Local author Michael Lister launches two new books and his holiday giveaway.
PANAMA CITY — Local novelist Michael Lister continues his long-running John Jordan Mysteries series with two new releases — one inspired by an actual event, and the other inspired by the upcoming season of giving.
"From the moment I heard about the Madeleine McCann case, I knew I was going to write a novel about it," Lister said.
McCann, a three-year-old British toddler, went missing on the evening of May 3, 2007, during a family holiday trip at the seaside resort of Praia de Luz in Portugal. She had been left in a condo with her 2-year-old twin siblings while her parents and their friends, ate at an outdoor restaurant about 180 feet away.
"’Blood and Sand’ doesn’t deal directly with Madeleine’s case," Lister said. "In fact, you could read it and not know it was the inspiration. But once readers know that it is, I think they’ll find it fascinating exploring how it is."
In "Blood and Sand," 3-year-old Magdalene Dacosta vanishes on the night of her parents’ Winter Solstice party at a resort in South Walton County and is never seen again. The home was locked up, and security cameras show no one entering or leaving. Jordan must figure out how this "impossible crime" was committed and who is capable of such wickedness before it's too late for another innocent.
"Unlike writing L.A. or New York, I get to write about all these different little communities — Panama City, Port St. Joe, Mexico Beach, even Tallahassee," Lister said. "30A is a different world from everywhere else around here, and this is the first time I’ve set a book along 30A."
Lister will be speaking about the John Jordan series and signing books at the Bay County Public Library, 898 W. 11th St., from 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12. The event will include an interview by Aaron Bearden about his recent work, books available for sale and an acoustic performance by the Wabi Sabis. There’s no charge for admission, and the public is invited.
In addition, Lister will continue another annual tradition, a book giveaway. He’s given away more than 2 million books in 25 years, including ebooks and audio books, but he said the experience of handing a book to someone keeps him giving because it’s personally rewarding.
Lister also has "A John Jordan Christmas" premiering in December, and another mystery-thriller novel featuring the detective in early 2020.
"I first started writing about John Jordan a quarter-century ago," Lister said, "and I am more engaged with him and more excited about writing about his next case today than I was when I first saw him emerge on the page in the summer of 1994."
This isn’t the first time that true crime has informed and inspired Lister’s fiction. His time as a student in Atlanta led him to research and write about the Atlanta child murders, and his connection to Tallahassee led him to research and write about Ted Bundy. His previous career as a prison chaplain with the Florida Department of Corrections gave him many real-life crime stories to explore.
"My goal as a novelist is to entertain and inspire, to explore what it means to be human," Lister said. "With every word I’m attempting to tell the truth, and true crime seems to help in that pursuit."