Monday, August 24, 2015

A Conversation with Mystery Author David Hagerty

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with David Hagerty

We are delighted to welcome author David Hagerty to Omnimystery News today.

David's new mystery, They Tell Me You Are Wicked (Evolved Publishing; August trade paperback and ebook formats), is the first in a new series, and we recently had the chance to talk with him more about it.

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Omnimystery News: Tell us a little more about your new series character.

David Hagerty
Photo provided courtesy of
David Hagerty

David Hagerty: Duncan Cochrane is a well-intentioned businessman and aspiring politician who finds it impossible to stay pure. As a magnate of Chicago's North Shore suburbs, he expects to be insulated from the degradations of urban living. Then he runs for governor of Illinois. Six weeks before the election, his daughter is murdered in his own house. Soon he is dragged into situations he doesn't understand and never expected to face. Her death brings him into close contact with cops and crooks alike. From them, he learns the limitations of power and the long reach of corruption.

OMN: How do you expect him to develop over the course of the series?

DH: At the start of the first book, he wants only to become the next political powerhouse of Illinois, replacing Richard Daley and the Chicago Machine of the 1970s. The death of his middle child redirects that ambition toward vengeance. By the second book, he has achieved his professional goals only to discover the frustration of authority. Stymied by the political process and desperate to protect other people's children, he moves into unfamiliar and dangerous territory — Chicago's most infamous housing project, Cabrini Green — to find a sniper, all while hiding the truth about his own daughter's death. In the third volume, he pursues an anonymous terrorist who has poisoned an over-the-counter drug while trying to protect his family and his reputation from ruin.

OMN: Into which genre would you place these books?

DH: Most readers and editors would label my series as traditional mysteries, although they include elements of political thrillers.

OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in the book?

DH: They Tell Me You Are Wicked was inspired by the most sensational event ever to occur in my hometown: the murder of Sen. Charles Percy's daughter. It is the only killing ever recorded in Kenilworth and remains unsolved fifty years later.

When I first heard the story, I knew it would not only make a great mystery novel but would be a venue to explore the relationship between crime and politics. Too often I think books exist in their own world, divorced from any reality. I wanted to make my mine feel like something one might read in the headlines.

Thus, Duncan is patterned on many people who decided to run for office after achieving huge success in other careers, only to find themselves belittled and flummoxed by politics (think Ross Perot, Ben Carson, even Donald Trump or Carly Fiorina).

Despite its true crime beginnings, one of the things I like best about writing the series is how little of my own life it includes. While the stories are set in my homeland of Chicago, the characters could not be more different from me. Unlike Duncan, who lives a bold and public and dangerous life, I spend most of my free time by myself in front of a computer.

I doubt that I would fare well in the world of my characters. I prefer to live through them.

OMN: Having lived in Illinois at that time, we're familiar with the crime and the sensation it caused at the time. In general, how do you go about researching specific plot points?

DH: Since my books are all set in an historical context, I like to load them with real places and people. My characters eat in landmark restaurants, stay in historic hotels, and navigate the political machine that ruled the city for many generations. Their lives intersect with many real people, everyone from Jesse Jackson to John Wayne Gacy. They even read real headlines from real newspapers.

I think these details give the books authenticity, so it's important to me to get them right. The internet has made research much easier (imagine spending hours combing through old newspaper stories just to find the depth of a snowstorm, which I did at a Chicago library), but it's no substitute for being there. Almost every setting is one that I frequented while growing up. The true events are ones that I recall. Most of all, the characters are inspired by people I met growing up among the wealthy and powerful (though no one would use those labels for my family).

OMN: What is the best advice you've received as an author?

DH: Many years ago, I attended a reading by James Ellroy at Cody's Books in Berkeley. After he finished battering the audience with his machine-gun prose, I moved to the back of the autograph line so I could get in a last question. By the time I reached the front of the cue, the audience had dispersed, and Ellroy was pocketing his pen while looking for the exits. "Any advice for an aspiring writer?" I said, sheepishly. He paused in his wrap up, stared me in the eye, and said "Write the kind of shit you like to read."

I've followed that advice ever since.

OMN: How did They Tell Me You Are Wicked come to be titled?

DH: While researching Chicago authors, I read some of the poems of Carl Sandberg, who is the city's resident muse. One of his most famous works contains the verses:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
 have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
 luring the farm boys.

Once I saw that, I never considered another title.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

DH: Top 5 Foods to Eat on a Visit to Chicago:

1. Deep Dish Pizza, preferably from Giordano's;
2. Italian Beef, dripping with jus;
3. Ribs, ideally from Carson's;
4. Sauerbraten from the Berghoff Restaurant (with a beer, of course); and
5. A hot dog, drug through the garden (don't ask, just order it).

OMN: There is no other way to eat a hot dog! What's next for you?

DH: I'm already drafting the next volume in my series, They Tell Me You Are Crooked, set two years after the first novel ends. It includes the same cast of characters but in a new setting, with new problems and mysteries, but old dilemmas. I expect to finish by the middle of 2016 and for it to be published early in 2017. Then it's on to the third volume, They Tell Me You Are Brutal.

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Stories about crimes have always resonated with David Hagerty. Maybe it's because he started his career as a police reporter, or because he worked for a time as a teacher in the county jail. More than a decade ago, when he decided to finally get serious about writing, he started with short stories based on real misdeeds he'd witnessed. Over time these got picked up by various magazines online and in print. More than a dozen now exist, with most of the latest in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Big Pulp.

For more information about the author, please visit his website at DavidHagerty.net and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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They Tell Me You Are Wicked by David Hagerty

They Tell Me You Are Wicked by David Hagerty

A Duncan Cochrane Mystery

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)iTunes iBook FormatKobo eBook Format

Duncan Cochrane is set on being the next governor of Illinois, until his daughter is murdered six weeks before the election. Then the candidate can only focus on finding her killer.

As the police investigation follows a trio of unlikely leads, Duncan realizes that his best shot at justice is the bully pulpit of the campaign trail, so he returns to the race and makes crime fighting his mantra.

Soon he discovers that his own ambitions may have caused her death, yet by then he knows that he must win the election or risk political and personal failure.

They Tell Me You Are Wicked by David Hagerty

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