Top of Her Game: Alafair Burke’s The Wife

There comes a time in every prolific author’s career when one has to ask “Is there any way for this author to get better? To improve upon their most recent work? To actually write something better than this?” For some writers, they go downhill after their peak—other authors only rise, never reaching that peak exactly (see wonderful examples like Laura Lippman, Alison Gaylin, Alex Marwood, and Megan Abbott).  The question now is: has Alafair Burke reached her peak? I sincerely doubt it—a writer of her talent can most likely reach unimaginable heights—yet it is incredibly hard to fathom Burke improving upon her most recent masterpiece, The Wife.

Burke kicks off the year in the grandest fashion, with a book that will compel you to the very end, even without a murder in its very beginning.  From the moment the book begins, we know that Burke’s protagonist has committed perhaps the ultimate betrayal—that against herself, lying for her husband’s defense. I have read this book countless times, as I tend to do before beginning a review, and it never ceases to amaze me—the language is fluid and nearly flawless, drawing the reader in.  The narrator, while incredibly deluded and not necessarily the picture-perfect definition of a feminist, is incredibly relatable.  The book speaks to the issues of our times, many of them dealing with women, rape, infidelity, and the permanence of love.

From the very beginning of the novel, I was roped in.  The reader is startled by the way Burke can transform the most mundane scenes into something extraordinary, ripping out incredible portions of her character’s psyches in ways you would never expect.  I was floored again and again as revelation after revelation was revealed, chapter after chapter.  The book is such a quick read that, when finished, I felt compelled to start it over immediately, unsure if I had finished the novel or just begun.

This is not to say the novel is without a conclusion.  Boy, does it have a conclusion.  Alafair Burke is a master at revealing tiny little secrets that are actually big explosions, unraveling and unraveling her characters and plot until, once untangled, the reader is finally able to uncover the truth.  You think you know the truth from the beginning, and then you might change your mind in the middle, and then be completely floored by the end of the book by the smallest, slightest turn of the story: this is how The Wife works.  And I’m not afraid to call it a new masterpiece of the crime genre.

This past award season, Alafair Burke was nominated for the Edgar for The Ex, which works as a sort of companion novel to The Wife.  They feature similar characters, they are placed in similar settings, but these novels are completely different (and equally brilliant).  Here’s the only issue: this is the year of the female crime writer.  So while I would say that Alafair Burke has the Edgar in the bag, with masterpieces like Laura Lippman’s Sunburn and Megan Abbott’s Give Me Your Hand being released soon, it’s hard to tell which author will come out on top.  What’s amazing about the crime community is: no one cares.  Each of these authors are improving daily, each new book proving that the preceding novel was only a precursor to something much more amazing and fantastic than the book that came before.  And Alafair Burke proves this beyond a doubt.  From the very beginning, you are hooked.  From the very beginning, you are roped in.  And it’s all Alafair’s fault.

Burke’s newest novel is mind-blowing, spine-tinglingly good and awe-inspiring in ways that very few authors can aspire to be.  Pick up this book and find yourself lost in it.  Pick up this book and hours later, wonder where you have been, and how you got there.  This is the magic that Alafair Burke works in The Wife, which may very well be the Book of the Year.

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Sympathy for the Devil: an interview with Mark Pryor

