Mar 122014
 
Bruce DeSilva, reviewer and writer's new novel, Providence Rag comes out this month and I find out what's it all about right here...

Q: Tell us what to expect from your new book, PROVIDENCE RAG.
A: Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning hardboiled crime series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for a dying newspaper in Providence, R.I. The book was inspired by a true story – one I covered as a journalist many years ago. I’ve long been fascinated by the case of Craig Price, The Warwick Slasher, a teenager who stabbed two young women and two female children to death in his suburban Rhode Island neighborhood before he was old enough to drive. Price was just thirteen when his murder spree began and fifteen when he was caught, making him one of the youngest serial killers in U.S. history. But that’s not the interesting part.
When he was arrested in 1989, Rhode Island’s juvenile justice statutes had not been updated for decades. When they were written, no one had ever envisioned a child like him, so the law required that all minors, regardless of their crimes, be released at age 21 and given a fresh start. Nevertheless, he remains behind bars to this day, convicted of committing a series of jailhouse offenses.
I have long suspected that some of these charges were fabricated, but in the very least, Price has been absurdly over-sentenced. For example, he was given an astounding 30 years for contempt for declining to submit to a court-ordered psychiatric examination. Have the authorities abused their power to prevent his release? I think so. Should he ever be let out to kill again? Absolutely not. The ethical dilemma this poses fascinates me. No matter which side of it you come down on, you are condoning something that is reprehensible.
In the novel, the murders are committed and the killer caught in the first seventy-five pages. The rest of the book follows Mulligan, his fellow reporters, his editors, and the entire community, as they struggle to decide which is worse: condoning the abuse of power that is keeping the killer behind bars or exposing it and allowing him to be released to kill again. With powerful forces on both sides of the question, the suspense mounts as it becomes increasingly likely that the psychopath will be set free.

Q: What scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
The narrative is broken by thirteen italicized passages that allow readers peers directly into the mind of the psychotic killer from early childhood to middle age. I loved writing them because the rest of the book is heavy on dialogue, and these scenes gave me the opportunity to write in a more lyrical voice. They are important because when the killer speaks elsewhere in the novel, he mostly lies. They’re pretty creepy, though. I wonder what it says about me that I found it easy to imagine how the monster thinks.

Q: Who is your favorite among the characters in the book?
I have a fondness for Fiona McNerney, a close childhood friend of my protagonist and former a Little Sisters of the Poor nun, who is now serving as the state’s embattled governor.
Because of her take-no-prisoners approach to politics, headline writers have dubbed her Attila the Nun.

Q: How long did it take you to write it?
When I’m working on a novel, my goal is to write at least a thousand good words a day. If I accomplish that in a couple of hours, I can give myself the rest of the day off. But if I don’t have a thousand good words after eight hours, I have to keep my butt in the chair until I reach my goal. By doing that, I should be able to turn out an eighty-thousand-word novel in eighty days. Of course, it never quite works out like that. Some days, when life intrudes, I don’t write at all. There are household chores to be done, ballgames and blues concerts to attend, vacations to take, family obligations to be met. Including such interruptions, Providence Rag, my most complex book to date, was completed in six months.

Q: Did writing the book take a lot of research?
Yes and no. When I covered the real-life story for Rhode Island Monthy magazine years ago, I did a lot of research about the state’s juvenile justice laws and the state prison system. I interviewed the police detectives and forensics experts who worked the case. I read a lot of research about the minds of serial murderers and interviewed experts including Robert K. Ressler, the retired FBI agent credited with coining the term “serial killer.” So all I had to do for the book was brush up on the most recent research on the subject. Thanks to Google, that took less than a day.

