First Monday Crime- Rod Reynolds


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Today it is my pleasure to feature on my blog Rod Reynolds, author of The Dark Inside and more recently Black Night Falling. Rod will be appearing at First Monday Crime on September 5th. for details see here

Rod Reynolds series featuring reporter Charlie Yates continues with the second release, Black Night Falling, available now from Faber. Here I’ve had a chat to Rod asking for some book facts about the novels…

How about we kick off with 3 personality traits that Charlie Yates has, and whether all of these were intended or came out during the writing…

Thanks very much for having me on to chat! Okay, three traits…
1) Dogged. Definitely dogged. Charlie doesn’t know when to quit, and it’s almost as if the more adversity he faces, the more stubborn he gets about seeing things through.
2) Pro-active. He’s not one to let the grass grow under his feet or to sit and wonder – if he wants to know something or speak to someone, he’ll go and do just that…
3) Fearful. Charlie thinks he’s a coward and he has had moments of cowardice in his past – but he doesn’t see that he’s also brave when it matters most or when the danger is to someone else. Nonetheless, he’s not a fighter, so he does have a tendency to shrink from physical confrontations – and then hate himself for it.
All of these were planned, to some extent, before I started writing. The first two are pretty necessary traits in a crime protagonist, both to keep the plot moving and to endear him to readers (particularly in light of the third one!) The third was something of a challenge I wanted to set myself, and also a way of bringing a new quirk to the ‘flawed hero’ character. I’m fascinated by the idea of why we do things inspite of ourselves and our better judgement, and I wanted to explore that with Charlie through the trait of a man who is actually quite courageous, but flawed enough to have displayed cowardice at times too, and be ashamed of it – something I think everyone can relate to.

The Dark Inside was based loosely on real events. Tell us what/where/when.

In February 1946, in the small town of Texarkana on the Texas/Arkansas border, a young couple were attacked while parked on a lovers’ lane after a date. A hooded man stepped from the darkness of the surrounding woods, shone a flashlight in their eyes, and demanded they step out. He was holding a gun.
The couple were brutally assaulted – the girl sexually and the man pistol whipped so hard he suffered a fractured skull. They both survived, but were the last to see the assailant and live.
Over the next couple of months, the attacker struck again, at regular intervals – at first couples on lovers lanes but, finally, a man and wife in their own home. The town of Texarkana was paralysed with fear, a media circus descended, and law enforcement from all over the area was drafted in. The killings became known as the Texarkana Moonlight Murders, and the attacker was dubbed the Phantom.
Despite a massive manhunt, no one was ever caught.

Two settings – two lots of problems that Charlie faces down. I believe you have visited both locations, tell us 2 things you took away with you about each…
I have indeed.

I’d never been to Texas before, so I’d vaguely pictured Texarkana in the context of the Texas stereotype of deserts and dusty streets. However, that part of eastern Texas is actually very green and covered in pine woods – so that was a quick amend to some of the descriptions (mostly of the surrounding areas)!
The other thing I remember clearly about Texarkana is visiting Spring Lake Park, scene of one of the murders. It’s a lovely little park – my young daughter loved the swings and the ducks in the Lake – and yet was the site of an utterly gruesome murder, so that was quite a contrast.
Hot Springs surprised me with how remote it was. This was one of the mob’s preeminent centres of illegal gambling and prostitution in the 1940s (supposedly the blueprint for Vegas) and vacation spot of choice for Al Capone, Lucky Luciano and many more, and yet it’s in a valley in the Ouachita Mountains – ie. middle of nowhere. It was two planes, an overnight stop and a long drive from Little Rock just to get there from London!
The other thing that struck me was how beautiful the area is. Arkansas isn’t as immediately stunning as somewhere like California, but Hot Springs is surrounded by lakes and waterways and wilderness and it’s really very pretty.

American Noir – the character voices are brilliantly evocative. Can you name a couple of tricks you used to make sure that came out in the writing…

Thank you, I appreciate that.
One is that I listen to a lot of American voices – podcasts are a particularly useful source for picking up both regional accents and colloquialisms. I listen to ones on all sorts of topics, just to pick up little details from different speakers.
The other is to read your dialogue aloud to yourself. I tell this to every aspiring writer, but it’s absolutely true and I live by it. You hear it totally different when spoken aloud and it’s the best way to pick up on parts that don’t ring true or sound clunky or corny.
Finally if you are allowed, tell us 2 things about the next adventure for Charlie…

Without giving too much away, book 3 picks up directly after Black Night Falling, and Charlie’s in big trouble. It’s set in LA and a nascent Las Vegas and involves Hollywood sleaze, missing starlets, gambling, corruption and, of course, Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel…

Thanks again for the great questions!

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