Sunday, January 20, 2019


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****Charles Salzberg’s Second Story Man is the twelfth in a never-ending series called INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific excerpt from a fiction genre and how that fiction writer wrote that specific excerpt.  All INSIDE THE EMOTION OF FICTION links are at the end of this piece. 

Name of fiction work? And were there other names you considered that you would like to share with us?   Second Story Man, which I just learned won the Beverly Hills Book Award for  Best Crime Novel. Actually, it’s one of the few novels I’ve written where I haven’t started off with a different title. (Right:  Charles Salzberg's on Hudson's River where he resides.  Attributed to Christina Chui.  Copyright permission granted by Charles Salzberg for this CRC Blog Post Only)

For instance, Devil in the Hole began as Skin Deep, but it sounded like the title of a bad porn movie, so I always wanted something else. I was walking down the street listening to my iPod shuffle and Tom Waits came on singing “Way Down In The Hole,” and that was it.

Fiction genre? Ex science fiction, short story, fantasy novella, romance, drama, crime, plays, flash fiction, historical, comedy, etc. And how many pages long?   It’s a crime novel and it’s 270 pages.

Has this been published? And it is totally fine if the answer is no. If yes, what publisher and what publication date?   Yes, Down & Out Books, April 2018

What is the date you began writing this piece of fiction and the date when you completely finished the piece of fiction?  
It’s tough to put an exact date on something because I sometimes work on a few things at a time but I’d say I probably started it in the fall of 2014 and finished it around the beginning of 2016.

Where did you do most of your writing for this fiction work? And please describe in detail. And can you please include a photo?   I do all my writing at my desk, on my desktop computer. I’m not one of those who can write outside, in a coffee shop or at the library. I wouldn’t get any work done at all because I’d be too busy staring at people and listening to other people’s conversations. Besides, I never work more than fifteen minutes at a time sitting at my computer. I have to get up and walk around, or do something else. (Right: Charles Salzberg at a book signing/reading for SECOND STORY MAN.  April of 2018.  Copyright permission granted by Charles Salzberg for this CRC Blog Post Only)

What were your writing habits while writing this work- did you drink something as you wrote, listen to music, write in pen and paper, directly on laptop; specific time of day?   I’m very undisciplined. I write at all times of the day, whenever the mood strikes me. And never more than for ten or fifteen minutes at a time. In part, that’s due to suffering from nerve pain in my foot (the result of a surgery that went awry). But I’m a very fast typist, around 90 words a minute, and I can focus extremely well for those short spurts of time, so I can get a lot done. (Left:  Charles Salzberg in 2016.  Attributed to Ross Klavan.  Copyright permission granted by Charles Salzberg for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

What is the summary of your fiction work?   Francis Hoyt, arrogant, athletic, brilliant, with a mean streak, is a master burglar, who believes he’s the best at what he does and he might be right. Charlie Floyd, a recently retired Connecticut State investigator and Manny Perez, a recently suspended Cuban-American Miami police detective, team up to bring Hoyt to justice. The novel is told in alternating voices, from the pov of the three men. The book opens as Hoyt makes his way from Florida up north, where he spends the spring, fall and summer in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, because that’s where the money is. Floyd and Perez try to anticipate Hoyt’s next move and when Hoyt eventually realizes the two are on his tail he begins to taunt them, daring them to catch him.

