Pigeon-Blood Red tells the story of underworld enforcer Richard "Rico" Sanders, who believed his next assignment to be an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss's priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.
As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?
Who are your influences?
Some of my favorite authors are Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Somerset Maugham, Richard Wright, Ken Follett, Theodore Dreiser, Scott Turow, Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley, Frederick Forsythe, and Lee Child. I think they all have influenced me at least indirectly. Since I write crime fiction, the author who has influenced me the most in that genre is Dashiell Hammett. His writing in The Maltese Falcon is brilliant. Spade's long monologue near the end of the novel where he explains to Brigid O'Shaughnessy that he "won't play the sap" for her and that he's "sending her over" is masterful. Relative to Lee Child, few writers can elevate the level of tension in a scene as well or as often as he does, novel after novel. When Reacher is in one of his frequent tight spots, the reader feels as though he is right there beside him.
When did you begin writing?
I've been an avid reader since high school. I always planned to write for fun in my spare time, but there never seemed to be enough of it since I had a busy law practice. In 2008 I wrote a legal text entitled Ohio Insurance Coverage, for which I provided annual updates through 2012. Pigeon-Blood Red, the first in a trilogy, is the first work of fiction I've published. The idea for the novel came to me in the mid-1990's when I was attending a legal conference in Honolulu. I worked on it off and on in my spare time over the years but never had enough time to develop it fully. I retired with the specific objective of doing that. Now that it's finished, I've started on the next installment of the trilogy, which I hope to finish this Spring.
How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc.?
As mentioned, the idea for Pigeon-Blood Red came to me when I was in Hawaii. During an evening stroll around the hotel where I was staying, the germ of an idea for the novel came to me spontaneously, although at first the premise was inchoate and hardly a story. The only thing I saw in my mind's eye was a beautiful, mysterious woman in danger and on the run and a stranger (a lawyer like me) coming to her rescue. Only after much contemplation and many drafts did the story as it appears in the novel today come together. As for the next two installments in the trilogy, my methodology for coming up with new stories and characters was to dream up circumstances under which the two main characters, a lawyer and a hit man with a conscience, might cross paths and how they both could become involved in the commission or resolution of a crime of some kind. Once I hit upon the basic outline, I devised the characters and plot lines needed to raise the stakes and create the necessary tension to create a satisfying story.
Relative to character names, in Pigeon-Blood Red "Paul", one of the two main characters, is the name of my best friend in elementary and high school. "Elliott," Paul's last name, is the name of a biology teacher in my high school. I borrowed "Evelyn", Paul's romantic interest, from the tragic lead character in Chinatown, a movie I admire a lot. "Rico," the name of the hit man, just popped into my head. "Litvak," his boss, is a variation of "Rybak," the name of someone I worked with in the steel mill one summer when I was in college. Other names I took from the phone book or from my high school yearbook.
Regarding point of view, I use the omniscient third person narrator but I occasionally slip into telling the story from the point of view of one or another of the main characters. Changing point of view within the novel is frowned upon by some but my only concern is whether novel reads well.
Do you work from an outline?
I use an outline only sparingly. I start with a broad outline that tells me what the novel is about, who the main characters are, and generally how the story will end (although this may change as I write). The details fill themselves in as I write. As ideas come to me, however, I jot them down so that I don't lose them. As I write, quite a bit changes from my initial conception as I develop new plot twists and add new characters.
Tell me about your favorite scene in your novel.
Character A is wearing the ring that belonged to a character who has been murdered. Character B, the brother of the victim, notices the ring on A's finger while both men are eating in a restaurant. A goes to the men's room and B follows him and locks the door behind him. While standing at the urinal, A hears the door lock and knows he's in trouble but he's in an awkward and vulnerable position. B forces A, still standing at the urinal, to confirm that the ring belonged to B's murdered brother but he claims that he got the ring from someone else and that he's innocent. Does A talk his way out of the dilemma or does B kill him?
Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?
I have stumbled upon two compelling characters, one black and one white, from opposite sides of the tracks, and I've managed to develop three, I think, interesting story lines which bring the two men together and cause them to discover that they have more in common than either man realizes. I don't know yet whether I can create more interesting stories involving these characters or whether I will have to move on to others. Either way, I will write what interests me when I am in the mood to write, i.e.,, when the muse arrives. I don't force myself to write for a set number of hours every day or at the same time every day. That is too much like work, which I did for 37 years. Now is the time for relaxation and writing when I feel like it is relaxing.
Have you ever tried writing in any other genres?
Besides my legal treatise, Ohio Insurance Coverage, I have not. That said, I think I'd like to try literary fiction some day. Some of the most memorable novels I've read fall into that genre. Some that come to mind include From Here to Eternity, An American Tragedy, Of Human Bondage, The Naked and the Dead, and For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Do you have any interesting writing-related anecdotes to share?
E.L. Doctorow was such a perfectionist that even a note to his daughter's teacher explaining why she'd missed a day from school took him forever to write. One morning after he had struggled with the note for so long that his daughter was about to miss her bus, his wife relieved him of the chore and dashed off the note, consisting of only a couple of sentences, in a matter of seconds. I fear that I share this trait with Doctorow, although he is not a bad writer with whom to have something in common, even if it is a failing. I don't know who said this first but it applies to Doctorow and yours truly: "Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit down in front of a blank sheet of paper and open a vein."
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