Thursday, December 11, 2014

Favorite Crime Novels from 2014

My favorite crime novels (in no particular order) from 2014

“The Big Finish” by James W. Hall

“The Ways of the Dead” by Neely Tucker

“The Forsaken” by Ace Atkins

“Windingo Island” by William Kent Krueger

“Man Down” by Roger Smith

“Fourth of July Creek” by Smith Henderson

“Cop Town” by Karin Slaughter

“Suspicion” by Joseph Finder

  “Kill Fee” by Owen Laukkanen

 “The Son” by Jo Nesbo

“Hangman” by Stephan Talty

“Rose Gold” by Walter Mosley

  “The Bone Orchard” by Paul Doiron

“Deep Winter” by Samuel W. Gailey

Saturday, November 22, 2014

12 Questions for Roger Smith, author of gritty South African crime thrillers

"Smith is Charles Willeford via James Ellroy – proof that noir is alive and flourishing."


WAKE UP DEAD, MIXED BLOOD & ISHMAEL TOFFEE are published in eight languages and two are in development as movies in the U.S. His books have won the Deutscher Krimi Preis (German Crime Fiction Award) and been nominated for Spinetingler Magazine Best Novel awards. He also writes horror under the alias Max Wilde.

CLINTON GREAVES: In your novels, you delve into the dark side of human nature by chronicling brutal and surprising violence in a way that is profoundly poetic. Personally, I love the gritty aspect of your novels. But I wonder: have you had any resistance to the violence in your books? This could be from your publishers, or your agent, or readers.

ROGER SMITH: No. There is a particularly South African brand of violence and savagery and the general consensus is that my books reflect it accurately. I have one guiding principle: if people do it, I’ll write about it.

CLINTON GREAVES: I first became aware of your work with the publication of WAKE UP DEAD, but I didn’t first read you until DUST DEVILS. To say it was a revelation for me would be an understatement. I’ve since read every crime novel you’ve written and so has my wife. When you publish a new book I can honestly say that my needs and desires are secondary to my wife’s reading. I know in the competitive landscape of publishing that sales and reviews matter. What has been the response to your writing from readers?

ROGER SMITH: Thank you. I’ve been very fortunate that my books have received an overwhelmingly positive response from readers and the media in Europe and the States. What’s been interesting for me is how both European and American readers have embraced my writing. During the apartheid years there was a great awareness of South Africa in countries like the UK, Germany and France where, happily, my books have been praised for tackling the harsh realities of post-apartheid SA. There is a general misconception that Americans are only interested in reading books about America. My experience couldn’t have been more different. American readers have been fascinated and sometimes (understandably) appalled by the stories that I tell.

CLINTON GREAVES: Your first two releases, WAKE UP DEAD and MIXED BLOOD, were released through Picador, a division of Macmillan. Now I see you’re published with Tin Town. I’m interested in your publishing journey. How difficult was it for you to see that first novel published and the novels since? 

ROGER SMITH: I was very lucky. The first book I wrote, Mixed Blood, attracted my agent, Alice Martell, who landed me a two-book deal with Henry Holt/ MacMillan in the U.S. On the back of that came a string of deals with international publishers. 

CLINTON GREAVES: Now let’s get on to current business. Tell me about MAN DOWN, your latest thriller.

ROGER SMITH: Man Down is different from my previous books in that it is set in both contemporary America and South Africa ten years ago. At the start of the book John and Tanya Turner and their nine-year-old daughter, Lucy, have been living in Tucson, Arizona, for nearly a decade after fleeing violence-torn South Africa. Their life appears comfortable and peaceful: John has prospered by selling automatic pool cleaners, Tanya is a college law professor and they live in a large house outside the city. One night three gunmen invade the house and terrorize the Turners, exposing the fault lines in their marriage and triggering a series of flashbacks that reveal that the John Turner of a decade ago was a very different creature: a small-time drug dealer in Johannesburg who got in over his head and was involved in the kidnapping of a rich man’s teenage daughter. As the night spins into an orgy of bloodshed John is forced to confront the truth about his complicity in that brutal crime and ask himself a question: is it payback time?

CLINTON GREAVES: I believe some of the best writing is happening in genre fiction, crime novels in particular. What drove you to write within the genre?

ROGER SMITH: Since I was a kid I’ve been crazy about crime fiction and always wanted to write it. But during the apartheid years in South Africa writing crime fiction seemed to be beside the point: there was a far greater crime to talk about. Then one day in 2007 I said to myself, “Okay, this is it. Time to see if you can write that crime novel.” So I sat down and wrote Mixed Blood. I had very few expectations and no sense at all that I was doing something that would completely transform my life.

CLINTON GREAVES: As you sit down to start writing a book do you let the story come to you? Or are you a careful plotter with file cards and charts and an extensive “story bible”?

ROGER SMITH: I always start with an image, a fragment, which is often—but not always—the opening scene of the book. These images arrive unprompted and making sense of them is the start of the writing process for me: identifying the characters and their predicaments. I like to keep things loose. No cards and charts. I’d find that too sterile and stifling. I need to be surprised as I write or I’ll become bored and walk away. Once my characters have me by the throat I work pretty quickly, writing a first draft in six to eight weeks. Then I spend many months revising and honing the book.

