As MysteryPeople’s Fifth Anniversary Party draws near, we will continue to put online the lists given to us by authors and critics who contributed to our MysteryPeople Top 100 list. Hilary Davidson has been an ally from the start; she is always willing to do events, write guest blogs, and answer any questions we might have. She is also one hell of an author, whether you’re talking about her pitch black short noir, her taut psychological thrillers featuring travel writer Lily Moore, or standalones like Blood Always Tells that straddle both brilliantly. Like her own books, Hilary has chosen works (in no particular order) that find a way to be both accessible and edgy.
Today is the release day of our April Pick Of The Month, Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson. It is an interesting take on family, shared history, and story telling itself. Hilary was kind enough to talk about the book with a for a few questions.
MYSTERYPEOPLE: Which came first, the story or the way you decided to tell it?
HILARY DAVIDSON: The story came first, and it came about in a way that was very unusual for me. I was actually working on another book that featured Desmond Edgars in a relatively small but essential role. But he was such an intriguing, compelling character that he and his backstory started taking over that book. I realized I was more interested in Desmond and his world than the book I was writing, and I made the gut-wrenching decision to set aside the 40,000 words of it and work on Blood Always Tells instead.
The structure of Blood Always Tells evolved organically. Even though it was the character of Desmond that brought me to the book, I realized that it would never work if his sister, Dominique Monaghan, didn’t have as strong a voice as he did.
MP: What was the biggest difference between writing Blood Always Tells and the Lily Moore books?
HD: One major difference was that I went into this knowing so much more of the story than I ever did with any of the Lily Moore books. That was simply because substantial parts of it originated as Desmond’s backstory in that unfinished book I set aside. I can’t say that nothing changed — there were some major shifts from what I originally envisioned. But being more certain of the story I was telling meant that I felt freer to play with the narrative. I love writing from Lily’s point of view, but it means that there’s no way for scenes she’s not witnessing to make it into those books. Blood Always Tells is told in the close third person, so readers still get inside the characters’ heads, but because the perspective changes, it means the essential action is always onstage.
MP: Point of view is not only part of the structure, it also differentiates the characters by how they see the same thing or person differently. What did you want to explore with point of view?
HD: There were a couple of things. One is that I wanted each section of the book to be revealed through the eyes of the character who has the most to gain or lose. The stakes are incredibly high for each of the three characters who control the narrative. In some ways, they couldn’t be more different, and yet each character makes a major sacrifice at some point in the story.
I was also fascinated with questions of memory, and how what you hold in your mind shapes your identity. The characters in the book remember essential events and people in completely different ways. I dedicated the book to my grandmother for several reasons, one of them being that it was her death that made me think about how differently two people in the same family could interpret the same action so differently. My brothers and I all loved her, but we have such distinctly different memories of her. That led to conversations about other things from our childhood and how we remembered or interpreted things in completely opposite ways.
MP: The first part of this book has more of the noirish vibe of many of your short stories. What was it like sustaining a darker tone for a longer period of time?
I thought it would be hard to do that, so I was surprised by how much I liked it. In my short stories, the reader is often inside the head of a criminal, and when you first meet Dominique, you know she’s planning something bad for her boyfriend. But her motivations are complex, and the more time I spent with her, the more I understood her and sympathized. Plus, her plans are interrupted by people who’ve got far worse intentions. The scenes after she and her boyfriend are kidnapped were sometimes harrowing to write, and what got me through them was Dominique’s sense of humor. It’s ironic that Dominique’s section of the story is the most noirish and yet the funniest.
MP: Many of your characters in this book, the Lily Moore series, and your short work come from broken homes. What draws you to family dysfunction?
HD: I was lucky to grow up with supportive parents and a close family, but that’s not the case for many of my friends, and for other members of my own family. I’m not so much drawn to dysfunction as I am to resilience. What really drives me is, what keeps people going when they’ve gone through tragic circumstances? My grandmother lost one of her children when he was thirteen years old, and that was something that marked her for life. It didn’t make her any less of a fighter or a powerhouse character, but a loss like that casts a long shadow. I want to explore how people live under a shadow like that.
MP: What’s in store for your readers next?
HD: I’m working on another standalone novel right now. If you like my dark side, you’ll be glad to know that goes into some very dark places. I’ve got several short stories coming out soon. There’s one in Ellery Queen called “My Sweet Angel of Death” about a serial killer at work in the Andes mountains. I’m also in a collection that David Cranmer is putting together in memory of his nephew, and in Trouble in the Heartland, an anthology edited by Joe Clifford featuring stories inspired by Bruce Springsteen songs. I never stray far from my dark roots.
Blood Always Tells is available now on our shelves & online via bookpeople.com. Hilary Davidson will be in our store on Thursday, April 14 at 6:30pm in our third floor event space to speak about & sign copies of Blood Always Tells.
