Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Interview with crime fiction novelist Eric Matheny

Today’s highlight is the legal thriller, The Victim, by Eric Matheny.

Eric Matheny was born in Los Angeles, California, where he lived until he went away to college at Arizona State University. At ASU he was president of Theta Chi Fraternity. He graduated with a degree in political science and moved to Miami, Florida, to attend law school at St. Thomas University. During his third year of law school, he interned for the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, where he worked as a prosecutor upon graduation. In 2009, he went into private practice as a criminal defense attorney. He is a solo practitioner representing clients in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and Broward County, Florida. He has handled everything from DUI to murder.

In his free time, Eric enjoys writing crime fiction, drawing from his experience working in the legal system. He published his debut novel Home in 2004, which centers around a successful drug dealer catering to the rich in Orange County. His second novel Lockdown, published in 2005, follows a law student trying to prove that an inmate serving a life sentence in one of California’s toughest prisons might actually be innocent. Eric’s latest novel The Victim, is a tense, fast-paced, legal thriller/psychological suspense novel that centers around a young defense attorney whose horrifying misdeed from his college days comes back to haunt him. It was published by Zharmae in August 2015 and is available for sale on Amazon.

Eric lives outside of Fort Lauderdale with his wife and two young sons.

Welcome, Eric! Please tell us a little bit about The Victim.
Anton Mackey is a 32-year-old Miami defense attorney who has tried desperately to forget about the horrific mistake he made eleven years earlier while a student in college.  But that mistake has come back to haunt him in the form a new client’s wife - a victim of what appears to be a brutal act of domestic violence.  The fee is great and everything seems normal until Anton realizes that this new client - rather his new client’s wife - is a figure from his past.  What follows is a nightmare as Anton frantically tries to keep this woman from destroying everything he has built.  Though at the same time, he begins to learn that this woman - the victim - may be connected to an unrelated murder case.

What inspired you to write this book?
A few years after I graduated from college, I heard a story about a guy I knew from school who had been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide after smashing into a disabled car on the highway, causing a fire, and killing both occupants.  The individual responsible got out of his car and began to run away on foot.  I thought, what if you did that and got away?  Using my knowledge of physical evidence from my career as an ex-prosecutor/practicing defense attorney, I understood the technical aspects of how a person could get away with such a crime.  Now what if that person went on to live a normal life, perhaps became an attorney, and then the past came back to haunt him?  I think all good thrillers start with a “what if?”

Excerpt from The Victim:
Chapter 1

March 16, 2003
Payson, Arizona

He thought he was dead.

Steam hissed from the crumpled front end of the RV that had folded accordion-style against the guardrail. His face stung from the punch of the airbag. His lungs burned from that awful talcum powder that drifted through the cabin as the bag deflated. The chemical dust, suspended in the air, seemed to be frozen in time.

His nose was numb and swollen. He tasted blood trickling down the back of his throat like a cocaine drip. He peered through the cracked windshield, his eyes adjusting to the reddish glow of a desert sunrise. The crushed-in hood had jarred upward. The chassis was off balance. The whole vehicle wobbled as he shifted his weight in his seat.

Oh my God.

He cranked the door handle and heaved his shoulder into it to pop it off the jamb. He hopped down onto the highway. The winds were heavy and dry, rustling the sage and scrub oaks that dotted the rugged landscape along the Beeline Highway. A sliver of fiery light barely illuminated the peaks of the Mazatal Mountains, which rose and fell against the horizon. Giant saguaros stood like sentries.

The back half of a red two-door sedan lay beneath the shredded front tires of the RV. Flattened like an aluminum can. On impact the RV must have bucked forward, rolling up onto the rear bumper of the smaller car, coming to rest on its roof. The significant weight of the RV crushed the sedan into something you might see stacked in a junkyard.

The highway was quiet. Just the rush of hot wind crackling the delicate spines of the sagebrush. He got his bearings quickly, the initial shock of the crash having passed. A sobering experience. Literally. Half a handle of Jack Daniels coursing through his veins had been replaced by something stronger.


He saw long hair, a young female’s. How he could tell her age by the back of her head, he would never know. Maybe by its length and sheen—bright, yellow-blond. Slick with blood. Her forehead propped on the steering wheel. The driver-side window blown out. The windshield was a shattered web.

The man beside her—or boy, he was arguably young—was out cold, his body positioned in the passenger’s seat in a gimpy, off-kilter fashion. The passenger side had been thrust into the guardrail, which molded itself to the frame of the car. His head lolled against the door. Blood leaked from his ear and ran down his neck.

“Are you okay?” he screamed, although he knew he would get no reply. His voice resonated throughout the valley. “Hello?”

He braced himself against the ruined front end of the RV. He felt a surge of bile and whiskey come up in the back of his throat. He heaved forward but held it in. He was lightheaded.

Oh God, please let this be a dream. Oh God, please...this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening. This isn’t happening. This isn’t happening...  

What exciting story are you working on next?
A standalone crime thriller set in Los Angeles during the April 29, 1992, riots.  Aside from the standpoint of law enforcement, namely a tough female sheriff’s deputy,
the story examines a crime from several gang perspectives - a violent South Central Blood set; a ruthless outlaw biker club; and the Korean Kkhangpae (Korean Mafia) that maintains a stranglehold over its piece of the city. 

I lived in Los Angeles at the time of the riots and it was a frightening and oddly fascinating time in history.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was 7 and I wrote stories on my mother’s word processor.  Throughout my life, even if I wasn’t putting words down on paper, I felt like I had a monologue going on in my head, as if I could watch events unfold and then narrate them to myself.  I started writing seriously when I was 21.

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 am a full-time defense attorney, part-time writer.  I work all day, usually starting early in the morning.  I try to bang out a page or two before court and then I am off to handle my morning calendar, sometimes multiple calendars in multiple counties.  After the morning and once my pressing matters are handled, I go back to my story and crank out a little more.  I try to write 2000 words a day. 

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I almost always know the title of a story before I begin and the first thing I do before I put down a single word is find a quote to start the book. 

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A detective, a fighter pilot, a cardiovascular surgeon, a sports agent, and finally - a criminal defense attorney. 

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I have traveled through Transylvania and been to the house where Vlad Dracul (the inspiration for Count Dracula) was born.  It is now a vampire-themed restaurant.  Folklore aside, Transylvania is one of the best kept secrets of Eastern Europe.  Driving through the Carpathian Alps, you will see real horse-and-buggies, farmhouses that are hundreds of years old, and folks who live without any modern conveniences.  The scenery is breathtaking and full of real history - the hotel where my wife and I stayed was the “new” building in town because it was constructed around 1600.  I love Europe and have been to many of the popular tourist destinations in the west - Barcelona, Vienna, Amsterdam - but cannot stress enough the mystique and untouched beauty of the east.  Plus Romania is still on their own currency (not the euro) so the exchange rate is about four Romanian Leu to one U.S. dollar.  While Eastern Europe is relatively inexpensive to begin with, Romania is a bargain.  If you want something completely off the beaten path, not touristy, and entirely unique, fly to Bucharest (no direct flights from U.S., connect in Rome, London, or Paris), rent a car, and head north out of the city.

Readers can connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.  And to learn more, go to

Thank you, Eric!

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