Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Terrific Tuesday with P.A. Brown:)
Welcome! Please introduce yourself and tell us about your latest release.
I'm P.A. Brown and I'm glad to be here. My newest release is L.A. Boneyard. It's the third book in my L.A. series featuring LAPD homicide detective David Eric Laine. The bodies of two pregnant women are found in a shallow grave in Griffith Park. In one of the most puzzling cases he's dealt with David finds himself and his new partner enmeshed in a web human traffickers, smuggling Ukrainian women into L.A. to turn them into prostitutes. The investigation leads them from the bucolic, palm-lined streets of West Hollywood to the dark, gritty trenches of gang-ridden South Central. It's definitely one of my darkest books yet.
Have you ever had an idea for a story which scared you after you began writing it?
I think I'd have to say the book I just finished. It's a novel about a young Latino man who lives in Cypress Park in Los Angeles, one of the area most riddled with gangs and gang violence. Gabe is the sole protector of his family after their mother was killed in a drive by. His sister was hit by the same bullet and left brain damaged. The gang who pulled the drive by is run by a man who used to be Gabe's best friend. Gabe wants to keep his family safe but the only way he can is to descend to the same level as his enemies. Along with that, he has to face the fact that his attraction to LAPD officer Alejandro means he's gay, something he refuses to face.
I felt very passionately about the story, but I was afraid. Who did I think I was to write about a gay Latino man torn between violence and self-hatred and his deep faith. But I think a writer needs to be able to explore different worlds. It's up to the readers to judge if a book is no good. But it's nerve-wracking, wondering if I'll be jumped on for trying.
Have you incorporated actual events from your own life into your books?
Yes, I have. In Memory of Darkness, there are a few of the things Johnny Wager gets into are based on experiences I've had. I just don't plan on telling anyone just which ones those are. I claim the Fifth on that one. Many of my books are influenced by what I've seen and experienced over the years, especially the years I spent in Los Angeles.
How much research do you do? Do you research first and then write, or do you write first, then research as needed?
I do both. Right now I'm researching the 1920s in Los Angeles during Prohibition. It's a fascinating time period – speakeasies, corrupt cops and politicians, Hollywood moguls who had more power than gods and a slew of movie stars whose images were manipulated by all of them. Some of the dirty little secrets would have blown the industry apart if they had even come to light. I'm going to have fun with it, but it means a lot of research now, before I even put a single line of the book on paper, and I'm sure the research will continue as I write. I'm also going to have to unlearn some things. I have a lot of information I've built up over the years about LAPD, but that's the LAPD of today, which I have a great deal of respect for. But the LAPD back then was something else and I need to explore that and not let what I know get in the way of telling it like it was then.
Is there any message you want readers to take from reading your work?
Mostly respect for people who might be just like they are. Diversity in lifestyles is something to celebrate not fear or hate. Sometimes I worry that there's a growing xenophobia in the world. People fear what they don't know, they feel threatened by change. I like to show that being different is okay.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? And have you ever had a story take on a life of its own?
Mostly a panster. The most extreme case was Geography of Murder. I had nothing but the image of a man rolling over in bed and finding himself beside a dead man he didn't know. I had no names for anyone, I didn't know who the dead man was. All I knew was there was going to be a cop in it, and he was going to be into bondage. I just started writing. Three weeks later I finished the first draft. After some revision and character development with the help of some beta readers, it was published by MLR Press. To date it's been the most successful book I've had. The book that probably took the most plotting was L.A. Heat, my very first mystery and first published book. I rewrote that book completely at least once and did a lot of revising and plot outlining as I built it.
How long did it take for you to be published?
With the first book, L.A. Heat, I got an agent through the recommendation of Lyn Hamilton a wonderful mystery writer who sadly passed away last year. The agent sold it to the first publisher she sent it to – Alyson Books. I thought I was on my way, I was made. But then things fell apart. My agent quit agenting, my editor at Alyson left and they rejected the second book in the series. In retrospect they were right. It wasn't ready when I subbed it. So I took and revised it heavily and MLR Press picked it up. They also wanted to reprint L.A. Heat so I got to do some revisions on that too, making it a tighter book than the first version had been. L.A. Boneyard followed, and what should have been book two, L.A. Bytes, became book four after I wrote L.A. Mischief for Bristlecone Press who had published the ebook version of L.A. Heat. So it just goes to show you that even being published is no guarantee that you stay published. It was 3 years between selling L.A. Heat and any of my other books coming out. But all that while I never stopped writing, so that when I did find a new publisher, I had a good body of work to sell.
If you could go back and tell yourself anything when you first began your writing career, what would you say?
Don't wait so long. I wrote science fiction for nearly 2 decades and aside from a sending one book in a couple of times I did nothing to find a publisher. I also started writing short erotic stories back in the 80s and again if I had gone after it, I might have been a published author all those years.
