A Quiet Vendetta by R.J. Ellory

By L. Dean Murphy

When Catherine Ducane disappears in New Orleans the cops react fast and in total secrecy with the FBI—she’s the governor’s daughter, after all. But the case quickly grows strange. Her bodyguard turns up horribly mutilated, but the kidnapper doesn’t want ransom. He wants time alone with a New York detective who has a truckload of personal issues. By the time the pieces fall into place, it’s too late. Award-winning A QUIET VENDETTA is both the epic story of one mobster’s life—ranging from Cuba to Chicago and Miami to LA—and equally a powerful thriller of rage, love, and loss.

R.J. Ellory added, “I wanted to create a character that appears truly evil. Perez is a terrible, terrible man, and yet somehow you feel something for him. Why? For two reasons, really. He is loyal to his family, and is aware of his purpose as a father and husband. Though he can leave each day and do these terrible things, you are aware that when he comes home he is a different man, a Jekyll and Hyde. Additionally, the people he kills are often worse than he is. There is something almost justifiable in what he does, not ‘what’ he does exactly, but who he does it to! At the end of the story you begin to feel that it would be right for him to escape his captors. It is—essentially—a novel about ethics, morals, about integrity, about the gray area that exists between right and wrong.”

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY said A QUIET VENDETTA is a “brilliantly conceived tale of greed, politics, family loyalties, and vengeance.”

THE GUARDIAN added, “With exquisite pace and perfect timing, Ellory has given us a piercing assessment of the nature of love, loyalty and obsessive revenge, not to mention a deep understanding of la cosa nostra.”

TRIBUNE reported that “This is a beautifully written, atmospheric novel that warps effectively between a hugely enjoyable thriller and an authentic recreation of the claustrophobic Mob world of brutality and paranoia.”

And BOOKREPORTER.COM said, “R.J. Ellory is the Stephen King of crime fiction.”

Protagonist Ray Hartmann and antagonist Ernesto Perez are equally strong characters, though Perez takes center stage. Why justify the evil deeds of Perez, or is this for your readers to decide? Please expand on your style of psychological profiling in all your works.

“Well, I have a pet hate, and that is for protagonists who are always right. They make wild guesses and assumptions, and they turn out to be right. People are not like that. Life is not like that. Most people are barely right half the time. So with all characters, I simply try to write someone that can be believed in, someone that you feel you know on an intimate and personal level. In A QUIET VENDETTA the question is constantly raised, ‘Is Perez right to have done what he did?’ Also, ‘If he is wrong, does he make sufficient amends for what he has done?’ It is for readers to decide, of course.

“I wanted to write a big, powerful, evocative, challenging novel about the Mafia. Though I have not read Puzo’s GODFATHER, I have seen the film, also GOODFELLAS, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA, other such movies. I wanted to create something that was as epic as these. I feel like I accomplished what I wanted with VENDETTA and I am proud of it as a novel. It was written quickly, in about eight weeks, and I worked at it for many hours every day. I wanted to get the work done rapidly so as to keep some of the energy and immediacy that comes from working that fast. I researched factual and historical aspects of the book as I went. I ‘lived’ in that world for all that time. I spent all waking hours thinking about the story, the characters, and what would happen. I don’t work out books before I start them, or do outlines or a synopsis. I just start with the first scene and a basic idea of what I want the book to be about, and then I think about it and plot it as I go. It is often the case that I do not know how the book will end until I am thirty or forty pages away from completing it.”

Ellory has advice for aspiring writers: “Very simply, the worst book you could ever write is the book that you believe other people will enjoy. The best book you can write is the book that you yourself would enjoy reading. Write your book for someone slightly smarter than you, but wear your learning lightly. Write each chapter with some view of the emotional response you hope to stir in your reader. Write for their heart, not their mind.”

The bestselling author speaks of what inspires him. “Simply the ability to sit down and do the work regardless of how I personally feel. For so many years I wrote while working full-time, raising a family, while in debt, while in personal difficulty, and that has given me the work-ethic to be able to write irrespective of what might be going on around me.”

Authors often receive compliments about their craft. Ellory shares two: “I received an email from a surgeon at New York University Hospital, who is also a volunteer triage surgeon for the NYPD. He read A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE and wrote wonderfully kind things about the book. That really made me feel very good. Also the fact that Ken Bruen always says such great things about my work, because Ken is a writer I admire enormously.”

Ellory gives the low-down on titles released in the States. “Readers in the US have the entire backlist to look forward to! Right now, we have only published A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS, THE ANNIVERSARY MAN, A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE and now, A QUIET VENDETTA. Still to come are CANDLEMOTH, GHOSTHEART, CITY OF LIES, SAINTS OF NEW YORK, BAD SIGNS, A DARK AND BROKEN HEART. By then, THE DEVIL AND THE RIVER will probably be out in the UK as well.”

Ellory prefers standalones “Because the anticipation of creating an entirely new cast, new location, and new emotional atmosphere is just as exciting as creating an entirely new plot. I will never write a series. With that a phenomenal amount of research is needed. For A QUIET VENDETTA I ended up with about two thousand pages of research notes and documents, copies of court transcripts, and affidavits. It is a huge task to research a book like this and THE ANNIVERSARY MAN or A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE, but I enjoy it immensely.”

Ellory concluded with thoughts about electronic publishing. “I think eBooks are great. I have no problem with them. Books are books, regardless of format. I wholeheartedly support anything that gets more people reading. However, we are spending a great deal of resources on getting books into peoples’ hands in ever-easier ways, but generations of kids graduate from school who do not read a great deal. That is my concern.”

*****

R.J. Ellory’s first novel, CANDLEMOTH, and CITY OF LIES were both shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger. His fifth and first to be published in the US, A QUIET BELIEF IN ANGELS, won the Livre De Poche Award, Strand Magazine Best Novel 2010, Mystery Booksellers USA Award, and the Nouvel Observateur Prize. A QUIET VENDETTA won the Quebec Laureat and the Villeneuve Readers’ Prize. A SIMPLE ACT OF VIOLENCE won the UK Crime Novel of the Year. Nominated for seven additional awards, his works are now available in 24 languages, and are published by Overlook Press in the States. He is also “The Whiskey Poets” singer and guitarist. The band’s website is WhiskeyPoets.com. You can also visit Ellory at his website.

Dean Murphy

L. Dean Murphy interviews authors and reviews books for Bookreporter.com & The Big Thrill. The MWA, FWA and ITW member is working on, The Art of Murder, and Two Bodies. His maxim is "When there’s nothing left, write."

Visit him at: www.DeanMurphy.net.

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