Michael Kardos is one of those great, nice guys who doesn’t piss people off and doesn’t behave like some chest-inflating, flea-bitten ape. So it’s not surprising that he wrote a book about a great, nice guy who, in general, doesn’t piss people off or act like some loamy-smelling jungle animal. The great guy in Mike’s book, however, gets into a whole lot of trouble—more trouble than you and I, hopefully, will ever have. The Three-Day Affair earned starred reviews in Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly, which named it one of the best books of Fall 2012.

Here are six questions for Michael Kardos:

Chapter 24

“Yes,” I said, “I am a member of Joseph DeLucca’s immediate family.”

“And exactly how are you related?”

“He’s my brother.”

“Why is it, then, that you have a different last name?”

“We’re half- brothers.”

“I’m skeptical,” the hospital Nazi said.

It has been two years since Hope—Jack and Jenna Tanner’s bright and beautiful only child—walked out of her apartment door at the University of Wisconsin and vanished into the night.

Since then, Jenna’s grief has led to madness. She is confined now in a psychiatric hospital. Jack has been unable to concentrate on business. He has lost his job as a tax attorney at the largest law firm in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, Slater Babcock, Hope’s college boyfriend and the only suspect in her disappearance, is enjoying the decadent life of a rich man’s spoiled son in sunny Key West.

Paris is murder in August. It’s the month when everyone leaves town and abandons the city to the tourists. Hotels fill with an assortment of American accents (the Germans have all gone to England); waiters, at least at the restaurants that remain open, spend far too long explaining the difference between service compris and service non compris. It’s a hot month, a dead month, the Seine gets punky, and every man and woman who’s leaving on this first day of August—meaning pretty much everyone—in fact on this first page of Coda—is right now sitting in traffic, anticipating their arrival at their vacation home in the Midi or some prefab bungalow bought for a small fortune in the Auvergne, next to the neighbors with the goats and loud children. To come to Paris in August is to come to a city nakedly out of sorts. But in the latest novel by René Belletto to be translated into English, it’s where we’ve just arrived.

The questions I’m asked most often about my new crime novel, Rogue Island, are: “How long did it take to write?” and “How did you find a publisher?”

“That figures,” a friend quipped.“Nobody wants to read a book anymore, but everybody wants to get published.”

A contributor to Goodreads, one of those websites where people comment on the books they’ve read, was baffled by The Last Talk with Lola Faye, the latest literary crime novel by Thomas H. Cook.

“I did not understand the point,” she said. “Who did it? I’m so lost!”

Crime Dog

By Bruce DeSilva

Writing

Say Hello to Brady.  He’s a pure-bred Bernese Mountain Dog, and he turns one year old this week. When we got him, he was eight weeks old and about the size of a loaf of pumpernickel. Now he’s a hundred and ten pounds and still growing.

From the moment I laid eyes on him, he had my heart. And now he’s sneaked into the crime novel I’m writing.

It happened when my protagonist, an investigative reporter named Mulligan, was trying to figure out how to introduce himself to Peggy, a perky young secretary who works for a guy Mulligan thinks is up to no good. As a former investigative reporter myself, I knew that when you can’t get the goods on someone the easy way–from the cops or from documents–the best sources of information are ex-wives and disgruntled employees. Mulligan didn’t know if Peggy was disgruntled, but he was determined to find out.

So he was hanging around outside her apartment building in Providence, R.I. one afternoon, trying to decide what to say when he knocked on her door. Suddenly the door swung open and out stepped Peggy with a dog on a leash. At first, it was a small dog, so Mulligan bent down to pet it. Then I looked at Brady, who was sitting on my feet as I wrote, and had a better idea. I deleted the paragraph and started again.

