On Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 7:00 pm., Mike Lawson, the author of “Rosarito Beach,” will be signing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego. In this interview, which was conducted in preparation for his San Diego visit, Lawson discussed his new book and some good news about this series.
Lawson classifies himself as a writer who seeks to entertain readers with a good story. He said, “I’m not pushing any political or social agenda. I was captivated and horrified by the drug cartel violence in Mexico, but all I’m trying to do in ‘Rosarito Beach’ is tell an exciting story with a strong female protagonist.”
According to Lawson, “Rosarito Beach” did not originate in the usual manner. “The idea for the book came when a television producer contacted me. The producer likes the primary female character in my DeMarco novels, a woman named Emma, and asked me to work on a made for TV movie with a strong female lead. Instead, I ended up writing ‘Rosarito Beach.’ I invented the character first—Kay Hamilton—a woman who ignores the rules, infuriates her superiors, doesn’t play well with others—and totally enjoys her job as DEA agent. Kay thinks of the war on drugs as a game—a game in which everyone is armed to the teeth.”
Lawson said that he typically bases his plots on real-life events, however, that was not the case with this book. “I created a situation where Kay arrests the younger brother of a Mexican drug czar for murder and the czar reacts by forcing Kay to get his brother out of jail. I don’t want to say too much more about the plot, but the plot was designed to put the protagonist in a dangerous situation where she was required to use cunning, violence—and a little sex—to extract herself from the situation.”
One of the issues Lawson faced while writing “Rosarito Beach” was bringing a fifteen-year old girl into the book. He said that capturing her character was a challenge. “I can’t say more about that as it would spoil the plot, but writing from the perspective of that character was much harder than capturing the character of the female protagonist, Kay Hamilton.”
For his research, Lawson conducted the usual online searches, but also made a trip to San Diego, where he went to the locations he would be using and discovered that one of the areas he needed to visit on the base was off limits. “Part of the book is based at Camp Pendleton–actually, the brig at Camp Pendleton,” Lawson said. “I was able to tour the base, but I couldn’t get inside the brig—short of being arrested, that is. A sergeant—a guy who looked like you’d expect a Marine sergeant to look—sort of chased me away when he saw me lurking outside the brig, making notes on where the guard towers were placed.”
The reason Lawson visited the book’s locations was to ensure that information he’d obtained online was accurate—it wasn’t. He said, “There’s nothing like seeing something in person to improve the accuracy of a book. A gun battle occurs in the ‘Rosarito Beach’ near the Metropolitan Correctional Center and the federal courthouse in San Diego. When I wrote the first draft, I used Google maps for my research—only to discover that Google didn’t show me all the one-way streets near the courthouse and I had to completely redo the scene when I saw the actual streets in San Diego—and the final draft was much better because of this.”
As a former senior civilian engineer for the US Navy, Lawson had spent time in San Diego years ago. His job brought him to North Island and Point Loma, which he loved. It also involved him in the very serious business of reactor plants on Navy ships. Life is now very different for him. He said, “I think the most important thing is that for me writing is fun and I consider myself very lucky to be a writer. I’ve been around authors who act as if writing is an act of suffering, but I enjoy what I do tremendously—and I hope this comes across in my books. Don’t get me wrong: I’m serious about my writing—I write every day—I do the best I can to make my books accurate where accuracy matters—but it’s a pleasure and doesn’t seem like a job, which is why I consider myself so lucky.”
Perhaps Lawson’s latest bit of news will give him even more opportunity to develop this character and series. He said, “Rosarito Beach has been optioned for television so maybe one day you’ll see Hollywood’s version of Kay Hamilton on the small screen in your home.”
In addition to “Rosarito Beach,” Mike Lawson has also written eight “DeMarco” thrillers. Learn more about him on his website at mikelawsonbooks.com.