Please welcome Frank Devlin, aka Tim Farrington, our October author of the month!
Review and synopsis of LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES:
Love In All The Wrong Places by Frank Devlin
Publisher: Putnam Publishing Group ISBN: 0399152237
Devlin's first suspense novel nails it, completely and without reservation. This masterful tale manages to enthrall, entertain, and beguile all at the same time with its poignant and smart narrative, taking the reader down a road filled with heartrending insight and unabated suspense.
Helen Rainey, beautiful, seductive, and lethal, is looking for her knight in shining armor. And of course she can't help but be let down by the men she meets in bars night after night, and so they must die. San Francisco cops Rose and Josh come on the scene with the death of one of her victims, and soon suspect that this is not just some random killing, as it's all too soon followed by others. And with Rosie's marriage on the brink of ruin, her body growing with child, and her feeling for her partner crossing the professional line, it'll take much more than good detective work to keep things from crashing.
Just about every scene in this book is flawless, from the humorous banter in the bar pickup scenes, to the portrait of a marriage under fire. Devlin's insight into these marvelous characters is a breath of fresh air in a genre that sometimes relies too heavily on action and procedure. There's wit, aching tenderness, and brutal suspense, all combined to bring this story alive with a stark yet gentle realism. If you only read one book for the rest of the year, make it this one.
1. You've written a few mainstream novels under the name Tim Farrington, tell us why you decided to give suspense writing a shot.
Iíve always delighted in the suspense genreó the prominent edge of mortality in it is very appealing to me, as is the psychology of characters subjected to such extreme circumstances. When I was a kid, I actually had my own detective agency, because I was a huge fan of the Brains Benton, genius boy detective, books. So it was very liberating and indulgent of deep ancient affinities to jump into the genre. Also, at the time, I was about a year into a three-year Farrington novel and staring at a long drought still ahead of me as far as income went, and so I wanted to try something that would bring in some money to placate my creditors.
2. What's the biggest difference between writing general fiction and writing suspense?
The opening premise, basically. Once youíve got dead bodies on the first page and your main characters arrive at the scene armed, crime fiction for me feels no different than "general fiction," in terms of the joys of engaging in the art, the demands of craft and story, the development of the characters, and all mystery and delight of exploring human chemistry and mathematics.
3. Which gives you more freedom of expression?
If youíre not feeling perfectly free in any genre youíre working in, artistically, you may be in the wrong job, or at least the wrong genre. The deeper I go, the more it looks the same to meó the writing art is the writing art, thank God. And freedom is freedom, wherever you find it.
4. What did you like most about writing this novel? Least?
I loved the immediacy of death I could allow into the relationships, the way every interaction was shadowed by imminent mortality and highlighted so sharply in that hard clear light.The trickiest aspect, for me, was overcoming a sense of self-loathing, a keen awareness of the danger of exploitation or sensationalism in the material. I wanted to keep it real, and very human, and would sometimes slip into feeling like I might be cheating on the seriousness of life and death and treating murder too much as entertainment, with consequent self-contempt. But in the end I think that fear of cheapness kept me honest.
5. Who do you enjoy reading in your spare time?
Yummy. I am a funny mix of tastesó Iím very steeped in the old school classics like Jane Austen (whom I read every five years or so), George Eliot, Hawthorne, and Henry James, but I also love the modern American masters, like Hemingway and Faulkner and European giants like Thomas Mann; and more recently Doris Lessing, who was very formative for me in my twenties, Saul Bellow, and John Updike. Among my more-or-less contemporaries I lean toward women writers like Elinor Lipman (our modern American version of Jane Austen, in my opinion), Anita Shreve, and Lorna Landvik. And then I love detective stories and mysteries, with some favorites being Michael Connelly (who is simply masterful, the best going), Dennis Lehane, Colyn Harrison, and Robert Crais, as well as my buddies David Corbett and Eddie Muller.
6. Who/what inspired you to become a writer?
I was blessed with a remarkably literate and book-loving familyó weeknight runs to the library were big family events, and my mother, a drama major and little theater powerhouse, used to recite Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot to us at bedtime, so I grew up with "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock," "Macbeth," and doses of Thornton Wilder and the Irish playwrights as my version of Mother Goose. My fatherís taste ran more to Kipling and histories of the Confederacy, and my grandfatherís copy of the collected plays of Shakespeare was worn soft with re-reading. Both my mother and my grandfather wrote short stories as well. So there was a firm ground of love of literature there. And my grandfather in particular was incredibly supportive of my writing even during the years when I doubted myself pretty deeplyó he used to talk about my "star," to me, the light inside, and he had the kind of complete and serene faith in me that is a pure blessing. When my mother died, I found in her papers a copy of a book she had kept for almost thirty-five years by then, written (and illustrated) by me when I was seven, a profound study of a prodigal teddy bear. So I guess the urge to make stories goes way back for me, as does the support.
7. Now a couple of questions about your wonderful new book. Your characters in "Love In All the Wrong Places", especially Rose, are very realistically written, how difficult was it to write a female character with such realism?
I love writing from the female point of view. Iím a lifelong student of women, as most men are. The matrix of feminine consciousness just seems richer, subtler, and more complex to me, much better able to balance contradictory truths and plumb emotional depths. I just try to pay humble attention to the reality of the character, let her do her thing, and trust my heart and ear.
8. Helen, your anti-heroine, is also wonderfully drawn, as well as very sympathetic, where does she come from?
God knows. But I loved her from the moment she showed up. She is immensely appealing to me, very very tough and smart and even ruthless in her way, but also deeply wounded, and starved for genuine love. One of the gifts and joys of writing is these fascinating characters who just come out of the depths in their own sweet time, and Helen was certainly like that. I also think there is a large element of Everywoman in Helen: much of what drives her most crazy is the eternal cluelessness of the male species, and I think most women can relate readily enough to the maddening ways of men on the make. Itís just that Helen has her own unique ways of dealing with that.
9. You touch upon the subjects of pregnancy and
marriage with a bit of ambiguity, especially as viewed from Rose's eyes, why
this approach from
I suppose that the challenges of marriage and domesticity fascinate me partly because Iíve been so bad at meeting them in my own life. This book was written not long after a nine-year marriage fell apart for me, so I guess I was ripe for putting the institution under the lens. And also, Roseís ambivalence and difficulties are a mirror, in their way, of Helenís relationship issuesó though she deals with her love problems at the mundane and sometimes neurotic level, while Helenís ways of looking for love in all the wrong places tend more toward the extraordinary and ultimately psychotic. But I think love drives pretty much everybody nuts.
10. These are great characters that seem to have been set up for a return appearance, is this a possibility that your new fans can look forward to?
Definitely. Iím working on it right now.
11. And finally, if we are lucky enough to see these characters again, any clues on what to expect from them in the future?
We pretty much pick up with Rose again by the end of her first trimester, and the next bookís crime is much more shocking and visceral in the light of her pregnancy, so much so that she has a very hard time dealing with it. Iím actually in awe that human beings are able to face the reality of murder at all, in any way, and Roseís process as a woman trying to keep her humanity alive in the face of such appalling evidence of inhumanity in the world fascinates me. So weíll see what she makes of it all.
Frank Devlin is a pseudonym for Tim Farrington, author of three mainstream highly praised novels, including The Monk Downstairs, a New York Times Notable selection. With Love in All the Wrong Places he joins the company of superior crime writers like Dennis Lehane whose novels reveal a deep fascination with people, their motivation and inner turmoil. He lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia.