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By Steven Savile

Sometimes the darkest moments of our lives give us the brightest chance at our redemption.

Estranged from his wife and daughter, former undercover cop Mark Mallen has spent the last four years in a haze of heroin. And when his best friend from the academy, Eric Russ, is murdered, all the evidence points to Mallen as the prime suspect.

Now Mallen’s former colleagues on the force are turning up the heat and Russ’s survivors are in desperate need of answers. But if he wants to serve justice to the real killer, Mallen knows he’ll have to get clean. Turning a life around is murder for a junkie, especially when two low-life thugs want him dead. Bruised, battered, and written off by nearly everyone, Mallen must make amends for his damaged past and restore hope for a better future.

I caught up with Robert K. Lewis recently and asked him a few questions for the Big Thrill:

What drew you to Mark’s story?

Well, I guess I would start with that it talks about people who are struggling to make it through life. We’re all damaged in some way, shape, or form. And like it says on the back of the book, “Sometimes the darkest moments of our lives give us the brightest chance at redemption.” I lived in Mallen’s neighborhood for many, many years off and on. I’ve seen bad corners turn good and good ones, bad. People struggling to make ends meet, some people whose only way to get through life is to think about “Shelter, food, laundry”. Anything else is gravy.

It was this sort of world I wanted to talk about, to set up as Mallen’s world. I’ve always been a fan of Chandler and Hammett of course, but also of other writers from the Post-War era who started writing about these streets where people were falling further and further behind the major section of society.

But what really drew me to the story? Well, I love a great redemption tale. A story where a protagonist has done wrong, done VERY wrong, and has that ONE LAST CHANCE to make it good, you know? Tip the scales not so much back in his or her favor, but just get them frickin’ even. THAT alone is a hard thing to do, right? Just trying to restore order. That’s why this story, UNTOLD DAMAGE, appealed to me and made me write it.

In a crowded genre what makes Mark Mallen stand out?

Well, not everyone is a recovering junkie and of THOSE people, not many were an undercover narco agent before they fell into the world of drugs. However, other than that? Mallen’s got a sense of right and wrong that’s heavily steeped in the here and now, in the concrete and grime that permeates a lot of people’s lives. Not some easily recited version of it, a version recited when we’re home behind locked doors, warm and comfy at our dinner table. He thinks about, and acts on, a right and wrong that is not so clear cut, so black and white. Mallen is able to see this, and act accordingly.

For new writers, could you tell us five things you never knew before this all this started?

1. Well, I really had no idea how much work it would take to bring Mallen into the world. Talk about a painful birth! I STILL feel like I’m crowning!

2. I always worked with the “door closed”. Well, that stops early on, and you have to let a WHOLE ARMY of people into your life. This becomes a group project. I wasn’t really ready for that, though I was aware of it happening at some point.

3. I didn’t know how much whiskey Mallen would want me to drink so I could finish his story.

4. The best part of Mallen? He had very little laundry to do.

5. The worst part of Mallen? He always balked at doing mine.


Robert K. Lewis (Bay Area, CA) has been a painter, printmaker, and a produced screenwriter. He lives with his wife and a trio of moody ghosts. UNTOLD DAMAGE is his first novel.

To learn more about Robert, please visit his website.

Steven Savile