By Ian Walkley
Harlan Coben describes Vincent Zandri’s novels as “Gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting…” Vincent’s latest mystery thriller THE GUILTY finds former prison warden and private eye Jack Marconi investigating a local restaurateur who’s not only obsessed with the sexy, dark romance novel, FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, he’s accused of attempting to murder his school teacher girlfriend. As the now brain-damaged young woman begins recalling events of that fateful winter night when she was allegedly pushed down the stairs of a West Albany mansion, she becomes the target of the angry foodie/sex-obsessed boyfriend once again. Only this time, he’s cooking up a plot to keep her silenced forever.
Vincent Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling Amazon author of THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT FALLS, THE CONCRETE PEARL, MOONLIGHT RISES, and more. The bestselling author of SAVAGES, Don Winslow, says of Zandri: “He’s a terrific writer and he tells a terrific story.” Zandri’s work has been published in many languages including Dutch, Russian, and Japanese. An adventurer, foreign correspondent, and freelance photo-journalist for LIVING READY, RT, GLOBALSPEC, as well as several other news agencies and publications, Zandri lives in New York.
Vincent, what are some of the things we’ll discover about Jack Marconi in this story?
In the first two Marconi novels, THE INNOCENT(formerly AS CATCH CAN), and GODCHILD, Jack was much more brooding and dark-minded due to his obsession over who killed his wife Fran and why. That mystery now solved, and ten years having passed in the meantime, Jack is now a little more cocky, and somewhat happier. He’s come to terms with Fran’s death and although he hasn’t remarried, he’s gotten his life back and it shows.
And what or who are some of the obstacles Jack has to face?
Maybe Jack has gotten his life back, but he’s also aging in a way that’s making him feel culturally irrelevant. Smartphones, texting, blogging, Facebook, Google…none of these things were around during his previous adventures or, at least, were in their infancy. How does he compete with a would-be killer who’s obsessed with the post-modern indie erotica novel, “Fifty Shades of Grey?” He has to find a way to get into the killer’s mind-set. Not an easy thing for someone who is essentially still rooted in the 1950s. The sense of isolation he feels adds to his already heightened sense of existentialism. He feels at once alone and dismayed at a new generation of socially media savvy and digitally raised young people who can torture others both sexually and mentally with all the ease and carelessness as one would experience playing a video game. I explored a very similar theme in my stand-alone thriller, SCREAM CATCHER.
What are some of Jack’s flaws? Did you develop these through conscious character design, or do they flow more from the storyline?
Jack is always going to do the right thing, even if it means breaking the law. He’d rather hire a convicted drug dealer and killer as his sidekick than a white-bread goody-two-shoes, because he knows the former knows a hell of a lot more about real life in the modern world than does the latter. Such close underworld associations, however, can make Jack suspect in the eyes of both the police and his clients. It also elevates the potential for Jack to do something bad in order to get at an ultimate good. Like shooting a bad guy in the thigh for instance in order to extract some much needed information.
Who are some of the other characters in THE GUILTY, and how will they impact Jack.
Jack’s a got a new side-kick in the form of a former Green Haven inmate whom he once was in charge of incarcerating. Blood, which is his nickname, is now the local neighbourhood watchman which means he more or less controls who sells and buys what on the street corners. He can also get anything done…anything…but for a price. He is a handsome, very in shape, middle-aged African American man of strict morals who knows what it’s like to be on the wrong side of a set of prison bars. Like Keeper, he only wants to get at the truth of any given case.
What did you particularly enjoy about writing THE GUILTY?
It was fun being back in Jack’s voice. Some readers will say that Jack seems a lot like my other serial character Dick Moonlight, but there are tremendous differences. Jack would do stuff Moonlight would never do and vice versa. They know one another, and often work with the same men and women at the Albany Police Department. One day I’m going to sit down and start writing a novel with both of them in it.
That sounds like a fun story to write. In what ways has your writing evolved since the first Jack Marconi book? Who are some of the influences that have impacted your writing?
I’m older and having written thirteen novels and countless articles in between, I’m a somewhat better writer. Or so I hope. I’ve also been exposed to some great voices over the past decade and a half since I wrote the first Marconi novel. Charlie Huston, Don Winslow, Boston Teran, Les Edgerton, Belinda Frisch among them. They have taught me all about writing great sentences and paragraphs with few if any wasted words.
You recently attended Thrillerfest. What were some of the memorable moments?
Andy Bartlet, my original acquiring editor at Thomas & Mercer, and I tried our best to steal a Kuwaiti flag which was mounted to a pole on the exterior of the Kuwaiti embassy. I suppose in the end it’s good that we didn’t get the flag because then we would have had to fight over who got to take it home. The whole adventure blended well with Thrillerfest in that it’s the one occasion during the year where editors, writers, publishers, fans, all get to let loose together and have some fun. It’s what keeps me coming back year after year.
As well as writing novels and short fiction, you continue to work as a freelance photo-journalist, travel a great deal, and play the drums in a punk rock band. You also spend time in Italy. Do you find your lifestyle creeping its way into your stories?
Sure, it can’t help but creep in. I just wrote a novel called CHASE which is about a writer/adventurer who lives in Florence part-time. He often gives walking tours for extra cash and on occasion will act as a private detective for the local police. In the first book he goes on the trail of a missing archaeology professor and ends up in post-revolutionary Egypt. Not the safest of places. I went to Egypt this past October to research the novel. I couldn’t admit to being an American. My fixer and I also got run off the road, our car crashing into a ditch. It was a strange feeling finding yourself in the hornet’s nest. But then, I like that sort of thing.
You have been extremely successful as an indie author, through Amazon publishing and through StoneHouse Ink, a highly regarded indie publishing house. Do you have a view about how publishing might evolve over the next few years?
I think the big six or five or four or whatever they are down to now will rebound and enjoy a new resurgence with e-books. It’s taken some time, but they are beginning to understand the potential of digital publishing and how it will now replace entirely the mass market paperback. Medium sized Indie houses like StoneHouse/StoneGate Ink will get larger and larger until they are either bought out by the majors or they become majors in their own right. Self-published authors will find it harder and harder to compete in a crowded marketplace but that doesn’t mean there won’t be huge success stories every year. At the same time, more brick and mortar bookstores will close including more Barnes & Nobles. However, the trade paperback will continue to share the podium with e-books while on-line sales thrive. I’m actually wondering what’s going to replace the e-book. Whatever it is, it will happen very soon.
It remains difficult for new writers to be noticed. Do you have any advice for aspiring novelists about increasing their chances of success?
Write great books. There’s no better way to be noticed.
THE GUILTY was released in July as a paperback original by StoneHouse Ink/StoneGate Ink.
Vincent Zandri is the No. 1 International Bestselling Amazon author of THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT FALLS, THE CONCRETE PEARL, MOONLIGHT RISES, and more. He is also the author of the Amazon bestselling digital shorts, PATHOLOGICAL, TRUE STORIES and MOONLIGHT MAFIA. Zandri’s publishers include Delacorte, Dell, StoneHouse Ink, StoneGate Ink, and Thomas & Mercer. An MFA in Writing and graduate of Vermont College, Zandri’s work is translated into many languages including Dutch, Russian, and Japanese. An adventurer, foreign correspondent, and freelance photo-journalist for Living Ready, RT, Globalspec, as well as several other news agencies and publications, Zandri lives in New York.
To learn more about Vincent, please visit his website.