Today I have a real treat; former professional hockey player turned mystery crime-thriller suspense author Luke Murphy. A busy man, Luke juggles teaching, tutoring, being the dad to three girls and a budding writing career. But with all that said, he is a man who has his priorities straight. His debut novel Dead Man's Hand is garnering fantastic reviews. Check him out...
What was your favourite book as a child/teenager?
I was always an avid reader. My first books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense/thriller novels.
Who was the first author or what was the first book you read that introduced you to the genre that you most enjoy writing in?
“Kiss the Girls” by James Patterson was the first adult crime-book I ever read, and I fell in love with the genres. I read a lot of James Patterson in the late 90’s. Probably my favorite crime book to date is “The Poet” by Michael Connelly.
Do you believe in love at first sight? And if so have you ever been so afflicted? Did you do anything about it? (Did you go for it?)
I do and I don’t, or at least I thought I did when I was young. I met a girl in College in 1995 during my freshman year and I was immediately smitten. I chased her for four years (although I had girlfriends during that time, I always thought she was the one and I just had to bide my time) and we finally started dating in 1999. It only lasted about eight months before I graduated and moved on. But at the time, I thought she was the girl of my dreams and I would have changed my plans for her had she asked.
Is there a particular word you overuse or writing technique that your editor(s) ride you about?
Dead Man’s Hand is my debut. I remember when I signed my publishing contract with Imajin Books. The first time my manuscript was sent back by their first editor, this was the specific quote: “Don’t overuse –ly adverbs”. I was told to check throughout the book for –ly words and cut or find a better verb whenever possible.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? (Or do you even believe in it?) If so, how were you able to overcome it?
I have never suffered from writers block, or I should say that I have never been affected by it. Since writing is not my full time job (I’m a teacher, tutor, husband and father), it’s more of a hobby for me. If I’m ever sitting at the computer and drawing a blank, I just get up, shut off the computer, and walk away…live to fight another day. If the next day the same thing happens, then I walk away again. For this reason, I never give myself deadlines or WIP challenges.
For me, the most difficult thing about writing has nothing to do with actual writing (ideas, flow, writer`s block, etc.), but it`s finding the time.
Between teaching and tutoring, with three small children at home, finding the time to sit down at a computer and have serious, quality writing time is almost impossible.
But I love my girls and spending quality time with them is a great feeling. I wouldn’t give up my games of ring-around-the-rosie and duck-duck-goose for anything in the world. It just puts writing my next novel a little behind.
If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Because of my professional hockey career, I’ve been fortunate enough to live all over North America. I think the most fun I had was living in Georgia. Maybe because I’m from a small, rural town in Canada, I just fell in love with the Georgia weather (sunny winters) and southern hospitality. It had a small town feeling in a big city location.
If you could bring one of your own characters to life, who would it be and why?
Without a doubt, Calvin Watters.
A 6’5”, 220 pound African-American Vegas leg-breaker.
Watters faces racial prejudice with calmness similar to that of Walter Mosley’s character Easy Rawlins. But Watters’ past as an athlete and enforcer will remind other readers of (Jack) Reacher of the Lee Childs series. The Stuart Woods novel Choke, about a tennis player who, like Watters, suffered greatly from a dramatic loss that was a failure of his psyche, is also an inspiration for Dead Man’s Hand.
When thinking about creating the main character for my story, I wanted someone “REAL”. Someone readers could relate to. Although it is a work of fiction, my goal was to create a character who readers could make a real connection with.
Physically, keeping in mind Watters’ past as an NCAA football standout and his current occupation as a Vegas debt-collector, I thought “intimidating”, and put together a mix of characteristics that make Watters appear scary (dreadlocks and patchy facial hair), but also able to blend in with those of the social elite. Although he is in astounding physical condition, handsome and well-toned, he does have a physical disability that limits his capabilities.
He’s proud, confident bordering on cocky, mean and tough, but I also gave him a softer side that readers, especially women, will be more comfortable rooting for. After his humiliating downfall he is stuck at the bottom for a while, but trying hard to work his way back up.
He has weaknesses and he has made poor choices. He has regrets, but Watters has the opportunity to redeem himself. Not everyone gets a second chance in life, and he realizes how fortunate he is.
Calvin Watters is definitely worth rooting for.
What are you reading right now?
Blood Memory by Greg Iles. He’s one of my faves.
When you read, do you prefer a stand-alone or a series?
I don’t think I have a preference. I’ve read series books that I’ve loved and I’ve also read stand-alones that were great. So I seriously don’t have a preference. But it is fun to find a character that you make a connection with and are able to follow him/her through multiple adventures.