CLINTON GREAVES: In previous interviews I’ve talked about my writing process and some of the peculiarities in it. What is your writing routine like? And what are some of the quirks in yours?

ROGER SMITH: Nothing weird or quirky about my routine. I sit down at my computer and write for five hours a day, six days a week. One thing that I’ve learned after eight books is that writing is a job like any other: you have to show up and get the work done. Some days are good—a little muse-like thing flutters down from above and kisses me on the forehead and the words flow like honey—but most days are tough and if I had to sit around waiting for that muse I’d have a bunch of unfinished books on my hard drive.

CLINTON GREAVES: I love to read as much as write. Do you have much time for reading yourself? What are some crime fiction books that you think should be on everyone’s bookshelf (or Kindle, Nook, etc.)?

ROGER SMITH: I have always read voraciously. You can’t be a writer without being a reader. Some of my favorite crime novels:

The Hunter (1964) by Richard Stark (the pseudonym of Donald E. Westlake) A tight piece of gutter existentialism it follows Parker (no first name, no morals, precious little backstory) an ex-con out of prison and out for revenge.

Glitz (1985) by Elmore Leonard ushered in more than a decade of classics. It is Leonard at his best: a multi-viewpoint narrative that moves like hell. Great dialogue (of course), a tough-but-vulnerable hero, a sick and nasty villain, with a good-looking woman thrown in.

No crime collection is complete without The Ripliad—the series of five Tom Ripley novels by Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955) Ripley Under Ground (1970), Ripley's Game (1974), The Boy Who Followed Ripley (1980) & Ripley Under Water (1991) featuring the most seductive anti-hero series fiction has ever produced. What makes the books so compelling for me is the cool, matter-of-fact attitude toward murder and mayhem that Highsmith maintains: Tom Ripley is never brought to justice and is burdened by no long-term guilt.

Whenever anybody trots out the old saw that protagonists have to be sympathetic, I point them in the direction of Jim Thompson’s string of dark and subversive novels. My favorite is The Killer Inside Me (1952). A Thompson classic. His characters aren’t nice, but they’re damn interesting.

CLINTON GREAVES: In the previous question I mentioned the electronic reading devices. The emergence of eBooks has probably been the most ballyhooed change in publishing. Then, of course, you have these protracted battles between Amazon and large publishers like Hachette. What are your thoughts regarding the publishing industry these days? Encouraged or discouraged?

ROGER SMITH: This is an exciting time to be a writer. Sure, there are no certainties and the publishing landscape resembles the Somme, but despite the bombardment of other media (movies, games, some really sensational TV—all that great stuff on American cable—and the endless riptide of the internet) people are still reading fiction. I think the impulse to actively engage the imagination by reading a story is hardwired into us. I really don’t care if people read my books on paper, on an e-reader, on a tablet, a phone or the back of a toilet door—just as long as they are reading them.

CLINTON GREAVES: Okay. What’s one question you wish an interviewer would ask? And go ahead and answer it.

ROGER SMITH: I’m often asked about crime writers I admire me but I’d like to mention a so-called literary author who has influenced me: Ian McEwan. He uses suspense masterfully—at moments of peak intensity McEwan slows time down (take a look at the hot air balloon accident in the opening chapter of Enduring Love) a form of torture that readers enjoy despite themselves. Of this technique McEwan says: “A high-value, rich experience, can mean that two seconds are worth 1,200 words.” He can teach most genre writers a thing or two about ratcheting up the tension.

CLINTON GREAVES: As I mentioned, my wife and I are both tremendous fans of your work. What are you currently working on and when can we expect to read it?

ROGER SMITH: I’m busy with a new novel but I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it. Should be out next year some time.

CLINTON GREAVES: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Any last thoughts?

ROGER SMITH: Just a big “thank you.” This was fun.

Order Roger Smith's Thrilling MAN DOWN!
Amazon: MAN DOWN

Follow Roger Smith and Clinton Greaves on Twitter:

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ten Favorite Crime Novels Over the Last Decade of Reading

If you love crime fiction and you haven’t made J. Kingston Pierce’s blog a daily destination, change that now. I can’t adequately detail how many interesting articles, interviews, and books I’ve discovered simply by making Rap Sheet a part of each day. It’s terrific. In one of the latest posts, Pierce presents the challenge of naming your Top 10 favorite crime fiction books from 2004-2013 (originally posed to him by Brian Lindenmuth of Spinetingler Magazine). Oh, what a tangled web we weave. It is an impossible task, but I managed to compile a list after some serious pruning and shearing. My faves are:

The Double, by George Pelecanos
Triptych, by Karin Slaughter
Standing in Another Man's Grave, by Ian Rankin
Down River, by John Hart
Little Green, by Walter Mosley
The Professionals, by Owen Laukkanen
The Poacher's Son, by Paul Doiron
Power Play, by Joseph Finder
The Tin Roof Blowdown, by James Lee Burke
Angel Baby, by Richard Lange

