4 - Why Shossling? In the book, there is a family named Shossling who are members of an underground "New World Order" controlling dynasty. The name Shossling means sapling in German. I chose the name because of a French family known as the Plantards. A member of that clan claims that his family is part of a long-standing branch of the Morovingian dynasty. The word “plantard” is French for sapling.
3 - Patriarch swap! In the first book in the series, Extreme Unction, we are introduced to a neighbor of Schwartz’s named Zvi Moreck. The only thing we know about him in that book is that Schwartz doesn’t like him. He was initially conceived to be revealed in this book as the ultimate head of the secretive dynasty. His name is an amalgam of Moriarty, the villain from the Sherlock Holmes stories, and Zeck, the villain in the Nero Wolfe stories. However, although he remains a character in book one, I abandoned the idea of making him an arch-villain before I completed that first book, and the character has not appeared in any of the stories since. However, he will be making an appearance in the next book, a collection of short stories tentatively titled Hard Boiled. I won’t say more now, except to say readers may learn a little more about why Schwartz dislikes him.
2 - Schwartz's fat disguise. All of the books in this series carry on the conceit that Schwartz is the grandson of Nero Wolfe (the detective in a series of mystery novels by Rex Stout) which is itself based on the existing theory that Wolfe was the son of Sherlock Holmes. In the middle of this book, Schwartz allows himself to grow morbidly obese as part of a disguise when he goes undercover. This idea was itself borrowed from both the Holmes and Wolfe canons. Holmes has an obese brother named Mycroft, and Wolfe is himself morbidly obese. However, Holmes is extremely svelte and it is hinted that Wolfe was at one time quite thin. Therefore Schwartz’s ability to quickly gain and lose weight is an inherited family trait. His willingness to transform himself for a case is also a nod to Holmes who frequently altered his own appearance – often times quite drastically.
1 - Why flowers? The cover for the paperback version of this book was shot at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh by my girlfriend. The books are set in Pittsburgh, so I thought it fitting to use a photo shot there; but the photo contains a very specific breed of flower. The yellowish white flowers and the pinkish flowers above them are orchids, a breed of flower favored by Nero Wolfe who grew them in specially built greenhouses on the roof of his Manhattan brownstone. So the cover is a double homage.
For more info on Five Secrets and all of the other books in the series, click here.