The Crime Writer

by Gregg Hurwitz


A Library Journal Top Five Best Thriller 2007

“Outstanding in every way. Hurwitz’s previous books – great as they were – look like practice swings before this titanic blast.” 

Drew Danner, a crime novelist with a house off L.A.’s storied Mulholland Drive, awakens in a hospital bed with a scar on his head and no memory of being found convulsing over his ex- fiancée’s body the previous night. He was discovered holding a knife, her blood beneath his nails. He himself doesn’t know whether he’s guilty or innocent. To reconstruct the story, the writer must now become the protagonist, searching the corridors of his life and the city he loves.

Soon Drew closes in on clues he may or may not have left for himself, and as another young woman is similarly murdered he has to ask difficult questions not of others but of himself. Beautifully crafted and heartbreakingly told, The Crime Writer confronts our inherent fear of what we might truly be capable of—good or evil. Like nothing he’s written before, The Crime Writer takes Hurwitz in an exciting new direction and is sure to reach a whole new audience.

Sample Chapter

I woke up with IVs taped to my arms, a feeding tube shoved through my nose, and my tongue pushed against my teeth, dead and thick as a sock. My mouth was hot and tasted of copper, and my molars felt loose, jogged in their beds from grinding. I blinked against the strong light, and squinted into a haze of face, too close for casual; a man straddling a backward chair, thick forearms overlapped, a sheet of paper drooping from one square fist. Another guy behind him, dressed the same rumpled sport coat, loose tie offset from open collar, glint at the hip. Downgraded to bystander, a doctor stood by the door, ignoring the electronic blips and bleeps. I was in a hospital room.

With consciousness came pain. No tunnels of light, no bursts or fireworks or other page-worn clichés, just pain, mindless and dedicated, a Rottweiler working a bone. A creak of air moved through my throat.

“He’s up,” said the doctor from faraway. A nurse materialized and fed a needle into the joint in my IV. A second later the warmth rode through my veins and the Rottweiler paused to catch his breath.

I raised an arm trailing IV lines and fingered my head where it tingled. Instead of hair, a seam of stubble and stitches cactused my palm. Lightheadedness and nausea compounded my confusion. As my hand drifted back to my chest, I noticed dark crescents caking the undersides of my nails.

I’d dug myself out of somewhere?

The cop in the chair flipped the piece of paper over and I saw that it was an 8 x 10.

A crime-scene photo.

A close-up of a woman’s midsection, the pan of the abdomen caked with dark blood. A narrow puncture below the ribs faded into blackness, as if a stronger flashbulb were required to sound its depths.

I raised a hand as if to push away the image and in the dead blue fluorescence I saw that the grime under my nails carried a tinge of crimson. Whether from the drugs or the pain, I felt my gorge rise and push at the back of my throat. It took two tries and still my voice came out a rasp, barely audible around the plastic tube. “Who is that?”

“Your ex-fiancée.”

“Who-who did that to her?”

The detective’s jaw shifted once, slowly, left to right. “You did.”

The foregoing is excerpted from The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657.

Awards & Accolades

Instant International Bestseller, topping lists from L.A. to Ireland, to the UK, to Australia!
Finalist for CWA’s Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award
Shortlisted for ITW’s Best Novel Award
A Library Journal Top Five Best Thriller 2007
Selection for Mystery Guild and Book of the Month Club
Book Sense Notable Pick, August 2007
January Magazine Best of 2007 Title
A Crime Fiction Dossier Top 10 of 2007

“With The Crime Writer, Gregg Hurwitz has taken a quantum leap forward in the realm of American suspense literature. A thrilling, mind-bending journey, it is also deeply humane and beautifully written. You’ll turn the final page with profound regret.”

“The Crime Writer is the MUST READ crime novel of the year. Brilliantly rendered with hip intelligence and fierce originality, this book is a stunner. Gregg Hurwitz may well have created a brand name franchise, and deservedly so.”

“Outstanding in every way. Hurwitz’s previous books – great as they were – look like practice swings before this titanic blast.”

“It’d be so simple to say that The Crime Writer toys and pokes and jabs with the genre. And of course it does. But by merging author and hero, Hurwitz sharpens a brand-new edge in his voice. An elegant, engaging and wonderfully human book.”

“A performance worthy of applause…Hurwitz’s carefully interwoven plot lines and taut writing, as well as his pulsing descriptions of Los Angeles, make for a deeply satisfying read, and the ending, revealed with masterful simplicity, shows the complex desires that make each of us capable of murder.”

“The plot has more twists and turns than Mulholland Drive…Hurwitz’s insights about L.A. life sound knowing and are often ruefully funny…Crime fans looking for something different will love this one.”

“Hurwitz has written one of the stand-out books of the summer, combining great writing, memorable characters and white-knuckle suspense. He’s also crafted a story that uses the city of Los Angeles to beautiful effect. The Crime Writer is not just the best novel this author has written; it would take top rank on many writers’ resumes.”

“…an exhilarating tale…the first part of this exciting thriller may be the best opening ploy in the mystery genre this year.”

“(an) intimate, tension-filled story that starts strong and grows to a smashing finish…A hero truly worth rooting for.”

