Q&A with M.P. Cooley

Ice Shear is a police procedural where June, a former FBI agent, and now a small town cop, uncovers a murder. After discovering the connection of an outlaw motorcycle gang involved in politics and drugs, the FBI arrives. June must navigate between silently mourning the death of her husband while trying to raise her daughter and hold down a fulltime job on the local police force of the town where she grew up. Besides trying to solve the murder June also runs interference between the FBI and local police force. This debut novel by M. P. Cooley is an intriguing story that is fast-paced and engaging.


Elise Cooper: Why did you decide to write crime novels?


M. P. Cooley: My favorite genre to read has been mystery/thrillers. I like trying to work with the big questions of life and death, when people are at their best and worst. I also enjoy the intellectual stimulation of trying to figure out what will happen in the plot.


EC: Did you base Hopewell Falls New York on a real town?

Cooley: Yes, Cohoes New York. It is where I came from. In the 1950s it was named the All American city but now the population has dropped from 60,000 to 15,000. My family lived in Auburn in the 1980s, and while we were there Columbia Rope, P&R Spaghetti, and the biggest employer, ALCOA, either shut down or drastically reduced their workforce. People were fighting for jobs as prison guards. In Hopewell Falls, Main Street is empty, and the mills that drove the city are closed. Like Hopewell Falls, June thinks she is past her glory days. Yet, she feels the ones who stayed in the town have a lot more courage than the ones who have left.

EC: Can you describe the main character June Lyons?

Cooley: She had grand plans for her life and now feels she has lost everything: her husband, her career, and her home. She knows she made the right decision returning home, but she still feels the loss of her old life. While June would never describe herself as a hero, I think she is, showing up for her family, friends, and city while doing the right thing, day after day. June doesn’t share her thoughts and feelings with most people. Being in her head, the readers may know more about her than a lot of her friends and family. Her family has given the strength and hope to get past her husband’s death and solve the murder of Danielle Brouillette. From her father she got a strong sense of duty and a refusal to give up a case until it is solved. Her daughter gave her a reason to live and a reason to hope. Even grieving, she works to make sure her daughter feels safe and loved, and that includes solving the crimes that could destroy the town where they live.


EC: Can you describe the FBI agent Hale Bascom?


Cooley: A loveable shark. He means well but is very self-absorbed. In the next book he grows up more and becomes more compassionate. He does help June reconnect with her investigative past and is the first guy who she is attracted to since her husband. He has serious conversations about her rejoining the FBI.


EC: You seem to move the plot along more with dialogue than direct action. Can you comment?

Cooley: I call it a ‘quiet police procedural.’ I want to uncover people’s motives through conversation. I wanted to make the action in the conversations. The police who reviewed it told me an officer better have a life and death reason to pull their gun. There were three scenes in the early draft where I had June use her weapon, and all were cut from the book. Law enforcement understands the gravity of pulling the weapon, and I used that sense of responsibility in developing the character of June.

EC: Did you do research on the biker gangs?

Cooley: I went on the message boards and talked to bikers. They consider being in a gang as having freedom and a brotherhood. They believe they are living their values. I had a bit of luck when a group of bikers started coming into my favorite coffee shop on Thursday evenings. They wore full leathers, big Harleys, the whole deal. I wouldn’t have expected Peet’s to be a biker hangout, but they sat next to me one day and we started talking. They called themselves “The Saints and Sinners”, and were a sober biker gang. A lot of them had been part of the Bandidos or Hell’s Angels, but decided to leave when their lives got out of control, and the booze and drugs became too much. But getting out wasn’t easy. They lost their friends and family, their whole life, and to exit they had to be beaten by the entire gang. If they lived through the beating, they could leave. A lot of what they told me became the basis of Marty. I actually plan on bringing Marty back if the series continues.

EC: This is also a story about grief. Did you grieve for anyone?

Cooley: Two years before writing this book I lost my dad who was someone important to me. I also lost my career as a book editor. For me, grief is making peace with the loss, letting go, and making a new life. I wrote June in a similar path. Marty also suffered grief when he lost his wife. Yet, where as Marty gets pulled back into his past June is able to move forward. Grief had cut me off from other people, which is similar to June in the beginning of the book. She is able to get a high from her job but puts her private life on the back burner.


EC: Why the initials M. P.?

Cooley: Another author is named Martha Cooley. That person also worked for a publishing company and actually moved on the same street as me when I lived in Brooklyn. We have this weird parallel universe.

EC: What do you want the readers to get out of this book?

Cooley: Good entertainment. An emphasis on everyday heroes and everyday villains. Most of June’s suspects are people who she knows, strong, kind people who help their neighbors, including June, in their time of need. Serial killers and psychos are monstrous, but I was interested in the everyday evil. The small town setting gave me that.

EC: Can you give a heads up about the next book?

Cooley: June understands that she enjoys the high-level police work and wants to reconnect with her investigative past. I found out people can come back to the FBI on a contract basis. She will stay in upstate New York and handle regional crimes. The plot of the next book has June getting the opportunity to close her father’s last defining case once and for all. He mentions in Ice Shear a thirty year ago case of a double murder where the bodies of the victims were never found. June’s investigation ends up uncovering more questions than it answers, and opening old obsessions for both June’s father and her partner Dave. One of the murdered was Dave’s mother so he cannot be actively involved on this case due to the conflict of interest. This allows Hale to come back and partner up with June. It will be interesting to see how the two connect personally and professionally.