Please welcome Andrew Case to the blog! He was kind enough to answer a few questions about his new book, The Big Fear, and more!
Will you tell us a bit about The Big Fear and what inspired you to write it?
I had been writing plays for many years and had always wanted to write a novel. I have always loved character driven crime novels, particularly those that have a strong setting. I wanted to write a book that had murder in it, but which also brought to life the New York I had lived and worked in. I had spent eight years investigating police abuse, so I knew that I would start there, but along the way I discovered so much more to write about.
What makes Leonard Mitchell a compelling character? Why will readers root for him?
Leonard isn’t the kind of hero who is just short of supernatural-you won’t learn that all of a sudden that he can pick complex safes, or hack into security systems, or dodge bullets. He’s a guy who is smart and who is good at his job, and who works hard to succeed at it. In fact, wanting to succeed at his job in the right way—to bring a cop he thinks might be dirty to justice—is exactly what gets him into trouble. I think that readers will related to him because he is, in many ways, an ordinary man like most people. He has to rely on his diligence and his smarts once he gets into trouble.
I imagine you drew on your own experience as an expert in civilian oversight of police conduct, but did you do any
additional research for the book? What is your writing process like?
Most of the observations of the NYPD policies and procedures come from my own experience. I did some research on parts of the book that don’t strictly deal with policing—there are law and finance themes that took some time for me to work through and get right. As far as process, I spend a lot of time on an outline to get a narrative right, and then will freewrite sections and edit them many times to get to a point where I feel the voice and the style are where I want them. I dot a ton of rewriting—I ran a comparison of the first draft of the novel to the last and it was almost all completely redlined.
You’re a playwright, but have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us more about yourself and your background?
I think most people get into theatre because they want to be actors in high school. Like most high school drama kids, I had tons of energy and thought it was fun to be on stage, but I wasn’t particularly skilled as an actor. In college and beyond, I stuck with theatre but always as a writer. With theatre, even if you’re the writer, the process is ultimately collaborative—if an actor can’t make a line work, you can change it up to (and after!) opening night. Wanting to write books came later, and I think has to do with wanting to write something that is really mine.
What’s one of the first things that you can remember writing?
In high school again, for acting classes and some student theatre programs, I wrote some short plays. They were excruciatingly bad. I hope I don’t have any copies of them lying around in boxes.
Why suspense? What do you enjoy the most about reading, and writing, in the genre?
I love the intensity of suspense writing. I love reading a book that has a killer plot but which at the same time teaches you a lot about a place, a world, and its characters. I’ve been thinking a lot about Richard Price books—Lush Life in particular—where you are drawn to the mystery and have to keep turning pages, but by the end of it you also feel that you had a whole world described to you. Sometimes in so-called literary fiction, you just get the flat-out description of the world, and nothing actually happens, so you don’t get drawn into it at all.
What authors have influenced you the most?
For crime fiction, definitely Richard Price and Dennis Lehane, and of course the great classics—I adore Raymond Chandler, particularly the pulp stories from which he crafted the novels. You can see, when you read his stories, how the different threads of the novels started out as their own narratives, and that the trick to make the books really brilliant was to weave them together in an unexpected way.
If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
Probably Bonfire of the Vanities – it’s a book that has come to define a certain moment in New York’s history, and it now carries a lot of baggage about what happened after (and it was made into an awful movie). But it’s a great book, and one that deserves a fresh read.
What are you currently reading?
I’m usually reading at least work of literary fiction and a crime novel, and right now is no exception. I’m about halfway through Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, a hauntingly beautiful novel that interweaves multiple stories around the true story of a series of murders in Ciudad Juarez in Northern Mexico in the late 1990s. I grew up in Arizona so much of the landscape, and the true story of those killings, are familiar to me. I’m also reading Follow Her Home, a novel by LA-based writer Steph Cha, whom I recently met at a conference. It’s a re-imagining of a Chandler-style story in contemporary LA, with a strong female protagonist playing the Marlowe role. I’m enjoying them both immensely.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to share?
I am close to finishing the sequel to THE BIG FEAR, which is called A FALLING KNIFE, and which will once again feature Leonard Mitchell and Detective Mulino. The book follows the investigation of a construction accident that quickly begins to look like murder, set in one of the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in New York.
About The Big Fear:
It’s August in New York, and the steaming garbage littering the streets isn’t the only thing that stinks.
Civilian investigator Leonard Mitchell can keep his job as the new head of the Department to Investigate Misconduct and Corruption only by successfully prosecuting veteran cop Ralph Mulino.
Mulino shot an armed man on a dark night; he didn’t know the man was a fellow cop. Now, to keep his badge and his freedom, he has to make his case to the investigator. But the gun Mulino saw in his victim’s hand has disappeared.
As Mitchell digs deeper into Mulino’s claim, it becomes clear that the “misconduct and corruption” infecting New York City go far beyond the actions of one allegedly dirty cop. Murder and sabotage force Mulino and Mitchell into an uneasy partnership to uncover the truth and protect the city they are both sworn to serve.
Assuming, of course, they can stay alive…