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Tuesday 2 July 2019

ℚ American Red - David Marlett

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about American Red (, Fiction Studio Books, 530 pages), a historical legal thriller.

"A cracking good tale! Part love story, part espionage thriller." --Jacquelyn Mitchard, New York Times bestselling author of THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to David Marlett; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

What was the inspiration for American Red?

"I had heard about the first terrorist assassination by bombing in the U.S. (of the governor of Idaho in 1906) and read J. Anthony Lukas’s book about it, Big Trouble.  Over the years, the more I learned, the more trial transcripts I read and research I did, the closer I came to the story, and soon the characters started to take shape for me, and the plot structure for the novel began to come together.

It is a big story across a large part of the United States, so a significant obstacle was narrowing it, finding the key character arcs, etc., and of course deciding what I wanted the novel to say."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"As an attorney and law school professor, clearly the legal aspects are an expertise of mine.  But that can be a bit challenging, to be sure I don’t get too far into those weeds.  On that point, I have a strong interest in Clarence Darrow, so exploring his life, the way he approached the law, was also of particular interest to me.

But AMERICAN RED pulls a great deal from other elements of my personality: a bit of righteous indignation for workers over those who grow rich and richer still taking advantage and manipulating the system.  And I have an interest in showing the duplicity of humanity, the cohabitation of good and evil…for empathy and selfishness…that inhabits us all. 

I enjoy exploring that decision-making process that leads people into dark places, and conversely leads them to do great acts of heroism.  And I have a fascination with friendship, the bonds that pull us together, and how those bonds can be tested and occasionally broken.

This review captured this pretty well:"
“A stellar novel of intrigue, adventure, engaging characters, and a fascinating backdrop. A historical legal thriller that will take you back to another time — bringing that world into pristine focus — when American justice was loaded with mischief and mayhem. A true gem of a story.”
— Steve Berry, multiple New York Times bestselling author
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for American Red - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"An avocation of mine is graphic design.  I have designed covers for others, and I designed this cover for AMERICAN RED. 

I went through a great number of manifestations, but all seemed too “on the nose”…either too specific in Americana, or of the characters themselves.  Perhaps that would be fine were AMERICAN RED to be a non-fiction telling of this story.  But I see historical fiction (the way I write it) as impressionism: very close to realism, but then not.  It is in the looseness of the impressionistic brush stroke that I take license to invent characters, to imagine dialogue, to fill in blanks in the historical record.

So, the next cover rendition appeared as an impressionistic painting of a scene from the era.  But it too was too limiting, as the story itself is so broad.  Finally, I decided to play with metaphorical images.  And when cardinals showed up in the storyline, I began designing a warring set of cardinals, otherwise identical, they became a good stand-in for the swirling conflict between two factions of Americans, the polarisation at the time between Capitalism and Socialism, the worker and the owner, between a Wild West and the march of civilianization, and perhaps most importantly the war between the good and evil in us all…with perhaps the most vexing characteristic being the fact that externally those polarities appear to be housed in the identical body… wingtips locked in battle with itself.

This reviewer of AMERICAN RED picked up on a bit of that:"
“With a gripping story and unforgettable characters, David Marlett breathes new life into one of the most fascinating chapters in American history. A country in transition, lurching into modernity, as its heroes and villains — lawyers, hitmen, spies, politicians, union bosses, and captains of industry — battle for the upper hand.”
— Adam Benforado, New York Times bestselling author
Why should we read American Red and what sets it apart from the rest? What makes your book unique?
"There are certainly many great historical novels, but I think AMERICAN RED is unique…it holds a mirror to who we are today, though set over a hundred years ago.

I am hard-pressed to find a comparable book of that era and area.  Most historical crime stories of that era focus on mob developments on the east coast, of the first-generation immigrant experience.  But AMERICAN RED tackles the men and women of what was then the end of the Wild West.  The march of technological advancement had arrived…their isolationist world was ending. 

To me, this is far more reflective of who/what America would become as it unknowingly raced toward the World Wars and the Depression.  And it also gives a unique and raw look at the role of faith of the era, and a candid look at the relationships between the sexes. 

AMERICAN RED is a tapestry of humanity (not just Americans), both in honor and in horror, both in victory and defeat.  I believe that only in that candor can we best see ourselves.

In that spirit, I was particularly honoured to get this review:"
“This is amazing storytelling. In American Red, David Marlett expertly creates a time and place so real that you can’t help but be taken in and enthralled by this most American of stories; the legal thriller. Add in the politics and the people — a deeply drawn cast of characters from lawmen to lawyers — and you have a page turner that holds you until the last train out.”
— Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Bosch series
Can you tell us something quirky about American Red, its story and characters?
"As perhaps trite as this may sound, AMERICAN RED truly is a set of fascinating people engaged in extraordinary events.