A couple years ago, Mark Pryor took a break from his true blue series hero, Hugo Marston, to crawl into the the dark mind of an Austin prosecutor, musician, and sociopath named Dominic in the acclaimed Hollow Man. He has recently released a follow up, Dominic, with our anti-hero tying up his loose ends. Mark will be joining Meg Gardiner (Into The Black Nowhere) for a discussion of writing fictional psychopaths on January 30th. Mark was kind enough to talk to us early about dealing with his dark creation.
Pryor-Photo-by-Alia-Michelle-Photography3476-33MysteryPeople Scott: Was there anything in particular that drew you back to Dominic?
Mark Pryor: Several things. First, I’m (still) kind of obsessed with psychopaths, and Dominic was and is my way to explore their mentality. So I wasn’t done with the subject matter, and he’s my way in. Second, I kind of missed him. Weird, I know, but he was SO much fun to write that I wanted to do it again. I wanted to know what he could pull off again. I wanted to let the dark side reign and write him again. I think, too, he’s such a change from my Hugo Marston series that writing Dominic gives me a good balance, so in a way it’s healthy creatively for me to write about such a total bastard once in a while.
MPS: This time you split perspectives, which you had never done to this degree in a book. Did that prove as a challenge?
9781633883659MP: Actually, yes. You’re right in that I’ve not done this much before but as I thought about how to tell this story, I knew it was necessary. Put simply, if anyone who read Hollow Man read another book entirely from Dominic’s perspective, they wouldn’t believe a word he was saying. They’d be crazy to! So, I knew I had to corroborate events through other, more reliable, characters. It turned out to be fun, especially overlapping Dominic with the sycophantic Brian, getting two very different takes on one interaction.
MPS: One of the main reasons the book is so unsettling is that the reader feels they are in collusion with Dominic. Did you sometimes feel that way in the writing?
MP: Yes, and I think that’s vital. I mean, in practical terms I’m the one devising his evil schemes but even though it’s all fictional, and even though I could do anything I want, I really do sometimes feel like he takes the lead and does his nasty deed, with me as his note-taker. That may sound weird but it’s how I feel sometimes! I would say, too, that it’s a lot of work for me to get into the head of a psychopath, to abandon the emotion and the feelings, so I myself get that unsettled feeling and it makes sense that the reader would pick up on that.
MPS: How do you write a character with little or no empathy?
MP: Carefully. The biggest factor for me is accuracy. I’ve seen too many movies or shows, books too, where the character is given dabs of empathy here and there and I don’t think that’s realistic. Similarly, over the two books the one thing I wanted to avoid is giving him a character arc, because he’s not capable of it. Obviously, I’ve done a good amount of research to know what he would or would not feel as a psychopath, so there’s a crafty element to creating him, but as I say, I really want him to seem genuine. Genuinely horribly, that is.
MPS: What did you find as a key for writing a suspense novel like this?
MP: This novel and the previous one are much more carefully constructed than my Hugo Marston novels. By that I mean that I am more devious about planting clues and misdirecting the reader. I think the reason for that is knowing where the suspense comes from — the reader is going to be pretty sure that Dominic will achieve his objective(s), the question is how does he get there? Precisely how ruthless is he going to be? And, who will be casualties along the way? These aren’t straight forward mysteries where you can proceed from clue to clue like stepping stones, you have to look under the rocks (and find the snake!).
MPS: Since you are both a prosecutor and an Englishman living in Austin, what is the best way you have found to convince people you are not Dominic?

MP: You know, just between us, I’ve been surprised by how many people give me that side-eye and ask if I’m a psychopath. These are people I’ve known for years, and if you’ve known me for years I think it’s pretty obvious I’m not. So I laugh it off, and tell the story of how I took the psychopath test (yes, there is such a thing) at home, with my wife. Bottom line, the test is 20 questions, and you score 0, 1, or 2 for each. Anything over 30 and you’re a psychopath. I scored 7. Yes, seven. So low I was actually disappointed! I mean, as a prosecutor and crime writer you’d think I’d have something of a callous edge to me, but it turns out I’m a big softy.
The interesting thing to me is that if I’d written a character who was English, a prosecutor, and who had really been the one who killed John Lennon, no one would be asking, “Hey, did you really kill John Lennon?” All in all, I’ll take it as a compliment that I wrote a convincing psychopath, which is satisfying enough to stop me murdering whoever asks that question. Oh, wait, I didn’t mean that…

We hope you’ll join us January 30th at 7pm as Mark Pryor and Meg Gardiner discuss their new books!

Interview with “The Pictures” author Guy Bolton

Guy Bolton’s The Pictures made my list of the best debut novel of 2017. It is a moody Hollywood thriller with making of The Wizard Of Oz as it’s backdrop.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did The Wizard Of Oz get to be the movie that served as backdrop for the story?

