Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Interview with debut crime thriller author Luke Murphy

I'm happy to introduce debut crime thrill author Luke Murphy to you today. He's telling us a lot about Dead Man’s Hand. I hope you'll read on through.

Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters, and pug.

He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).

Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.

Welcome, Luke. Please tell us about your current release, Dead Man’s Hand.
What happens when the deck is stacked against you…

From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.

…and the cards don't fall your way?

When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.

What if you're dealt a Dead Man's Hand?

Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.

What inspired you to write this book?
I never thought much about writing when I was growing up.

But I was always an avid reader, which I owe to my mother. She was a librarian, and although I lost her when I was young, I will always remember a stack on Danielle Steele books on her bedside table, and a lot of books lying around the house at my disposal.

My first chapter books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels. Dead Man’s Hand has been compared to James Patterson books, which to me is an honour. Maybe in style (short chapters, a quick read), as I have read many of his books.

Plot: I get my ideas from stories I hear about, whether through reading (newspapers, magazines, etc.), what I hear (radio) or what I see (TV, movies, internet, etc.). The plot is completely fictional. I wouldn`t say that one thing or person influences my writing, but a variety of my life experiences all have led to my passion in the written word. There is not a single moment in time when this idea came to be, but circumstances over the years that led to this story: my hockey injuries, frequent visits to Las Vegas, my love of football, crime books, and movies. Dead Man’s Hand became real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts in their field, and adding my wild imagination. The Internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.

In plot, this is a relatively non-technical police-procedural in which the team of the investigating officers is thwarted by the simplicity, speed, and brutality of slayings by knife-stroke, facing a challenge not unlike the mystery that surrounded the Jack the Ripper murders. The lead investigator, as in Michael Connelly’s novels and in line with the tradition of the police procedural, is pressured by police authorities who are corrupt as well as inept.

Setting: I usually set my stories in cities I`ve visited and fell in love with. Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for this story, glitz and glamour as well as an untapped underground.

Characters: I have never been involved in a homicide investigation, LOL. Although I am not a 6’5”, 220 pound African-American, I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating my protagonist Calvin Watters. Watters’ past as an athlete and his emotional rollercoaster brought on by injuries were drawn from my experiences. His mother died of cancer when he was young, as mine was. There are certainly elements of myself in Calvin, but overall, this is a work of fiction. I did not base the characters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence.

As far as characterization goes, Calvin Watters faces racial prejudice with calmness similar to that of Walter Mosley’s character Easy Rawlins. But Watters’ past as an athlete and enforcer will remind other readers of (Jack) Reacher of the Lee Childs series. The Stuart Woods novel Choke, about a tennis player who, like Watters, suffered greatly from a dramatic loss that was a failure of his psyche, is also an inspiration for Dead Man’s Hand.

I’ve always been a self-motivated person, and my harshest critic. Whether it was in school, hockey, or writing, I’ve been the one to put the most pressure on myself to succeed, to be the best in everything I try.

Excerpt from Dead Man’s Hand:
In a pool of sweat, he shot up in bed. "Jesus!"

Pain bolted through his swollen right knee, but the emotional pain from a shattered ego hurt even worse. It was the same pain and nightmare that had visited him many nights over the last four years. He was the only one to blame for USC's humiliating loss and his own humiliating personal downfall.

Removing the sweat-soaked sheets, he hobbled across the room, dodged the strewn clothes on the floor, stepped into the bathroom, and quietly closed the door behind him. He flicked on the light and squinted as the sudden brightness blinded him. Then he reached for the bottle of Percocet, his loyal companion in these isolated, agonizing nights.

He shook three of the blue painkillers into his hand, his steady diet of Percs. When he couldn't get enough from his doctor, he bought extras from a dealer. He downed the pills, chasing them with a mouthful of water. They would take some time to kick in, but relief was on its way. The drugs, along with his secret hopes and plans, were all that kept him from slipping over the edge.

He used his hands on the vanity to hold his weight and stared into the mirror. At twenty-six, he already had the hair and face of a stranger.

