Q&A with Tom Kakonis, author of Treasure Coast

Publisher: Brash Books

Publication Date: September 2, 2014

Synopsis: Treasure Coast is the wild new thriller from Tom Kakonis, the acclaimed author of Criss Cross and Michigan Roll. 

A compulsive gambler goes to his sister's funeral on Florida's Treasure Coast and gets saddled with her loser-son, who is deep in debt to a vicious loan shark who sends a pair of sociopathic thugs to collect on the loan. But things go horribly awry...and soon the gambler finds himself in the center of an outrageous kidnapping plot involving a conman selling mail-order tombstones, a psychic who channels the dead and the erotically super-charged wife of a wealthy businessman. As if that wasn't bad enough, a killer hurricane is looming... 

It's "Get Shorty" meets "No Country for Old Men" on a sunny Florida coast teeming with conmen and killers, the vapid and the vain, and where violent death is just a heartbeat away.

Q&A: 1. It’s been more than a decade since you’ve published your last novel. What was it like to get back in the game with TREASURE COAST?

I have to say it’s been exhilarating, maybe because it was so unexpected.  A year ago at about this time I went to my mailbox and discovered a package containing an autographed copy of THE HEIST by Janet Evanovich and her co-author, Lee Goldberg.  I’d never met Ms. Evanovich but Lee I remembered from a writers conference years ago when he was just getting his start in crime fiction. We’d not stayed in touch, so I was naturally rather puzzled by the gift.  Tucked inside the book I found a letter from Lee reintroducing himself and explaining a new venture he and his partner were embarked upon.  That venture was Brash Books, a publishing company specializing in the revival of out-of-print crime novels, and since I had six such books, long since out of print, he invited me to participate.  With nothing to lose, I readily agreed.  Once the project was underway I mentioned to Lee that I had a manuscript languishing in a drawer, and he invited me to send it along.  Happily for me, he liked it, and thusly was TREASURE COAST launched.  It’s been available now in e-book and trade paperback formats since early September, and so far it’s been quite a ride.

2. It has been said that you’re a “master of the low-life novel.” What draws you to writing your darker characters?

Over the course of my life I’ve been thrust into environments almost exclusively male: the army (of my day), swinging a sledge on a railroad section crew, and, perhaps most useful of all for fiction writing, teaching inmates at Stateville Prison in Joliet, Illinois.  In all these settings I was exposed to the uninventable vernacular of clusters of men absent the civilizing influence of females, so I had a share of the dialogue for such characters handed to me like a gift.  But with the villains (as, I hope, with all the other types of characters) what I wanted to do was avoid the stereotypes of villainy by investing them with qualities I can only call human.  In TREASURE COAST, for example, Junior Biggs, the most despicable of villains, still plans to use part of the money he hopes to come by with their big score to buy a proper headstone for his mother’s grave.  The introduction of such seeming incongruities can add what I like to believe is a certain comedic element to a narrative, as when the character Hector Pasadena, an equally unregenerate villain in TREASURE COAST, submits almost meekly to the instructions of the kidnap victim herself and joins without complaint in the group’s house cleaning and cooking chores.  Juxtaposing such comic scenes with those of brutal violence helps me create an atmosphere of ambiguity I’m striving for in both narrative and characterization.

3. Of all the characters you’ve created, which is your favorite?

If I exclude the villains, many of whom I’ve certainly enjoyed creating, I’d have to say my favorite is the protagonist of the three “Waverly novels,” Timothy Waverly.  He appeals to me because of the qualities that comprise his character: intelligence, focus, loyalty, shrewdness—a cynic with a streak of romanticism, a stoic fatalist with an abundance of courage.  For me it’s easy to like, if not to identify with, such a character, maybe because he’s the man I wish I were.

Treasure Coast (Amazon.com link) is one of the first releases from the new publishing company, Brash Books. Bestselling authors Lee Goldberg and Joel Goldman created Brash to publish “the best crime novels in existence.”

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