TAEM- In our May 1st, 2011 issue we interviewed author Bruce DeSilva (click on to view the article) about his debut novel Rogue Island. Since then he has been quite busy.
Bruce, how were your first two novels received by the public and what success have they achieved so far?
BD- When I wrote my first book, I had no expectations. I didn’t know if it would get published; and when it did, I didn’t know if anyone would like it. So my novels have received more critical praise and sold better than I could have imagined. The Edgar and Macavity Awards and the flood of glowing reviews have been gratifying, although some of the attention has been so flattering that I find it embarrassing. For example, The Dallas Morning News declared that “Rogue Island raises the bar for all books of its kind.” Hey, I thought it was pretty good, too, but I don’t think I did that. If I had, my friends Ace Atkins and Lawrence Block would never forgive me. I’m also amazed that my novels have now been published in ten foreign languages. Following this success, my publisher rewarded me with a three-book contract. I think Providence Rag, which has already received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist, is my best and most complex novel to date.
BD- Providence Rag is available from Amazon.com in both hardcover and e-book formats, and later this year it will be available from Audible.com as a downloadable audio book. Will also be sold in many chain and independent bookstores.
TAEM- Tell us about the theme behind Providence Rag and the genre it is written in.
BD- I call my books literary hardboiled crime novels, but my publisher has been marketing them as thrillers. Critics have likened them to Dennis Lehane’s Kinzie and Gennaro novels. The new book once again features the adventures of Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for a dying newspaper in Providence, R.I. It was inspired by a true story – one I covered as a journalist years ago.
I’ve long been fascinated by the strange case of Craig Price, The Warwick Slasher, a teenager who stabbed two young women and two female children to death in his suburban Rhode Island neighborhood before he was old enough to drive. He is believed to be the youngest serial killer is U.S. history. And that’s not even the interesting part.
When he was arrested in 1989, Rhode Island’s juvenile justice statutes had not been updated for decades. When they were written, no one had ever envisioned a child like him, so the law required that all minors, regardless of their crimes, be released at age 21 and given a fresh start. Nevertheless, Price remains behind bars to this day, convicted of committing a series of jailhouse offenses.
I have long suspected that some of these charges were fabricated, but in the very least, Price has been absurdly over-sentenced. For example, he was given an astounding 30 years for contempt for declining to submit to a court-ordered psychiatric examination. Have the authorities abused their power to prevent his release? I think so. Should he ever be let out to kill again? Absolutely not. The ethical dilemma this poses fascinates me. No matter which side of it you come down on, you are condoning something that is reprehensible.
In the novel, the murders are committed and the killer caught in the first seventy-five pages. The rest of the book follows Mulligan, his fellow reporters, his editors, and the entire community, as they struggle to decide which is worse: condoning the abuse of power that is keeping the killer behind bars or exposing it and allowing him to roam free. With powerful forces on both sides of the question, the suspense mounts as it becomes increasingly likely that the psychopath will have to be released.
TAEM- Tell us about your protagonist.
BD- Mulligan was raised on the top floor of a tenement house in a working class Providence, R.I., neighborhood. As a kid, he was obsessed with the game of basketball, dreaming of going to Providence College on a sports scholarship, but by his senior year of high school, he wasn’t good enough for that. He ended up making the PC team as a walk on, but he rarely got off the bench. So he studied journalism and discovered a new dream of becoming the next Edward R. Murrow or Seymour Hersh. After graduation, he caught on as a sports reporter for the Providence Dispatch and eventually worked his way onto the investigative team. But soon, falling revenues and declining readership took their toll on the newspaper. Mulligan realizes now that the Dispatch, like many newspapers across the country, is dying. At age 44, he feels trapped. He knows there’s no future in newspapers, but he believes that investigative reporting is his calling, and he fears that he could never be good at anything else. Unlike a lot of hardboiled heroes, Mulligan is not a loner, but he is lonely, unable to sustain a lasting relationship with a woman. And, like me, he has a smart mouth and a bad attitude toward authority.
TAEM- What era does the story take place in?
BD- The story begins in 1992, when the first fictional murders are committed, but it soon flashes forward to the present, when we learn that killer, who was supposed to have been released on a technicality years ago is still behind bars, held on charges that appear to have been fabricated.
TAEM- We understand that a book tour will be taking place for it. What is the current agenda for the novel’s showing?
BD- The tour kicks off on March 11 with a book release party at Manhattan’s famous Mysterious Bookshop. Then I hit the road to talk about the book and sign copies at some public libraries and at many of the country’s best independent bookstores from San Francisco to Delray Beach, Florida. Some stops may be added to the tour later, but you can keep up with all the scheduled appearances here: http://brucedesilva.wordpress.com/2014/02/08/providence-rag-book-tour-schedule/ If I’m coming to a place near you, I hope you stop by to say hello and get a book signed.
BD- Forge, a division of Macmillan, is officially releasing the novel on March 11.
TAEM- Is there another novel for the series in the works, and is there a projected date for its release yet ?
BD- I just finished the fourth Mulligan novel. Tentatively titled Providence Vipers, it explores the world of legal and illegal sports gambling. It will be published in hardcover and e-book formats by Forge about a year from now. When I return from my book tour in early April, I’ll dive into three new projects. One will be the fifth Mulligan novel. Another will be a stand-alone, or perhaps the beginning of a new series, featuring a young man who is trying to decide which side of the law to live his life on. And the third will be a collaboration with my wife, the poet Patricia Smith, on a novel set in her native Chicago. I’ve made small starts on all three, but I’m not sure which one I’ll finish first.
TAEM- Bruce you are an exciting author and we want to thank you for your time in our new interview with you! We want to wish you much luck in this latest endeavor and hope that you keep us informed of your success with it.