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Kittanning author wraps mystery around history

| Friday, June 15, 2012, 8:57 p.m.
Jeff Boarts shows the cover of his newly published book, 'A Flash of Murder,' from a shipment he received at his Kittanning office.
Louis B. Ruediger | Trib Total Media
Jeff Boarts shows the cover of his newly published book, 'A Flash of Murder,' from a shipment he received at his Kittanning office.

Building a fictional plotline can be as complicated as working on an internal combustion engine. Jeff Boarts has a pretty decent idea how to do both.

Manager of Paul's Auto Parts in Kittanning, Boarts, 57, recently published his first e-book, a mystery set in his hometown. "A Flash Of Murder" tells the sordid tale of a serial killer striking in the 1950s as the town celebrates the bicentennial of the French and Indian War's Battle of Kittanning.

"I love history, so I set my books in time past," said Boarts. "I'm familiar with the area and the time, so it's enjoyable to revisit a Kittanning that once thrived with business and industry."

Although Boarts graduated with a degree in English literature from IUP more than three decades ago, "A Flash Of Murder" is only his second attempt at penning a novel.

"When I got out of college, I got caught up in real life," said Boarts. "I got married right out of college and my dad offered me a job at the family business. Writing a book became easier and easier not to do."

Boarts said his priorities shifted when his father passed away in 2005.

"I started to think about his life -- what he had done and what he wanted to do," said Boarts. "Then it made me think about my life. I thought, 'If something were to happen to me today, what would I wish I'd done?' That was the fire that was lit under me to finally write my book."

When he realized his first attempt, "Ho Ho Homicide," was too long for publishers' tastes, Boarts focused on "A Flash Of Murder," which he started three years ago.

"The first draft took around nine months," he said. "I spent the next two years editing and rewriting. Between my job and time with my family, I typically manage to work on my books during lunch and late at night. I manage between 20 minutes and several hours."

A member of the writers' groups Pennwriters and Sister In Crime, Boarts was workshopping his book with peers and experts when he realized publishing the story as an e-book was a better option for him than the old-fashioned print approach."

"Royalities are much higher with e-publishing," said Boarts. "Plus, the author retains all rights. If sales of my book are high enough, I may then be able to approach an agent to be published traditionally."

In the meantime, Boarts is enjoying the positive reception he's seen so far for "A Flash of Murder," which is available for Kindle via Amazon.com or in print through Amazon's CreateSpace. His daughter, Emily, designed the artwork for the cover.

Boarts will be signing copies at Kittanning News on Market Street between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday June 23. After that, it's back to work on revisions of "Ho Ho Homicide" and the start of book No. 3.

"I'm anxious and excited to get started on it, but I must get (the first book) done first," said Boarts. "Books are often like characters and have a mind of their own."

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