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When Cole Quick returns to his estranged hometown of Teller, Texas, for his alcoholic father’s funeral, it doesn’t take long for old debts, both criminal and psychological, to drag him back into the underworld he fled 13 years earlier.

Fresh off the death of his wife, a former local debutante who swore off her inheritance to skip town with him, Cole soon finds trouble from her family on the other side of the tracks as well.

To escape Teller County with his life intact he’ll have to solve an old friend’s murder, resist powerful forces conspiring to pillage his inheritance, and crack open the debutante town’s sterile outer shell to reveal the dark forces of racism, classism, and corruption operating just beneath the surface.

Author Michael Pool was kind enough to spend some time with The Big Thrill discussing his second novel, ROSE CITY:

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

I hope people will first and foremost enjoy it and connect with the characters in a meaningful way. There are some emotional and difficult subject matters in this book, from racism to classism to corruption. Not to mention love and loss. I hope my deep feelings for my own characters will come across through those emotional aspects of the novel even in places where I don’t get them totally right, which would be impossible. I hope the reader will come to care for the characters in spite of their flaws, and love the book in spite of any flaws it might have or not have, as I do.

How does this book make a contribution to the genre?

ROSE CITY deals with powerful concepts such as love, loss, racism, classism, greed, and corruption in a way that I hope fits well into the larger canons of both Southern gothic literature and rural noir and mystery fiction. It’s about the way things change even as nothing changes at all. And the weight people carry at every level of social stratification, which often does surprising things to their hearts and minds. I wanted to explore the lines we draw along social class and through institutional racism, and explore the powerful, undeniable pull of blood. I also wanted to explore the inherent danger and pain faced by those who choose to cross the invisible but very real lines of class and prejudice. I think the book does a fair job of highlighting the way that criminal and antisocial behavior crosses those boundaries easier than anyone or anything else, leaving a path of destruction for all on every side in its wake.

Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote this book?

This was actually the first full novel I ever wrote. It’s not the first I’ve had published, but I think in general the editing process on this book taught me so much about how to construct a good story over time. It has almost five years of revisions on it at this point. You might say I discovered the kind of book I want to write in writing ROSE CITY, by which I mean my books tend to spend as much time focusing on the dynamics and relationships between people as they do on the mystery and crime that propels the plot forward. That’s the way I like it, and I’m not sure it’s something I could change even if I wanted to. I’m happy to finally accept and grow into my style.

No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?

There are some surprisingly touching moments in ROSE CITY in spite of the criminal and dark subject matter. It’s a book about love and loss and the choices that unavoidable change brings to our doorsteps. Change can be destructive or it can be a call to self-awareness and improvement. It all depends on mindset. There’s a big mindset shift for the protagonist, Cole Quick, at the midpoint of this novel, and after that internal shift, many external shifts take place, too. I like that.

What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

This list is ever-evolving and no matter who I mention it will be at the disservice of so many others. Raymond Carver, Ross Macdonald, Walter Mosley, Hunter Thompson… just way too many to name.. Above all else I am a reader, it is one of my greatest passions in life, and it has carried me through many, many dark times.


Michael Pool is the author of the crime novel Texas Two-Step and the crime noir novella Debt Crusher. He lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and two stepsons.

To learn more about Michael, please visit his website.