Our Pick Of The Month, Lost Tomorrows, is the latest novel to feature Matt Coyle’s haunted SanDiego private detective, Rick Cahill. Rick has to confront his past when he goes back to San Diego, where he was a cop and accused of murdering his wife, to attend the funeral of his former partner. His partner’s sister, Leah, believes her death was murder and hires him to look into it, forcing him to go up against cops who think he is a killer and one who could be. Matt will be joining Lara Oles, Tim Bryant, Billy Kring, Tim Maleeny, and Jeff Vorzimmer for our discussion on private eye fiction, Watching The Detectives, January 11th at 2PM on BookPeople’s third floor.
Matt Coyle was kind enough to sit down with MysteryPeople’s very own Scott Montgomery to take a few questions about the progression of his P.I. series.
Scott Montgomery: What made you want to go further into Cahill’s past?
Matt Coyle: Halfway through the first draft of my first book, Yesterday’s Echo, I realized I was writing a series and that, at some future point, I’d have to reveal the truth about Rick Cahill’s wife’s death. Readers never meet Colleen, as she was already dead before the beginning of the first book, but her death is the impetus for Rick’s quest for redemption. I didn’t think I was ready to tell the story yet in Lost Tomorrows, but once I started writing I realized that, not only was I ready to write the story, I had to write it. I wanted to write it. It was the story that had been hidden inside me for seven years.
SM: Much of the time, the case has him in Santa Barbara. What did the change of venue allow for?
MC: Even though Rick had gone to college and been a cop in Santa Barbara, he hadn’t been back there in fourteen years. The town was, somewhat, foreign territory for him and he was completely on his own. He didn’t have his guard dog and faithful companion, Midnight, or his P.I. partner and best friend, Moira, by his side. He felt isolated and vulnerable. A perfect place to put him.
SM: What did you feel where the two differences between the towns?
MC: To Rick, it comes down to how he’s perceived. Santa Barbara is the city where Rick is forever stained with the label of the cop who got away with murder. In San Diego, Rick is seen as a bad dude by law enforcement and some of the media, but also as a good man by many civilians and the other half of the media.
SM: Many of the previous novels had Rick proving his innocence. This case forces him to confront something he was guilty of. How did that affect the way you approached the story?
MC: Rick’s whole life since his wife was murdered has been a quest for redemption. Even though he didn’t kill her, he feels responsible for Colleen’s death due to actions he took the night she died. He can never escape that guilt. I knew that if Rick was going to discover who murdered Colleen, all the darkness he’d felt since she died was going to have to come out with a vengeance in Lost Tomorrows. I wanted him to confront the man he’d become and decide if he could reconcile that with the actions he felt he had to take.
SM: Rick’s relationship with Leah is handled really well. How did you approach her as a character?
MC: When I started the book, I didn’t know the journey Rick and Leah’s relationship would take. Leah was grieving the sudden loss of her sister and desperate to learn the truth about her death. She saw Rick as a kindred spirit, still grieving the death of his wife and now dealing with the loss of Leah’s sister, Krista, his former partner on SBPD. I realized that Leah and Rick would be drawn together through their shared grief and, because of Rick’s manic need to find the truth, that Leah would see him as the perfect person to seek the truth about her death.
SM: As a writer, what makes Rick Cahill a character worth coming back to?
MC: Well, to begin with, he’s deeply flawed and incomplete. He lives by his own code of justice and is on a lifelong quest for redemption. Those two things put together open up unlimited opportunities to make bad and dangerous decisions. For me, Rick’s life is a constant battle between light and dark. Both in the external world around him and deep inside himself. Each new scar, physical and emotional, pushes him closer to the darkness. Forcing Rick to confront that darkness and battle toward the light will always keep Rick interesting to me.
Lost Tomorrows is available for purchase from BookPeople in-store and online now. And don’t forget to stop by BookPeople on January 11th at 2PM when Matt Coyle joins Scott Montgomery and a fun bunch of crime writers to discuss PI detective fiction.