Interview with mystery author Steve Haberman

Mystery author Steve Haberman joins me
today to chat about his new atmospheric murder mystery, Murder Without Pity.
Welcome, Steve. Please tell us a little
bit about yourself.
I earned a B. A. from the
University of Texas, Austin, majoring in political science and minoring in
history. Afterwards I passed my stock brokers exam and worked for a time at a
small brokerage house before returning to school. Upon getting my legal
assistant certification from UCLA, I worked for a major law firm in Los
Angeles.
Successful stock market
investments let me retire early and to pursue two dreams, travel and write, and
I have since been extensively, at times for months, and frequently to Europe. I
love the cosmopolitan bustle of Berlin, Prague, Rome, Vienna, and London. Many
of these capitals find their way as background into my stories of
intrigue…Murder Without Pity (Paris) and the soon-to-be-released The Killing Ploy (London, Paris, Lugano, Berlin), Darkness
and Blood
 (London, Paris), and Winston Churchill’s Renegade
Spy
 (London, Zurich). My fifth novel will be set in post World War II
Berlin, and to help my research for that, I’ll be returning to Europe and will
spend some time in the German capital.
Please tell us about your current
release.
Murder Without Pity is an atmospheric French murder mystery (in English, not French) that
ties in with the gathering storm of the Far Right. I’ve tried to create part of
this menace in this novel and have at its center a state criminal investigator,
who, because his grandfather was a propagandist for the Nazis during WWII,
wants absolutely nothing to do with politics. All he wants is to go to work at
the Palace of Justice Annex in Paris, work on solving his relatively small
crimes, his “Little Miseries,” and return home. And for quite a
while, he gets his wish until he investigates the strange murder of a
pensioner, who seemed to have lived an uneventful life. Not so, as he
discovers, and when he does face up to that discovery, he will not be able to
return to the life he had lived. Ever.
What inspired you to write this book?
I don’t want to give away
more of the story than I already have. I’ll just say this. In 1995, while I was
in the City of Light, a murder happened (not an ordinary one) that made
headlines, nationally and internationally, for quite some time because of the
victim’s past. That murder was part of what I absorbed into the story in a
transmuted form and surrounded it with much true history. Enough said.
Excerpt from Murder
Without Pity:
CHAPTER
1
HOUSE
RULES
The two men jumped Stanislas
outside the burned-out apartment building, and he realized he had made a
mistake. He raised his cane to strike, but it was too late. They muscled him up
a flight of stairs and into a drafty room, and then they got serious.
The one with the German accent
threw him hard onto a stool, making Stanislas cry out from pain that spiked up
his bad leg. Next the accomplice yanked his arms behind, and he went to work,
and everything went dark.
And afterwards, when
Stanislas jerked to struggle loose, the man with the accent clamped a hand on
his shoulder and warned in French, “Monsieur Cassel, don’t.” This warning
frightened Stanislas even more. This stranger, who had helped ambush him, knew
his name.
 “Monsieur Cassel,” the man continued, “you are
a powerful examining magistrate here in Paris. You have investigated and solved
many crimes. You know the high and mighty and have even indicted some. But you
do not sit in your Ministry of Justice Annex office. And you cannot command the
police to rescue you. You are in an abandoned tenement, alone and powerless.
Our house rules: Not a word, please. I talk. You listen. You answer. A simple
shake of your head for a ‘no.’ A simple nod for a ‘yes.’ House rules, as I
said, because we cannot waste time. Understand?”
And Stanislas, through his
shock at having walked into a trap, just nodded. House rules.
The man with the accent
squeezed his shoulder hard. “Luc has roped your hands behind you. Understand?”
Stanislas
nodded yes.
“He
has blindfolded you. Understand?”
Yes.
“He has taken away your
cane. Briefly, monsieur, you are our prisoner. Do you understand how serious
your situation is?”
Again,
yes.
A cell phone beeped. Luc
answered on the second ring, as though, Stanislas guessed, expecting the
caller. In the near silence, as Luc listened, someone somewhere outside in the
fog pounded an angry beat on congas. Through the throb, Stanislas could hear
behind him Luc mumble words that sounded like code. Something about bringing
the car around. About keeping the headlights low. Do this, Luc ordered. Do
that. And Stanislas thought, they’re going to kill me.
Luc flipped shut his cell
with a harsh click. “Three minutes,” he said. “Now what…. 
What exciting story are you working on
next?
I’m finishing up The
Killing Ploy
, which will be very topical when it comes out since
“fake news” will feature heavily in one part of the thriller. I’ve
got the beginning, middle, and the ending, and all that is left is some
polishing. The Killing Ploy will take place fifty percent of the
time in this country and the balance in my favorite territory for inspiration,
Europe.
When did you first consider yourself a
writer?
When I started writing
articles eons ago and getting paid for it
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day
like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to
write?
Here’s my work day:
Because I’m somewhat of an
insomniac, I wake up anywhere between 3 to 4 in the morning, usually. I might
read a novel or history for a time or check my email or glance through the Washington Post and New York Times to see how messed up the world is (and marvel that
we’re still here), and finally see how the stock market will open. If by then,
I’m drowsy, I’ll try to sleep till 5:45.
Then I’ll have breakfast,
catch the opening of the stock market, watch a little U. S. or French news,
walk or ride my bike for about an hour, and then my writing time starts, which
can be anywhere from 8:30 to 9 and which can last normally till noon.
At that point, I’m done. However,
though I pull away from the writing desk, my mind is still working, and if any
idea come up, I’ll write them down. Rarely, if enough ideas during this interim
rest period bubble to the surface, I’ll return to writing during the evening.
What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?
I think writing occurs on
two levels, the conscious and the subconscious. After I’ve formally finished
writing for the day, I have to tell my mind to relax so that more creative
ideas, relating to my current project, can bubble to the surface. I relax in
two ways: I engage in non-writing activities such as shopping for food, paying
bills, reading, exercising, and I don’t carry any paper on me to jot down any
ideas, though I always, always carry a pen. So usually while I’m engaged in
some non-writing act, ideas for the story surface. At that point, I jot them
down on whatever is handy…a grocery receipt, a napkin, a tossed away
newspaper, a bus schedule, or even on my palm. So the idea of relaxing the mind
and waiting for good things to happen always works.
As a child, what did you want to be
when you grew up?
Since I’m from Texas, a
cowboy, what else? I had boots, a stetson, spurs. The only things missing were
a horse and a posse.
Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?
Darkness and Blood will be the sequel to The Killing
Ploy
. It too will be highly topical since some of the emotions expressed in
this thriller will be fear, anxiety, paranoia. My fourth novel, Winston Churchill’s Renegade Spy, will
have as the central problem trying to ferret out a German spy at the heart of
the prime minister’s government during World War II.
Before I end, Lisa, I want
to thank you for offering me this opportunity, and I wish you the best.
Links:

Thanks for being here today, Steve. All the best with
your writing.

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