FLIGHT OF THE FALCON: INTERVIEW WITH KEN BRUEN

Ken Bruen has created something that is not supposed to exist, a noir series hero. Since noir destroys the protagonist, he shouldn’t be around for another sequel. However, like his contemporaries Reed Farrel Coleman and Megan Abbott, he looks at noir deeper, with a poet’s eye. So after thirteen and right after the devastating Emerald Trilogy, Jack’s life is shattered. When hope of getting the pieces together happens, a killer who goes by the name of Silence enters his life to take what’s left. Ken was kind enough to answer some questions I had about the book, In the Galway Silence, and his character.

In the Galway Silence Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: In the Galway Silence is the first book after The Emerald Trilogy you wrote within the Jack Taylor series. How has has Jack’s time with Em affected him?

Ken Bruen: Jack’s time with Emerald has left him defeated in a whole new way, despite her actions, Em won a part of his grudging heart and it stole yet another part of his diminished soul to have to end her, in all ways, she left him bereft.

MPS: There is a theory that antagonist defines the protagonist. Silence is an unusual adversary. How do you see the way he goes after Jack?

KB: Terrific question. I believe it plays into the ‘ know thy enemy well lest you become him.’ I think the most interesting adversary are those who possess much of the same personality traits as the protagonist. Silence instinctively intuits that way to destroy Jack is to literally dismantle his whole life.

MPS: Both Silence and chess come up in the story, what did you want to explore with both of those?

KB: Chess is my endless preoccupation and trying to invent a tactic that hasn’t yet been tried, so Silence came from the dilemma of trying to invent a move that you don’t know how to counter as it has no previous form.

MPS: Children and parenting play a part in the book as well. What made you want to have Jack deal with those?

KB: Another fascinating question, I have been reading a lot about people who are made to feel less than if they have no children — Jack over the course of the series has been almost a parent, and even a surrogate one but lost them, he had a faint notion that if he had a child, he might yet be part redeemable and when the impossible happens and he has a child, he learns the harsh truth of the saying “More tears are shed over answered prayers.”

MPS: You have the current events that are going on as you are writing the books also going on in Jack’s background. Do you think the world of Trump and Brexit have affected Jack like they have everybody or does his personality take it in differently?

KB: Brexit and Trump endorse Jack’s view or rather confirm that the world is gone mad and these events and individuals ratify in his own noir sensibility that sometimes, the only recourse to such a world of awesome stupidity is a hurly and a bottle of Jameson and then, as you finally give up, it’s not the dove of peace that lights up your own personal sky but a predatory bird, the falcon, in the falcon Jack sees that in this broken world, a broken man might yet fly through a bird of prey, through indeed a darker sky but as Yeats said, amid the ‘Terrible beauty that is born’ and in this instance, that flies,(the falcon flies in the next Taylor book).

MPS: There’s times I think James Lee Burke, Reed Farrel Coleman, and you have a contest of who can make their series characters’ lives the worst. Do you see any limit to what you’d do to Jack?

KB: I have long been fascinated as to what it is that eventually breaks a man completely — not Hemingways’s theory of being strong in the broken places, in truth I have known since book six of the series exactly what would kill Jack in every sense, and I have tried to hint at the concept that it is not the major traumas that eventually destroy a man utterly but one tiny almost insignificant detail that proves literally to be the very last straw. This is shown at length in the new Jack I have finished, titled Galway Girl  and in the new book a falcon features darkly in the narrative

And is very much the ultimate chess piece/move I have searched for.

 

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MARK PRYOR SITS IN WITH THE MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON BOOK CLUB

The Blood Promise: A Hugo Marston Novel Cover ImageOn December 17th, the Murder In The Afternoon Book Club will be celebrating the holidays during  our discussion. We’re bringing snacks as well as our opinions this time. I’m planning on making my Golden Grahams s’mores. we will also be joined by Mark Pryor, author of Blood Promise, the book we will be discussing.

