Wednesday, 4 May 2011
Dancing With Myself: BRUCE DE SILVA interviews BRUCE DE SILVA
A few years ago, when I was still a journalist, I got a note from a reader praising a “nice little story” I’d written. “It could serve as the outline for a novel,” the note said. “Have you considered this?” The note was from Evan Hunter, who wrote mainstream novels under his own name and the great 87th Precinct police procedurals under the name Ed MBain. I taped the note to my home computer and started writing, but my busy work and family life left little time for writing fiction. It took me years to finish the book. Now that I’m writing fiction full time, I can complete a Mulligan novel in six months. That note from Hunter, by the way, is still taped to my computer.
What makes your series hero, Liam Mulligan, different from other detectives in the crowded crime-fiction genre?
Real private investigators aren’t much like fictional ones. The real ones spend most of their time delivering summonses, locating child-support delinquents, investigating pilfering from warehouses, checking the validity of insurance claims, and doing background checks on job applicants. They rarely investigate violent crimes. Most of the so-called “unofficial” fictional PIs are even more divorced from reality—so much so that they exceed my ability to suspend disbelief. I could never write, and will not read, books in which crimes are solved by hairdressers, dentists, or cats. My character, Mulligan, is an investigative reporter—one of the few occupations outside of law enforcement that really does investigate serious wrongdoing. Until recently, there haven’t been many crime novels about investigative reporters. (Gregory McDonald’s hilarious Fletch novels are among the few that come to mind.) But lately, we’ve seen a small flurry of them, mostly written by laid-off newspaper reporters. Still, Mulligan’s profession makes him somewhat unusual in the genre. Better yet, he’s a throwback—an old-time street reporter hell-bent on discovering the truth at any cost. He’s a dinosaur in the age of sound bites and biased reporting. Finally, he works not for a TV network or web site but for a newspaper that, like most American newspapers, is dying. This adds an additional layer of tension to the story, the character never sure how long he’ll have a job and always in despair about the demise of newspapers. It also makes the Mulligan novels lyrical tributes to the vanishing business Mulligan and I both love.
Is Mulligan based on someone you worked with in the news business?
Mulligan is me—except that he’s 24 years younger, six inches taller, and quicker with a quip. He’s an investigative reporter; I used to be. He doesn’t do well with authority; I do worse. He’s got a smart mouth; I get a lot of complaints about the same thing. He and I both have a fierce but shifting sense of justice that tempts us to cut corners and work with bad people to bring worse people down.
Why did you set your series in Providence, R.I., of all places?