Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Swann's Down - An Interview & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Charles Salzberg to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Charles writes the Henry Swann Mystery series. Swann's Down is the fifth book in the series and will be released May 20, 2019.

Kathy: In Swann's Down Henry Swann enters the world of psychics, fortunetellers, and charlatans. Have you ever been to a psychic or had your fortune read?

CS: No. Although I do remember one evening in Central Park, waiting on a blanket with friends for the New York Philharmonic concert to begin. Someone had a deck of Tarot cards and read my fortune from them. It was a long time ago, but I believe it predicted I’d get involved with a “difficult” woman. Alas, it didn’t warn me that I’d wind up being involved with a lot of “difficult” women, though at the time I remember thinking, “wait a minute, I don’t even know Madonna.”

Kathy: Do you believe some people have real psychic ability? Or do you think they're all hucksters?

CS: I have an open mind. I can tell you I’ve had two really freaky dreams that foretold events. At the time I had them, I mentioned both dreams to a friend. In dream number one, it predicted I would run into a former girlfriend I hadn’t seen in a couple years and her infant daughter. It was unlikely, because she lived upstate but sure enough a couple days later I did run into her, holding her baby in her arms. The second time, a year or so later, I dreamed that she called me. I mentioned this to a friend I was hanging out with and a couple hours later I checked my answering machine and there, sure enough, was a message from her—I handed the phone over to my friend who was almost as shocked as I was.

And so, I believe there are strange, inexplicable things in life that can’t be explained by what we think we know.

Kathy: Henry questions the possibility of an afterlife. Do you believe in one?

CS: I certainly hope so, and again, I’m open to anything and everything—Pascal’s wager—but frankly I’m skeptical about that. My “proof” is that you’re supposed to follow the white light and at the end of it will be all those family members waiting to welcome you into “heaven” or whatever kind of afterlife you believe in. The problem for me is, I didn’t get along with my father and so If he were waiting at the end of the light for me, now that would be such a nightmare for me that I might just turn around and come back.

Kathy: Swann's Down is classified as "Detective/Noir/Mystery". Do you feel it is more Noir with a mystery or a Mystery tinged with Noir? Or is it equal bits of both?

CS: I would add to that “literary mystery.” Plus, there’s a strong element of humor in all the Swann books, which in part comes from the fact that Swann doesn’t take himself too seriously. The truth is, when I’m writing these books I don’t even think of labels. I just try to write the best book I can and I’ll let others decide what it is and in what sub-genre it belongs.

Kathy: What first drew you to mysteries?

CS: Total accident. I was in an MFA program at Columbia (I only lasted two weeks), and my advisor, whom I shall not name, even though he’s passed on—I hope I don’t see him if there’s an afterlife—said I wrote “psychological crap, like Dostoevsky and Roth,” and that I didn’t know how to tell a story. So, just to prove him wrong, I decided to write the most plotted kind of novel I could possibly write—and it seemed to me a detective novel is one of the most tightly plotted books, so I began a novel, calling it Swann’s Last Song. It was meant to be a a stand-alone, I wasn’t interested in writing about crime. But when it came out it was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel (I didn’t even know what a Shamus Award was). When I lost, I got pissed off and swore I’d keep writing them until I won something or I ran out of catchy titles. Then after writing the second, I realized crime writing is the perfect genre to use to tell any kind of story I want, and about anything I’m interested in. So, I stopped caring about winning anything and instead just write the best novel I could write that happened to have crime in it (and you’ll notice I don’t write murder mysteries and murder rarely appears in any of the Swann books, except that first one. I’m more interested in other kinds of crimes.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

CS: I was a nonfiction book writer for almost twenty years, and wrote about any topic someone would pay me to write about. And I started out as a “literary” novelist, which was then called mid-list, but when no one was interested in that, I switched. So, now it’s just crime all the time. But as I said, within the crime genre I can pretty much write about anything I want, explore any theme I want to explore. For instance, in Devil in the Hole, based on the infamous John List murder case, I was really examining what might drive a “normal” person to commit such a heinous crime, without throwing in the factor of insanity.

