hope that it’ll become helpful.

Please let James Preller know that his books are being read in New Zealand and by a person of his current age.

All the best to you lot at GoodReads. Thank You.

Graham.

 

I replied:

 

Graham, 

Thank you for the kind words about my Jigsaw Jones books. That’s awfully nice of you.
The Irish have an expression, “Flowers for the living.”
The idea is that you don’t have to wait for someone to die before you say something good about him. Funny, right? And maybe sad in some ways. In the rush of our days, we don’t often stop to say “thank you” to the people we love, or even “I see you” to the good, decent people in our lives. Parents, friends, teachers, neighbors. Even writers.
You read my book and went to the trouble of saying something positive. You put that out into the world. I really appreciate it.

Illustration by R.W. Alley from THE CASE OF THE HAT BURGLAR.

True story: I despair a lot about my career, especially lately, the many disappointments and shortcomings. It can be awfully hard sometimes. The rejection and, far worse, the indifference. I sometimes wonder if any of it really matters, if maybe I’m in the wrong business. Too late now!

So a note like yours, out of the blue, from New Zealand, well, that’s something to lift the spirits.
Peace to you — and keep reading, it’s good for the soul!
My best,
James Preller

My Favorite Illustration from “Jigsaw Jones: The Case of the Hat Burglar”

 

I’ve written a lot of Jigsaw Jones books over the years. Some are, of course, better than others, though I hope there’s a good baseline of quality to all of them. The books that please me most tend to have heart, emotion, a moment that tugs at your sleeves. I don’t always pull that off, and can’t force it, but I do incline in that direction as a writer.

Maybe that’s why this is my favorite illustration in the new Jigsaw Jones book (which has been picked up by Scholastic Book Clubs). For here is the terrible moment when Jigsaw Jones figures out the mystery, and a trust is broken, and his heart splinters a little bit. Beautifully illustrated by R.W. Alley in the newest book in the series, The Case of the Cat Burglar.

You can order it now. Visit your independent bookstore. Or whatever!

In other news, there are now 14 titles — new or newly revised — available from Macmillan where fine books are sold. I just received word that the audio rights have been sold for all 14 books. No idea what they are going to do or when they are going to do it, but it’s exciting to think of these books in that format.

Back to that illustration. Check out Rags. It’s a little trick illustrators often use, the reaction shot from a pet or a mouse or some other animal. Often that’s how they inject humor into the illustration, or just liven up the dynamic. In this one, I think Rags just underscores the sadness of his sweet boy.