“…Hurwitz has managed to inject a much-needed intelligence into a genre that typically prefers guns to brains. In his latest, The Crime Writer, Hurwitz does the unimaginable: He completely reinvents himself…Like the best crime novels, the good guys and the bad guys are often the very same people in The Crime Writer, a book so deliciously bedeviling that we found ourselves finishing the novel only to flip back to page one to see if we’d somehow missed a clue along the way.”

“With a cast of characters that are so credible and a host of scenarios certain to have readers biting their nails to the quick, I See You/The Crime Writer is a thrill-fest, roller-coaster ride from first to last that is, if ever there was one, the definitive must read book of 2007.”

“Hurwitz’s intelligent, skillfully plotted thriller, with its clever mystery and undercurrent of menace, is a gripping read.”

“Gregg Hurwitz has written seven previous novels and has consistently produced work of exceptional quality, The Crime Writer perhaps being the pinnacle of that output thus far….Is it clear yet why The Crime Writer is one of my favorite reads of the year?”



READ ANOTHER INTERVIEW: A conversation with Gregg Hurwitz

Q. What inspired you to make your protagonist a crime writer? How was writing Drew’s version of the events different from writing the rest of the novel?

A. Well, I suppose I looked at my life one day and saw all the strange, wonderful consultants I’ve befriended from pathologists to spies to Navy SEALs, over the course of my career, and my assortment of bizarre interests, and thought, “What would happen if I found myself in the middle of a thriller?” I have a unique perspective on trouble, certainly one that would be very helpful at times and incredibly off the mark at other times. I’d know who to call, I think, and I have a little knowledge about everything from crime scenes to interrogation techniques. But as we know, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I’d say Drew’s version of events is a touch moister. His writing is more genre-like than mine. We’re both hard boiled, but I suppose he’s a bit more convention bound than I’d like to think I am.

Q. How much of Drew is based on you?

A. More than any other character I’ve written. Which is to say, very much and not a lot at the same time.

Q. Los Angeles is so present in The Crime Writer it’s as if the city itself were a character. Was this a conscious decision?

A. Absolutely. I love the crime fiction of this city. This book is a love song to that tradition, and my own unique (I hope) and contemporary take on it. Los Angeles is stunning and infuriating, stimulating and deadening. Where better to put a protagonist who feels alienated from himself?

Q. Do you consult cops, criminalists, and other experts while writing a novel? What’s one of the most startling things you’ve learned in your research? What is one of the most unusual things you’ve undertaken in the name of authenticity?

A. Yes, extensively and frequently. But oddly, much less for this book than for my previous thrillers. I think that’s probably because I’d done all the research for The Crime Writer by living my life. The most startling thing, huh? There’s a variety. When you cut someone’s throat from behind on a covert mission, you have to tip his head down so his lungs don’t suck and give away your position. Cadavers awaiting dissection are hung from their ears rather than laid flat, so their musculature doesn’t distort. Those little grabby bags women take to the opera are called clutch purses.

As for the most unusual undertaking, I’d have to say going up in a stunt plane or going undercover into a mind-control cult.

Q. It’s unusual for a hard-boiled detective to abstain from alcohol. What made you decide to put Drew in AA?

A. I’m afraid I don’t have a clear answer for that. Some aspects of personality sort of arrive with the character. And Drew is egocentric, certainly (he is a writer), but he’s hit bottom before, and he’s learned to rebuild himself already. So there’s a strength there, and a humility too. I’ve never really puzzled it out before right now, but that’s probably what that’s about.

Q. Who are some of your favorite detectives from literature and film and what do you like about them?

A. Bud White from Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential. I love his fierce, pissed-off vulnerability.

Lionel Essrog, the PI with Tourette syndrome in Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, has to be one of the most unique, fully formed characters to pass through the genre in decades. He’s an unpredictable mess, you can’t look away.

And though he’s from comics and not a detective, I have to include the Punisher, particularly how Garth Ennis reconceived him. There’s something in train-off-the-tracks revenge narrative that gets me all worked up, and this one hits my sweet spot.

Q. Drew says that he writes potboilers and people read them as a totem against humanity’s collective fear of death. Do you share that opinion?

A. Yes. Against death, and the whole human joke. We like things to fit. We like to close a book with hard answers, a notion of design or meaning. And I think good crime fiction gives you that. Really good crime fiction also gives you a peek through the torn fabric. It gives some answers, but also points to the unanswerable.

Q. You’ve written for television, film, and even comic books. How do those processes compare to novels?

A. They all offer different slants on narrative and require different muscles. Of course, the others are visual mediums, so they have to be tight and lean. You can’t get away with exposition, superfluous scenes, flabby structure. Of course, you shouldn’t try to in novels either, but it’s easier to get off course there, so working in these other fields helps me return to novels with renewed focus on what really drives a story. Comics are fascinating and challenging because you have to tell a whole story in snapshots. Plus, they soothe the inner geekboy.

Q. How would you compare The Crime Writer to your earlier work?

A. It’s drastically different. I’d never written in first person before, I think because I’d never felt that close to a character and the material. In most regards, The Crime Writer feels like a second first novel for me.