Laptop or pen and ink? What are your ‘must-haves’ when writing?
Mostly laptop. But sometimes I will leave the laptop, or be in a place I don't want to take it, and I'll have big notebook which I scribble in. Sometimes I get more done when I hand write than when I'm on my laptop. I find the Internet a little too beguiling and spend more time online than I should. I like to keep my research books close. I drink a lot of tea while I write.
Who are your favorite authors? Who would you say influenced you the most?
My favorite authors are Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, Robert Ellis, Jeffrey Deaver, Josh Lanyon and Jonathan Kellerman.
What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
That I like cute little stuffed animals and I used to own pet rabbits.
What is your favorite love scene to write or read? (ie: First kiss, passion after a fight, reunion)
I think the hottest ones I wrote were the reunions after a separation. Like the one in Man's Best Friend, another one in Lynx Woods and the one between Jason and Spider in Geography of Murder when Alex goes back to get Jason, it sort of combines a reunion and passion following a fight.
What is your favorite Valentine’s Day memory?
I guess a box of really nice chocolates.
Sweetest gift ever given to you?
I'd have to say my life. I nearly died 3 years ago. I spent 6 months in the hospital, 4 months of which I have no memory of. I had to learn to walk and write all over again, so I guess you could say I have a real appreciation for both my life and the things I can still do.
Thank you for being here today! Please tell us where we can find your books.
Thanks for having me.
Everything about my books, including buy links and videos, excerpts as well as character interviews can be found at my web site: http://www.pabrown.ca
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PatABrown
And I Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/pabrown
Publishers Marketplace: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/pabrown/
This year I will be in Los Angeles from March 10 – 14 for Left Coast Crime: http://www.leftcoastcrime.org/2010/
And in September from September 24 – 26 for The Writers Police Academy: http://writerspoliceacademy.com/index.html
From a shallow grave in Griffith Park, to the bucolic streets of West Hollywood into the dark heart of the gang-infested streets of East L.A, evil is pursued in this dark story of passion and redemption.
Detective David Eric Laine is no stranger to violence and brutality, but even he is taken aback at the sheer viciousness of the murder of two pregnant Ukrainian women. This is just the beginning of a baffling case which leads from their shallow grave to a bungalow community in West Hollywood, tree-lined and tranquil, on to the heart of the gang-infested streets of East Los Angeles, and points in between.
And what of Jairo Hernandez, David's new, young partner? The attraction between them was immediate and intense and growing by the day. Would this be a threat to David's settled life?
COPYRIGHT P.A. Brown/2009
Friday, 8:20 AM, Vista del Valle Drive, Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Something had done a number on the corpse.
The early morning call-out had been brief and to the point. Griffith Park. Shallow grave. Mutilated arm. Probably wild animals.
LAPD homicide detective David Eric Laine hoped it was animals. He crouched beside the makeshift grave, behind the screen of freshly broken branches and crushed vegetation, studying the exposed arm with the manicured nails and winking diamond ring; the animals had nearly worked off the bone. Wondering what her final moments had been like. Knowing it had been ugly. He looked beyond the grave, visualizing. Had he raped her? Had that been the last indignity she had suffered, before the ultimate one?
Overhead, dense black clouds roiled across the western sky, a late Pineapple Express had roared in last night, straight from Hawaii, promising more rain in an already wet spring. The chaparral and Ceanothus had started their seasonal bloom, thin green shoots emerging from what had once been desiccated limbs. Under foot the moisture retaining hydro-mulch, spread after the ravaging 2007 and 2008 fires, soaked his feet, chilling his skin. The steady thump-thump of the LAPD airship called in to do an aerial survey echoed his heartbeat, driving him relentlessly, as unforgiving of failure as he was.
David scanned the ground, taking in the fresh horse tracks, and the fading coyote spore. The animals had scattered when the woman who found the body nearly rode her horse over them. She stood with her shoulder touching her horse's neck, the animal's reins still held in her gloved hand. Blindly she touched the burnished chestnut coat, seeking comfort. David turned away; he had nothing to give her. His promises were for the dead. They didn't ask for guarantees. They didn't get angry when he was called away in the middle of the night to do his job.
"So what have we got?" he asked.
The first officer on the scene, Donald Lessing, pulled out his notes, "I received a call at seven-fifty-six AM that a body had been discovered in a shallow grave. My partner and I were dispatched, and arrived about fifteen minutes later." He indicated his partner, a paunchy, silver-haired Asian, who was adding a second loop of barrier tape to keep out the curious, then indicated the equestrienne, "We found Mrs. Rosenfield right about where she is now. She was pretty upset."
"I'm sure the last thing she expected to find was a dead body on her morning ride."
Nothing could be done to process the crime scene until the photographers had taken their shots. Everything had to be kept intact to preserve possible evidence. They had the time; the body wasn't going anywhere. In the distance, thunder rumbled. He amended that, maybe they didn't have so much time.
