“For the love of God, kill Bill Walton first.”
That’s the climactic line from the first chapter of Friend of the Devil, a detective novel that casts the 7-foot tie-dyed raconteur as a gumshoe, and promises to be the first in a series of “Bill Walton Mysteries.”
The book, which is both very simple and deeply weird, is the latest literary mashup in the Jane Austen-kills-vampires vein—but with Walton solving a Seattle kidnapping in between announcing Pac-12 basketball games, accompanied by his long-suffering partner in the broadcast booth, Dave Pasch. (That’s Pasch pleading with gun thugs to shoot Walton before him.)
The book’s author, James Kirkland, 38, is a Northeast Portland native now acting and writing screenplays in Los Angeles. He was in the stands of a Lakers game when the idea struck him.
“I love Jack Reacher novels,” says Kirkland. “Detective hero airport paperbacks are my favorite kind of books. I chew through them.”
Versed in the lore of Walton from childhood, he decided the garrulous Blazers legend could carry a potboiler. “Walton seems like the kind of guy who, if a friend came to him in need, he would do anything to help,” Kirkland says. “So I just took that to the most extreme and fictional place possible, of him fighting crime.”
Kirkland has already started the second book in what he hopes will be a trilogy. The next location: Hawaii, where Walton will sleuth while broadcasting the Maui Invitational.
“I’ll keep spinning Bill Walton yarns,” Kirkland says, “until they stop me.”