Can you give the reader just enough information for them to understand what is going on in the excerpt?   This is the very beginning of the book, as Hoyt is making ready to head north, so not much explanation is necessary

Please include excerpt and include page numbers as reference. The excerpt can be as short or as long as you prefer. Pages 1-4

Francis Hoyt
“Where’s my fucking money?”
“Francis, these things take time, man.”
I pounded on the table. Ice clattered against the sides of glasses.
“It’s been three fucking weeks, Artie. Are you running a business, or what? I want my fucking money and I want it now.”
I moved my chair around until I was sitting right next to him and then I got all up in his face, so close I could smell his cheap after-shave. Old Spice. I hadn’t smelled that since I was a kid and my old man used to pour it on to cover his nauseating stink of alcohol and tobacco.
“Listen, Artie,” I whispered, making sure I articulated every single word, “you do not want to fuck with me. I can be nice and I can be not so nice. Trust me, you do not want to deal with the not so nice Francis Hoyt. That would be a very big mistake, my friend.”
We’re sitting at a table by the pool at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. Artie’s wearing one of those obscene looking, loud Hawaiian shirts and a bathing suit to match. He looks like  some fucking fat tourist from Iowa on vacation for the first time. I’m dressed like a human being: khakis, a pale blue polo shirt, Gucci loafers. One of us looks like a complete asshole and it’s not me.
I’m not registered at the hotel and I doubt Artie is either. I’m the one who can afford it. He’s not. But this is where he hangs out and this is where he likes to act like a big shot by conducting business by the pool surrounded by a bunch of old, overweight, greased up Jews spread out on chaises longue, staring up at the sun while they bake. Guys like Artie don’t have offices. They just exist somewhere in time and space. But they would not exist at all if it wasn’t for guys like me.
Artie is a fence. I am a thief. Not just your run-of-the-mill, knock you over the head and steal your wallet thief, but the best damn thief in the world. Artie owes me money for goods delivered. The good stuff. Antique silver. Three heists worth. I figure I should clear at least a couple hundred grand after Artie takes his cut. That sounds like a lot but it’s only a fraction of its real value.
“Francis,” he whines. “I don’t think you understand how my business works. You bring me high-end items and I have to find unique buyers. And it ain’t here in the States. It’s much too risky to dispose of that kind of stuff here. I have to reach out to my European contacts. That takes time. You want me to get the best price, don’t you?”
“Listen to me, Artie,” I raised my voice a little, just enough to up the stakes slightly. Just enough to let him know I mean business. “Because I’m not going to say it again. I’m leaving town soon and I need that money. I’m not interested in your business problems, Artie. You’re a fucking fence. Do your fucking job. If you can’t, I’ll find someone who can.”
Artie loves to look like a big man, so he’s ordered lunch. Pastrami sandwiches on rye. I don’t want lunch. I especially don’t want a pastrami sandwich because I don’t eat meat. Artie would have known that if he’d bothered to ask. But he didn’t. He just wanted to look like a fucking big shot. I don’t care about his fucking lunch. I just want my fucking money. Besides, it’s hot, so hot I’m starting to sweat through my shirt, even though I hardly ever sweat.  And as it gets closer to one, it’s getting hotter. I look up and see why. There’s not a fucking cloud in the sky. Just the sun.  A big, yellow ball in the sky, suspended in an ocean of blue. That’s why people come down here. For the sun and the heat. So, they can jump in the pool to cool off. Makes no sense to me. You want to cool off stay the fuck where you were up north. Or sit in your air-conditioned room.
“Whoa, Francis, we go back a long way. I don’t want to lose an old client like you. Besides, You’re more like a friend than a client.”
I laughed. I don’t think of myself as a client and I certainly don’t think of myself as Artie’s friend. I break into people’s homes and take what I want. Artie sells what I take. We have what they call a symbiotic relationship. It’s as simple as that. Only Artie isn’t making it simple. He’s making it difficult. It’s my job to get him back on track. To remind him who the fuck he is and why the fuck he exists.
“I’ll give you two days. You understand? Two fucking days. No more. You either come up with the dough or you give me back the goods. I’ll find someone else to fence it or I’ll fucking melt it down and sell the shit myself.”
“Francis, don’t do that! Please. Some of those pieces are part of history, man. American history. They go way, way back.”
“I don’t give a fuck about American history. All I give a fuck about is the money. And Artie, don’t fuck with me when it comes to the money. I know the value of those pieces. I researched them. It’s not just the silver it’s the provenance. You know what that means, Artie?”
“I do, Francis. I really do. And that’s why I’m being so careful. Whatever you bring me is high-grade stuff. I have to take special care. But you’ll get your money, I promise you.”
I move my chair back a couple steps. I’ve been too close to him for too long. That stink coming off him is starting to make me sick.
“Two days,” I say.
“I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations, Fran…” he said, as he reached for his sandwich. I grabbed his wrist before he could get it up to his mouth.
“Artie, let me put this as simple as I can. If I feel like you’re trying to cheat me, or if I feel like you’re shining me on, or if I think you’re doing this just to Jew down the price, I’m going to deal with you in ways you don’t want to even think about. I may be physically small but I am very deadly. See that pool over there?”
I gestured toward the enormous swimming pool filled with chlorine blue water and screaming kids.
“Yeah. Sure. I see it.”
“You don’t want to wind up floating in it, face down.”
“Francis, please, there’s no need for threats.”
“It’s not a threat, Artie. It’s a statement of fact. I’m a man who can see into the future. That’s your future, Artie. Two days.”
I got up.
“Francis, you haven’t even taken a bite of your sandwich.”
“I don’t eat meat, Artie. Get yourself a doggie bag.”
Fucking moron.

