Phillip Margolin: The VIOLENT CRIMES Interview

Violent Crimes begins when Amanda Jaffe is asked to defend Tom Beatty, a former Special Forces Warrior, who has PTSD and is accused of using excessive force in a bar fight. Although the charges were dismissed Tom’s troubles are only beginning after he is suspected of murdering his co-worker and dealing drugs. Shortly after Tom gets out on bail another lawyer, Dale Materson, is found dead, also beaten to death. The case gets more complicated when his son, Brandon, a radical activist determined to martyr himself for his cause, claims he killed his father. Amanda now has to defend two clients, trying to prove both innocent. Elise Cooper: Tom had PTSD did you do any research? Phillip Margolin: When I practiced I had cases with PTSD so I know a little about it. EC: Do you come up with a story or the characters first? PM: For me, everything is plot driven. Everything starts with some idea. After that I try to figure out what characters would fit into the story. Take for example Ties That Bind, I had no intention of putting Amanda and Frank Jaffe in it, but after thinking about it, I knew these characters would fit perfectly. With Violent Crimes it was a combination of wanting to bring Amanda back, but making sure it did not seemed forced. EC: Did you ever try death cases? PM: Yes, twelve of them. I might be the only legal thriller writer who has actually worked on death cases. What you see in my books are things I have actually done in real life. In every other criminal case there is about a month between the conviction and the sentencing, not with death cases. It becomes really complicated so a lawyer has to hire many experts and investigators. EC: Would you ever make a prosecutor the main character? PM: I have toyed with that idea. Remember in After Dark Abbie Griffin is a prosecutor and a sympathetic character when she becomes a defendant. I wrote this book after my first mega bestseller, Gone, But Not Forgotten. I did not want to write Betsy Tannenbaum books for the rest of my life. I then decided to write something different in tone. Gone is about a serial killer while After Dark is really a love story, Beauty and the Beast with lawyers. I made it intentionally different so I did not get type cast. EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book? PM: It is another death penalty case but with a twist. A top-notch criminal defense lawyer has just hired a new associate who starts to suspect that this super lawyer has dementia. EC: Rumor has it you like football? PM: My religion is professional football. On Sundays I am in front of the set from ten in the morning to eight at night. I am also a fan of the University of Oregon because I enjoy their style of football. My predication for the Super Bowl: emotionally I want the Broncos to win with Peyton Manning able to ride off into the Sunset, but putting my lawyer logical thinking cap on I just don’t see it because the Panthers have been playing lights out football. THANK...

Alafair Burke: THE EX Interview

The plot of the ex has one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers, Olivia Randall, representing her ex- fiancé, Jack Harris. He has been arrested for a triple homicide that includes a victim connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier. Burke takes the reader on a journey with Randall as she goes from vehemently believing his innocence to questioning if he is indeed guilty. Part of the reason she agrees to represent Jack is to absolve herself of the guilt, feeling somewhat responsible for his state of mind. Her past regrets are based on the way she chose to end the relationship twenty years ago when she broke his heart in an unimaginable way. Elise Cooper: Does your professional background help in writing these stories? Alafair Burke: As a former prosecutor and now a professor of criminal law and procedure I wanted to show how the law allows them to do certain things to get a conviction, but prosecutors also have a lot of responsibility. I did not set out to write the book and make the point that the legal system favors the prosecution. I think prosecutors do have a lot of power in the legal justice system. Olivia certainly felt she did not have a level playing field. Hopefully readers see that the ADA Scott Temple is a good guy and just played the cards he had. EC: What did you want to explore with the Jack and Olivia relationship? AB: People who were in your past life, did you ever wonder about them? How did someone in Olivia’s former life turn out? She was never able to close the book with Jack. Then he suddenly appears in her life in a very shocking way. She remembers the relationship in a certain way, making herself to be the bad person. Feeling guilty about the way she ended it her memories are that she was bad and he was good. But as the book progresses you see not everything is black and white. EC: How would you define Jack? AB: Gullible and naïve, someone who gets under Olivia’s skin. He was a preppy nerd that Olivia initially took for granted. Because he was dealt some hard blows she ended up in a relationship with him, which started as a friendship. I can understand why Olivia did not want to be with him. Jack would not be my kind of guy. EC: You explore how technology is used for social interaction. Correct? AB: Yes. “The Room” is based on the “gothamist” website that is New York centrist. I also explore “Catfishing” where someone pretends to be a certain person. My friend is single and does online dating. Someone sent him a message and asked him if he was the person she was conversing with online, because she wanted to meet him in person. She thinks it was my friend because she Googled the image sent to her. Some guy had basically used my friend’s picture to give himself a different identity. The prosecutor in me was worried about the anonymity of the Internet. I told my friend to be very careful, trust but verify times ten. EC: It was interesting how you made Jack’s profession a writer. Did you do it so he had plausible explanations? AB: When I have to choose a profession of a character I have to be aware of a reader’s pre-existing ideas of what they will be like. Something about certain jobs invokes a certain personality, such as a cop or accountant. By making Jack a writer there is a blank slate. People know his job is to make things up so they might wonder did he weave this whole story in case he got caught. Remember every book he wrote is a fictional account of something in his life. EC: Can you give a heads up about your next book...

