Man on the Run: MysteryPeople Q&A with Rob Hart


  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The Woman From PragueRob Hart’s latest novel to feature series character Ash Mckenna, has the unlicensed PI in the middle of a Eastern European spy tale when he is coerced by a mystery man (claiming to be a government agent) into intercepting the hand-off of a thumb drive. When the plan backfires, Ash finds himself on the run with Sam, his target, and the eponymous woman from Prague. The book is a slam bang action store with the same hard boiled heart we’ve come to expect from the series.

We’re happy to bring you this Q&A with Rob the day before he joins Bill Loehfelm and Jordan Harper at BookPeople for our New Voices In Noir discussion. Join us for one of the year’s most intriguing panels, this Wednesday, July 26th at 7 PM

MysteryPeople Scott: What made Prague your choice of setting for Ash’s latest?

Rob Hart: I visited Prague a few years ago and was just completely infatuated. I knew right off I wanted to set a book there. And by the fourth book in the series I was feeling like it was time to put Ash in a situation where he was thousands of miles from home, completely unfamiliar with everything around him, and totally outmatched. Ash thinks he’s pretty tough, and it was time to dissuade him of that notion.

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Three Picks for July

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

July will see new books from from some of this decade’s best series.

The Devil’s Muse by Bill Loehfelm9780374279776

The latest featuring New Orleans patrolwoman Maureen Coughlin has her trying to solve a shooting during the Mardi Gras parade. Loehfelm brings immediacy through use of procedure, place, and character. Bill will be here July 26th for our New Voices In Noir panel with Jordan Harper and Rob Hart. The Devil’s Muse comes out July 11 – pre-order now!

The Woman From Prague by Rob Hart9781943818471

Ash McKenna’s fourth outing has him in the Czech city blackmailed by a shadowy figure who works for the government to intercept a package before it is handed off from the lady in the title to another woman. Spoiler alert, things go wrong and violent. A well crafted thriller that skimps on neither action or character. Rob will be here July 26th for our New Voices In Noir panel with Jordan Harper and Bill Loehfelm. The Woman From Prague comes out July 11 pre-order now!

9780062567383Every Day Above Ground by Glen Erik Hamilton

Former crook and army ranger Van Shaw is back on the streets pulled back into a life of crime, ripping a dead drug dealers gold. Things are not what they appear when he finds himself set up. Few balance hard boiled crime and humanism as well as Glen Erik Hamilton. Every Day Above Ground comes out July 26 – pre-order now! 

Scott’s Top Ten of 2016 (Make it a dozen. Okay, fifteen or sixteen.)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

This was a great year for crime fiction. Established authors experimented with new ideas or pushed what they were doing further. People with great debuts in 2015 proved it wasn’t just beginners luck this year. 2016’s new releases were so good, it was difficult to narrow them down, so I put a few together and made it a dozen.

97803991730351. Anything and All Things Reed Farrel Coleman

This year Coleman started a new character, ex-Suffolk-County-cop-turned-sorta-PI Gus Murphy (Where It Hurts), ended the series featuring dwarf detective Gulliver Down (Love & Fear), and delivered a Game Change in the life of Robert B Parker’s Jesse Stone (Debt To Pay.) All of it was executed with a poet’s choice of words, haunting emotions, and believable leads in a struggle to find who they are and what matters to them. He also had brilliant short stories in the anthologies Crime Plus Music and Unloaded. It wouldn’t surprise me if Reed made out some moving grocery lists as well.

97803995743202. The Second Life Of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton

Possibly one of the best crafted crime novels in a decade. Nick Mason finishes a twenty-year stretch in five due to a criminal kingpin who runs his empire from the inside. Upon Mason’s release the kingpin’s lawyer hands him a cell phone that is the condition of his release – he must answer the phone at any time and do whatever he is told on the other end. Everything Hamilton sets up in the first few chapters falls beautifully into place by the end.

97803162310773. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

This dark, morally complex tale looks at ambition and the dynamics of family support for their gymnastics prodigy daughter as the family and community react to a murder that occurs in their sporting community. Abbott further pushes the boundaries of noir.

97805254269434. An Obvious Fact by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walt Longmire, Henry Standing Bear, and Deputy Vic Moretti find themselves having to solve a mystery in a town overrun by a motorcycle rally. Guns, outlaw bikers, federal agents and a woman from Henry’s past all play a part in unraveling the final mystery. Johnson strips down the cast to his most essential characters for one of the most entertaining books in the series.

97800623698575. What Remains Of Me by Alison Gaylin

A multi-layered psychological Hollywood thriller, in which a present-day murder of an actor is tied to the past murder of a director, and the same woman gets blamed for both. Gaylin’s character development beautifully dovetails with a plot that is never revealed until the final sentence. Beautiful, stunning work.