Q: Will we see Liam return after PROVIDENCE RAG?
Absolutely. I just finished the fourth Mulligan novel, tentatively titled Providence Vipers, which explores the world of legal and illegal sports gambling. It will be published in hardcover and e-book formats by Forge about a year from now. Once I return from a month-long, coast-to-coast book tour in early April, I’ll dive into three new projects. One will be the fifth Mulligan novel. Another will be a stand-alone, or perhaps the beginning of a new series, featuring a young man who is trying to decide which side of the law to live his life on. And the third will be a collaboration with my wife, the poet Patricia Smith, on a novel set in her native Chicago. I’ve made small starts on all three, but I’m not sure which one I’ll finish first.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say about the book?
Although the characters and plots of my first two crime novels, Rogue Island and Cliff Walk, sprang entirely from my imagination, this has not prevented some readers that suspecting each was a Roman à clef. No, I tell them, the mayor in my books is not a thinly-veiled depiction of former Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci. No, the attorney general is not my take on former Rhode Island Attorney General Arlene Violet. Despite my protests, readers continue to speculate. In fact, two of my old journalism colleagues are convinced that my protagonist is based on them. He’s not. Because of this, I initially resisted the urge to fictionalize the Price case.
In the novel, I invent an early childhood for the killer. I give him a love of reading, allow him to display a clever but chilling sense of humor, and provide him with a prison jargon-laced style of speaking. But I have never met Craig Price. I know nothing of his childhood. I don't know how he talks. I don’t know what drove him to murder. So the character in my novel is most emphatically not Craig Price. None of the other characters in the book represent real people either. Of course, every novelist draws material from life and fashions it into something new.
Still, I can’t help but worry that some readers will view the book as disguised contemporary history. That made Providence Rag a difficult, nerve-wracking book to write.

You can learn more about me on my website: http://brucedesilva.com/

And on my blog: http://brucedesilva.wordpress.com/
Dec 272013
 
Harry Hunsicker was one of the first authors I reviewed on this blog. Now, he has a new book coming out so of course I wanted to know all about that...

Tell us what your newest book is about.
The story is about private military contractors operating inside the border of the United States.  Specifically, a disgraced ex-cop who works as a law enforcement contractor for the DEA.  When he and his partner take down the wrong shipment of drugs, they come into the possession of a star witness in a cartel trial, a woman everybody wants dead.  In order to save her life, and their own, they must transport her across Texas to the courthouse in Marfa, near El Paso.

How long did it take you to write the novel?
Seems like forever, at least to me.  Probably four years and I don't know how many drafts and partial drafts.

Did it take a lot of research?
I did a fair amount of research about PMCs or private military contractors.  I also learned that US Government does employ private law enforcement contractors, i. e. people who have a gun, a badge, and the right to use deadly force, but whose paycheck comes from a private company.

Where did you come up with the plot, what inspired you?
The plot sprang from a totally unrelated idea, the notion of a son trying to reconcile with his father and both of them keeping secrets from the other.  There's still a big element of that in the book, however.

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
I really enjoyed writing the action chapters.  There's a scene where one the bad guys gets blown apart by a .50 caliber sniper rifle.  That was a blast.  (No pun intended!)

Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
Piper, the main character's partner and on-again/off-again lover.  She's a mess.  But so much fun.  Her motto:  When in doubt, shoot something.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?
I'm very humbled and grateful to have gotten a starred review in Publishers Weekly for THE CONTRACTORS.  Hope everybody likes the novel.
Dec 062013
 
Under another name he told some tales I enjoyed. Now he is back as Dean Breckenridge with a new hardboiled series. I got a Background Check on his  book, The Kill  Fever is about. It will be sure to appeal to fans of my Mike Dalmas shorts.

Tell us what The Kill Fever is about.
I wanted to do something short and punchy and make it like the men's adventure books of the '70s and the hard-boiled of the '30s....so I created a sort of "Have Gun, Will Travel" for the inner city, featuring a character named Wolf. Nobody knows where he came from or why he chose the city, but he has connections with the cops and the crooks and always helps the underdog.

How long did it take you to write the novel?
More like a novella....it's only 20,000 words....and it took me two weeks to write. I spent another six months making it presentable.

