Save the cat...not. (3 Questions for Peter Leonard, author of "Trust Me")

Yesterday, we went back to the beginning with Peter Leonard whose sophomore novel Trust Me came out earlier this year, bringing together a woman scorned, a load of stolen money, and a host of malefactors in a wildly inventive cocktail of of a plot -- including a triple-double-cross and the antithesis of ye olde "save the cat moment."

From the press kit:
The first mistake Karen Delaney made was entrusting $300,000 to her boyfriend, Samir, the head of an illegal bookmaking operation. The second was breaking up with him---because Samir holds a $300,000 grudge. A few months later, Karen sees a way to get her money back when two thieves break into her house in the middle of the night. She proposes a scheme to steal Samir’s safe, but Karen soon realizes she’s in way over her head as things begin to spin out of control.

Trust Me moves at breakneck speed through the affluent suburbs of Detroit and Chicago as Karen is pursued by O’Clair, an ex-con/ex-cop who works for Samir and wants the money for his own retirement; by Ricky, Samir’s nephew, who sees the money as a way to pay off his own escalating gambling debts; by the thieves who’ve been double-crossed; and by two ruthless hit men who view the money as their stake in the American dream.
I had a hard time limiting myself to three questions, but here goes.

Peter, you've got a great ensemble cast going in Trust Me. Not one of them is an angel, but just about everyone gets at least a moment of likability. Talk to us about that lovable scoundrel vibe. Is it something you build in to each individual character or does it flow from a larger view of how people are wired?
I don't see the characters in TRUST ME as lovable scoundrels. I think they are crooks with likable qualities. I try to develop characters who are real and believable and interesting. Take Bobby for example, everything has gone wrong. He's lost the money and Karen. He's clearly frustrated and takes his aggressions out on Megan's cat, picks it up and throws it across the room. And when O'Clair goes to visit Lloyd in the hospital, they end up talking about hot dish and the Segal movie that's on TV. I think these scenes help define the characters and make them more believable. Everyone in TRUST ME is bad to a certain degree. It's the only way a story like this would work. The theme is trust, or lack thereof. Even Karen, the most decent character in the novel, has larceny in her heart. I believe she is justified in getting her money back, and she doesn't think twice about using the bad guys who are trying to rob her.

In the interest of avoiding spoilers, a general question about the twists and turns in Trust Me: Did you know where you were going with this when you first climbed into bed with Lou and Karen or did the plot bombs catch you by surprise?
I knew where I was going but not how it would end. I hoped Karen would win but wasn't sure. In the original version, O'Clair was the bad guy, but I liked him too much, so I expanded Ricky's role and developed the Iraqi hit men. Counting Bobby, Lloyd and O'Clair there are six guys looking for Karen, and that gave me a lot of opportunities to plot and create suspense.

Trust Me fit in nicely with both my film noir and hard boiled fiction addictions. I enjoyed it a lot. Tell us about the reading you've done (other than the obvious) that laid the foundation for your writing. And what are you reading now?
My biggest influences were: Charles Willeford, Miami Blues, George V. Higgins, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men, Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck, several by Hemingway and several by my father. I'm reading Crossers by Philip Caputo.


Pamala Knight said…
Thanks for that excellent interview with Peter. I really enjoyed reading about his path to publication and the influence of his father.

I love books where everybody's got a little dirt on their nose, lol. I'll definitely add Trust Me to my TBR pile.
Joni Rodgers said…
You'll like it, Pamala. It's a really fast, funny read.

Thanks for stopping by!

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