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Local News

Q&A: Local mystery author, College of DuPage instructor discusses new novel

GLEN ELLYN – College of DuPage adjunct earth science instructor and Carol Stream resident Rick Polad recently completed his third Spencer Manning mystery novel, “Harbor Nights,” which follows his first two books, “Change of Address” and “Dark Alleys.”

The novel was released in May, and Polad is now in the process of authoring the fourth book in the series.

Suburban Life news editor Anna Schier recently sat down with Polad to discuss the writing process.

Schier: What was it that drew you to mystery?

Polad: One of the first books I ever remember my dad handing me was a mystery by Agatha Christie and I then devoured all of them … I just loved it, the suspense and the characters were wonderful, they were interesting, kind of conflicted characters … I liked sitting with the book and trying to solve the problem, you know – can I figure it out before the end?

Schier: Tell me about your protagonist. Who is Spencer Manning?

Polad: Spencer is, pretty much, me ... He's conflicted in that he's not perfect, so he's got some problems … His parents die in the first book and that's affected his life and affected his relationships. And he's not always right, but he's out there trying. He wants to help somebody who's down ... In each of the books, he's helped somebody who was down … He's grown through the books. He knows he doesn't know it all and he makes mistakes, but he learns from his mistakes. And he's got friends in the police department, his dad was a police chief … He's a fun, likable, smart man.

Schier: Tell me a little bit about what your writing process is like.

Polad: I try to be very methodical. I try to sit down every day and writing something, even if it's 10 minutes, or if it's an hour. I find that I work better when I just do it when the mood moves me. I don't have a script. I know how the book's going to start and I sometimes know how it's going to end, but I don't have any idea what the middle is going to be. And the middle – new things crop up as I write, it's very bizarre … It kind of writes itself, which is kind of strange, but it takes me places I wasn't expecting.

Schier: What do you think is the key to a good mystery novel?

Polad: The key is to give enough clues along the way that the person doesn't feel cheated at the end, and you want to give some red herrings, so you want to lead them in the wrong direction, but not so much that they're mad at you.


Buy the book

To purchase any of the Spencer Manning novels, visit

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