[Elderhostel Mysteries & Fiction Writing Techniques]

Tip A Canoe
by Peter E. Abresch
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last updated 06/08/04

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Chapter One

    Bring bug spray.
    Does that sound like a fun week?
    Jim Dandy powered his blue Lincoln down Interstate 95.
    "Bring bug spray?" he said aloud.
    He glanced at his passenger, but Dodee Swisher kept her head of full soft curls, about the color of ripened wheat, buried in the information sheet on her lap.
    "What is bug spray, anyway?" he asked.
    She wore a light-blue jean shirt with red plaid showing at the collar and cuffs, cream colored denim pants, and soft loafers on her feet, her trim body a testament to leading senior citizen aerobics classes.
    "Like window spray to make the bugs clean? Hair spray to make them stiff?" He turned down his lips and nodded. "Now stiff might work. If you wanted to conjure up a really fun Elderhostel week, you'd say, 'bring genital spray.'" He glanced at her again. "Right?"
    "I'm not touching that."
    "The trouble with spray is it covers everything. Pan spray to make pans slick. House spray to make rooms smell nice. DW-40 spray to loosen nuts." He grinned. "Probably not something you want in a genital spray."
    "Repellent."
    "Damn right it would be repellent."
    "Bug"--she let it hang in the air a moment--"repellent."
    "Oh, that sounds a whole lot better. Bring bug repellent. Does that sound like more fun?"
    She lifted her head and her cornflower blue eyes riveted him with points of steel. "How does 'single rooms' sound?"
    He turned back to the black-ribbon road, cut between leafless trees, as the flat South Carolina countryside rolled by. The air conditioner purred away against an unseasonable, mid-afternoon sun that belied the lateness of October.
    Had he pushed one button too many?
    How did single rooms sound?
    About as welcome as an Arab terrorist at a bar mitzvah.
    "Forget about the bug spray," he said. "As long as we're here together I know it will be a fun week."
    "Are those words from your heart or further down?"
    No answer to that.
    He hadn't seen Dodee in three months, and meeting her at the Colombia airport--five foot two with a smile that lit up her lightly tanned face--had made his heart jump. Made everything jump for that matter.
    "We will have fun," Dodee said, and reached over to pat his knee. "You were the one who wanted to do something more active this Elderhostel."
    He chewed on the inside of his lip again.
    This was their third Elderhostel. Adventures in Learning for those over fifty-five. They had studied Bonsai in New Jersey, when he had first met her, and then were together again in Baltimore where they learned Mediterranean cooking. But Adventures in Learning didn't capture the flavor of fun and camaraderie these things engendered.
    He frowned.
    Of course, in their case it had been much more. What could be more benign than studying bonsai and cooking? And yet bodies kept popping up at both places. They nearly ended up in jail on the first one. In fact, on the second as well.
    So, now they were off into the woods. Canoeing and hiking through swamps. Not much chance of finding bodies mucking about in the muck, which was just as well considering Dodee's double predilection for nosing into police matters and getting him hip deep in horse shit.
    "We're minding our own business this trip."
    The big blues turned to him again. "What do you mean?"
    "I mean we're staying out of police stuff. That's not a question, Dodee. That's an ord--that's a statement," he said, switching at the last moment as he remembered her remark about separate bedrooms.
    She smiled, the tips of her lips turned down, and she pointed at him with a straight thumb and forefinger together. "If it hadn't been for that police stuff, sweetheart, we might never have gotten into the--to put it delicately--into the other stuff."
    He pressed his lips together and glared at the road.
    Now was not the time to be contrary.
    "Besides," she said, "I doubt if we'll find many police officers running around the swamp." She tapped the papers in her lap. "You want me to read the rest of this list or not? If you had read your own list at home--"
    "Why?" He held out his hand. "You told me everything over the phone. Bring shorts, I brought shorts. Bring layered clothing in case it gets cold, I brought layered clothing in case it gets cold. See how it all fits?"
    Dodee folded up the papers in her lap and stuffed them into a large envelope. "Suppose I had not been there to read out all the things to bring?"
    "If you had not been there, I would not be here in South Carolina. If all I wanted to do was tramp through a swamp, I'd have stayed home in Maryland."
    "You have a swamp? With cypress trees?"
    "As a matter of fact, yes. The Cypress Swamp in Calvert County is the northernmost stand of natural cypress in the country."
    "Than why did you want to come on this Elderhostel?"
    He turned to her and grinned. "What was that other stuff you mentioned?"


