Never Look Back

Alison Gaylin

William Morrow Pub.

July 2nd, 2019

Never Look Back by Alison Gaylin is a suspenseful psychological thriller.  Her readers will not be disappointed with this latest novel based on a true murder crime spree. 

The plot delves into how, in 1976, teenage murderers April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy terrorized Southern California’s Inland Empire, killing a dozen victims before perishing in a fire.  More than forty years later, a True Crime podcast gets an unexpected tip that April did not die in the fire and is living in New York under a new identity. Hoping to find definitive proof that Renee Bloom is really April Cooper, Quentin, who has the podcast, journeys to New York and reaches out to Renee’s daughter, movie columnist Robin Diamond.

Quentin Garrison blames his troubled upbringing on the murders. His aunt was one of the victims and he wants closure for himself and other families who are still impacted by the murders. Quentin and Robin each conduct their own investigations, determined to get to the truth. But in doing so, will they place their own lives in danger?

This intense thriller took readers on a roller coast ride with all the twists and turns. Written from multiple points of view they get an overall impression of each character.  An added bonus was the letters written by April to her future child explaining her feelings and thought process.

Elise Cooper: How did you get the idea for the story

Alison Gaylin:  I always wanted to write about this couple, Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate that went on a killing spree, which started in Nebraska. She was fourteen and he was nineteen. Even though it seemed obvious he abducted her, she was tried as an accessory to murder and sentenced to life in prison, since they were boyfriend/girlfriend. Eventually she was let out.

EC:  Is your character April exactly like Caril Ann Fugate?

AG:  I did create a similar murder spree set in the 1970s.  But April is a little less of a victim and more of a survivor.  The story came together for me when I thought, ‘what if that was me or my mother.’ I did not make it a straight up kidnapping like what happened with Patty Hearst.  Remember, April knew her abductor from the very beginning. 

EC:  Are you a True Crime fan?

AG:  I have a great love of True Crime podcasts, which is why I gave the character Quentin that profession.  He is a journalist but is investigating something personal. I suggested five crime podcasts I like in the finished copy of this book.

EC:  Why the letter format to a future child?

AG:  I had a similar assignment when I was in school.  I thought this format would allow April to come clean and tell the truth.  I originally thought to make it a diary but then I thought she might not be honest with even herself.  Because her main goal in life was to be a mother, I thought she would tell the truth to her future child.

EC:  You always involve social media in your plots?

AG:  It seems to be an ongoing theme in my books.  I like to write about things that scare me.  Social media is the fastest route for someone to be misunderstood because the facts are boiled down into small sound bites.  It becomes a place of outrage and can actually muddy the facts. I think one of the easiest places to form an angry mob is on Twitter.

EC:  How would you describe April?

AG:  She is a flawed character.  Because of everything that happened to her she sometimes has a lot of rage.  Everything was taken away from her.  Yet, she is also a nurturing mother.  I think her heart is in the right place. She is essentially a good person who contributed to some bad things.  The reason she stayed with her murderous boyfriend Gabriel is that he told her if she tried to escape he would kill her little sister.  Did she let her situation take over her soul?  I think the environment had a lot to do with it.

EC:  How would you describe the daughter, Robin?

AG:  She had an awakening through the course of the book.  Very perceptive, smart, and values the truth.  She must deal with the fact that all those close to her have lied to her.  I hope she is seen as sympathetic.

EC:  This story makes readers question how well do we know our parents?

AG:  Our parents had a whole other life, many fully mature adults, before we came into existence.  They could have had moments of great shame, regret, or nobility that we might never know about it unless they choose to tell us.  What we know about our parents’ past is through their own perceptions.  What I wanted to explore in this book is that we never fully know anyone else. 

EC:  Is this a story about families?

AG:  Yes.  They can be nurturing and destructive at the same time.  Everyone has a family.  Some are made from friends, and some are actual families.  They range from dysfunctional to unconditional love.  We forgive a lot that we would not in other relationships.  I think in this story Quentin had a dysfunctional mother, while Robin’s mother gave her unconditional love.

EC:  There is a scene in the book where April’s husband is a huge Yankee fan, are you?

AG: Growing up in Southern California I was the biggest Dodger fan.  My dad and I would go to games together.  He taught me that the Yankees were a store bought team.  I make a lot of my book characters Yankee fans as an inside joke between me and the memory of my dad. 

EC:  Your next book?

AG:  It delves into female rage.  The main character had a horrible tragedy in her life that was made more unfair by the person who perpetuated it and never got punished.  It will probably come out in 2021.