Interview with Charlie Vogel
Charlie Vogel is a veteran of the Navy who served during the Vietnam War. He’s a retired Coast Guard Reserve Petty Officer. Additionally, Charlie retired from a career as an Omaha, Nebraska police officer as well as from Omaha Public Schools. He and his wife reside in Omaha, Nebraska. He draws on his vast and varied experience to feed his mysteries.
Charlie Vogel started writing in high school, but it was after retirement that he became serious about it as a career often referring to himself as Charlie-the-mystery-writer. As a member of the Nebraska Writer’s Guild, Fiction Works, and Nebraska Writer’s Workshop, Charlie studies his craft and credits individuals from those entities for recognizing his talent, encouragement and advice.
Glenda: Charlie I’d like to thank you for agreeing to this interview. You’ve left encouraging comments on some of my past interviews. I enjoy comments on posts good or bad as they help me grow as an interviewer. That said, I hope this will be one of my best interviews to date, so here we go with question numero uno.
I noticed when I read into your Bob Norris trilogy, you didn’t start him out as any sort of detective or tough guy type at all. Not in the way most people consider tough men. You started Norris out as an art teacher, with a wealthy wife. The two have rebelled against her disapproving father and built their own lives. Then she’s murdered and he switches from art teacher to crime solver.
With your history in military and as a police officer, one would expect you to make your protagonist some tough Hammer type. What made you decide to write Bob in as an art teacher initially?
Charlie: Bob Norris popped into my mind about thirty years ago. I have a hidden ego as being an art teacher. I attended classes at the Chicago Art Institute during my high school days, and I sold five oil paintings during that time. Being a police officer, I noticed a lot of Bob Norris’ characters trying to solve crimes themselves, which gave me the idea of using this character. Most victims in crimes (in true life) are not really the tough guy.
Glenda: That brings another question to mind. You’ve talked about writing and art being a part of your life since high school. Can you give us more history of your interest in the arts?
Charlie: I graduated from high school in Rochelle, Illinois in 1961. I attended summer courses at the Chicago Art Institute during 1958, 59, 60, and 61. I wrote a little while on active duty in the Navy from 1962 through 1969, but spent most of my leisure sketching. I attended Metro College in Omaha, majoring in Photography from 1976 through 1980. I started taking writing courses from Metro and Sally Walker from 1990 through the present. I have never entered any writing courses, nor have I won any awards for writing. I view writing not as a job, but one of the visual arts I enjoy doing, and to create something is to exercise the mind.
Glenda: I like what you said about seeing writing as “one of the visual arts.” It’s hard to get that recognition for the art of writing. It is sort of like painting a series of pictures in words. To get more specific about your published work, I found your Bob Norris trilogy enticing and bold. It’s something that I imagine is very hard to do. To be able to carry the continuity of the stories as well as the traits of character is something I haven’t attempted yet.
After doing a trilogy of novels following one character, do you see yourself doing more serial books?
Charlie: No, I really don’t like doing serial books. The process takes me too long to hold an interest in the same character. Once I do one book, everyone knows who the character is, and it gets boring to keep building this guy up. I’ve got a lot of interesting characters in my head, and I want to use them. I do insist in the last chapter of my books, I like to give a hint of a possible sequel to tease the reader. I learned this from my favorite author, Lawrence Block, but he’s a master in creating a serial.
Glenda: You’ve had a history of careers that required action, intellect, bravery, and problem solving. Now that you’ve retired do you miss that or is your writing enough intrigue after such a long career?
Charlie: I miss being involved with a crisis. The only way I find to solve a crisis is to make one up. Since high school, I’ve written a ton of short stories with the possibility of “What if?” Over the years I enjoyed sitting at airports, train stations, and bus stops to study the characterization of the people I see. Many of these people are in my novels.
Glenda: Finally, as a writer myself, I know that each of us uses a process of some sort for building a story. That process includes developing character, environment, personalities and so much more. What is your favorite part of your writing process?
Charlie: Something to cause controversy. In the Bob Norris series, I made the hero to fall in love with a very young woman (30 year difference in ages), and Norris being rich and a CEO, this girl is a street prostitute. A manuscript I’ve been working on for the past several months involves a secret organization of German-American Aryans, which did exist in real life shorty after WW2. The characters I used in this story are children (7-9 years old), who in their innocent wisdom solves a series of murders in a small town of northern Illinois. The year this takes place is in 1950. I have a lot of research to do for this time period, but I enjoy doing it.
Charlie-the-mystery-writer, like many of us turned out to be an adrenaline junky. Not in the sense of obsession, but that thrill that comes from action and upheaval, the kind that builds a thrilling mystery that I try to outsmart and solve before the end. I don’t often manage to do so, because writers like Charlie keep the reader guessing.
It’s exciting to see a writer develop and produce what they love. Charlie, you are blessed with multiple artistic gifts and a grand sense of adventure. I think I speak for many readers when I say we are all looking forward to that next book by Charlie-the-mystery-writer.
“What money?" I didn’t spend one dime for any of this. It’s all Eileen’s (Bob’s wife). And what the hell is time? Time isn’t something I value. Time is such an abstraction in life.” I leaned forward, my elbows on my knees, my hands clenched. “Look—How can I explain this? Eileen was all I had. Now that she’s gone, I have only one thing, one purpose. I will have the man who killed her.” I clenched my jaw. “Since time has no importance, I can hunt for him quietly.” (Bob Norris to brother Donald in To Find a Killer) by Charlie Vogel
Find Charlie’s books at the following sites
WAVE OF DEATH
FIND THE SECRETS
TO FIND A KILLER
SEARCHING FOR HARPIES
THE DOCTOR IS DEAD
Charlie’s third book in the Bob Norris series will be published this year.