By Thomas Pluck
In the wake of five cold-case murders across Los Angeles, one of psychologist Claire Bowen’s patients goes missing. She teams with Detective Joe Tanner to confront their own dark pasts as they hunt the predator targeting victims in their midst, and venture INTO THE DARK…
Thriller writer Rick Mofina is a former crime reporter whose work has taken him all over the world, face to face with murderers on death row and in the streets with the LAPD and RCMP.
His latest thriller INTO THE DARK streets this July from MIRA books.
Rick, you have two intriguing characters in your latest thriller. Tell us a bit about Claire Bowen and Joe Tanner. Are they recurring characters?
They’re both very strong, both are survivors. Claire had a horrible childhood and was abused as a spouse. Tanner lost his wife but keeps their love alive through the short videos she made on his phone. He’s devoted to their beautiful daughter. Claire and Tanner are both wounded people, yet they endure. I think it makes them more real, more heroic. They are self-doubting and flawed. I liked that about them.
Los Angeles has a long history in crime fiction and seems to be our national hotbed for serial killers. The Night Stalker, the Zodiac, the Hillside Stranglers. Tell us what you can about the villain Claire & Joe are up against.
He’s a chameleon. He’s faced the worst kind of upbringing you could imagine. He was not wanted. He was never meant to be, yet he overcame everything that life threw at him to become an admirable, respected human being. To the world, he’s a man who’s seen to be caring, even self-sacrificing to the point that he is venerated by his community. At the same time, he’s tormented for he’s turned every obscenity ever inflicted upon him throughout his young life into a hidden force so vengeful that it’s consumed his identity. He is two beings in the body of one man, two forces determined to destroy the other.
The sprawl of Los Angeles has always been daunting to me. It feels Balkanized and immense. Are you from L.A. originally? What inspires you to write about the City of Angels?
I’m not from L.A., which to me, is one of the world’s greatest cities. First time I visited was as a crime reporter. I got to fly over it with the L.A.P.D.’s Air Support Division for nearly three hours. Loved it. I returned years later to attend book events and do research. I rode city buses through the toughest neighborhoods. I also took the rapid transit system from one end to the other. I went to Jack Nicholson’s house on Mulholland Drive – to the gate actually – where I was turned down for an interview request. And I covered a serial killer’s trial down in Orange County. I visited the building in Hollywood where F. Scott Fitzgerald died and drove along the Pacific Coast. I stayed in a cheap motel in Rampart Division when there was some gang activity. In my time I’ve only gotten a taste of L.A., but enough to know that I love it.
INTO THE DARK weaves several gripping premises right from the start, characters fighting their complicated pasts. Do you find that the story flows from the character, or does the story itself require a character to fill the shoes it provides?
A little of both. For me, I wanted to delve into character first, so as I created and shaped their backgrounds, the story emerged on a parallel track. Now, I did have a storyline in development, so story and character served me as counterweights with the aim of finding the right balance. If a reader is interested in the character, I would hope that they would follow them through whatever drama they faced.
Your background is in crime reporting. My favorite journalists turned novelists have a terrific grasp of human nature from their reporting experience. How does your investigative background inform your work?
The experience of reporting on crimes, of talking with grieving families of victims, with the investigators, and of conducting face-to-face death-row interviews with murderers, are experiences you never forget. I suppose they give you a measure of insight into human nature. By drawing on the realities and truths I’ve learned, I can drill deeper in fiction. Fiction allows you to probe a person’s thoughts. Journalistic objectivity, in that sense, goes out the window. Journalism still allows you to convey many things against impossible deadlines. Still, some of the best writers, and copy editors who help them, are found in newspapers. But crime fiction allows you to go deeper into characters, themes, the actual soul of a story. And maybe on that level you do get closer to some universal truths. For example, a news story in good hands can convey quite powerfully how sickened a homicide detective is, say, over a child murder. But the novelist can take you further. The novelist can take you into the detective’s heart, make you feel what he or she feels witnessing an autopsy, or informing an inconsolable parent, or questioning a lying suspect, or grappling with their own anguish at night when their head touches the pillow and sleep is a fugitive.
Rick Mofina is a former crime reporter and the award-winning author of several acclaimed thrillers. He’s interviewed murderers face-to-face on death row; patrolled with the LAPD and the RCMP. His true crime articles have appeared in THE NEW YORK TIMES, MARIE CLAIRE, READER’S DIGEST and PENTHOUSE. He’s reported from the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Qatar and Kuwait’s border with Iraq. The International Thriller Writers, The Private Eye Writers of America and The Crime Writers of Canada have Rick Mofina’s books as being among the best in the world. His titles have been published in some 22 countries.
To learn more about Rick, please visit his website.