INTERVIEW WITH DAVID SWINSON

The MysteryPeople Pick Of The Month, Trigger, is the final installment of David Swinson’s trilogy featuring Frank Marr, a private detective who is also a drug addict. We find Frank trying to quit when he is given the job to help clear his former D.C.P.D. partner from an alleged bad shooting. Another part of his past comes into play when he has to work with Calvin, a young black man he mistreated when he was a cop. It is a gritty crime novel with few easy answers but a lot of humanity. David was kind enough to take some questions from us.

Trigger (Frank Marr #3) Cover ImageMysteryPeople Scott: Did Frank Marr’s attempt at kicking his habit inform the tone of the book?

David Swinson: Yes, since it’s written in first person, present tense, Frank’s voice had to change. Being high on cocaine all the time hid a lot of the real Frank, and I tried to bring more of his true character out in Trigger.

MPS: In the opening chapter I felt that Frank was putting his life more at risk now that he was off drugs and what he was replacing the rush with, than when he was using. Is that a legitimate feeling?

DS: I think Frank put himself more at risk while using. He wasn’t hundred percent. He thought cocaine made him one-hundred percent, but it put him more at risk, both emotionally and in certain situations like hitting a dealer’s house, all because of the powerful need for the drug. Cocaine always comes first so that makes it more dangerous. He’s more calculated now, even tests himself. That, and alcohol is his new high. Still risky, though.

MPS: The main plot deals with Frank getting information to absolve his former partner from a bad police shooting. As someone who is a former police officer, what did you want to convey about those situations that the media reports and debates, but doesn’t fully examine?

DS: I want to show the audience that things aren’t always clear cut. There is a lot of gray. I wanted to touch on that, and try to show the reality of both sides, in particular, what a good cop goes through. Also, that smartphones have changed everything because a lot of officer-related shootings are now caught on camera for everyone to see. That’s not a bad thing, just like I don’t think body cams are a bad thing. The difference is that smartphones catch shootings that the media wouldn’t otherwise know about, and justified or not they are put out there for everyone to see. Every case is different. Some are obviously criminal, but most of them are not. It’s hard for the public to understand that, though, because any shooting that involves serious bodily harm or death is a terrible thing.

MPS: I picked up more humor in this book. Where do you think that came from?

DS: Much of it came from the awkward relationship between Frank and Calvin. I also think Frank sees things a bit differently being off cocaine.

MPS: You’ve said these books were planned as a trilogy. As a writer what did you enjoy most about Frank Marr?

DS: Being able to write about a character that is outside of myself. Before I sat down to start writing The Second Girl, I  took tons of notes. Frank Marr was already in my head, but during the course of writing The Second Girl he took on a life of his own, changed a lot. I always knew who he’d be, but the trick while writing was to figure out how to make him likeable. That I think was the most fun.

MPS: You’ve had several different and varying occupations. Any idea of what you’d being doing now if you weren’t a writer?

DS: Since my teens, I have not imagined myself being anything other than a writer. I knew I’d have to work a job because I wanted to pay bills, but being a writer was always there. I can’t imagine not writing because it has been with me for so long – the desire. I suppose that if I didn’t have the desire, I’d remain happily retired (hopefully), spending time with my family like I do now, but with more time on my hands.

 

Pick of the Month – TRIGGER By David Swinson

David Swinson’s Frank Marr has become one of my favorite private eyes. A functioning drug addict with a lot of dysfunctional relationships, he is just as likely to go looking for a fix before a suspect. In Trigger, reported to be the end of the Frank Marr trilogy, he takes a case that could lead to redemption or send him spiraling to oblivion.

Marr has quit using, but he doesn’t appear much better. He still raids drug houses, but flushes down the contraband he finds, using the rush as a replacement for the narcotics. The fact that he downs a lot of alcohol throughout the book is also suspect. He walks a razor’s edge asking to get cut.

Leslie Costello, the attorney he works for who is also his ex, gives him a job that hits close. She’s representing his former D.C.P.D. partner Al Luna who is accused of a bad shooting. Al swears he saw a gun, but none can be found at the scene. Frank’s work for the defense has him working with Calvin, a young black man who was at the wrong end of his abuse of authority in his police days. Their search for answers puts them in the middle of a drug war with shifting sides.

Swinson pulls no punches in his depiction of Frank. He follows the hard boiled school of the reader taking the protagonist on his own terms. If you haven’t read the previous books, The Second Girl and Crime Song, you may have difficulty in liking him at first. He is responsible for his own faults and has become a prisoner of them. We root for him to get past his sins and mistakes, allowing the decent man who is in there to fully come to form.

The plot itself also may be challenging to the reader. It almost works inverse to most mysteries, with more understanding, facts, and truth leading to more ambiguity. It reflects the right and wrong of the streets becoming more abstract from what Frank and Calvin learn from one another. It also ties into our concern we have for Frank returning to drugs for the dark confusing world the case leads him through.

If Trigger’s world is dark, it finds light in many of the characters, especially in its lead. His code provides an anchor for his soul on the rough, cold seas. He and others show that an ability to reach out to one another and share perspectives makes the streets easier to navigate. Frank Marr’s life may be harrowing, but there is hope if he can trust others for help.

Scott’s Top Ten of 2017 (So Far)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Around this time of the year, we like to look back on what has come out so far in the year as we think of suggestions for reading for the rest of the summer. Below, you’ll find recommended reads that deserve their due. In fact some are so good I had to combine a few, so my top ten is a top twelve.

