What: His debut novel, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel, the San Diego Book Award for Best Mystery, and the Ben Franklin Silver Award for Best New Voice in Fiction. His second book, NIGHT TREMORS, was named a top pick for 2015 by Bookreporter.com. and was a Lefty, Shamus, and Anthony Award Finalist. DARK FISSURES, is the third book in the Rick Cahill crime series.
Where: San Diego
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Congrats on publishing your latest Rick Cahill novel, DARK FISSURES. How did the concept for this one come about?
The idea for the book came to me late in the “I need a story for my next book” process. I’d gone through a lot of what if scenarios and hadn’t come up with anything that resonated. Late in the process, I happened to be reading about the death of two former Navy SEALs overseas who were working for Global Response Solutions. Among other things, GRS hires out for security to the CIA. I wondered what these former elite soldiers would do for work after they returned home to the States. Law enforcement made sense. Then I wondered what Rick would do if he was hired to investigate the suicide of these former SEALs.
I’m not sure evolved is in Rick’s vocabulary. He’s stuck emotionally, still battling his own demons. However, if evolution can be measured in inches, Rick is evolving. He’s developed a harder shell and is even more zealous in his quest for his own definition of justice.
If I still drank and had to choose to have a beer with the Rick of YESTERDAY’S ECHO or the Rick of DARK FISSURES, I’d probably chose the former. In terms of writing, I choose DARK FISSURES Rick. He’s more complicated and more weary of the man he’s becoming.
Many series P.I.’s end up with a sidekick, but Rick Cahill doesn’t. Why do you think it’s important for him to go it alone? Any sidekicks you’ve considered, but discarded?
There some great authors who write sidekicks and I love their work. My ideal concept of a P.I. has always been similar to the lone gunfighter of Westerns. He lives by his own code of right and wrong and comes into town to sort things out then moves on. But what if he stayed? And what if he wasn’t the best gunfighter, but just resilient and tenacious as a bulldog. That’s Rick Cahill. When someone kicks him in the side and bruises a rib, it’s going to hurt for the rest of the book. If he gets punched in the nose, he’s going to have black eyes for a while.
I haven’t considered any sidekicks, but Rick actually partners up with someone in DARK FISSURES. The partnership is out of convenience and necessity. There will be more temporary partnerships that don’t involve a superman or superwoman in the future.
How many Rick Cahill books do you envision writing? Will he always be based in the San Diego area?
I hope to write Rick for as long as people still want to read about him or until he dies. I think there will be some standalones and maybe another series in the future, but Rick will live on for a long while.
Rick’s home will always be San Diego unless I move and I don’t plan on doing that. I do plan to write a book with him that revolves around Lake Tahoe. That way, I can write off a vacation. Plus, I’ve introduce a character in DARK FISSURES that I like who lives up there.
Have you ever thought about which actor you would most like to play Rick Cahill in a movie?
I don’t see Rick’s face when I write him. I have a vague idea what he looks like, nothing facially specific. However, I’ve always thought that Mark Wahlberg would make a good Rick. I always feel there’s a darkness underneath the surface when he’s in a dramatic movie. Not dark in a malevolent sense, but a history that still haunts him. That’s Rick.
I hope I’ve evolved. I’ve become more disciplined with my time which, I think, has made me a better writer. I get to the magic hour-where the writing flows-quicker and stay there longer. As a result of that, my first drafts have gotten a lot better…I think.
The challenges in a series are how to keep the emotions fresh in each book and how to resolve continuing arcs without spoiling things for new readers. I try to keep things fresh by having Rick feel an emotional attachment to each case he takes. Sometimes there’s just a whisper of attachment, but it grows as the story evolves. The resolution/spoiler facet is a balancing act that may lean more one way than the other in each book. Sometimes it leaves the new reader with unresolved questions, but I prefer that to spoiling.
It would be hard to chose one, so I’m going to cheat. I’d chose THE SUN ALSO RISES by Hemingway to show how so much emotion can be shown with so few words. Throw in SILENT JOE by T. Jefferson Parker and SUSPECT by Robert Crais to show how crime fiction can be character-based. And anything by Megan Abbott to give us all something to strive for as wordsmiths.
What other publishing plans do you have for the rest of 2016 and beyond?
I’m finishing the fourth Rick Cahill book, which should come out at the end of next year. Plus, I somehow got involved with short stories, which is weird because I don’t write them. Too difficult. However, I did write one called “The # 2 Pencil” that will appear in COAST TO COAST: PRIVATE EYES FROM SEA TO SHINING SEA published by Down And Out Books due out in early 2017. I also had the honor of co-editing the SinC/LA 2017 anthology, LAST RESORT! which comes out in April 2017.
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S.W. Lauden’s debut novel, BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, is available from Rare Bird Books. The second Greg Salem novel, GRIZZLY SEASON, was published on October 11, 2016. His standalone novella, CROSSWISE, is available from Down & Out Books.