COD Instructor Publishes Second Mystery Novel

Dark Alleys image

By Jennifer Duda

College of DuPage Earth Science instructor Rick Polad wears many hats. He teaches part time, volunteers with the Coast Guard, plays trumpet with the DuPage Community Jazz Ensemble and is a published mystery writer. He recently released his second in a series of Spencer Manning mystery books, “Dark Alleys,” through Calumet Editions.

Polad earned his English degree, but worked in sales for 20 years before deciding to pursue a different path. Following his interest in astronomy, he volunteered at the Harper Observatory before pursuing a master’s degree in Earth Science from Northeastern Illinois University.

The Carol Stream resident said writing was never an aspiration, but rather the culmination of various plot lines and notes he’d been jotting down for years.

“My first book was written over the span of 10 years. I’ve read mysteries since I was a kid and at some point a character developed in my head. I started taking notes and eventually finished the full story,” Polad said.

The P.I.s introductory case involving a child’s unknown paternity spawned additional ideas and work on “Dark Alleys” began soon after. The second book finds character Spencer Manning investigating a series of prostitute murders that may or may not be related.

The son of a Chicago police captain, Manning attended the police academy, but decided on a career as a private investigator instead. With his background, he’s close with a number of cops and lawyers and his adventures take him to locations throughout Chicago, Polad said.

The characters aren’t based on anyone in particular, but Polad said it’s likely certain aspects of their personalities are based on himself or people he knows. Inspiration, he asserts, comes from everywhere. Polad already has started work on his third book and has ideas for a fourth.

Writing mysteries can be a challenge, particularly when placing clues so readers can come up with their own theories, he said. It’s editing, however, that proves a more harrowing experience. Polad said he relies on help from friends, including COD faculty members Tom Tallman and Theo Darden who served as editor and consultant, respectively.

“I reread my second book 30-plus times before I had others read it and found mistakes every time,” Polad said. “Editing is difficult and a different skill set, but it’s what makes the story really come to life.”

Click here for more with author Rick Polad.