97803991739506. The Innocents by Ace Atkins

The latest and angriest of The Quinn Colson novels has our country boy hero and Sheriff Lillie Virgil solving a torturous murder of a former cheerleader, dealing with the worst aspects of Southern small town society. A book that enrages as it entertains.

97803079612737. Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman

Spiegelman introduces us to his new series character, a doctor who keeps his Skid Row clinic afloat by making “house calls” with his mercenary pal to the rich, famous, and criminal, who don’t need anything reported on medical records. A very interesting, complex hero, and an interesting look at L.A.

97812500099688. Murder At The 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

In Murder at the 42nd Street Library, Con Lehane introduces us to another great new character, Raymond Ambler, Curator of the Crime Fiction Collection for the New York Public Library and amateur sleuth. A satisfying mystery with a lived-in, warm look at friendship and a worker’s look at New York.

97819438181749.City of Rose & South Village by Rob Hart

The seconds and third installments following unlicensed private eye Ash McKenna takes him to two very different places, tracking down a stripper’s daughter in Portland and a solving a murder on his friend’s Georgia commune, charting a progression of a broken man putting the pieces of himself together. Plot and character meld seamlessly into this compelling tale of a lone hero who feels he can not be a part of the society he helps.

978076537485110. Night Work by David C Taylor

This follow up to veteran screenwriter David C. Taylor’s debut, Night Life, has police detective Michael Cassidy protecting Castro during his famous New York visit. Taylor makes the city and period a living, vibrant thing coming off the page.

11. Shot In Detroit by Patricia Abbott9781940610825

This story about a photographer who gets obsessed with a project involving young black men challenges us at every turn about race, class, and art and crime fiction itself. It is a book where the author complements the reader by assuming you are as intelligent and open to difficult topics as she is.

978098913299212. Genuinely Dangerous by Mike McCrary and Kiss The Devil Goodnight by Jonathan Woods

Two dark wild rides through a pulp hell that is pure Heaven for crime fiction fans. if Barry Gifford was still running Black Lizard he would have signed these guys up.

Noir on a Hippie Commune: MysteryPeople Q&A with Rob Hart

Interviewed by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Rob Hart’s Ash McKenna series gets better and better with each book. This time, in Hart’s latest, South Villagewe find our tarnished unlicensed investigator trying to find peace on a commune, working as a cook. Of course murder interferes. Rob will be joining Reavis Wortham and Tim Bryant for a discussion on Friday, October 21st, at 7 PM. We got to grill him about his setting, writing, and food.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did a hippie colony become the latest setting for Ash’s latest novel?

Rob Hart: Something like 10 years ago, I visited a place called The Hostel in the Forest down in Georgia. A friend of mine was a manager at the time. It was a lot of fun, and I came away wanting to write a book set in a place like that.

It struck me as a good fit for a couple of reasons: First, It’s a logical step for Ash to take following the events of the second book. Second, I wanted to focus on how he related to other people, and the world around him, and a commune is a good place to do that. Finally, I get to tell people it’s noir on a hippie commune, which is a fun hook.

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MysteryPeople Review: SOUTH VILLAGE by Rob Hart

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Rob Hart joins us Friday, October 21st, at 7 PM, for a panel discussion with Tim Bryant and Reavis Wortham. His latest book is South Village

9781943818174Rob Hart’s Ash McKenna is fast becoming one of my favorite private eyes. The unlicensed detective travels from place to place with more regret than his shoulders should carry. In the latest, South Village, we get an examination of the character as well as a finely crafted mystery.

Ash plans to get out of the country in case the police in Portland connect him to a murder he committed in the last novel, Rose City. While waiting for a passport, he goes back to his friends commune in Georgia, where he has been laying low and learning to cook. The night of his arrival back, one of the commune members, Crusty Pete, is killed. Ash finds the murder tied to ecoterrorism, the FBI, and betrayal, with the novel The Monkey Wrench Gang playing a part.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Rob Hart


  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Rob Hart’s first novel, New Yorked, made my list of Top Debuts of 2015. His follow-up to New YorkedCity Of Rose, finds his hero, Ash McKenna, adjusting to a new city, Portland, as he helps a stripper find her abducted daughter. Like New Yorked, it’s quirky and tough, yet even richer in pathos. Rob recently took some questions from us about the book.

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

MysteryPeople Scott: Usually in a PI novel, the detective is one with his city. In City Of Rose, you make him new to the area. What was the reason to drop him in an area he was just getting acclimated to?

Rob Hart: Ash has that classic New Yorker attitude, that his city is the greatest and that somehow makes him smarter and better than everyone else. I wanted to dissuade him of that notion, so it meant sending him into unfamiliar territory. It also keeps it interesting for me—putting him someplace new was a big challenge, and changed how I approached the research, but it was a lot of fun, too.

