Karin Slaughter appears at the Poisoned Pen at 2 PM on Sunday, Sept. 25 on her book tour for her latest crime novel, The Kept Woman. Fortunately for those of us who won’t be able to make it, she took time to sit In the Hot Seat and answer questions. Thank you, Karin.
Karin, you’re so well-known. I’m sure you’ve had all kinds of introductions. How would you introduce yourself?
“Wow, it’s just starting that someone so young has written so many books!”
Will Trent is the lead character in your latest novel, The Kept Woman. Would you introduce him?
Knowing him so well, I’d think that he wouldn’t want to be introduced. If it was a social situation, I wouldn’t say he’s a cop because people act weird when they find out people are cops. I’d just say he’s a friend and hands off ladies because he’s taken.
Please summarize The Kept Woman without spoilers.
Like all Will Trent books, it starts out with him being really, really happy…and then something horrible happens.
Although this is part of a series, you’ve said people can start here. What makes The Kept Woman a good starting point?
After Unseen (the last Will Trent novel) I was at a reset point with the characters and relationships, and I think that what you find in The Kept Woman is a new beginning, not least of all because Sara has a new job and everyone is trying to figure out where they belong in the story.
Why do you write mysteries and thrillers?
I honestly just think of myself as a writer. This isn’t to say that I don’t adore mysteries and thrillers, but that’s kind of a category. Gone With the Wind has a violent murder. Gone Girl is a classic thriller. When enough people who think they are really smart like a thriller, they call it fiction. Me, I just like a good story where something happens.
Other than author, what’s the most interesting job you’ve ever had?
I was an exterminator, but the company was actually a drug front, which it took me about a year to realize. I was very naïve!
Neil Gaiman said, “Trust your obsession.” Did you ever have an obsession that you had to turn into a story? What was it?
Pretty Girls, my last novel, came to me in a dream. I was taking medication for my back, and anyone who knows me will tell you I am not much of a drinker or drug-taker (I’ve never even smoked a cigarette) so the narcotics for the pain gave me these incredibly vivid dreams, and one of them was the opening for Pretty Girls. I was actually in the middle of writing a different book and I became so obsessed with the story that I had to put that one on hold. Oh, and also with The Kept Woman I guess I am obsessed with these jocks who keep getting away with raping women. Or maybe it’s not “obsessed” so much as disgusted, and it keeps happening again and again so my disgust seems to have an ever-renewable resource.
Since I’m a librarian, would you tell us about your passion for libraries?
I would say first: thank you for your service! What you do is very important, especially to folks like me. Every author I know got their start in the library. As for me, I didn’t come from a reading family, so the library was amazing for me. Also, it was a place where women were positive role models. I lived in a town where little girls were told they could be a teacher until they got married, then they would be a mother. The librarians were the boss of the library! How cool is that?
What’s on your TBR pile?
I have just started Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson. It’s about the Attica prison riot, and the parallels to what is currently happening in privately run prisons is both startling and terrifying.
Thank you, Karin. As I said, Karin will appear at the Poisoned Pen on Sunday, Sept 25 at 2 PM. You can order signed copies of The Kept Woman through the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2bCxTW9
Bruce DeSilva, author of The Dread Line, and Reed Farrel Coleman, author of Robert B. Parker’s Debt to Pay, recently appeared at The Poisoned Pen.
If the smiles on their faces are any indication, Arizona Republic reporter Robert Anglin, who interviewed them, had some interesting questions.
Why just check out the photos? You can also see the entire program through our Livestream link. http://livestream.com/poisonedpen/events/6210711
And, you can buy signed copies of DeSilva’s The Dread Line and Coleman’s Robert B. Parker’s Debt to Pay through the Web Store. http://store.poisonedpen.com/
Craig Johnson will be at The Poisoned Pen at 7 PM on Wednesday, September 21 to discuss and sign his latest Longmire mystery, An Obvious Fact. If you miss this event, you’ll be missing one of the best oral storytellers in the mystery field. (I’m sorry I can’t be there.)
What better way to introduce Craig’s new book that a note in this week’s e-newsletter from Barbara Peters, owner of The Poisoned Pen?
Craig Johnson – An Obvious Fact – Viking ($28.00)
This is Barbara, just back from 32 days on the Crystal Northwest Passage Cruise. When we weren’t looking (vainly) for ice or for polar bears (some luck) I was reading fall books. The one that kept me riveted, and not just laughing but reading bits aloud to passing passengers, was Craig Johnson’s robust, ribald, hilarious
An Obvious Fact.
