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‘The Making Of A New York City Crime Novel’
A Guest Post By Andrew Case

Katie Olsen, from ‘Little Bird Publicity’, is fast becoming a regular contact, here at Fiction Books. She has introduced me to some excellent “new to me authors” over the past few months and I can always rely on her to match me with books she knows I will enjoy reading.

Author Andrew Case and his debut novel ‘The Big Fear’, are definite hits as far as I’m concerned and when Andrew agreed to contribute this excellent guest post, to coincide with the book’s release on April 1st, you can imagine how delighted I was …

Before we say hello! to Andrew, let’s get to know the book ..

‘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…

Hi! my name is .. ANDREW CASE

Picture Of Author Andrew CaseI am a seasoned playwright and author of the stage plays The Electric Century; Pacific; The Rant, and many others. I have been a member of the New American Writers Group at Primary Stages, a participating playwright at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center, and a member of the PEN America Center. I am also a winner of the Samuel Goldwyn Award.

For nearly a decade, I served as an investigator, spokesman, and policy director at the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates allegations of misconduct against New York City Police Department officers. My scholarship on police oversight has appeared in the Columbia Human Rights Law Review and I have written about police issues for Newsweek and many other media outlets.

I live in Flatbush, Brooklyn, with my wife, Claudia, and our two children. The Big Fear is my first novel.

Catch up with all the latest news on my website

Follow me on Twitter

Connect with me on Facebook

Picture Of Author Andrew Case

CHANDLER, POLICE MISCONDUCT

AND THE MAKING OF A NEW YORK CITY CRIME NOVEL

I came the long way around to writing crime fiction, but I always figured I would get here eventually. After all, one of my heroes took an even longer path …. Let me explain:

 

As long as I can remember, I have wanted to work in the theatre. Every kid wants to be an actor, and I started out that way, but by the time I was maybe thirteen or fourteen, I had decided I wanted to be a playwright. I wanted to write plays that were heady and sophisticated, like Tom Stoppard, but I wanted people to think that I personally was cool and mysterious, like Sam Shepard. A boy can dream.

 

When I was in high school, a group of students from England came to perform some Tom Stoppard plays on an exchange program. I was entranced. These kids all seemed ten years older than us, impossibly sophisticated. They were from a place called Dulwich College. I wanted to find out about this place, but all it said in the program about Dulwich College was that Raymond Chandler had gone there.

 

That didn’t make sense. Raymond Chandler wrote Los Angeles shoot-em-ups, as far as I knew. This Dulwich College place was a prep school in England. But as I started looking deeper, I got more and more fascinated with Chandler. I learned he was born in Chicago had been moved to England as a child. I learned that he had always wanted to be a poet. In the last years before World War I, it seemed as though he might pull it off. He had made his way to literary circles that were not too far removed from the Bloomsbury Group. His poems were published some of the smarter literary magazines of the time. They are actually pretty good. The war changed all that, and twenty-five years later, he was writing the Marlowe novels in Los Angeles and La Jolla.

 

I ended up writing my undergraduate thesis on Chandler, focusing on how his time enmeshed in prewar modernism had influenced his later writing. Now, like any good adult looking back at childhood writing, I think the thesis is bloated and pretentious. But I still think there is real truth at its core: modernism’s focus on the moment, its attention to the inner mind, and its elevation of the craft of writing over the arc of a narrative found a real champion in Chandler.

 

In a letter, he once said what matters in fiction is not that a man died, or even who killed him. What is important is that if the man was, say, playing with a paper clip before being shot, that he reached and fiddled and grabbed for that paper clip as he slumped dead in his chair. And he lived by that motto: if you read his character descriptions once, you will never forget them, but he famously couldn’t tell Howard Hawks whether one character was murdered or had committed suicide. To me, Chandler was on the same mission as T.S. Eliot; he was just going about it a little differently. I had a pretty good title too: Breeding Lilacs out of the Big Sleep.

