Sunday, 24 March 2013

Guest Interview - David Swykert

Today I have the great pleaasure of talking to David Swykert about his new book 'The Death of Anyone'

First of all, would you like to tell us a little about yourself and your work. 

I’m a blue collar person from Detroit. I’ve worked as a truck driver, dispatcher, logistics analyst, operations manager, and ten years as a 911 operator, which was the very best job of all of them. I write stories like you’d watch a movie and put them down on paper. I have written in different genres; crime, romance, and The Death of Anyone which is essentially a mystery/suspense story with romance and science in it. 

The last sentence in my writing bio is always: He is a wolf expert. I am not a biologist. I raised two arctic hybrids, had them for eleven years, and have written two books in which they join the other protagonists.

1. How much of the people and places you knew when you worked 911 appear in your work? Do you ever find yourself writing about someone or somewhere you think you've made up and suddenly realise you've been drawing on your memory rather than your imagination?

They say write what you know, so I set my story in Detroit, where I grew up and lived for a long time and can authentically describe the city and places for the scenes in my story. When I make up a character I usually visualize someone in my head and then give them the characteristics I believe suits the character in my story. I wrote a story about a thirteen year old girl trying to save a pack of young wolves from a bounty hunter. In my mind I visualized Maggie Harrington as Jodie Foster in an old film, Taxi Driver, where she played a thirteen year old prostitute. I used Jodie’s image to describe the girl and my own feelings for animals to impart her emotions concerning the wolves. This is how I generally develop a character.

2. Your protagonists have somewhat maverick tendencies and sometime skate close to the line between legitimate and illegitimate areas of investigation and evidence gathering. In you writing, as opposed to any actual situation how far down the road would you be prepared to go before you'd consider the end no longer justifies the means and the actions of your characters could not be defended?

I don’t have a pat answer for this. I think it would depend on the nature of the crime. In the case of a violent rape I’d have a different threshold than for a car thief. 

3. Your story involves a new and controversial method of identifying a perpetrator through DNA testing. Would you like to give us an indication of how it works and why it's controversial. 

The test procedure is the same as any DNA search. What is controversial in a Familial DNA Search is you search DNA that is similar to the crime scene DNA, but not the actual DNA at the crime scene. Then you investigate people with similar DNA to the crime scene DNA, which will be most often a relative of theirs. This is how The Grim Sleeper in California was caught. The crime scene DNA was similar to his son, whose DNA was in the database. When they investigated people related to the son they found out his father was the actual perpetrator of the killings. The controversy arises from unreasonable search and seizure. Since Lonnie Franklin’s DNA was not at the crime scene, there is no “direct” evidence that linked him to the crime when they began investigating him, which the defense attorneys will claim make his investigation unreasonable.

4.  The very same method of identification is currently being tested before the court. Do you think the currency of the issue is likely to impact on the success of the book particularly if the outcome of the case differs to the conclusions you draw?

I think the trial of The Grim Sleeper will bring attention to my story either way. My own personal feeling is the court will allow the Familial DNA evidence in. This ruling will then be tested in the higher courts, most likely all the way to the Supreme Court. There is already another case in Colorado that’s being appealed, where the killer confessed based on this type evidence, and his attorneys are asking to overturn his confession based on the idea he shouldn’t have been investigated in the first place. The case is still in the appeal stages.

5. Apart from the DNA testing what's the most interesting method of investigation you've utilized, whether or not it's been used in the book.

Despite popular CSI television shows, most crimes are still solved the same way they have always been, by a tip from someone. I worked a couple of bomb threats a few years ago. We set up tip lines and offered rewards for information. The calls we got were some very unusual ones, including one who threatened to bomb the tip line.

6.  Clearly you get some of your inspiration from your past work, what else inspires you to write or what you write about?

I like to write about subjects I have a strong belief in. I have a great affection for animals and respect for the hardship they have to endure and like to use animals in my stories. Neil Jensen, one of the detectives in The Death of Anyone is an animal rights activist.

7. Do you have any little foibles connected with your writing, for example a favourite chair, pen, font etc.

I’ve moved around a lot in the last decade, so I’ve written in a variety of places. I use a laptop, so I can write wherever I am. I most recently wrote a flash story sitting up in bed on the 21st floor of the Revere Hotel in downtown Boston. I was in Boston attending the AWP Writer’s Conference.

8. What projects do you have in the pipeline for the future.

I am working on a story about a retired soldier/cop who has retreated to a mountaintop cabin attempting to regain his zest for life after his wife dies. He begins feeding a pack of young wolves and one morning meets a suicidal younger woman who’s husband has left her. This is as far as I’ve gotten.

And finally, now that we're all desperate to run out and get your book, please tell us where we can find it and maybe give us a little taster/excerpt to whet our appetites.

Chapter Two

Benham arrived first, no sign of Russo or Jensen. She got a table and told the maitre de to send them over when they arrived, and that there would be a third party, a Detective Lagrow. As he seated Benham, the maitre de informed her, “The show starts at about 12:30 pm. We have a couple of new dancers.

Benham screwed up her nose, gave him a curious eye. “Dancers?”

The maitre de nodded. “Yes, belly dancers. We have a new one I’m sure your friends will appreciate. She’s very good-young, friendly.”

Benham just shook her head. ”I’m sure they will,” she said as she sat.

“Can I get you something to drink?”

Whoa, the brake in her head told her. You know you, you know your history. You know what a slip can do to you. Doctors, psychologists, treatment, rehab, counselors, AA, each and every one of them flashed across her head as her mind absorbed the offer. “Just a coke, or, actually, would you just bring me a black coffee.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Benham sipped her coffee and looked through her brief notes of the case. They were very brief, there was little to put in them. A young girl, perhaps ten, dead, strangled, almost for certain assaulted, lying in an alley for a few hours. And it had only been a few hours—Pierangeli seemed pretty sure she hadn’t been there long. She was found at around nine-thirty am, so she died maybe around eight am. She lay there, choked, defiled, beautiful, and dead, and nobody was looking for her. She had to have been taken pretty early this morning, so it’s been about five hours she’s been gone, and nobody loves her enough to miss her. Benham could feel the anger rising from within, from the source where feelings come from, from deeper but inclusive of the stomach, from the birthplace of emotion.

A hand touched her shoulder and startled her. “Me and Jensen are here, bring on the dancing girls,” Dean Russo bellowed, joyous almost, and that irritated Bonnie a little. There was nothing to be happy about this day.

“You’ll get your wish. The belly dancers will be here in a few,” Benham said, with a bit of obvious disdain that Russo picked up on.

“You picked the place.”

“Yeah, I know,” Bonnie answered, feeling a little sorry now she sounded so disapproving. “Yeah, I picked it. Didn’t think about belly dancers, but, hey, we’re here, and I love pastitio, and they have the best. Sorry if I sound pissy, it’s only because I am. Once you see the girl you won’t be dancing in the street either.”

Russo quit laughing. “How long you been in homicide, Benham?”

Bonnie could see she rubbed something, “A couple of months.”

“You were in narcotics?”

“Yeah, I was in narcotics. I was in it and it—I was narcotic.”

There was a pause. Jensen looked across at Russo, glared a little, trying to shut him up with a look. And out of the corner of his eye let Bonnie know he saw her, too. He wanted her to keep this cool.
But it was a little late, and Bonnie was a bit volatile. “You know fucking well I was in narcotics. And you fucking know why I’m in homicide. I got myself transferred out for becoming more narcotic than narc. Quit beating around the bush. What’s your point?” 

So where can we buy this awesome book?

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