David studied the dark, crouching clouds, and wondered if Chris would get over his snit long enough to close the windows against the coming rain. Otherwise their newly refinished oak floors were going to get a soaking. One more thing for Chris to get pissed at. He retraced his steps and approached the horse and rider.
He pulled out a notebook and twisted his arm around to check the time, only to discover he wasn't wearing his watch. Right, he'd stuffed it into his jacket pocket after he'd left an angry Chris in bed this morning. Chris always seemed to be angry these days. He got that way when he was between jobs. He drew out the Rolex Chris had given him for his fortieth birthday and wrote the exact time, the crime scene location, and his own name and rank. David studied the watch ruefully. He had told Chris a gift like that was too extravagant, but Chris wouldn't listen. "You deserve it," he had said. "You put up with me for four years, didn't you?" Still, David took it off when he could; out of sight of Chris, who took it as a personal affront when he didn't wear it all the time. David was a Timex kind of guy. Even after four years he never got comfortable with the easy wealth Chris displayed.
Mrs. Rosenfield looked young. David doubted she was more than twenty-five. Under normal circumstances she would have been attractive-large, doe eyes, soft hair flying loose from under her riding helmet. But now her face was pale, and her eyes were glassy with shock. David pushed aside his sympathy and assembled his cop face; the one Chris hated so much, claiming it made him look cold and robotic. Well, there were times when cold and robotic was the right way.
She wore a tailored riding outfit and boots that gleamed, even in the sunless light. A pulse beat in her throat, like a wounded animal.
"Mrs. Rosenfield," he said. "I'm Detective David Eric Laine. Could I have your full name, please?"
"Danielle," she said. "Just call me Danielle." Her gaze darted toward the grave. "Who is it? Do you know-?"
"No, ma'am, Danielle, we don't know that yet. Can you take me back to when you first spotted something out of the ordinary?"
"S-sure." She visibly collected herself, her hand going out to stroke her horse's neck. "Toby and I were on our morning ride, when these coyotes came racing right out under our noses-I thought they were attacking us at first. You hear about how bold they've gotten over the years."
"Yes, ma'am." What coyotes could do was frightening. What people could do to each other was so much worse. "What then?"
"Once they ran away I realized they were just as scared as we were. I was going to head back home. I'm supposed to be to work at ten." She shook her head, a strand of hair falling over her eyes. She swept it aside with a kidskin gloved hand. "I guess I should call my boss. I don't think I'll be in today-" Her voice broke.
"Yes, ma'am," David said gently. "What was the first thing you noticed before the coyotes appeared?"
"Toby spooked." Rosenfield grimaced. "I guess when he got wind of them. He nearly dumped me. That was when I saw the arm. I screamed. That must have scared them away without taking...taking it with them." The grimace deepened and the flesh around her mouth whitened.
More thunder cracked, closer this time. She looked around uneasily.
"Anything else you can recall about your ride?" David asked even more gently, knowing she was very close to losing it. "Before you noticed anything amiss?"
"We rode by the Roosevelt Municipal golf course," she said. "I go that way all the time. Usually it's so peaceful..."
"You see anybody on the links?"
"Two players, and a caddie." Rosenfield squinted as she recalled her morning. "I don't pay much attention to the golfers, unless they're driving carts. Sometimes they spook Toby."
"Would you recognize the golfers if you saw them again?"
"W-what? You don't think they had anything to do with this, do you?"
"It's just standard procedure," David assured her. "Look, I know this is tough. Even cops can have a hard time stumbling across something like this. If you like, I can give you the number of a victim's support group. They can help you with this, if you want."
"T-thank you. I don't think that's necessary..."
David handed her the card anyway. "You might change your mind. I hear they're good."
She slipped the card into her jacket pocket. He knew she wouldn't call. He'd seen it before. Misplaced pride would keep her from seeking help. "What did you see then?" he prompted.
"I didn't know what it was at first, then I thought it was a mannequin." She gave a short bark of laughter, quickly stifled. "That someone had stolen a storefront dummy and was playing a gag. It was only after I saw the teeth marks that I knew." She swallowed convulsively and David wondered if she was going to be sick. The human arm had been heavily gnawed by strong jaws. He distracted her as smoothly as he could.
"I need you to come down to the station, to make a formal statement. I can send someone out to get you if you like-"
"No, that's okay. I'll drive myself. Will I have to go to court?"
"I won't lie to you. It depends on the D.A., and whether a suspect is found, and it all makes it to court. But I'm sure someone from the prosecutor's office will be in touch with you if it becomes necessary."
David watched her stiffly remount her horse and urge it back onto the trail. They broke into a fast trot before they were out of sight. He very much doubted she would ever ride this peaceful trail again.
