Cherchez le Crook

April 14th, 2014

It’s been a year since I wrote here, so this is by way of a catch-up.

Like all crime writers, I love crooks. And they frighten me.

I love them because they’re so much fun to write. They make their own rules. As children they paid no attention to the hopscotch squares chalked on the sidewalk, and as adults they pay no attention to the Ten Commandments and the million lesser laws and quibbles the Commandments spawned. They bubble and seethe, crablike, with malicious energy. They don’t have to be politically correct. They can offend people.

Laurence Olivier, seething as Richard III

They frighten me because they have a way, unless they’re watched very closely, of walking away with my book.

Our heroes have to behave, at least until we’ve pushed them to extremis. Even then, most of the time they can’t get any fun from the damage they do — that might cost them the reader’s sympathy. Our crooks, on the other hand, can win at chess by sweeping the pieces off the board and then shooting the person sitting opposite, shrugging it off as a striking variation on the Sicilian Opening.

Would you bet on black or white?

We’ve seen this taken to unfortunate extremes lately, especially in the serial-killer genre, with sadism and murder serving as straight lines for witless wisecracks. I think this is dishonest writing and actually violates the writer’s agreement to take the reader’s intelligence seriously. On the other hand, some of these books sell quite well, so what do I know?

But I understand the appeal of that energy. I have to admit that I’ll be digging away at a book, trying to figure out where in the world I’m tunneling to (I don’t outline and generally have very little idea what’s going to happen until it actually does) and all of a sudden the crook tears open the page and climbs through the hole, and I experience a burst of electricity. Crooks and villains seem to bring their worlds with them, while I feel as though I have to work to fill in the worlds of my more sympathetic characters. In the fifth Poke Rafferty book, The Fear Artist, which came out in 2012,  the reader doesn’t get anywhere near the villain of the piece until page 141, if you don’t count a four-line exchange of dialogue in the second or third chapter.  And then, the villain just puts the whole book in his pocket and saunters away with it.

And all the villain, Haskell Murphy, does in his first close-up is get off a plane, climb into the back of a car, and be driven to his house, and within the four or five pages that drive took, I learned so much about him that I had to rewrite the first part of the book. That’s energy. It felt like I’d been digging away at the story with a tablespoon, and all of a sudden I was holding a jackhammer. Murphy even brought a whole new character with him, his daughter, whom he calls Treasure, and she changed not only the ending of the book, but also the book that will follow it this coming November and the book that follows that one.

But, as much fun as Murphy was to write, I couldn’t give him the book. It’s a series, and most readers expect the really important series characters to be alive at the end of the book. If I’d given Murphy his head, it would have been Armageddon.

So I dealt with it. I dealt with it by writing a new series with a hero who’s a crook, a burglar named Junior Bender who moonlights as a private eye for other crooks. When a crook gets ripped off, he or she is not going to call the cops. They’re going to call Junior.

I wrote the first two Junior books, Crashed and Little Elvises, as ebooks, but pretty much the moment I finished the third, The Fame Thief, they suddenly got picked up for everything – publishing (Soho), film, and audio (Blackstone). So the fun I had writing them is apparently detectable on the page.

Right now I’m writing the seventh Poke Rafferty, which is called The Hot Countries (the sixth, For the Dead, comes out this November) and the fifth  Junior Bender, King Maybe. (The fourth, Herbie’s Game, is due this coming July.)  I’m hoping that the energy will average out between the two series. As much as I love writing the Pokes, and especially the family, they’re less fun (read: harder work) than the Juniors. Almost everyone in the Juniors is crooked to one degree or another, and they’ve all got that energy. Writing them is like playing with matches—the old matches that you see in Westerns and noir movies that would strike on anything. I never know when the page is going to catch on fire.

Crooks. What would we do without them?

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 3:42 PM

History and Fiction Combined: Jean Henry Mead

April 12th, 2013

Jean Henry Mead is a national award-winning photojournalist and novelist. She writes the Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series, Hamilton Kids’ mysteries, historical fiction and nonfiction. She began her career as a news reporter and has served as a news, magazine and small press editor. Her magazine articles have been published domestically as well as abroad and she has published 19 books, half of them novels. She has done some superb collections of author interviews, focusing on mystery writers and writers of westerns.  

Jean:  My new release, No Escape, The Sweetwater Tragedy, is a Wyoming historical mystery/suspense novel. It’s the story of an innocent young woman and her husband hanged by the greedy cattlemen who wanted their land. The incident was worldwide news in 1889, and books have been written vilifying the couple as well as films that depicted Ellen Watson-Averell as an outlaw called “Cattle Kate.” I spent 20 years researching the story on and off, and here it is at last.

Tim:  What elements of this tragic story most appealed to you?

Jean: I was mystified when I read about the hangings of a young Wyoming couple while researching a centennial history during the mid-1980s. The more I read and researched, the more curious I became because there were such conflicting reports in the 1889 newspapers. James Averell was reportedly an honeset, law-abiding citizen who served as justice of the peace and postmaster in Sweetwater Valley. The cattlemen who hanged him and his wife Ellen claimed that Averell ran a rural bawdy house and accepted rustled cattle in exchange for his wife’s “services.” After considerable research, I learned that the cattlemen wanted the Averell’s homestead land, which they had previously used for free grazing. In the case of Ellen Watson-Averell, news reporters confused her with Kate Maxwell, who ran a dance hall and house of prostitution in the Casper area. So, after sifting through conflicting research while writing other books for more than twenty years, I was finally ready to write the true story of “Cattle Kate.”

Tim:  How do you think the meaning of this story might be different for your readers than it was for those who could have read about it when it happened?

Jean:  A cattlemen-controlled newspaper in Cheyenne broke the story and other newspapers around the world repeated the lies, which were believed by nearly everyone, including Ellen Averell’s own father. I got into an argument with Ellen’s great nephew, who said that his aunt had been a prostitute. The story was believed by nearly everyone until recently when George W. Hufsmith’s nonfiction book was published, which dispelled the lies. Hufsmilth had been commissioned to write an opera about the hangings and was so intrigued by the story that he spent the next 20 years researching the murders. His research, coupled with my own, enabled me to write No Escape, the Sweetwater Tragedy.

Tim: You’re really telling two stories here, aren’t you? Can you summarize each in a few sentences and tell us why you chose to do a sort of double narrative and how you feel the two stories relate to, or illuminate, each other?

