Q&A with Layton Green, author of Written In Blood

Here’s our Q&A with Layton Author, author of our Pick Of The Month, Written in Blood

MysteryPeople Scott: What I really loved about Written In Blood was how Preach’s personal life dovetailed perfectly with the mystery story. Was there any kind of advance planning in the process to pull this off?

Layton Green: My first editor told me to “always make it personal.” Since then, I’ve tried to heed that advice and blend the private lives of my protagonists with the crime, in some way. I agree that when there is a personal stake in the outcome above and beyond the job, the tension is usually heightened.

MPS: Many writers say they avoid dealing with religion and faith, yet some of the best crime novels and television episodes deal with it. What did you want to explore with that part of Preach’s struggle?

LG: To me, no matter the genre, the best novels deal with the tough questions in life, as well as the quotidian details. It doesn’t have to be overt, but as a reader, I want to know what my fictional heroes think about life and death, and good versus evil, and the meaning of it all (as well as their favorite drink). I decided to use Preach’s past lives as a way to explore those topics.

MPS: Kirby is a wonderful supporting character. Is there a way he came into being with the traits he has?

LG: Thanks! Hmm, you know, I don’t actually know from what void he sprang. I was just trying to make him real, and a reflection of his circumstances and his society. I liked him, too.

MPS: There are literary references in the story, many serving as clues. Was there anything you had to keep in mind when using them?

LG: I definitely did my research on this one, as I didn’t want to misstep and use a false reference.

I reread all the books and hit the commentaries, as well as trying to explore them in a novel manner. It was really fun to tie them all together, and I enjoyed the research into the “lineage” of detective fiction. Oh, and I consulted an intellectual property law professor. He says I’m good to go.

MPS: What did the setting of Creekville, North Carolina provide for you?

LG: The whole enchilada! The setting is loosely based on a real town in the Triangle that has many similarities to the one in the book. I fictionalized it so I could take liberties as needed, but the general vibe of the town, the extreme liberalism and quirky nature, are all there. I was fascinated to see the interplay between the progressive culture and the conservative bastions of the Old South. After a few weeks, I knew I wanted to write about that clash.

MPS: Some of the suspects are writers and not very likable. Were you making any comment on your profession?

LG: Not consciously. Just telling the truth, or part of it. There are many sides to a truth . . . and we crime writers tend to focus on the dark ones.

Pick of the Month: Written in Blood

Going home again seems to be the theme for mystery protagonists lately. Tom Bouman’s Officer Henry Farell licks his wounds by returning to his rural Pennsylvania community. Last month, C.M. Wendelboe’s Hunting The Five Points Killer had Arn Anderson returning to Cheyenne to solve a series of murders. Now, John Layton introduces us to Joe “Preach” Anderson, a former Atlanta police detective now working in his North Carolina hometown in Written In Blood.

Preach got his nickname from being a prison chaplain before his career in law enforcement. Hoping to see less inhumanity on the job, he works for the police department in Creekville, a bohemian town near Chapel Hill where he grew up. As we learn through sessions with his therapist, who is also his aunt, he’s dealing with several compounded trauma’s that have affected his faith and life.

forbioWhen a local bookseller is murdered, Preach is put on the case, since it is the first homicide the department has had in a decade. On the surface Creekville is a quaint town, full of artistic oddballs, akin to Louise Penny’s Three Pines. As Preach digs deeper into the case involving some local authors and several dark crimes, one feels echoes of the underbelly of Blue Velvet’s Lumberton.

The story skillfully weaves Preach’s personal story with the unraveling of the mystery. While the plot deals with many sordid topics, Layton never forgets the human victims involved. As Preach goes deeper, we wonder how he will handle it as we also have been uncovering his vulnerabilities.

Written In Blood is a great cross between a village mystery and police procedural. Lawton has populated Creekville, especially its police department, with fully fleshed out characters, and a hero in the middle of one hell of a journey. I’m already looking forward to Preach’s next case.