Friday, August 10, 2018

New interview with mystery novelist Ed Duncan

Novelist Ed Duncan is back for a visit! Today we’re chatting about his new crime thriller, The Last Straw

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 third installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red series.

Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews, Ed. Please tell us about your newest release.
In this novel, a teenage girl witnesses a carjacking gone bad. As a result, she is marked for death by a crime boss with no apparent motive. A black partner at a large law firm, who is a friend of the family, and a white enforcer who have an unlikely history together forge an uneasy alliance to protect the girl from a hit man with an agenda of his own.

What inspired you to write this book?
The Last Straw is the second installment in the trilogy that began with Pigeon-Blood Red. (On Amazon and elsewhere the three books are collectively referred to as the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy.) The last in the series will be called Rico Stays. Since I decided very early that I would write at least a trilogy involving the same main characters, the inspiration for the second novel is essentially that same as that for the first in the trilogy. 

I was attending a legal seminar in Honolulu in the mid-90's when one evening the germ of fan idea came to me. In my mind's eye I saw a beautiful, mysterious woman traveling alone and carrying something valuable that bad people -- dangerous people -- were trying to get their hands on, and I saw a lawyer coming to her rescue. That was all I knew about the novel I hoped to write. I had the inspiration and now all I needed was the time to write. Alas, I did not get that until I retired.

Over the months and years that followed the initial inspiration, I filled in details, many of which changed as a result of the many drafts and re-drafts. The "something" the woman was carrying became a priceless necklace. After I settled on jewelry as the "McGuffin," to use Hitchcock's phrase, I searched the library (pre-Google days) for something exotic and discovered the phrase "pigeon-blood red" which, of course, was coined by Indian gem dealers centuries ago and describes the color of the rarest and most valuable rubies in the world, the same color as the first two drops of blood that trickle from the nostrils of a freshly killed pigeon.

I determined early on that the woman in danger, Evelyn (unlike her namesake in the movie Chinatown), would not be a femme fatale and instead would be an innocent victim. The hardest part of the novel was figuring out how to get the purloined necklace into her hands without her knowing it was stolen and how to get the pivotal characters from Chicago to Honolulu, the two places where I wanted the action to take place, without the plot appearing to be contrived.

What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or with writing this book)
My main characters are Rico, a white hit man/enforcer, and Paul, a black partner in a large law firm headquartered in Chicago. The biggest challenge for all three novels has been to dream up a plot that causes these characters to cross paths in an interesting and realistic way where each has an impact on the life of the other and on the lives of their significant others, respectively Jean, a high end call girl/prostitute, and Evelyn, a college professor. Obviously, the lives of these characters would not normally intersect at all, let alone three times (or more if I decide to extend the series). I'm very pleased with the ultimate results, but getting there has been, as you say in your question, a challenge.

If your novels require research, please talk about the process. Do you do the research first and then write, while you're writing, after the novel is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
In Pigeon-Blood Red, as mentioned earlier, I had to research the origin and history of "pigeon-blood red" rubies, which turned out to be fascinating. I did that research before I started writing because I wanted to find something interesting and exotic if possible that I knew I would be able to write about. Incidentally, in the novel I gave a figure for the most expensive rubies sold at auction as of the writing of the novel, which of course I researched. Before it was published, however, I read about a more expensive ruby that had sold at auction between the time I finished the novel and its publication. Fortunately, I had time to change the novel to use the most recent valuation. Also, Rico, the hit man in the novels, uses a particular hand gun that I wanted to be the best and most expensive of its kind. From the research I did (again, in advance) that gun turned out to be a Sig Sauer, known in some circles as the Cadillac of hand guns. I had never heard of it before I did the research, however.

What's your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
I write my first draft in long hand on a white legal pad. Mostly that occurs on a narrow table that separates my kitchen from the family room. Because I live alone, I don't have any distractions. My computer is upstairs in my study. That is where I transfer my first draft to a Word document, which of course goes through a number of additional drafts. There is nothing particularly unusual about either space, except that study has a more comfortable chair. It's the one I used when I was still practicing law. It's a high back leather chair with arm rests. It swivels and allows me to slide across the floor on a plastic pad to look at files behind me and to my right without having to stand. It's also easier to fall asleep in than the one downstairs!

What authors do you enjoy reading within or outside of your genre?
Authors within my genre that I enjoy reading include Dashiell Hammett, Lee Child, Dennis Lehane, Scott Turow and Walter Mosley. Outside my genre they include Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Somerset Maugham, Richard Wright, Ken Follett, and Theodore Dreiser.

What's the next writing project?
The next writing project is the third in my trilogy, Rico Stays. In it Paul and Rico lock horns with killers seeking revenge against Rico, and this time Rico, recovering from multiple gunshot wounds, reluctantly accepts help from Paul.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers today?
Screenplays have been written for each of the three novels. (I have yet to write the third novel, but in this case the screenplay was written first). I collaborated on the first two scripts and wrote the third alone. I'm trying to interest producers in getting one or more made into a movie for the screen or television. The odds of success are long but I intend to keep trying!

Thanks for your questions!

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

Thanks for stopping in, Ed. All the best with your writing!

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