New interview with mystery novelist Ed Duncan

Novelist Ed Duncan is back for a visit! Today we’re
chatting about his new crime thriller, The
Last Straw
Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School.
He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He
currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the third
installment in the Pigeon-Blood Red
Welcome back to Reviews and Interviews,
tell us about your newest release.
In this novel, a teenage girl witnesses a
carjacking gone bad. As a result, she is marked for death by a crime boss with
no apparent motive. A black partner at a large law firm, who is a friend of the
family, and a white enforcer who have an unlikely history together forge an
uneasy alliance to protect the girl from a hit man with an agenda of his own.
What inspired you to write this book?
The Last Straw is
the second installment in the trilogy that began with Pigeon-Blood Red.
(On Amazon and elsewhere the three books are collectively referred to as the
Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy.) The last in the series will be called Rico
. Since I decided very early that I would write at least a trilogy
involving the same main characters, the inspiration for the second novel is
essentially that same as that for the first in the trilogy. 
I was attending a legal seminar in Honolulu in
the mid-90’s when one evening the germ of fan idea came to me. In my
mind’s eye I saw a beautiful, mysterious woman traveling alone and carrying
something valuable that bad people — dangerous people — were trying to get
their hands on, and I saw a lawyer coming to her rescue. That was all I knew
about the novel I hoped to write. I had the inspiration and now all I needed
was the time to write. Alas, I did not get that until I retired.
Over the months and years that followed the
initial inspiration, I filled in details, many of which changed as a result of
the many drafts and re-drafts. The “something” the woman was carrying
became a priceless necklace. After I settled on jewelry as the
“McGuffin,” to use Hitchcock’s phrase, I searched the library
(pre-Google days) for something exotic and discovered the phrase
“pigeon-blood red” which, of course, was coined by Indian gem dealers
centuries ago and describes the color of the rarest and most valuable rubies in
the world, the same color as the first two drops of blood that trickle from the
nostrils of a freshly killed pigeon.
I determined early on that the woman in danger,
Evelyn (unlike her namesake in the movie Chinatown), would not be a
femme fatale and instead would be an innocent victim. The hardest part of the
novel was figuring out how to get the purloined necklace into her hands without
her knowing it was stolen and how to get the pivotal characters from Chicago to
Honolulu, the two places where I wanted the action to take place, without the
plot appearing to be contrived.
What is your biggest challenge when writing a new book? (or with
writing this book)
My main characters are Rico, a white hit
man/enforcer, and Paul, a black partner in a large law firm headquartered in
Chicago. The biggest challenge for all three novels has been to dream up a plot
that causes these characters to cross paths in an interesting and realistic way
where each has an impact on the life of the other and on the lives of their
significant others, respectively Jean, a high end call girl/prostitute, and
Evelyn, a college professor. Obviously, the lives of these characters would not
normally intersect at all, let alone three times (or more if I decide to extend
the series). I’m very pleased with the ultimate results, but getting there has
been, as you say in your question, a challenge.
If your novels require research, please talk about the process. Do
you do the research first and then write, while you’re writing, after the novel
is complete and you need to fill in the gaps?
In Pigeon-Blood Red, as mentioned
earlier, I had to research the origin and history of “pigeon-blood
red” rubies, which turned out to be fascinating. I did that research
before I started writing because I wanted to find something interesting and
exotic if possible that I knew I would be able to write about. Incidentally, in
the novel I gave a figure for the most expensive rubies sold at auction as of
the writing of the novel, which of course I researched. Before it was
published, however, I read about a more expensive ruby that had sold at auction
between the time I finished the novel and its publication. Fortunately, I had
time to change the novel to use the most recent valuation. Also, Rico, the hit
man in the novels, uses a particular hand gun that I wanted to be the best and
most expensive of its kind. From the research I did (again, in advance) that
gun turned out to be a Sig Sauer, known in some circles as the Cadillac of hand
guns. I had never heard of it before I did the research, however.
What’s your writing space like? Do you have a particular spot to
write where the muse is more active? Please tell us about it.
I write my first draft in long hand on a white
legal pad. Mostly that occurs on a narrow table that separates my kitchen from
the family room. Because I live alone, I don’t have any distractions. My
computer is upstairs in my study. That is where I transfer my first draft to a
Word document, which of course goes through a number of additional drafts.
There is nothing particularly unusual about either space, except that study has
a more comfortable chair. It’s the one I used when I was still practicing law. It’s
a high back leather chair with arm rests. It swivels and allows me to slide
across the floor on a plastic pad to look at files behind me and to my right
without having to stand. It’s also easier to fall asleep in than the one
What authors do you enjoy reading within or
outside of your genre?
Authors within my genre that I enjoy reading
include Dashiell Hammett, Lee Child, Dennis Lehane, Scott Turow and Walter
Mosley. Outside my genre they include Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Somerset
Maugham, Richard Wright, Ken Follett, and Theodore Dreiser.
What’s the next writing project?
The next writing project is the third in my
trilogy, Rico Stays. In it Paul and Rico lock horns with killers
seeking revenge against Rico, and this time Rico, recovering from multiple
gunshot wounds, reluctantly accepts help from Paul.
Anything additional you want to share with the
readers today?
Screenplays have been written for each of the
three novels. (I have yet to write the third novel, but in this case the
screenplay was written first). I collaborated on the first two scripts and
wrote the third alone. I’m trying to interest producers in getting one or more
made into a movie for the screen or television. The odds of success are long
but I intend to keep trying!
Thanks for your
To learn more,
go to my website. Readers can connect with me
on Facebook,
and Goodreads.
Thanks for stopping in, Ed. All the best with your writing!

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