I write in part to announce that we’ve created a special collectible to go with our copies of An Obvious Fact on Craig’s instructions: a ticket to Henry’s ride.
You longtime fans know Craig has developed many strands in the Longmire series, one of them mystical, but here he’s right down to earth… well nearly since Henry Standing Bear moves front and center as part of his past (Lola!) catches up during his grueling attempt to conquer the Jackpine Gypsies Hill Climb during the Sturgis (ND) Motorcycle Rally, established 1936. It’s a gravity defying event.
If you think this is fiction, read about it here.
And this brings Walt to town. And Vic, who unveils killer driving skills of her own. I laughed so hard reading some of her escapades I nearly choked. Plus Walt gets to drive the ultimate Hummer! Those are just a few of the highlights in this glorious story that you can read if you’ve never read a Longmire up to now. You’ll love the local law as well. As for Lola…make up your own mind.
In short, there’s something for everyone here. I can’t say I’ve any experience with, or even interest in, motorcycle rallies (it’s Craig’s gift to have made me care), but really that’s the hook,not the meat, of the book.
Don’t miss a fabulous, funny evening with Craig. I’ll be hanging on for the ride.
Thank you for supporting our author events and The Poisoned Pen
Poisoned Pen Review:
What fun, a Walt Longmire salted with Sherlock Holmes as read to him by Henry Standing Bear! We are creating some collectible to be inserted into our copies; but I am not sure yet what it is. Here’s an on-line review: In Johnson’s thrilling 12th Walt Longmire mystery, the Wyoming lawman and his longtime friend and sidekick, Henry Standing Bear, look into the circumstances that led 22-year-old Bodaway Torres, now in a coma, to run his motorcycle off the road during the country’s largest annual motorcycle rally, held in Sturgis, South Dakota. Much to Walt’s surprise, Bodaway’s mother turns out to be “the” Lola, namesake of not only Henry’s beloved car but also Walt’s infant granddaughter-and there’s a history between Henry and Lola that’s anything but pleasant. When it becomes clear that Bodaway’s crash was no accident and that ATF has its eye on the victim-was he running guns, or even drugs?-Walt is glad when his undersheriff, the always fiery Victoria Moretti, shows up, fresh off investigating her brother’s murder in Philadelphia. Whether he’s squaring off against biker gangs or teasing out long-simmering feuds involving his closest friends, Walt Longmire is always the man for the job
To order a signed copy of An Obvious Fact, and receive the gift, check out the Web Store. http://bit.ly/2cXZ8sO
Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, is also home to some of the awards in the mystery field.
The Anthony Awards are selected by the attendees at Bouchercon. Congratulations to this year’s winners.
Best Mystery Novel – The Killing Kind by Chris Holm
Best First Mystery – Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton
Best Paperback Original – The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
Best Critical or Nonfiction – Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime by Val McDermid
Best Short Story – “The Little Men” by Megan Abbott
Best Anthology or Collection – Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015 edited by Art Taylor
Best Young Adult Novel – Need by Joelle Charbonneau
Best Crime Fiction Audiobook – The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, narrated by Robert Bathurst
The Macavity Awards were also presented at Bouchercon. These awards are nominated and voted on by the members of Mystery Readers International. (I think you’ll recognize a few names.)
Best Mystery Novel – The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney
Best First Mystery Novel – Past Crimes by Glen Erik Hamilton
Best Critical/Biographical – The Golden Age of Murder: The Mystery of the Writers Who Invented the Modern Detective Story by Martin Edwards
Best Mystery Short Story – “The Little Men” by Megan Abbott
Sue Feder Historial Mystery Award – The Masque of a Murderer by Susanna Calkins
The Private Eye Writers of America Shamus Awards were also presented.
Best Original Private Eye Paperback – Circling the Runway by J.L. Abrams
Best First Private Eye Novel – The Do-Right by Lisa Sandlin
Best Private Eye Short Story – “The Dead Client” by Parnell Hall
Best Hardcover Private Eye Novel – Brutality by Ingrid Thoft
The Eye: Lifetime Achievement Award – S.J. Rozan
Congratulations to all of the winners. And, for readers, look for the winning books in the Poisoned Pen’s Web Store. http://store.poisonedpen.com
Let the good times roll! Some of the Poisoned Pen staff, including me, are heading to New Orleans for Bouchercon, the largest mystery convention in the country. It’s a celebration for mystery authors and readers. While we’re gone, there are some terrific events at the bookstore. I hope to have pictures from some of the events. And, I hope to have some photos from Bouchercon to share as well.
