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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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.

 

Interview with Nancy Boyarsky on writing in the #metoo era & more

Liar Liar: A Nicole Graves Mystery (Nicole Graves Mysteries) Cover ImageFor her third mystery novel featuring protagonist Nicole Graves, Nancy Boyarsky has written an intriguing thriller that turns what could have been a predictable #metoo movement novel on its head.

In Liar Liar, Nicole is tasked with babysitting a witness who has accused a university’s star quarterback of rape. While the witness, Mary Ellen Barnes, has come off as squeaky clean in public, Graves quickly sees that things are not as they seem.

Soon Mary Ellen goes missing and Nicole, over the objections of her fiancé, gets increasingly in the middle of the case. And then a key figure in the story dies. What follows are twists and more twists.

Boyarsky coauthored Backroom Politics with her husband, journalist Bill Boyarsky, as well as several textbooks by herself on the justice system as well as writing articles of many publications.

She is currently working on her fourth mystery about Nicole in addition to a memoir about growing up in Oakland called Family Recipes for Gastroenteritis.

Scott: Where did this story come from and how did it develop?

Nancy: The plot of Liar Liar involves a rape trial that becomes a murder trial. The idea came to me long before #Metoo got rolling. I started thinking about it three or four years ago when a close friend of mine, who’s a private detective, told me about a rape case at a local college. She’d been hired by the college to interview everyone who had knowledge of the incident and write a report without drawing any conclusions. Normally, her cases are confidential, but someone leaked the report online, and Esquire ran an article about it. It involved two very drunk 19-year-olds, and the fallout from their encounter was pretty interesting. It got me thinking about how difficult it is to determine who’s the responsible party in a “she said, he said” situation.

Of course, I had to change all of the circumstances, since I wouldn’t have had a murder mystery without a dead body. In the real-life case, the parties seemed to be traumatized but no one died. I also changed the locale, setting the college in Malibu rather than in urban L.A.

Scott: How did you create and develop the protagonist, Nicole Graves, for this series?

Nancy: When I wrote the first book, The Swap, I wanted to create a main character who was smart, likeable, curious and doggedly persistent. I’ve read too many books featuring detectives who are emotionally damaged; it almost seems a requirement for this type of character. I wanted my heroine to be a normal, reasonably well-adjusted person. As I went through innumerable rewrites of The Swap, Nicole emerged.

Scott: How would you describe her?

Nancy: As I said, she’s smart, likeable, and doggedly persistent. She’s curious about the people she meets and wants to know everything about them, which is probably one of the traits made her become an investigator. She’s also petite and sweetly pretty with dimples. This bothers her. She feels that some people don’t take her seriously because of her looks. But sometimes it’s an advantage to people have underestimate you.

Most importantly, Nicole is a risk taker, and wants to make sure justice is served. She can’t bear standing by and watching when she knows someone has unjustly been accused of a crime or when the guilty party gets away, leaving an innocent person to take the blame. Oh, and she’s also a romantic. She’s has fallen in and out of love a few times during these stories.

Scott: In what ways are you like her? In what ways are you different from her?

Nancy: Well, I’m certainly not as brave as she is, and I wouldn’t call myself a risk taker. On the other hand, I do share her curiosity about people—what makes them tick, their secrets, their hopes and dreams. I share her desire to see justice done. I’m also petite and (while I don’t have dimples) have a benign appearance that sometimes makes people underestimate me.

Scott: I bet you thought about the #Metoo movement while writing this book in which a character accuses a well known person of rape. What are some thoughts you have about the movement?

Nancy: I’m a big supporter of #Metoo, and it was a lucky coincidence that Liar Liar was published as this movement was snowballing. I don’t know any woman who hasn’t been harassed or sexually victimized at some point in her life. I can remember being a teenager walking down the street and getting cat calls from, for example, construction workers. This was embarrassing and upsetting. But so many much worse things happen to women on a daily basis. It’s good that women are able to come forward and confront abusers about what they’ve done. On the other hand, we have to be careful not to get carried away. For example, there was the woman who anonymously denounced the stand-up comic Aziz Ansari for what many would call a bad date. I thought that was going too far.

In Liar Liar, the story the victim tells is not really what happened. She has been sexually victimized and exploited, just not in the way she says. And the man who’s wrongly accused isn’t completely innocent. But cases like this rarely happen. I believe the vast majority of victims are telling the truth. According to the National Institute of Justice, most rapes, attempted rapes, and other sexual assaults are never reported. Why not? The institute referred to a study that gave a number of reasons: self blame, shame, fear of the perpetrator, fear of not being believed, and lack of trust in the justice system.

