By J. H. Bográn
Let me tell you about David Freed’s new novel FANGS OUT: Moments before he is executed, the killer of famed Vietnam War hero-pilot Hub Walker’s daughter makes a startling allegation: the real murderer is Walker’s close friend, a prominent U.S. defense contractor. Walker wants to hire somebody willing to spend a few days hunting up information that will refute the convicted killer’s groundless but widely reported claims, and help restore his friend’s good name. That somebody, as fate would have it, is sardonic civilian flight instructor, would-be Buddhist and retired military assassin Cordell Logan. Thus begins one of the year’s most suspenseful mystery-thrillers.
A Medal of Honor recipient married to a former Playmate of the Year, Walker resides in the swanky San Diego enclave of La Jolla, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Logan is convinced that working for Walker will be little more than a paid vacation – a chance to rub shoulders with a living legend while rekindling Logan’s relationship with his own enticing ex-wife, Savannah. But after flying to San Diego in his beloved aging Cessna, the Ruptured Duck, Logan is quickly drawn into a vexing and deadly jigsaw puzzle. The deeper he digs, the murkier the truth appears, and the more in danger he finds himself. Who really killed the war hero’s daughter, and why? Somebody in “America’s Finest City,” wants to stop Logan from asking questions, and will stop at nothing to silence him.
What inspired the premise for FANGS OUT?
As a reporter for the LOS ANGELES TIMES, I was once assigned to witness an execution at a prison. Much of the details for the opening scene that I wrote in FANGS OUT were derived from my journalistic observations that night years ago—with one exception. In the execution I watched, the convicted killer was asked if he had any last words. He declined to speak. I’ve always wondered since what he might’ve said if he hadn’t been so reticent. And that’s how FANGS OUT begins, with a man about to die claiming his innocence and fingering who he asserts is the real killer. It was upon that germinal idea that I constructed the book.
Can you tell us a bit about Cordell Logan?
Quick with a quip, Logan is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a former fighter pilot whose flying career was cut short by a lingering college football injury. After effectively losing his wings, he’s transferred to military intelligence operations, and ultimately assigned to what is, in effect, a covert government assassination unit known as Alpha. After the White House disbands the unit as a potential political liability, Logan finds himself out of a job, struggling to make ends meet as a civilian flight instructor in the ritzy seaside enclave of Rancho Bonita, California. But his financial woes pale in comparison to those of his love life.
Logan is still very much in love with his wealthy ex-wife, Savannah. (The plot of “FLAT SPIN,” the first Logan mystery, begins when Savannah approaches Logan after years apart and asks him to help investigate the murder of the man she left him for). He is a complex, emotionally conflicted hero who tries to find reason in the teachings of Buddhism while struggling to quell his violent past.
How much different is FANGS OUT from FLAT SPIN?
Both books are humorously themed and involve aviation. Many of the same characters appear in both. That said, the stories and settings in each are substantially different. What’s also different is Logan himself. He’s changing. The wonderful thing about writing a serial is that you can really get down in the emotional weeds with your protagonist, tweaking his character arc book-to-book in ways that a screenwriter cranking out film scripts in Hollywood (another of the hats I’ve worn) can never do. People, for better or worse, are influenced by life. The person they are at 25 invariably is not the person they are at 50. Logan is no different from you or me in that regard.
Can you define the antagonist of the novel? Without giving away the ending, of course.
The long answer is that, ideally, the antagonist in any mystery is the one the reader least expects, but one who supports upon second reading the evidentiary breadcrumbs the author has discretely dropped along the trail, leading to the final reveal.
The short answer is, no way!
What kind of research did you do when writing FANGS OUT?
There’s that old adage, “Write what you know.” Quite frankly, I didn’t do a whole lot of research because a lot of the stuff in this book is what I know, or have experienced personally. I spent years covering homicides and other violent crimes as a police reporter; I’ve worked extensively as an asset for the intelligence community; I’m an instrument-rated pilot and aircraft owner. All of those elements are included in my books and all, I’d like to believe, lend at least a patina of authenticity to what I write.
Can you share a link for book trailer?
I don’t have a trailer, though my web designer, the brilliant Kevin Pacotti of Lightningrodsolutions.com, built a pretty slick graphic on my website that lays out the crux of the book pretty succinctly and vividly.
What are you currently working on?
I’m writing book #3 in the Logan series. If all goes according to plan, it’ll be out in early 2014.
What appearances do you have schedule for the promotion of FANGS OUT?
Truthfully, I’ve been so busy writing, I haven’t had a whole lot of time to schedule stuff. There will definitely be other appearances, but here’s what’s happening so far:
May 25, 2 p.m.—Book Carnival, Tustin, CA
June 19, 7:30 p.m.—Tattered Cover, Denver
June 26, 7 a.m.—Colorado Springs Executives Association, the Antlers Hotel, Colorado Springs
June 29, 2 p.m.—The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale
Nov. 16 9 a.m.—Men of Mystery, Mariott Hotel, Irvine, CA
Aug. 22-25—Killer Nashville, Hilton Hotel, Nashville, TN
Sept. 19-22—Bouchercon, Empire State Plaza, Albany, NY
From your website I learned about your passion for flying. Do you have a Cessna like Cordell does?
For years, I flew a tired old Cessna 172 Skyhawk, like Logan’s beloved Ruptured Duck. The plane belonged to my father-in-law, who is also a pilot, and I got tired of having to pay for replacement parts. So I bought an even older, but better-maintained Piper Cherokee 180, which I absolutely love. On days when the weather is beautiful, which it typically is in Santa Barbara where I live, it’s awfully hard to sit at my desk and write when I know that my plane is sitting out at the airport, ready to go.
What would you say is the best part of your job?
Without question, it’s hearing from readers. I love how they have no qualms about emailing me, to tell me what they liked in the book and didn’t. When I was a newspaper reporter, about the only time you’d hear from readers is when you screwed up the facts of a story—which I did on more than a few occasions, believe me! The bond between those who read mystery-thrillers and those who write them is tangible; it’s very definitely a warm, wonderful community, one that I’m honored to be a part of.
“David Freed proves once again in FANGS OUT that he is a superb writer whose prose is at once muscular and musical–and sometimes verges on poetry.” –ASSOCIATED PRESS
David Freed is a pilot, screenwriter and former Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist for the LOS ANGELES TIMES. His work appears regularly in Smithsonian’s AIR & SPACE and THE ATLANTIC, where was honored in 2011 as finalist in Feature Writing by the American Society of Magazine Editors. David has also worked extensively within the U.S. intelligence community.
His debut mystery-thriller, FLAT SPIN (Permanent Press) was hailed by the ASSOCIATED PRESS as “one of the best debuts of 2012,” and by AUDIOFILE as, “one of the funniest books of the year.” His second mystery-thriller, FANGS OUT, lands in May. He lives in Santa Barbara, California.
To learn more about David, please visit his website.