97800626644191. The Force by Don Winslow

I know, an obvious choice, but it is so obviously great. This epic look at today’s New York through police eyes has plot, character, and theme singing together in this opera of city corruption. You can find copies of The Force on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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Three Picks for May

For the murderous month of May, get your adrenaline pumping with three new works in some of our favorite new and continuing series. Ace Atkins brings us his latest Spenser and Hawk tale, Steve Hamilton follows up his brilliant The Second Life of Nick Mason with another tale of hard bargains and harder choices, while David Swinson gives us the second installment in his new series following a drug-addicted, accidental hero. 

Robert B Parker’s Little White Lies by Ace Atkins9780399177002

Spenser and Hawk go into the deep South to to find a con man mixed up in real estate, right-wing politics, religion, and gunrunning. A fun tale with our classic heroes confronting modern villains in a story that feels ripped from the political headlines of the Trump era. Ace will be at Book People Friday, July 21st, to sign and discuss Little white Lies and his latest Quinn Colson book, The Fallen – keep an eye on our website for more information closer to the event. You can find copies of Little White Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9780399574382Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Hamilton’s sequel to his extraordinary The Second Life Of Nick Mason, has Nick continuing his indentured servitude to imprisoned kingpin Darius Cole by going after the witnesses in Darius retrial that stands between him and freedom. Only catch is that they are all in Witness Protection. An action packed crime thriller with all the players making great chess moves against the other. Steve will be here at BookPeople signing Exit Strategy on Tuesday, May 23rd, at 12 PM. You can find copies of Exit Strategy on our shelves starting May 16th, or pre-order via bookpeople.com

9780316264211Crime Song by David Swinson

D.C. drug-addicted private eye Frank Marr gets a case that hits way too close to home when his cousin is murdered. To make matters works, Frank’s apartment is broken into, yet their purpose remains mysterious given their failure to steal his narcotics stash. The trail leads to some well executed reveals, pitting Frank against some tough adversaries as he tries to keep his addiction hidden. Crime Song is the second book in what is becoming a great, gritty series with a complex and utterly human hero. You can find copies of Crime Song on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Scott’s Top Five Debuts of 2016

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

What surprised me this year was the variety of genres in which new talented authors popped up – from hard boiled, to historical, to rural. I usually want authors to take their time, but I really hope to see a follow up from everybody on this list by the end of 2017.

97803162641741. The Second Girl by David Swinson

A former D.C. cop turned private investigator and junkie inadvertently saves a girl while searching for a fix. Soon he is hired to find another girl who disappeared under similar circumstances. As the clock runs out, he battles the need for a fix, while trying find her. A streetwise and human PI novel. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97801431287172. Speakers Of the Dead by J. Aaron Sanders

In 1840s New York, a young reporter, Walt Whitman, attempts to clear the name of a friend hung for a crime she didn’t commit. His search leads to a grave robbing ring, politics, religion, and Edgar Allen Poe. A ripping historical yarn yarn that fully uses time and place. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

97803991672633. Out Of The Blues by Trudy Nan Boyce

Newly minted Atlanta police detective Sarah Alt (aka Salt) catches a cold case involving the death of a bluesman. Her investigation involves a point in her city where race, politics, religion, and art meet in this involving procedure that any fan of Michael Connell’s harry Bosch should respect. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

4. Graveyard Of The Gods by Richard Newman9781943075201

A farmer makes ends meet by tossing his criminal war buddy’s murder victims to his hogs. When he recognizes one of the bodies he goes to a dirty little town for answers. Newman takes the structure and tightness of a paperback crime story and uses it as a elegy for a dying Midwest. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97812500502295. The More They Disappear by Jesse Donaldson

A rural noir why-dunnit using a Kentucky town at the beginning of the Oxycontin crisis. As the interim sheriff looks into who killed his predecessor and the woman who did finds everything closing in on her, we see the the moral rot of small town America. You can find copies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

On Addiction, PIs and Unlikely Heroes: MysteryPeople Q&A with David Swinson

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

In The Second Girl, author David Swinson introduces us to  private detective and drug addict Frank Marr. While robbing a drug den for their stash he inadvertently rescues a young girl, making him a reluctant hero. He is soon asked to look for another abducted girl. His search tests his skills and will, challenged by his addiction. We reached out to Mr. Swinson to see if he’s take some questions from us.

MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to a detective like Frank Marr?

David Swinson: As a retired police detective I am a man of rules and procedure. I’m not the guy you want to watch certain crime shows or movies with because if they don’t follow correct procedure it drives me nuts. On the other hand, as a crime writer having to be bound by all those rules can be a burden. Frank Marr freed me from all that. He still has somewhat of a police code so he doesn’t do anything so stupid it’s drive me crazy, but also he’s not bound by those rules so he breaks some of them. That’s what made it fun.

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Scott’s Top Ten Mysteries of 2016 (So Far)

97803991730351. Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Coleman gives us a new character, ex-cop Gus Murphy, in a mystery involving old school mobsters, questionable cops, and a confrontation with loss and despair. After this hard-boiled story with heart, I can’t wait to see where this wounded hero is going. Signed copies available!

 


2. The Second Life Of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton9780399574320

One of the best crafted crime novels I’ve read in some time, featuring a small time hood whose early prison release has him forced to do the bidding of criminal kingpin. Everything Hamilton sets up with his sharp premise falls perfectly into place by the end.


97800623698573. What Remains Of Me by Allison Gaylin

A layered Hollywood thriller with the murder of a movie star tied to the woman found guilty for shooting his director buddy when she was a teenager. Gaylin dives into celebrity crime, tapping into dark social psychology.

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