Ed Lynskey

Ed Lynskey
The Dirt Brown Derby

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
February 15, 2007

Q.    Who is Ed Lynskey?

A.    Nothing exciting like in the old Dewar's ad profiling its hip customers. I do freelance work at my home office. My wife and I live several miles from the Pentagon. I started out writing poems and reviews, then turned to trying my hand at novels. Dirt-Brown happens to be the first book I ever attempted to write.

Q.    How did you come about the idea to write the novel The Dirt Brown Derby?

A.   I'm not sure if I can recall the germ for the original idea. I grew up in Fauquier County, part of the Middleburg, Virginia, fox hunt country and crowd. You know, those elite riders in their colorful getups mounted on high-dollar horses chasing cross-country after the hounds and foxes. Before the tsunami of suburban development engulfed that rural area, you could drive down any road on a Sunday afternoon and see the rich horse folk out for their fun. Every fenceline featured a horse jump.

Now I've never even ridden on a mule, so my observations and impressions are all detached. But I went to school with these folks' kids. I attended church with them. I heard stories. I even worked for one family.

So, casting around for an idea to produce a detective novel, I'm sure it was only inevitable that I'd use their rarified milieu as a setting. It's been suggested Dirt-Brown takes place in Dick Francis' horse country, but quite frankly I've never read one of his novels.

Q.    How did you come about Frank Johnson's character?

A.    I didn't consciously sit down and break out all of Frank's flaws, characteristics, likes, dislikes, and all that stuff. I'd read the entire PI series by such mystery writers as Wade Miller, Dennis Lynds, Stephen Greenleaf, Dorothy Uhnak, Bart Spicer, Ed Lacy, and some of George Pelecanos, Ross Macdonald, Arthur Lyon, Walter Mosley, and Bill Pronzini. Perhaps that reading helped to meld the Frank Johnson makeup. I don't know. I believed he should be a personable, dependable cuss. Readers (including myself) like a strong, relentless protagonist they can identify with or root for throughout all the pages. A few readers and reviewers have sworn at Frank, but most have sworn by him.

Q.    How did you come about Mrs. Taliaferro's character?

A.   Mary Taliaferro is a total fabrication. I've never met anyone quite like her. Without giving away any spoilers on the plot, I'll just say she's a tragic figure, perhaps a product of her environment. And like all tragic figures, she evokes strong reactions from the readers I've heard from after they finish Dirt-Brown.

Q.    How did you come about Thornbird's character?

A.   Frank drives out of his normal orbit in Dirt-Brown and he needs a sidekick. Thornbird serves that role. Also from the horse country, he's one of the natives Frank befriends, though admittedly their relationship is an edgy, strained one.

Q.    How long have you been writing?

A.   I published my first short story in 1978. It appeared in a community college literary magazine.

Q.    How many books have you written?

A.   My current tally shows a dozen novel manuscripts that may or may not see print. The PI Frank Johnson were the first ones I cut my teeth on. The second title in the series, The Blue Cheer, will come out in March. The initial reviews on The Blue Cheer have been generally favorable. Publishers Weekly cited its "first rate writing" and just yesterday I saw it had scored a starred, boxed review in Booklist. The two other PI Frank Johnson titles under publication contract are Pelham Fell Here and Troglodytes.

Q.    Do you write in other genres other than mystery/suspense?

A.   Good question. I've written two noirs and a science fiction novel, The Quetzal Motel (Mundania Press, 2008).

Q.    Are you currently writing another novel?

A.   Right now I'm doing the final edits on one of the noirs, Lake Charles. This noir is set in 1979 in a fictitious small town in the Tennessee mountains. Unlike most noirs typically dark and bleak, Lake Charles has a redemptive outcome. Beyond that, I've an outline for a thriller project.

Q.    What message would you like readers to receive from reading The Dirt Brown Derby?

A.   The only goal I have for The Dirt-Brown Derby is for readers to enjoy its story. I guess like other PI novels, Dirt-Brown shows everything doesn't cleave along all black and all white lines. Characters starting with Frank have their good points and their not-so- good points.