A VERY GOOD QUESTION                          FOR SUCH A CONFUSING ISSUE!

Though I have written "softer literature under my married name, Mary de la Peña, I think my given name of M.J. Hatch suits writing in the mystery genre much better. So, I now present myself as I was born, M. J. HATCH (no, you need to look for the name that goes with the initials—nothing will ever be that easy for you the reader)

Blame my twenty-six years as a criminal defense lawyer, or maybe it’s just a deep personal quirk that I need to explore the darker side of humanity and fear that can drive any one of us to commit the ultimate crime—murder.  In defending more than 20 murder cases, I have spent way too many hours with homicide detectives, and though being on the “dark side” of the table as a defense lawyer, I have come to admire their tenacity and ability to spend hours, days, and even months pulling on the threads of evidence to eventually solve the crime. Thus, I write with special affection for the men and women who patrol our streets and keep our communities safe, and especially those who investigate the darkest part of human nature—crimes against persons.

The voice on the other end of the line sounded familiar, but I could not place it, even when he                   even when he introduced himself.

“Hello,” he said, “This is RJ Wagner, have I caught you at a bad time?”

I am a lawyer, and I was on a much needed vacation at my favorite place on the Central Coast of California—and the name did not ring a bell, other than I had a former client by the name of Wagoner. It only added to my confusion, leaving me speechless.

Again the voice said, “Hello, this is Robert Wagner, am I speaking to M.J. Hatch?”

I was really confused. Yes, I use M.J. Hatch when writing the Detective Jake Swanson murder mysteries, but I rarely use Hatch, so again I did not answer.

Finally the voice said, with a chuckle, “Listen, this is Robert Wagner, husband to Jill St. John, is this M.J. writer of that scoundrel Detective Jake Swanson?’

Suddenly the name and everything it meant came clear, I was speaking to the Robert Wagner, one of my idols.

My world tilted on its axis, as I breathlessly answered, “Yes, this is she.”

“Well, young lady, you’re a hard person to get a hold of,” he said. “I want to talk to you about your Jake Swanson character—I love him!”

By this time I was nearly fainting, having forgotten to breathe when I realized to whom I was speaking. But, somewhere from the outer universe I heard my voice, or anyway I think it was my voice, said, “Cool, I like him too.”

The incredibly rich voice of a trained actor chuckled and said, “Yeah, there’s a lot to like about him.”

Of course I chuckled back, and then said, “So, what can I do for you?”

“Well, listen,” he said, “I think Jake would make a really great character, and I want to talk to you about possibly developing a series around him. What do you think?”

Trying even harder to be cool, after all, I am from California—land of the terminally cool, I answered, “Cool, I think that could definitely be arranged.”

And, that is how this incredible journey began, a simple phone call from Robert Wagner out of the blue.
Soon to be a made-for-TV Movie Pilot and Series by Robert Wagner

Jake Swanson is the perfect embodiment of the California beach “dude”—all surfer with a casual attitude towards authority and life, while hiding an intense need to find justice for the victims of his city.  

The son of a Newport Beach socialite, Jake is at home with the űber wealthy, but is just as happy hanging with the bartenders, cocktail waitresses, and all who serve the upper class citizens of the wealthy California enclave, making him the perfect detective to solve the crimes of his city. 

MURDER MOST BLONDE introduces the continuing character, Detective Jake Swanson. Born to a local socialite and raised in Newport Beach, California, Jake Swanson knows how to use his good looks and laid-back attitude as his unique way of interacting with people from all walks of life. In between surfing the waves and surfing the local bars, the forty-two-year-old detective is faced with solving the murder of two blondes happening in less than twenty-four hour in his well-heeled coastal city. Other than the color of their hair, the victims apparently have nothing in common--one is a returning socialite trailing scandal everywhere she goes, and the other is a child-like teenager just looking for a party. Unfortunately for Jake Swanson, he had contact with both victims just prior to their deaths. Worse yet, he is friendly with one of the suspects, and is a tenant of the other. With suspicion of complicity flowing heavily in his direction, he is forced to partner with the newly-minted detective, Melissa Sanchez, a former drug enforcement officer, who disdains him and the decadent lifestyle he embraces. Derision and sparks fly between Jake and his new partner as he comes to terms with his age, her youth, and that the unsolved murders that point heavily in the direction of two of Jake's known associates, endangering his luxurious life-style.


Ah, life’s good. There’s nothing better than a late summer’s night out on the Balboa Peninsula of the California Newport Beach coast, especially when there’s a front row seat to the channel of water making up the Newport Bay.