Jean:  I didn’t want the novel to end with the hangings, (I dislike sad endings), so I created a single woman homesteader to live through the events which followed the murders. Susan Cameron is a composite of some 200,000 women who decided to try homesteading on their own during the late 19th century. Some were successful, others not. Susan settles on land adjacent to the Averells and befriends them, so she’s able to accurately describe what happened before and after the victims’ deaths while endangering her own life in the process.

Tim:  When you’re writing a novel based on an historic figure, does it change your approach? What do you feel are your responsibilities to the person whose life inspired the story? Do you ever feel circumscribed or fenced in by fact in a way that you’re not in fiction?

Jean: I’m very careful to stick to historical facts and personal characteristics (as near as can be determined), which probably stems from my training as a journalist. In my first historical, Escape, a Wyoming Historical Novel, I researched members of the Wild Bunch for a number of years to make certain that I knew their true characteristics before I wrote the book. I was even more cautious with No Escape because there were so many conflicting reports about the Averells. I didn’t feel fenced-in because the plot was already laid out for me, so I just tried to accurately fill in the pertinent details once I felt I knew the actual people well.

Tim:  And finally, what do you hope readers will take away from the book?

Jean:  That greed can drive people to murder as well as other serious crimes. In the days before Wyoming became a state, wealth and political connections could shield a killer from prosecution, especially in the territory where law and order were all but nonexistent. Five years later, the Johnson County War occurred, when 52 hired gunmen converged on the small town of Buffalo, Wyoming, determined to wipe out so-called rustlers and town officials. They got off scot free when the president and governor intervened, although they had killed a number of homesteaders. Such was the case of James and Ellen “Ella” Watson-Averell.

The first two chapters of No Escape, The Swetewater Tragedy can be read here on Amazon.com.

Jean’s website is www.jeanhenrymead.com.
Her main blog site is http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 12:09 PM

TWO GREAT WRITERS, ONE GREAT BOOK

March 21st, 2013

Brett Battles and Robert Gregory Browne are both masters.  Both are prolific and versatile writers, both have an extraordinary sense of story and pacing, both create vivid, memorable characters.  Both have also sold lots and lots of books — both in print and electronically, since they’re kings of the ebook universe, with each of them getting to or perilously near the Number One position in Amazon’s global Kindle marketplace.  For a complete list of their books, go to http://www.robertgregorybrowne.com/ and http://www.brettbattles.com/ – and take my word for it, you’ll like any book you choose.  

And now they’ve risked their friendship to collaborate on a new thriller, POE, just now made available in ebook form.  (Paper will follow.)  They’re still speaking, as the interview below will demonstrate, and I’m certain that POE is going straight to the top of the charts.  I’m always curious about how a collaboration actually works, so I asked a few questions.

But first, here’s the official description of POE

After losing her mother to a terrorist attack, Alexandra Poe was devastated when her father—disgraced and accused of treason—disappeared from the face of the earth. Now, ten years and a stint in Iraq later, Alex is approached by a man who has information about her father and wants to help her find him.

But there’s a catch. The man works for Stonewell International, a security firm that specializes in fugitive acquisition. And in return for their help, Alex must agree to run point on an extremely dicey mission. One that will take her behind the walls of a brutal and dangerous women’s prison near the coast of the Black Sea.

When Alex finally agrees, she has no idea what she’s gotten herself into. She may find her father, but she could very well lose her life.

1.   How did this collaboration come about?

ROB:  It came about over a number of years, actually. We had long been talking about doing something together and for a while considered doing a YA idea called LINGER that we never got going, then Brett remembered an old idea of mine and said, how about if we do something with that? And a collaboration was born.

BRETT:  Even then, it took us a while to find the time to start.

ROB: True, and with my natural aversion to work, it probably wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for Brett.

BRETT: Aw, shucks….

Mr. Browne . . . 

2.   Where did the germ of the idea come from?   How did you initially develop it?

ROB:  The idea was one I had developed and abandoned several years ago, but seemed to stick in both of our minds. Brett had always liked the idea and wanted to further explore it. The idea originated when I was looking to develop a series starring a kick-ass heroine, but for whatever reason it just never came together until Brett kind of forced the issue… ;)

BRETT:  I basically waterboarded Rob into submission. He’s okay now. He just doesn’t drink any liquid that’s clear now.

ROB:   Of course, if he had used coffee I would have agree much earlier. Hell, he could’ve just sent me a bag of Jamaican beans and I would have agreed. I’m easy.

3.   When you decided to collaborate, how did you envision yourself working?   At that time, did you anticipate that either or both of you would work more intensively on some aspects of the book than others, or did you always see yourselves being equally responsible for each of the book’s components: plot, character, setting, dialogue, structure, whatever else you can think of?

ROB:  Since this is a series, we decided one of us would write the first draft of one book, then the other would write the first draft of the next book, etc. Once the first draft is done, the other takes it and does revisions, then the polish is handled by the first writer with a lot of feedback and input along the way. As for plot and character, with the first book I had some characters and a very vague plot line, and Brett came in and added more characters and figured out the logistics of the plot structure. He then wrote an outline and we took it from there.

BRETT:  The most important thing was to get that outline done, which was incredibly painful for me since I don’t usually do a lot of outlining. But it was important that we were in sync before the first word of the actual story was put to paper. Also, throughout the writing of the first draft we were in constant contact, bouncing ideas off of each other to keep   the story moving forward. During the rewrite, specifically the polish pass, that was even more true. There were times when it might have been better to just leave a phone line open between us. The real key to doing this, though, was something Rob said right at the start and I whole heartedly agreed with, any ego needed to be left behind. We couldn’t worry about changing the other’s words or having our own words changed. And that’s exactly what happened.

ROB:  Yes, egos at the door. I didn’t want either of us worrying that the other might be offended by any changes we made in sentence structure, whatever. If this was to succeed, we needed to be as ruthless with each other as we are with ourselves.

. . . and Mr. Battles

4.   At what point did you know it was going to succeed?

ROB:  I think I knew when I saw Brett’s outline. He had taken that initial idea of mine and had really given it life.

BRETT:  Really? That late, huh? I always thought it would work from the moment we started talking about writing a book together. But, then again, I am the more optimistic one.

ROB: Hey, cut me a break. The only collaborating I’ve ever done was long time ago, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

BRETT: Uh, yeah. And I had NEVER done any collaborating before, yet I didn’t worry. Again, optimistic one.

5.   Were there surprises about the process as writing continued?   Anything you didn’t expect?

ROB:  What surprised me the most was discovering that our writing styles are relatively similar. I hadn’t really noticed it before. There are things we do differently and a few different words choices we might make, but it got to a point where I couldn’t remember where Brett started and I left off.

