Caught Between the Future and the Past
By P. J. Bodnar
Layton Green isn’t the type to “put all his eggs in one basket.” Throughout his career, he’s bounced through a long list of diverse jobs, and even when he landed as an author, he’s not the type to pigeonhole himself into one genre, either.
So it might not come as a surprise that his new thriller—A SHATTERED LENS—is a sequel to Written in Blood, which introduced readers to Detective Preach Everson, rather than another installment in Green’s Dominic Grey or The Blackwood Saga series.
In A SHATTERED LENS, Everson is called home to North Carolina to investigate a murder. The victim is the son of his high school crush, which means Everson is forced to straddle the line between his past and his future—not an ideal complication for a homicide detective.
In this The Big Thrill interview, Green takes time out of his busy writing schedule to talk about his new thriller—and provide insight into his diverse career history.
You’ve been a lawyer, an intern at the UN, a Central American ESL teacher, a bartender, and a purveyor of cheap knives. Of all these jobs, which was the most rewarding or interesting, and which the least?
Well, that’s just the short list. Here’s a few more: carnival worker for three nights; pizza maker; dishwasher; soccer referee. Every job I’ve had was interesting in some way, and have all informed my fiction. I’ve found that often the monetary reward is in inverse proportion to the degree of excitement. Selling cheap knives on the streets of Brixton was not a very high-paying job—but let me tell you, it had its moments. On the flip side, one typically does not have to worry about material comforts when practicing law—but every day I found myself staring out the window of my high-rise and longing to do something that made me feel alive.
You’ve traveled to more than 60 countries, and lived in many of them. What drew you to live in the area of North Carolina where you also set A SHATTERED LENS?
My wife got a job in the area, so that’s what drew us. But what compelled me to set the Preach novels in the Triangle (Durham, Raleigh, and Chapel Hill) was the melting pot of people and ideas that co-exist acutely in the area: progressives and conservatives, science and religion, urban and rural. It’s a place where you can drive just outside the town limits (and sometimes inside), find an old barbecue shack or country store with farmers smoking pipes and discussing politics on the front porch, and feel as if you’ve stepped into a time machine. Yet the area has world-class universities, medical centers, and the second largest (by area) research park in the country. It’s a really intriguing microcosm of America.
If you had to live somewhere else, where would you go?
Domestic: New Orleans.
International: Cape Town.
When you wrote International Thrills features for The Big Thrill, was there one piece of advice from an author you interviewed that you incorporated into your own process?
Something Fuminori Nakamura (a really fantastic author) said has stuck in my mind. I’m not sure this made it into his article, but at dinner someone asked him how he got his start as a crime author. He responded (through the translator) with something like this: “When I was younger and contemplating being an author and how difficult the road would be, I thought, well, somebody has to do it. Why not me?” His answer made me laugh, but there’s also a lot of wisdom in that response.
Many of the characters in A SHATTERED LENS are searching for their purpose in life. Is it truly possible to find?
Let me know if you figure it out. Maybe searching for purpose is the purpose. The play is the thing . . .
Preach returns home but a lot has changed since he left. Does this make finding himself harder?
Yes and no. Returning home is comforting as well as disorienting, when home has changed. (Thomas Wolfe said it best.) Despite the fact that home is different and Preach knows he’ll never quite fit in again, he still finds great solace in the simple fact of living in the place that shaped him as a boy.
While working as a detective, Preach talks about never really knowing a town until he’s walked the streets. Have you used this technique while researching your novels?
Preach says those who serve are trying to plug a hole in themselves. What are writers doing?
The same thing.
Ari asks Preach what he believes in. His response is an email with passages like, “I believe in sunsets over still waters…I believe in little girls reaching for their daddies’ hands in public parks…the taste of cold beer after work…I believe in the power of a good story.” How much of that response is you?
I never break the fourth wall, unless I already have in this interview.
What can we look forward to from you next?
More books. Lots of them.