Douglas Corleone’s Good As Gone is a great thriller with a hard-boiled detective edge. We asked Doug a few questions about his new book and new character, Simon Fisk
MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did the idea of Simon Fisk come about?
DOUGLAS CORLEONE: My inspiration for Good As Gone came from a one-page article I’d read online about a private investigator in Tampa, Florida, who specializes in retrieving children kidnapped by their estranged parents and taken overseas to countries that don’t recognize U.S. custody decisions. Fortunately, I printed the article and saved it for two years at the bottom of my filing cabinet.
When my agent said that my editor would like to see something new from me, I immediately went digging and had a one-page synopsis for Good As Gone a few hours later.
MP: While Good As Gone has some comic relief in it, it is more somber than your Kevin Corelli series. Did you welcome the change in tone?
DC: I have mixed feelings. It’s fun to write funny, but it’s also very difficult to sustain a significant level of humor for 350 pages. I also love to challenge myself when writing, and I was happy for the opportunity to write a novel substantially darker than my Kevin Corvelli books. So I did welcome the change in tone in many ways, but that’s not to say I don’t miss Kevin Corvelli’s quirks and his unique worldview.
MP: One of the things I loved about Good As Gone was that Simon has a sidekick for almost every country he’s in. How did you approach writing these characters?
DC: Simon Fisk is very much a loner like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. But, I knew he’d need help along the way. You can take a number of risks with a sidekick that you can’t take with a main character, especially the hero of a series.
So, I tried to be fearless in creating characters like the Berlin Private Investigator Kurt Ostermann and the Warsaw lawyer, Anastazja Staszak. I allowed Ostermann to be as hard and as brutal as he seemed to want to be. Ana, well… Ana is based on someone I knew well and who was very special to me. I permitted Ana to be herself, and she was every bit as smart and funny, and courageous and stubborn as I expected her to be. If the real Ana reads the book – and I suspect she might, since it was translated into Polish, and is being released in Poland this fall – I think she’ll immediately recognize herself. And then she’ll insist that I got her all wrong, simply because she’s a contrarian.
MP: There is a lot of globe trotting in the book. How do you go about bringing out the personality of each setting?
DC: I let the characters bring out the personality of each setting. If I accomplished what I set out to, then the reader won’t notice me at all. When I read a thriller, I dread lengthy descriptions of setting. I think the setting’s personality is best established through the hero’s interaction with the place and time he’s in.
If an author knows the place he’s writing about well enough (through firsthand experience and/or rigorous research), then the setting shines through as brightly as the characters and the author’s hand is invisible. Simon doesn’t stop to smell the roses; he can’t afford to. But he may spot them from the corner of his eye, and if they’re relevant he’ll tell you about them. If not, he won’t.
MP: Fisk has gone through hell in his back-story. What keeps him going?
DC: What keeps Simon going is empathy. He’s experienced the pain of losing everything; and if he can prevent someone else from experiencing that kind of suffering, he’ll risk life and limb to do so. He’s also keenly aware that he doesn’t want to die without knowing what happened to his daughter. He wants to know who took her and why; and he’ll never stop looking.
MP: Your books are a unique mix of sub-genres. Does a writer as unique as you have any influences?
DC: I have many influences and they come from a variety of genres and sub-genres. Readers might catch the reference to Patrick Bateman, Bret Easton Ellis’ anti-hero from American Psycho. Charles Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson were major influences on Kevin Corvelli’s sense of humor. Lee Child’s Jack Reacher is a major influence on Simon Fisk. Other influences of mine are Ken Bruen for his Irish noir, Jeff Abbott for his jet setting, David Rosenfelt for his wisecracks, and the late great Elmore Leonard for his dialogue, just to name a few…