Guy Bolton: Over a decade ago when I was a film student I was supposed to be doing a class on film noir. At the last moment they replaced it with a class on MGM musicals. I was devastated at first but one of the films we studied was The Wizard of Oz, a film I watched on repeat as a child. As I started researching the film I found out all this incredible trivia— it was most expensive MGM movie ever made and took fourteen writers and five directors to bring it to the screen. Then there was a young Judy Garland hooked on drugs, rumors of ‘Munchkin’ sex parties, a Tin Man who almost died from blood poisoning and a Wicked Witch with life-threatening burns from an on-set fire.

It struck me that the making of the movie was almost as interesting as the film itself. And I knew it would make an engaging and unexpected backdrop for a noir thriller.

MPS: Even though you are dealing with a different era, what from your own experience in the film industry did you pull from for the book?

GB: I can promise you none of my experiences have ever felt at all glamorous! In fact the main thing I took from working for ten years (predominantly in television) was bureaucracy. I love David Simon and how he infuses layers of bureaucracy in every strand of “The Wire” and I felt the same experience working in TV. At times it felt to me that decisions were being made by a handful of people at the top that affected everyone below. I brought that over to this Hollywood world of police and studios, as if the major Hollywood players were playing a giant chess game and everyone else were the pawns.

MPS: Jonathan Craine is a very unique protagonist in the sense he is not easy to read right off the bat. How did you go about creating him?

GB: It was important to me that I break convention. Most noir heroes are jaded underdogs who drink scotch and chain-smoke cigarettes. They’ve got a chip on their shoulder but an innate sense of right and wrong. They’ll do anything to uncover the truth. They’re heroes.

For Craine, I wanted to invert expectations on every aspect of his character. He’s a debonair investigator who doesn’t smoke and whose drink of choice is a Champagne cocktail. But more importantly, he’s not a hero. He’s a very flawed man who has spent the best part of his career as a Hollywood ‘fixer’ working for the studios. Only when he’s tasked with covering up the apparent suicide of the producer of The Wizard of Oz does he start questioning his conscience. He discovers inner strength; he finds his resolve.

It was important to me also that this novel also be about fathers and sons. Craine’s wife has recently died and he has a difficult relationship with his little boy. Craine coming to terms with his responsibilities as a father is very much at the core of the narrative too. The Pictures is really his journey of redemption.

MPS: You have your fictional characters interacting with the likes of Louis B. Mayer, Joan Crawford, and Frank Nitti. How did you approach the fictional mixing with the historical?

GB: Almost all of the characters are either based on or inspired by real people and events. I changed names where I felt necessary but I wanted to have genuine Hollywood icons like Louis B. Mayer in there to help my fictional characters come to life. It was crucial to me that my protagonists like Jonathan Craine and actress Gale Goodwin felt like they were real people in a real scenario. So much of what happens in the book is close to what really happened.

However, I had an important rule: beware of featuring real movie stars too heavily. People like Joan Crawford, Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable have such a strong presence on the silver screen. They’ve taken on an almost mythic quality in people’s lives. So I didn’t want readers to lose their suspension of disbelief by bursting that bubble.

MPS: This being your first novel, did you pull from any influences or did you simply expand on your script work?

GB: I was heavily influenced by films like LA Confidential and Chinatown; I also have a background in screenwriting and I’ve noticed people often say they feel it’s “cinematic”. I like the pace and narrative structure of screenplays.

But for me, what was most important was that I avoid cliché. The archetypal detective story is told in a first person narrative in a hard-boiled style. I wanted to tell my story from a few different perspectives (especially female) and write it in a more classic style. I asked myself: “How would John Le Carre or Sebastian Faulks have written a 1930s detective story set in Hollywood?”

MPS: What can you tell us about your next novel with Craine?

GB: (you’re the first person outside of my publisher hear this…!)

The Syndicate is almost finished and should be out later this year.

Eight years have passed since the events of The Pictures. Jonathan Craine has left Hollywood behind him and he and his son are now living on a farm in rural California.

But when infamous Vegas mobster Bugsy Siegel is murdered in Beverly Hills, Craine finds himself tasked by the mob to find out who killed him…

 

Interview with Terry Shames

Terry Shames will be with us twice in February. On the 4th she will be one of several authors involved with the discussion and signing of the anthology Lone Star Lawless and on the 5th you will find her, Laura Oles, and James Ziskin, discussing the thriller and their latest books. Terry’s is A Reckoning In The Back Country that has her hero Samuel Craddock looking into a murdered doctor’s dark double life that includes the crime of dog fighting. We caught up early with Terry to ask her a few questions.

