Brian Feinblum, who runs BookMarketingBuzzBlog, interviewed me about The Dread Line, the latest novel in my Edgar Award-winning series featuring Liam Mulligan. Here is the Q&A, which first appeared on his site.
- What is your new book about?Since getting fired from his Rhode Island newspaper job last year (A Scourge of Vipers, 2015), Liam Mulligan has been trying to piece together a new life—one that straddles both sides of the law. He’s getting some part-time work with his friend McCracken’s detective agency. He’s picking up beer money by freelancing for a local news website. And he’s looking after his semi-retired mobster-friend’s bookmaking business. But of course, he still can’t seem to stay out of trouble. In The Dread Line, the fifth book in this Edgar Award-winning series of crime novels, Mulligan is obsessed with a baffling jewelry heist, and he’s enraged that someone in town is torturing animals. All of this keeps distracting him from a big case that needs his attention. The New England Patriots, still shaken by murder charges against their superstar tight end, have hired Mulligan and McCracken to investigate the background of a college athlete they are thinking of drafting. At first, the job seems routine, but as soon as they start asking questions, they get push-back. The player, it seems, has something to hide – and someone is willing to kill to make sure it remains secret.
- What inspired you to write it?
Aaron Hernandez was an All-American football star drafted out of the University of Florida by the New England Patriots. For a few years, he and Rob Gronkowski formed what was without a doubt the best pair of tight ends ever to play together on the same NFL team. But Hernandez, who was in and out of trouble in college, had a dark side that was darker than anyone had imagined. In 2013, the Patriots cut him immediately when he was arrested for allegedly shooting a semi-pro football player to death. He was subsequently convicted of first degree murder. But that wasn’t all. Among other things, he was indicted in 2015 for a double murder in Boston. I didn’t want to re-tell the familiar story as fiction, but it did get me wondering what would happen if the Patriots hired Mulligan to check out another college star.
- What do you hope will be the everlasting thoughts for readers who finish your book?
Mulligan, whose job has always been to probe the dark hearts we pray against, drifts awfully close to the dark side himself in this novel. I hope the book will leave readers thinking about what it is like for homicide detectives, investigative reporters and others who sometimes find themselves wondering if their work is eating away at them, threatening to turn them into the very thing that they fear.
- What advice do you have for writers?
Treat writing as your job—something you do every day whether you feel like it or not. Don’t wait to be inspired. Don’t sit around hoping that your muse will show up. Plant your butt down at your desk every day and write. That’s the way to get a book done.
- Where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?
If I knew that, I could get rich. I don’t think anybody can say where this fast-changing industry is headed. If I had to make just one guess, I’d say that both print and e-books will continue to exist side by side for at least another decade because both have their advantages. Other than that, I have no idea.
- What challenges did you have in writing your book?
I never outline. I just set my characters in motion to see what will happen. But I can’t really get started until I write a paragraph or two that sets the tone of the book that I want to write. For me, everything flows from that. The first thing I wrote when I started The Dread Line, was this:
“He was a serial killer, but I didn’t hold that against him. It was just his nature. The way he killed irked me some. His victims were all missing their heads. But what I couldn’t abide was his habit of using my porch as a dump site.”
I had no idea who the killer was. Worse, I didn’t want to write another serial killer book. I’d already published one (Providence Rag) based on a real case I once covered as a journalist, and reliving those terrible days had been painful for me. I had vowed never to write about a serial killer again. But I loved the feel of that paragraph—the way it set the noir mood I was after. As I pondered what to do, I looked down at Rondo, the most territorial of my two 130-pound dogs, and thought about him patrolling my big back yard, driving off every intruder from foraging deer to our neighborhood’s most efficient killer, a friend’s predatory cat. And then I knew. The serial killer in that first paragraph—which I kept as the opening of the novel—was a feral tomcat who deposited its daily kill on Mulligan’s back porch.
- If people can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
The great Steve Hamilton, one of very few writers ever to win TWO Edgar Awards, calls The Dread Line “the best yet in one of my favorite series ever — fast and funny, yet it packs a serious punch. This is hard-boiled crime fiction at its finest.” Since his last book, The Second Life of Nick Mason, was published last spring, I don’t have to fret about not recommending his over mine.
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