Check out some others at the Rap Sheet blog:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Shotgun Honey

Looking for some short, but satisfying crime fiction? Hop on over to www.shotgunhoney.net and check out all they have to offer from writers such as Matthew McBride ("A Swollen Red Sun"), Johnny Shaw ("Dove Season"), and John Rector ("The Cold Kiss"). The stories have the impact of an unannounced punch to the gut. And while you're there, do check out my contribution DAFFODILS IN BAHRAIN and leave a comment to let me know what you think. Happy reading!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

11 Questions for Neely Tucker, author of THE WAYS OF THE DEAD, a Sully Carter mystery

Neely Tucker was born in Holmes County, Mississippi, then the poorest county in the poorest state in America, in 1963. He has since worked in more than sixty countries or territories across the world and currently writes for The Washington Post’s Sunday Magazine. His memoir, “Love in the Driest Season,” was named one of the best 25 Books of 2004 by Publisher’s Weekly, the American Bookseller’s Association, the New York City Library and won numerous other awards.

A seventh-generation Mississippian, he attended Mississippi State and the University of Mississippi, graduating magna cum laude from the latter, and was named as the University’s top journalism student. In college, he started writing for The Oxford Eagle as their “Yalobusha County correspondent,” which is perhaps the best job title any one has ever had. It was the smallest daily newspaper in Mississippi, and as such he covered everything from high school sports to county commission meetings to homicides to the Watermelon Queen festival.

After college, he worked at Florida Today, Gannett News Service and the Miami Herald, all in a four-year span. Moving to the Detroit Free Press, he lived in a loft above a downtown pizzeria, froze in the winters, and was named to run the paper’s European Bureau in early 1993.

Since 2000, he has worked for The Washington Post. He has covered the U.S. District Court in Washington and its appellate division, generally seen as the nation’s number two court beneath the U.S. Supreme Court. His assignments include covering anthrax and terrorism after 9/11, the 2004 tsunami in Southern Asia and the fate of returning prison inmates.

When he is not writing, Neely is usually on his motorcycle, out for a long run or sipping bourbon on the back porch, wishing that Mississippi State and the New Orleans Saints would win more football games than they actually do.

Clinton Greaves: Tell me about THE WAYS OF THE DEAD, your debut novel.

Tucker: The teenage daughter of a very powerful judge in Washington is brutally murdered after a dance class in a rough part of town. Sully Carter, a talented reporter with a lot of baggage – alcohol, war injuries, rage – gets the idea that the girl’s death might be related to the disappearances of troubled minority women in the same neighborhood.  It’s based on the actual Princeton Place murders in D.C. in the mid 1990s, when a serial killer was stalking this same neighborhood. But, thematically, Washington is home to some of the most powerful people in the country, some of the most dispossessed and some of the most violent. “Ways” is about when those three run into each other. It’s not pretty.

Clinton Greaves: Going into the writing of THE WAYS OF THE DEAD did you let the different threads of the story come to you? Or did you carefully map out the entire novel?

Tucker: Creativity is great, but it’s got to have form. So I mapped it all out by chapter, like you’d storyboard a film. But in the write-through, the characters started walking off the page and doing things I hadn’t planned. I always trust that. The final twist of the book was not in any way planned. It just happened. I said, “Oh, SH*T!” when it popped out on the page.

Clinton Greaves: Well, I must tell you, from time to time I’ve heard critics describe the writing in a debut novel as “assured,” and I would certainly say that is the case with your book. I couldn’t point to one false step in the entire novel. It amazed me that this was your first crack at long-length fiction. Obviously, you have a strong background in journalism, and I’m wondering if that helped you in any way with crafting your first novel.

Tucker: Sure. I’ve made my living writing for nearly thirty years now. Fiction is a different sort of mental game, but it’s in the same ballpark, at least to me. The real difference is story flow and knowingly withholding critical information. What one calls a great twist in fiction likely would be called a cheap trick in journalism.

Clinton Greaves: I can’t help but notice the similarities between your name and Sully’s. I hate to ask, but how much of Sully Carter mirrors the great Neely Tucker?

Tucker: Some, but probably not as much as you’d think. Sully and I share the same profession, some reporting experiences, ride motorcycles, and both love Basil Hayden’s bourbon and the New Orleans Saints. But, for example, there really was a reporter who broke open the Princeton Place murders. He was a former foreign correspondent, worked for the Washington Post and came home to cover crime. He really did crawl around in the basements where some of the bodies were found, he really did go to the strip club on the block, really did expose all the problems with the city morgue. And his name was Gabriel Escobar, now the deputy managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Washington is lousy with reporters coming home from abroad; someone with Sully’s career just isn’t that unusual.

Clinton Greaves: I’ve previously interviewed Owen Laukkanen and Paul Doiron, two wonderful crime novelists with strong series characters. The ending of THE WAYS OF THE DEAD left me longing for more Sully Carter, as well as wondering how he would reconcile what he learned about another key character in the novel. What are the future plans for Sully Carter? Are there any more scheduled books in the series?