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

CS: Swann is a man on the periphery of society. He lives from day to day, always questioning his existence. He’s an expert at finding things, but what he’s really looking for is himself. His wife died young in a freak accident, leaving him with a toddler son who he couldn’t take care of, so he sent him to live with his maternal grandparents, and he hasn’t seen him for years. Thus, he lives with both survivor’s guilt and guilt he feels for “abandoning” his son. He doesn’t really get involved in murder cases—I’m not writing murder mysteries—but he is drawn to other, more mundane crimes, some of them crimes of the heart. His job is to find people and things that might make a chaotic world a little bit more orderly. And in the last several installments, he works alongside a quirky, mysterious, irritating disbarred lawyer named Goldblatt, and often gets the help of a rare-book dealer named Ross Klavan (both these names were “borrowed” from good friends of mine).

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

CS: In this series, it would be Swann and, of course, Goldblatt. They’re fun characters to write and hang out with. But in my other writing, I think one of my all-time favorites is Francis Hoyt, the master burglar from Second Story Man. He’s a horrible human being, but there’s just something compelling about him. So much so, that I’m seriously toying with the idea of writing a spin-off with him as the protagonist.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

CS: Not really. Although the idea of making Swann a skip-tracer came directly from a real-life skip-tracer, Sidney Weinstein, whom I interviewed for a magazine article I was assigned to write. I used some of the things he told me about in the first Swann.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

CS: From the time I could read, I wanted to write and have my books published. Books saved my life as a kid and I could think of no other occupation I’d rather have pursued. And I like the idea of other people reading something I’ve written and getting not only enjoyment out of it but even learn something new. Each book is set in at least one, and sometimes three, different worlds that I’m interested in, like the world of rare books, or the art world, or Hollywood.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

CS: Norman Mailer, Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov and Simone DeBeauvoir (and if I had a fifth, it would be Philip Roth.)

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

CS: A Legacy of Spies, by John LeCarre, and I’m rereading Norman Mailer’s The Naked and the Dead. It’s sort of a vacation for me because I just came out of a year where I was one of the judges for a major best novel award, which meant I had nearly 600 hardcover books scattered around my apartment.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

CS: Movies, movies, movies. Sports, playing not so much watching, although that’s been limited lately by an injury…and age. Reading. Hanging out with friends. Walking the streets of Manhattan.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

CS: Ketchup. Butter. Some kind of diet soda. Ice.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

CS: I’m starting a new series with a new PI. Right now, it’s called Canary in the Coal Mine (a short story of the same name appears in the Fall issue of Mystery Tribune—I’m using that in a slightly altered form as the first chapter of the novel. I’m also writing a short story I’ve been asked to contribute to an anthology. And I’ve got the first page of that possible Second Story Man spinoff. And I’m also part of a series of novella collections, Triple Shot and Three Strikes, (my contributions are “Twist of Fate,” and “The Maybrick Affair,”) and we’ve been contracted to do a third in the series so I really should start thinking about that.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

CS: I never have to wear a tie and jacket and I never have to leave the apartment if the weather isn’t to my liking.


Swann's Down

by Charles Salzberg

on Tour May 1 - June 30, 2019


When Henry Swann is asked by his quirky partner, Goldblatt, to find a missing psychic who's swindled his ex-wife out of a small fortune, he just can't say no. Although he doesn't actually expect to get paid, he figures it might give him a chance to finally learn more about his partner's mysterious past. His search takes him into the controversial, arcane world of psychics, fortune tellers, and charlatans, while raising questions in his own mind about whether or not there is an after-life.

While working his partner's case, he's approached by a former employer, attorney Paul Rudder, to track down a missing witness who might be able to provide an alibi for his client, Nicky Diamond, a notorious mob hitman who's scheduled to go on trial for murder he claims he didn't commit in a week. Swann's search for the missing witness, who happens to be the defendant's girlfriend, takes him from Brooklyn to a small beach town across the Bay from Mobile, Ala. But what does she really know and will she even come back with him to testify for her boyfriend?