BRETT:  Very true. I agree with Rob. Some ways we might string sentences together, a few words here and there, but most of the time it was like, “Did you write this? Or did I?” Which is a good thing.

6.   How would you compare it to working solo?

ROB:  While you don’t have as much freedom in a collaboration to go in whatever direction you choose, there’s a nice feeling that if you don’t figure out a story point or a fix, the other guy will. Our disagreements were infrequent and pretty mild, so it was pretty similar to working solo without having to do as much work.

BRETT:  I’m not sure I’d even call anything a disagreement. We certainly didn’t argue over any point. And Rob is right, the cool thing was that if either of us found ourselves stuck, we’d have the other one to help us work it out. That was great. Kept things moving for sure. I enjoyed the process, and look forward to book two. I also enjoy writing solo, so mixing the two is a great way to keep writing even more interesting.

7.   What does each of you think is the biggest advantage of collaborating?

ROB: Having a sounding board who is as invested in the outcome as you are. And when something’s seriously wrong, there are two brains at work on the problem.

BRETT:  Definitely what Rob said. Plus, if one of you suddenly gets busy or sick or whatever, the other can pick up the slack, and the project can keep moving forward.

ROB: Seriously? You think I’m going to pick up your slack if you get sick? Keep dreaming.

BRETT: ……..

8.   What would each of you choose as the biggest pain in the ass?

ROB:  Well, Brett did most of the grunt work on this first one, so I’m not sure I can say anything was a pain in the ass. For me, anyway. We worked together quite well.

BRETT:  Rob. Wait, what was the question?

ROB: See, I decided to play it nice and not go for the obvious joke. But Brett, not so much.

9.   Looking at the book, now that it’s finished, can you identify (without spoilers) ways in which it’s different than it would have been if you’d written it alone?

ROB:  That’s hard for me to say. Since I don’t usually develop story and character until I’m actually writing the book, I have no idea how the story would have turned out if I had done it solo. Probably not all that different, in the end. Although one of the main characters may not have existed, since he wasn’t part of the original idea. Which is why it was nice to have a partner to dream him up.

BRETT:  Wow, I can’t even remember which character that is. Both Rob and I write thrillers full of action and suspense. POE falls right into that arena, so while I’m sure we both would have made some different choices on our own, our stories probably wouldn’t have diverged far from where we ended up.

ROB: Reminder—the character Deuce, who I fell in love with immediately.

BRETT: Deuce! Right. Yeah, he’s a pretty cool character.

10.   Do the two of you have another one in the planning or writing stage?

ROB:  We’ve just finished this one literally in the last couple days, so the follow up isn’t yet planned. I have an idea or two for Alex, and I’m sure Brett does, too, but we haven’t yet discussed it. We’re still trying to get our head out of this first one.

BRETT:  In the broader sense, yes. POE is the first of a series, so there are aspects of her life that we’ve put in motion which will continue to evolve. Just thinking about it makes me excited to get book two going!

11.   Any solo projects coming up?

ROB: I have been slogging away at a new Trial Junkies thriller called NEGLIGENCE. Assuming I ever finish it (it’s one of those books that doesn’t seem to want to die), it will be out very soon.

BRETT:  Absolutely. I’m working on the seventh book of my Jonathan Quinn series right now. It’s called THE ENRAGED and should be out late May.

POE is available RIGHT NOW at http://www.amazon.com/Poe-An-Alexandra-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00BXTED3C (for Kindle in the U.S.), at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Poe-An-Alexandra-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00BXTED3C (for Kindle in the U.K.) and at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/poe-brett-battles/1046284270 (for Barnes & Noble).  BUY IT!!!

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 6:27 PM

EXCLUSIVE! EXCERPT FROM “BEER MONEY” BY DANI AMORE

February 5th, 2013

Dani Amore is a crime novelist living in Los Angeles, California.  The author of three series, she won the Independent Book Award for Crime Fiction in 2011, and her work has been described as “Fast-paced, original, and engaging” by Edgar-winner Thomas Perry.  This is an excerpt from her new Burr Ashland mystery, BEER MONEY, which is available for the Kindle here.  You can learn more about her at daniamore.com

Dani guests here as a proud member of The Hardboiled Collective, who are visiting each other’s sites.

Beer Money

by

Dani Amore

 

“…and beer gushes to be churned to blood…”

-Virginia Woolf

One

Hit the ground running.

Strong hands held him by his shoulders. Pulled him toward the window.

The words reverberated in his head.

Hit the ground running.

A piece of advice he’d picked up from his father. Or maybe his high school football coach. Maybe a late-night war movie.

He tried to hold his feet steady against the floor but his legs buckled. His body numb. He blinked away the bloody film covering his eyes. The glass in the window was the heavy kind, with the undulating warped surface and beveled edges. It reminded him of the first house he and Emily had ever owned. An old, run-down Victorian on the East Side.

He felt the hands shift on his body. One moved to the back collar of his sportcoat, the other grabbed the back of his belt. The memory of the glass windows, of that first house, popped through his mind flashbulb-quick.

Suddenly, he felt his feet leave the ground and his body was propelled through the air with astonishing speed. He felt nothing as he crashed into the glass. His skull punched a hole in the thick window and then he was pushed through.

When his shoulders hit the window the entire frame of glass exploded outward. The noise rang in his ears, registered somewhere far away in his mind. Jagged shrapnel buried itself in his chest arms and shoulders. Raked giant, bloody furrows down through his legs.

And then he was falling.

Through the numbing gauze of his brain, a distant part of him felt the cold wind on his face. It reminded him of tobogganing in the harsh Wisconsin winters. When he’d once built a ramp of ice-covered snow, imagining himself to be Evil Kenievel flying over rows of motorcycles.

Now there was no sense of childhood adventure. He was an objective viewer watching the cold unyielding earth rush toward him.

His body turned in the air, became perfectly vertical. He hit standing up. The force of the fall drove him to the ground. His legs, cracked and broken, folded beneath him.

He slammed into the concrete. His arms splayed out from his sides.

Blood seeped from the corner of his mouth.

His pupils dilated.

He knew something was wrong. That his body didn’t work. And that it would never work again. He thought then of his ex-wife, snapshots from the honeymoon in Jamaica. The first house on Huron Street. A few good years and then the beginning of the end of the marriage. A slow dissolve to black.