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Reviews of TIP A CANOE:

Review Blurbs--
        For complete reviews of these blurbs skip below
Abresch, Peter. Tip on a Canoe. Jan. 2001.
285p. Write Way, $23.95 (I-885173-92-X)

Action, romance and playful dialogue abound in Peter Abresch s third James P. Dandy Elderhostel mystery, Tip A Canoe. This time it's the illegal logging of prized chestnut trees in the South Carolina swamp forest where Jim and his partner in love and crime-solving, Dodee Swisher, have come for a canoe trip. As members of their group turn up dead, our heroes realize that, for someone, the trees are worth murdering for--and that the killer is in their midst.     PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Dec 18, 2000

Series protagonists James P. Dandy and Dodee Swisher (Bloody Bonsai; Killing Thyme) go canoeing on the Santee lakes in South Carolina as part of a particularly lively Elderhostel program. Unfortunately, murder mixes with the usual oddball as sortment of characters. For all collections. Library Journal, Dec 2000, Vol 125, No. 20

Tip A Canoe is the third book in the James P. Dandy Elderhostel Mystery series, and what a series Abresch has created....Jim Dandy and his girlfriend Dodee are headed down to the Carolinas for a week long Canoeing Elderhostel trip. The plan is to enjoy the peaceful and inspiration surroundings while hiking and canoeing. However, Dodee has a history of leading Jim by the hand into obscure and danger ous mysteries....Fun, witty and most of the time downright humorous, Abresch spins off well thought out scenes laced with strings of laugh-out-loud lines. Compelling and clever, right down to the way Abresch introduces and forces his readers to remember all the secondary characters. Tip A Canoe will hold your interest from the opening page to the last line. Reviewed by Phillip Tomasso III, The Charlotte Austin Review

This book was a "Jim Dandy" good read...After arriving at their destination, a 4-H camp they meet with a wonderful group of people that are also "Advanced in wisdom" as quoted in the book. Believe me this group does not act their age. Not long into the story dead bodies begin to pop up and it seems inevitable that Jim and Dodee will become involved... I just hope that when I am old enough to retire I have the wit, stamina and energy that this group does. Once more I will say "This was a Jim Dandy good book" Sue Johnson, Myshelf.com

...fans will find plenty to enjoy. The mystery itself is challenging, with many red herrings and a surprise ending; the outdoor scenes are vivid; and the story is well paced. Abresch also offers sensitive insights on love, aging and bereavement. Recommend this series to readers who like strong, active seniors as main characters. John Rowen, Booklist

This is the third novel on the adventures of James P. Dandy and Dodee Swisher, Elderhostelers extraordinary. There is something about these two... or something about Peter Abresch... that makes me comfortable with my age and my interests....Abresch's characterization is improving steadily, especially in the subtle way description folds into story...They are disgustingly, enviably fit, but do have some of the failings of "maturity." They can't run or swim or row endless miles. Faced with peril, they get sensibly scared...Environmental information is introduced with accuracy and advocacy, but without evangelism.... And on the heels of life-threatening events, Jim and Dodee speak of love. Makes the reader want to stand with them in the park ing lot and cheer -- and then go sign up for the next Elderhostel... I, personally, like books that have an effect on me, and which present serious concerns. Not many "mysteries" can do it. Jo Campbell, Editor, Ecotopics International News Service (www.ecotopics.com)

While there are a good number of mystery books out on senior-aged detectives/amateur detectives, this series has a focus on Elderhostel...a down-to-earth these-are-people-you-probably-know as well as an honest portrayal of a very popular senior group. Retirement Life, January 2001

James P. "Jim" Dandy and ladylove Dodee Swisher are off on another Elderhostel vacation. This time, they are journeying to South Carolina to do some canoeing and exploring of the waterways. Romantic Times, Mystery, Suspense & Thrillers, February 2001

Complete reviews in order of blurbs minus the first two which are complete above

Abresch, Peter. Tip on a Canoe. Jan. 2001.
285p. Write Way, $23.95 (I-885173-92-X).
BookList
    James P. Dandy, retired physical therapist and reluctant sleuth, and his paramour, Dodee Swisher, are attending a nature study Elderhostel on South Carolinas Santee Lakes. As the outing begins, a murder has occurred; another one follows, and then a group member disappears. Thanks to some cloying dialogue, this third Jim Dandy mystery is not as strong as the prior two entries in the series. Still, fans will find plenty to enjoy. The mystery itself is challenging, with many red herrings and a surprise ending; the outdoor scenes are vivid; and the story is well paced. Abresch also offers sensitive insights on love, aging and bereavement. Recommend this series to readers who like strong, active seniors as main characters. John Rowen, Booklist

