Sir Robert Winchell may soon be joining the ranks of Easy Rawlins, Charlotte Justice and Aaron Gunner, some of the most famous fictional African-American murder mystery detectives.
Winchell is a California-born, Harvard-educated, Scotland Yard detective who has been knighted by the Queen of England for his investigative skills. With a dependable reputation for solving crimes, the discrete but ever-observant Winchell has become the go-to man who powerful people call upon when they are in need of a detective.
The gregarious but astute Winchell debuted in A Murder in our Midst where a college friend’s apparent suicide leads him to uncover many secrets in the friend’s family including a motive for his murder. In his next appearance, Death Comes for the President, Winchell unearths that the leader of the free world’s apparent poisoning is connected to a series of unexplained deaths at Washington DC’s prestigious Walter Reed Medical Center.
The mastermind behind the fictional but fascinating Sir Robert Winchell is the loquacious, charming author, William Turner, a former supervisor of workman’s compensation claims with the state of California. Upon retirement, Turner put bureaucratic paperwork behind him and turned his attention to creating Winchell, who he freely admits is his alter ego.
“Nothing had ever come easily for me. I always had to struggle to accomplish what I have,” says the 71-year-old Turner, who lives in Lancaster, California, an hour north of Los Angeles. “Winchell is much the same way. We’re both African-American, both educated, both have well-to-do friends.”
As an African-American man, Turner is conscious of race relations, a theme that recurs throughout the novels. Winchell being African-American sometimes impedes his investigation, despite his impressive credentials.
The two novels have earned Turner glowing reviews, several hardcore mystery readers offering the ultimate compliment, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming.” Consequently, Turner’s dedicated fans are anxious for more. Turner is busy working on two more Winchell mysteries, The Corpses Beneath the Tree, where Winchell stumbles upon a murder while on vacation, and Murder in the Vicarage, about the death of a priest.
Writing has been a passion for Turner ever since his college days at Boston University where he majored in English. When a professor wrote a nasty comment on one of his papers, “It’s amazing the rate of illiteracy here in the United States,” Turner was devastated. However, he consulted friends who advised him to develop more style for his writing. So, he began voraciously reading to observe the style of other writers.
“Little did I realize that I had been influenced by Agatha Christie because those were the books that I read, the sentence variations, the technique she used and all that,” says Turner, who lists Christie as his favorite author.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, but raised in Boston, Turner headed to California after college, tired of the bitterly cold New England winters. He had just $5 and a MasterCard credit card in his pocket when he arrived, but soon got a job as a clerk in the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office.
His advice to novice writers is to stick with it. Occasional self-doubt is inevitable, but don’t let that discourage you in the long run. Just keep honing your craft.
“The conversations you have, the everyday encounters, those are things that trigger the imagination and get it started,” says Turner who has one son and three grandchildren. “The mind, the more you think about it, it fills in the other portions and you take it there. I never commence writing until the story has fully developed because that way you will preclude writers block.”
His first two books, “A Murder In Our Midst” and “Death Comes For The President” are available on Amazon