MysteryPeople Scott: You spin several plates with this mystery, was there anything in particular you wanted to explore?

Terry Shames: This book just grew and grew. I once attended a talk by Joan Didion, who said that when you are writing a book, you should put everything you know into it. She said not to be afraid that there won’t be something left over for another book—there always will be. So I didn’t hold back anything in the this book.

The original idea of “Reckoning” came about because I wanted to kill a doctor who injured me in a botched surgery. I had to kill him on the page, so I wouldn’t have to go to jail for doing it in real life. I tried to imagine a terrible death for him—and I think I succeeded. That’s where dog fighting comes in.  The idea of doing a book that involved the awful issue of fighting had been nudging me for a couple of years. Combining the two seemed natural. So that’s two of the plates I juggled in the book. Another was the continuing life of characters in the community. A few of the characters that show up have been in almost every book, but never had an important place. We learn more, for example, about Harley Lundsford, who in most of the books makes a case for toting a gun. I wanted to take a closer at him, and he surprised me.

MPS: Since Back Country deals with dog fighting, you risk that unwritten rule of alienating a reader by harming an animal. Did you have any trepidation?

TS: I absolutely worried about it. As I said, the idea of doing a book that included dog fighting as a theme had been in the back of my mind. After all, it is part of life in many country areas. To ignore it is to be dishonest through omission. I put if off not only because of the “unwritten rule,” but because it seemed like a horrible thing to research. Writing it was very hard. At first, I left out a description of the dog fighting itself altogether, knowing I was being a coward. But my stalwart writer’s group would not allow it. So I set the description in Samuel’s past, a way of lessening the grim reality, since it was observed through the lens of a young boy; and also as a way of illustrating more about Samuel’s upbringing. I decided another way of dealing with the grim nature of it was to give Samuel a puppy as a counterbalance.

MPS: Did writing a four-legged supporting character cause any challenges?

TS: Since I have dogs, and know puppies, the actual puppy part was not hard. But I kept “forgetting” about the puppy and had to go back and make allowances for him when Samuel was going about his business. There’s a funny story about that. When I was editing, I thought there were too many details about the care and concern for the puppy, so I took some out. I got a scolding note from my copyeditor at SSB, telling me that Samuel couldn’t leave the puppy in the car alone. That happened to be a passage I had removed, thinking it was too much fussiness. Apparently not! I had to put it back in.

MPS: You having two women vying for Samuel. What made you think this was the right time to have romance reenter his life?

TS: This is an awful thing to say, and some readers may get mad at me, but I grew not to like Ellen very much. About a year ago, Dru Ann Love invited me to write a piece in her “Day In The Life” blog, in which writers imagine a day in the life of one of their characters. I wrote about Ellen Forester, and discovered that Ellen had a secret. I kept wondering what it might be. When I started writing this book, I realized that the story line with Ellen had grown stale and it was time to shake it up. So I started looking at her secret, and….well, I hope readers enjoy the shake-up!

MPS: What is Sam’s greatest strength as an investigator?

TS: That’s a hard one. I can talk about his strengths as a person:  He’s persistent, honorable, open-minded, has a good sense of humor, and isn’t afraid to admit that he doesn’t know something. That latter may be his greatest strength as an investigator. The old adage that there are no stupid questions works well for investigators—not just of crime, but of science, journalistic endeavors, and history. If you are afraid of asking a question because it might make you look stupid, you’re likely to miss important points. Samuel sometimes prods people to tell him something that everyone assumes he knows, and they are annoyed by what they take to be his naivete. But he has a method to his “stupid” questions, a method that often works to get to the truth.

MPS: You also have a short story in the anthology Lone Star Lawless. What can you tell us about your tale?

TS: I am not really a short story writer. I mean that the form doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m in awe of those writers who gravitate to the short form. They seem to know what is important to move a story along without getting cluttered with details. My natural impulse is to write all the details of character, setting and plot, and to embrace sub-plots. Someone pointed out that the short has to hinge on a single idea, which helped me learn how to keep it trim.