This time the apartment door flew open and an enormous Bernese Mountain Dog burst out, dragging the perky young blonde down the steps. The dog was just a pup, maybe nine months old, but he was already closing in on a hundred pounds. He took one look at Mulligan and bolted straight for him.  Peggy shouted “Brady, no!” but Brady wasn’t listening. He kept coming, ears and big pink tongue flopping. She outweighed him, but not by much, and he was a lot stronger. He dragged her right to Mulligan. Good doggie. Mulligan squatted on his heels to meet him. The dog draped his front paws over the reporter’s shoulders and worked that tongue in his ear. “Brady!” Peggy said again, and tugged on the leash with no discernible effect. “He can’t help himself,” Mulligan said. “Dogs and women love me.” The perfect introduction.

Since the real Brady came to live with me, he’s helped me with a lot of things. He’s great company when my wife is on the road. He’s brought joy to our 15-year-old girl. He sniffed out a box turtle that became a welcome guest in our house for a week before we released him into the wild. Brady gets me up from the computer to take him on walks, exercise we both badly need. I’d tell you that he is a great chick magnet if I weren’t worried that my wife might read this. And now he’s helping me write the sequel to “Rogue Island” (Forge, Oct. 12).

I’ve lived with dogs most of my life. On my fourth birthday, my father surprised me with a little black mutt that I ingeniously named Blackie. He was a terror. Snarled at visitors. Killed and ate our neighbor’s chickens. Chased cars, getting sideswiped by tires. And died in his sleep at the age of 17.

Later, I raised Border Collies. Our Sadie, progeny of Scottish champions, had great litters. Some of her pups went on to become obedience champions, and one ended up making commercials in Hollywood. I kept two of Sadie’s pups, Poco and Panda. Mama and the pups were all smart (everything you have heard about the breed is true), but Poco was a genius among dogs. When I trimmed the hedge, she’d try to help by jumping up and tearing at the branches. When I picked strawberries in our garden, she’d pluck them with her mouth and drop them in my basket. When I husked corn, she’d grab an ear, brace it with her front paws, and tear the husks away with her teeth. Anything to lend a hand.

Back then, I was working out of my house in Massachusetts, covering eastern and northern New England for a newspaper in another state. I was one of those writers who needed to read his stories out loud to someone so I could hear how the words sounded when they came out of my mouth. But often I was alone at home with the dogs.

So I’d call Poco and say, “sit.” Poco would sit. I’d say, “stay,” and Poco would stay. Then I’d read my story to her, and Poco would listen to my voice, cocking her head as if she were fascinated by every line. For a while there, I was worried I might have to save for her college tuition.

Twelve years ago, I moved into an apartment that didn’t allow pets and stayed there for ten years. Boy did I miss having a dog. So last summer, after we bought a house in a nice suburban town in New Jersey, the very next thing we got for ourselves was Brady.

You can learn a lot about people by how they treat dogs. The same goes for fictional characters.

So when I started writing my first crime novel, “Rogue Island,” dogs inevitably worked their way into the story. In that book, Mulligan pines for Rewrite, the Portuguese Water Dog his harpy of an ex-wife doesn’t care for but keeps out of spite. And a mutt named Sassy, looking like a cross between a German Shepard and a Humvee, figures significantly into one of the sub-plots. Rewrite reappears in the last lines of the book–lines that Ken Bruen, Irish master of noir, calls “as callous as I ever read, and perfectly fitting.”

In the sequel I’m writing now, tentatively titled “Cliff Walk,” an aging bookie named Zerilli adopts a big mutt from the pound.

“Got a name for him yet?” Mulligan asks.

“Calling him Shortstop.”

“How come?”

“‘Cause Centerfielder’s a stupid fuckin’ name.”

Zerilli got the dog to guard his place at night, but it’s not working. The dog loves everybody. Mulligan almost asks if Zerilli is going to keep the dog, but from the way the bookmaker’s fingers are working behind the dog’s ears, he already has his answer.

And the reader has learned something important about Zerilli.

I could tell you more about all this, but Brady is tugging at my pants leg. It’s time to go for a walk.




