By George Ebey
From Doug Magee, author of Never Wave Goodbye, comes an exciting new thriller, Darkness All Around.
Sean Collins has returned to his hometown after an eleven year absence, claiming he killed his friend Carol Slezak one drunken night before he left. His ex-wife, Risa, can’t believe that Sean could have done it. The DA, who put another man in prison for the killing, doesn’t believe him either. Risa’s current husband, Alan, a politician running for Congress, just wants Sean out of the way. But Sean is determined to stay, and his refusal to leave just might expose the town’s violent underside.
You have worked as a photojournalist and as filmmaker. What made you decide to try your hand at thriller fiction?
Writing thriller fiction was really just an extension of what I was doing as a screenwriter. My first film, Somebody Has To Shoot The Picture, was the story of a photographer asked to photograph an execution. It came directly from work I’d done as a photojournalist, but it was a fictionalized account, complete with a murder mystery. After that I did a number of scripts that were thrillers, one an adaptation of a suspense novel. Actually I wonder why it took me so long to bring some of the things I learned in screenwriting to bear on a novel. I guess I just thought the form was too difficult to tackle. But I love it now.
This story features a man in prison who may be innocent. Why does this topic interest you?
I’ve been involved with criminal justice issues, especially the death penalty, for years, as both an activist and a writer. I’m currently working on the case of two men in Nebraska who have spent thirty-four years in prison, twenty-three of those on death row, for a crime I’m certain they didn’t commit. I don’t like to use my fiction as a “message” medium, but having a (spoiler alert) innocent man in Darkness All Around was organic to the story and I was happy to include it.
Where is your story set and what made you decide to choose that setting?
Darkness All Around is set in the fictional Pennsylvania town of Braden. I modeled the town after Berwick, Pennsylvania. I’m not sure exactly why I chose this setting. I had had the bones of the story in my head for quite a while and things like high school football, a small insular community, one with some ethnic interest, and some proximity to New York were parts of the narrative I could see. I looked into Pennsylvania high school football, found a town that had turned out some championship teams (Berwick), visited the town for a day and built my fictional town from that visit.
What fascinates you the most about the thriller genre?
The thriller genre isn’t as interesting to me as a good mystery. That may sound like nonsense, or hair-splitting, but I see the difference. Mystery is more than puzzle solving to me. When we confront things that are truly unknown or unknowable we ask ourselves some of the deepest questions of life. In Darkness All Around, for instance, a man believes he committed a murder eleven years earlier that he had had no memory of until he suffered a traumatic brain injury. Not only is he (and we the readers) faced with the mystery of how and why he did this, but there is the deeper mystery of this very plastic thing we call memory.
For those who are looking for even more thrills, Darkness All Around will have a Facebook presence with clues about the mystery in the book played out in a series of short films.
To learn more about Doug, please visit his website.