I started “Lone Star Motel” a few years ago, knowing it would be a short story. The story came to me after I talked with someone whom I suspected was being abused psychologically, and maybe physically as well. She was a woman with few options and I imagined what it would be like for her to try to escape her situation. After I wrote the first scene, I let it sit while I went on to other writing. But it never entirely left me. I kept thinking about it periodically. When I was invited to submit a story for Lone Star Lawless it seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop the idea. I ended up liking the story, and I hope readers do, too. This is an anthology with some great stories in it!

Matthew Turbeville’s Most Anticipated Books of 2018 (and 2019, too!)

This year is filled with a vast and exciting list of books both by great, established authors and also newcomers to the genre.  Needless to say, this is a year for mystery fans, and a year to celebrate mystery authors.  With long-awaited returns from some of the greatest authors, as well as those who continue to put out books steadily year after year, 2018 is promising to be brilliant when it comes to crime fiction, even if the rest of the world may seem a very drab.

Note to reader: This is not a comprehensive list.  The mystery world is, well, a mystery, and there will be many more wonderful surprises for readers throughout the years that have not been announced or readied yet. However, each of the books on this list are guaranteed to be a good time.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn—January 2

This is one of the most hyped and talked about books of the year, mixing literary genius with Hitchcockian elements that will keep you well up into the night.

A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis—January 2

Order this book while you can! It is not to be missed, and hailed from greats like Alison Gaylin and others as the book of the year.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey—January 9

A newcomer to the genre and perhaps one of the most exciting series debuts of the year.  Much hyped and much talked about.

The Wife by Alafair Burke—January 23

Burke holds nothing back in this new novel, which many consider her best.  If you were a fan of The Ex, an Edgar nominee, don’t hesitate to preorder this novel.

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner—January 30

The sequel to last year’s remarkable Unsub, this time supposedly set in Texas, will no doubt be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.

A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong—February 6

A nonfiction crime book about a supposed rape that was believed to be a lie—but might not be.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper—February 6

The sequel to Jane Harper’s The Dry, plenty of people are promising that this follow-up will more than satisfy the readers of her debut novel.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman—February 18

It’s Laura Lippman.  She took a pseudo-year hiatus to work on this novel.  It’s a masterpiece.  And it’s Laura Lippman.

The French Girl by Lexie Elliott—February 20

Friends traveling around Europe experience danger and intrigue in this new novel.

 I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara—February 27

Tragically, McNamara passed away before this book was finished—but many are already claiming it’s one of the greatest crime books ever, and that McNamara might have caught the killer had she lived to see the day.  A must read for true crime addicts.

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington—February 27

Based on the title alone, we should all be reading this book.

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin—March 6

Gaylin’s latest and one of her best, a not-to-be missed triumph about youth, the dangers of love and ecstasy, and the powers of redemption.

Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver—March 6

Copenhaver’s long awaited and much anticipated debut novel, which chronicles decades, encompasses many different styles, and is a fascinating and absorbing read all together.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan—March 27

Mangan’s book is the talk of the town, and is likely not one to be missed, considering the early praise it has garnered (as well as the movie deal already in the making!).

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin—April 17

It’s Julia Heaberlin, and she’s back with a novel that will surely blow us away.

 Blackout by Alex Segura—May 8

The fourth book in Alex Segura’s series, this is not one to be missed by a master of the detective genre.

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll—May 15

I still obsess over Knoll’s debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive, so there’s no doubt that The Favorite Sister is in my top list of books to read this year.  I cannot wait to get my hands on this book that will surely be electric with life and passion.

How It Happened by Michael Koryta—May 15

A standalone from Koryta that comes highly recommended to me from several greats.  Surely not to be missed.

Trigger Switch by Bryon Quertermous—June 5

The third book in Quertermous’s trilogy—preorder immediately, people.

 

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott—July 17

How can a beautiful friendship go wrong? Only crime can tell.  Also, it’s Megan Abbott.  I would read her grocery list. 

