Author Interview Pigeon-Blood Red

  • BOOK COVERHow long have you been writing?

I’ve wanted to write for years but as a practicing lawyer, I never had the time except occasionally after work and on weekends.  I started working on Pigeon-Blood Red sometime in the mid-90’s.  In 2008 I wrote a legal text called Ohio Insurance Coverage, which is a reference work for lawyers and judges.  I did annual updates for that book through 2012, which is when I retired.

  • What is your favorite genre to write?

My favorite genre to write in is crime fiction, which is the genre that fits Pigeon-Blood Red.  One of my favorite novels, and the one that got me started writing crime fiction, is The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett.  The 1941 movie version of the novel is also a fine example of film noir, one of my favorite movie genres.  It should be said that that version was the third and best adaptation of the novel, one reason being that much of the dialogue was taken directly from the novel.

  • Which genre have you never tried before, but would you like to try out?

I think I’d like to try literary fiction one day.  Some of the most memorable novels I’ve read fall into that category.  Some that come to mind include From Here to Eternity, An American Tragedy, Of Human Bondage, The Naked and the Dead, For Whom the Bell Tolls (or practically anything else by Hemingway).  One of the better known contemporary mystery writers, Walter Mosley, tried his hand at literary fiction in R.L.’s Dream, which was generally well received by critics.

  • Please tell us about your book.

 

Pigeon-Blood Red tells the story of an underworld enforcer who is in pursuit of a small time businessman who stole a pigeon-blood red ruby necklace worth millions.  He trails the thief from Chicago to Honolulu, but the chase goes sideways after the hardened hit man develops a grudging respect for a couple of innocent bystanders who accidentally become embroiled in the crime:  the thief’s unsuspecting wife and an old flame who comes to her rescue as the enforcer closes in.  The hit man must decide whether to follow orders and kill them or spare them and endanger the life of the woman he loves.

“In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” – Red City Review

  • Which character was your favorite, and why? Which character was your least favorite, and why?

 

For selfish reasons my favorite character is Paul, the old flame who tries to protect Evelyn, the unsuspecting wife, who by this time has decided to leave her husband Robert (who she knows is a philanderer but doesn’t know is also a thief.)  Paul is a black lawyer who represents a highly idealized version of myself.  (Evelyn and Robert are also African-Americans.)  He’s taller, smarter, more handsome, younger, and more athletic, but he still has the essence of my personality, my ethics, and my values.

I hasten to add that readers’ favorite will probably be Rico, the hit man, who is a killer with a conscience who has his own set of values.

My least favorite is Robert, the lying, cheating husband who is a scoundrel in every sense of the word.  As was true of all of the characters, though, he was a pleasure to write.

  • What was the hardest part about writing your book?

As I imagined the novel, the main character would be Paul, my alter ego.  I set out to make Rico an engaging foil for Paul’s character, but a foil nevertheless.  The hardest thing about the novel was to write his character in such a way that he remained intriguing but not so intriguing that he completely overshadowed Paul.  I wanted him to be a ruthlessly efficient hit man, but one with a code of his own, i.e., there is a line he won’t cross despite his vocation.  And I wanted him to have a dry sense of humor.  I think I succeeded in making him a compelling character, but he fought me at every turn when I tried to prevent his character from overshadowing Paul’s.  I fought back but I’m certain he won.

  • What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing?

 

There is nothing I absolutely need to start writing.  Since I’m retired, I have the luxury of writing at my leisure, so I don’t write every day.  I hate to waste beautiful weather sitting behind a desk, so when the weather is nice, I usually don’t start writing until sometime in the evening and if the words are flowing, I keep going until the early morning.  When it’s not so nice outside, e.g., in the winter or when it’s raining, I sometimes start in the early afternoon.

 

  • How long did it take you to write your book from start to finish?

 

It’s difficult to estimate how long it took me to write Pigeon-Blood Red.  I started and stopped for weeks or even months over several years, writing only on weekends or in the evenings.  Also, the novel went through many iterations during the drafting and redrafting periods.  Incidentally, the original title was Murder in Paradise.

 

  • Can you tell us about your editing process?