MysteryPeople April Pick of the Month: Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson
I’ve said before that Hilary Davidson is somewhat of a Jekyll and Hyde author. Her short fiction has a hard noir style, usually showing the worst of humanity. Her series featuring travel writer Lily Moore consists of edgy thrillers with a damaged-but-decent heroine confronting her problems. With Blood Always Tells, a stand alone thriller, Davidson fuses both sides of her writing personalities.
The book begins with Dominique Monaghan, a second tier model having an affair with an ex-boxer who married another woman for money. After Dominique discovers he’s cheating on her, as well, she slips a muscle relaxant into his drink, hoping to get him talking about the wife and affairs all while recording the conversation for blackmail purposes. The plan goes awry when some guys with guns burst in and kidnap both of them.
This isn’t your average kidnapping. In one entertaining passage, Dominique is schooled by one of the accomplices on the many reasons for kidnapping. This section has the darker motives and even darker humor of Davidson’s short fiction work.
After a little over a hundred pages, the book goes into hard-boiled sleuth mode as we follow Dominique’s brother Desmond as he tries to find her. The search puts him up against Gary’s diamond-for-a-heart wife and more than a few unhinged criminals.
Davidson has a gift for taking you seamlessly through these different point-of-views and sub-genres. By crafting many well placed reveals and twists that become a part of the pace, she makes the reader accustomed to the speed at which she likes to change it up. There’s also a theme of the importance of family weaved throughout the book that binds it together. All three of the characters come from broken homes and the double edge sword of bother-sister relationships.
Blood Always Tells is a fresh and engaging read. It plays with genre and narrative in a unique way, not flinching when it comes to the characters and their past. I look forward to Hilary’s next walk on the wild side.
Blood Always Tells is available for pre-order on our website. Hilary Davidson will be in the store on Thursday, April 24 at 7PM speaking & signing copies of the book. Click here for more information & to pre-order your signed copy.
Hilary Davidson has two personalities as a writer. Best known for her edgy psychological thrillers featuring travel writer Lily Moore, she has also penned several noir short stories with a pitch black sense of humor (many collected in the eBook, The Black Widow Club). She fuses both styles brilliantly in her first stand alone, Blood Always Tells.
The book is told from three points of view. We start with a mistress trying to get back at her three-timing boyfriend. Her plan of attack involves blackmail, but then she gets caught up in his kidnapping. Then, the story later shifts to her brother, Desmond, who is trying to rescue her from everything she’s gotten herself entangled with. Lastly, near the end we hear from the point-of-view of a character who has been a fly on a wall through the whole thing.
Each character changes the story into a different sub-genre- from black comic crime to hard-boiled detective, all fitting together perfectly to make one novel.
No matter which perspective you are reading, Blood Always Tells is one engaging read. Its many twists, dark humor, darker psychology, and complex good, bad and somewhere-in-the-middle characters make it one of the best books in what is looking like a banner year for crime fiction. It’s hard to tell you more without giving away the great surprises. You can find out for yourself when the book comes out on April 15th. Make sure to join us on Thursday, April 24 at 6:30PM when Hilary will be here at at BookPeople to sign and discuss the novel.
Hilary Davidson will be at BookPeople on Thursday, Apr 24 at 6:30PM speaking & signing copies of Blood Always Tells. For more information & to pre-order signed copies, visit bookpeople.com.
2014 is looking like a great year for crime fiction fans. It’s so good that while I was making a top 5 list of books I’m looking forward to, I realized I had to make it 6.
1. Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman
This will be a bittersweet read, since it will be the last book featuring my favorite contemporary private eye, Moe Prager. Moe is one of the most fully realized characters out there and this series contains some of the most poignant books I’ve ever read. I may be wiping tears as I turn pages. On Sale 5/18/14. Pre-order here.
2. Blood Always Tells by Hilary Davidson
As much as I love Hilary’s Lily Moore series, this novel of blackmail, kidnapping, and bad relationships sounds like the kind of book I’ve been waiting for her to write. Leaning her towards darker short fiction, this could be the Gone Girl of 2014. On Sale 4/15/14. Pre-order here.
3. Perfidia by James Ellroy
Ellroy goes back to The City Of Angels to revisit some of the characters from his LA Quartet in their earlier days. This could be a return to the sprawling, stylish, down and dirty Ellroy we all got hooked on. On Sale 9/9/14. Pre-order here.
4. The Poor Boy’s Game by Dennis Tafoya
I’ve been waiting years for Dennis Tafoya to come out with a new book – read Dope Thief to know why. This tale of an ex-US Marshall protecting her sister and step mother from her father on the streets of Philadelphia should have all the gritty heart I’ve come to expect from him and be well worth the wait. On Sale 4/29/14. Pre-order here.
5. In The Morning I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McGinty
The final installment of The Troubles Trilogy featuring Sean Duffy, a Catholic cop in Thatcher-era Belfast. My only hope is that McGinty will find a way to continue with this complex character and his biting sense of humor. On Sale 3/4/14. Pre-order here.
6. The Fever by Megan Abbott
A new book by Megan Abbott. That’s all that needs to be said. On Sale 6/17/14. Pre-order here.