INTERVIEW WITH ROB HART

Rob Hart has put his hero, unlicensed private detective Ash McKenna, through the wringer both physically and emotionally. He hasn’t even let him stay put in one city —  he has had to leave New York, Portland, a commune in Georgia, and then Prague in each book. In Potter’s FieldAsh returns to his Big Apple home, hoping to get his life together and find peace, but not until his former boss drag queen crime boss.

Potter's Field (Ash McKenna #5) Cover Image

MysteryPeople Scott: What made you want to have Ash in only five books?

Rob Hart: This may sound ridiculous but Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt series was five books, and I got it in my head that five was a good number. But as I was laying out the arc of Ash’s story, it made a lot of sense—three wasn’t enough, five was just right. And as much as I love writing him I needed to have an endpoint. The series is about a kid growing up and finding his moral compass, and it doesn’t work if he never finds it.

MPS: This is the final book, so, did Potter’s Field end up how you thought it would or did it change as you developed the character for the series?

RH: I was actually pretty locked-in early on, in that I knew he would come back to New York in the final book. But I didn’t realize how much of the fifth book would end up on Staten Island—nearly the entire thing, with a brief jaunt into Manhattan. I live on Staten Island and writing Potter’s Field made me realize how much I appreciate it, and this felt like I was doubling down on that. Especially since Staten Island hasn’t always had the greatest portrayals in arts and media. It’s so much more than a giant garbage dump and loud Italians.

MPS: You deal with Staten Island’s drug scene in this book, what did you want to convey about that world?

Image result for rob hartRH: The problem is much bigger than the individual user. If anything, I think users are unfairly demonized. The opioid crisis can be traced back to pharmaceutical companies that knew opioids were incredibly addictive, but did their best to hide that so they could maximize profits. And now a whole generation of people are hooked on heroin because of a bunch of rich craven assholes. I think there needs to be a lot more thought and compassion for what this crisis looks like on the ground level.

MPS: Do you feel New York has changed since Ash left or it is more seen through the eyes of someone who has changed?

RH: It has and it hasn’t. New York is a city of constant change—as much as the people who live here want it to remain the same, that’s not the nature of it. You just have to hold on and go along with it. If anything, that’s the feeling I wanted to get at. In New Yorked, the first book, Ash was one of those people who rages against every old business that closes, so by the fifth book, I wanted him to find that place of serenity, accepting the things he cannot change.

MPS: Ash runs into a couple other detectives as he searches for someone to apprentice with. Were you hinting at any new projects down the road with him?

RH: My publisher keeps reminding me that Dennis Lehane took a ten-year break on the Kenzie and Gennaro books. I am not opposed to writing more Ash, but definitely not for the foreseeable future. I needed those grown-up, real-deal private detectives to ground Ash’s journey and give him a reference point. The series, as a whole, is the origin story of a private detective, but he’s never even met one before.

MPS: How did it feel to finish Ash’s story, at least for now?

RH: Bittersweet. Ash’s voice is like an old pair of sneakers: comfortable to slip on, fits great, and you can walk for miles. But wear them for too long and they’ll break down and fall apart. I’m happy to be moving on to new things, but I’ll keep the shoes in the closet, just in case.

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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