A door banged open in the distance. Footsteps approached. Crunched on the pieces of glass. He heard moaning and realized it was coming from somewhere deep in his chest, bubbling in his throat. He ran his tongue over his cracked lips. Tasted the salt from the sidewalk.

The visions of his ex-wife left him and now he thought of Julie. Her green eyes. Her smile. Her laugh. She was his new lease on life. In the dim recess of his mind where logical thought hadn’t yet been extinguished, he understood the current irony of that thought. A small cluster of agony rose within him. He just wished he could say good-bye to Julie.

A low fog began to drift over the image in his mind, and through it, he saw a figure standing before him.

“Please…” was all he could muster. Blackness rained over and around him.

“Professor Bantien,” the shape said. The dying man heard something metallic. Tried to place the sound. Something to do with a gun. Bullets. “Look on the bright side,” the shadowy figure said. “All these years studying history…and now you actually get to become it.”

The barrel of the gun was pressed to the dying man’s head. He closed his eyes.

The gunshot echoed in the darkness.

Two

I watched the bartender pour me another beer. It was one of my favorite beers in the whole world, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember its name at that moment. How many had I had?

Well, there’s strength in numbers, I thought. Who said that? Patton?

“What, for me?” I said as she slid the glass of pure deliciousness in front of me. Her name was Kimmie. The bartender. Not the beer. The beer’s name was something that ended with the word Pilsner.

“Thirsty today, Burr?” she said to me. Kimmie smiled and I thought she was awfully cute. Which was strange, because I seemed to recall only yesterday that she sort of looked like a cross between Fidel Castro and an alpaca.

“I’m getting over a cold, need plenty of liquids,” I said.

Kimmie nodded and moved off to take the orders of a couple of newly arrived customers.

I checked my watch.

It was almost ten o’clock. I tried to remember if I had any appointments the next morning. No, I did not. And then I tried to remember if I had any appointments at all the next day. Maybe.

I looked at my glass. How could it be half gone already? Damn beer thieves, they were the worst. Probably used a long straw when I wasn’t watching.
I quickly drank the rest before the thieves returned and ordered another. This would be my last.

“Close out my tab, too, please,” I said to Kimmie.

As I was signing the bill and appreciating the beauty of the new beer, so much sexier than the old beer, my cell phone buzzed.

“This is Burr.” My name is Michael Ashland, but “Burr” was my nickname from high school, given to me by my football coach. I had been a defensive back and my coach had liked the way I attached myself to the opponent’s wide receivers.

Quite literally, the name stuck.

“Burr.” The nervous voice on the other end of the line belonged to Fred Pip, a low-budget local commercial director, and a friend from way back.

“I’m worried,” he said.

“Of course you are Fred.” I said. “That’s what you do for a living. If you didn’t have something to worry about, you couldn’t survive. It’d be like Mother Theresa suddenly deciding she needed to pamper herself for a change.”

“Burr, I’m serious. And worried.” Fred did in fact sound very serious and quite worried.

Fred was a sweet guy; there was no getting around it. I read once that altruism is the highest form of human development. Whether or not it’s true, I don’t know. But there were two things I could say about Fred Pip with the utmost certainty. He was gay. And a better man than I would ever be.

“So what are you worried about, Fred? Studios in Hollywood tracked you down?” Fred had the biggest movie collection I’d ever seen in my life. He’d gone from illegally taping them to illegally downloading them. He was always shoving DVDs and hard drives full of movies at me. And then, at his insistence, I would have to call him the minute I finished watching one so we could ‘discuss.’

“Have you heard from Tim?” he asked.

“‘About a week ago.” I said.

“Well…”

“What?” I asked.

“Uh, we were supposed to have lunch yesterday…he should have called me.” Fred sounded hurt and worried. Like the parent of a wayward child.

“Well let’s get his face on a milk carton right away, Fred,” I said.

“I’ve been trying to track him down,” Fred said. “He’s nowhere to be found.” His voice was rising, heading for the Panic Zone.  “I’m really worried, Burr,” he said.

“He’s probably at the library, trapped in a study cubicle,” I said. I giggled a little, then let a beer belch slide out through my nose.

“And he sent me something weird, like, two days ago,” Fred said. He’d lowered his voice. “It makes no sense because he was going to see me yesterday,” Fred said.

“What is it?” I asked. “Some type of masturbatory accessory? ”

“It looks like film…I haven’t watched it yet.”

“Okay,” I said. “Did you try Emily?” Emily Lyons was Tim’s ex-wife.

“No.”

I sighed. I had just finished up a divorce case. Photos of the client’s wife with the reserve center for the Milwaukee Bucks had sealed the deal.

“Okay, I’ll stop by tomorrow,” I said. “Put some beer in the fridge.”

Three

It had been a rough night. I silently cursed Kimmie the bartender. Why had she kept shoving those beers at me? What kind of sadist was she?

From the bed, I could see snowflakes falling on the Dutch Elm tree outside my window. Big splotchy flakes that fell with nearly audible plops.

I swung my feet off the bed and sat upright. The pounding in my head was persistent but had no rhythm. Like a country band on its first rehearsal.

The clock read just past nine.

I went into the kitchen, started the coffee, then started the shower.

The doorbell rang while I was shampooing my hair. I got out of the shower, toweled off, threw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and answered the door.

Oh no.

The woman facing me was Detective Gabby Engle. She was a homicide cop with the Milwaukee Police Department. We had crossed paths several times on other cases, and the experience had always been pretty unpleasant. Don’t get me wrong, she was wonderful to look at. She was into marathons and triathalons and all that crap, a total hardbody. And her face had the kind of chiseled beauty that wouldn’t fade, but I wasn’t exactly a charter member of the Gabby fan club. Because she was a hardass, both literally and figuratively.

“Hello Mr. Ashland,” she said.

I could see something in her face. And suddenly, I knew she was here about Tim.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Tim Bantien’s been murdered,” she said.

“How?” I managed to ask. I felt dizzy, like I’d entered some kind of alternate reality.

She flipped open her notebook. “Well, it appears that he was beaten first, then thrown out of a three-story window,” she said. “It’s hard to tell, though, because he’d been worked over pretty thoroughly. Plus, the glass cut him up real bad.”

It was hard to imagine. I felt dizzy, the struggle to picture one of my best friends dead.

“And then it looked like he was shot,” Gabby continued. “Although, the coroner says so many of his bones were broken that there was a chance he was already dead.” She flipped her notebook closed. Watched me.