Tucker: The second book in the series is already written. It’s out next summer. The working title is “The Well of Time.” It’s Sully, back in D.C., dealing with some of the people you’re talking about.

Clinton Greaves: Strictly crime fiction for you moving forward? Or do you have a desire to write in another genre?

Tucker: The next two books (at least) are going to be about Sully. I’d like for him to be around for a long time, and I’d like to also bring other characters and stories to life, in whatever style/genre/format.

Clinton Greaves: I am an unabashed lover of crime fiction, so I had to smile when I noticed you dedicated your novel, in part, to the late Elmore Leonard, one of my personal favorites. He certainly was adept at “leaving out the parts that readers skip,” and infusing his work with the little details that add verisimilitude. Do you have much time for reading yourself? What are some books that you think should be on everyone’s bookshelf (or Kindle, Nook, etc.)?

Tucker: I loved Dutch, for many and several reasons. We got to be friends and he was just so straightforward and relaxed and utterly without pretense. Sort of the James Garner of the literary set – somebody with all the chops and none of the ego. That perspective, and his gift for dialogue and seeing good stories, really had an impact on me. I wouldn’t want to give anybody a mandatory reading list, but if one likes crime fiction, say, it’s hard to be conversant without “The Big Sleep,” “Double Indemnity,” “The Friends of Eddie Coyle,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “L.A. Confidential,” “Clockers,” “Devil in a Blue Dress,” “Mystic River,” and anything by Dutch, Michael Connelly and Carl Hiaasen. That’s just off the top of my head as some sort of overview. It’s leaving out about 15 or 20 things just as influential, I’m sure.

Clinton Greaves: Certainly the book industry is changing, as we see more indie works coming to light because of the ease of publishing for Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. Amazon and Hachette’s public feud has drawn quite a bit of attention as well (much of it drummed up by writers on both sides of the aisle—traditional versus self-published). You’re a relative newbie to publishing. Based on your experiences thus far, how do you feel about the state of the publishing industry? Encouraged or discouraged?

Tucker: I prefer print, for what it’s worth. I have a Kindle, I just don’t like reading anything very long on it. But as a writer, the technology used or format of how people read it doesn’t matter to me at all.

Clinton Greaves: What’s one question you wish an interviewer would ask? And go ahead and answer it.

Tucker: “Do you get tired of people telling you that you look like Billy Bob Thornton?” Answer: “I just wish a casting director would, so maybe I’d get a movie role every now and then.”

Clinton Greaves: As we near the end of this interview, I hesitate to admit that my wife abused me in fantasy football last year with Drew Brees quarterbacking for her team. Couple that with the fact that I’m a Jets fan and you can imagine how cranky I was for the entire season. Using your keen journalistic eye, what do you think the prospects are for the Saints and the Jets this upcoming season?

Tucker: NEVER PICK AGAINST ST. DREW (His name be praised). Eight 5,000 yard passing seasons in NFL history. He has four of them. As to the season…as a Saints fan, one always views the upcoming season with a sense of doom. I’d guess Jets fans tend to feel the same.

Clinton Greaves: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Any last thoughts?

Tucker: Glad you liked the book…and Sully will be back next summer.

Order Neely Tucker's Thrilling Sully Carter Novel!
Amazon: The Ways of the Dead
Barnes & Noble: The Ways of the Dead

Follow Neely Tucker and Clinton Greaves on Twitter:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

10 Questions for Paul Doiron, author of Game Warden Mike Bowditch mystery series

Paul Doiron is the author of the Mike Bowditch series of crime novels, including The Poacher's Son, which won the Barry Award and the Strand Critics Award for Best First Novel and was nominated for an Edgar Award, an Anthony Award, a Macavity Award, and a Thriller Award for Best First Novel, and the Maine Literary Award for "Best Fiction of 2010." PopMatters named it to its Best Fiction of 2010 list. His second book, Trespasser, won the Maine Literary Award, was an American Booksellers Association Indie Bestseller, and has been called a "masterpiece of high-octane narrative" by Booklist. The third novel, Bad Little Falls, was a BookScan Bestseller and a nominee for the RT Reviewers Choice Award and the Maine Literary Award. Massacre Pond, the fourth in the series, was an Indie Next pick and an Indie Favorite, as well as BookScan Bestseller. The Bone Orchard will be published on July 15, 2014.

Paul is Editor Emeritus of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, having served as Editor in Chief from 2005 to 2013, before stepping down to write full time. A native of Maine, he attended Yale University, where he graduated with a degree in English, and he holds an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. He is a former member of the Maine Arts Commission and a current member of the Maine Humanities Council. He is also a Registered Maine Guide specializing in fly fishing and lives on a trout stream in coastal Maine.

Clinton Greaves: Tell me about THE BONE ORCHARD, the fifth book in your excellent Mike Bowditch series.