Praise for Swann's Down:

"Psychics, double-crosses, missing persons--Charles Salzberg's latest Henry Swann book has it all. Swann's Down is a gritty, no-frills PI novel that brings to mind greats like Reed Farrel Coleman's Moe Prager and Michael Harvey's Michael Kelly. Whether this is your first Swann adventure or the latest, you won't want to miss the brass-knuckle punch that is Swann's Down. Trust me."
~ Alex Segura, author of Blackout and Dangerous Ends

"From Manhattan to Coney Island to the steamy shores of Alabama, Charles Salzberg delivers a top-flight mystery with his latest Henry Swann outing. Highly recommended."
~ Tom Straw, New York Times bestselling author as Richard Castle

Swann's Down gives readers two intriguing mysteries for the price of one, as skip tracer Henry Swann pursues a woman who might alibi a murderer and a psychic who swindled the ex-wife of Swann's partner. Shamus Award-nominated Salzberg does a superb job cutting between the two investigations. I kept turning pages to stay with both chases as the suspense increased to the very end. Whatever is going on, Swann is at the center of this story. His wry wit, quotes from authors and philosophers, genius for questioning suspects, and dark past make him a character readers will follow anywhere as he seeks his quarry. This is another thrilling addition to this excellent series.
~ Rich Zahradnik, Lights Out Summer, winner of the 2018 Shamus Award for Best Paperback Private Eye Novel

Henry Swann dives in where others fear to tread in Swann's Down: Fast. Funny. And Smart. This time out, Swann crosses paths with a psycho hitman, a phony psychic and Swann's mysterious partner, a disbarred lawyer. Who could ask for more? I hope we'll see a lot more of Swann in the future and that this isn't Swann's swan song.
~ Paul D. Marks, Shamus Award-winning Author of White Heat and Broken Windows.

Book Details:

Genre: Detective/Noir/Mystery
Published by: Down & Out Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Number of Pages: 300
ISBN: 978-1-64396011-1
Series:Henry Swann
Purchase Links: Amazon | BN.com | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