Did it take a lot of research?
No. I made up the city,
 the political structure, the gang structure, etc.

Where did you come up with the plot, what inspired you?
The plot is pretty simple, somebody is killing gangsters to start a mob war and Wolf wants it to stop, and the inspiration was thinking of the first paragraph as a way to hook the reader and get things going. Bodies in the streets, cops all around, what happened and who did it happen to....

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
The hardest scene for me came in the middle of the book, where Wolf and another character are trapped, and I had to come up with a way to get them untrapped. I think my solution was ridiculous, but it worked and was fun to write.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?
Wolf, the hero, of course; I also like his cop contact, John Callaway, who isn't sure Wolf is a good guy but knows he isn't a bad guy, either.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?
It's the first in a series and #2  (free today) is out now as well; I'm about to begin typing #3.
Jul 172013
 
James Winter was one of the first guys to tell me he liked my Noah Milano stories. It's great to see a new novel by him coming out, so I asked him to come over and tell us more about it.

Tell us what to expect from Bad Religion.
Bad Religion has Nick undergoing a lot of changes in his business and his life. It starts out as a simple case of a minister skimming the collection plate. When that turns out to be a dead end, someone gets upset and starts gunning for witnesses. In the meantime, Nick and Elaine's relationship is evolving. Her marriage is crumbling, and they both wonder if their one-night stand wasn't just a fluke.

How long did it take you to write?
The original draft took about four months to write. It's hard to gauge the revisions because my publisher went out of business. So I looked at it sporadically over the next five years before digging it out last year.

Tell us about how you were inspired to write it?
There's a big televangelism angle in the story, and I remembered seeing quite a bit of that freakshow when I grew up. I wanted Nick to start investigating a minister accused of being such a fraud and finding out he's actually the victim of someone else's scheme. At the same time, I had fun creating the character of Calvin Leach.

Will we see Kepler return after Bad Religion?
There's a new short in the can waiting for revisions. Beyond that, I haven't decided. Part of the problem is that I fixed Nick to the calendar, and in 2013, it's a bit hard to write a story set in 2005.

Did writing the book take a lot of research?
Some of it was calls back to Cleveland to see what changed from when I lived up there. I also have an angle that ties into a cult killing that actually took place in the area. I had to walk a balance between exploiting it and making it part of the background.

What scenes did you enjoy writing the most?I loved writing the scene where Nick and Elaine visit the taping of Leach's show. Nick is absolutely miserable there, and he's stuck next to one of those middle-aged true believers I had to deal with when I was a kid. You know the type: Badly dyed hair teased to fright-wig perfection and a gushing enthusiasm for the star of the show. I let Nick voice a little revenge for me, with Elaine pretending to be his wife and keeping him in check.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the book?I like Elaine a lot in this one. She really grows as a character. I also like Teasdale, who's kind of a throwback to Jim Rockford.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the books?The print version will soon be available if it's not already.
Apr 062013
 
Jim is one of those great guys that contacted me telling me he liked my Noah Milano stories, way back... It's an honor to have him over to tell about his newest book, the Nick Kepler collection called the Compleat Kepler.

Tell us what to expect from your new book THE COMPLEAT KEPLER.
The Compleat Kepler tells the backstory of Nick Kepler up to, and in one case, shortly after the events of Northcoast Shakedown. Some of the stories were written just so I could get a handle on the character. Others were written to get the character out there in the lead-up to Northcoast Shakedown.

Where did the stories appear before?
The first appeared in Plots With Guns. The last appeared in Thrilling Detective. In fact, "Love Don't Mean a Thing" was in their final fiction issue. Judas/The 3rd Degree got the lion's share of the stories.
Tell us about how you were inspired to write them.
It depends. "A Walk in the Rain," the first story, was written after a friend from high school and I reconnected after about 15 years. She told me the story of her ex, an abusive man she met in the military. I was so enraged that I wanted to stuff him in a car crusher, which is exactly what happens to Joe in that one. "Full Moon Boogie" came about during a vacation to Ohio's Hocking Hills. It's such an unusual place for that state, and I had to write a story set there.

