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Cheaters, Creepers, and a Dead PI

The Big Thrill Interviews Author R. G. Belsky

By José H. Bográn

Book Cover Image: Broadcast BluesBROADCAST BLUES is the sixth novel in the Clare Carlson series, and R. G. Belsky is not slowing down. It’s a good series that readers love to return to because the plots almost seem to be, as the author says, “ripped from the headlines.”

This time, our favorite TV journalist, Clare Carlson, is set to investigate the death of a private investigator who’d made a reputation by exposing cheating spouses.

Amid the hectic release of the novel this January, The Big Thrill caught up with the author to discuss where the story came from, what is in store for Clare Carlson and his favorite spots to write.

What prompted the idea for this novel?

Author Photo: R. G. Belsky

R. G. Belsky

I read a small feature article one day about a woman private investigator who specifically investigates cases for women who want to see if their husbands or boyfriends are cheating on them. Sort of like the TV show, Cheaters, that I’ve seen from time to time. I thought that might make a great lead woman character for a mystery someday—my own version of a unique female PI like Stephanie Plum or Kinsey Millhone. But, when it came time to write BROADCAST BLUES (#6 in the series), I decided to use the idea to make one of the characters the victim instead.

At the same time, I’d been reading a lot in the news about the over-the-top lifestyle and behavior of a number of super-rich men. So, I also wanted to write about that in this book. The scenario I finally came up with was: What would happen if this female PI investigating cheating husbands began looking into the sexual affairs of a powerful billionaire who had big secrets to hide? The result is this book.

Wendy Kyle seems like she could be what Clare would have become had Clare entered the police department instead of the news. Was that sort of mirror image intentional?

I just wanted to create a tough, controversial, kick-ass woman who seemed like she might have had a ton of enemies who wanted her dead. At the same time, though, I show she has a strong moral code about what she does for a living as a peephole-peeking PI—even though the work might seem sleazy to us. I also show her dedication to doing the right thing when she was an NYPD police officer, even though she left the force in disgrace. I did not set out to write her as a mirror image of Clare. But as I wrote the book, I realized there were indeed similarities between the two women. Clare realizes it too, at one point telling her friend that she wished she had met the dead Wendy: “I like her,” she says.

Speaking of Clare, what is she up to besides the main case she’s investigating?

Author Photo: R. G. Belsky and Sandra Brown

R. G. Belsky and Sandra Brown at ThrillerFest

What’s new is that Clare is approaching her 50th birthday, which is a big deal for anyone, especially a woman in TV news where youthful looks are so important. BROADCAST BLUES opens with Clare running through a list of prominent women broadcasters older than her at 50 (Savannah Guthrie, Robin Roberts, Hoda Kotb) and trying to pretend that this milestone birthday doesn’t bother her. As might be expected, Clare does not do a very good job of this.

One of my favorite scenes comes when she’s talking about it with her friend, Janet Wood.

“Are you still thinking about that age business?” Janet asks.
“No, not at all, I’m fine with it.”
“Because it can be kind of traumatic knowing you’re going to turn 50 in a few months.”
“Two months, one week, and four days.’
“But you’re not obsessing about it or anything.”
“Hardly ever even give it a thought.”

At the same time, Clare is trying to deal with a new boss that she hates and with her currently non-existent romantic life (after three failed marriages that ended in divorce). These things complicate Clare’s life as she tries to solve the murder mystery in BROADCAST BLUES.

Eleanor Bannister is such an elegant-sounding name, which prompts the question: how do you name your characters?

Author Photo: R. G. Belsky

R. G. Belsky

Don’t even get me started on this! Coming up with names for my novels is one of the toughest parts of writing for me. Hey, I had like three different names for Clare until I came up with Clare Carlson. In the case of Eleanor Bannister, I agonized for a long time before I came up with the name of her billionaire husband, Ronald Bannister. I wanted something that would make him sound like a super-rich guy in the same league as Gates, Bezos, Murdoch, et al. It took a long time—and some wrong turns—before I decided Bannister was the right name.

Is Pete’s Tavern, just off Gramercy Park in Manhattan, real?

Pete’s Tavern is a real place—a historic restaurant—in New York City’s Gramercy Park neighborhood. I know that because I’ve lived across the street from it for most of my adult life and eaten and drank there more than any other restaurant in New York. I don’t always use real restaurants in my books, especially if something bad or corrupt might be happening there. But when Clare goes out to dinner with a friend or on a date, I frequently have her stop at Pete’s Tavern. Hey, it’s easy to write because I know the damn place so well.

As an author and journalist, how do you separate writing fiction as opposed to news pieces?

Ah, this is the easiest question of all. Writing news is work; writing fiction is fun. You get to make stuff up. After a career in journalism, where facts were the most important thing you had to deal with in every story, I love being able to create my own facts—and my own fictional world—in the Clare books. People talk about how I’m able to portray what goes on in a real-life New York City newsroom because of my own long years of journalistic experience in this town. Except Clare’s newsroom is not a real newsroom. It’s a fictional version of the places where I did work…not a truly factual one. Which, of course, makes Clare’s life in a newsroom a lot more interesting than mine.

Author Photo: R. G. Belsky

Belsky in the Broadcast Booth

Do you have something else in the works?

If you like my Clare Carlson books, I hope you’ll try some others that I write under the pen name of Dana Perry. I have a new Dana Perry series coming out for Bookouture publishers on April 2 about a female FBI agent named Nikki Cassidy who goes back to her hometown in Ohio looking for a serial killer and uncovers shocking secrets about the disappearance of her own sister years earlier. Nikki Cassidy is a different character from Clare Carlson, but there are also a number of similarities between the two. I guess I just tend to like writing about the same kind of women.


The Big Thrill Interviews Author R. G. Belsky

José H. Bográn
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