Q&A with Benjamin Black

EVEN THE DEAD is the seventh novel in Benjamin Black’s Quirke series, which features a pathologist in 1950s Dublin. Black is also the author of the Philip Marlowe novel THE BLACK-EYED BLONDE. Benjamin Black is the pen name of John Banville, who is the author of fifteen novels and the recipient of awards including the Man Booker Prize. 1. Why did you choose to write about 1950s Ireland? What freedoms does setting your crime novel in the past give you as a writer? The Dublin of the 1950s is the perfect setting for a noir novel. All that deprivation, alcohol, cigarette smoke; all those secret crimes and misdemeanours; all that guilt: what more could a mystery writer ask for? Of course, it was a challenge to try to recreate what is, after all, a vanished world, but it was a joy, as well, to trawl through my memories of those far-off days and see what I would come up with—a great deal, as it turned out, somewhat to my surprise. 2. Quirke is a pathologist with a penchant for playing detective. Why did you give him this particular day job? I didn’t want to have a detective as my protagonist. Also, I liked the idea of a man who works ‘down among the dead men’, a sort of lost soul striving to rise up into the light but always failing. Although his new lady-love, the redoubtable Dr Evelyn Blake, may succeed in rescuing him from the underworld. 3. In your crime fiction you explore the corruption of the state, specifically the notorious mother and baby homes and Irish babies being sent to America for adoption. Why did you choose to delve into this dark side of politics? Well, it’s just material. I should like to be able to say that I had a crusading social purpose when I set out in the first book, Christine Falls, but the truth is I just wanted to write a novel, and the scandals that had just begun to be revealed at that time seemed ideal for my purpose, as they have continued to be. 4. Quirke’s daughter, Phoebe, is a fiercely independent character who becomes her father’s sidekick in solving the crime. Quirke seems at once in admiration of her independence and wary of it. Why did you make this such an uneasy father/daughter relationship? And what do you think it adds to your crime novel? I’m fascinated by Phoebe—sometimes I think she is the most interesting character in these books. My agent suggests I’m in love with her, but I think that she is me, in some way that I can’t explain. I admire her spirit and her integrity, and I find the relation between father and daughter and daughter and father very interesting and stimulating. I also wanted to portray that rarest of things, an independent-minded young woman in 1950s Ireland. 5. Who are the crime writers you particularly admire? Georges Simenon above all; Raymond Chandler; James M. Cain; the great Richard Stark; Patricia Highsmith. I don’t any longer read the women writers of earlier years, such as Margery Allingham and Ngaio Marsh, but I really should return to them, as I suspect I would find neglected treasures there. 6. Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym? There are quite a lot of literary writers who have switched to crime who use a pseudonym. Why do you think that might be? Well, I can’t speak for others. For myself, I decided to use a pen-name simply to let my Banville readers understand that this was not a postmodernist literary trick I was playing, and that the Quirke novels are what they say they are: crime fiction. 7. Your Quirke novels have been adapted by the BBC for TV. What was your experience of seeing your characters come quite literally to life? I love cinema and television drama—when it’s good—so...