Doiron: Thank you for the compliment and for the chance to talk about THE BONE ORCHARD. Readers of the previous Mike Bowditch books will know that he is a young Maine game warden who is struggling to come to terms with his job and his relationships. Over the course of the series we have watched him repeatedly get in hot water with his superiors who believe he is unfit to be a law enforcement officer. At the start of THE BONE ORCHARD, Mike has reluctantly decided that they are right. He has left the Warden Service and is working as a fishing guide in the North Woods. He has gone from troublemaker to caretaker, tending to both an expansive lakeside estate and the family of an incarcerated friend (both of which were introduced in my previous book, MASSACRE POND). The problem is that the past won’t leave him alone. After his mentor and former sergeant Kathy Frost is forced to kill an unstable Afghan War veteran in a “suicide-by-cop” incident, she begins receiving threats. She blames Mike for quitting on her, claiming that if he’d been her back-up that night, the tragedy wouldn’t have happened. When she herself becomes targeted by a sniper seemingly out for revenge, Mike finds himself outside the police investigation and second-guessing his decision to leave the service. Inevitably, he gets pulled into the hunt for the shooter and starts to demonstrate a newfound maturity. He’s been on a hero’s journey since THE POACHER’S SON, and this book is the end of one stage of his life and the beginning of another.

Clinton Greaves: I was fortunate to discover the series right at the start with THE POACHER’S SON. I was intrigued by the prospect of a crime novel featuring a game warden in Maine as the main protagonist. I’m wondering if writing such an original protagonist aided in your effort to be published or whether Bowditch’s profession made it difficult for you to find a publisher.

Doiron: I think a combination of factors helped me. First was that C.J. Box had already had considerable success with his series about Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett (his first book came out while I was writing THE POACHER’S SON and punctured any illusions I had about originality). Second was a word I hate to use but which definitely exists in the publishing world today: I had a “platform.” I was, at the time, the editor-in-chief of Down East: The Magazine of Maine, which has a paid readership of 90,000 and is celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year. I also happened to be a Registered Maine Guide, certified by the state to lead fishing and canoeing trips in the wilderness. So I had some credibility as an expert on both Maine and the outdoors that my publisher thought would help in the marketing of the book.

Clinton Greaves: Each year I make it a point to mark up a desk calendar with books I’m eager to read over the course of twelve months. THE BONE ORCHARD and Ace Atkins’s THE FORSAKEN were my marked selections for July ’14. I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of your novel and I’m pleased to say the series remains fresh and progressive. Mike Bowditch continues to grow and discover surprising truths about himself that have kept me on the edge of my seat. Do you have a full story arch in mind for Bowditch? A set number of books you would like to complete with this character?

Doiron: Originally, I had a plan for twelve books with each one taking place in a different month. Game wardens’ jobs change from season to season so I thought it would be fun to show the various things they deal with over the course of a year. In my original plan, Mike would get a year older from book to book, but I have abandoned that concept because it meant leaving a hole I had to fill with each new novel, catching the reader up on what has happened since the last one. Whether I get to twelve books — or beyond — will depend on whether readers stick with me, I suppose.

Clinton Greaves: My reading interests certainly slant toward crime fiction. Reading your biography, I see that you graduated from Yale University with a degree in English. Did you ever consider writing something the literati would consider more highbrow? What drew you to crime fiction, or are you an accidental crime novelist like Ian Rankin?

Doiron: You caught me. Yes, I came out of Yale as a literary snob. My favorite author is Hemingway, and for a long time, I tried to write in the minimalist style that Raymond Carver had popularized in the ‘80s. But I have always had a deep affection for plot. As a reader I’ve been drawn to stories where something happens. About fifteen years ago, my girlfriend — now wife — gave me a stack of books by contemporary crime and suspense authors: P.D. James, John LeCarre, James Lee Burke, Walter Mosley. I read them and said to myself, “This is literature.” And I realized that I had been fighting my own interests and talents as a writer. I really only found my voice when I stopped trying to please highbrow literary journal editors.

Clinton Greaves: In a previous interview with Owen Laukkanen, I asked him if he ever considered writing a standalone novel outside of his Windermere and Stevens world. Dennis Lehane’s career spiked once he moved from his PI series and wrote MYSTIC RIVER. How far ahead have you thought about your own career? Any standalone novels in your plans?

Doiron: I have been filing away ideas for standalones for years, but I have recognized over the past year that, at the moment, my readers really want more of Mike Bowditch. And since my readership is growing, it makes sense to focus with the series for the time being. My hope is that my career won’t require a standalone to move to the next level. My role models in this regard are people like the late Tony Hillerman, James Lee Burke, and Craig Johnson.

Clinton Greaves: So far I’ve mentioned Ace Atkins, Owen Laukkanen, and Dennis Lehane. I think it’s quite obvious that I cannot get enough of well-crafted crime fiction. Do you have much time for reading yourself? What are some books that you think should be on everyone’s bookshelf (or Kindle, Nook, etc.)?