The Disappearing by Lori Roy—July 17

Lori Roy has a new book coming out and I cannot wait to get my hands on the ARC.  This is her first set in the present day, and the multiple-Edgar winner will surely not disappoint—she never has.

The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott—July 18

Jeff Abbott blew us out of the water last year with his book Blame, his first attempt to write primarily (and successfully so) from two women’s POVs.  This is his follow up, a brilliant book about a woman’s search for the person—or persons—who took her mother from her.  How is that not appealing?

Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger—August 21

I have loved William Kent Krueger for the longest time.  This is a long, ongoing series, so do your best to get caught up now.

New Crime Novel by Lou Berney—Sometime in October

LOU BERNEY HAS A NEW BOOK COMING OUT! This is his follow-up to The Long and Farway Gone, and if it’s anything like its predecessor, it will not only not disappoint, but blow your mind.

Among the Wholesome Children by Sarah Weinman—Early November

Sarah Weinman does not disappoint, with her articles, anthologies, everything.  This is her book based on the real-life case that inspired Lolita, and man am I excited.

But waittheres 2019 too

There are also a few books to be excited about in 2019, which we are already anticipating hungrily.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye is releasing another book, following her Sherlock Holmes collection of stories and the Edgar nominated Jane Steele, which I still can’t stop dreaming of.

Also, there may be another book by Alex Marwood in 2019, as well as definite entries from the brilliant Steph Cha and Amy Gentry, and so I couldn’t be more excited. Let’s just keep reaching for the future people.  In the literary world—in the crime world—it looks bright.

Please comment if you have any additional books youre looking forward to.  MysteryPeople staff are experts at recommending, reviewing, and understanding the genre, but there are always books that slip under our radar, and wed love to hear more from you! 

Scott Butki’s interview with James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke remains a master of his game, one of the best writers out there. Some of the deserved praise – including getting the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America – is for his writing style, some for how he digs deep with plots and fleshes out his unique characters.

While I have interviewed Burke here for his book featuring protagonist Texas Sheriff Hackberry Holland I, and many Burke fans, prefer his books about Dave Robicheaux. These books are set in the towns and wetlands of Louisiana.

The new book, Robicheaux, as it name implies, features Dave, and while Dave has often faced major obstacles before in this book they seem to come from everywhere and every direction. Burke often writes about Dave going to AA meetings and struggling to not drink, but in this book the struggle is worse as he not only gets drunk but can’t remember what he’s done while drunk.

Meanwhile, Dave is mourning the loss of his wife, Molly, in a car accident. So when Dave encounters the man who caused the car crash…. And when that man is himself murdered… the big question becomes: Did Dave do it? And since Dave was drunk at the time the answer is not entirely clear.

Burke agreed graciously to let me interview by email. Oh, one other note he talks in the book, and in the interview about the Jefferson Davis 8, which you can read more about here.

The book has this author’s note:

“The literary antecedents of this novel lie in two earlier works of mine. The unsolved murders in Jefferson Davis Parish formed the backdrop for the Dave Robicheaux novel titled The Glass Rainbow… These homicides are often referred to in the media as the Jeff Davis Eight.

The bombing of the Indian village in Latin America happened in 1956. I wrote about this incident in the short story titled “The Wild Wide of Life,” published in the winter issue of The Southern Review in 2017.”

With that let’s get to the interview. Thanks to my minister, Rev. Meg Barnhouse, for helping develop some of these questions.

Scott Butki: I am so glad you brought Dave back but boy did you give him some stuff to work on in this novel. Why did you decide to have Dave encounter, and try to investigate the murder of, the man who killed his wife in a car crash?

James Lee Burke: My wife was in a similar accident in New Iberia and almost died.

SB: I’ve always admired how you write about the struggle so many face with alcoholism and using AA. Why did you decide to have Dave fall off the wagon in this book?

JLB: I don’t plan the books. I think they already exist in the unconscious.

SB: In this book Dave seems a haunted man, partly due to what I asked about in the earlier questions. What did you hope to accomplish by putting him through all of this?

JLB: Mortality is not an elective study.

SB: I am happy you brought back some of Dave’s friends in this book. Why did you decide to do so?

JLB: They’re among the most interesting and brave people I have ever known.