Interview with Hank Phillippi Ryan

How would I describe Hank Phillippi Ryan? Hank is a storyteller. She is also one of the smartest people I’m lucky enough to know, glamorous as all get-out, and tough as heck. Much to the delight of readers everywhere, she writes the Jane Ryland/Jake Brogan novels, and she’s also the real-life TV investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC channel. You might think that someone who has won 33 Emmy and 13 Edward R. Murrow Awards, five Agathas, two Macavitys, three Anthonys, the Daphne, and the Mary Higgins Clark award might not have time for us readers, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Hank is one of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet. And you probably will meet her, because she does events all over the country! When you do, you might be surprised at how funny Hank is…I can think of only one other author who so consistently has us all in stitches at events. Before her Jane Ryland thrillers hit the shelves, Hank wrote the hip and witty Charlotte McNally mysteries. And now they’re back in print. Hank’s first series starring investigative reporter Charlotte McNally is being re-issued, starting with PRIME TIME in February, then with FACE TIME, AIR TIME, and DRIVE TIME coming every other month in 2016. So if you’re a fan of Hank’s Jane Ryland/Jake Brogan series, you will also love meeting Charlie, the savvy, determined, and hilarious TV reporter who’s always on the hunt for the story that will save her career. Hank was good enough to answer some questions for me (and not answer one!)… So, Charlotte McNally is you. Right? Ah. Thank you. Well, yes, she is me. And no, she absolutely is not. The cool part about writing Charlotte is that I get to take all the insider stuff I’ve learned and experienced after all these years on the street and show, in a way I can’t reveal in real life, what it’s really like to be a reporter. It’s a cutthroat, relentless, high-pressure, high-stakes career. Lives, real lives and real reputations, are at stake. Sounds highfalutin’, but what reporters do is document history. The way I see Charlotte—she’s smart and savvy and funny—but also tough, relentless, and dedicated to the truth. She’s forty-six, (old in TV years), and begins to wonder what happens to a woman in TV who is married to her job—when the camera doesn’t love her anymore. She wonders—“If I’m not Charlie McNally from Channel 3, who will I be?” So she always needs a big story to survive in the relentlessly cutthroat and age-conscious world of TV. (Have I been there, done that? Yes, indeed. And still doing it.) Where did the inspiration for PRIME TIME (the first book in the series) come from? The beginning? When I was about seven years old, reading Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew in the hayloft of the barn behind our house in rural Indiana. That’s when I knew I wanted to be either a mystery writer or a detective. Turned out, as an investigative reporter and crime fiction author, I’m a little of each. It just took a while. The spark for PRIME TIME came 45 years later. Seriously. I remember it perfectly. I was at my office at Channel 7, deleting junk mails, and in my haste, opened one. It was so intriguing and mysterious, and I thought—well, no. No spoilers. But I knew it could be the key to a terrific mystery. (I get goosebumps remembering that moment—I knew it was a great idea.) I went home, and told my husband—I’ve got it! I’ve got my plot for a mystery novel. And he said—“Honey, do you know how to write a novel?” And newbie me, I said “How hard can it be? It as a million times more difficult than I’d predicted, but I loved the story. I was 55 years old! The poster child for late bloomers. And that became, PRIME TIME which won the Agatha for Best First...

Reed Farrel Coleman: The WHERE IT HURTS Interview

A STORY OF FIRSTS An Interview with Reed Farrel Coleman by George Lichman I attended my first Bouchercon in Cleveland in the fall of 2012 in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. The first author I met, thanks to my friend Jen Forbus (Jen’s Book Thoughts), was Reed Farrel Coleman. I saw Reed again the next year in Wisconsin, at my first Murder & Mayhem. Another first for me came at Murder & Mayhem 2015, when I filled in at the last minute as the moderator of a panel, “On The Kill”. On the panel was, you guessed it, Reed. At Murder & Mayhem, I picked up a copy of Reed’s newest book, WHERE IT HURTS (Putnam, January 2016) to review for Crimespree Magazine. I thought it would only be appropriate to continue my series of firsts with Reed, and decided to try my first author interview. And to make it even clearer that this was the way to go, WHERE IT HURTS is the first in a series featuring Gus Murphy, a retired Suffolk County Police Officer. George Lichman: Your Moe Prager series was set in New York City. WHERE IT HURTS is set on Long Island, which is much less well known than the NYC. I enjoyed the Long Island setting and felt I got an idea about that area. Is there any reason you changed the setting from NYC to Long Island?  Reed Farrel Coleman: There are a few reasons. For one, I’ve now actually lived on Long Island longer than I lived in Brooklyn. Hence I’m more familiar with the pulse of Long Island, specifically Suffolk County, than with the city’s. Second, it’s territory that’s pretty fresh compared to novels set in NYC. Putnam, my publisher, really liked that angle. It’s of NY but not of the city and the contrast between the two is always interesting. GL: Did you want to bring attention to Long Island/Suffolk County, to show there is more to it than the Hamptons and Gold Coast?  RFC: Absolutely. Everyone who’s read a book, seen a movie, or has a TV only knows the “fancy” parts of Long Island, but the Hamptons, the Gold Coast, are the exceptions not the norm. Most Long Islanders struggle with the same things everyone else does, but with some eccentricities peculiar to Long Island.   GL: What different approach or research did you have to get the differences in policing and crime right between NYC and Long Island? RFC: Well, policing is a different animal out here in Suffolk County. I have many friends who are on the job in Suffolk, some of whom worked on the NYPD first. So, of course, I listen to them and take in what they have to say about the differences. Second, the SCPD is one of the, if not the, highest paid police force in the United States. This creates all sorts of friction with the citizenry, other uniformed services, and, oddly enough, the teachers union. But the best research I ever did was during my many years driving a home heating oil delivery truck. That’s right, I had a CDL class B, hazardous materials driver’s license. How many Edgar nominees can make that claim? Seriously, while driving, I saw the ugly parts of Suffolk County, the dangerous parts, the poor parts: poor white, poor Hispanic, poor African-American. These are the areas you never know exist unless you’re a cop or do the kind of work I did. These are the places where some people had to choose between heat and food in the winter. Places that couldn’t get their streets plowed. I loved writing this book because I got to explore those issues.     GL: Wow…highest paid police in the country…maybe I should consider relocating! Character development has got to be one of the most difficult tasks in fiction, particularly in dark crime fiction; readers often expect it to move quickly. Your development...

