MysteryPeople Q&A with Linwood Barclay

Linwood Barclay, after a long career as a newspaperman, began writing thrillers full-time in 2004. He has since published over a dozen thrillers, including several bestsellers. Mr. Barclay joins us at BookPeople on Friday, July 31st, to speak and sign his latest thriller, Broken Promisethe first in a new trilogy. It revolves around a small town’s dark secrets, a downsized reporter trying to clear his cousin of murder, and Detective Duckworth, a police investigator, confronted with a rash of odd crimes. The book deals with ideas of community, family, and dark obsessions. Mr. Barclay was kind enough to answer some of our questions about it.

MysteryPeople Scott: In Broken Promise, the town is as much of a character in itself and a morally questionable one. How do you approach writing about a community?

Linwood Barclay: It’s funny, but I don’t think a great deal about it. I think about the people first, and once they’ve been drawn, and we see what they are dealing with, the community itself starts to form. I do, however, give consideration to the the economic factors affecting Promise Falls — the downturn in employment, the loss of a newspaper, etc.

MPS: As in many of your books, family plays an important role. what draws you to that subject?

LB: I don’t think there’s anything much more important than family in a novel. How one defines it may change, but whether it’s a thriller or a literary novel or whatever, it’s the connections between individuals that matter most. If we don’t care about the people in the novel, and if they don’t care about each other, why should we care what happens to them?

MPS: I like the fact that you had Detective Duckworth battling weight gain. what made you decide to go with that for the major police character?

LB: Detective Duckworth has been appearing in my books going back to Too Close to Home. He’s also in Never Look Away, has a cameo in Trust Your Eyes. He’s always been on the heavy side, and when it came to Broken Promise, I knew he was going to play a more prominent role. Broken Promise is the first of three linked novels, and the third will be told, mostly, from Duckworth’s point of view. His weight struggle humanizes him, makes him even more someone we can identify with. And unlike so many fictional detectives who are divorced and alcoholic and deeply troubled, Duckworth is in a happy marriage and he doesn’t drink too much. He needs one vice, and that happens to be food.

MPS: The plot revolves around at least two investigations and several crimes. How are you able to keep all the plates spinning?

LB: That’s the fun part. There are many things going on in this book and the two that follow it. What I like about all those “spinning plates” is it allows me to jump from storyline to storyline. I can take you to the edge of your seat with one story, then shift the focus elsewhere. I think that keeps the reader turning the pages, wanting to get back to that other story to find out what the heck is going on.

MPS: I know you have great respect for Ross MacDonald. What is it from his work you’d like to incorporate into your own?

LB: No writer had a greater impact on me professionally, and personally, than Ross MacDonald. I became obsessed with his novels in my late teens and early twenties, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was using the conventions of the mystery novel to explore social issues, dysfunctional families, the degradation of the environment. I don’t think I’m consciously trying to do what MacDonald did, but my opinions and political leanings do have a way of sneaking into my books. And my concern for the state of the newspaper industry — where I worked for three decades — has popped up in at least two of my books.

Mr. Barclay joins us at BookPeople on Friday, July 31st, at 7 PM, to speak and sign his latest thriller, Broken Promise. You can find copies of Broken Promise on our shelves and via

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