Kicking off a holiday week with an interview with Ed Duncan about his crime thriller Pigeon-Blood Red.
Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy.
Welcome, Ed. Please tell us about your current release.
Set in Chicago and Honolulu, Pigeon-Blood Red tells the story of an underworld enforcer's pursuit of a man who stole a "pigeon-blood red" ruby necklace worth millions, and it describes the effect the chase ultimately has on the enforcer and on a couple of innocent bystanders who accidentally become embroiled in the crime. The hardened hitman is faced with a dilemma when he develops a grudging respect for the couple, the thief's estranged wife who is oblivious to his crime, and an old flame who comes to her rescue. His dilemma? He is ordered to kill the couple and if he does not, he will endanger the life of the woman he loves.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had been a practicing lawyer at a national law firm for about twenty years when the idea of the novel first came to me. I was attending a legal seminar in Honolulu. One evening after dinner I sat on a bench outside to admire the lush grounds of the hotel, and the kernel of an idea sprang to mind. What if a lawyer on holiday in Honolulu, or attending a seminar, as I was, had a chance encounter with a mysterious woman who was both attractive and vulnerable? And what if the woman was running for her life from some unknown danger? And, finally, what if the lawyer, against great odds, managed to save her?
In my novel the lawyer, Paul Elliott, became the old flame and the mysterious woman, Evelyn Rogers, became the estranged wife. The underworld enforcer became Rico, a killer with a conscience. And, of course, the unknown danger was that Evelyn's husband had stolen the priceless ruby necklace, thereby unwittingly marking her and Paul for death. The odd thing was, though, that Rico's character is so interesting that it was a struggle to keep him from becoming the central focus of a story whose main character I had meant to be Paul, the lawyer and my alter ego. I think I was successful in reining him in somewhat, but you'll have to read the novel to see whether you agree.
What exciting story are you working on next?
Right now, the sequel to Pigeon-Blood Red (no title yet), which was always meant to be the first in a trilogy. The third installment is an unproduced screenplay (also untitled) I wrote that I'll convert to a novel.
How did the third installment start out as a screenplay?
While I was waiting to get Pigeon-Blood Red published, I converted that novel and the next installment in the trilogy into screenplays. Then, rather than beginning with a novel that I would turn into a script, I thought it would be interesting to start with the script, so that's what I did with the third installment in the trilogy. Maybe one day one of the three novels will generate interest in one of the screenplays or vice versa -- at least that's the plan.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In the last years of my legal practice, I wrote a text for lawyers and judges called "Ohio Insurance Coverage" and I supplied annual updates for five years. I suppose I could have considered myself a writer at that point. However, it was only upon publication of Pigeon-Blood Red in February of this year that I actually thought of myself as a writer. Writing the legal text was part of my job as a lawyer. Writing my novel was my vocation as an author.
I retired from my law firm in 2012 to write and travel. Since then I've traveled outside the U.S. at least once a year and sometimes twice. Next up is South Africa this fall and Hawaii the following spring. I hope to dream up some new ideas for novels during one or both trips. In the meantime, I've already written a draft of the sequel to Pigeon-Blood Red.
Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Since I'm retired, I don't force myself into a regular writing schedule. I write when I feel like it and it's much easier to do when it's raining in the summertime or anytime in the winter. After my trilogy is complete, I'll probably shoehorn myself into a schedule of sorts but right now I don't feel the need to do so.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I'm not sure you would call it a quirk, but I write sections of my novels (of varying length depending on my mood) out in long hand, and then I do multiple revisions of each section before transferring it to my computer. I have the impression (perhaps mistaken) that most writers today have abandoned long hand as their starting point. By the time I've finished with the revisions, no one can read my draft except me and sometimes even I have trouble following all of the inserts and deletions.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a child I think the first thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a cowboy. My father and mother and all of my brothers were big western fans, and we watched westerns on television -- both regular series and movies -- religiously. My favorite series were "Have Gun Will Travel" and "Wanted Dead or Alive," and my favorite movie was "Shane." I'm certain some of the traits of the heroes and villains in those TV shows and movies have found their way into the Paul and Rico characters in my novel.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
One of my biggest influences as a writer is film noir and the novels on which many of the best of those films are based. Perhaps the novel and film of the same name that has influenced me the most is "The Maltese Falcon." The movie took much of the dialogue directly from Dashiell Hammett's novel, which is one of the reasons the movie is so good. If I ever even approached Hammett's masterful use of dialogue, I would be one happy camper.
Thanks for being here today, Ed! All the best with your writing.