 

As to the actual writing process, I do the first draft in longhand on a legal pad.  Generally, I then revise that draft on the same legal pad.  After I’ve accumulated several pages, I transfer what I’ve written to the computer and then I make additional revisions there.  Whether I’m writing in longhand or typing on a keyboard, I always review and revise the prior day’s work before writing anything new.

 

  • Is this book part of a series? If so, how many installments do you have planned?

 

Pigeon-Blood Red is the first in a trilogy.  I’ve completed a draft of the second installment and I’m revising that now.  The third installment began as a screenplay.  I plan to adapt it into a novel.  I’m working with a media company in L.A. to try to interest producers in making a movie version of Pigeon-Blood Red. That is a long shot, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed nevertheless.

 

  • Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

 

If an established author offers advice, don’t hesitate to accept it.

  • What inspired you to write your book?

 

It was inspired by a trip a made to Honolulu about two decades ago.  I was attending a legal seminar when, during an evening stroll around the hotel grounds, the idea for the novel came to me.  At that point the premise was inchoate and barely an idea.  I saw in my mind’s eye a mysterious, alluring woman in danger and on the run from someone or something, and I saw a stranger (a lawyer, of course) coming to her rescue (or trying to).  That was it.   Over the ensuing months and years the stranger I envisioned was transformed into an old college classmate of the woman who had a crush on her when both were students almost two decades earlier.  Before their chance meeting in Honolulu, they hadn’t seen each other since college.

 

  • Are you working on something at the moment? If so, can you tell us more about it?

I’m working on the second novel in the trilogy that began with Pigeon-Blood Red.  Originally it was titled Red Autumn but I’m working on trying to come up with a new title.

 

About the Book

For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime.

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

Praise for Pigeon-Blood Red

“Fast-paced and full of surprises. Will keep you on the edge of your seat!” – Amazon Customer

“Pigeon Blood Red has a dramatic and satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader nodding his head with approval.” – Readers’ Favorite

“In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfill the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” – Red City Review

About Ed Duncan

ED DUNCANEd Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy. To learn more, go to http://eduncan.net/

Readers can connect with Ed on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Book Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter 1

When Rico knocked on Jean’s door he was happy to hear the sound of footsteps. At least she was there. Maybe it was a good omen. Jean, a stunning redhead with a figure that made the heart leap, looked through the peephole, opened the door, and greeted him wrapped in a towel. She was even more tantalizing than she’d been in the car earlier that day. She wasn’t completely dry, and here and there tiny droplets of water glistened on her arms and shoulders. Rico inhaled the subtle fragrance of her shower gel, but before it could distract him, a voice in his head reminded him, “Point one percent.”

“I wasn’t expecting you back so soon,” she began, a playful, sultry smile on her face.

From the doorway Rico scanned the living room and saw nothing amiss. He walked in and closed the door behind him. Too bad. He only knew how to do this one way. “Jean, how long have you known me?” he asked stoically.

She was baffled. “You know as well as I do. What kind of a question is that?”

“I never tried to hide from you how I make my living, true?” They stood face to face, inches apart, before she took a few halting steps backward. “So you know what happens to people who don’t tell me what I want to know, don’t you?”

“Rico,” she stammered, her voice trembling, “you aren’t making any sense. What’s this all about? I don’t know what you’re accusing me of, but I haven’t done anything, I swear.”

He took a straight razor from his coat pocket and opened it. As he walked toward her, she covered her face with her hands. He stepped behind her, thrust his left arm through the triangle formed by her hands pressing against her face, and grabbed her right shoulder. With his right hand he held the blunt side of the open razor against her right cheek.

“Where is it?”

“Please, Rico,” she sobbed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He pressed harder and tightened his grip on her shoulder. “Please, please!”

“I don’t believe you.” He turned the sharp side to her cheek.

“Rico, not my face, please! I swear I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Her tears puddled where the razor met her skin.

“Sorry, baby.”

As Jean cried out he let the razor fall from his hand and, in one uninterrupted motion, expertly muzzled her scream with the same hand before the razor hit the floor. She fainted.

When she came to, she was lying on the couch where Rico had carried her. He stood with his back to her, talking to Jerry on the phone. Jerry hadn’t been able to get past lobby security in Robert’s building.

“He palmed it, right?” Jerry asked.

Rico glanced over his shoulder at Jean. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.” He hung up. “I had to be sure,” he said unapologetically.

