In this first case in the new Hugo Sandoval Eco-Mystery series, an old-school San Francisco building inspector with his trademark Borsalino fedora, must reluctantly venture outside his beloved city and find his sea legs before he can solve the mystery of how a 90-ton blue whale became stranded, twice, in a remote inlet off the North Coast.
When a blue whale is struck by a research vessel off the north coast of California, San Francisco’s eccentric building inspector Hugo Sandoval is catapulted from his precious San Francisco waterfront nearly two hundred miles north to the headlands of a troubled sheep ranch in response to a call for help from his cetologist daughter. This episode is set on the turbulent Mendocino Coast against the backdrop of a failing fishing fleet, illegal cannabis grows, and the struggling town of Fort Bragg. At the precarious Chicken Cove, he grapples with the connection between a red tag posted on the historic ranch and the decomposing marine mammal at the foot of its cliffs.
The new eco-mystery series tracks the collision of the man-made environment and nature while simultaneously charting Hugo’s own personal evolution as a husband, father, and native son. A charming cast of secondary characters who revel in the unassuming man’s perceptive abilities, while overlooking his many idiosyncrasies, provide assists in solving the mysteries. We meet Carmen, his corporate lawyer ex-wife; T. Ray, his best friend and fellow sleuth; his intuitive assistant Mrs. Dunne who steers their ofice on Otis Street, as well as the many regulars who populate Sandoval’s San Francisco. Immersed in the noir of The City, the resistant Hugo Sandoval is a media darling, reluctant bachelor, and people’s hero fighting the good fights in a modern era that—with each requested permit—attempts to eclipse the old San Francisco Sandoval loves.
Inspiration for the
I can identify three points of inspiration in writing HUGO. First, the stories were born in San Francisco where I remodeled commercial spaces – offices, bars, restaurants. Working deep in the heart of this old city, the stories were told by the buildings themselves – from a live gas line from the 1920s in the ceiling of a flat in North Beach to evidence I reveal in the first book, THE ROTTING WHALE, concealed in the deteriorating seawall beneath a historic waterfront saloon.
All the stories are immersed in the history of the City and in the regions Hugo explores. For example, the ecological confrontations at the core of Hugo’s adventures originally surfaced when I learned of the stranding of a blue whale on the Mendocino Coast in 2009 and were further inspired by what the landed community chose to do about it.
Certainly not riding in the backseat of inspiration is a critical third element borrowed from the people I’ve tripped across during my life. Hugo himself is a hybrid, a mixed race son of immigrants born in the saddle between Chinatown and North Beach; the native San Franciscan I could never be. Living for years in that diverse community, I’ve surrounded Hugo with characters I had come to know, ordinary folks, all of whom have a puzzle in their path and their own story to tell.
Working as a hands-on, independent woman contractor in San Francisco for twenty years, Jann Eyrich resided in the legendary shacks of Telegraph Hill where the writer was gifted anchorage to the City, along with insight into the lives of the characters she continues to create. First as a documentary filmmaker, then as a screenwriter, Eyrich’s stories always seem to be set within an environmental foot-print. Later, as a writer and an activist in Sonoma County, Jann heard about a real blue whale stranding itself on the Mendocino Coast in 2009 and, with that, the adventures and character of Hugo Sandoval were born.
Visit the series website at https://hugomysteries.com