Newport Beach is known for its large man-made bay, surgically enhanced women, rich old men and, to keep things interesting, a few predatory older women known as “cougars.” It is the place where the extremely wealthy come to live and play. They build their mansions, one on top the other, park their million-dollar boats in the slips next to their waterfront palaces, and spend their days trying to outdo their neighbors in wealth, toys, and marriages. It is also the place where the wish-they-were-rich come to hang out—hoping some of the wealth will rub off onto them. Young girls come to find a rich husband; young men come looking for a wealthy widow or widower to take care of them. Wannabes come looking for the next victim to scam, until they are scammed themselves and slink back into the shadows.

However, Newport Beach, with all of its social idiosyncrasies, is still a beautiful place to be. And me? I was lucky enough to live in the midst of all of it. 

Here it was, a Friday night in late August and I was staying home. But then, who wouldn’t want to be home when you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery and beautiful women, with a chilled martini in hand and a dog at your feet? 

Yep, my life was good.

My name is Jake Swanson, and I am a senior detective with the Newport Beach Police Department. People wonder how a detective can afford to live in an apartment over a three-car garage on the Peninsula in Newport Beach, California. But then most cops don’t have a friend as a landlord who was convicted of multiple counts of federal racketeering and drug running. Fortunately for me, he left me in charge of his house. In exchange for making sure the house fronting the water was rented, I got to live in the apartment rent-free.

Double fortunately for me, my other close friend, Sally Deming, is a woman who runs a discrete escort service and needs a place for some of her girls to live while they finish their various college degrees. How great is it that I have five women living in the four-bedroom house; they are five extraordinary women who are not only beautiful, but have brains and a desire to keep their lives filled with homey smells of great cooking and soft music. Oh yeah, they also think I’m funny and brave and cute. Not bad for a man with forty-two years of hard living, chasing women, waves, and the bad guys of Newport Beach.

Like I said, it was a Friday night, the sun was setting, and the fog decided not to appear that night. A soft offshore wind blew in from the eastern desert, brushing back the clouds and keeping them beyond the breakwater. The clear skies heated up the coast, making the weather perfect for the impromptu deck party.

I snuggled down even further into the wicker chair’s soft cushions and let the New Age jazz music from the house wash over me. I held a perfectly chilled martini in my hand and listened to the chatter of the three women who were home that night. Of the five women, two had gone off to ‘party’ with clients, and I was left to watch over the others.

My dog Mandy lay at my feet. As I wiggled my bare toes in her fur, I again marveled at her shiny brown and white long-haired coat. It was soft to the touch, and the thick white ruff around her neck enhanced her beauty. She had her sharply pointed shepherd-dog nose tucked into her fluffy tail, and her eyes were closed in apparent contentment. Life was now good for her, too. She seemed to be over the grief of losing her young master several months earlier when he decided to commit suicide instead of facing prison for killing his mother and uncle. He had left Mandy in my care just before putting the gun to his head and taking his life, leaving me with his sorrow and gray matter splattered all over the front of my shirt. Just thinking about Michael Sandini’s death took me to my dark place, a place where all my failures and fears waited to consume me.

Great New Detective Series
​by Glenn Talbott

I loved this book. A great detective story with a great cast of characters: good, bad, and straddling the line. The mystery and suspense maintained throughout, with a fairly large group of bad guys that kept you guessing who did which crime. Colorful descriptions of the characters and scenery brought them to life. (Since I lived in the Newport Beach area for years, I can attest that Ms. Hatch really nailed the setting.) The flawed hero reminded me a little of Jesse Stone. I get the feeling that this could easily be developed into a TV police procedural series of which I am a big fan. I can’t wait for the next Jake Swanson book.

Jake gets in a tight spot 
By Gerald Ronan

M. J. Hatch, criminal defense attorney and author, knows of whom she writes -- good guys and bad guys. Her Jake Swanson detective mysteries are set in her Southern California beach playground. She knows the spots and the players. So does Jake -- part detective, part lovable beach bum. What appears to a homicide becomes much more as the layers are peeled back. M. J. takes you to where it transpires; there are the right measures of action, intrigue, mystery and sex.

Great Read
​by Sandy

M.J. Hatch slowly draws you into the plot until you feel like you are part of the chase to catch the killer. Since I live in Southern California I know several of the places mentioned in the book so it felt as if I was part of the plot.
 “I think Jake would make a really great character, and I want to talk to you about possibly developing a series around him. What do you think?”  ~ Robert Wagner
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