Doiron: One of the things I have found is that it’s hard for me to read crime fiction when I’m writing the first draft of a novel. I’m something of a mimic, and I’ll find myself unconsciously picking up the voice of an author I really admire. (It’s pretty comic when Mike Bowditch begins talking a little like Easy Rawlins.) Recommendations are always so difficult. I’ll throw one out that might seem odd and try to explain it. THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE by Robert Lewis Stevenson. The story is so familiar that even people who haven’t read it think they know it. I guarantee that they don’t. The novella is one of the best mysteries ever written (and that’s not even getting into the subject of what the book has to say about our divided souls). The way Stevenson spoons out the story, little by little, is just masterful. Everyone who aspires to write a story with a mystery at its center needs to read DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE.

Clinton Greaves: Going into a book do you let the story come to you? Or are you a careful plotter with file cards and charts and an extensive story “bible”?

Doiron: I tend to start with a general idea for a story. I’ll know it will be set in February and have to do with men lost in a blizzard, for instance. And I’ll know what the murder is and who did it. After that I try to write organically, letting myself be surprised by the twists and turns that come to me along the way. The analogy I always use is deciding you’re going to drive to some distant destination, but you have the time and freedom to explore various side roads. You know where you will end up, but you don’t know how exactly you’ll get there.

Clinton Greaves: Certainly publishing is changing, as we see more indie works coming to light because of the ease of publishing for Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes and Noble’s Nook. How do you feel about the publishing industry these days? Encouraged or discouraged?

Doiron: That’s a good question. I tend to think publishing is starting to follow a similar (but not identical) course as the music industry has been going through for the past twenty years. Technology has made it possible for anyone to get their creative work out into the marketplace, but it has changed the way consumers decide how much value to place on a book, an album, or a movie. The pie is being divided up differently. It seems that in publishing the midlist has been hit the hardest by these trends. Digital publishing is great if you don’t expect to make a living from your writing, and blockbuster authors are continuing to do fine, but you see the middle being squeezed out. The challenge for someone like me is to build a growing base of loyal readers who do what you do and pen the date of my release on their calendars.

Clinton Greaves: What’s one question you wish an interviewer would ask? And go ahead and answer it.

Doiron: Which author has been an unacknowledged influence on my work? Flannery O’Connor, definitely. I grew up in an observant Catholic household and attended an all-boys Jesuit high school. I remember discovering O’Connor and just burning through her stories and novels and letters. She’s one of the few authors where I can say I’ve read every word she published during her lifetime. Most reviewers have missed how Christ-haunted my books are. I thought the title TRESPASSER would be a dead giveaway as to Mike’s unacknowledged and unresolved issues with his faith. He’s really struggling in the novels with whether he believes there is a divine order in the universe. Sin, penance, forgiveness: they’re all ideas he’s struggling with. I should add that O’Connor is also responsible for whatever dark comedy there is in my books.

Clinton Greaves: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Any last thoughts?

Doiron: Thanks again for this opportunity. I’d just add that people always ask if they need to read the books in order. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. The novels stand on their own. But I think you’ll find THE BONE ORCHARD more interesting and entertaining if you start with THE POACHER’S SON and follow Mike on his journey to this new place in his life.

Order Paul Doiron's Latest Thrilling Mike Bowditch Novel!
Amazon: The Bone Orchard
Barnes & Noble: The Bone Orchard

Follow Paul Doiron and Clinton Greaves on Twitter:

Monday, June 23, 2014

50 Crime Fiction Book Giveaway


Nothing makes me happier than to have an opportunity to spread my love of crime fiction. The following books and authors have all brought me joy of some sort, and now it’s time for me to release them to you, dear reader. To take part in this giveaway, simply do the following:

1) Submit your email in the email signup to the top right (not mandatory but it is nice if you’re a friend of the blog)
2) Email me with the book of your preference at clintongreaves@gmail.com (Limit one email and one book request per day, first come first serve). I will reply asking for an address to send the book (Sorry, United States addresses only).
3) Spread the word about the giveaway!!!

I will do my best to keep the list updated with the books that have been claimed. Happy reading!!