Blood Promise is the third book to feature Hugo Marston, head of security for our embassy in Paris. He is assigned to protect a U.S. senator brokering a treaty at a country chateau. After some odd occurrences, the senator disappears. Hugo finds his search tied to an antique sailor’s box and a secret that goes as far back as The French Revolution.

Come join us on BookPeople’s third floor, Monday, December 17th, at 1PM. You’ll meet some great people and a great writer. The book is 10% off for those planning to participate.

IF YOU LIKE CRAIG JOHNSON

With holiday shopping in full gear, we thought it would be helpful to give a few reading or buying suggestions with books that share commonalities with some favorite authors. We’re starting with our store favorite Craig Johnson, whose Sheriff Longmire series mixes action, mystery, the western, and humor for a rustic, character driven thrillers like The Cold Dish and his latest The Depth Of Winter. Fans of his should enjoy these authors-

C.M. Wendleboe- A protege of Craig’s who put decades of law enforcement experience out west before he picked up the pen, C.M. Wendelboe mixes believable humor as he looks at different western societies. His series characters include Lakota FBI agent Manny Tanno (Death Along The Spirit Road) and  Arn Anderson, a private eye out of Cheyenne (Hunting The The Five Point Killer), as well as a cool western hero, Tucker Ashley (Backed To The Wall).

Terry Shames – Terry Shames’ retired police chief, Samuel Craddock, often gets called back to duty in his town of Jarret Creek Texas, since his replacement also doubles as the town drunk. Much like Johnson’s Longmire, Shames looks at the relationship between the lawman and the town he protects. The first book in the series is A Killing At Cotton Hill. Louise Penny fans would also enjoy these novels.

Adrian McKinty- You may wonder what the author of a sheriff in Wyoming has in common with an Irish crime writer who writes about The Troubles in Ireland. McKinty approaches his books featuring Sean Duffy, a Catholic police detective in Thatcher era Belfast, with similar attitude and humor. While bleaker, his Ireland is as rich and full of as many colorful characters as Johnson’s Wyoming. The first book is The Cold, Cold Ground.

 

3 Picks for December

Atlanta Deathwatch Cover ImageAtlanta Deathwatch by Ralph Dennis

Brash Books is bringing back this acclaimed and hard to find series from the seventies featuring disgraced ex-cop Jim Hardman working the grimy streets of Atlanta as an unlicensed PI with former pro-baller Hump as back up. In this first outing Hardman looks into a murdered girl tied to both a street dealer and politician. Good gritty stuff, with subtle emotions, and lots of gunfire. These books partly inspired Joe Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard series.

 

Hearts of the Missing: A Mystery Cover ImageHearts Of The Missing by Carol Potenza

Winner of the Tony Hillerman prize, this mystery takes us into the Fire Sky tribe on New Mexico’s Tsiba-ashi D’yini reservation. Tribal police officer Sgt. Nicky Matthews’ discovery of a body without a heart leads to a history of other unsolved murders and a conspiracy on the reservation. Potenza explores the idea of identity in a well crafted debut that should hook any western mystery fan.

 

 

Nightfall Cover ImageNightfall/ Cassidy’s Girl/ Night Squad by David Goodis

Three fine books by one of the masters of classic noir. Whether the man on the run, the disgraced pilot-turned-bus driver caught between two women, or the shady cop torn between loyalties, all three of these intense tales show how no one captured the dark streets and lives of desperation like David Goodis. As crime writer Ed Gorman said, “David Goodis didn’t write novels, he wrote suicide notes.”  

PICK OF THE MONTH- WRONG LIGHT BY MATT COYLE

Matt Coyle has proved himself to be one of the best when it comes to tapping into the voice of the traditional private eye novel. The mood he creates between his series detective, Rick Cahill, its San Diego setting, and emotion of the story evokes Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald without treading into literary nostalgia. In his latest, The Wrong Light, Coyle finds a new tone for that melancholy voice.