Will we see Nick Kepler return?
The novel BAD RELIGION was put aside about halfway through the revision process, so when that's complete, I'll release it. There is also a longish story called "Gypsy's Kiss," about the character Gypsy from "Roofies," that I want to send to a certain anthology. (Hint! Hint!)

Did writing the stories take a lot of research?
It depended on the story. "Flight of the Rat" required me to have a 9/11 timeline up while I wrote so I could refer to what happened when, as well as what sort of confusion was happening around the country. On the other hand, "Love Don't Mean a Thing" required nothing more than a vivid imagination.

What stories / scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
"Full Moon Boogie" was the most fun to write. I had to let that one simmer a few days. Then one day, I was in the West Virginia mountains taking a train ride on an old steamer. I scribbled the first draft out on a notepad during the entire trip.  "A Walk in the Rain" just wrote itself. It's probably the closest to its original draft of anything I've written.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the stories?
I've grown fond of Gypsy, the stripper/call girl who has a goal of getting out of the sex trade under her own power. She found her spine by taking a bullet for Nick, who, in return, got her off heroin, and now she's unstoppable. I love a good redemption story.
Mar 222013
 

The popular multiple Shamus Award winner Reed Farrel Coleman has two books coming out soon. Of course I had to ask him all about these...

Tell us what to expect from your two new books, DIRTY WORK and ONION STREET.
DIRTY WORK  is a very interesting project. It’s the first of two novellas featuring a little person (dwarf) PI named Gulliver Dowd. Gulliver is a bitter man whose cop sister has been murdered. Her murder has never been solved and Gulliver becomes a PI in order to find her killer. This hunt for his sister’s killer is the subtext to the story. The main case features a woman from Gulliver’s past who reveals a secret that can turn Gulliver’s world upside down. ONION STREET is the next to last Moe Prager Mystery and is a prequel set in 1967. It tells the story of how Moe became a policeman in the first place. It begins with his girlfriend being viciously beaten and left to die in the snow on a Brooklyn Street. Moe needs to find out why and who did it. And Moe learns for the first time that very little in life is as it seems.

 How long did it take you to write them?
As DIRTY WORK is a novella, it took me about four or five weeks. ONION STREET took me about four months to write. But in all fairness, when you get to the eighth book in a series, even if it is a prequel, the canvas is already partially painted.  

Tell us about how you were inspired to write them.
DIRTY WORK was sort of a creation between my agent, Bob Tyrrell at Raven Books—Rapid Reads, and myself. They’re a Canadian publisher whose market is the emerging or late to literacy reader. Those readers like hard-boiled and noir to. So they approached my agent who approached me about doing some books for them and I agreed. They loved Gulliver as a character and so do I. I think readers will love him too.
ONION STREET filled in a big gap in Moe Prager’s history that the fans have been curious about. It essentially tells the story of how the Moe readers know became Moe. I think readers, myself included, love to see the roots of how a character they identify with developed into that character. I have dropped hints throughout the course of the series, but I thought the time for hinting was over and to explore the origins of Moe more deeply.  

Will we see Gulliver Dowd return after DIRTY WORK?
For at least one more adventure. I’ve written a second Gulliver Dowd entitled VALENTINO PIER. I hope readers respond as I hope they will to Gulliver because I really do enjoy writing him.
ONION STREET is the penultimate Prager novel. Will you be coming out with a new PI series to follow that up or would that be Gulliver?
Gulliver is a fun character, but I’m not sure I consider him a successor to Moe. I think I’d like to do some other type of writing for a while. I am halfway through with a Sci Fi YA novel and have an idea to write a more standard literary novel. But I love the PI form and I will probably always have a toe in the private detective genre.

Did writing the books take a lot of research?
In all honesty, I have always hated research. Google has made life much easier for someone like me. I try not to weight myself down with research. For me the thrill of fiction writing is making stuff up.

What scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
Let me answer that in reverse. The scenes I hate most, the ones I know most of my friends hate most, are bridge or transition scenes. Getting the reader from here to there can be awfully burdensome. I love writing scenes where the physical setting is a reflection or a foreshadowing of the action that will take place later in the novel. For instance, read any of my scenes that take place in Coney Island and you will know I loved writing those. I also can do dialogue in my sleep.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the books?
If I had to choose one character, I would choose Israel Roth. He’s the moral compass by which Moe steers his life. But Mr. Roth is terribly flawed and scarred. I just love him.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the books?
Buy them! I’ve got a son in college and a daughter in graduate school.
Sep 102012
 

Michael Haskins, proud Hardboiled Collective member has a new book coming out, Car WashBlues, and was kind enough to tell us about it...

 Tell us what to expect from Car Wash Blues
In Car Wash Blues Mick Murphy begins to see friends he's always depended all turn to advisories as two different Tijuana, Mexico drug cartels come after him. He has been set up and turns for help/advice to a American lawyer working for the cartels and an ex-drug smuggler.
How long did it take you to write it?

A little less than a year.

Did it take a lot of research?
Yes and no. Yes because I followed the Los Angeles Times' wonderful on-going series Crisis in Mexico for years, so I had the research at my finger tips. No, because I spent 28 summers living off-and-on in Tijuana before moving to Key West. This experience helped me in my drive to set examples of what the people of Mexico live with daily.
Where did you come up with the plots; what inspired you?

I wanted to visit friends in Tijuana in 2008 on my book tour. They told me no, they'd come to LA. I loved the city and people for a long time and wanted to show the public a small taste of how bad life is because of the cartels. I wish the LA Times articles were published elsewhere so other readers could know what's going on. Also wanted to bring to the front of all the trouble that it is the American consumption that drives the cartels. The profits are mostly in dollars.

What scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
Paying the ransom for Tita.
Who is your favorite among the characters in the book?

Of course Mick Murphy, but I have a soft spot for Padre Thomas and a need for Norm's experience. Both the characters I based my writing on died recently and they never knew each other.

 Is there anything else you'd like to say about Car Wash Blues?
Unfortunately, the book will not be available as an eBook for a year. I think this is my last traditionally published books, so collectors should grab it up. From now on it will be trade paperbacks and Kindle copies.
Aug 192012
 
Anyone who's read James R. Tuck's Deacon Chalk urban fantasy series (and you should) know he's an expert in writing tough guys. It should be no surprise that he can't just write fantasy but is also a great crime writer. He was kind enough to give us the lowdown about his short story collection, Hired Gun.

Tell us what to expect from Hired Gun.
Hired Gun is a collection of six short crime stories. They are quick and deadly little tales set in Culvert City, a place where bad people do bad things to each other.

How long did it take you to write it?
Off and on stretched over a few months. Each story would come in a burst, get written in a short amount of time, then set aside while I worked on something else. After a bit of time away I would pick them up and revise them with fresh eyes.

Did it take a lot of research?
Not specific research. I have been a long time crime fiction fan and a gun fan so it all swirls in my head and comes out as stories.

Where did you come up with the plots; what inspired you?
Most of them came to me from that soup of ideas in my head. I don't remember any specific sparks that set off any stories. They are scenes that came into my brain when I was looking the other way.
But the concept that started it all, the one that the nameless hitman is built around came from a song by the band Bride called "Hired Gun". It's a song about a hitman who uses the line "I hope you and Jesus have it all worked out." I loved that song as a teen and it really stuck with me. When watching Tim Burton's Batman and seeing the Joker ask "Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?" I always thought back to that song and felt that it was so much cooler.