SB: What do you want readers to take away from this book?

JLB: To fear an embryonic dictatorship and the divisiveness and racial hatred and self-doubt a dictator can inculcate in an electorate that loses faith in the Republic.

SB: When Dave imagines a just world what does that look like?

JLB: The egalitarian world that Jesus spoke of.

SB: What do you think might have worked in Dave to form his desire to be a hero, to throw himself into the ugliest mess and try to make it right?

JLB: Dave is the Chaucerian good knight. He’s a man of conscience and honor and is not capable of being otherwise.

SB: A friend, Meg, asked me to pass on this comment: “I love Dave as a wounded hero.  I love his violence and how it lives along with his spirituality. I love the descriptions of the weather and the land. I think most of us identify with him as we struggle to be good people while dragging along concrete blocks of illness injury addiction or other complications and difficulties.” Do you get a lot of feedback like that?  

JLB: Yes, I have. I don’t think a writer could receive a better compliment.

SB: In past interviews you have told me you tend to draw from older sources, like the Bible and Greek mythology rather than contemporary ones. Why is that?

JLB: I subscribe to Jung’s notion of inherited memory. I think the great stories are always within each of us. My father once said that both science and art are simply the incremental discovery of what already exists.

SB: One thing many fans of yours, including me, love is your use of language. Was your writing always like that or was there a time when you wrote closer to the traditional mysteries with lots of short sentences with the focus on plot instead of description and language?

JLB: I read the Hardy Boys when I was kid, and Mickey Spillane in high school, but neither had any influence on me. The great influences were John Dos Passos. James T. Farrell, Gerard Manley Hopkins, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flannery O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, and Robert Penn Warren.

What I’m looking forward to reading in 2018

What I’m looking forward to reading in 2018 by Meike Alana

2017 has been a fantastic year for crime fiction fans, but 2018 promises to be even better.  Here are just a few titles that I can’t wait to get my hands on:

JANUARY

Dominic by Mark Pryor:  Picking up where Hollow Man left off, the titular Austin attorney/musician (who happens to be a psychopath) continues his murderous ways.

A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames:  When a resident of Jarrett Creek is mauled by vicious dogs, Texas lawman Samuel Craddock suspects a dog-fighting ring may be operating in his town.

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani:  Originally published in France where it became a #1 bestseller and winner of France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, it marks the American debut of an exciting new voice in crime fiction

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner:  Following  last year’s smash thriller Unsub, newly minted FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix investigates a series of murders around the Austin area.

FEBRUARY

Sunburn by Laura Lippman:  The New York Times bestselling author returns with a superb novel of suspense about a woman who knows how to play the long game to get what she wants.

MARCH

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell:  A Victorian gothic tale about a young pregnant widow who is sent off to her late husband’s creepy, crumbling, and possibly haunted estate.

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin:  The award-winning Gaylin brings us an addictive story of psychological suspense told from multiple viewpoints.

APRIL

A Perfect Shot by Robin Yocum:  Yocum’s A Welcome Murder was a 2017 favorite of ours here at MysteryPeople and we can’t wait for this tale of a local basketball star in a small Ohio town who tries to remake his life but instead gets tangled up in murder.

MAY

See Also Proof by Larry Sweazy:  Sweazy’s series featuring North Dakota indexer Marjorie Trumaine is another favorite of ours.  As she’s mourning the recent death of her husband during a particularly harsh winter, she helps investigate the disappearance of a neighbor’s disabled daughter.

JUNE

A Stone’s Throw by James Ziskin:  Ziskin’s series features 1960’s news reporter Ellie Stone, who is one of my personal favorite characters in the genre.  This time the intrepid Ellie investigates a double murder set in the glamorous world of horse racing.

JULY

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott:  The queen of noir (part of the writing team behind HBO’s The Deuce) returns with a mesmerizing psychological thriller about how a secret can bind two friends together forever or ultimately tear them apart.

The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott:  Three women, all with the same name, have gone missing from idyllic Lakehaven.  Given that Abbott is one of the best thriller writers of our day, it’s pretty much a given that this is not a coincidence and that there are some sinister goings on here.