Wrong Light (Rick Cahill #5) Cover ImageA radio station hires Nick to protect their sultry voiced evening host, Naomi Hendrix, from a stalker. As her tormentor closes in, Cahill learns of the secrets Naomi has been hiding, connected to a criminal past. Before long, he is in the middle of a deadly scam involving the FBI, Russian mob, and Irish gypsies.

Coyle develops a strong bond between, character, plot, and setting in the book. Coyle sets up an instant rapport with Rick and Naomi through the dialogue in their first meeting, that lends to his drive to help her and the possible heartbreak the job could lead to. Rick knows San Diego like the ex-cop he is and its changes reflect his age and connection to it. The book never forgets the detective moves the story. We watch every detail of Rick’s job, the stake outs and surveillances through his city and the interviewing of its people. Coyle builds a separation in these interaction, giving the feeling of private detection as lonely man’s work.

After the last book, Blood Truth, I was curious what Matt Coyle would do with Rick after wrapping up a major arc for the character. Right now, he seems to be a man in search of purpose, deciding to be the knight errant, tarnished armor or not. I look forward to going down many mean streets with Rick Cahill.

 

REVIEW: ADRENALINE JUNKIE BY LES EDGERTON

When Les Edgerton asked if I wanted to read his memoir, Adrenaline Junkie, I jumped at the chance. The several times I’ve hung out with Les have always been entertaining, partially due to the stories he has told of his outlaw life. I strapped myself in for several wild rides when I opened the book, but even knowing what a master story teller he is, I didn’t expect the journey he took me on.

Adrenaline Junkie: A Memoir Cover ImageWe start out with anecdotes from a Huck Finn-style childhood in postwar Texas. Most of it was under the eye of his grandmother, a tough business woman who had as much affect on him as his parents. One of the first heart breaking moments is when his family has to move away from her.

After some time in the Navy that included a tryst with future international sex goddess Brit Eklund, and college, Les fell into a life of crime with very little need for encouragement. Some involved drugs, but most involved theft. Many of these recollections are funny, like robbing a laundromat, knowing a patrol car is out front, and a shoot out during a heist that has an only-in-real-life twist. Les and his cohorts are far from master criminals. They are mainly guys who don’t want to grow up, feeling that luck is in their favor.

Luck finally runs out and Les finds himself in the prison system. He avoids both portraying his incarceration with macho bluster or overselling the horror of the place. He presents it as existing in a society where both routine and adaptation become a daily part of life.

His avoidance of over dramatization is never more apparent than in the chapter he devotes to being raped by a fellow inmate. Just by recalling the the details he remembers and the feelings he had at the time, Les knows this moment is harrowing enough. He perfectly balances the personal and the subjective as we get the feeling that he is still processing the crime after all these years. By avoiding any grand declarations, he neither belittles the violation or other victims of it.

What completely floored me was how the wildest and most adrenaline fueled parts of Les’s life came in the 80’s as hairdresser who put Warren Beatty’s Shampoo character to shame. Learning the trade in prison, Les built a salon and a national name for himself in the business. The money and success bought him a life of sex, drugs, and dangerous romances that almost put him back behind bars. Les allows you  to laugh at many of these harrowing moments and feel happy they didn’t happen to you.

This part of the book, of bouncing between successful businessman and self-destructive hedonist, becomes more vivid since it embodies the theme Les seems to be writing toward. If there is an antagonist in Adrenaline Junkie, it is boredom. Les is often searching for peace then screwing  it up. His goal is to find grace, but the temptation of chaos constantly knocks at the door. It also reflects his life as writer, working to find order within those experiences. We root for Les, like we would a fictional character, for him to finally get it right, mainly because this colorful life  eventually becomes exhausting.

For a memoir to work, the writer must not only have a life worth writing about, but he must know how to examine it. Les Edgerton seems to be as astonished as we are sometimes, with bemused asides at many of its darker moments. He makes no excuses. If he holds himself up as anything, it’s as a survivor, mainly of himself. He gives us no moral to the story of his life, but shows us how he finally found his grace. As a friend, I’m happy he came out the other side. As a reader, I’m glad he lived to tell the tale.