“You were listed at the university as the person to contact in case of an emergency,” she said, her voice sounding even, but somehow accusing.

“Suspects?” I said, forcing myself to stay calm.

Gabby shook her head. “Do you have any idea why someone would’ve wanted to kill him?”

“Are you fucking kidding me? Tim is-“ my voice caught – ” an overgrown Boy Scout. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.”

“You have no idea what your friend would have been doing around midnight in an abandoned building near the Third Ward?” Her voice sounded almost skeptical.

“No.”

“Relax, Mr. Ashland,” she said. “I’m not here for you. I’m just trying to find out what happened to your friend. I’m not even going to ask you where you were the night Bantien was murdered.”

She looked at me. I didn’t respond.

“Was anything going on in his personal life that you knew about?” Gabby said. “Major upheavals?”

“Tim got divorced a year and a half ago,” I said.

“Anyone new in his life?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Was he under any kind of financial strain?’

“I don’t think so.”

She put her notebook away.

“Then I guess that’s it for now, Mr. Ashland,” she said. “I may have some more questions for you later. Are you planning on leaving town during the holidays?”

“No.”

“You know, my chief is a stickler for details. I probably should ask you where you were last night. Sometime between eleven and one in the morning.”

“I was here. At home.”

“Any witnesses who can verify that?”

“No.”

She waited.

“People,” she said finally. “They’re never around when you need ‘em.”

 

 

 

 

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 11:51 AM

TWO-CHAPTER PEEK: “CLIFF WALK” BY BRUCE DESILVA

January 12th, 2013

There’s supposed to be a “sophomore jinx” about a second novel.  A writer’s first novel, the conventional wisdom goes, uses up everything that’s been driving him or her crazy, and the author has to scratch for new material the second time out.

But not Bruce DeSilva, the Edgar and Macavity winning author of ROGUE ISLAND.  After a lifetime in journalism, much of it spent in the lofty heights of the Associated Press, Bruce has a virtually infinite number of things that drive him crazy.  For decades he reported and edited hard-news stories, including much investigative journalism, that won virtually every major prize in the field.

It’s no surprise to me that CLIFF WALK is every bit as deeply felt, beautifully plotted, and well-written as ROGUE ISLAND. More awards ahead, I think.  Here are the first two chapters of the new DeSilva.

1
Cosmo Scalici hollered over the grunts and squeals of 3,000 hogs rooting in his muddy outdoor pens. “Right here’s where I found it, poking outta this pile of garbage. Gave me the creeps, the way the fingers curled like it wanted me to come closer.”

“What did you do?” I hollered back.

“Jumped the fence and tried to snatch it, but one of the sows beat me to it.”

“Couldn’t get it away from her?”

“You shittin’ me? Ever try to wrestle lunch from a 600-pound hog? I whacked her on the snout with a shovel my guys use to muck the pens. She didn’t even blink.”

To mask the stink, we puffed on cigars, his a Royal Jamaica, mine a Cohiba.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” he said. “The nails were painted pink, and it was so small. The little girl that arm came from couldn’t a been more than nine
years old. The sow just wolfed it down. You could hear the bones crunch in her teeth.”

“Where’s the hog now, Cosmo?”

“State cops shot her in the head, loaded her in a van, and took off. Said they was gonna open her stomach, see what’s left of the evidence. I told ‘em, that’s
$250 worth of chops and bacon wholesale, so you damn well better send me a check, less you want me to sue your ass.”

“Any other body parts turn up?”

“The cops spent a couple hours raking through the garbage. Didn’t find nothin’.  If there was any more, it’s all pig shit by now.”

We kept smoking as we slopped across his twelve acres to the sprawling  white farmhouse with green shutters where I‟d left my car. Once this was
woodland and meadow, typical of the countryside in the little town of Pascoag in Rhode Island’s sleepy northwest corner. But Cosmo had bulldozed his whole place into an ugly mess of stumps, mud, and stones.

“How do you suppose the arm got here?” I asked.

“The staties kept asking the same question, like I’m supposed to fuckin’ know.”

He scowled as I scrawled the quote in my reporter’s notebook.

“Look, Mulligan,” he said. “My company? Scalisi Recycling? It’s a three mil a year operation. My twelve trucks collect garbage from schools, jails, and
restaurants all over the Rhode Island. That arm coulda been tossed in a dumpster anywhere between Woonsocket and Westerly.”

I knew it was true. Scalici Recycling was a fancy name for a company that picked up garbage so pigs could reprocess it into bacon, but there was big
money in it. I’d written about the operation five years ago when the Mafia tried to muscle in. Cosmo drilled one hired thug though the temple with a bolt gun used to slaughter livestock and put another in a coma with his ham-sized fists.

He called it trash removal. The cops called it self-defense.

I’d parked my heap beside is his new Ford pick-up. Mine had a New England Patriots decal on the rear window.  His had a bumper sticker that said: If You Don’t Like Manure, Move To The City.

“Getting along any better with the folks around here?” I asked as I jerked open my car door.

“Nah. They’re still whining about the smell. Still complaining about the noise from the garbage trucks. That guy over there?” he said, pointing at a raised ranch across the road. “He’s a real asshole. That one down there? Total jerk. This whole area’s zoned agricultural. They build their houses out here and want to pretend they’re in fuckin’ Newport? Fuck them and the minivans they rode in on.”

2

A prowl car slipped behind me on America’s Cup Avenue, and when I swung onto Thames Street, it hugged my bumper. A left turn onto Prospect Hill didn’t shake it, so when I reached the red octagonal sign at the corner of Bellevue Avenue, I broke with local custom and came to a complete stop. Then I turned left, and the red flashers lit me up.

I rolled the window down and watched in the side mirror as a Newport city cop unfolded himself from the cruiser and swaggered toward me, the heels of his boots clicking on the pavement, his leather gun belt creaking. I shoved the paperwork at him before he asked for it. He snatched it without a word, walked back to the cruiser, and ran my license and registration. I listened in on my police scanner and was relieved to learn that my Rhode Island driver’s license was valid and that the heap I’d been driving for years had not been reported stolen.

I heard the gun belt creak again, and the cop, whose name tag identified him as Officer Phelps, was back, handing my paperwork through the window.
“May I ask what business you have in this neighborhood tonight, Mr. Mulligan?”

“No.”

Ordinarily, I don‟t pick fights with lawmen packing high-powered side arms.  Anyone who‟d covered cops and robbers as long as I had could recognize the .357 Sig Sauer on Officer Phelps’s hip. But he’d had no legitimate reason to pull me over.