“Ash has that classic New Yorker attitude, that his city is the greatest and that somehow makes him smarter and better than everyone else. I wanted to dissuade him of that notion, so it meant sending him into unfamiliar territory…”

MPS: How did you choose Portland?

RH: I really like Portland. It’s a little goofy, but it’s also a lot of fun and has a very distinct personality. The strip clubs in particular have a very unique dynamic, in that they all serve food, and the crowd is usually pretty mixed between men and women—going to a strip club in Portland is like going to a bowling alley most places. All that together meant there were a lot of fun storytelling opportunities.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Rob Hart

Rob Hart’s New Yorked is both a quirky take on the the hard boiled crime novel and a heartbroken valentine to his ever-changing city. His hero, unlicensed Brooklyn PI Ash McKenna, has as much trouble with hipsters than criminals. we got a chance to grill Rob on writing, his book, and his town.

MysteryPeople Scott: Ash is such a unique tough guy hero. Is there a specific way he came about?

Rob Hart: I wanted to write a private detective-type character, but at the beginning of his career. We often join these characters after they’d been operating for years, jaded and set in their ways. I wanted to open at the start—dig into what would push someone onto that path, make it a story about a good-hearted but misguided kid looking for his moral compass. He’s capable and he’s tough and he’s good with his fists, but he’s also immature and impulsive and still has a lot to learn about the world.

MPS: The backdrop is a gentrifying New New York that angers Ash. What did you you want to question about it?

RH: New York is two cities. For natives, it’s this thing that gets in your blood, and you love it no matter how much it hurts you. For people who came from somewhere else, it’s Shangri-La; the answer to a question you’ve been asking your whole lives. And those two factions can often be adversarial. Natives grumble about gentrifiers taking up space. Gentrifiers grumble about the holier-than-thou natives.

I’ve lived here my whole life, so I understand those feelings of displacement and frustration. You think you’re due something for putting up with all the bullshit this place throws at you. But I also understand how this could be a place of reinvention and salvation.

Really, I’m just endlessly fascinated how this city exists for people—it’s so big and so diverse no two experiences are the same. I wanted to take a snapshot of mine.

MPS: What is the biggest misconception about the city?

RH: That it’s still dangerous as it used to be. It can be dangerous, just like any big city, but we’re very far removed from the Death Wish era. If anything, the city is safe to the point where it’s lost an edge. Living here used to be something you had to earn. Now it’s so sanitized and expensive, it’s easy to feel like in another twenty years there will be armed guards on the bridges, turning away anyone who doesn’t make a six figure annual salary.

New York is two cities. For natives, it’s this thing that gets in your blood, and you love it no matter how much it hurts you. For people who came from somewhere else, it’s Shangri-La; the answer to a question you’ve been asking your whole lives. And those two factions can often be adversarial. Natives grumble about gentrifiers taking up space. Gentrifiers grumble about the holier-than-thou natives.

MPS: For your first novel, did you draw from any influences or did you simply expand from your short work?

RH: This grew out of a short story I wrote in a workshop led by Craig Clevenger. It’s very different—different narrator, different circumstances. It was set around the closing of CBGB. If I dug up that story now I wouldn’t be surprised to see that none of the details survived from there to here. But that feeling of displacement, of the way this city can wear on you no matter how hard you love it, that stuck with me throughout.

MPS:  You also work on the publishing side of things. What should every author know who doesn’t have your experience?

RH: No one knows what they’re doing and anyone who tells you they do is lying. So much of publishing is unknowable. Something works and you just try to replicate it until something else catches fire—then you try to replicate that.

That said, the publishing industry is full of kind, passionate people who work very hard to put out good books. They often get cast as villains, called “gatekeepers” like it’s a dirty word. Yes, good books fall through the cracks, and good authors have gotten bad deals. But at the same time, a rejection doesn’t have to be an indictment of the whole system—it might just mean you have to work harder.

MPS: Ash sees his possible escape in moving to Austin. As a resident of that town, I was curious why you picked it.

RH: I wrote this during a period when I was convinced I was leaving New York. Austin was at the top of the list. A good friend of mine lived there, and my brother went to college in San Marcos, so I’d been down there five or six times, and I loved it. I felt like it was the kind of place I could live, and I don’t feel that way about a lot of places. Plus, I was thinking of setting the second book there, since I envisioned it as a play on a Western.

Sadly, it didn’t work out—I stayed in New York, and I moved the second book to Portland (a much more absurd location for a Western). That said, Ash did go to Austin immediately after the events of New Yorked, and I’m toying with the idea of writing a short story about what happened there that it didn’t work out. He probably got himself into some trouble on Sixth Street. Maybe someday.

You can find copies of New Yorked on our shelves and via