So I have this tattered yellow notebook of the spiral variety from high school, the kind which sheds chads of paper at the faintest rustling. As an aspiring author, I used to write down snatches of dialogue, plot ideas, and my first clunky attempts at scenes. There might be a few opinions in there as well about unattainable girls and other matters social, the dark nights of the soul that a prep school kid believes he’s suffering through.
But one scrawled thought stayed with me all these years. It asked: What if there was some group devoted to cleaning up criminals who got off due to loopholes in the justice system?
A cool, high-concept idea. But high-concept ideas are a dime a dozen. It’s when they collide with the right character that they actually have the legs to turn into a story. And writing a tale about another off-the-tracks loose cannon? Well, it seemed banal.
So I finished high-school. Went off to college. Studied in England while completing my first thriller. I was fortunate enough to sell that book. I published a second. And a third. And then, one day, I met the character to go with that decade-old scrawled note.
I don’t recall the precise moment, but I remember the thoughts striking, one after another: What if there was a guy who was one of the most ethical law enforcement officers you could imagine? Maybe his father was a con artist and this guy spent his life craving the straight and narrow the way a preacher’s son might crave a card game. And then, what if something awful, truly awful knocked him off course? Wouldn’t that be a vigilante we’d be more interested in? One who started from a position of vigorous moral authority? One who doubted his actions at every step, who never gave in fully to the dark urges, who might even, at some point, change his mind?
And Dray. Dray was my answer to every annoying cop’s wife I ever read in a book or saw on TV or film—the hysterical ones who always complain that the job’s killing her husband. That’s he’s taking too many risks and why can’t he just stop caring so much, damnit, and focus more on home.
Andrea Rackley, she ain’t like that. She’s a sheriff’s deputy, tough as hell, a resource in her own right. Quite often, she’s more level-headed than her husband. Their relationship is one I admire, and it taught me about marriage before I was married. They banter and argue, fight and make up, but always, always get a kick out of each other.
I wrote four Rackley books: The Kill Clause (2003), The Program (2004), Troubleshooter (2005), and Last Shot (2006). They’re old friends of mine now, Tim and Dray. They’re family. And I’m glad that you’ll have a chance to see them arguing through the particulars of a case, staring down danger, doing what they do.
The Tim Rackley e-books will be available for $2.99, but only for a limited time:
“THE SURVIVOR is the greatest book yet, from one of the best crime novelists in the business. It opens fast and never slows down. It kept me up all night—I just couldn’t stop reading.” – David Finch
Fellow Comic Book Geeks and Batheads,
Wanna get your hands on a signed variant cover of BATMAN: The Dark Knight #10? (It’s a really cool sideways front-and-back cover of David Finch’s insane Batman/Scarecrow image).
One lucky winner will receive a rare, limited edition of TDK #10, signed, sealed, and delivered.
All you have to do is pre-order my latest novel, THE SURVIVOR, in any format from any store. Whether you download it to your kindle, order it from B&N, or buy it from your favorite independent bookstore, you will be entered to win this limited edition comic. Simply email your proof of purchase to HurwitzContest@kayepublicity.com.
Not a comic book reader? You can still enter to win! Just promise to give the comic to the kid next door. Or to your grown cousin who just got back from Comic-Con. Or to the middle-aged lady on the subway who we all know secretly digs Batman, too.
Entries must be received by Friday, August 17th. The winner will be announced on Monday, August 20th.
I’m thrilled to announce that I will be developing my Tim Rackley books (THE KILL CLAUSE, THE PROGRAM) as a TV series for Sony/TNT. I’m teaming up with my good buddy and talented show runner, Shawn Ryan, who wrote/produced great shows like The Shield, Terriers, and The Chicago Code.
For more information, check out the Deadline article which announced the project.
In YOU’RE NEXT, Dodge is reading a certain comic. Correctly identify the comic for a chance to win a signed first-edition of the graphic novel VENGEANCE OF THE MOONKNIGHT: Shock and Awe.
Submit your entries to email@example.com by August 31st.
Thanks for reading and good luck!
Please DO NOT post answer in the comments section. Email it to the address listed above.
After nearly five months on the international bestseller charts, YOU’RE NEXT is finally coming home! To celebrate, I’m hosting a giant pre-order contest, a giveaway of all my previous books — that’s 10 signed, personalized first-edition hardcovers! To enter, simply pre-order the book from one of these vendors:
Double issue featuring short stories by Charlie Huston and Ken Lashley, Peter Milligan and Tomm Coker, me and Das Pastoras, and Thomas Piccirilli and (one of my favorite artists) Laurence Campbell. This issue will clear the decks, making way for Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon’s MAX relaunch. The cover art is staggering – I love the “Central Park as a grave” motif portrayed by the good Reverend Dave Johnson, and Steve Dillon drew a helluva variant. These stories go back to the source, playing on Castle’s origin. I was really goddamned excited to write a tale that touches on that fateful day in Central Park and the birth of the Man as we know him now.