“Have you been drinking tonight, sir?”

“Not yet.”

“May I have permission to search your vehicle?”

“Hell, no.”

Officer Phelps dropped his right hand to the butt of his pistol and gave me a hard look. “Please step out of the car, sir.”

I did, affording him the opportunity to admire how fine I looked in a black Ralph Lauren tuxedo. He hesitated a moment, wondering if I might actually be
somebody; but tuxedoes can be rented, and a somebody would have had better wheels. I put my palms against the side of the car and assumed the Position. He patted me down, sighing when he failed to turn up a crack pipe, lock picks, or a gravity knife.  When he was done, he wrote me up for running the sign I’d stopped at and admonished me to drive carefully.  I was lucky he didn’t shoot me. In this part of Newport, driving a car worth less than $80,000 was a capital offense.

I fired the ignition and rolled past the marble and terra cotta dreams of 19th-century robber barons: The Breakers, Marble House, Rosecliff, Kingscote, The Elms, Hunter House, Beechwood, Ochre Court, Chepstow, Chateau-su-Mer. And my favorite, Clarendon Court, where Claus von Bulow either did or did not try to murder his heiress wife by injecting her with insulin, depending on whether you believe the first jury or the second. Here, sculpted cherubs frolic in formal gardens. Greek gods cling to gilded cornices and peer across the Atlantic Ocean. Massive oak doors open at a touch, and vast dining rooms rise to frescoed ceilings. A few of these shrines to hubris and bad taste have been turned into museums, but the rest remain among the most exclusive addresses in the world, just as they have been for more than a hundred years.

Men who ripped fortunes from the grasps of competitors built the Newport mansions. Cornelius Vanderbilt, who stitched the face of America with rails and ties. Big Jim Fair, who dug silver out of Nevada‟s Comstock Lode. Edward J. Berwind, who fueled American industry with Appalachian coal. They were doers, and they built these forty-, sixty-, and eighty-room monstrosities as retreats, playgrounds, and monuments to themselves.

But that was generations ago. Today, those who live in the mansions are scions of the doers, living on somebody else’s money in somebody else’s dream. They try to keep the Gilded Age alive in a blaze of crystal chandeliers, the scent of lilies drifting over elegantly attired dinner guests. And they keep the likes of me out with ivy-covered walls, hand-wrought iron gates, and a vigilant local constabulary.

Except tonight. Tonight, I had an invitation.

Just past Beechwood, the Astors’ Italianate summer cottage, I slid behind a shimmering silver Porsche in a line of cars drifting toward the gilded iron gate to the grounds of Belcourt Castle. One by one, they turned into the torch-lit, crushed stone drive: a Maserati, a Bentley, a Ferrari, a Lamborghini, a Maybach, another Bentley, and something sleek that may have been a Bugatti, although I’d never seen one before. Trailing them was a poverty-stricken sad sack in a mere Mercedes Benz. I wondered if Officer Phelps had hassled him, too.

Up ahead, liveried valets opened car doors, grasped bejeweled hands to help ladies from their fairytale carriages, climbed in, and floated away to distant parking lots. Then a nine-year-old Bronco with rust pocks on the hood, a crushed passenger-side fender, and a diseased muffler rumbled up, and I got out.

“Be careful with it this time,” I said as I flipped the keys to a valet. “Look what happened the last time you parked it.”

I strolled through the courtyard to a heavy oak door where an Emperor Penguin with a clipboard was checking the guest list. He studied my engraved invitation and scowled.

“Surely you are not Mrs. Emma Shaw of The Providence Dispatch.”

“What gave me away?”

“Do this job as long as I have,” he said, “and you develop a sixth sense about this sort of thing.” He looked me up and down. “I can see that your eyebrows
haven’t been plucked lately.” He paused to rub his chin with his big left wing.  “And your perfume is a little off. The last dame to walk through here was wearing Shalimar. You smell like Eau d’Cigars.”

“You don’t know any women who smoke cigars?”

“Not the kind made out of tobacco,” he said. From his snicker, I could tell he took special pride in that one. “I’m sorry, sir, but I can’t admit you.”

“Oh yeah? Well this isn’t the only mansion in town, buster.” I turned away to retrieve Secretariat, my pet name for the Bronco. I’d drawn the assignment to cover the annual Derby Ball after Emma, our society reporter, quit last week, taking a buyout that trimmed 30 more jobs from a newsroom already cut to the marrow by last year’s layoffs. Ed Lomax, the city editor, had pretended he was doing me a favor.

“I can guarantee you the cover of the living section,” he said.

“Let me get this straight,” I said. “We can no longer afford to have our baseball writer travel with the Red Sox. We don’t have a medical writer or a religion writer anymore. Our Washington bureau is down to one reporter. And this is a priority?”

“The ball is the final event of the week-long Newport Jumping Derby,” he said. “It’s one of the biggest hoity-toity events of the year.”

“So they say, but who gives a shit?”

“Other than the horses?”

“I’m a little busy with real stories right now, boss, I’m trolling through the governor’s campaign contribution list to figure out who’s buying him off this year. I’m looking into the toxic waste dumping in Briggs Marsh. And I’m still trying to figure out how that little girl’s arm ended up as pig food last week.”

“Look, Mulligan. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do. It’s part of being a professional.”

“And I have to do this particular thing because . . . ?”

“Because the publisher’s 17-year-old niece is one of the equestrians.”

“Aw, crap.”

But if I couldn’t get in, I couldn’t be blamed for not covering it. Lomax didn’t need to hear how readily I took no for an answer. I’d almost made it out of the courtyard when I heard high heels clicking behind me and a woman’s voice calling my name. I quickened my pace. I was asking a valet where I could find my car when the high heels clattered to a stop beside me and their owner, a tiny middleaged woman who’d had one facelift too many, took me by the arm.

“I am so sorry for the confusion, Mr. Mulligan. Your Mr. Lomax called to say you would be taking Miss Shaw’s place, and I neglected to amend the guest list.”

“And you are?”

“Hillary Proctor, but you can call me „Hill.‟ I’m the publicity director for the Derby, and I am honored that you are joining us this evening. I do hope my lapse hasn’t caused you any embarrassment.”

Aw, crap. “Look, Hill,” I said as she escorted me past the shrugging penguin and into the mansion‟s antechamber, “I’m supposed to write about the important people who are here and describe what they are wearing, but I can’t tell the difference between a Vanderbilt draped in a Paris original and a trailer park queen dressed by J.C. Penney.”