The Rob Hart Interview

Dan (and Kate): Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Rob! We think it’s safe to say that between your work at the Mysterious Press, LitReactor, writing the continuing adventures of Ash McKenna, AND your most important job as new daddy… one could say you’re a pretty busy guy. With so much going on, how do you find the time to get anything done? Rob Hart: Most of the credit goes to my wife. My parents and my in-laws are a big help, in the sense that they will happily take the baby at a moment’s notice. But my wife is incredibly patient and understanding. She knows that this is a lot of ass-in-seat work, and sometimes I need to shackle myself to my computer. That said, I try to keep a balance. I am incredibly lucky to work some very cool jobs, but my wife and daughter come first. D (and K): Your debut novel, NEW YORKED, hit shelves this past June, 2015. In NEW YORKED, we meet your unlicensed PI Ash McKenna. Ash is described as being more of a “blunt instrument” than a traditional PI. Also, he has a “bent moral compass.” Ash strikes us very much like Batman, in the sense that he is so tied to his city, it’s a tent pole of his being. Tell us more about Ash, and his relationship with his hometown. RH: Ash is my id. He’s every bad decision I never made. He’s also, in my mind, a bit of a mash-up between a PI and a comic book vigilante. There’s a quote from the new Ms. Marvel that I love—and will probably be the epigraph of the fourth book—“Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.” I don’t think Ash is a very good person. He wants to be. And when push comes to shove, he’ll do what’s right, because it’s the right thing to do. Ash is part of a very particular class of New Yorker—the embittered native. New York used to be a very dangerous city. Not so much anymore. The population is booming, rents are skyrocketing, old businesses are being driven out. It sucks to love a thing and think you earned it and then it’s taken from you, even though it wasn’t really yours to own in the first place. That’s his relationship to the city, in a nutshell. D (and K): And now, with February 2016’s release of CITY OF ROSE, you dare to plop Ash on the West Coast? How can this possibly work??? (spoiler: It totally works.) RH: Moving Ash around keeps things fresh, for me as a writer, and I hope for the reader. But there’s also this thing about being a native New Yorker: You get stuck on the idea that you’ve seen it all. The thrust of the series is Ash growing up and finding his moral compass. The only way to do that was to put him in places where he was forced to engage with the world—and with himself—on a different level. D (and K): With the internet and social media, you don’t have to live down the block from other writers in order to be part of the mystery community. But living in New York and working at the Mysterious Press and LitReactor, some would say that you are at the epicenter of this amazing community. Please pull back the curtain a bit, and tell us more about this. RH: It’s a little trippy. I’ve got to do some very cool things—run a class taught by Chuck Palahniuk at LitReactor, watch Lee Child buy my book at The Mysterious Bookshop. It’s great to be part of a community, and to access that community from a couple of different angles. Especially because writing is such a solitary act. That said, I still feel like I’m at the kid’s table....