"You should let your dreadlocks grow long," his boss suggested. "More intimidating."

The patchy facial hair was Calvin's decision. The overall effect was menacing—just right for his line of work.

His sharp brown eyes, which at one time had won him glances from beautiful women in college, were usually hidden behind dark sunglasses. Unseen eyes were intimidating too and when he took them off to stare at a victim, he could use his eyes to look like a madman

He closed them now and shook his head in disgust. "You look like shit. Hell, you are shit."

The press had certainly thought that, four years ago. Always ready to tear down a hero, they had shown no restraint in attacking him for his egotistic, selfish decision and obvious desire to break his own school record. One minute he was touted as the next Walter Payton, the next he was a door mat for local media.

Looking at him now, no one would believe that back then he was a thousand-yard rusher in the NCAA and welcomed with open arms in every established club in Southern California. Hell, he had been bigger than the mayor of LA.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m currently working on my second novel, another crime-thriller, following the career of rookie, female LAPD detective Charlene Taylor.

I would love to write another book. Right now, I have a full time job (teaching), a part-time tutoring job, and three small children (all girls, YIKES!!).

I don`t have much time to write, but when I get a chance, I do all I can. It could take some time, but eventually I would love to write a series of novels featuring Calvin Watters. But I will not limit my novels to Calvin Watters, as I would like to write a variety of novels, all in the crime-thriller genres.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Actually my writing happened by accident. Growing up I never thought much about writing, but I was an avid reader. The only time I ever wrote was when my teachers at school made me. I wanted to be an NHL superstar…period.

It was the winter of 2000, my second year of professional hockey, and I was playing in Oklahoma City. After sustaining a season-ending eye injury (one of the scariest moments of my life), I found myself with time on his hands.

My girlfriend at the time, who is now my wife, was attending a French college in Montreal. She received an English assignment to write a short story, and asked me for some help.

I loved the experience—creating vivid characters and generating a wire-taut plot. So, I sat down at my roommate’s computer and began typing. I wrote a little every day, around my intense rehabilitation schedule and before I knew it I had completed my first manuscript.

I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing.

Twelve years later, I still write for pleasure—and I still love it! The fact that I am being published is a bonus.

I made the decision to write a book with the intention of publication in 2005. I enjoyed writing so much as a hobby, I decided I wanted to take my interest one step further – write a story with the intention of being published and making it available for friends, family, and readers around the world to enjoy.
I`m not one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft. I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. I continually researched on the Internet, reading up on the industry and process. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.

Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2006, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write Dead Man’s Hand. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of the novel.

I then worked with editors and joined a critique group, doing anything I could to learn, to improve my writing and my novel to point where I could create the best possible work.

My years of hard work finally paid off. With my dream still in mind and my manuscript ready, I hired the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency to represent Dead Man’s Hand.

I signed a publishing deal with Imajin Books in May, 2012.

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?
I wish I was a full time writer, but I would have starved long ago.

Since retiring from professional hockey in 2006, I’ve held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning my Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude). I’m a full time elementary teacher and part time tutor.

I write whenever I can find time, either early in the morning before everyone wakes up, or late at night after everyone goes to bed.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Don’t know if it is interesting, but in order for me to write, I have to be sitting at my desk, with a hot mug of tea in front of me, and my most productive time of the day to write is in the morning.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An NHL superstar, period.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

Ask me again in 10-15 years when I have 3 teenage girls (pulling out hair).

Hee hee. Will do!

Oh, and my book is currently $1.99 through Amazon until the end of August.

Review Blurbs:

"You may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out."
—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of Back Bay and The Lincoln Letter

"Dead Man's Hand is a pleasure, a debut novel that doesn't read like one,
but still presents original characters and a fresh new voice."
—Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Flower

"Part police procedural, part crime fiction, Dead Man's Hand is a fast, gritty ride."
—Anne Frasier, USA Today bestselling author of Hush


Luke Murphy said...

Thanks for the interview, Lisa. I had a lot of fun on your blog.

Lisa Haselton said...

You're very welcome - you really have great answers which is fabulous for connecting with readers. :)