The Age of Aquarius

"We're partners, right?"
Nothing good can come from that question when it comes from the mouth of Goldblatt.
"I mean, all for one and one for all, am I right?" he quickly added in an attempt, I was sure, to seal the deal.
"I think you're confusing us with the three musketeers. May I point out there are only two of us, and I'm afraid that's not the only fallacy in your declaration. But you might as well finish what you've started."
We were having our weekly Friday lunchtime sit-down to discuss what Goldblatt likes to refer to as "business." I have another name for it: waste of time.
Our venue changes from week to week but the concept is always pretty much the same: a cheap diner-slash-coffee shop somewhere on the island of Manhattan. Today's eatery of choice (Goldblatt's choice, my destiny) is the Utopia Diner, on Amsterdam, near 72nd Street. And as for the business we'd just finished discussing, well, to be honest, there never is very much actual business to discuss and today was no exception.
At this particular moment in time, we were going through a bit of a dry spell, which always makes me a little nervous because no matter how much I banish it from my mind, the rent is due the first of every month and at least three times a day I seem to develop a hunger that must be quenched. Still, a good fifteen, twenty years away from Social Security, and with precious little dough in the bank--okay, let's be honest, no dough in the bank--and no 401-K to fall back on, I need to keep working. And, as much as I don't like to admit it, lately it's been my "partner," as he likes to refer to himself, as opposed to my preferred albatross, who's brought in the bulk of our clients.
We'd already finished eating--though technically, Goldblatt never actually finishes eating which means a meal can easily turn into an all-day affair, if I don't apply the brakes--and we were just waiting for the check to arrive. This is a crucial point of any meal with Goldblatt because it is the opening gambit in what has become our weekly routine of watching the check sit there in no-man's land somewhere between us until I inevitably give in, pick it up, and pay. Otherwise, I risk one of two things: either we'd be there all afternoon or, worst case scenario, Goldblatt will decide he's still hungry and threaten to order something else. Neither one of these options is the least bit appealing.
"I'll get right to the point," he said.
Just then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the waiter, like a white knight, approaching with our check in hand. If I acted quick enough I might be able to get out of there before I can be sucked into something I don't want to have anything to do with.
"That would be nice," I said, reaching for my wallet. "What is your point?"
"I need to hire you."
I was stopped in my tracks before I got my wallet halfway out of my back pocket.
"Really? To do what?"
"I want you to find someone for me. Well, to be more precise it's not really for me. It's for my ex-wife."
Wait a minute! Goldblatt married? Goldblatt with a wife? Goldblatt a husband? This was a new one on me, something I'd never even considered.
"You…you've been married?" I stammered.
Truth is, I never pictured Goldblatt being in any relationship other than with, yes, as irritating as it might be, me. I mean the guy isn't exactly anyone's idea of Don Juan, although I suppose in theory there are women who might find him if not attractive in the conventional way at least interesting in a specimen-under-glass way. Or maybe as a project. Women love a project. They love a challenge. They love the idea that they have the opportunity to remake a man in their image. Maybe that was it. But whatever it was, my world was shaken to the core. And what would shake it even more would be to find that he was actually a father, too. But one shock per meal is more than enough, so there was no chance I was going to pursue that line of questioning.
"Unfortunately, the answer is yes. More than once, in fact."
"Holy Cow," I blurted out, channeling the Scooter. "You're kidding me?"
At this point the same bald, squat waiter who seems to serve us in every diner we patronize, reached our table and dropped the check right in front of me.
"This is not something a man usually kids about."
"How many times?"
He held up three fingers.
"Three times! You've been married three times?"
I gulped.
"Are you married now?"
He shook his head. "Nah. I'm kinda between wives. Giving it a rest, if you know what I mean.
But chances are I'll be back in the saddle again soon enough."
"Okay, so let me get this straight. You've been married three times and now you're single but you would consider getting married again?"
"Man is not meant to be alone, Swannie. You might consider the possibility that your life would be enriched if you found your soulmate."
You're fortunate if you find one soul mate in life and I'd already had mine. She was yanked from my life as a result of a freak accident, a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn't know if Goldblatt knew the circumstances of her bizarre accidental death, but I wouldn't have been surprised because he seems to know a lot of things he has no business knowing.
"Some men are meant to be alone, Goldblatt. I'm one of them and after three failed marriages maybe you should consider the possibility you are, too."
He smiled and puffed out his chest. "What can I say, Swann? I'm a friggin' babe magnet."
I would have laughed, should have laughed, but I was still processing the scary fact that he'd been married three times. That meant there were three women in the world who not only were willing to marry him but did marry him. I wanted to know more. Much more. Everything, in fact. But this was not the time and certainly not the place to delve into Goldblatt's mysterious, sordid past. Nevertheless, I promised myself I would revisit this topic in the not too distant future.
Still in shock, I avoided our weekly "who's paying for this meal" tango, grabbed the check and reached for my wallet...again.
"So, wanna know the story?" he asked.
"Which story would that be?"
"The story of why I want to hire you?"
Excerpt from Swann's Down by Charles Salzberg. Copyright 2019 by Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

Charles Salzberg is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in New York magazine, Esquire, GQ, Redbook, The New York Times Book Review and other periodicals. He has written over 20 non-fiction books, including From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA, and Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times. He is author of the Shamus Award nominated Swann's Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann's Lake of Despair, nominated for two Silver Falchions, Swann's Way Out, Devil in the Hole, named one of the best crime novels of the year by Suspense Magazine. He was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and he teaches writing the New York Writers Workshop where he is a Founding Member. He is a member of the MWA-NY Board.

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  1. I'm glad he decide to publish his book because I truly enjoyed this read!.

  2. I am sorry not idea what an asin is so i put how many reviews he has for the book as that is the most imp for authors! Good luck with the new release.peggy clayton