Crisman Strunk

Kentucky author Crisman Strunk’s life has been dominated by words for years. Whether it be through his work in crafting short stories, comics, and novels or through his role as an educator in the art of writing, it’s clear to anyone that he has a love of the written word. That love has carried over to his newest novel A Grave Every Mile: A John Holmes Thriller, which went on sale earlier this year. In A Grave Every Mile, Strunk tells that tale of a retired cop who is pulled back into a world he’d left behind because of the pull of his own conscience and a strong sense of justice. If you are a fan of mysteries, hard-boiled heroes, and the seediness that can hide behind the veneer of society, you need to check out this book.

I spoke with Mr. Strunk recently about the idea behind A Grave Every Mile: A John Holmes Thriller, the documentary that inspired his story, the influences that have impacted his work in mysteries, and what’s next for the writer and his protagonist.

FreakSugar: For folks considering picking up the book, what is the conceit behind A Grave Every Mile: A John Holmes Thriller?

Crisman Strunk: The basic conceit (and one I came upon while watching a documentary) is that there is probably a sizeable number of serial killers who work as long-distance truckers. If you think about it, people with that mindset would find the job appealing. You are moving through states where, you could pick up someone in one state, and drop their body in another state. The women (and men) who work as prostitutes in the diners and motels along the highways would not have anyone looking for them, necessarily. Their disappearance could remain unnoticed for years, if it was ever noticed. We explore this world with John Holmes as he looks for a former partner’s daughter who has disappeared.

FS: The book has an interesting group of characters. What can you tell us about the cast we’ll meet?

CS: You have John Holmes (no relation!), the main character. He was a cop for years but grew disillusioned with the job. Now, he works as a maintenance man/yard guy at a Florida trailer park where he tries his hand at doing as little as possible. But he has a sense of justice that he can’t quite stamp out. His landlord and friend, Lucky Gil, goes along with John mainly to break up his boredom. Lucky has a good heart but is far more pragmatic than John about taking out obstacles. His way is any by means necessary. Rachel Medina is a former girlfriend of John’s, who is still a police officer, that he reconnects with on the case. She’s pretty no-nonsense and calls John on a lot of the bull he puts out. And Craig Lee Melton is a long-distance trucker that, while perhaps not the guilty party in this story, is almost certainly a bad dude.

FS: You’re a teacher and a professor and you’ve been writing as long as I’ve known you. How has your work in education impacted your writing?

CS: Well, hopefully it’s given me a good grasp on the mechanics of writing, grammar and so on. You can break the rules if it makes a point, but you have to break them on purpose to make it. And teaching English means that I have been exposed to a lot of great writing over the years (that I might not have picked up on by myself). I think that everything you read affects you in some way. You internalize it and filter it through your own style.

FS: The book has a thriller and hard-boiled aspect to it. What were your influences in writing this book?

CS: That’s hard to pin down. It feels like there’s so many because I read a lot of thriller/mystery/hard-boiled novels and watch a lot of noir movies. Dialogue-wise, I think I always subconsciously try to emulate Hemingway. Not that I come close but I think that’s always the goal. And as far as the clever turn of phrase, there’s always Chandler. I try not reach too much for Chandler, though, because it would inevitably turn to caricature. As far as the smart-assery between John, Lucky, and others, that’s all me unfortunately. Much to the chagrin of those who know me.



FS: Where can we get updates for your work? Is there anything else you’re working on at the moment?

CS: I try to update my Facebook page regularly and there is my website at I’m not sure if I’ll keep the website, however. I read a lot on how to market your books and having a webpage was usually mentioned. But, to be honest, I’ve had a lot more feedback and interaction on Facebook than the web page.

As far as future work, I’m currently editing the first book of another series (I’m tentatively thinking of it as the Gaol County series) about a sheriff from a small Kentucky county. I’m hoping to have it ready to come out in the fall. I’m also about two-thirds of the way through the second John Holmes book so I hope to have that come out next year. The goal is to build a readership that looks forward to the next book coming out!

FS: What has the reception for A Grave Every Mile been like? Do you have more John Holmes tales in you?

CS: I’ve been really pleased by the reception thus far. Considering that I am an unknown author with a first novel, I’m really happy that people have taken the chance and purchased the book. It’s actually exceeded my expectations, which is a very good thing. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads that I didn’t even have to pay anyone for (that’s a joke, by the way)!

Like I said, I’m about two-thirds of the way through the next Holmes novel and I have a rough idea what the next three are about. For the Gaol County series, I’ve already written the second one and I’ve got a working concept for the next three as well. So, I hope I get to write all these and I hope that people will look forward to reading them.

FS: What books are you reading right now?

CS: At this moment, I’m reading The Secret Place by Tana French. It’s part of her Dublin Murder Squad series. I always enjoy her books but I have to gear up to read one because her writing is pretty dense. It’s like a marathon for me, but well worth it once you hit the finish line. I’m also working through Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer series. I’ll read one, read a few books in between, and then read the next in the series. And I’m reading through Craig Johnson’s Longmire series and the Travis McGee series and it goes on and on!

FS: If you had one final pitch for the book, what would it be?

CS: Without trying to toot my own horn, I really like the characters in the book. They seem very real to me and people (with the exception of Melton) that I’d like to know. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on the characters so, apparently, many others feel the same way. So, if you want to take a journey through some dark places with characters that you can identify with and would consider friends, buy the book!

A Grave Every Mile: A John Holmes Thriller is on sale now. Make sure to get updates on the book and Mr. Strunk’s other works at his website ( and at his Facebook page.