Arson investigator uses experience

Novel by Marietta native takes a page from author’s real life

Marietta native Don Eifler created the fictional character of Jon Hamer, a Southeast Ohio arson investigator, as the lead in his first novel, “Murder in the Redbrush.” But while the character is fiction, Eifler, who writes under D.E. Eifler, didn’t have to look too far for inspiration. He spent nearly three decades himself as an arson investigator, covering a territory that spread from Marietta to Jackson County.

His novel can be found online at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Locally it is available at White Oak Pharmacy in Barlow, Green Acres of Marietta, 128 Front St., and Shrivers Pharmacy in Zanesville, Crooksville and McConnelsville.

Question: What’s your novel about?

Answer: It takes place mostly in Jackson County, Ohio and goes all the way to Marietta. It’s about a fire/arson investigator in Southeast Ohio in 1981, Jon Hamer. He covers a large area, all the way down to the river in Marietta. The central case is a robbery and a murder covered up with an arson. He brings a young lady into the case, Liz Carter, when he hires her to be the coroner’s investigator. Then there’s a detective with the sheriff’s office he’s worked with for many years, Dave Jeffers. The three of them work on this case and in the meantime, there are several other cases, too, and there’s a romance between the arson investigator and the coronor’s investigator.

Q: Are there places in the book that local people might recognize?

A: All the geographical places are all real places. All the towns, the road names, you can find them on the map. People who have read the book have told me they can remember being in those places.

Q: What’s the significance of Redbrush?

A: There’s a three-county area around Jackson County where in order to make iron they used to cut trees to get charcoal. They would clearcut the trees and the first thing to grow back would be the sumac tree. The leaves would turn bright red and it was known as Redbrush. I took the title from that.

Q: This was the first novel you’ve written?

A: It was the first and I have the second one done in the series. It’s written but it has to be sent to the publisher and edited.

Q: What inspired you to write the first one?

A: I worked in law enforcement for 37 years. A lot of times you’re sitting in the detective bureau or the squad room after your shift and you’ve had crazy things happen. Someone will put their feet up on the desk and say “Well, somebody ought to write a book about it.” So I finally did it.

I started out writing non-fiction about my experiences and then I decided making things up was better. The cases are inspired by actual cases but things are changed. (Washington County Sheriff’s Det. Lt.) Jeff Seevers asked if he was Dave Jeffers. I said “Well, I don’t know…”

Q: Can you tell me a little about what you did in your career in law enforcement?

A: For the last 28 years of it, I was an arson investigator for the State Fire Marshal. I retired nine years ago. Essentially it was the same as Jon Hamer with the travel area from Marietta to Jackson. Prior to that I was a deputy sheriff in Jackson County.

This book shows law enforcement in a small county. It shows how it is. Dave Jeffers is a one-man detective bureau. It’s about Appalachia and a small department.

Q: Have your friends in law enforcement read the book? What did they think about it?

A: I’ve gotten a lot of really good comments from people. Some say they can’t put it down.

Q: Do you know when the second book will come out?

A: I’d like to send it to the publisher in January and that would mean it comes out in June. I also have a rough manuscript for a third one. The first takes place in 1981, the second skips to 1988 and the third is in 1993. It’s the same three characters and we add some new characters each time and in one book one character tragically dies.

Q: Did the writing process come easily to you?

A: I was working at a 4-H camp that was closed in the winter so I wrote it over three winters. It came pretty easily but there were times when I just couldn’t do anything and would put it aside for a few weeks. And then there were times when I would wake up in the middle of the night and go type something.

Kate York conducted this interview.

About Don Eifler

¯ Age: 64.

¯ Residence: Barlow.

¯ Occupation: Retired arson investigator; current maintenance manager at Glenwood Retirement Community.

¯ Family: Wife, Shawn; Five children; Three stepchildren; Seven grandchildren.

Source: Don Eifler.