If you were to do a reality show, which one would it be?
I HATE reality shows. My wife enjoys them and I will sit beside her and aggravate her, yelling obscenities at the TV at how unbelievably brutal they are. I call them un-reality TV shows and I think they are a waste of time and an insult to the intelligence of the American people.
What is the craziest, most exciting, or most dangerous thing you’ve ever done?
I’m not exactly a risk-taker or danger hunter. But when my wife and I first started dating and I wanted to impress her, we went white water rafting without an actual tour guide. I put on a pretty good front at being the tough, brave man and made it through. But there were times when I felt like we were going over, and I was grabbing the side ropes for dear life.
Name a celebrity, athlete, musician, etc. you’d most like to get naughty with.
My wife and I actually used to have a list of celebs that we would give each other a “pass” for (like we were ever going to meet them), but those names probably aren’t relevant anymore. I think today, I would have to say that Natalie Portman is tops on my list. She is beautiful and I find her extremely sexy.
What is your favourite way to promote or connect with fans?
I know that the ebook and technology era has taken over the publishing industry, but I still love my book signings. I love meeting people face to face, making that personal connection and receiving their feedback. With social media, I’d have to say the Twitter has been my number one source for meeting new people and spreading the word on my writing.
For Love of the Game. My wife and I were on a Kevin Costner kick back in the early 2000’s, hence our pug named “Costner”.
Hawaii. I have never been anywhere for a vacation and my first time will be my sister-in-law’s wedding in Punta Cana in 2015. But I think my dream vacation would be in Hawaii.
Porsche – Boxter S
Favourite Ice Cream Flavour?
What can readers look forward to next?
I would love to write another book. Right now, I have a full time job (teaching), a part-time tutoring job, and three small children (all girls, YIKES!!). I`m too busy playing ring-around-the-rosie and duck-duck-goose to write. I don`t have much time to write, but when I get a chance, I do all I can. It could take some time, but eventually I would love to write a series of novels, featuring Calvin Watters. But I will not limit my novels to Calvin Watters, as I would like to write a different series of novels, all in the crime-thriller genres. I’m currently working on a new crime novel, but my wife and I just had our third child, so the process has been stalled and is going quite slowly.
Please tell us about your newest release and the inspiration behind it.
Dead Man’s Hand is an International bestselling crime-thriller set in the seedy, underbelly of Las Vegas.
From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.
…and the cards don't fall your way?
When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.
What if you're dealt a Dead Man's Hand?
Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.
As for inspirations, I never thought much about writing when I was growing up.
But I was always an avid reader, which I owe to my mother. She was a librarian, and although I lost her when I was young, I will always remember a stack on Danielle Steele books on her bedside table, and a lot of books lying around the house at my disposal.
My first chapter books were the Hardy Boys titles, so they are the reason I love mysteries. As an adult, some of my favorite authors are Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly and Greg Iles, so naturally I write what I love to read – mystery/suspense novels. DEAD MAN`S HAND has been compared to James Patterson books, which to me is an honour. Maybe in style (short chapters, a quick read), as I have read many of his books.
Plot: I get my ideas from stories I hear about, whether through reading (newspapers, magazines, etc.), what I hear (radio) or what I see (TV, movies, internet, etc.). The plot is completely fictional. I wouldn`t say that one thing or person influences my writing, but a variety of my life experiences all have led to my passion in the written word. There is not a single moment in time when this idea came to be, but circumstances over the years that led to this story: my hockey injuries, frequent visits to Las Vegas, my love of football, crime books and movies. Dead Man’s Hand became real from mixing these events, taking advantage of experts in their field, and adding my wild imagination. The internet also provides a wealth of information, available at our fingertips with a click of the mouse.
Setting: I usually set my stories in cities I`ve visited and fell in love with. Las Vegas was the perfect backdrop for this story, glitz and glamour as well as an untapped underground.
Characters: I have never been involved in a homicide investigation, LOL. Although I am not a 6’5”, 220 pound African-American, I’ve used much of my athletic background when creating my protagonist Calvin Watters. Watters past as an athlete, and his emotional rollercoaster brought on by injuries were drawn from my experiences. His mother died of cancer when he was young, as mine was. There are certainly elements of myself in Calvin, but overall, this is a work of fiction. I did not base the characters or plot on any real people or events. Any familiarities are strictly coincidence.
At exactly 6:15 p.m. on a Sunday, Calvin Watters parked his rusted Ford Taurus across the street from a vacant house. Climbing out, he put on a pair of sunglasses and scanned the neighborhood for any movement or potential hazards.
