Shaffer is the guest speaker at this month’s Writers’ Rally, which the Friends of Library will hold on Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Osterneck Auditorium in Lumberton. Shaffer will be speak about his experiences as a private investigator, a publisher and a writer.
The Friends of the Library sponsor the series, which brings in a new author every month for 10 months out of the year. Patricia Terrell, an author who is on the board of directors of the Friends of the Library, organizes the schedule by inviting authors she has met on her book tours or through her network of friends who are authors.
The character Harry Caine has been in four of Shaffer’s books: “Paid in Full,” “Burned,” “Dead Right,” and “Wake-up Call.” The fictional Caine is an orphan who was born in Monterey, Calif., and was raised in San Jose.
After running his one-man agency for 15 years, Caine moves to Washington D.C., But he can’t handle the job, builds a boat, wrecks it and starts a new life in Miami investigating murders, international payback schemes, bombs and cross-country crime.
Shaffer and his main character have many things in common. They both have lived in the San Francisco Bay area of California, and they both lived in Miami. They both want a big change in their life and move across the country and they both investigate a murder in Kernersville. Events in his books are based on real life, but they are fictionalized to fit Harry Caine’s world.
The murder investigation that Harry Caine did in the book “Dead Right” was a fictionalized version of a real murder that happened in Kernersville. Harry Caine solves it.
The P.I. job keeps Shaffer well supplied with ideas and material since he is required to keep his case files on every investigation he does. Some things just stick in your mind, he said.
“For instance, I had a case in California that was with a little old 80-year-old woman who swore that her husband was trying to kill her and was finding her toothpaste injected with poisoning,” Shaffer said. “That got into ‘Paid in Full.’”
A former director of engineering, Shaffer retired from his job in Silicon Valley working for a company that made design equipment for electrical engineers. He opened a computer store that failed, then decided to start romanticize his life.
“I saw an ad in the paper for an entry level P.I.,” Shaffer said. “I stayed with them for five to seven years, then got my own license.”
Shaffer’s experience as a private investigator found him doing surveillance, finding missing persons and working on criminal defense cases.
It also led him undercover. While investigating a mortgage company, Shaffer brought in all of his papers and qualified for the mortgage legitimately. He also had to work in the most profitable areas of his industry — documenting cheating spouses, something he didn’t like doing.
“You’re always poking around in someone’s private life, which is always interesting,” Shaffer said. “I love getting a case that sends me to a town where you go poking around and using your own wits and ingenuity.”
Shaffer continues to do background cases for two clients in California, but he mainly sticks to his writing and publishing and jazz drumming these days.
“You get to a certain age and you don’t look right doing surveillance,” Shaffer said.
Shaffer has also been running a publishing company — so much for retirement — with a partner who has published 43 books in the past three and a half years from 23 authors.
He’s also working on another book in the Harry Caine series called “A Criminal Defense” that should be published in a year. The story is loosely based on an investigation that is currently active, but raises the question that echoes in the conscience of many law enforcement professionals and officers of the court.
“How much work should I do to defend the person that I know is the killer?’’ Shaffer said.