Emily St. John Mandel’s follow up to Last Night In Montreal is really starting to pick up some advance steam among the independent booksellers, and her growing fan base. I stumbled on her debut a while back and have been a big fan ever since. The Singer’s Gun is a decidedly more adult affair, and in a way signals a writer who is growing up, or in this case, coming out into the light.  Everything about this story is non-linear, which confirms what I already knew: that kind of storytelling not only works, but is something that can sell.  We’re treated to a pulp flashback and flash-forward as Mandel introduces us to a half dozen characters right out of the gate, and she hints at something bad, like a subtle kind of noir, which isn’t ashamed of it’s pulp origins. Mandel is flexing her cinematic influences (the rights to this should be scooped up) and her love of someone like Jim Thompson.

In her first book she really made the skin stand up on my neck with a kind of Twilight Zone feel to the situations she created, which is effectively haunting to say the least. Anton, and Aria, the brother sister team of thieves in The Singer’s Gun seem dead set on breaking the rules, and if no one finds out, they haven’t done anything wrong, or so they think.  These two perfectly-drawn sad sacks are selling fake passports, and Anton extends his thievery to a college degree from Harvard, which sets him on the path towards Elena, a meek and wafer-like secretary who eventually comes into his world when they are thrown together in an office building in Manhattan. Aria turns up once in a while, as the narrative jumps around, comfortably, (she’s like a pebble in Anton’s shoe) from the past to the future, each sequence an important piece of the whole, but you don’t know it at the time. We’re treated to wonderfully vibrant scenes in Italy, which are just amazing, really striking a sense of place; Mandel captures what it’s like to be an American traveling in that area, and what it’s like when you go south of Naples.  Between Anton and Aria, and Elena, we get into the minds of people who don’t really know who they are, who they want to be, and by the time we get to the island of Ischia off the coast of Italy, we’re watching these characters figure it all out, slowly, and sometimes, they never really seem to get it right.

Anton is on the run from Aria, well, he’s doing one last job for her, and it needs to be done while he’s on his honeymoon, in Italy. He’s marrying a woman who doesn’t want to be married, and they’ve postponed their wedding a number of times. Elena is on the run from a special agent, who wants to get Aria behind bars, this agent, is quickly and efficiently rendered, and poignant, as she is missing her own daughter. In both books, Mandel writes about parenthood with striking fluency, and what it feels like to be abandoned, or forgotten about by someone who is supposed to love you, either a wife or child, or distracted husband.  Earlier sections of this story take place in an office building which is frighteningly accurate.  This part of the story reminded me so much of a great little book called Waste by Eugene Marten. There is a kind of wild desperation, a sense of death and almost morgue like atmosphere, which is impossible to write unless you’ve worked in a place like that.

It’s hard not to run out into the street and tell everyone I know about this book, Emily is such a great writer, really operating at a high rate of speed, and she’s only in her early thirties. The book is published by Unbridled Books, a great independent press everyone should check out. -JR



JC: Roger Smith has been a friend here at Three Guys One Book, ever since our conversation about his debut thriller Mixed Blood in October 2008.  That book’s seen great success, with its brutal action and dynamic revelation of Cape Town’s dichotomy leading to rave reviews and film preproduction. He’s recently followed that up with a new novel, Wake Up Dead, another explosive thriller set among Cape Town’s picturesque vistas and horrific underworld. He took the time to answer a few questions from DH and me.

CHAPTER TWO: A Computer-Security Conference

Ambrose Jerusalem finished the slides for his presentation before his flight landed at Heathrow. After a brief layover, he arrived in Naples in the early morning. Heavy with sleep, he took a taxi to the marina. He waited on a dim concrete pier, empty of passengers but occupied by stray dogs flopped over on their sides and stomachs. One cocked its ears and rolled its eyes after Ambrose as he passed; the others lay sunk in sleep or lethargy.