Scott: So this is the third in your series — should readers start with the first book or is it okay to start with this one?

Nancy: You don’t have to start with the first one at all. Each book stands on its own. If anything happens that refers back to an event in one of the earlier books, I give a brief explanation.

I wrote the first book, The Swap, as a stand-alone; I had no intention of basing a series on Nicole Graves. When it was done, I’d left a lot hanging in the air. By this time, Nicole seemed almost real to me. I started wondering what would happen to her next. As I thought about it, my second book, The Bequest, began to take shape.

Scott: I understand at one point you were the associate editor of Los Angeles Lawyer magazine. Did that help with writing about lawyers in this book?

Nancy: One of things I always had to offer employers was my ability to translate legalize and legislative language into plain, simple terms that the average reader could understand. So, I guess my experience with L.A. Lawyer helped me out there. I did the same kind of work at ARCO, where I was director of communications for political affairs for many years, mostly writing about legislative proposals that affected the oil industry. But my main resource for the workings of the justice system in Liar Liar was my brother-in-law, Jeff Boyarsky, who is a newly retired criminal-defense attorney. I was always asking him questions about what would happen before and during the trials in the book.

Scott: What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

Nancy: I hope they’ll be entertained and that the book will take them out of their world for a while. It would also be good if the book could enlighten them a bit about the legal process and what participants in such trials go through.

Scott: How did you research this book?

Nancy: For quick facts, for example how a particular gun would behave in Nicole’s hands, I used Google. The internet makes this kind of research very easy. In the dark ages before the web, I was a freelance writer. To get information, I had to make a lot of phone calls, spend time in libraries, become an expert at using The Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature and looking at newspaper microfilms. Yikes! That was a lot of work.

For Nicole’s adventures, I have two main experts I rely on—my lawyer brother-in-law and my friend who’s a private detective. They answer questions as I go along and read the manuscript when it’s done.

Scott: How far out have you planned this series?

Nancy: Not at all. I’m just finishing up Book 4, The Ransom, which is due at my publishers on January 10th and will be released next September. I’m thinking that book 5 should take Nicole to Europe. Maybe London again, which was the setting of The Swap.  I know the city pretty well from our visits there. Or maybe Italy or France. I don’t even plan the book I’m working on advance. I just develop it as I go along. While preoccupied with that, it’s impossible to think about what will be in the next book.

 

REVIEW OF IN THE GALWAY SILENCE BY KEN BRUEN

In The Galway Silence is the first book in the Jack Taylor series–it’s a follow up to “The Emerald Trilogy” where the character was involved with a Gaelic femme fatale. We find the semi-functioning Irish “finder” picking up the pieces that Emerald left in her wake in a life that is different. As dark as those three books were, Bruen finds ways to take Jack and the reader further down into the abyss.

In the Galway Silence Cover ImageYou know it is going to be dark when Jack tells you he has found a good point in his life. An inheritance has him flush and he is in a stable relationship. Saving a drowning man and being asked of two things puts him on his new road to Hell. An Irish version of the Trump brothers are drowned and their father wants to hire Jack to locate the killer. He refuses, but finds himself drawn into the case. His girlfriend asks him to look after her bratty son while she is in America for a couple weeks. These events and the return of a lover from the past tie Jack to a killer who calls himself Silence and makes him an opponent in a dark chess game.

Bruen uses the idea of silence as a dual theme. One is the quiet life that Jack struggles to attain, particularly after the chaos with Emerald. Jack follows current events as much as his case, connecting it to our own need for solace from the noise of a Brexit/Trump world. Silence also expresses the death that circles around Taylor as events close in. One great example is Bruen’s use of one small sentence after long rambling paragraph describing the day he spent with someone he gets to know and love. That sentence makes it clear there will never be another day they’ll have.

Bruen follows Taylor as someone attempting to retreat from the damage he’s been a part of. The only problem is, it keeps coming. He wonders if he is drawn to it, his penchant for self destruction only destroying others. He struggles to find a way to connect with anyone if fate always forces him to tap into the darkest part of himself.

In The Galway Silence is both Ken Bruen and The Jack Taylor series at it’s best. Bruen examines his hero and his city with a styles that cuts to the marrow of both. Jack Taylor may not always be a likable character, but we wouldn’t like him any other way.