Title: Deadly Lullaby
Author: Robert McClure
Genre: Thriller / Suspense
For readers of Harlan Coben and Robert Crais, Robert McClure’s rollicking crime novel of family and felony takes readers on a relentless thrill ride through the L.A. underworld.
Fresh off a nine-year stint in San Quentin, career hitman Babe Crucci plans to finally go straight and enjoy all life has to offer—after he pulls one or two more jobs to shore up his retirement fund. More than anything, Babe is dead set on making up for lost time with his estranged son, Leo, who just so happens to be a rising star in the LAPD.
The road to reconciliation starts with tickets to a Dodgers game. But first, Leo needs a little help settling a beef over some gambling debts owed to a local mobster. This kind of thing is child’s play for Babe–until a sudden twist in the negotiations leads to a string of corpses and a titanic power shift in gangland politics. With the sins of his father piling up and dragging him down, Leo throws himself into the investigation of a young prostitute’s murder, a case that makes him some unlikely friends—and some brutally unpredictable enemies.
Caught up in a clash of crime lords, weaving past thugs with flamethrowers who expend lives like pocket change, Babe and Leo have one last chance to face the ghosts of their past—if they want to live long enough to see their future.
Interview with the Author
1) Can you tell us a bit about your background?
I’m a trial lawyer turned crime fiction writer, a husband and a father, born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, where I still live. I was born and raised in downtown Louisville directly across the street from the backside of Churchill Downs Racetrack, the site of the Kentucky Derby. My father Charles (who died young when I was 22) was a gunsmith who owned Charlie’s Gun Shop, a small business on 7th Street Road, not far from our house right in the heart of a notorious block that was then known for its strip clubs and prostitutes.
Growing up in the Churchill Downs neighborhood was a study in the characters that surround any race track–professional gamblers, bookies, bail bondsmen (one of the most notorious being the father of my then best friend), fences, pawnbrokers, loan sharks, prostitutes and pimps, hustlers of all stripes and nationalities, and cops. Lots of cops. All these people were my father’s customers, especially the detectives and patrolman who purchased their service weapons from us and often asked Dad to modify shotguns and handguns to their specifications. I hung out at Charlie’s often and worked the counter during summers when I hit 20 or so, and like my father grew to respect all these people, and I liked most of them.
Not surprisingly, I majored in Criminology in college, and worked in jails a couple years before and after graduation, and before I went to law school. So, I’ve come to know many cops, crooks and other shady characters over the years. Every single one informs my writing to some extent.
2) Where and when did your writing journey begin?
I had a few so-called scholarly articles published while serving on my law school’s law journal—the one titled Thy Shalt Not Kill (Thy Spouse): A Recent Exception to the ERISA Pre-emption Doctrine, should have given me a clue where it was all headed, but didn’t—and got a real charge writing a piece that someone else deemed worthy to print and sell. Combine that with my lifelong love for crime fiction and my overactive imagination (one my editor at Random House lovingly describes as “sick”), and my path to fiction writing was a natural one.
My first experimentation with fiction writing probably started in the mid-nineties, when I was an impossibly busy trial attorney with a big law firm and would write a scene every now and then, just for chuckles. I quickly became hooked, and after years of struggling to fit fiction writing into my crazy trial schedule, my beautiful wife, lover, and friend, Kathie, sat me down, looked me dead in the eye as only she can do and told me—no, ordered me—to quit practicing law fulltime and concentrate on learning to write crime fiction. Six months after that, in mid-2003 or so, Hardboiled magazine accepted my first story for publication—Leon’s Way, a story about a death row inmate awaiting execution for a murder his wife committed. I’m still in the law game solely to make ends meet, and fiction writing is my professional priority.
3)Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing?
To avoid the risk of omitting one of my living favourites, I’ll list the ones who aren’t around anymore to care whether I list them or not. In no particular order, then: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, Damon Runyon, O. Henry, James M. Cain, John Kennedy Toole, Mickey Spillane, George V. Higgins, Martin Booth, James Crumley, Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard.
The influence these writers would have on anyone serious about writing fiction is obvious from their work. Elmore Leonard has probably influenced me more than the others simply by virtue of his 10 Rules of Writing. I religiously adhere to all of Elmore’s rules, but obey “Leave out the parts that readers tend to skip,” and “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” as if they emanated from the burning bush.
4) What does a typical day in your life look like? And how does your writing routine fit into your day?