In the meantime, “Let the good times roll!” both in Scottsdale and New Orleans.
Bruce DeSilva, author of The Dread Line, is appearing at 7 PM, Thursday, Sept. 15 at the Poisoned Pen, along with Reed Farrel Coleman. I was a little nervous asking questions of a journalist, but he was kind enough to answer questions In the Hot Seat.
Bruce, would you introduce yourself to the readers?
I grew up in a tiny Massachusetts mill town where the mill closed when he was ten. I had an austere childhood bereft of iPods, X-Boxes, and all the other cool stuff that hadn’t been invented yet. In this parochial little town, metaphors and alliteration were also in short supply. Nevertheless, my crime fiction has won the Edgar and Macavity Awards; has been listed as a finalist for the Shamus, Anthony, and Barry Awards; and has been published in ten foreign languages. My short stories have appeared in Akashic Press’s award-winning noir anthologies, and my book reviews for The Associated Press appear in hundreds of publications. Previously, I was a journalist for forty years, most recently as writing coach world-wide for the AP, editing stories that won nearly every major journalism prize including the Pulitzer. My new novel, “The Dread Line,” is the fifth in my series featuring Liam Mulligan.
How did you first become interested in journalism? What led you to crime fiction?
I guess I was always a journalist. I wrote for and edited the sports page of my high school newspaper, and my first job after college was covering the small town of Warren, R.I., for the Providence Journal. For most of my journalism career–one that took me from New York City to London and from mainland China to the Arctic Circle—it never occurred to me to write fiction. But one day, when I was working for a metropolitan newspaper in New England, I got a letter from a reader praising a “nice little story” I’d written. “It could be the outline for a novel. Have you considered that?” the reader asked. The letter was from Evan Hunter, who wrote wonderful literary novels under his own name and the fine 87th Precinct police procedurals under the penname Ed McBain. I’d always loved reading crime novels, and now the great Ed McBain was telling me he thought I could write one! That got me started.
Would you introduce us to Liam Mulligan?
Mulligan is in his mid-40s now, and in my first four novels, he was working in a dead-end job as an investigative reporter for a dying newspaper in Providence, R.I. Mulligan is dogged, given to ill-advised wisecracks and not good at following orders. He has a strong but shifting sense of justice, making him willing to work with some very bad people to bring worse people to justice. He was born and raised in Providence, a place with a long history of enduring, and often tolerating, organized crime and political corruption, and this makes him willing to overlook some forms of lawbreaking. Although his job is to root out crime and corruption, he sees nothing wrong, or even hypocritical, about placing a bet with a bookie or slipping a state transportation worker forty bucks to get an inspection sticker for his aging Ford Bronco. As Mulligan sees it, graft comes in two varieties, good and bad, just like cholesterol. The good kind puts braces on the teeth of the children of underpaid state workers. The bad kind enriches the rich and powerful and the expense of everyone else. Mulligan says that bad graft is a cancer on society but that without the lubrication of good graft, nothing much would get done in Providence, and nothing at all would happen on time.
“The Dread Line” finds Liam in a new phase in his life. Would you tell us about the story, without spoilers?
Since getting fired from his newspaper job last year (“A Scourge of Vipers,” 2015), Mulligan has been trying to piece together a new life—one that straddles both sides of the law. He’s getting some part-time work with his friend McCracken’s detective agency. He’s picking up beer money by freelancing for a local news website. And he’s looking after his semi-retired mobster-friend’s bookmaking business. But of course, he still can’t seem to stay out of trouble. InThe Dread Line, the fifth book in this Edgar Award-winning series, Mulligan is feuding with a feral tomcat that keeps leaving its daily kills on his porch. He’s obsessed with a baffling jewelry heist. And he’s enraged that someone in town is torturing animals. All of this keeps distracting him from a big case that needs his attention. The New England Patriots, still shaken by murder charges against their superstar tight end (true story), have hired Mulligan and McCracken (not a true story) to investigate the background of a college athlete they are thinking of drafting. At first, the job seems routine, but as soon as they start asking questions, they get push-back. The player, it seems, has something to hide—and someone is willing to kill to make sure it remains secret.
You write about Providence, RI, which is not often a setting in fiction. What does Providence offer as a setting for a crime novel?