“Of course you can‟t. You‟re the young man who writes about mobsters and crooked politicians. I love your work, darling.”

“So you’re the one,” I said.

“Oh, I do love a man with a sense of humor. How would you like to be my escort for the evening? I’ll whisper the names of the worthies and what they are
wearing in your ear, and the gossips will be all a-twitter about the mysterious man on my arm.”

“That’s a very gracious offer, Hill, but I like to work alone. Do you think you could just jot everything down while I wander around and soak up a little color?”

“Certainly,” she said, not looking the least bit disappointed.

I handed her my notebook, strolled across the antechamber, and stepped into a huge dining room with a mosaic pink marble floor and a wall of stained glass windows that bristled with Christian iconography. Men in tuxedos and women in ball gowns were loading china plates with shrimp, roast beef, and several dishes I couldn’t identify, all of it tastefully displayed on a 16-foot-long walnut trestle table.The room was illuminated by nine crystal chandeliers. The grand dame who owned the house liked to boast that the largest of them had once graced the parlor of an 18th-century Russian count. The hunky plumber she had impetuously married and then divorced tattled that it had actually been scavenged from a dilapidated movie house in Worcester, Mass. I made a mental note to include that tidbit of Newport lore in my story.

The Dispatch’s ethics policy prohibited reporters from accepting freebies, but the roast beef looked too good to pass up. I scarfed some down and then followed the sound of music up a winding oak staircase to the second floor. There, four chandeliers blazed from a vaulted cream-colored ceiling that arched 30 feet above a parquet ballroom floor. A fireplace, its limestone and marble chimneypiece carved to resemble a French chateau, commanded one end of the room. The hearth was big enough to roast a stegosaurus or cremate New England Patriots’ offensive line. At the other end of the room, a band I wasn‟t hip enough to recognize played hip-hop music I wasn’t tone-deaf enough to like.

I snatched a flute of champagne from a circulating waiter and circumnavigated the dance floor, spotting the mayors of Newport, Providence, New Haven, and Boston; the governors of Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, Kentucky, and New Jersey; one of Rhode Island’s U.S. senators; both of its congressmen; three bank presidents; four Brown University deans; twelve captains of industry; two Kennedys; a Bush; and a herd of athletic-looking young women.

I found a spot against the wall between a couple of suits of armor and watched the mayor of Boston try to dance the Soulja Boy with a teenage girl whose last name might have been DuPont or Firestone. When a waiter glided by, I nabbed another flute, but it just made me thirsty for a Killian’s at the White Horse Tavern.

After observing the festivities for a half-hour, I figured I’d seen enough.  I was looking for Hill so I could retrieve my notebook when I spotted Salvatore
Maniella. He was leaning against a corner of the huge chimneypiece, as out of place as Mel Gibson at a Seder. What was a creep like him doing at a swanky event like this? I was still lurking a few minutes later when our governor strolled up and tapped him on the shoulder. They crossed the ballroom together and slipped into a room behind the bandstand. I gave them 20 seconds and then followed.

Through the half-open door I could make out red flock wallpaper, a G clef design in gold-leaf on the ceiling, and a grand piano—the mansion‟s music room, which the current owner had proudly restored to its original garishness. Maniella and the governor had the room to themselves, but they stood close, whispering conspiratorially in one another‟s ears. After a moment, they grinned and shook hands. I slipped away as they turned toward the door.

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 10:53 PM

Reading on the Backbeat

December 30th, 2012

I’ve been on a rock “autobiography” binge (the quotation marks are a tribute to the inevitable co-authors), partly as a guilty pleasure and partly as preparation for a possible book, and Slash’s book, titled, naturally, Slash,  is a fair representative of the strengths and weaknesses of the genre.

On the plus side, co-author/ghostwriter Anthony Bozza does a credible job of creating a voice that sounds something like the way one might expect Slash to sound. Also on the plus side, the section of the book that deals with the evolution of Guns ‘n Roses, the discovery of their musical strengths, and the making of the first (astonishing) album are quite interesting.

But the part everyone actually wants to read, the story of the band’s lengthy and acrimonious dissolution as Axl Rose gradually took over the band and even assumed ownership of the name, is incredibly oblique: a few of the tantrums are here, as are the famous shows that began 3-5 hours late, but there’s no clear picture of what drove Axl, undoubtedly one of rock’s towering lunatics, to such extremes. Every (apparently) censored paragraph suggests a whopper of a non-disclosure cause in the papers that finally cut Slash free from the band — or, possibly, the band free from Slash.

Slash comes across as an intelligent, sensitive, talented man who has an infinite reserve of denial. He’s talking about “drinking for fun” when he’s starting at nine A.M., passing out literally every night, vomiting in restaurants, shooting heroin for variety, and nodding out at family Thanksgiving dinners. In the meantime, he’s highly critical of drug use among the other band members, especially the heroin-addled Steven Adler.

As a little roundup of the books I’ve read so far in this genre, Sammy Hagar’s Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock is the most unintentionally funny, a clueless pean of self-praise by someone whose talent definitely took a backseat to his luck; Steven Adler’s My Appetite for Destruction: Sex & Drugs & Guns N’ Roses is the saddest and (of necessity) the worst-focused. Motley Crue’s blisteringly candid The Dirt: Confessions Of The World’s Most Notorious Rock Band is the most engagingly lurid, and Anthony Kiedis’ Scar Tissue is the most unflinching. Currently reading Marilyn Manson’s The Long Hard Road Out of Hell and finding it surprisingly deep and touching, considering how irritating I always thought its author was.

And then I’ve read a dozen more that are just variations on a theme: talent, group, drugs, excuses, breakup, redemption, even if redemption often sounds like sour grapes. And I’ve got about ten more waiting for me.

The things writers go through.

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 2:33 PM

Czechered Career

December 26th, 2012

It’s happened.

About eighteen months since I was told I was going to be translated for sale in the Czech Republic, Hrebik Zarazany Do Sdrce is in better bookstores across Prague.  That’s A Nail Through the Heart to those of us in the English-speaking world.

Being translated is one of the really rarefied pleasures of writing.  It’s difficult to explain the satisfaction, but somehow it’s an all-the-way-to-the-toes thrill to know that somewhere in the world someone has labored long and hard over something I wrote, bringing it to a whole new readership.  It’s very, very gratifying.

It also allows me to have the coolest segment in all my bookcases — me in different languages.  Few objects delight me more than the first copy of a book in translation. There it is, with my name in it, a title I’ve never seen or heard before, and I didn’t have to do any extra work.

