Author, Author! — J. Mark Bertrand

21 Jul

J. Mark Bertrand is the author of Back on Murder, the first in a series of crime novels featuring Houston homicide detective Roland March. He earned an MFA from the University of Houston and lived in the city for fifteen years. After one hurricane too many, he and his wife moved to South Dakota. Mark has been arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, was the foreman of a hung jury in Houston, and after relocating served on the jury that acquitted Vinnie Jones of assault. In 1972, he won an honorable mention in a child modeling contest, but pursued writing instead.

Mark Bertrand, author of Back on Murder, Pattern of Wounds and co-author (with Deeanne Gist) of Beguiled sat down with me last week at the ICRS to talk about writing, his books and the joy of a Bible well designed.  Here are some of the highlights:

BTB:  How did you get started writing?

Mark:  When I was in elementary school I was assigned a book report to be turned in every week.  I would choose an author from the Weekly Reader and write a report, complete with detailed illustrations, on a totally fictitious book by that author. I thought I was getting away with it, because I always got As. However, the teacher knew because the Weekly Reader would never have included such violent books!

BTB:  Why do you write now?

Mark:  Although I certainly enjoy the acclaim of being a published author, I really write for the joy of the process of writing. While working on my thesis for my MFA in Creative Writing, I became absorbed in the writing and knew then that was all I wanted to be — a writer.

BTB:  Who is the inspiration for the character of Roland March (featured in Back on Murder and Pattern of Wounds)?

Mark:  No one person was the inspiration.  You could say that Roland is my alter-ego.  I also borrowed a lot to create March, but he became an independent character, his own man.  He is definitely a flawed hero.

BTB:  What direction is the series going in?

Mark:  The second book in the series, Pattern of Wounds (just released), occurs a little over a year after the end of Back on Murder.  The book involves a serial killer, but differs from most books in this genre.  It focuses on our obsession with the idea of serial killers, not the serial killer himself.  To know more, you will have to read the book and the 3rd in the series as well.

BTB:  What was it like writing a book with another author (Beguiled with Deeanne Gist)?

Mark:  You would think writing with another person would take half the time as writing alone.  But it required a lot of revision to create a blended novel. Deeanne and I worked on every line of the book together and it would be hard to find a sentence which we wrote independently.

BTB:  You have a blog on Bible design.  What is that about?

Mark:  At the age of 16  I apprenticed as a typographer.  I came to appreciate the way books are put together — designed.  In the 1990s I started looking for a Bible that looked like a book, not a dictionary.  Through my work with the blog, I am helping to influence the design of future Bibles.  (You can find out more about Mark’s work with Bible design by clicking HERE.)


A Big Thank You to Mark for talking with me last week.  If you have not read Back on Murder, you can get it for a limited time for free for Kindle.  Be sure to order Pattern of Wounds too; you won’t want to wait to see what Roland March is up to next.


Det. Roland March is a homicide cop on his way out. But when he’s the only one at a crime scene to find evidence of a missing female victim, he’s given one last chance to prove himself. Before he can crack the case, he’s transferred to a new one that has grabbed the spotlight–the disappearance of a famous Houston evangelist’s teen daughter. With the help of a youth pastor with a guilty conscience who navigates the world of church and faith, March is determined to find the missing girls while proving he’s still one of Houston’s best detectives.


For Detective Roland March, his latest case has become personal. March doesn’t know the young female who was stabbed to death, but he thinks he recognizes the crime scene. Nearly ten years ago, March gained national fame as the subject of a true-crime book. But now this crime scene bears eerie similarities to that one. And whispers begin to emerge that March may have put the wrong man behind bars.

Worse, Houston may now have a serial killer on the loose. As more cases emerge that seem connected, and threats against March and those closest to him build, he must solve the case–rescuing not only the city but his own reputation as a homicide cop.



%d bloggers like this: