Interview with author Steve Ulfelder of ‘The Conway Sax’ mysteries

Steve Ulfelder, author of “Purgatory Chasm,” his first published novel and a finalist for an Edgar Award, loves to talk (among many other subjects) about his pets. And although he has cats, his new love is his rescued greyhound, Bonne (short for Bonneville — like the race course).

Steve Ulfelder and his race car

courtesy of Ulfelder and Minotaur Press

Ulfelder is so enamored with greyhounds that two will be appearing in his next Conway Sax novel. Bonne, a rescue greyhound, cleverly snagged her new home by leaning into Ulfelder when he went to visit her. Now he’s smitten and she has a fabulous family.

Ulfelder’s route to being a published author was, paradoxically, quick and easy and long and tortured. After writing his first Conway Sax novel, he sent it out to agents and almost immediately got word that one of his top ten choices wanted to represent him. Great news.

But when his first book didn’t sell, and then his second book didn’t sell, Ulfelder didn’t quit. He wrote the third book (the first published book in the series), “Purgatory Chasm,” and emailed it to his agent one evening. She stayed up all night reading it, called him and said, “I can sell this.” And she did.

Ulfelder happily admits that he is living his childhood dream. He’s wanted to write mysteries since he read his first “Hardy Boys” mystery when he was eight years old. In college, he was an English major. For 20 years, however, Ulfelder was not exactly an author, though he was certainly a writer — a journalist writing for magazines such as Computerworld.

But he realized that it was going to be too difficult to write all day for magazines and then work at night on his novel. So he turned to his love of racing. Ulfelder races in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). He and a partner started Flatout Motor Sports and began making custom racing cars. They have just moved into a 15,000 square foot facility and have eight full-time employees.

That move to the race car world has left Ulfelder plenty of time to write mysteries, in which he draws heavily on his own life for inspiration. A recovering alcoholic (28 years now), Ulfelder describes attending AA meetings, where he felt an incredible surge of energy, joy, love and mutual support.

His idea? To use that setting for his mysteries. Ulfelder explains that Conway Sax’s AA group is called the Barn Burners, and they are half AA members and half vigilantes.

The second book in the series is “The Whole Lie,” and “Shotgun Lullaby” is the most recent. The two greyhounds featured in the next one are named after famous drag racers (you have to buy the book when it comes out to find out what the names are).

Ulfelder’s left brain and right brain stay busy. He writes, he works on cars (pulling out an engine or helping with a custom suspension), and he hangs out with his family and animals. And although his wife, a personal chef, would like him to include more description about food in his mysteries, to Ulfelder, “chicken is just chicken.”

Check out Steve’s website for information about appearances.