Now, what I’m hoping for is an invitation to Prague, one of the four cities in the world I most want to see.  I’ll even pay my own way, if someone will just take charge of me, introduce me to some interesting people, and show me around.

Then I can say to people, “I’ll do it right after I get back from Prague.”  I might even buy a smoking jacket.

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 9:24 PM

The Next (and Last) Big Thing (1)

December 18th, 2012

I’m renovating this defunct virtual neighborhood because a wonderful writer, the Edgar- and Everything Else-winner Bruce DeSilva, appointed me the Next Big Thing.  Thanks, Bruce!

The Next Big Thing is a sort of blog chain letter in which writers (like me) get tagged by other writers (like Bruce) to answer some questions on their blog.  Once we get suckered, the person who suckered us (Bruce) posts his/her own answers to the questions on their blog– in Bruce’s case, that’s here–and, a week later, they point their readers to the sucker (me, in this case) as the next Next Big Thing, at which point those people with an unending appetite for reading writers’ answers to the same set of questions over and over again move ravenously on to my blog.

Clear?

And then they’re supposed to leap eagerly to the writer(s) I have, in turn, designated the Next Big Thing.  Except that the first eight people I asked had already been Next Big Things, and no one else was willing to be so designated.  So the chain ends here, although I’m designating some Next Best Things (in my opinion) without even asking them.

The questions are all about my next book.  I have three “next books,” so I’ve chosen two of them, the next Junior Bender and the next Poke Rafferty, and am being the Next Big Thing twice.

Here are the questions and my answers.

What is the working title of your next book?

Little Elvises: A Junior Bender Mystery

Where did the idea come from?

Back in the 1960s, a bunch of modestly talented Italian kids from Philadelphia were positioned, one at a time, as the “new” Elvis by an ambitious and very smart manager.  They attained brief stardom, made some of the worst records in the history of electronic sound reproduction, and then were replaced by the next one in line.  I wanted to write something about the way American pop culture imitates itself, the way it stamps out little tin copies of anything original that makes money.  This is what it turned into.

What genre does your book fall under?

It’s a mystery with a laugh track.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

For Junior, Robert Downey, Junior, ten years ago, or Jonny Lee Miller now.  For the music promoter Vincent De Gaudio, the porn star Ron Jeremy.  For the recently-but-untearfully-widowed Ronnie Bigelow, Natasha Henstridge.  For the world’s oldest still-dangerous gangster, Erwin Dressler, Alan Arkin, made up to look older although Dr. Jack Kevorkian was the face I had in mind when I wrote him.

Natasha Henstridge

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Compelled to get an aging, probably ganged-up music promoter off the hook for a murder he might well have committed, Junior Bender enters the world of truly awful rock and roll in search of the answer to a question that’s fifty years old–and almost gets killed doing it.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’s going to be published by Soho Crime in January of the coming year.  The deal was made by my uber-agent, Bob Mecoy.

How long did it take you to write the first draft?

About eight weeks.  The Junior books, unlike the Poke Rafferty books, come very quickly.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Mysteries and thrillers by Donald E. Westlake, Jonathan Gash, and, to a lesser extent, Elmore Leonard.  They all write or wrote about people of dubious moral standing behaving more or less badly in a world that doesn’t deserve much better.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

All the Juniors come from Junior’s voice, telling me a story. My role is to listen and get it down and then relate it to something that interests me (like that little bit about American pop culture above) because tying the story to my own interests guarantees that my energy won’t flag.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I actually listened to quite a bit of this music before and during the writing of the book, and I think I deserve a readership of awed millions for having endured that in the name of art.

Next Big Things:

If there were any justice, the Next Big Things would be:

Edward Wright, author of the John Ray Horn mysteries and some compelling stand-alones–most recently From Blood; and

John Falch, whose phenomenally ambitious first novel, The Yellow Bar, was one of my top reads of 2012.

Both tremendous writers.

 

 

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 9:57 PM

The Next (and Last) Big Thing (2)

December 18th, 2012

The other next book I want to talk about is the sixth Poke Rafferty, which will come out (probably) in January of 2014 because I’ve taken so long to write it.  Same questions, different book.

What is the working title of your next book?

For the Dead: A Poke Rafferty Thriller

Where did the idea come from?

I wanted to write a book about Miaow, which this may or may not turn out to be.  I was interested in what happens to someone, especially someone in the immensely vulnerable early teens, who–out of insecurity–creates a false personality and then has it stripped away.

What genre does your book fall under?

If it’s not a thriller, I’m in trouble.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Mmmm.  I beg off that.  Almost all the characters in this book are Thai, and while I could suggest a few actors, I don’t think they’d mean much to most non-Thais.  And if I were to try to come up with non-Thai equivalents, most of them would be obscure to modern Western audiences.  For instance, to play Thanom, Arthit’s immensely corrupt superior in the police, who has a big role in the book, I’d cast Takashi Shimura, immortal for his role in Kurosawa’s “Ikiru.”

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When Miaow and her boyfriend, Andrew, buy a stolen iPhone to replace the one he lost, they find on it a series of photographs that lead to a decades-old, but still lethal, scandal that ultimately brings Poke and Arthit up against some of Bangkok’s most powerful individuals.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

It’ll be published by Soho Crime under the auspices of my super-agent, Bob Mecoy.

How long did it take you to write the first draft?

If only I knew.  It feels like most of my adult life, and it’s not done yet.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I think it’s a cross between Therese Raquin and Dr. Dolittle. I have no idea how to answer that question.  I suppose it’ll be quite a lot like the other Poke Rafferty books, only–you know–different. It’s a thriller about a family.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve wanted to write a book that was mainly about Miaow since I began the series.  And I really like writing Andrew, Miaow’s Vietnamese boyfriend.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

Many people might be interested in seeing just how much of a writer’s blood can be soaked into roughly 300 pages. Once again, I don’t actually know how to answer this question. I don’t have much faith in my ability to tell even a short joke without losing my audience, and I have no idea why anyone would read me for hours and hours. Okay–I really like the characters.  I can say that.

 

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 9:56 PM

THE PLOT THICKENS

September 6th, 2012

Almost six months after we began, I’m happy to announce the publication of a book I wish I’d had when I started to write, MAKING STORY: TWENTY-ONE WRITERS ON HOW THEY PLOT. Read the rest of this entry »

posted by Timothy Hallinan @ 10:33 AM

 

 
 

 

 
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