CHARLES SALZBERG is the author of the Shamus Award-nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair (re-release Nov. 2016), Devil in the Hole (re-release Nov. 2016), Triple Shot (Aug. 2016), and Swann’s Way Out (Feb. 2017). His novels have been recognized by Suspense Magazine, the Silver Falchion Awards, the Beverly Hills Book Award and the Indie Excellence Award. He has written over 25 nonfiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Life and Zany Times, with Soupy Sales. He has been a visiting professor of magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the Writer’s Voice and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a founding member.
Q&A with Charles Salzberg
Henry Swann is a classic amateur detective, but in “Swann’s Way Out,” your fourth book in the series, he’s really starting to get his bearings. How has his detective style changed since the first book, “Swann’s Last Song?”
For one thing, he’s a little more sure of himself now in terms of gathering information and putting that information together so it forms a logical pattern. Swann doesn’t really solve crimes as much as he makes sense of them, while at the same time, he grapples with his personal demons—the untimely death of his wife, his neglect of his son, his inability to set down roots. As someone who has for years lived on the margins of society, he’s trying to carve out a solid life for himself, one with connections to other people. And in an odd way, he makes up for real family by surrounding himself with friends like Goldblatt and Klavan. In short, his work has helped him adjust better to life, not that he still doesn’t feel like a complete fraud and outsider, as do most of us.
The mysteries in this book happen in three different locations. Was it difficult to tie them all together?
Not at all. In fact, it’s fun shifting the action from place to place. It gives the book a sense of movement and working with several plots at the same time I think is an added element that forces the reader (and me) to pay closer attention. It also adds to the sense of disorientation and alienation Swann suffers from. He never really feels “at home” anyplace, and so moving around mirrors his psychological disconnection.
As your fourth book in the Henry Swann series, are there any things that surprised you about Henry as a character in the latest book?
Everything surprises me about Swann. I don’t go into these books with a “plan.” They’re not plotted out and not only don’t I ever know what’s going to happen, I also don’t know what characters are going to appear and when they do what role they’re going to play in the story. Besides, he’s not the kind of character who does much planning about his life. He doesn’t know where he’s going to be or what he’s going to do from one day to the next. That’s what keeps the books fresh and fun to write for me, but also a little scary and challenging. So, when I actually sit down at my desk to write I have two feelings…anticipation as to what’s going to happen next, and fear because what if I don’t know what’s going to happen next? Or what if it’s not very interesting?
Henry Swann’s son is a fascinating development in his character. How does his entrance affect Henry?
Swann has always suffered enormous guilt as a result of sending his son away to live with his maternal grandparents after his mother, Swann’s wife, was killed in a freak accident. The only way he can deal with this “abandonment,” because that’s what it was no matter how often he tells himself it was for his son’s own good, is through denial. This results in him thinking about him as little as he possibly can. But when his son turns up missing he can’t do this anymore, and yet it proves him with an opportunity to use his skill, what he does best, finding things, to reconnect with his son and maybe, just maybe, assuage some of that guilt he’s carried with him all these years. He hopes it might lead him to redemption, something we’re all looking for, by the way, in that he can finally make up for all those lost years when he was out of touch.
For long-time Henry Swann fans, what do they have most to look forward to in the upcoming release?
More Goldblatt, for one thing. Their partnership is now solidified and although Swann is not pleased about working with someone else, especially Goldblatt, he has come to accept it and it’s probably made him better at what he does, and lit something of a fire under him. For the first time in a long time he’s not only responsible for himself for for someone else. He doesn’t like this but still he knows it probably makes him a better person. Readers can also expect to be brought into two worlds that interest me: the fine art scene and Hollywood. They’re very different art forms, but in a way they’re very similar in that they’re based on smoke and mirrors, deception, fantasy and sleight of hand. In both cases, if successful, the viewer is totally conned, but not necessarily duped.
Is it true that you initially intended “Swann’s Way Out” to be the last book in the series?
Well, I thought it would be because I thought I’d taken the character as far as I could, that I had nothing new to say about him or the world that existed around him. And so I started and completed another novel called Second Story Man, with two new protagonists (actually, they weren’t totally new, as they were “borrowed” from an earlier novel, Devil in the Hole), and even started what I think might be another detective series with a very different kind of detective. But just when I thought I was out, he pulled me back in again. In other words, I got a first line for a new Swann and then two ideas for two new cases he could work on, one of them would reveal more about Goldblatt’s background, and the other would have him get involved in a murder trial. And one of the reasons I said I would stop is that I didn’t think I could come up with another title, but I think I have, at least for now, and that’s Swann’s Down, so there you go. There will be a fifth Swann, probably out in the spring of 2018 (and I only say this so that now I actually do have to finish it).
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ABOUT THE BOOK
Detective Henry Swann returns to search for the truth behind a Hollywood hack, fraudulent art and the sudden absence of his son
NEW YORK CITY – Fans of Henry Swann, rejoice! He’s back in the usual cerbral, hard-boiled way that everyone knows and loves in Charles Salzberg’s latest addition to the detective’s adventures, “Swann’s Way Out” (Feb. 20, 2017, Down & Out Books).
In the newest novel in Salzberg’s suspenseful crime fiction series, Swann is on the search for $1 million seemingly embezzled by a shady Hollywood producer, the salesman of a possibly illegal painting, and in an intriguing turn of events, his long-estranged teenage son. With such an unusual personal distraction, a guilt-ridden Swann is forced to step away from his paying cases to chase after his son, who seems to have joined some sort of cult.
With Salzberg’s always-brilliant writing and beautiful plotting, three mysteries intertwine into a brilliant, hold-your-breath story as Swann sleuths his way to the finish in this dazzling follow-up to “Swann’s Lake of Despair” (2014), which was re-released in November 2016 along with the other books in the Henry Swann series, “Swann’s Last Song” and “Swann Dives In.”
READ AN EXCERPT
Praise for the Henry Swann Detective Series
“Swann’s Lake of Despair”
“Smart, satisfying, even profound, this is exactly what every mystery reader is looking for: A terrific story, full of wit and originality, and a master class in voice. Charles Salzberg is a true talent, and his Henry Swann is a classic–complex, hilarious, and completely charming.“—Hank Phillippi Ryan
“Like a good detective, Swann looks past the obvious and follows the plot twists to their unexpected conclusions. As he clips through his paces, Swann takes the reader on an enjoyable ride sprinkled with plenty of sass and vinegar and illuminated by the bright lights and dark underside of the Big Apple. He’s a hero who grows more endearing with each book and whose capers ultimately beg the question: What’s next for Henry Swann?”—Books in Brief
“Swann’s Lake of Despair feels like three short story concepts that have been merged, shoe-horned as it were, into a single storyline. It’s a little slow going at first, as each subplot requires its own setup and there is nothing to connect them. (Indeed, they turn out to be three completely separate storylines.) Too, Henry Swann is a difficult character to embrace. He’s gruff and aloof, and yet tends to grow on the reader as someone who’s also basically fair and incredibly insightful. But what is most intriguing about the book is how Swann negotiates an end game to each of his cases. For each, there is a simple way out but it clearly isn’t the right way out; what Swann wants to do — indeed, what the reader wants Swann to do — is come up with an exit strategy that may not be easy but one that is mutually acceptable to all parties involved, allowing each to walk away agreeable with the outcome if not necessarily completely satisfied with it. There’s a nuanced complexity here that makes this all very appealing in the end. A solid mystery and one that is recommended.”—Mysterious Reviews
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: Feb. 20, 2017
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