The Taken by Vicki Pettersson

By Guy Bergstrom

Chevies with fins, the Cold War, pompadours, the birth of rock and roll — that’s the world of private eye Griffin Shaw, murdered more than half a century ago. Now he’s an angel who helps the soon-to-be dead into the afterlife. But Grif didn’t expect to get attached to his latest charge, nosy reporter Kit Craig — or have her help solving his own murder while they race to prevent her death.

That’s the premise of THE TAKEN, NEW YORK TIMES bestseller Vicki Pettersson’s first novel in a trilogy about Grif and Kit.

What is rockabilly and how does THE TAKEN tie into it?

Rockabilly is a modern-day subculture, a way of life that sprung up around a love of the music from the fifties, but which has grown to encompass the fashion, the cars, the furniture … even the Sailor Jerry tattooing that began in that era. Nautical themes, cherries, flaming dice — things that are all-American and tactile and well made and harken back to a seemingly simpler time.

Somebody who lives the rockabilly lifestyle looks like they stepped right out of the fifties, and my female lead in THE TAKEN exemplifies this. Her house, car, hairstyles, vintage clothing — everything that’s sensory is wrapped around rockabilly. This, of course, makes her absolute kryptonite for my male lead: an angel who was a P.I., murdered back in 1960.

The setting is modern-day. Kit is one of his Takes, but instead of simply allowing her to die, he protects her instead. In return, he enlists her help in solving his own decades-old murder. And that’s really what drew me to this story: What if someone was trying to solve his own murder? So “Who killed Griffin Shaw?” is the question guiding the whole trilogy.

Without giving away the ending, why does somebody want reporter Kit Craig dead?

Kit believes she’s lowering the boom on a city-wide prostitution ring, and it’s a story that will make her career. Yet her best friend is killed during their investigation, and she’s the one who inadvertently points the killers in Kit’s direction.

They believe she knows more than she should, and with Grif’s help, she eventually does.

It’s definitely a shared story. Each book in the trilogy follows two mysteries – the modern-day one driving that particular book, which is mainly Kit’s concern, and the overarching mystery in the series: Who killed Griffin Shaw?

While the modern-day mystery – such as the prostitution ring – is solved at the end of each book, the larger one is advanced enough to be solved by the end of the trilogy.

Meanwhile, the story is told through both Kit and Grif’s perspectives, so it also highlights their growing feelings toward one another, though that’s complicated in itself. Grif’s is haunted by guilt and memories of his wife being murdered along with him all those years ago.

Is there a little Kit Craig in you — a pot-stirrer, a muckracker, a writer of controversial things?

Honestly, I don’t court controversy in life or writing. I’m not looking for attention, I’m looking for connection, and – though it may be controversial – I think that’s where a lot of writers get it wrong. It’s never about you.It’s about the work, but it’s mostly about the reader and the experience you’re giving them. Everything, including the author’s agenda and ego, needs to be in service of the work.

I can’t stand it when authors call their readers “fans” or, worse, start referring to themselves in the third-person. “Get ready to enter Vicki Pettersson’s world!” I mean … what? But if your intention is to create a connection instead, then that’s going to come through in the text. The reader will respond to this sense of shared space, and bonus, you get to continue writing stories.

There. That’s about as controversial as I get.

Why write mysteries/thrillers instead of something else, and what do you think the genre is trying to say about what’s worth living for and what’s worth dying for?

I’ve written two series now with strong supernatural elements, yet the heart of each book is always a pulsing mystery. It’s also what I read for pleasure. So I’ve thought a lot about this and I believe the mystery/thriller genre cuts closer to the bone of the meaning of the human condition than any other.

Obviously nothing ups the stakes of a story like a life-or-death situation, but examining dark places through the spotlight of story, you start to realize that we all live in gray areas.

That’s interesting. It makes you think, and if done right, it makes you feel. And, again, it’s all about connection. The world might be a shitbox, but hey, it’s our shitbox.

But the paranormal genre is very useful too. It’s ghettoized to a degree because some people have a knee-jerk aversion to sparkly vampires, but a supernatural remove is very helpful when you’re trying to address a specific moral issue without didacticism. So I like to think I use both to good effect, pulling what I need into the foreground, or pushing it back, depending on story needs

Advance reviews of THE TAKEN:

“In a world where angels can be monsters, Griffin Shaw, a murdered PI turned tough-guy soul-collector, and Las Vegas reporter Katherine ‘Kit’ Craig lock horns and hearts in this supernatural noir mystery. The resulting irresistibly good yarn proves that there’s still plenty of room for brilliant innovation in urban fantasy.” – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review

“A stylish, atmospheric mash-up of rockabilly and angelic affairs … THE TAKEN proves that Pettersson is not afraid to explore the darkest corners of the human heart – and that her gift for writing redemption is unsurpassed.” – Sophie Littlefield

*****

The New York Times bestselling author of the Sign of the Zodiac series—and former showgirl—Vicki Pettersson was born, raised, and still lives in Sin City, where a backyard view of the Strip regularly inspires her to set down her martini and write. THE TAKEN inaugurates her new supernatural noir trilogy, Celestial Blues.

To learn more about Vicki, please visit her website.

Guy Bergstrom

Guy Bergstrom is a speechwriter and award-winning journalist. He wrote a thriller (FREEDOM, ALASKA) that won an award at PNWA 2013 and can be found on twitter @speechwriterguy or at his blog, redpenofdoom.com.

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