Author Brad Parks and I are kindred spirits, in that we both care passionately about journalism even though we have both left the profession; we both argue that it IS an ethical and important profession when done right. Additionally, we both like mysteries and share a similar sense of humor — or so I assume based on first reading him and then, recently, meeting him.
It’s appropriate that the book contains a blurb from Michael Connelly, who, like Parks, has made the move from crime reporter to mystery writer since both clearly mined some of their journalism work for some of their fiction. Connelly’s blurb: “This book held me hostage until the last page.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Brad at a book signing at BookPeople in Austin and he’s as cool in person as in the books. He explained how the books – the characters and some of the plots came out of experiences he had as a reporter.
I followed up that conversation with the email interview which follows.
Parks books are about investigative reporter Carter Ross who works for a newspaper in Newark. Parks himself started his journalism career with The Washington Post. He then went to the Newark Star-Ledger in 1998 covering sports. In 2004 he switched to news. His debut novel, Faces of the Gone, won the Shamus Award for best first novel and the Nero Award for best first novel. You can read more information about Parks and his books at http://www.bradparksbooks.com
I wanted to preface the interview with a few examples of how he talks about journalism amid the novel.
From Chapter One:
“I made at least four mistakes that Monday morning, the first of which was going into the office in the first place. There’s an old saying among newspaper reporters that news never breaks in the newsroom. So if you’re not currently working on a story, you ought to be finding one. If you hang around the newsroom with nothing to do, you put yourself at extreme risk of being assigned something to do by an editor. And – ask any writer, anywhere – editors are approximately nighty-eight percent full of stupid ideas.”
That is SOOO true. Ironically, as I told him when we met, one editor’s idea pitched, but that I don’t recall anyone ever filing was similar to something in his two books. The question my editor would ask is who is selling and buying those stickers on cars saying RIP to fallen friends, relatives, etc.? In the book it’s t-shirts vs. car stickers but otherwise the same idea and it’s based on an article Parks really did. A main character in both books makes good business selling these shirts mostly, it seems to gang members and drug dealers paying respect to fallen colleagues.