SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — The mustache is gone and his hair is a bit grayer but longtime journalist and TV newsman Phil Bayly is still captivated by a good story; especially the ones he’s writing for others to read.
Since retiring from his morning television spot on WNYT Newschannel 13 three years ago, Bayly has turned to one of his other passions, writing. He is a published author with two books to his name.
The lifelong skier’s latest book, Loving Lucy: A Murder on Skis Mystery, the second in a series, was released last week by Shires Press, a division of Northshire Bookstore. The first book in the series, Murder on Skies, was published by Shires in 2019.
The plot of his latest book includes a manhunt for a New York State senator accused of murder and the theft of sacred treasures from cemeteries in Colorado. Both investigations lead to a Colorado ski resort.
Bayly spent 31 years with the same local television station as a reporter and morning anchor after moving to the Capital Region in 1986. As is the case with many people in the TV news business, he held a number of positions in radio and television in several locations before settling down. One of them was Colorado.
“I came to the area thinking it was going to be a cup of coffee,” he said last week. “It was the capital of New York State, Mario Cuomo was governor, and like a lot of people, we all thought he was going to run for president.”
In the end, Bayly found he liked the area. He liked the quality of life, the easy access to good skiing and the proximity to major cities. Today he and his wife, Carolyn, live in Clifton Park, where they raised their now-grown kids.
A native of Evanston, Ill., Bayly holds a journalism degree from Colorado State University where he got his start in over-the-air media while still in college. Prior to coming to Albany he held reporting jobs in Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Wyoming. His Murder on Skis Mystery series takes plots from events he covered through the years and combines them with his love of skiing and the locations he knows well.
“I’ve been a ski bum all my life,” he said. “When the last bell rang in high school I moved to Colorado. I took classes in the morning and skied in the afternoon.”
Bayly got his start in news with a job at a radio station in Denver and later moved to another station in the northern part of Colorado as the news director. Soon after he got a call from someone he’d met in Wyoming who asked if he was interested in moving into television news.
“I thought my stories were good and I wanted them told,” he said. “I thought TV was the future.”
All through the job changes, Bayly continued to feed his love of skiing. That passion continued upon moving to the Capital Region. A longtime masters-level skier, he used to consistently win a ski race competition held each year, mainly focused on publicity, among local TV news people. He chuckles about those races to this day.
While writing news copy for 40 years, Bayly says he had been writing fiction on the side for his own pleasure. That side passion morphed into a murder mystery based in Montana. Upon retiring he gave the manuscript an update and shopped it around as Murder on Skies.
The manuscript eventually became his first book and introduced readers to Denver television reporter, ski racing enthusiast, and Saratoga County native, JC Snow. It also introduced reads to Denver Police Detective Steve Trujillo, a member of the city’s large Hispanic population.
“Skiers and snowboarders have a zest for life. They’re a smart bunch that likes to read but there isn’t really much for them to choose from,” he said. “I’m trying to fill that gap. Anyone who enjoys a murder mystery will like this book and if you have a passion for winter you can imagine yourself in this story.”
His latest book follows JC Snow and Trujillo once again. The setting is a fictional ski area called Snow Hat in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. JC Snow is following up on a cold case and the clues lead him to Denver, Fort Collins, Colo., Loveland, Colo., upstate New York, and Hancock, Mass.
“I look through files of stories I covered and that helps to get me started,” Bayly said. “The latest book includes two stories that have been banging around in my heard for 20 years.”
Though written by Bayly, the books are really a family operation as his wife gets the first read and is allowed to make initial edits. She also designed the cover of the latest book. Together, the couple works in conjunction with Shires Press to market it.
In discussing his search for a publisher Bayly said he was after a firm that would give him freedom along with an editor, one that would let him do it the way he wanted it done.
“Shires is a small operation trying to become bigger,” he said. “Would I like a larger company, sure, but I like the freedom. When I set out with the first book I needed to find somebody who understood my story, liked being outside, and understood what it’s like with a cold wind beating against your face. Shires Press does that.”
Bayly said he has books number three and four in the series ready to go and they will have Capital Region locations.
Loving Lucy: A Murder on Skis Mystery and Bayly’s debut novel Murder on Skis, are available for sale at independent booksellers like Northshire Bookstores and online sites including Amazon.com, Indiebound.org, and Barnesandnoble.com.
Loving Lucy: A Murder on Skies Mystery is available also from the website: https://www.murderonskis.com/ for $21.95.