By Wendy Tyson
DEATH WORKS AT NIGHT, the recently-released novel by Mauro Azzano, is the second installment in the Ian McBriar series. In the first book, THE DEAD DON’T DREAM, readers met homicide police detective McBriar as he investigated the brutal assault of two young boys, one of whom the son of a local underworld figure. In the new book, a fast-paced police procedural, McBriar is back, only this time he’s faced with an even more puzzling set of circumstances: a string of murders that span a continent.
Mauro was kind enough to answer a few questions for THE BIG THRILL.
DEATH WORKS AT NIGHT is described as “the story of a Metis police detective who conquered bigotry, prejudice, and his own personal tragedies to succeed.” Can you tell us a little more about Ian McBriar and some of the elements of his past that have made him the man he is today?
In the first book, we learn that Ian was studying to be a priest. His mother was killed tragically, and the anger he felt at the person who had caused her death led him to realize he had neither the self-control nor the self-denial required to be a priest. Becoming a police officer was the best compromise for him, allowing him to punish the guilty while staying true to his principles.
In my books, Ian is Scottish/French/Cree Indian. The stories are set in the 1970s, a time when political correctness did not exist, and few positions of trust were available to people of an aboriginal background.
This is the second in the Ian McBriar series. Like the first McBriar novel, DEATH WORKS AT NIGHT is set in Toronto, Canada. You were born in Italy, and you have lived in Australia and Canada, where you currently make your home. How have your own experiences traveling and living in such varied international locales affected your novels?
Ian is a “fish out of water.” I moved from Italy to Australia at age three, then back to Italy at age eleven, then to Canada a year later. I had three separate and very jarring culture shocks, and I’m certain that this was the genesis for Ian’s difficulties. I briefly thought of making the character an Italian-Canadian, but Ian came to me almost completely formed, and the more I investigated the difficulties faced by Metis, the more this felt like the right way to go.
Both books are set in the 1970s. What inspired you to write historical thrillers?
I am a people-watcher. I also tend to remember details that I witness; THE DEAD DON’T DREAM came from a half dozen snippets of scenes I remember seeing over the past twenty years, and I needed to write it to get the story out of my head.
The reason I set the first book in the 1970s was initially technical: there were some things one could do in the era before computer databases that one cannot do today. Once the first book was underway, I realized that the characters were a lot more alive, more vibrant, as a result of NOT being able to pick up a cell phone or Google an answer. They had to communicate—talk to each other—and I think this human interaction comes through in the story.
In DEATH WORKS AT NIGHT, McBriar is confronted with a perplexing case—a murder with no obvious motive and a suspect with no alibi. When writing the novel, did you outline the plot before you wrote the first draft, or did the plot develop during the writing process itself? What else can you share a about your writing process?
I never write down outlines or flow charts or anything, and I never know where the story is going to go. Often, I type away and am as surprised as anybody at what the characters do. Those scenes are usually the ones I need to tweak the least, the ones that I really enjoy seeing in print.
I research everything, from the score of the hockey game in one scene, to the make of car and type of gun the police used in 1974. My biggest fear is that someone will say that I got some important point wrong. I have heard from a number of retired and active police officers who read THE DEAD DON’T DREAM; to my immense pride they all said that I got the atmosphere of the police department right, that reading the dialog, they could hear the banter in their heads.
For the first three or four rewrites of THE DEAD DON’T DREAM I was not sure just “whodunit,” but once the next rewrite was done, I was certain that this was the story that I wanted to share.
When I write, I don’t use the “1000 words per day” rule or anything like that, but I do try to keep the momentum going. It’s very easy to leave the work for a while and never get back to it, but you have to press on until it’s finished. Once you have, you can decide whether it’s good enough to proceed with, but until it’s finished, it’s like an unbaked cake. You’ll never know whether it’s delicious or not unless it’s baked.
As to how I get my ideas, the central plot twist in the first book came from a casual comment I heard on the radio about “tombstoning”—identity theft from a graveyard. The second book’s plot contains an interesting psychological condition that I thought would be a really great red herring. Both of these felt right from the first time I wrote them down.
What would you like your readers to take away from your books?
Mystery books are not actuarial tomes. They should be easy to read, entertaining and interesting. If they are also informative, all the better. But the feedback I get is that people see Ian, Frank, and the others in my books as real, solid human beings who are alive to them. If these characters give people a nice warm feeling, then I have done my job well.
What’s next for you? Can readers look forward to another McBriar thriller?
The third book in the series, DEATH BY DECEIT, has been sent to the publisher for first edit. It takes place in 1977, and has the same humor and fun banter as the first two books, but the threat in this book comes far closer to home for Ian; the body count is higher, and the culprit is more devious and determined than before.
The fourth book is in the planning stage. That said, the central plot of this book had been in my mind ever since I started writing the second book. I am superstitious, though, so I won’t discuss it until I finish the first draft.
Mauro Azzano was born in the Veneto in Northern Italy. He has received recognition as an educator, a communicator and also as an author. The Ian McBriar series of books is still growing, and he is currently working on the fourth in the series.
To learn more about Mauro, please visit his website.
Click here to watch the booktrailer for DEATH WORKS AT NIGHT.