Ashland retiree has new career as a successful mystery writer

Retired record company executive Rick Bleiweiss finds himself at 79 celebrating a new career as a successful mystery writer.
January 24, 2023

Author Rick Bleiweiss to hold book talk, signing at Bloomsbury on Feb. 20

By Jim Flint for Ashland.news

It was no brave new world for Rick Bleiweiss.

After all, he had dabbled in writing for most of his life. But, at age 77, he had no great expectations for “Pignon Scorbion & The Barbershop Detectives,” his first attempt at a mystery novel reminiscent of Agatha Christie and the golden age of detective fiction.

Imagine his surprise when the book became a Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association “Buzz Book,” an Amazon Editors’ Pick, a debut pick by Barnes & Noble and Publishers Weekly, and went to number one in five mystery categories on Amazon.

It also spawned a video game and is under development as a TV series.

Bleiweiss will read from his second Pignon Scorbion novel, “Murder in Haxford,” at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20, at Bloomsbury Books, 290 E. Main St., Ashland.

“Murder in Haxford,” a Pignon Scorbion Mystery by Rick Bleiweiss, will be front and center at a book talk and signing by the Ashland author at Bloomsbury Books on Feb. 20.

A talk, Q&A, and time to sign copies will follow.

The retired record company executive now works for Blackstone Publishing in Ashland as head of new business development. Blackstone published his first mystery novel.

“I was fortunate that when my agent went out with the manuscript we received offers from multiple publishers,” Bleiweiss said, “And one of them was Blackstone.”

It was his first choice.

“I believe in the company and the people,” he said, “And the offer was a very good one.”

The novel was published in February 2022 in hardcover, large print, audiobook, e-book, and now as a trade paperback.

The hookup with Blackstone was serendipitous. A friend, Christopher Toyne, called and asked if he could stay with Bleiweiss and his wife, Deborah, while he met with Blackstone Audio to discuss licensing audio rights to “Winnie the Pooh,” which Toyne owned.

When he met with Craig Black, Blackstone founder, and Black’s wife, Michelle, Toyne told them about his Ashland friends, both of whom had been New York record company executives.

“Craig called us the next week,” Bleiweiss said. “We met over lunch, and he hired both of us to be on Blackstone’s board of directors, to consult to the company and to work with then-president Josh Stanton (now CEO).”

Rick Bleiweiss, seen a in a screen shot from his YouTube interview with author Catherine Coulter, which is available on Bleiweiss’ YouTube channel.

Deborah retired within a few years and Bleiweiss joined the Blacksone staff.

Bleiweiss was a busy retiree. He served on the boards of the Ashland Independent Film Festival and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, heading its business alliance, and served as a member of the Southern Oregon University President’s Advisory Council.

When the Blackstone opportunity presented itself, he was ready and happy to share the knowledge and experience he had acquired during his business career.

Bleiweiss started writing early on. He wrote a play at age 15 and published his own local sports newspaper in his early teens. He wrote scripts for his student films in college, and then a science fiction rock opera in the late 1960s.

Later on, he wrote a music column for Weight Watchers Newspaper, pieces for anthologies, and freelance articles for newspapers and magazines. After retiring, he wrote columns and stories for Ashland’s Sneak Preview.

Bleiweiss also has written and performed music all his life. He was in a rock band as a teen and acquired a New York City cabaret card so he could play in bars as an underage performer.

He attended the University of Miami three years and then transferred to New York University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in film making. Martin Scorsese and Bob Balaban were among his classmates.

He later received a master’s degree in communications from NYU and participated in an accelerated program for senior executives at Harvard. Before he retired, he worked for Colpix Records and then served as general manager at Pleasure Records, a pop label.

Serendipity also led to writing his first novel.

It wasn’t long after Bleiweiss retired and moved to Ashland in 2004 that next door neighbor Peggy DuVall, a published poet, invited him to join her writers group, Write On!. It consisted of novelists, memoirists, non-fiction writers, and poets.

“I joined the group and was truly inspired by the level and quality of the works they each produced,” he said. “I started writing short stories shortly after joining the group.”

One day, out of nowhere, the idea for the beginning of the Scorbion novel popped into Bleiweiss’ head.

“I quickly sat down at my computer and began typing out what I saw playing in my mind. When I read the beginnings of the story to the Write On! members, they encouraged me to keep going and turn it into a novel,” he said.

Having been a fan of mystery novels all his life, and especially enamored with the styles of Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle and their detective characters Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes, Bleiweiss started writing Scorbion as a contemporary of theirs.

The cover of ‘Pignon Scorbion & The Barbershop Detectives’

“I adopted the manner of writing and language they used back in their era,” he said. “I also tried to infuse some of the humor Robert B. Parker had in his ‘Spenser for Hire’ series, especially among the quirky barbershop detective characters.”

In the first novel, Pignon Scorbion attempts to solve a series of crimes and murders, using the local barbershop as an interrogation room, assisted by a colorful band of amateur “deputies.”

In “Murder in Haxford,” during an unusually heat-filled 1910 English summer, Scorbion and his colorful group of amateur detectives are presented with a series of intriguing crimes they attempt to solve, again using Haxford’s barbershop for their interrogations.

The second in the series has already garnered five-star Goodreads reviews and has been endorsed by Al Roker, Catherine Coulter, Rex Pickett, and other notable authors and celebrities.

Bleiweiss is in the midst of writing the third book in the series.

The news about adapting the first book for a TV series is encouraging.

“Scorbion is under development by First Wind, a European film and TV production company,” Bleiweiss said, “which has reported that they already have interest from a U.S. cable channel and one in Britain as well. They are currently writing scripts and casting actors. My fingers are crossed that it makes it into production.”

Other projects he’s working on include a business advice book, a memoir, and short stories. He’s also editing and updating his magical realism and science fiction books.

Writing and creating music has continued to be part of his life. He has a home studio in his office, using LogicPro, a midi keyboard, an electric bass, 12- and 6-string guitars, and an older black Fender Stratocaster. The office doubles as a video studio.

“Over the last few years, I’ve written a few pop rock songs and recorded them with Ashland’s Jake Howard singing the vocal parts,” he said. “I also recorded a country song with a Nashville country singer. In all cases I use a digital drum track and play all the other instruments and their parts myself. I enjoy the process and the creativity.”

How does he manage to fit his Blackstone job and everything else into days with only 24 hours? That’s a mystery that even Scorbion and his barbershop detectives might not be able to solve.

Reach writer Jim Flint at jimflint.ashland@yahoo.com.

Watch a trailer for Rick Bleiweiss’ second detective novel.

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