A few weeks before my first crime novel was published, Newsweek ran a story ranking the states in order of most corrupt to last. They said New Jersey, where I live now, is the most corrupt, but that Rhode Island is the most corrupt per capita. You can trace the smallest state’s culture of organized crime and political corruption all the way back to one of the first colonial governors dining with Captain Kidd. But the state and its capital city also have a legacy of decency dating back to its gentle founder, Roger Williams. The competing strands of good and evil wind all the way through the state’s history, and the enduring tension between them make for great storytelling.
But that’s not all. Most crime novels unfold in big, anonymous cities like Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago—and there are many fine ones set in small towns and rural areas. But Providence is different. It’s large enough to have the usual array of urban problems, and it is surprisingly cosmopolitan. But it’s so small that it’s claustrophobic. Nearly everybody you meet on the street knows your name, making it very difficult to keep a secret. That adds complications for everyone from criminals and cops to investigative reporters and private eyes—people who do their best and worst work in the shadows.
Although authors say they’re not writing about themselves, there must be some of you in Liam Mulligan. How is he like you? How is he different?
Several of my former journalism colleagues, including two whose last name is Mulligan, think the character is based on them. But Mulligan is me, except that he’s 25 years younger, six inches taller, and quicker with a quip, always tossing off a smart remark that I wouldn’t think of until a few days later.
Neil Gaiman said, “Trust your obsession.” Did you ever have an obsession that you had to turn into a story? What was it?
Nearly 30 years ago, when I was a journalist in New England, I covered a psychopath named Craig Price. He was the youngest serial killer in U.S. history, just 13 years old when he began stabbing women and little girls to death. And that’s not the interesting part. He was just 15 when he was caught, and at the time, Rhode Island’s juvenile justice statutes hadn’t been updated in decades. When they were written, no one had envisioned a child like him, so the law required that all juveniles, regardless of their crimes, be released at age 21 and given a new start in life. The story was so terrible that I once I became a novelist, I vowed never to revisit the story—not even as fiction. But Price’s story haunted my dreams, so finally, I felt compelled to loosely base “Providence Rag,” the third novel in the series, on that case. But it is an unusual serial killer book because the murders are committed and the killer caught in the first 75 pages. The rest of the book is about how Mulligan, and the entire state, deal with the prospect of releasing the psychopath into the population to kill again.
You’re an author and journalist. I’m not going to ask you about your favorite literary hero. Who is your favorite villain or antihero?
I’m tempted to say Price because I think “Providence Rag” may be the best book in the Mulligan series—and because the case still gives me nightmares. But I guess I’ll go with novelist Andrew Vachss’ anti-hero, a career criminal named Burke who spends every book hunting down, and usually murdering, child abusers.
Linda Fairstein recently discussed the writing skills she learned while practicing law. What skills from your years as a journalist do you bring to writing crime novels?
People often tell me that journalism must be a great training ground for novelists. I tell them that daily journalism, as it is usually practiced, is not. It offers stick figures instead of characterization, street addresses in lieu of setting, and so-called stories that lack anything even vaguely resembling a plot. A journalism career does provide its practitioners with a wealth of experiences to draw on, but that should be the same for anyone who lives a life and remains relatively conscious. The main lesson I drew from journalism is that writing is a job. I do not wait for inspiration. I do not look for my muse. I am not allowed to have writer’s block. I put my butt in my chair every day and write.
The final question. What has been on your TBR pile this summer?
Three novels by friends of mine are on the top of my stack: “Robert B. Parker’s Debt to Pay” by Reed Farrel Coleman, “Let the Devil Out” by Bill Loehfelm, and “The Innocents” by Ace Atkins. But I’m currently reading the new, Brash Books edition of “Road to Perdition” by Max Allan Collins. That story began as a graphic novel and then became the movie starring Tom Hanks. When the movie came out, Collins produced a novelization of the film, but his publisher cut about 30,000 words worth of stuff that had not been in the movie. The new, expanded edition is the novelization that Collins intended.
Have you seen any of the Authorcuts videos from Penguin Random House? They’re very short videos from authors, usually talking about writing. Today’s video features Amor Towles, author of A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility. Check out the clip in which Towles talks about how he honed his craft. http://bit.ly/2bHZFfj
We have signed copies of A Gentleman in Moscow available through the Web Store. We can also special order Rules of Civility if you’d like it. Here’s the link. http://bit.ly/2cDpZZs