Why is this excerpt so emotional for you? And can you describe your own emotional experience of writing this specific excerpt?   Originally, the book did not begin this way, but rather with Charlie Floyd receiving a phone call from Det. Manny Perez, asking him to help him bring Hoyt to justice, but I decided the book should begin with Hoyt, not the two lawmen. It was very cathartic for me to begin with Hoyt, because he’s the furtherest from me in terms of who he is, how he speaks, how he behaves, how he treats people and who he is. It was actually very freeing to write this character.

Other works you have published?   I’ve also written Devil in the Hole, which was based on a true crime, a man who killed his entire family, wife, three kids, mother, and the family dog, and disappeared. In fact, I borrowed two characters from this novel, Charlie Floyd and Manny Perez, and used them in Second Story Man. Devil in the Hole was named one of the Best Crime Novels of 2013 by Suspense Magazine.

I’m also the author of Swann’s Last Song, which was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel, and the sequels, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, Swann’s Way Out, and the upcoming Swann’s Down. I also have novellas in the collections, Triple Shot and Three Strikes.

Anything you would like to add?  The truth is, Chris unlike some other writers, I don’t have a very firm grasp on what the characters look like.  I know how they think, and even how they move, and their attitudes, but physically, they’re kind of blurred for me.  For some reason, I work better that way.  I like the reader to fill in the blanks as to their physical characteristics.  As I said, I know Hoyt is smaller, built like a jockey (only taller than the normal jockey, but I know more about his past and his present and how he things than I do how he looks. (Left:  Charles Salzberg with fellow writer and friend Roy Hoffman in 2017.  Copyright granted by Charles Salzberg for this CRC Blog Post Only) 

Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in New York magazine, Esquire, GQ, Redbook and The New York Times Book Review.  He has written over 20 non-fiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times; On A Clear Day They Could See Seventh Place: Baseball’s 10 Worst Teams of the Century. He is author of the Shamus Award nominated Swann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, nominated for two Silver Falchions, Swanns Way Out, Devil in the Hole, named one of the best crime novels of the year by Suspense magazine Second Story Man, winner of the Beverly Hills Book Award for Best Crime Novel of 2018, and he has novellas in the collections Triple Shot and Three Strikes. He was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and he teaches writing the New York Writers Workshop where he is a Founding Member. He is a member of the MWA-NY Board. (Right: Charles Salzberg with friend and former student Christina Chiu at the 70th Street Pier on the Hudson River near Salzberg's home.  Copyright permission granted by Charles Salzberg for this CRC Blog Post Only)


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003   11 23 2018 Janice Seagraves’s
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004   11 29 2018 Christian Fennell’s
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