Smiling man with dark hair and a salt-and-pepper goatee

Richard Bertuch interview

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 – 9:30 a.m.

Richard Bertuch was the editor of Zoe Chase's weekly column.

Detective Armstrong interviewed him at The Oxford Weekly Planet's offices.


  • Detective T. Armstrong
  • Richard Bertuch

Detective Armstrong: Would you state your name, address, and place of employment, please?

Richard Bertuch: Richard Bertuch. I live at 125 Filmore, and I'm an editor at The Oxford Weekly Planet.

Detective Armstrong: Can you tell me about Zoe Chase and the work she did for your publication?

Richard Bertuch: She was one of our columnists. The basic premise of her column was the struggle of a young writer as it parallels every person's life struggle. She talked about rejection letters, getting through writer's block, how events in her personal life affected her writing career. We didn't think of her column as being precisely for writers only. We wanted it so anyone could understand. A vehicle to expose non-writers to the experiences of a young author so they could see how those experiences compare to their own.

Detective Armstrong: And how long did this column run?

Richard Bertuch: Every week for quite a while.

Detective Armstrong: Was it a popular column?

Richard Bertuch: Without a doubt. She achieved a bit of local celebrity through that column. She had a light-hearted approach to her topics and always found a way of injecting little bits of life into her pieces. So even though she might be writing about plotting out a story, she would mention the little boy down the street, mowing the grass to earn money for camp. Those types of details really drew the readers in.

Detective Armstrong: What did you think of Zoe personally?

Richard Bertuch: She was a nice lady. I mean, she was definitely determined, and some people got really irritated with her. At first, when she first started writing for us, we had some knock-down, drag-out fights when I would edit her pieces. God forbid something she wrote might get cut, but lots of writers are like that. It was a sign of her determination.

Detective Armstrong: What did you think of her book contract?

Richard Bertuch: That was certainly a major event for her.

Detective Armstrong: But, what was your opinion? Did she deserve it?

Richard Bertuch: I guess. It's hard to say. So much of what gets published, you just look at it and wonder whatever made someone think this was good. But even though you yourself might not be blown away by someone's work, you're still happy for their success. More power to them.

Detective Armstrong: Did you think her fiction was any good? You seemed to think highly of her columns, but what about her other writing?

Richard Bertuch: I was a bit surprised at the portions of the book I saw. I'm no mystery fan, so maybe I don't even know what I'm talking about. But the book seemed to be pretty good, and it was a fairly significant leap from a lot of her other fiction. I was impressed by her growth.

Detective Armstrong: Did you think there was anything weird about it?

Richard Bertuch: About what?

Detective Armstrong: This sudden improvement.

Richard Bertuch: Not really. It happens a lot. Often with writers, a light bulb just goes on. Something clicks, and they break through to a new level of ability. It's really not that unusual.

Detective Armstrong: What was Zoe's last column?

Richard Bertuch: She had a piece about how exciting it was to sign the contract, to know that her work was going to be published. She was supposedly working on a new column about what kind of direction her work would take after the novel was published, sort of a "what do I do now?" kind of thing. But we never received it, so I don't know for sure whether that's what she ended up writing about.

Detective Armstrong: Were you expecting it?

Richard Bertuch: Yeah. The deadline had come and gone, and Zoe was always really good about making her dates. Of course, I had no idea what had happened to her, but I was starting to get pretty mad. I couldn't find her, couldn't get any information.

Detective Armstrong: Did you ask anyone else about it?

Richard Bertuch: I called Peggy LeClaire to ask her about it. Peggy almost always typed Zoe's work. But she didn't answer so I left a message and never heard back from her. Of course, it was the next day, I think, when I learned what had happened to Zoe, and then the question of her column's whereabouts became utterly unimportant in comparison.

Detective Armstrong: So, you never did see her last column?

Richard Bertuch: No. If it had turned up in the office somewhere, I would think someone would have mentioned it to me.

Detective Armstrong: Okay. I think that covers everything I need right now. We'll be in touch if we have any more questions. Thank you for your time.

Interview ended – 9:47 a.m.



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