MysteryPeople Q&A with Allen Eskens

In The Guise Of Another, Allen Eskens’ follow-up to his award-winning debut, The Life We Bury, police detective Alexander Rupert (the brother of The Life We Bury‘s cop hero, Max) gets involved in a false identity case that could take his soul as well as his life. Allen was kind enough to talk about the book and the art of character.

MysteryPeople Scott: What prompted the decision to use two of the supporting characters from The Life We Bury in this novel?

Allen Eskens: I am a strong believer that plot moves the reader forward and that character draws the reader in deeper. I believe that a protagonist should undertake a journey over the course of a novel. He/she should be changed in some way by the time the story concludes. While I am a fan of the mystery-series format, I sometimes feel that the storyline can suffer from familiarity (fans of Lee Child will probably disagree).

So to give myself an array of characters with personal journeys to undertake, I decided to move among my secondary characters from The Life We Bury, telling their stories. My hope is to create a small community of people who will interact with each other to varying degrees as the novels branch out. The Guise of Another is the first in a three-book arc for Max Rupert. I have a sequel for The Life We Bury planned, and I have a stand-alone, which is the backstory of Boady Sanden, partially written.

MPS: This time you’re main character is a professional police detective instead of an amateur. Did you notice any difference in the story telling?

AE: Yes. Although I am fairly knowledgeable about police procedure, given my day job as a criminal defense attorney, I spent much more time on research for the second novel. I want to be as accurate as possible, not only in investigatory matters, but also in the day-to-day inside politics of the job. I have friends who are detectives and their help has been invaluable.

MPS: The idea of identity is a large theme of the book. What do want to explore in that idea?

AE: I am a fan of secrets. I explored that theme in The Life We Bury, and I return to it in The Guise of Another. It intrigues me to think that, as I pass through a crowded airport, I am surrounded by people with secrets, and some of those secrets are dark enough that I would be frightened to be there if I knew the truth.

In The Guise of Another, the story starts with a secret identity, a man killed in a car accident who is living under someone else’s name. But the story leads to the larger subject of the facades that we hide behind and the aspects of our nature that we suppress—some more dangerous than others.

MPS: Your antagonist who goes by The Beast, seems like a pure incarnate of evil yet is believable. How do you go about creating a villain like that?

AE: It was important to my construction of The Beast that I tell his backstory. Evil is scariest, to me at least, if it is born of the ordinary. The Beast wasn’t born evil. That aspect of his character was injected into him through the experiences he had to endure. He doesn’t see himself as evil, but merely very skilled as exacting retribution on a world that made him that way.

MPS: The book moves from procedural, then thriller, to noir as it develops. How aware of you of traveling through sub genres as you were writing?

I wish I could claim authorial control to that degree, but alas, the truth is I wrote the story that came out of my imagination. This plot almost wrote itself, once I settled on the basic path. I had the characters and the situation and I simply let my mind follow where that led.

MPS: The relationship between Alexander and Max was what really brought the emotion of the story to me. What did you have to keep in mind about writing about brothers?

AE: The brothers can almost be seen as two halves of a whole. Alexander, is reckless and impulsive. Max is stalwart and steady. Each must abide by their stronger nature and each secretly covets the other. While Alexander comes to appreciate Max’s virtue by the end of The Guise of Another, Max’s appreciation of Alexander’s lot will develop more slowly over the three book arc.

You can find copies of Eskens’ latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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