MM=mass market paperback
TC=trade size paperback

“Hollywood Crows” by Joseph Wambaugh (MM)
“Blacklands” by Belinda Bauer (HC)
“Elegy for April” by Benjamin Black (HC)
“The Bricklayer” by Noah Boyd (TC)
“The Accident Man” by Tom Cain (HC)
“The Pallbearers” by Stephen J. Cannell (HC)
“On the Grind” by Stephen J. Cannell (HC)
“The First Rule” by Robert Crais (HC)
“Company Man” by Joseph Finder (HC)
“No Second Chance” by Harlan Coben (HC)
“Wild Fire” by Nelson DeMille (HC)
“Love in All the Wrong Places” by Frank Devlin (HC)
“Gas City” by Loren D. Estleman (HC)
“Closing Time” by Jim Fusilli (HC)
“Vanish” by Tess Gerritsen (HC)
“Come Morning” by Joe Gores (HC)
“Foul Matter” by Martha Grimes (HC)
“A Nail Through the Heart” by Timothy Hallinan (HC)
“Snowbird’s Blood” by Joe L. Hensley (HC)
“Dark Harbor” by David Hosp (HC)
“Retribution” by Jilliane Hoffman (HC)
“Goodbye Sister Disco” by James Patrick Hunt (HC)
“The Fall” by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (HC)
“A Garden of Vipers” by Jack Kerley (HC)
“The Hundredth Man” by Jack Kerley (HC)
“Never Wave Goodbye” by Doug Magee (HC)
“The Last Best Hope” by Ed McBain (HC)
“The Lush Life” by Richard Price (HC)
“The Godfather Returns” by Mark Winegardner (MM)
“Play Dead” by Harlan Coben (MM)
“Iron River” by T. Jefferson Parker (TC)
“The Gods of Greenwich” by Norb Vonnegut (MM)
“Proof Positive” by Phillip Margolin (MM)
“The Book of Lies” by Brad Meltzer (MM)
“The Dark Hour” by Robin Burcell (MM)
“The Sixth Man” by David Baldacci (HC)
“Think of a Number” by John Verdon (MM)
“Bird’s-eye View” by J.F. Freedman (HC)
“Dark of the Moon” by John Sandford (HC)
“Child 44” by Tom Rob Smith (HC)
“Shoot Him If He Runs” by Stuart Woods (HC)
“Sliver of Truth” by Lisa Unger (HC)
“Skinner” by Charlie Huston (TC)
“Three Seconds” by Roslund & Hellstrom (HC)
“Unseen” by Karin Slaughter (TC)
“Criminal” by Karin Slaughter (MM)
“The Coffin Dancer” by Jeffery Deaver (MM)
“Ford County” by John Grisham (MM)
“The Associates” by John Grisham (MM)
“The Third Bullet” by Stephen Hunter (MM)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Spreading My Love of Crime Fiction

In the coming days I will be giving away 50 crime novels. All you have to do is join this blog (email submission form to the top right) and be the first to submit a request for me to mail you the book of your choice. To whet your appetite, here are the names of the authors whose books will be available FREE: Robert Crais, Karin Slaughter, Jeffery Deaver, John Grisham, John Sandford, Tom Rob Smith, Stuart Woods, Lisa Unger, Joseph Finder, Harlan Coben, Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, Tess Gerritsen, Ed McBain, Richard Price, T. Jefferson Parker, Phillip Margolin, Brad Meltzer, Joseph Wambaugh, Belinda Bauer, Benjamin Black, Noah Boyd, Tom Cain, Stephen J. Cannell, Frank Devlin, Loren D. Esteman, Jim Fusilli, Joe Gores, Martha Grimes, Timothy Hallinan, Joe L. Hensley, David Hosp, Jilliane Hoffman, James Patrick Hunt, Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan, Jack Kerley, Doug Magee, Mark Winegardner, Norb Vonnegut, Robin Burcell, John Verdon, J.F. Freedman, Charlie Huston, Roslund & Hellstrom, and Stephen Hunter. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

11 Questions for Samuel W. Gailey, author of the emotionally-involving crime fiction debut, DEEP WINTER

Samuel W. Gailey was raised in a small town in northeast Pennsylvania (population 379), which serves as the setting for his critically-acclaimed debut novel, DEEP WINTER.  Drawn to rural life and the sometimes deceiving atmosphere therein, Gailey’s first novel and his works in progress are suspenseful mysteries and intriguing studies of human nature.  

Clinton Greaves: Tell me about DEEP WINTER.

Gailey: DEEP WINTER takes place in 1984 in a small Pennsylvania town where a woman is found brutally murdered one winter night. Next to the body is Danny Bedford, a misunderstood man who suffered a tragic brain injury when he was a child. Because of Danny’s limited mental abilities and menacing size, the townspeople have ostracized him out of fear and ignorance. When the sheriff discovers Danny with the body, it’s assumed that Danny’s physical strength finally turned deadly. But the murder is only the first in a series of crimes that viciously upset the town order and sets off an unstoppable chain of violence. With the threat of an approaching blizzard, the sheriff and a state trooper work through the pre-dawn hours to establish some semblance of peace. As they investigate one incident after another, an intricate web of lies is discovered, revealing that not everything in the tight-knit town is quite what it seems.

Clinton Greaves: I was originally drawn to your novel because of Urban Waite’s blurb comparing it to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan. Did that generous description put any undue pressure on you once your book was released?

Gailey: No pressure. Just deep gratitude. I didn’t personally know Urban then, so the fact that he was willing to take the time to read something by an unknown author and give such a great endorsement meant a lot and I believe it helped critics and fans take my novel more seriously. And it also never hurts to be compared to Steinbeck or Scott Smith.

Clinton Greaves: Your writing is very descriptive. I remember early on reading a passage that described the main character, Danny Bedford, as soft and fat like the Michelin Man. The passage went on to also describe his state of mind, his spirit, and left me thinking this writer’s words have heart. I’m wondering how much of your previous experience in film informs your work with novels. Tell us a bit about your evolution from screenwriter to novelist.