 

It never occurred to me to actually write a crime novel for twenty years. Sure, I wanted to be a writer, but I only wanted to write for the stage. I worked in little theatres in New York, had the good fortune to have a couple of bigger theatres, like Steppenwolf in Chicago, pick up my plays. I even got commissions, fellowships, and workshops at incredible places including Manhattan Theatre Club, Primary Stages, and the O’Neill.
I always remained obsessed with Chandler. I thought maybe I would write a play about him. Somewhere still I have a draft of a biography play about him, imagining his life in the oil industry of Los Angeles as though it were a noir film. I went to the special collection at the UCLA library to read his handwritten letters, notes, and draft. But I never thought to write a book.

 

Robert Anderson said you could make a killing in the theatre, but you could never make a living. As I went along with a perfectly respectable playwriting career, I still needed traditional work to keep going. That traditional work turned out to be investigating police misconduct. I would interview New Yorkers who complained they had been searched or insulted or beaten by New York’s finest. I would order police records or medical reports; I would drive to the farthest reaches of the city to canvas neighbors or guys behind the corner at bodegas: anyone who may have seen something. It was the most interesting job I ever had.

 

A few years ago, something dawned on me. I had spent a long time in the theatre, and maybe that killing wasn’t coming. I could spend the rest of my life hoping that each play would find another 199-seat house to fill. Or I could venture out and try something new. I could write a book. But like a Bloomsbury poet writing pulp novels in the Depression, I couldn’t unlearn what I had learned from the theatre. I think about entrance and exits. I think about dialogue. But most of all I think about voice—all character development in theatre is done through voice. And as I wrote my debut novel The Big Fear, I thought about narrative voice with every line.

 

I don’t claim to have Raymond Chandler’s talents. But, like him, there is a lot of my early work in my book that you don’t see at first. And somehow I know now, as I always should have, that all my work in the theatre was really done in preparation for something new.

Picture Of Author Andrew Case

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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4 comments
  • Excellent post! Now let me tell you why… This book sounded interesting enough at first glance, but perhaps a little too much like real life events to make me want to read it. I sometimes get tired of this topic in the news. However, I was fascinated by the author’s background and explanation as to how he ended up writing a novel. The clincher? His (Chandler’s) comment about the paper clip and subsequent character development. That leads me to believe the writing will be exceptional! It’s definitely going on my wish list now.

    • Hi Kelly,

      I remember us agreeing that ‘The Big Fear’ would make an excellent premise for a film script or television serial, given Andrew’s careers as both a playwright and his work with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which investigates allegations of misconduct against New York City Police Department officers.

      In his guest post, Andrew does however, make a compelling and thoughtful argument, as to why the concept for ‘The Big Fear’, worked so well in his mind as the basis for a successful novel.

      Whilst I too picked up on the reference to the ‘Chandler Letter’, the excerpt from the post which gives me most food for thought, is …

      “I couldn’t unlearn what I had learned from the theatre. I think about entrance and exits. I think about dialogue. But most of all I think about voice—all character development in theatre is done through voice. And as I wrote my debut novel ‘The Big Fear’, I thought about narrative voice with every line.”

      Thank you so much for your really interesting comment, I have enjoyed the discussion no end and I hope that you get to read ‘The Big Fear’ very soon 🙂

  • Sounds like you are enjoying Andrew Case’s work. Great guest post, it’s interesting to read about the author behind the books. Clearly his work as a playwrite really gave way to his writing novels. I can only imagine how interesting a job investigating police misconduct is!

    • Hi Naida,

      I haven’t actually started reading ‘The Big Fear’ yet and this is Andrew’s debut novel, so his work is completely new to me.

      Police corruption and misconduct always seems to be in the news here just lately, so I am definitely expecting to read a storyline which is relevant and hard-hitting.

      I am hoping that, unlike the real life scenarios I read and hear about, the bad cops get what is coming to them. Just about every real-life case ends up by being thrown out of court and the culprits get to quit their jobs honourably and usually with huge pay-outs!

      Great to have you take the time to comment, I always appreciate it 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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