I’ll leave it to what Mark Sullivan wrote about it:"
“Vivid, well-researched, and told bare-knuckled across a tapestry that is both broad and nuanced. American Red brings to life the 1907 West and the actual war that raged there between mine owners and their assassins, and labor leaders and their bomb makers. David Marlett’s characters are outsized and real, from Chief Detective James McParland of the Pinkerton Agency — to ruthless union boss Big Bill Haywood and his polio-stricken wife — to famous attorney Clarence Darrow, who lies down with murderers and thieves, and defends the bombers, to realize a life-long dream. This is a historical novel to get lost in.”
— Mark Sullivan, international bestselling author of Beneath a Scarlet Sky
Who would you recommend American Red to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"All readers of historical fiction, true crime, history, courtroom dramas, relationships….

This reviewer seemed to say it well, including a warning."
"Fascinating story, based on actual historical events.

What works for me:

  1. The history
    This is a well-researched, heavily-detailed novel. Marlett knows his subject matter. He has a gift for making history come alive. The opening plunges us into the conflict between two parties. One, the ruthless mine owners, who use capitalism and patriotism to justify their merciless treatment of their employees. Two, the equally ruthless union miners, who use the owners’ wrongdoings to justify their own merciless, bloody treatment of their employers. Fascinating. Disturbing. Intriguing.

    Marlett also adds little tidbits of deliciously crazy facts, proving that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
  2. The characters
    This is a huge cast of characters. It would be easy to get lost among the various lawmen, law-breakers, attorneys, politicians, and the ever-shifting line between who is “right” and “wrong” in their actions. But we don’t, thanks to Marlett’s ability to juggle this cast.

    Many are historical figures. Again, Marlett’s done his research. Their personalities and quirks all mesh with what the historical record shows.

    Among them are Clarence Darrow, the criminal defense attorney for union boss Bill Haywood. (Darrow found later notoriety in the “Scopes monkey trial.”) He was a wily, slippery character, able to argue circles around everyone else. Newspapers dubbed him “America’s Lawyer.” I particularly enjoyed reading about him.

    Neva Haywood, Haywood’s polio-striken wife, piqued my interest. Her continual self-justifications for “allowing” her husband to cheat with her sister were heart-breaking, but it’s infuriating how she turns a blind eye to her husband’s murders.

    Two other characters of note: Jack and Carla, fictional characters who represent the Pinkertons and the union, respectively. Their own actions unsettle them. Each comes to a realization that neither “side” is truly in the right and that both sides are ruthless and resort to underhanded tactics.
  3. The conflict
    Marlett does a terrific job of showing how both sides engage in deceptive tactics. Judges, lawyers, lawmen: almost everyone in the novel bends or breaks the law. All of them justify their actions. It’s troubling.
What doesn’t work for me:
This is more a caution than a negative aspect of the book. This is historical fiction. Characters hold prejudices and use language that is no longer socially acceptable. This includes racial and ethnic slurs, sexist terms, and the like. Even otherwise “sympathetic” characters use them. Still, most historical fiction readers should understand why these terms are used in this context.

A must-read for fans of historical fiction."
— Meredith Rankin, NetGalley
If you could / wished to turn American Red into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"AMERICAN RED is the first of a series of books carrying some of these characters through actual events in the first half of the twentieth century.

There are on-going discussions as to its adaptation into a streaming series, so I won’t comment on who I think would be best to do that adaptation or act in it."
What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
"I write and read about the true human experience, and I am most interested in writing what I call the “historical legal thriller”… stories set in and around extraordinary trials that have become lost to history (for the most part).

My first novel, FORTUNATE SON, is set in Ireland, England, Scotland and the British Colonies in the early 1700s, leading to the largest and most expensive (relatively) civil trial in UK history, Annesley v Anglesea, in Dublin, 1743.  The story is what is fascinating… the characters… what they endured…the challenges…the loves and the losses.

AMERICAN RED certainly follows that genre, with the 1907 murder trial of William “Big Bill” Haywood, but it is about much more than that.  And my next, ANGELES LOS, tells the true story at the intersection of the first movies made in Los Angeles, the murderous bombing of the Los Angeles Times, and eccentric Abbot Kinney’s “Venice of American” kingdom.  Though the trial of the LA Times bombers is a key element of the story, the book will encompass so much more."
What is your writing process?
"When I am in the zone, mid-writing, I prefer to write 2,000 words a day, at least. But as my work is historical, and I pride myself on accurate immersion (getting the details right), then I can get side-tracked into fresh research. But I still aim for 2,000."
What is in store next?
"As I mentioned, AMERICAN RED is the first of a series of historical legal thrillers carrying some of the characters through actual events in the first half of the twentieth century. 

I currently am researching/writing the next in the series, ANGELES LOS."
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
"Yes, my beloved Border Collie pup, Bonny."
Hello Bonny, you are absolutely beautiful! Lots of head-scratches and belly-rubs to you from all of us here at BooksChatter.

David, thank you for sharing Bonny with us.  We hope you are having a great tour!

The Great American Century begins, the modern world roars to life, Capitalists flaunt greed and seize power, Socialists and labor unions flex their violent will, and an extraordinary true story of love and sacrifice unfolds.

American Red
Available NOW!

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1 comment:

CMash said...

Such an in depth interview, one that I enjoyed getting to know the author behind the book. And the cover is so eye catching.