Gailey: Working as a screen and television writer, I came away from the experience with some important tools that I carried over to writing my first novel. I had learned the essentials of telling a gripping story: structure, character development, an ear for dialogue, and the importance of creating and maintaining conflict.  Although I enjoyed working on projects in film and television, I much prefer the process of writing a novel.  It’s more of a solitary journey.  In the film world, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen (agents, producers, executives, and directors), so sometimes the original vision that excites a writer gets watered down a bit and that can be a let down. 

Clinton Greaves: I expressed in a previous interview my belief that some of the best writing in America is happening in genre fiction, crime novels in particular. Within the genre you see authors such as yourself dealing with some hot button social dilemmas. What drew you to the genre? Could you see yourself writing outside of crime fiction?

Gailey: Suspense thrillers and mysteries are the types of books that I read on a daily basis.  I enjoy the escapism in these genres and the sometimes dark, gritty subcultures. I also love stories that deal with redemption and seeking justice, and these genres have plenty of that.

DEEP WINTER and my current works in progress deal with somewhat ordinary individuals that find themselves in extraordinary (read dangerous) circumstances.  I like characters that make mistakes, then have to fight like hell to redeem themselves.

My next few planned books stay in this world, but I have a few stories in my head that don’t necessarily deal with crime and murder. So, I may venture out of crime fiction, but I doubt I’ll ever venture too far from suspense.

Clinton Greaves: I’m always interested in the process of other writers. Going into a book do you let the story come to you? Or are you a careful plotter with file cards and charts and an extensive story “bible”?

Gailey: I usually start with a character that I’m drawn to. And, I’m drawn to damaged characters who are dismissed by society and are put into situations that test their moral compasses.  From there, I create extreme conflict, then I write out a thorough outline of the story.  As I start the actual writing process, I pen the first draft freehand in notebooks.  I really embrace the freedom of writing the first draft in this manner.  Nothing more than a pen and paper, the ink flowing.  And as the writing process progresses, occasionally the characters take a turn I wasn’t fully expecting, and I veer off the outline so that the characters and their stories develop and resolve organically.

Clinton Greaves: I can’t imagine living with another writer. I know that your wife writes in a very different genre than you do, but how much has she helped in your development as a novelist?

Gailey: Ayn is vital to my success as a novelist.  She was the person that originally encouraged me to take a stab at writing a novel.  She saw that I wasn’t completely fulfilled by writing screenplays.  And beyond encouraging me, she helped me find the time and freedom to write DEEP WINTER.  She is my first editor, keeping me on track, pushing me to improve the story rather than be complacent, and she provides constant inspiration and tough love.  When I was ready to give up on finding an agent, she didn’t let me.

Clinton Greaves: I love to read as much as write. Do you have much time for reading yourself? What are some crime fiction books that you think should be on everyone’s bookshelf (or Kindle, Nook, etc.)?

Gailey: To me, reading and writing go hand-in-hand.  To become a better writer, I think it’s vital to read the works of other authors that can hold you captive with their words.  Larry Brown has been, and still is, my biggest influence.  His work (JOE, FATHER & SON, FAYE) isn’t necessarily crime fiction, but the stories and worlds he created are rural tales of intense human conflict and intrigue.  I’m a huge fan of Urban Waite’s THE TERROR OF LIVING, Joe R. Lansdale’s THE THICKET, Charlie Huston’s Henry Thompson series, Russell Banks’ AFFLICTION, and Alice Sebold’s THE LOVELY BONES.

Clinton Greaves: The rise of e-books has certainly changed the industry. It is much easier for a writer to get their work in the hands of readers today than years ago. How do you feel about the current condition of the publishing industry? Encouraged or discouraged? What has your experience been thus far?

Gailey: I’m frankly encouraged.  I believe more people are reading due to digital readers and more authors are getting a chance to break into the industry.  I think the digital devices make it easier for people to read on the go—at the gym, on the train, a lunch break at work.  Some people like myself, still prefer reading a paper book, but in today’s world, giving a reader more options is nothing less than a wonderful thing.

Clinton Greaves: Without giving away too much, I can say that the bloodshed in DEEP WINTER prevents you from revisiting some of these well-drawn characters. What do you have planned next?

Gailey: I’m currently working on a rewrite of my next effort, A MATTER OF TIME.  It’s the story of a young woman who witnessed a horrible accident in her family and how she comes to grips in dealing with the guilt and her complicity in the devastating tragedy.

And, yes there are drugs, stolen money, and a fair share of bloodshed.

Clinton Greaves: What’s one question you wish an interviewer would ask? And go ahead and answer it.

Gailey: Is there anything else you would want to do for a living?  My answer:  A resounding no.  When I’m not writing, I’m cranky and thoroughly unpleasant to be around.  If I am able to keep writing and make a living doing so, then I will be an extremely happy and content man.

Clinton Greaves: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Any last thoughts?

Gailey: You bet, thank you for taking the time to read my book and share it with other readers out there.  Last thoughts?  To other aspiring authors out there…perseverance and believing in your story will pay off eventually!

Connect with Samuel W. Gailey online:

YouTube Author Channel:
Samuel W. Gailey on YouTube

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