The Fraud is Brad Parks’ latest mystery to feature Newark, NJ reporter Carter Ross. In The Fraud, Ross juggles piecing together a connection between two carjacking murders and managing his anxiety over his own impending fatherhood. Brad will be joining us for our Wednesday, July 22nd Noir at the Bar (starting at 7 PM at Opal Divine’s) and allowed us to do this little interrogation with him.
MysteryPeople: The Fraud deals with carjacking. What do most people not know about the crime?
Brad Parks: This delves into an issue dear to the hearts of New Jersey criminals: boosting cars. From the 70s through the 90s, Newark and Elizabeth swapped back and forth being the car theft capital of the nation. They practically taught hot-wiring in elementary school. (Note to potentially irate Newark and Elizabeth school officials: the previous sentence employs a literary device called “hyperbole.” Please don’t take it too seriously). Anyhow, automakers eventually wizened up and started making cars that are impossible to hotwire. This left modern-day car thieves with no choice but to forcibly take a car from its owner with the keys still in it. Thus, in the well-intentioned hope of deterring car theft, we’ve actually replaced a non-confrontational crime (grand theft auto) with one that is quite violence prone (carjacking). As I say in the book: it’s the law of unintended consequences, and in Newark it remains well enforced.
MP: The relationship between Carter and Tina is fun. What do you like exploring in it?
BP: I’ve always consciously tipped stereotypical conventions on their ear when dealing with those two: Carter is the one seeking a long-term committed arrangement, while Tina just wants booty calls. Obviously, now that she’s pregnant, things are getting a little more serious. But I think the thing I like is that while Carter may be the protagonist in this series, he’s not calling the shots in his love life. There’s no question who is the dog and who is the tail.
MP: Carter now has several interns to help him out. Is there one in particular that is really fun for you to write?
BP: Careful readers of the series will note that, other than Tommy Hernandez–the intern who has been Carter’s constant sidekick since the debut–the rest of the interns only get one book to shine before they’re ushered off the page. So in book two, Eyes of the Innocent, we got Sweet Thang. Book three, The Girl Next Door, was Lunky. And so on. Well, I was doing a library show in Cuyahoga County, Ohio a few years back, and as soon as I entered the room, a gentleman in back held up a poster that said, “BRING BACK SWEET THANG.” How could I refuse him? I promised him Sweet Thang, aka Lauren MacMillan, would make a return someday. And in The Fraud, she does. And, yes, I enjoy writing her very much.
MP: As a former reporter, what do you want to convey about the job?
BP: I’d like to think I bring some humanity to what can be a faceless occupation. Because they’re supposed to be unbiased and impartial and all that hokum, reporters often appear to be unfeeling about the news they print and indifferent to its consequences. Trust me, we’re anything but. Hopefully, Carter reminds readers that newspaper reporters bleed too.
MP: How has Carter changed since Faces Of The Gone?
BP: When the series began, Carter was this happy, go-lucky bachelor without a lot of responsibility beyond making sure his cat got fed once in a while. He enjoyed cracking wise and snickered at dick jokes. As THE FRAUD begins, he’s on the verge of fatherhood and, if he can ever wear Tina down, marriage. Those things have obviously raised the stakes in his life and made him more serious, more contemplative, more–dare I say it–mature. That said, I don’t think he’s ever going to stop snickering at dick jokes.
MP: You’ll be attending our July 22nd Noir At The Bar. How drunk are you planning to get before you read?
BP: I shouldn’t admit this, because it ruins my noir street cred. But I’m such a lightweight it typically only takes half a beer to ensure that I am feeling no pain. Let’s just say I won’t be signing up to be your designated driver, Scott.
MysteryPeople welcomes Brad Parks, along with Andrew Hilbert, CJ Howell and Jesse Sublett, to Opal Divine’s on Wednesday, July 22, at 7 PM for another great Noir at the Bar. You can find copies of Parks’ latest novel, The Fraud, along with books from each author attending Noir at the Bar, on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Copies will also be available for purchase at Opal Divine’s during our Noir at the Bar event.