Sunday, December 2, 2012

Portrait of a Dead Guy

 Larissa Reinhart
I like to write quirky characters. I come from a town so small it’s considered a village just chock full of interesting people. Or maybe because small towns make for greater visibility, certain folks just stand out more than in cities and suburbs. I’m often asked if any of my characters in PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY are based on people I know. Nope. Not a single one. They’re amalgamations of certain character traits and personalities I’ve observed over the years of watching and listening (I put my anthropology minor to good use). Except one. There is one character who is based on someone I saw. On a television commercial of all places.

Actually a commercial for Direct TV that came out a few years ago. Do you remember a rich man with a heavy Eastern European accent that owned a tiny giraffe? His lavish home (or the room we saw) dripped with gilt. Scantily clad women draped themselves around his person. And his wealth seemed to come from dubious legitimate enterprises (at least in my mind). Remember that guy with the bwah-hah-hah laugh?

I loved that commercial for some reason. Maybe it was the tiny giraffe. Maybe it was the accent. But as I began to write PORTRAIT -- which by the way takes place in a small, Southern town with a short, sassy, Southern artist heroine. Not in Little Russia. Or even Big Russia for that matter -- this Direct TV man of unknown ex-Eastern Bloc country origin inserted himself in my Southern mystery. His name is Maksim Avtaikin, but he’s known in the little town of Halo, Georgia, as Mr. Max. Or the Bear. Or just Bear. His English is not too good, but he can still give a double entendre like nobody’s business.
Max moved to Halo because of his love of the Civil War (or the War of Northern Aggression if you live down here). He collects Old Reb stuff and even has a cannon parked in a flower bed. His home looks like Tara on steroids. When Cherry first meets him, she compares his physique to a linebacker and his manners to a hairy beast. She dislikes him until they have a conversation after a fiasco funeral where she learns that he is an art lover and can flirt in French. She gets to use the word touché and feels chemistry brewing between them. However, it’s not your usual romantic chemistry. She feels she has found a worthy nemesis.

And what does Max feel? Cherry has no idea, but he seems to enjoy “partaking of the head games with Miss Tucker,” as he might say. And what happens to the Bear, as Cherry likes to call him? I can’t tell you that. I don’t do spoilers. But I will tell you there’s no tiny giraffes, which I know may disappoint some Direct TV fans.

In Halo, Georgia, folks know Cherry Tucker as big in mouth, small in stature, and able to sketch a portrait faster than buckshot rips from a ten gauge -- but commissions are scarce. So when the well-heeled Branson family wants to memorialize their murdered son in a coffin portrait, Cherry scrambles to win their patronage from her small town rival.

As the clock ticks toward the deadline, Cherry faces more trouble than just a controversial subject. Her rival wants to ruin her reputation, her ex-flame wants to rekindle the fire, and someone’s setting her up to take the fall. Mix in her flaky family, an illegal gambling ring, and outwitting a killer on a spree, Cherry finds herself painted into a corner she’ll be lucky to survive.

Larissa considers herself lucky to have taught English in Japan, escaped a ferocious monkey in Thailand, studied archaeology in Egypt, and survived teaching high school history in the US. However, adopting her daughters from China has been her most rewarding experience. After moving around the Midwest, the South and Japan, she now lives in Georgia with her husband, daughters, and Biscuit, a Cairn Terrier. 

She loves small town characters with big attitudes, particularly sassy women with a penchant for trouble. PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY (Henery Press, August 28, 2012) is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier finalist, a 2012 The Emily finalist, and a 2011 Dixie Kane Memorial winner. When she’s not writing about southern fried chicken, she writes about Asian fried chicken at her blog about life as an ex-expat at You can learn more at

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I’d like to encourage readers to enter my giveaway contest. Up for grabs is an e-copy of PORTRAIT OF A DEAD GUY, book one of the Cherry Tucker Mystery Series. Leave a comment and you're automatically entered. Include your email addy so I can get in touch with you should your name be selected at random. The winner will be announced on my blog ( on December 11, 2012. Good luck!


  1. Larissa,
    I'm so glad you could be here today. Welcome!

    1. Thanks for having me on, Patricia! Happy to be here!

  2. Larissa, I loved learning about the Bear. What a great character.

    1. Thanks Marilyn. I love him, too. He's up to dubious do-gooding in book 2 as well. I have so much fun writing his character!

  3. What a great way to get a character into your novel. Max sounds like a fun one.

    1. Thanks! I think he's fun. He's hard to read, so I'm never sure what he's going to do. Maybe it's just the accent.

  4. I have the biggest fictional crush on Max. I lurve him! He's funny and smart and you can tell there's more to him than meets the eye. Love the characters of Halo, too. You did a fantastic job capturing the small town vibe, Larissa.

  5. What a great story behind Maksim Avtaikin, especially how the TV commercial was the seed for the Bear. Enjoyed your post.


  6. It's great if find out more about your book, sounds like a great read!

  7. I love quirky characters also and small towns, coming from one myself. Thank you for this give away.