Marilyn Meredith's Rocky Bluff Characters

Our returning guest, F. M. Meredith, a/k/a Marilyn Meredith, writes two police procedural series. Dangerous Impulses is the ninth in her Rocky Bluff P.D. mysteries and Raging Water was the twelfth Tempe Crabtree, resident Deputy Sheriff of Bear Creek, in the mountains of California. Marilyn (I’ll just call her by her given name) describes her police procedurals as on the cosy side. Yet all the classic elements are present: convincing policemen performing as expected, an intriguing (even exotic) setting, and crackling-good story. Her procedurals are ‘exotic’ to me—a writer of NYPD procedurals–since set in small rural locales far from Big Cities. Rocky Bluff, the setting of Dangerous Impulses, is a fictional beach community between Ventura and Santa Barbara. Like the best of our genre, though—McBain’s 87th Precinct, Wambaugh’s LAPD—Marilyn uses a recurring ensemble of cops and locals so we settle in and feel at home while following their latest trials, public and private.

Robert Knightly

Because this is the last blog stop for my tour for Dangerous Impulses (#9 in the series) I asked for a suggestion as to what someone would like to know about the series. The answer was, "What inspired the characters?"

Officer Doug Milligan is the main character in the first book, Final Respects. In many ways he resembles my son-in-law who served 15 years in law-enforcement before losing his life in the line of duty. Not in looks of course, nor in the unhappy marriage, but they have similar attributes and definitely the same kind of love for the job. Anyone who has read any of this series knows life changes Officer Milligan matures and he becomes Detective Milligan.

Doug’s first wife’s description is the same as a neighbor of ours who no matter what she wore looked like a model. Fortunately, our neighbor had a much better personality.

Lt. Tom Gilbreath is the main character in Bad Tidings (second book) and I must confess he’s a dead ringer for a good friend who was not a police officer but our kids’ high school vice principal and truant officer. His wife in the book has many of the personality characteristics as my friend’s wife—but that’s where the resemblance ends.

And yes, I did fashion the most dreadful Cal Sylvester in Fringe Benefits after an obnoxious cop who lived in our neighborhood years ago. No, he didn’t figure out a plan to kill his wife, but he wasn’t a nice man.

Stacey Wilbur has a lead part, if there is such a thing in a book, in Smell of Death. She doesn’t look like anyone I know, but her strength and perseverance are based on two female police officers that I know. Despite her vow to not date anyone of the Rocky Bluff P.D. she becomes interested in Doug when she helps him on two cases.

No Sanctuary features two ministers, composites of pastors I’ve known over the years, and two churches—one is exactly like one I went to as a kid, the other similar to one I visited.

Rick Strickland plays a part in all of the books, a handsome womanizer who is a publicity hound—at least that’s how he starts out. Life change for him in the first book and he probably matures more than any character in the series—though he does have his shortcomings. I don’t really know anyone like him, but the publicity hound aspect came from a police officer my son-in-law told me about.

Gordon Butler debuts in Fringe Benefits. He’s not really like anyone I know, but he’s become a real person to me. Despite, or perhaps because of, being a by-the-book police officer, nothing ever turns out well for him and he ends up being the butt of many jokes. In No Bells, the love of his life turns out to be the main suspect in a murder case. He’s become a favorite among my female readers.

Abel Navarro has a big family and I’ve used his family’s dynamics in many side plots in various stories. When it came time for a new Sergeant to be chosen, he knew Felix Zachary would probably be the one—though it doesn’t work out that way. Both these men have personality components and family problems that I’ve witnessed in one way or another among my relatives (yep, I borrow from them too).

Though in most cases, the characters are not based on people I know, I’ve taken a bit here and there from the different officers and their families that I’ve known from the time we had many police families in our neighborhood. The police officers that I’ve met through my association with the Public Safety Writers Association have given me ideas too. (I met Robert Knightly at a PSWA conference—and no, none of the characters in my books are based on him.)

Once I’ve decided upon a character and started writing about him or her—no matter what inspired me, the character will morph into a different being who takes on a life of his or her own.

A bit about the latest in the series, Dangerous Impulses:

An attractive new-hire captivates Officer Gordon Butler, Officer Felix Zachary’s wife is befuddled by her new baby, Ryan and Barbara Strickland receive unsettling news, while the bloody murder of a mother and her son and an unidentified drug that sickens teenaged partiers jolts the Rocky Bluff P.D.


The person who comments on the most blog posts on this tour may have a character named after him or her in the next Rocky Bluff P.D. crime novel or choose a book from the previous titles in the series.

Rocky Bluff P.D. Series:

Though each book in the Rocky Bluff P.D. series is written as a stand-alone, I know there are people who like to read a series in order. From the beginning to the end:

Final Respects
Bad Tidings
Fringe Benefits
Smell of Death
No Sanctuary
An Axe to Grind
Angel Lost
No Bells
Dangerous Impulses

Marilyn Meredith
On Facebook and Twitter as MarilynMeredith