Ecotopics International News Service
    Reviewing a mystery novel for an environmental publication is a departure, to say the least. But when it happens to be a work that is both enjoyable and skillfully done, why not?
    This is the third novel on the adventures of James P. Dandy and Dodee Swisher, Elderhostelers extraordinary.
    There is something about these two... or something about Peter Abresch... that makes me comfortable with my age and my interests.
    They do NOT make me comfortable with my physical fitness, which is deplorable, but who has everything?
    I believe that Abresch's characterization is improving steadily, especially in the subtle way description folds into story.
    This tale takes the pair on an Elderhostel trip along the waterways and trail-ways of South Carolina. The ranger gives them good advice: "Leave the snakes be. It is their home, not ours." So they meet Nature, birds, trees, and their varied companions. Previous adventures have provided a course in bonsai culture and another in gourmet cookery.
    The protagonists see one another only on Elderhostel trips. Their relationship is renewed each journey with poetic gusto. They are disgustingly, enviably fit, but do have some of the failings of "maturity." They can't run or swim or row endless miles. Faced with peril, they get sensibly scared.
    Jim is a semi-retired physical therapist and Dodee is an artist. The author's interpretation of the lady's eye applied to the camera or the sketch pad, makes any latent artist reader reach for a Mikado #1 -- or whatever.
    This plot and its characters lead the reader artfully into several false trails ... a fish kill; caused by what? The power plant?? The rumored threat to destroy a dam and why some people don't like dams; what they do to the environment. And ta-daaah! the drowned wealth of a tannin-preserved forest flooded by a dam. Environmental information is introduced with accuracy and advocacy, but without evangelism.
    Tension is built with skill and without the obvious. One really does suspect the wrong person up to the final near-deadly moment.
    The ripening of the feelings between the two lead characters is well and moderately done... many of us grown-ups can identify with it.
    And on the heels of life-threatening events, Jim and Dodee speak of love. Makes the reader want to stand with them in the parking lot and cheer -- and then go sign up for the next Elderhostel.
    I, personally, like books that have an effect on me, and which present serious concerns. Not many "mysteries" can do it.
    Reviewed by Jo Campbell, Editor, Ecotopics International News Service (www.ecotopics.com) on environment and human rights.

Retirement Life
This is the third in a series of Elderhostel mysteries with the character James P. Dandy. While there are a good number of mystery books out on senior-aged detectives/amateur detectives, this series has a focus on Elderhostel and a very definite handle on the activities in some retiree groups.
Don t expect the sophistication of writings such as "Murder in the Smithsonian," but rather a down-to-earth these-are-people- you-probably-know as well as an honest portrayal of a very popular senior group. Retirement Life, January 2001 PAGE 55

Romantic Times
Amateur Sleuth (Serie, Romantic) TIP A CANOE,
Peter Abresch Write Way Four Stars James P. "Jim" Dandy and ladylove Dodee Swisher are off on another Elderhostel vacation. This time, they are journeying to South Carolina to do some canoeing and exploring of the waterways.
Their fellow Elderhostelers are a varied and interesting group of people that include a retired FBi agent, a former military man, a typical Brooklyn couple, and some intense environmentalists. In fact, the environmentalists are so rabid that they want to blow up all man-made dams, including the one that provides the canoeing area.
As Jim and Dodee enjoy their vacation and each other, a ranger was working with the group is murdered. When a member of the group turns up missing as well, Jim and Dodee once again find themselves investigating a murder.
Romantic Times, Mystery, Suspense & Thrillers, February 2001

Myshelf.com
This book was a "Jim Dandy" good read.
The setting for this book was on the Santee Lakes in South Carolina. As that is near to where I live and we have fished there the location was familiar and easy to picture in my mind. This made the book appealing in its own right, but after the first couple of pages I found that the characters have a appeal all their own.
James P. Dandy AKA Jim Dandy is a retired physical therapist who lost his wife to cancer in the not to distant past. Dodee Swisher is his now significant other and an artist. They met at a previous Elderhostel. They allude to other trips that they have made including one to learn to make Bonsai and one where they took cooking lessons. Seems they may have run into some loose cadavers in these trips as well. Jim states from the very start they are going to stay out of trouble with the law on this a canoeing trip.
After arriving at their destination, a 4-H camp they meet with a wonderful group of people that are also "Advanced in wisdom" as quoted in the book. Believe me this group does not act their age. Not long into the story dead bodies begin to pop up and it seems inevitable that Jim and Dodee will become involved.
I must admit I had figured out the plot or reason for the deaths early on but with the wonderful characters and the beautiful descriptions of the area the book was still a joy to read. I just hope that when I am old enough to retire I have the wit, stamina and energy that this group does. Once more I will say "This was a Jim Dandy good book" Sue Johnson, Myshelf.com

The Charlotte Austin Review Ltd
Tip A Canoe is the third book in the James P. Dandy Elderhostel Mystery series, and what a series Abresch has created. Elderhostel is an organization that coordinates events for senior citizens and the Jim Dandy mysteries revolve around these outings.
In Tip A Canoe, Jim Dandy and his girlfriend Dodee are headed down to the Carolinas for a week long Canoeing Elderhostel trip. The plan is to enjoy the peaceful and inspiration surroundings while hiking and canoeing. However, Dodee has a history of leading Jim by the hand into obscure and dangerous mysteries. Jim and Dodee meet and join together with a wide array of Elderhostel vacationers. It seems like all fun and games until the police begin investigating a suspicious drowning and the appearance of a dynamite box. Sure that the two events are unrelated, Jim at tempts to dissuade Dodee from sleuthing. However, her interests are met as she and a retired FBI agent share conspiracy theories.
Fun, witty and most of the time downright humorous, Abresch spins off well thought out scenes laced with strings of laugh-out-loud lines. Compelling and clever, right down to the way Abresch introduces and forces his readers to remember all the secondary characters. Tip A Canoe will hold your interest from the opening page to the last line. Reviewed by Phillip Tomasso III, The Charlotte Austin Review Ltd


Tip A Canoe
ISBN: 1-885173-92-X $ 23.95
Write Way Publishing --

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