By George Ebey
Author and educator Kathleen George is no stranger to crime fiction. Her series featuring the exploits of a team of Pittsburgh-based police detectives began with 2002’s TAKEN and continued with the highly-praised follow-ups FALLEN, AFTERIMAGE, THE ODDS, and HIDEOUT. Now Kathleen is back with her most recent installment, SIMPLE.
This time out, Detective Richard Christie senses something is wrong when Cal, a young man, confesses to the murder of Cassie Price, a gorgeous young law student. Cal was smitten with her, but so was everyone else who came in contact with her. Christie and his squad have to investigate the law office where Cassie worked–and that means the delicate matter of investigating the dashing man who is running for governor.
I recently caught up with Kathleen who gave me plenty of insight into the world of Detective Christie and his team of crime fighters.
The story in SIMPLE continues with a cast of characters that reaches back through several previous books. Can you tell us a bit about who they are and what they do?
Oh, yes, Richard Christie, Artie Dolan, Colleen Greer, and John Potocki are very much a part of the team that works on this case. By now I feel that they are my pals and I am working with them. Christie is a thoughtful (non-alcoholic) detective who harkens back to some earlier British models. People in the cast of characters as well as my readers tend to fall in love with him. He’s got a certain magic. He’s a sort of paternal figure in general—loving, cares about kids, is a bit brooding and flawed and should be played by Gabriel Byrne just as he played the shrink on IN TREATMENT. Artie is a super detective, able to get a confession out of anybody by his honey voice and seeming sympathy. He’s used to be Christie’s favorite and so gets jealous of Colleen. Colleen is whip smart and attractive, has a background in psychology, and is working a crush on Christie out of her system. Potocki is a good, solid, smart detective rebounding from a bad marriage. They’re all great. Really. I just love these people.
But of course I need criminals and victims. This novel involves some wealthy people. In fact the murder is of a gorgeous and promising law student who worked for a gubernatorial candidate. Actually the attraction between these two characters is a very timely subject. I mean it’s an election year and we keep looking at politicians and measuring their charisma and their physical attractiveness and then we keep learning about their personal lives. My candidate, Mike Connolly, is wealthy. He lives well and eats well. That was fun to write.
What aspects of Pittsburgh make it the perfect backdrop for these stories?
Pittsburgh is a fantastic location for a series. It’s got ethnic neighborhoods, fancy neighborhoods. It’s tough and gritty on the one hand and gorgeous on the other. It’s a major medical center and a major university center. There are fancy restaurants as well as dives, gentrified neighborhoods next to ghettos. It’s very rich.
I see that you have a background in theater. Does that help you to find the drama in your fiction?
Oh, my gosh, yes. I learned a lot from theatre—both teaching and directing. In fact I am writing a book about how theatre teaches the writer to make plots. As a director I worked not only on the visual picture but also on each character’s interior life. I got very specific. “You are thinking A and then B and then C as you walk across the room.” I get just as specific with my characters.
You’ve also written about local restaurants where the cops in your books often dine. By any chance have any of these establishments ever named a dish or sandwich after one of your characters?
My characters eat a lot because I eat a lot. And so they never miss a meal and often those meals happen in restaurants. In fact people have told me my thrillers make them hungry. And so I did a Culinary Tour of Pittsburgh on my author website. But hey, so far nobody has named a dish after a character. That is a great idea and I think I will look into it.
Kathleen George is the editor of PITTSBURGH NOIR and the author of TAKEN, FALLEN, AFTERIMAGE, THE ODDS (Edgar finalist, best novel), HIDEOUT, and the forthcoming SIMPLE. The novels are set in Pittsburgh. The author teaches theatre and writing at Pitt.
To learn more about Kathleen, please visit her website.