To describe my writing day in a word: boring, at least to the external observer. I rise as early as I can to write, usually at 5:00 a.m. but often earlier (when the irons are glowing white hot, I barely sleep at all and have started as early as 2:30). Don’t get me wrong, a lot is going on in my head when I write that’s extremely interesting, weird even, but only to me. The mechanics of the process is boring to watch: I just sit at the computer and stroke the keyboard. That’s the one thing about writing that doesn’t beat being a trial lawyer: No one ever admires you while they watch you work, and why would they?
Anyway, I hammer away until about 10:00 a.m. or so and drive downtown to my day job as a staff attorney with a state circuit court judge. Evening is fun time for me, no work of any sort.
5) How did you come up with the idea for your novel?
For some reason—Father’s Day may have been the impetus but I’m not sure—I wanted to write a father-son story and what I came up with was “My Son,” a short story about a hit man and his son, an edgy LA police detective, that was originally published in the kick-ass ezine ThugLit. The story caught the eye of uber-agent Nat Sobel and he contacted me, said he was a fan (the mere thought of this compliment still blows my mind) and offered representation. No one in human history has accepted an offer any faster. Nat read some of my other published shorts and urged me to write a novel. Shortly thereafter, “My Son” was selected for republication in Best American Mystery Stories 2009, so we settled on expanding that into a book. The father-son story I’ve now come up with is Deadly Lullaby, a work that never would have happened without Nat coaching me through many drafts and never accepting a single sentence he didn’t consider to be the best I could form. Family relationships is a timeless theme because they can be so rife with conflict. There is a lot going on in Deadly Lullaby—gangland politics, violence, murder mystery, romance, pure lust—but at bottom it’s a story about a man who loves his son.
6) What do you think sets your novel apart from others current on the shelves?
The characters set the book apart. Most people would probably have a hard time finding a character in the book who’s “good” in the traditional sense, including my two protagoniosts. From the very start, though, my goal in writing crime fiction has always been to create characters that thieve, kill and create other forms of mayhem who readers can’t help but love, and the guiltier the reader feels about it, the better. I feel like I accomplished that with DEADLY LULLABY. The protagonists are Babe Crucci, a career hit man just released from San Quentin, and his son Leo, an edgy LA police detective, who are estranged from each other due to Babe’s extended stretch in prison. Stridently summarized, the remaining characters are an LA mafia kingpin, who is Babe’s ex-boss, the kingpin’s henchmen, a Russian gangster who spent time in San Quentin with Babe, a Cambodian drug lord who helped found The Oriental Lazy Boyz gang in LA, and Babe’s sidekick Jack Barzi, nicknamed Chief.
7) Which character in your book is your favorite and how much of yourself is reflected in that character?
Babe Crucci is my favorite. Leo is certainly important to the story, and may even carry his own series someday, but there’s not a Deadly Lullaby without Babe. A bit of my sense of humor and rakish charm may have rubbed off on Babe, but I doubt it. He’s an original.
8) Which scenes in your book did you have the most fun writing?
There are several scenes in the book that consist entirely of dialogue between Babe and Leo, not a single word of narration. Usually they’re talking to each other on the phone in this format, but they’re face-to-face in the final scene, and they have a lot to talk about. I always get emotional when I finish a story well, when I know I’ve stuck the ending cold. Ending this book in nothing but Babe and Leo’s words gave me the hugest rush yet in my writing career.
9) What do you hope for your readers to take away after reading your book?
Babe Crucci poses the life theme very early on in the book, something he says he “knows beyond all else”: “A son is the product of his father’s labors—or the lack thereof—and for that reason a father’s love for his son depends on nothing except that his son is his son.”
10) What are your hopes for this novel?
I hope people love it—many, many people.
11) What do you have in store next for your readers?
I’m in the dreaded middle of the sequel to DEADLY LULLABY, what I’m now calling THE SLOW DAWN. The sequel is the next phase in the evolution of Babe and Leo Crucci. I envision the characters lasting through a trilogy, but that’s not written in stone.
Robert McClure read pulp fiction as a kid when he should have been studying, but ultimately cracked down enough to obtain a bachelor’s in criminology from Murray State University and a law degree from the University of Louisville. He is now an attorney and crime fiction writer who lives and works in Louisville, Kentucky. His story “My Son” appeared in The Best American Mystery Stories, and he has had other works published in MudRock: Stories & Tales, Hardboiled, Thug Lit, and Plots with Guns.
Penguin Random House: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/251406/deadly-lullaby-by-robert-mcclure/