| October 2010
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By Corrie M. Anders
Ed Rosenberg, the protagonist in A Killing in Real Estate, Noe Valley novelist Michael Castleman’s latest murder mystery, has a dilemma that many San Franciscans can appreciate. Rosenberg and his wife want to trade their newly renovated but small house, located on Fair Oaks Street, for a larger residence in the heart of Noe Valley. Problem is, the sale of their Victorian cottage won’t net enough to allow the family to move up the hill.
Rosenberg is a local-history columnist for a San Francisco newspaper. While the journalist is pondering his options, a colleague at the paper, a real estate writer, is brutally murdered when someone smashes a statue of Jesus onto his head. The death of his friend sends the reporter into the crosshairs of a Hatfield-McCoy-style feud that involves kinky sex, Mission District gangs, arson, real estate shenanigans, and the nasty dockworkers strike of 1934 that brought labor leader Harry Bridges to national prominence.
Published last month, A Killing in Real Estate (MacAdam/Cage, $24 hardcover, $13 paperback) is Castleman’s third Ed Rosenberg novel. The story hopes to engage readers on three fronts.
“The main story is a fairly standard whodunit and why— which has to do with real estate development in the Mission District,” says Castleman.
The second is the Rosenbergs’ housing dilemma, “which is a common enough thing in San Francisco,” says Castleman. “They can’t pull enough money out [to buy a bigger house], and Ed feels stumped.”
And then there’s history. “Part of what I’m trying to do is make San Francisco history come alive in the context of these novels,” says Castleman. “I’ve always been saddened by the fact that the big dock strike of ’34 is sort of forgotten. In labor circles it’s well known. But if you ask the average person about Harry Bridges, they’ll say, ‘Who’s that?’”Castleman, 60, lives with his wife, Anne, a doctor, on Alvarado Street, across from another mystery writer, Cara Black. After a nearly 40-year career as a health writer—he’s the author of 12 health books—Castleman says he is transitioning into full-time fiction. He’s already started to pen his fourth Ed Rosenberg novel, this one revolving around the Haight-Asbury and the 1960s.
In writing A Killing in Real Estate, Castleman says he was merely following the adage to “write what you know.” He and his wife once restored a tenants-in-common building on Elizabeth Street, where they lived for seven years, and recently completed a major renovation of their current home.
Castleman says he has no plans to move. But if you’re wondering whether Ed Rosenberg and his wife found a new pad, you’ll have to read the book or ask Castleman directly. He’s on a book tour this month, and will make a Noe Valley appearance Sunday, Oct. 31, 3 p.m., at the San Francisco Mystery Bookstore, 4175 24th Street. For information about the event, call 282-7444 or visit the store’s website, SanFranciscoMysteryBooks.com.
Author Michael Castleman