By Dan Levy
During a time when the favored attire of anti-heroes can range from a wife-beater T-shirt soaked with blood and caked with gunshot residue to whatever the nearest Wal-Mart carries to militia gear and camo paint, it’s nice to see certain heroes emerge that still value a suit.
And not a jump suit, flight suit, or space suit. In the case of TERMINAL LIFE: A SUITED HERO NOVEL, the business suit is the hero’s attire of choice. You know, the kind that spawned the pejorative “a suit” to describe a group of men usually painted as ego-inflated idiots, inept law enforcement, or establishment types that are not to be trusted.
For Luke Stark, the protagonist in TERMINAL LIFE, author Richard Torregrossa explained the power of the suit: “[Exploring] the mythic quality of the suit interested me. It’s all [Stark] has, and it empowers him. It’s like Superman’s cape.”
By giving the business suit meaning, Torregrossa not only adds depth to a protagonist that is a composite of his favorite anti-heroes, it enabled him to tap into a subject for which he is already a bestselling author and expert. This is evidenced in his book, CARY GRANT: A CELEBRATION OF STYLE.
Following the success of his style book, Torregrossa moved into thriller fiction to pursue his love for action stories—Jason Statham movies and Ken Bruin novels among the most influential—and explore storytelling beyond the constraints of nonfiction. “Fiction is what I always wanted to write, but I didn’t have the skills. After years of being a journalist and then writing the Cary Grant book, I thought I was ready to take a shot at fiction.”
And, he succeeded. Torregrossa’s debut work of fiction is TERMINAL LIFE. In it, Luke Stark, a Special Forces veteran, returns home from his second tour in Afghanistan to learn that his wife has been mysteriously murdered and his son has disappeared. These tragedies, in addition to suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, push him over the edge. He has also been diagnosed with an incipient form of cancer, but he forgoes treatment, a decision that is akin to a slow suicide.
Although he languishes in a shelter, he wears an impeccable suit, an eccentric characteristic that sets him apart from his fellow down-and-outers and just about everybody else. He is nicknamed, somewhat ironically, The Suited Hero. Revenge and the search for his son spark a kind of rebirth in him that is as cathartic as it is brutal. This leads him into the dangerous world of illegal prescription drug distribution, where nobody in this gripping mystery crime thriller—not even some family members—is who they appear to be.
“Everyone likes a well-dressed badass,” Torregrossa quipped about Luke Stark. But he was quick to add, “He’s a post-modernist hero, more like Dirty Harry than John Wayne. You want a character that is sympathetic, but some of the things Stark does aren’t sympathetic. This is a revenge thriller.”
In addition to delving into the transformative power of the suit worn by Luke Stark, Torregrossa also delves into the world of illegal prescription drugs. Torregrossa’s inspiration for that world as a backdrop to his novel is a great reminder that inspiration can come from anywhere. “I was walking by a drugstore and I saw a sign in the window that said, ‘We do not stock oxycontin’,” Torregrossa noted. “ I wondered why and did a little research. The reason they get held up isn’t for cash, but for oxycontin. It can go for as much as sixty to eighty dollars per pill on the street. Then, I looked through the amount of money that is made in the illegal prescription drug business—mostly online—and it’s enormous. I thought this would be a great thing for my protagonist—Uncle Pauley—to be involved in.”
Torregrossa is unique in that, as a first-time fiction author, he understands the power of having the title “best-selling author” by his name. Yet, he is also going through many of the experiences that come with being a novice thriller writer. When asked if there was a common thread that sustained him throughout his writing career, Torregrossa offered the mantra, “Process, not result. If you’re going to take writing seriously, concentrate on the process. Learn your craft.” He added that this is the best path to the publishing contracts and movie rights that seem to be a distraction for so many aspiring writers.
Richard Torregrossa is a journalist whose work has appeared in The Financial Times, Newsday, The New York Post, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, Movieline, Cosmopolitan, Yoga Journal, The Washingtonian, The South China Morning Post, Las Vegas Magazine, and many other publications. The author of eight books, including the acclaimed biography CARY GRANT: A CELEBRATION OF STYLE, Foreword by Giorgio Armani, Afterword by Michael Kors. A first-degree black belt, he continues to teach and study martial arts. Richard’s expertise in men’s fashion and martial arts shine in TERMINAL LIFE, the first in the Suited Hero series, a mystery crime thriller.
Learn more about Richard Torregrossa and TERMINAL LIFE: A SUITED HERO by visiting his website.