After a bad breakup, hapless medical student Edwin Greenstick nurses his broken heart with one drink too many, only to wake up with his hand in a cast and no recollection of the night before. Then he meets Annie, a streetwise redhead who makes Edwin forget all about his ex. But Annie’s only interested in collecting on a bet that Edwin may or may not have placed while blackout drunk. Next thing he knows, Edwin finds himself accused of stealing two hundred grand in mob money and implicated in the disappearance of a murder witness. And he still has no idea how he broke his hand. Piecing together what happened will require a quick wit and a cool head. Regrettably, Edwin has neither of those qualities.
“Lean, fun, accessible and fast-paced, The Greenstick Fracture is a delight to read. Witty and carefully considered, Marten takes you on a switchback ride to reclaim Edwin Greenstick’s missing time, money, love life, peace of mind, manhood and favorite flannel shirt. All while navigating a gritty cast of misfits and troublemakers. Hard to not read in one sitting.” — William Dylan Powell, author of Untimely Demise
“The Greenstick Fracture is a comical mystery romp that will leave fans of The Hangover and Dude, Where’s My Car? begging for more.” —Joel Shulkin, MD, Amazon #1 bestselling author of Adverse Effects
“Imagine having the Friday night from Hell. Only the mob knows what happened to you. And they’re not happy about it. Neither’s the FBI or a girl with a nose for fixed fights. For those of us who’ve ever woken up to a broken hand and the rent missing from their bank account, Edwin Greenstick is our hero. Not a very good hero, but then that’s the fun part.” —Jim Winter, author of The Dogs of Beaumont Heights and Holland Bay
Chuck Marten recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, THE GREENSTICK FRACTURE.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
Yes. When my son was still a baby, his crying woke me up from a crazy vivid dream, the kind that sticks with you for a while afterwards. In the dream, for some reason I was in a dive bar in Manhattan, about to be attacked by a huge, strange man who had no face. The whole thing was so intense that once I was awake I felt the need to imagine a backstory to explain why I was in the bar, who was the faceless man, and why was he trying to kill me. Within a few minutes a dozen plot points had popped into my head, so I quickly grabbed my phone and texted them to myself so I wouldn’t forget (all while ignoring the cries of my infant son). Those texts became the outline of the book and that dream became Chapter 4.
A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?
This is the first book I wrote where I couldn’t wait to find out how it ended. I had so much fun writing it that I figured there had to be people out there (even if just a handful) who would enjoy reading it. Also, I put a lot of my own personal history into the book. Just like the protagonist, I had my heart broken while I was in medical school, and the story takes place in the Manhattan neighborhoods where I spent time during my residency.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
Absolutely. The pacing and tone were heavily influenced by Donald Westlake’s Somebody Owes Me Money, which is one of my favorite novels. The Greenstick Fracture takes place in Manhattan in the mid-90s, so I listened to a lot of period pop music to keep myself in that setting — lots of Stone Temple Pilots and Live. I think it helped me avoid too many anachronisms in my writing. I listened to so much Toad the Wet Sprocket that I ended up mentioning them in the novel. Also, the central plot revolves around the protagonist having too much to drink after being dumped by his girlfriend, and then waking up the next day with a broken hand and no memory of the night before. As he’s trying to figure out how he broke his hand, he ends up meeting a girl who just might help him get over his ex. So, there were elements of The Hangover and The Flight Attendant along with some romantic comedy beats running through my mind, but with a medical mystery mixed in.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
The Greenstick Fracture is technically a medical thriller, just like how I am technically a doctor. However, back when I practiced medicine, I never felt as confident as the genius main characters you find in most medical mystery books. My protagonist, Edwin Greenstick, is still just a med student, and I gave him the same fallibility that I saw in myself at his age. Edwin may have a medical mystery to solve, but he’s not yet very good at practicing medicine or at detective work (or personal finances, making decisions, talking to women….). I wanted to create a character where even relatively minor dangers resulted in high stakes, because he’s never in his comfort zone, and then keep raising those stakes higher and higher and see what happens….
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Like most people, doctors often start out as idiots too.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
I’m working on a sequel to The Greenstick Fracture. I had so much fun with this one that I feel that I can rattle off two or three more of these.
To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.