She shivered in her towel and glared at him, anger roiling in her eyes. He went to the bedroom and returned with a blanket, which she allowed him to drape around her shoulders.

“Sorry, baby. It was just business.”

Still too furious to speak, she defiantly turned her back to him and silently dared him to say anything about it. A small victory but it was something. Ignoring the gesture, Rico walked out and closed the door softly behind him.

She was enraged, as much at herself as at him, because she knew that the next time he called she would answer. She tried to justify her emotions by telling herself that he’d stopped short of actually harming her and that he never would have. But who was she kidding? She could hope but she could never know for sure.

When the cab pulled up in front of Robert’s building, Jerry was standing outside smoking a cigarette. It was an expensive high rise on the city’s Gold Coast along Lake Michigan’s north shore, with a security guard on duty twenty- four hours a day. There was no way around it; if they wanted to get into Robert’s apartment, one way or another they’d have to deal with him. This was admittedly a minor detail, more of an annoyance than anything else.

Jerry knew Rico hated cigarette smoke. An icy stare from him whenever Jerry lit up was as effective a deterrent as a punch in the gut, so he put the fag out as Rico left the cab. Rico kept his body rock solid by lifting weights at a neighborhood gym, jogging regularly, and minimizing his intake of junk food. He didn’t like the idea of second-hand smoke undoing any of his hard work.

“So what happened?” Jerry asked.

“She didn’t have it.”

“I could’ve told you that. She’s good people.”

“Don’t start with me.”

“But—”

“But nothing. Anybody can cross the line.”

“Including me?” Jerry hoped Rico might exempt him

but didn’t expect it.

“Yeah, including you.” The two men stared at each

other for a long moment before Rico smiled. “No, not including you.” The smile vanished as quickly as it had appeared and his eyes narrowed. “You know better.”

The comment stung and Jerry hung his head a little, but it was true and he knew it. It wasn’t easy to get close to Rico and not many people did. He was loyal to a fault, yet distant and brooding. Deadly as a cobra but with a dry, sometimes biting sense of humor. Brutally honest, he lacked guile. Hated hypocrisy. Loathed arrogance. If you were in a fight for your life against hopeless odds and could pick just one person to help even them out, he would be your choice every time. But if you needed a shoulder to cry on or even a pat on the back, you’d have to think long and hard before you settled on Rico.

“Now, about this guy…” Rico said, ignoring Jerry’s reaction.

Jerry snapped out of it. “You have to tell the security guard who you want to see. He rings the apartment. If the person answers, the guard buzzes you in.”

“High-class joint.”

“No wonder he’s always out of money.”

“How much traffic in and out?”

“Not too bad so far.”

Taking in as many details as his eyes could process in one sweep of the area, Rico slowly turned in a circle, looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything that counseled against getting on with the business at hand. Outside, there were pedestrians and cars passing everywhere, but it was a busy street, so there was nothing unusual about that. Inside, the foyer was empty except for the security guard. Nothing looked menacing. Nothing looked out of place. He nodded. “Okay?” Jerry nodded back. “Let’s go and talk to the man.”

They walked briskly to the entrance, donning sunglasses almost in unison, then glanced behind them one last time before opening the door. Rico nodded to a spot inside. Jerry planted himself there. Without slowing, Rico continued toward an oak-paneled counter facing the door, behind which sat an unarmed security guard casually reading a newspaper. He was about forty, with a gaunt face and stringy hair reaching below his collar. He was the kind of guy who went through life trying to keep from stepping on anyone’s toes and hoping everyone would try to avoid stepping on his. He looked up in time to see Rico, advancing quickly in his direction, throw open his coat and jerk a .45 out of a powder-blue shoulder holster. He leaped to his feet and raised his hands above his head. Rico slammed the gun on the counter.

“Put ’em down,” Rico said. Eyes bulging and hands shaking, the guard complied and his face took on the look of a condemned man who had just received word of a reprieve. “That’s right. Relax,” Rico said. “Now buzz Robert McDuffie’s apartment.” There was no answer. “Try again.” Still no answer. “Get the key and take me up there,” he ordered, then nodded in the direction of the .45 resting on the counter under his hand. “This’ll be pointed at the back of your head on the way. Any questions?” The guard shook his head. “Then let’s go.”

 

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