He moved to the back of the car and opened the dented trunk. It creaked in the still night as it slowly swung up. He pulled out a worn black leather case and slid it under his vest. Then he closed the trunk and headed for the door.
He'd been using the rundown house in the red-light district of Las Vegas as his workshop for three years. It suited his purpose. No interruptions, no inquisitive neighbors. Even the local police avoided the area.
He checked the perimeter again. At six-five and 220 pounds, a black man like him just didn't go unnoticed in Las Vegas.
The street was silent as he approached the house. Weeds sprang from cracks in the sidewalk and shattered liquor bottles blocked the entrance. The barred windows were broken and the screen door had been ripped off its hinges. His sense of smell no longer reacted to the stench of urine and vomit.
Calvin surveyed the area one last time. Extreme caution was one of the reasons he had succeeded in the business for so long. His habits had kept him alive.
His arms were tattooed and gold chains dangled lazily around his thick, muscular neck as he trudged his way up the walk.
Even though he was the best in the business and had once enjoyed the adrenaline rush that came with the trade, the next part of the job now made his skin crawl. He didn’t know if he could last on the job long enough to save enough to get away. That uncertainty made his life even harder.
He unlocked the door, stepped inside and shut it behind him. Heading for the basement, he took a narrow set of wooden stairs that creaked as he descended into darkness. His dreadlocks scraped cobwebs along the rough ceiling. He flicked the switch and a low-watt bulb cast dim light.
The tiny room had almost no furniture. The bare concrete floor was dirty and stained with dried blood. In the middle of the room, a lone wooden chair—double nailed to the floor—was occupied.
"Hello, James," Calvin said, his face expressionless.
James Pierce stared at him through bulging, fear-filled eyes.
"Sorry about the bump on the head, but I couldn't have you conscious when I moved you here."
When Calvin removed the case from his vest, he saw Pierce's pant leg moisten.
"I’m sure you’re wondering why your shoes and socks are off and your pant legs rolled up. We’ll get to that."
He laid the case on a small table, strategically placed next to the chair. "There's only one way out," he said, snapping open the lid. He knew his hostage saw one thing when he looked at him—professionally trained brutality.
He checked his watch. Pierce had been there for four hours. The waiting and anticipation alone were more than most men could handle. They often begged for their lives. It was a very effective method.
He stared at Pierce for a long moment and then turned away, his stomach churning.
Get a grip, Calvin! Hurry up and get it over with before you change your mind.
And lose the reputation he'd spent three years building.
He ripped the duct tape from the man's mouth and pulled out the old rag. "Time for me to collect."
Pierce gasped, breathing in air greedily. "Please, Calvin. I beg you. Don't do this."
"You're a degenerate gambler, James. Your expensive hobby and inability to pay has put you here. You knew the rules. They were laid out well in advance."
Calvin tried to block out the man's cries. A sudden dizziness overwhelmed him and he grabbed the chair to steady himself. Finish the job. "You know how this works." He stared at Pierce.
"I promise I'll pay. Just give me one more day. Please."
"You knew the rules. You've already had an extra week, James. You're lucky Mr. Pitt is a forgiving man, more forgiving than I am and is counting that week as only one day late. But if you aren't in his office tomorrow morning with all the money, you'll be seeing me again. Every late day will count as two. And I won't be so nice next time."
"I'll pay." Pierce sobbed.
Calvin heaved a sigh. "Relax. It'll all be over soon."
He leaned over the table and for effect, took his time in opening the leather case and removing the tools of his trade. "One day, one joint."
This was when most of them broke down all the way. And Pierce didn't disappoint him. A scream boiled from the man's belly and erupted like a relentless siren.
Calvin ignored Pierce as best he could. There were 206 bones in the human skeleton. A pro had trained him to use them all.
"Hammer or pipe cutter?"
"Hammer or pipe cutter?" He threw a punch at Pierce's jaw, sending bloody spit into the air.
"Hammer!" Pierce screamed.
"Finger or toe?"
Pierce squeezed his eyes shut. "Toe."
Calvin stuffed the dirty rag back into the man's mouth. He turned and pressed play on the radio resting on the table, turning the volume up a few notches, careful not to bring attention to the house. The pounding, vibrating beat from Metallica not only drowned out his prey's moans of pain, but the sound took him back to his glory days. He removed a ball-peen hammer from the pouch and moved in on his quarry’s bare feet.
He got down on one knee and lifted the hammer above his head.
"Toe it is then."