James Montgomery Jackson

Stories that are "North of Cozy and South of Noir"

Jim's Bio

If I were a house, I’d be called Mid-century Modern, a style of architecture that “emphasized creating structures with ample windows and open floor plans, with the intention of opening up interior spaces and bringing the outdoors in.” If I can’t be outside enjoying nature, I want to be able to see outside.

My earliest years were spent in Rochester, New York. I spent second and third grade in Blacksburg, Virginia where I temporarily acquired a southern accent and was first exposed to segregation. Returning north, this time to Greece, New York, I quickly ditched the southern accent and reacquired the pinched-nasal twang of Upstate New York.

After graduating from Greece Arcadia High School, I attended Lafayette College before deciding I wanted to teach high school and transferred to the State University of New York at Albany. In a bit of insanity, I graduated a semester early, earning a B.S. in Mathematics with minors in Education and Psychology. The only way to score a high school teaching job in January was to replace someone who died or became disabled (which at the time most frequently meant when a pregnant woman “showed”!) No such circumstances presented themselves, and so I had to search for another job.

Luck appeared in the form of an actuarial trainee position at a consulting firm in New Jersey. I spent the next thirty years as a consulting actuary and earned an MBA from Boston University along the way. During the first ten years as an actuary, I helped large corporations, governments and not-for-profits design and implement retirement plans and post-retirement medical plans to benefit their employees. The second ten years found me helping to make those plans efficient and assure they had adequate funding to provide promised benefits. The last ten years, as corporate America swung away from long-term worker commitments and toward short-term profit maximization, I began to tear those programs down.

Deciding to buck the trend of profit maximization, I retired early (eliminating that source of guaranteed income!) and turned my efforts to writing. The income is modest, but the job satisfaction is considerably greater. While looking for representation for the Seamus McCree series, I wrote and sold to Masterpoint Press a nonfiction book on bridge for intermediate players, One Trick at a Time: How to start winning at bridge.

The Seamus McCree series soon found a publisher as well, and to date consists of four published novels (Ant Farm, Bad Policy, Cabin Fever, and Doubtful Relations), one novella “Low Tide at Tybee”, and several short stories. The next novel, Empty Promises, will be born April 3, 2018. The sixth, False Promises, is in the gestation stage, with an anticipated publication date of late 2018 or early 2019.

When not writing, I have subjected those around me to a series of passions, picking up one, dropping it, and possibly returning to it years later. I lettered in soccer in both high school and college and even played semi-pro for a time. I was a serious (but ineffectual) golfer for years, but when I retired and I had time for it, I gave it up. When younger, I hiked and camped. Now I ramble and birdwatch. I’ve participated in tournament chess and bridge and been beaten by world champions in both. I enjoy traveling; a day at a national wildlife refuge with binocs and a camera is just about as good as it gets.

Over the course of my actuarial career, I lived in northern New Jersey, the Boston area of Massachusetts, fifty miles north of Manhattan (in New York), fifty miles west of Manhattan (back in New Jersey), and finished my career in Cincinnati, Ohio. We now split our time between the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Georgia’s Lowcountry around Savannah. I claim it’s to have the best weather of both worlds. Others suggest that I wear out my welcome after six months and am forced to leave in the dead of night.

I characterize the Seamus McCree series as “north of cozy and south of noir.” The novels all have mysteries at their base. Some shade more toward suspense, others to domestic thrillers. I like reading stories set in real places, and I follow that preference in my own writing. Those who know my houses will notice similarities with Seamus’s abodes. And while Seamus shares a few peculiarities with me (we both like applesauce on our pizza, for example), all my characters are fictional—unless you’ve really ticked me off, in which case you may show up dead on page two. Just kidding! Maybe.

   Last Updated 4/23/2018

 

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