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As the ’70s draw to a close in San Francisco, things do not bode well for the city—or for ex-con PI Colleen Hayes, whose daughter Pam, in a tragic turn of events, has lost her baby. Pam leaves San Francisco, and Colleen, who moved there to reunite with her, starts to wonder what she’s doing in the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, a serial killer given the name “Night Candy” is targeting sex workers, both male and female. The situation doesn’t improve when Colleen’s friend and ally—SFPD Inspector Owens—is arrested for the murder of his ex-wife, who was found burned in a fire the same night the pair had tried to rekindle their love. Could Owens have really done what they say? Even Colleen has her doubts.

But there are people depending on her: Owens, who needs help finding his ex-wife’s real killer, and a trio of sex workers Colleen keeps her eye on—especially with Night Candy on the loose. Then, one of the three girls is next to disappear. If anything is to test Colleen’s resolve, December 1979 seems to be it.

“You couldn’t ask for a better guide through the dark, shadowy flashback haze of ‘70s San Francisco.’ Tracy Clark, author of Broken Places.

“Atmospheric and tense, this one sizzles with twists that entertain and magnetize, whetting the appetite for more.” —Steve Berry, New York Times best-selling author

Max Tomlinson recently spent some time with The Big Thrill discussing his latest thriller, NIGHT CANDY.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
The Zodiac murders in SF in the ’60s were the catalyst for Night Candy, the nickname for a serial killer who targets sex workers.

Max Tomlinson

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?
I had an idea of the character arc of the protagonist during my fourth book and also wanted to show the 1970s coming to a close in San Francisco. I’ve always wanted to do a serial killer mystery. I also work my manuscripts with a writers group over the course of a year to make sure they “work”.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
The Zodiac.

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?
My protagonista, Colleen Hayes, is an unlicensed investigator who spent a decade in prison for killing her ex. Freed from prison, she comes to San Francisco looking for her wayward teenage daughter. I wanted a fresh anti-hero, one who sees the criminal world from the “other side,” and one who was female.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
A sense of the 1970s, particularly in San Francisco, and a taste for classic noir literature.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?
A domestic thriller set in modern day Northern California titled “Shallow Point” in which a woman goes to prison for vehicular manslaughter, only to learn that the accident may have been engineered by her husband.


Born in San Francisco, with its rich literary history and a public transport system teeming with characters suitable for crime novels, the stage was set for Max Tomlinson to become a mystery writer. His published work includes a crime series set in South America, an international espionage series, and now the USA Today best-selling Colleen Hayes Mystery Series, set in 1970s San Francisco. Night Candy is the fifth novel in the series.

To learn more about the author and his work, please visit his website.