WELCOME CHARLES SALZBERG
Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Esquire, New York magazine, Elle, Good Housekeeping, The New York Times Book Review, The New York Times, GQ and other periodicals. He is the author of over 20 non-fiction books and several novels, including Swann’s Last Song, which was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel, and the sequel, Swann Dives In. He also has taught been a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, the Writer’s Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member.
Connect with Charles at these sites:
Q&A with Charles Salzberg
Writing and Reading:
-Do you draw from personal experiences and/or current events?
Both. In the case of Devil in the Hole, I drew from a front page newspaper story that occurred over 40 years ago. I was fascinated by the crime: a man murdered his entire family, wife, three kids, mother and the family dog—and then disappeared. What made the crime particularly interesting to me was that he had planned it meticulously, carefully enough that he gave himself a three-week head start for his getaway. I simply took the facts of the crime and then imagined the rest.
For other novels, like my Swann books, I draw not only from current events but also from my own life. In the first Swann book, Swann’s Last Song, I made the protagonist a skip tracer because when I worked as a magazine journalist I once interviewed one and was fascinated by his life. He was kind of a low-level detective who chased people who’d run out on their bills or their spouses.
As I reached the second and third Swann novels—Swann Dives In and the upcoming Swann’s Lake of Despair—I began to use people I knew in the books, even using their real names.
-Do you start with the conclusion and plot in reverse or start from the beginning and see where the story line brings you?
I never know where my novels will take me. The truth is, when I sit down at the computer I often don’t know what the next sentence will be, much less paragraph or page. I don’t write from an outline. It’s all very organic. I’m afraid that if I know the ending to a novel it will become predictable and stale. I like to be surprised and as a result I hope the reader is surprised as well.
-Your routine when writing? Any idiosyncrasies?
No routine and no idiosyncracies, other than doing everything I possibly can to avoid actually sitting down and writing. I write either when a deadline or guilt rear their ugly heads. And I rarely can sit down and write for more than 20 minutes to half an hour. What saves me is that I’m an incredibly fast typist—I think I can clock in at nearly 90 words a minute, though not all of them accurately spelled.
-Is writing your full time job? If not, may I ask what you do by day?
Writing is pretty much my full time job, if you could call it a job. But I also teach writing three nights a week, for two hours a class. Oddly enough, it’s non-fiction that I teach. I think it would inhibit me from writing fiction if I taught it as well, though I do have fiction writers sneak into my classes every once in a while. That’s because years ago one of my students was a young woman who wrote an essay for class about her first day at work. She called it, “The Devil Wears Prada.” After Lauren Weisberger sold that book, I got a flurry of requests to get into my class, all from people who wanted to be the next Lauren and write the next, The Devil Wears Prada.
-Who are some of your favorite authors?
There are so many, but my favorites include Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ron Hansen.
-What are you reading now?
I just finished Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, and Shot all to Hell (about Jesse James and Cole Younger,) by Mark Lee Gardner, A Brief History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson, and I’m in the middle of Hallucinations, by Oliver Sachs.
-Are you working on your next novel? Can you tell us a little about it?
I’m working on the fourth Henry Swann novel, called Swann’s Way Out. I’m only about a quarter into it, so I’m not completely sure where it’s going, but it’s going to be set in the world of movies and Hollywood, I think, because that’s a world that fascinates me and I have a little experience with it.
-Your novel will be a movie. Who would you cast?
Devil in the Hole would be difficult to cast because there are so many parts and no real “hero.” But I think an intense actor, someone like Joaquin Phoenix, would be best for John Hartman, the murderer.
-Would you rather read or watch TV/movie?
Both. At the same time, preferably.
Tough one, because there are so many. Pizza, because there are so many varieties. Chocolate cake. Ice cream. Hamburgers. Pasta. I could go on, but I won’t.
Chocolate ice cream soda, lemonade, and if I’m forced to drink alcohol, either a beer on a hot day or one of those fruity drinks with an umbrella in it.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Devil in the Hole is based on a true crime that occurred over 40 years ago in New Jersey, wherein a man murdered his entire family, wife, three children, mother and the family dog, and disappeared. My novel uses that event and takes off from there, following the murderer on his escape route. Using the voices of people he meets along the way, and people who are affected by his crime, the reader starts to build a portrait of the man and why he did what he did, in addition to following those who are searching for him.
READ AN EXCERPT
Early reviews are in
Publishers Weekly Reviews, 5-17-2013
This title publishes JULY 2013
“In this smartly constructed crime novel, Salzberg uses multiple viewpoints to portray an unlikely killer who methodically slaughters his family . . . an intriguing collage of impressions and personal perspectives for the reader to ponder.”
James Kirkland notices that all of the lights are on in his neighbor’s house. Not trying to be the nosy neighbor, but still curious, he checks every night and notices that lights are going out over time. As he watches the house he never sees any activity within even though the Hartman’s have three children and John’s mother lives with them. Kirkland finally decides to call the police and what they find is beyond horrifying. The wife and the three teenaged children have all been killed in the same way, a single bullet in the forehead. Then the killer neatly positioned them in the ballroom. Upstairs, Hartman’s mother is lying in her bed killed in the same manner as the rest of the family. All the shell casings were picked up, the weapons were cleaned and oiled and the house was made presentable before the killer fled. John Hartman, the husband, is missing and based on the coroner’s estimate, he has a three-week lead on the police. The hunt for Hartman becomes an unwieldy obsession for Charles Floyd, the senior police investigator assigned to the case. John Hartman is a complex individual who commits a heinous crime to shed is oppressive old life as he seeks to find a new life while eluding the police.Devil in the Hole is a mesmerizing, elegantly constructed crime novel that is based on a true story. Charles Salzberg tells the tale using numerous characters that knew Hartman or encountered him as he moves around to avoid being caught. The voices of Charles Floyd and Hartman himself are raw and compelling as each of them deal with their own inner demons. Each of the other characters provide a teasing snippet of information about Hartman that keeps the reader enthralled as the story unfolds. Even though Salzberg uses over a dozen voices to tell the story, the reader never gets lost despite the complexity of the book. I am typically not a fan of books written in this manner but Salzberg masterfully uses this technique to create a novel that is different in an extremely good way. The author effortlessly blends the different perspectives, viewpoints, and impressions of each character into a brilliant tapestry that envelops the reader, while peaking interest and the desire for more information about the crime. Devil in the Hole is one of the best books that I have read this year and I most highly recommend it.
Genre: Literary psychological crime fiction
Published by: Five Star/Cengage
Publication Date: July 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 253
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