It Would Be The Perfect Murder

Barna William Donovan
Barna William Donovan Author Interview

Fatal Pose follows an ex-bodybuilder and current P.I. who’s investigation of a bodybuilders death stirs up dark secrets. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

As a child of the 70s and 80s I grew up on a good, nutritious diet of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jean Claude Van Damme action films, that whole era of muscle and body-oriented action heroes. When I started working out and lifting weights very seriously in college to what would become a well-worn tape of the “Rocky IV” soundtrack and reading magazines like “Muscle and Fitness” and “Flex” I became more and more intrigued by the entire culture of the true hard-core, professional bodybuilders. Having read several memoirs by athletes in the sport, I also became fascinated by the darker and more dangerous underbelly of the sport, the glimpses into the sport not discussed by the glossy magazines. Then having read about the deaths of several bodybuilders as a result of very dangerous dieting and dehydration routines before contests, my writer’s imagination started going to work. Having been a big mystery fan for a long time, I began thinking of how someone could use the severely weakened and unhealthy condition of a pre-contest bodybuilder as a cover for murder. What if someone used a poison that mimicked a heart attack on an athlete who had strained and starved and dehydrated himself and was already teetering on the edge of a serious physical breakdown? It would be the perfect murder.

When I recently looked at the state of bodybuilding, I once again ran across a startling list of athletes who had just died over the last several years because of the extreme toll the sport had taken on their bodies. So, I thought it was time to revisit an idea about the use of a bodybuilding contest as a cover for a murder and “Fatal Pose” is the result. The high-risk lifestyle of an elite-level bodybuilder is still very much a reality.

Marino is an intriguing and well developed character. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I wanted to create a detective whose adversaries would underestimate him, but I wanted my main character underestimated for a reason we haven’t seen before. People would take a look Gunnar Marino’s exterior and immediately jump to conclusions. They take a look at the massive, ripped body, at the hypermasculine affectation, and they immediately think they are dealing with a mental lightweight. For a society that’s as disdainful of strong masculinity as we are right now, ever on the lookout for that “toxic masculinity,” the male bodybuilder must obviously be a big, dumb oaf. So, in the course of the story, when Laura Preston thinks she pulled off the perfect murder and is in the clear after the police write the incident off as a freakish accident, she certainly fears nothing from a musclebound ex-bodybuilder private-eye poking around the case. Even though Laura herself works within the fitness industry, it’s easy for her to assume that Marino must have the IQ of a ten-pound dumbbell just because of his appearance. She’s certain that she has nothing to worry about.

It was for this very reason that I wrote the story as an ‘inverted mystery.” It’s not a “whodunit” but a “how’s he gonna get her.” We read the story wondering how the detective will solve what appears to be a perfect crime with no apparent clues at all pointing to the killer. We know that Laura Preston is a murderer from the beginning of the story and the book becomes this dance between her and Marino, two adversaries circling each other, with Laura underestimating her opponent until it’s too late, until it becomes painfully clear that under the tough guy, over-pumped façade is a cunning, wily mind.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

I wanted to examine the nature of bodybuilding as a sport that has self-creation, self-determination, re-invention at its core. I was also interested in theme of building a façade around ourselves, the surface images we create vs the reality that’s carefully buried underneath. Bodybuilding is a sport that is ultimately about display, and the display of a physique that is spectacularly beyond the norm. It’s a sport that tries to create flesh and blood renditions of physiques one can only see on otherworldly comic book superheroes. So, I definitely admire those athletes for their single-minded drive to reinvent themselves so totally as to look superhuman. I am a big fan of the sport.

It was also my interest in the concept of the radical reinvention that made me represent female bodybuilders thorough Erika Lindstad, the ex-girlfriend Marino rekindles a relationship with. The accomplishment for women in bodybuilding is even greater than for men because when they build massive muscles they need to find an even greater degree of inner strength since female standards of appearance are even narrower than those for men.

Yet as a storyteller I am also intrigued by what kinds of obsessions drive a person to such extremes. I wanted to examine if it was a trauma, a loss of some kind, inadequacy or a personal history of victimization that might drive athletes to become what they are in a sport like bodybuilding. So, in each of the major characters in the book, Marino, Laura, and Erika, we see this duality of the ideal-looking façade, the perfection attained through sheer willpower but driven from a darker place of loss and trauma.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I am working on a sequel to “Fatal Pose” and hoping to bring back Marino and Erika in another mystery within the next year.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

Fatal Pose by [Barna William Donovan]


Venice, California: Where you’ll find the hottest beaches, hottest gyms, and hottest bodies. This is where ex-bodybuilder turned private investigator, Gunnar Marino, runs his business.

The World BodyBuilding Federation: The most successful health and fitness empire in the world. But WBBF President of Operations, Laura Preston, suddenly finds herself in the middle of a blackmail scheme, with bodybuilder Brad Holt threatening to expose a shattering secret from her past.

Where two adversaries meet: After Holt dies at a contest from what appears to be a dangerously unhealthy dieting regime, Marino is hired to look into whether or not his demise might have been the perfect act of murder. But the deeper Marino digs into the case—pressed by a personal obligation to Holt’s sister—the more unsettled he is by Holt’s background, questioning the morality of seeking justice for a corrupt murder victim and pursuing a prime suspect who might have been a victim herself.

A showdown no one might walk away from: Finding himself in an escalating battle of wills and wits with Laura Preston, Marino is aided by a group of athletes he employs as an investigative staff, and Dr. Erika Lindstad, his former lover and ex-bodybuilder in her own right. But the more troubled Marino gets by the case, he realizes that he has no choice but to see the investigation to its conclusion…because suddenly he and everyone he cares for are targeted for death.

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About Literary Titan

The Literary Titan is an organization of professional editors, writers, and professors that have a passion for the written word. We review fiction and non-fiction books in many different genres, as well as conduct author interviews, and recognize talented authors with our Literary Book Award. We are privileged to work with so many creative authors around the globe.

Posted on October 12, 2021, in Interviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.


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