When an injury ended Anthony Luchacz’s 40-year trucking career, he turned his attention to writing mystery novels.
As he drove, Frank Anthony Luchacz could see the writing on the wall. It was inevitable, he felt, that his name would one day be listed on one of the NATSO billboards for faithful truckers who died on the road.
“That’s how I figured I would leave this world: a devoted trucker,” says Luchacz, 62, who drove for 40 years. But a different fate was in store for Luchacz. In 2001 his 4-million-mile driving career ended when a 96-pound mirrored hutch – part of a load of furniture he was delivering – fell on him and crushed five vertebrae in his neck.
“I didn’t know if I was going to live,” says Luchacz, who now lives in Robertsdale, Ala. After all those millions of miles, only a few speeding tickets, numerous safety awards and a no-accident record his driving life was over because he could not turn his head far enough to the left or right to be a safe driver. Luchacz was left with a question of what to do with his life and how to make a living.
“I’ve led an interesting life,” Luchacz says, so he decided to write that life down.
But after reading over the memoirs he had penned, he decided he could do better at writing mysteries.
“I’ve always been a puzzle solver,” Luchacz says. So he took a stab at concocting a set of characters that would solve mysteries, and his Curtis Lake Mysteries series was born.
He relies on members of his family, experiences from his trucking days and people from his past to inspire the characters and their lives.
Luchacz met some shady characters growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., where he was left at an orphanage shortly after birth. He ran away at age 8 and lived on the streets. He saw crime first hand, but never got into any himself, he says.
Luchacz is careful to ensure his stories could be played out in real life. He does all his research on his home computer, using websites to find accurate law and medical information.
“Nothing is phony,” Lachacz says. “I like being truthful with it. My characters and stories are true to form.”
He modeled his writing style after his favorite author, Robert Tanenbaum.
“It makes people keep turning the page,” Luchacz says. “If you put the book down, you want to pick it up again.”
Readers always tell him how hard it is to put one of his books down, he says.
His novels continue in a series with the second one picking up where the first one left off and so on. There are currently four of his Curtis Lake Mysteries, published by iUniverse, in print and a fifth one, Bulletproof, on the way.
“I’ll write until children stop reading or until I get too old,” Lachacz says.
His neighbors always tell him they can’t wait for the next one to come out, says Luchacz, who writes under the pen name, Frank Anthony, “because if I wrote under Luchacz, it sounds like you’re sneezing,” he says.
Lachacz writes his books backward. “I write in reverse,” he says. “I think of a crime, solve it, then write a book on it.” Two crimes appear in each one of his books, one of which starts off the novel.
Readers will not find added detail about the house each character lives in or the exact setup of the scene. Lachacz takes a different approach.
“I don’t write any of that gobbley gook,” he says. “They are a manifest of a court trial.”
He also takes precautions to make sure his books are readable for all ages.
“You have my personal guarantee of no vulgarity or explicit sex,” he says. “My books, children can read them without their parents fearing.”
Luchacz plugs a few scenes in that the adult reader can interpret how he wants to. “You can leave it at that. You don’t have to be disgusting,” he says. “Putting nasty words in is ridiculous.”
He hopes to encourage children to read his mysteries through a program he and his wife of 15 years, Victoria, organized with their local library and different funding organizations.
“I love children,” he says. “And I’m too old to have any more.”
The program, called Kids Love a Mystery, kicked off in February. Lachacz signs copies of his books, and he and his wife read mysteries to the children. Each child receives a copy of the book to follow along with the mystery. The kids try to guess who committed the crime, Lachacz says. Then they have the opportunity to enter a writing contest and win prizes.
As much as he enjoys writing, trucking is the work he’s proudest of, Luchacz says.
He “fell” into trucking after four years in the Air Force. “I never intended to be a truck driver,” he says.
But he loved his trucking days and misses them a lot.
“My favorite is whenever the kids would wave for you to blow your horn,” he says.
One habit left from his trucking days is his nonstop coffee drinking. He typically goes through three coffee pots a year. His wife is trying an old percolator this year, but it’s ready to give out, he says.
“The only other vice I have, besides chasing my wife, is smoking cigarettes,” Luchacz says. “But it’s just a nervous habit.”