Out of the corner of his eye, David saw a white Pontiac Firehawk, splattered with debris from the previous night's rain, pull up beside the LAPD crime scene van. It was driven by a lithe, dark-skinned Latino man, with that young urban scruffy beard thing going on. Chris, always quick to adopt new fads, had tried it once, until David complained that it was like kissing five o'clock shadow, all day long, and he reluctantly shaved it off.
The Latino climbed out of the low-slung car. He surveyed the scene of controlled chaos with dark eyes, taking in everything in a sweeping glance, before he shrouded them with a pair of Ray Bans. He looked like he just stepped out of GQ, sharp creases on his wool dress pants and sedate black and blue tie. He wore his gold detective's badge on a chain around his neck. David caught a glimpse of his Beretta nine under his LAPD blue nylon wind breaker. Incongruously, he wore a pair of hand-tooled black and blue Tony Lamas boots instead of the usual military gear most new detectives favored. David wouldn't be surprised if he had a closet full of Levis and Stetsons at home. He was a tall man, though not as tall as David's six-four, dark-skinned, with high cheek bones. His eyes were dark and dangerous. Too dangerous for David's taste.
The guy was going to spell trouble.
Already the eyes of the two female SID criminologists kept straying his way. David had heard rumors about the guy, even before he was assigned to Northeast; he'd ignored them at the time, like he ignored all the trash talk around the squad room. In the stories the guy was a wannabe actor. David had heard-and dismissed-the story about his involvement with a producer's wife that had ended messily. The tabloid press had been all over it. Maybe the guy had a problem keeping his dick in his pants. Maybe he was only guilty of bad judgment. He wouldn't be the first. Cops and badge bunnies went together like chili and fries.
David extended his hand and introduced himself. Might as well give the guy the benefit of a doubt, he didn't like it when people jumped to conclusions about him. Being one of the few openly gay detectives carried its own baggage. "Glad to have you on board."
"Thank you, sir," the detective said. "Detective Jairo Garcia Hernandez." He pronounced it Yairo. "Most gringos call me Jerry." His smile was all teeth and David knew he was being tested by the new D.
He'd nip that one in the bud before it went south. "I think I can handle Jairo." He gave the word a Spanish lilt. The guy wasn't going to catch this gringo ignorant of the language. Good looking or not, he was just another rookie D.
Jairo saw the Rolex on his wrist and whistled. "Nice watch. Your wife give you that?"
"No, I'm not married," David said. Deciding to make small talk, he ventured, "You?"
"How's that going for you?" Cops loved marriage; so many of them did it so often.
"Fine." Jairo grew defensive. "You gonna tell me that's gonna change? Already got that from my smart-ass sergeant first time I showed up for roll-call."
"It's hard," was all David said. "Marriage is a work in progress."
"So you were married? She divorce you?"
David shrugged. He finally slipped the Rolex off and tucked it back into his inner pocket, over his heart. It would be safer there, away from nosy rookies. "It's complicated." Then he saw Jairo had noticed the plain gold band he wore on his left ring finger. The gold band Chris had given him following the first year they had lived together. He closed his hands into fists, but made no attempt to hide the thing. What was the use? He was almost as notorious in the LAPD as Mark Fuhrman.
Jairo's disingenuous eyes widened. "You're the... you're him."
David saw something glitter on the ground at the entrance to the crime scene, and crouched down to study it. It was a bottle cap. Still, he signaled a photographer over to take a picture. Sometimes the littlest things proved useful. Sometimes they were just litter. All around them crime scene techs were placing evidence flags, and doing their best to catch everything, before the skies opened up. He was glad to see that the victim's hands had been bagged, covering the ring he had seen earlier. "You can say it, you know." David stood up and brushed debris off his pants. "I'm the gay cop."
Jairo flushed and looked away. "Yes, sir."
Now what was that all about? Surely as soon as he knew who his latest senior partner was going to be, Jairo would have known all about David's sordid "secret." He would have found all kinds of officers eager to share the scuttlebutt about who he'd been saddled with. "That's Detective, Hernandez." David was already beginning to miss Martinez, his partner of ten years. He had been reassigned to South-Central, for the next six months, to work a gang detail. They had forged a tight partnership; a partnership that even David's abrupt outing over four years ago had not disrupted. David wasn't looking forward to breaking in the new kid, even if he was, as rumor also claimed, top of his graduating class. Good grades, like good looks, weren't everything.
He moved around to stand beside the grave again. A tarp had been laid over the torn earth to protect against the coming storm. He thought he could still see the outline of the arm. He glanced sideways when a flash of lightning illuminated the dense brush. He almost felt sorry for the boots who was going to have to guard this site all night.
He turned back to face the grave and its nameless victim. Jairo came up to stand beside him. David kept his eyes on the tarp, ignoring the man beside him.
"I'll find him," he promised.