Which stories did you enjoy writing the most?
I really like the first story BIG TONY LIKES A SHOW. It really sets the tone for the collection. It's a nasty little tale with a sharp twist at the end and I am really proud of the snappy dialog I accomplished.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the collection?
I really like the nameless hitman that is the main character in this collection. He's the reason I put it together. He is featured in the majority of the stories, each on giving a different aspect of him and seeing him at different parts of his life. CANCERSTICK is him when he's kind of young and he still has some pep, the same character in TREATMENT is much darker, far more bitter and jaded.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about Hired Gun?
Thanks to everyone who buys it, I hope you enjoy the stories as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Aug 052012
 
I've been a fan  Tony Black for a long time and he's been following my work just as long. It's always a pleasure to interview him. This time he gave me the lowdown on his new novella, The Storm Without.

Tell us what the novella is about.

Doug Michie has been booted out the force after a particularly harrowing case and goes home to Ayr - on Scotland's west-coast - to lick his wounds. He's grown up there but been away for nearly 20 years; when he returns, he hooks up with ex-school-days flame Lyn whose son has been arrested for the murder of his girlfriend. Doug senses all is not as it appears to be and digs into the case, with some unexpected consequences for himself.

How long did it take you to write the novella?
34 weeks. How's that for an exact answer? ... It was originally serialised in a newspaper over here and it ran to 34 weekly installments so that's how I know.

Did it take a lot of research?
There was a fair amount of research into the history of Ayr and the up-to-date topography. I used to live there - like Doug - but only just moved back. My protagonist is a bit of a fan of the poet Robert Burns, who came from Ayr too, so I had to do a little bit of research into the Burns elements in the story.

Where did you come up with the plot; what inspired you?
The original idea was to write a homecoming novel and a small-town noir, once I knew it was going to feature a PI the plot kind of grew from there.

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
The opening scene is a big sweeping description of the road into the town, with some of Doug's foreboding about going back - that seems to stick for some reason.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the novella?
My protagonist Doug is an interesting bloke - he's clearly seen to much in the force in Northern Ireland and he wants to forget. He aligns himself with the philosophy of Burns too and that's interesting to me because I'm a fan of the poet myself.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novella?
It's my first title available through Blasted Heath as an eBook and ridiculously cheap on Amazon!
May 182012
 
We asked Hardboiled Collective member Bruce DeSilva all about his newest novel, Cliff Walk.

Tell us what the novel is about.

Cliff Walk is the second novel in my hardboiled series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter at a dying Providence, R.I. newspaper. The tale begins two years ago when prostitution was legal in the state (true story.) Politicians are making a lot of speeches about the shame of it, but they aren't doing anything about it. Mulligan suspects that's because they are being paid off. As he investigates, a child's severed arm is discovered in a pile of garbage at a local pig farm. Then the body of an internet pornographer turns up at the bottom of

the famous Cliff Walk in nearby Newport. At first the killings seem random, but as Mulligan keeps digging, strange connections begin to emerge. Promised free sex with hookers if he minds his own business--and a savage beating if he doesn't--Mulligan enlists the help of Thanks-Dad, the newspaper publisher's son, and Attila the Nun, the state's colorful attorney general, in his quest for the truth. What he learns will lead him to question his long-held beliefs about sexual morality, shake his tenuous religious faith, and leave him wondering who his real friends are. Cliff Walk is at once a hardboiled mystery and a serious exploration of sex and religion in the age of pornography.

How long did it take you to write the novel?

I began writing the book shortly after my first Mulligan novel, Rogue Island, winner of both the Edgar and the Macavity Awards, was published; and I finished it in six months. The third Mulligan novel, Providence Rag, is also finished and will be published sometime next year.

Did it take a lot of research?

Yes and no. In a sense, the Mulligan novels took forty years to research because they draw on everything I learned about Rhode Island's cops, street thugs, journalists, corrupt politics, and organized crime figures during my 40-year journalism career, about a third of it spent at The Providence Journal, the state's largest paper. I was well prepared to write these books. But when I started Cliff Walk, I did not know much about the inner workings of the state's sex trade. So I spent many dreary evenings hanging out at Cheaters, the Cadillac Lounge and several of the state's other strip clubs where prostitution was openly practiced, discretely questioning bartenders, bouncers, and naked hookers who kept climbing into my lap. Since I'm a married man, that could have had serious consequences. Lucky for me, my wife found my research hilarious.