The prospect of writing a crime novel based in Los Angeles was so daunting that I had to live here three years before trying. If I was going to take on a city already explored by Chandler and Ellroy, Crais and Connelly, I wanted to make sure that I knew it. That I had some way to make this place live and breathe, to take readers beyond the fake tans and the Hollywood sign into the beating heart of a city where anything is possible.
Most everyone (except for the eleven people, including my wife, actually born here) come to L.A. looking for something. It’s an intriguing city, full of promise, but it’s also a place where dreams come to be strangled. A lot of bitterness and glamour, resentment and money—a rich, dark undercurrent to all that glitz. Which, of course, makes it a great place for crime.
I wrote five novels that took place in Los Angeles before I wrote what I consider an L.A. novel. The Crime Writer, my eighth, is an L.A. novel because it couldn’t take place anywhere else. It’s about crime and story and infamy, and it features a protagonist who finds himself in that hottest of all spotlights—the L.A. high-profile murder trial. And so it required a more intense grounding in the streets and alleys and personalities of this place.
There’s a convention, in fiction centered here, of the drive—whether real or imagined—through the city. When I hit a certain point in my first draft, I found it was time to write my own dirty noir love song to Los Angeles. The virtual tour of the city comes through the eyes of Drew Danner, my protagonist, as he sits on his back deck and takes stock of a town that has dismissed him as another lurid cautionary tale. After, he observes, “My cheeks were wet with the breeze and the swell of my heart for the lights below. Los Angeles. A mirage of a town that sprang up like a cold sweat on the backs of gold diggers and railroad workers, and took form when pirate film distributors, fleeing Edison’s patents, took a train and a gamble backed by East Coast muscle. Los Angeles, land of endless promise. And endless failure….L.A. of the high-octane sunset, the warm night air that leaves you drunk. L.A. of the prolonged adolescence, the slow-motion seduction, the ageless, replaceable blonde. L.A. where a porn star runs for governor and an action figure wins. L.A. where anything can happen at any time to some poor schmuck or lucky bastard. Where anything can happen to you. Where anything had happened to me.”
And that’s really it, isn’t it? That sense of possibility—good and bad.
In addition to the obvious—crime and punishment, Rodeo and Sunset—L.A. is a city of hidden textures, of many hues. People come here searching for, above all else, identity. No one here is a caterer or bartender—we are all rock stars and dancers, installation artists and cinematographers. Everyone is on the run from a past more ordinary than they’d like to admit, toward a dream they can never fully attain. This search for identity is something I literalize in my latest book, Trust No One. Nick Horrigan had his life taken away after his stepfather’s murder when he was seventeen. For reasons unclear to him, he was forced away from his family and on the run, and as the book opens, he’s returned to this city, to Los Angeles, to seek his identity. He is an ordinary guy, like you or me. Like so many Angelinos, he wants to know who exactly he is, what he’s running from, what he’s moving toward. And we meet him, on page one, on the worst night of his life. His world is about to explode in on him. He’s dragged from his bed to a waiting helicopter where he’s told that a terrorist has just seized control of a nuclear power plant—and will only talk to Nick. This confrontation will lead, of course, back to the events of Nick’s childhood—back to his identity. And there is no better place for this to unfold than against the backdrop of a city that lives to repackage faces and names and sell them the world over.
There’s the fun stuff, too, of course. The trends and fads, the day spas and conceptual dining experiences. My wife took me to a restaurant a while back without telling me what dinner would entail. I was stripped of my cell phone and led by a blind woman through several dense curtains into a pitch black room. We ate in perfect darkness, an experience that was supposed to (and did) heighten our sense of taste. But the entire time, I was thinking, What a great place for something awful to happen! A mysterious meet, a stranger who has information but doesn’t want his face known….As my mind wandered, one of the key chapters of Trust No One took shape. Perhaps that defines L.A. more than anything else: It’s difficult to concentrate here or chew your steak—there’s always a scene waiting to happen.
–Gregg Hurwitz, Los Angeles, 2009
This essay originally appeared in Mystery Readers Journal
I wrote an exclusive short story for Borders.com based on Nick Horrigan, my protagonist in Trust No One. The book opens with Nick getting dragged out of bed in the middle of the night by a SWAT team and led downstairs to a waiting Black Hawk. He is told by the agent-in-charge that a terrorist has seized control of a nuclear power plant. And the man says he’ll ONLY talk to Nick. (Read the first chapter here.) But as we delve into Nick’s story, we realize that he was driven from LA as a young man, and the current catastrophe is linked to, as the back of the book declaims, secrets from his past. Well, I kept getting an itch to write another little piece of Nick’s story. When he was on the run as a young man, living in Alaska, there is a particular moment when he awakens and decides to start making his way back to Los Angeles, to his mother, to the life that was taken away from him. “The Awakening” is the story of that moment.
Finally posted to YouTube – a really fun talk with Crais about pacing, characters, plotting, and inspiration. This is one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done.