Recommended Read: Blackbird by Tom Wright

blackbirdA psychologist is brutally murdered and crucified. Detective Jim ‘Biscuit’ Bonham is sent to investigate the murder and in  doing so he unearths some long buried secrets.

Tom Wright’s Blackbird is the sequel to his marvelous and haunting debut novel, What Dies In Summer. Blackbird is equally as engaging and affective with its great characterization, lyrical prose and dense atmosphere . As well as being a masterful and compelling crime novel, Blackbird is also an investigation into guilt, small town life and washing out the stains of the past.

Recommended Read: What Dies In Summer by Tom Wright

A long hot summer casts long dark shadows. And dark shadows hide pitch black  secrets.
And there are plenty of  shadows cast over Biscuit, a teenage boy who lives with his grandmother. His father is dead and his mother is shacked up with a violent thug. And then his cousin arrives in a state of distress, not saying why she has run away from home.
As the sweltering, hazy summer stretches out to snapping point, we find out more about Biscuit, L.A. and their fragile adolescent world. And the secrets that have been pushed into the darkness are jolted into the glare of  light when they discover the body of a murdered teenage girl.
And what dies in the summer is, of course, innocence.
Tom Wright‘s marvellous  What Dies In Summer is a leisurely paced, beautifully, lyrically written and moving coming-of-age novel, cleverly told from Biscuits oblique perspective. Wright uses this warm palate to paint a darkly rich tale of magic-realism with echoes of Laughton’s take on  Night Of the Hunter and Donna Tartt’s  The Little Secret.
 This first appeared at MEAN STREETS

Short, Sharp Interview: Tom Wright


PDB: Can you pitch What Dies In Summer in 25 words or less?

A1: 25 words or less, hmm? Could be a tall order. Maybe a what-if: “What if confronting true evil to save what’s left of your family from a serial murderer is the easy part of coming into manhood?”

PDB Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

A2: Lately we’ve had some good TV series–“Longmire,” for its realistic portrayal of Wyoming as it once was and as parts of it still are even today, and of what it’s like to do a dangerous, thankless, uphill-all-the-way job when your heart is broken; “Southland,” for more truth about police work in the midst of what urban life in this country has become than any other three cop dramas combined.

Films — “Safe House,” which I thought was like the Bourne series only with a couple of extra dimensions and a bright thumping heart; “The Big Lebowski”– not a new movie but even better the third time around.

Books — I’d have to say To the White Sea by James Dickey, also not recent but new to me, and definitely not mainstream, but like a train wreck I couldn’t look away from — it asks you which is worse, the darkness a man can sink to or the darkness that’s already in his heart, and defies you to say which this story is about; The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke, just a mystery writer I think is as good as they come.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

A3: At first my reasons for reading fiction were to see how the story turned out or because the subject or the characters were interesting to me. When I started trying to make up stories of my own, I thought at first it was going to ruin reading for me because instead of the public face of the narrative I switched over to focusing on the ropes and pulleys and gears behind that, the machinery that made it all work. Wrong–nothing ruined.

Reading is not only more fun when you’re looking at extra levels, I think it makes you a more objective reader. On the other hand, peeking behind the curtain makes you a little more judgmental too; you’re liable to start crossing writers off your preferred reading list for purely mechanical reasons. I won’t mention any names.

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television?

A4: I read a book on screenwriting once and thought it would be a very interesting thing to try. Two problems for me — First, I keep getting the feeling I’ve already got more nuts in the fire than I can pull out in time, and second, doesn’t a screenwriter have to come up with a better car chase than the last movie in order to sell a script?

PDB: How much research goes into each book?

A5: Research is so much easier than it used to be — a few mouse clicks on Google Earth was all it took to look all around the outside of my grandmother’s old house on Harlandale, and the president of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce was happy send along about a million digitized historical photos of that area electronically.

I did drive the 175 miles over to Dallas a couple of times to look around and get a feel for the old neighborhood, and I called my mother and a few other sources to ask about details of family and local history, but mostly never had to move away from the keyboard.

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer?

A6: Growing up in a twitter-free world where telephones only knew one trick (but could be counted on to do it whenever asked), can make one a little slow to adapt, but I’m learning how great blogs are. It was 7 Arts Foundation/Colossal Concepts Management, in other words Dr. Marshall Thomas, passing WDIS along to The Literary Amnesiac that got the book started on the road to publication in the first place.

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?

A7: For 2012 I’m hoping to find another clinician or two to take up some slack at the practice and give me more time to write and maybe paint a few pictures. There is a lot more to the stories of the central characters in WDIS, and I’d hate to leave all that untold.

I take a gander at What Dies In Summer over at Mean Streets.