Where did you come up with the plot; what inspired you?

Unlike Rogue Island, which is entirely made up, Cliff Walk was inspired by real events in our smallest state, a quirky place with a legacy of corruption that goes all the way back to one of the first colonial governors dining with Captain Kidd. In 1978, COYTE, a national organization representing sex workers, sued the state in federal court, alleging that its antiquated prostitution law was so vague that it could be interpreted as prohibiting sex between married couples. The suit was dismissed in 1980 after the state legislature rewrote the law, redefining the crime and reducing it from a felony to a misdemeanor. As it turned out, however, a key section of the new law was left out, supposedly by accident, when the legislature voted on it. Amazingly, however, more than a decade passed before anyone seemed to notice. Finally, in 1993, a lawyer representing several women arrested for prostitution at a local "spa" did something remarkable. He actually read the statute. The only word used to define the crime, he discovered, was "streetwalking." Therefore, he argued, sex for pay was legal in Rhode Island as long as the transaction occurred indoors. When the courts agreed, the state's strip clubs turned into brothels, and a whole bunch of new strip clubs and "massage parlors" opened up. Soon, tour buses full of eager customers began arriving from all over New England. At the height of the state's legal sex trade, 30 brothels were operating openly. Rhode Island didn't get around to fixing the law until a couple of years ago.

Which scenes did you enjoy writing the most?

When I sat down to write the novel, the first thing I typed was this: "Attila the nun thunked her can of Bud on the cracked Formica tabletop, stuck a Marlboro in her mouth, sucked in a lungful, and said 'Fuck this shit.'" That sentence, which ended up as the opening to chapter five, had the hardboiled feel I wanted and gave me the confidence to keep writing. But the short final chapter, which portrays a weary Mulligan's inner turmoil about the soul-wrenching things he witnessed during his investigation, is my favorite part of the book.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the novel?

I'm tempted to say Mulligan because he's a lot like me--except that he's 25 years younger and eight inches taller. He's an investigative reporter; I used to be. He's got a smart mouth; I get a lot of complaints about the same thing. Like me, he's got a shifting sense of justice that allows him to work with bad people to bring worse people down. But I have a special fondness for Attila the Nun, a former Little Sisters of the Poor nun who forsakes her religious calling for the rough-and-tumble arena of Rhode Island politics.

I noticed places in the novel where your own life or interests end up in some scenes, like the appearance of your wife Patricia, and a dog with the same name as yours. You also included an appearance by Andrew Vachss and often mention crime writers you personally like. Could you tell us a bit about why you enjoy including these little nuggets?



I want my characters to be real people, and that means giving them interests beyond the job of investigating crimes. Since Mulligan is so much like me, it makes sense to give him similar tastes. So he's a fan of the blues (The Tommy Castro Band, Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers, Buddy Guy.) He reads crime novels (Vachss, Michal Connelly, Ace Atkins.) He drinks beer (Killians.) He smokes cigars. He loves dogs, although his landlord won't allow him to have one. Unlike me, he's no fan of poetry, but his girlfriend is. So when she tries to read poetry to him or takes him to a poetry reading, I toss in a few lines. I suppose I could have tried to write a bit of poetry myself, but I'm no poet. I could have chosen a passage from another poet and then spent weeks trying to get permission to use it, but why go through all that trouble when I've got my own live-in poet? So I included a bit of writing from my wife, Patricia Smith, who is one of America's finest poets.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the novel?

The early notices have been gratifying, with both Publishers Weekly and Booklist giving Cliff Walk starred reviews. Publishers Weekly said, "Look for this one to garner more award nominations." Booklist called the plot "exquisite" and added that the novel is "terrific on every level." I just hope people enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Switch to our mobile site