Classic hardboiled: 3Qs for Michael Harvey, author of The Third Rail

Yesterday, I waxed fangirlish about Michael Harvey's terrific novel, The Third Rail. Today, the author stops by to answer three quick questions.

Michael, welcome. The Third Rail is our third fix of Kelly (not to mention your third starred review from PW.) Avoiding spoilers, of course, can you talk about how the character has evolved? How important is it for readers to start with The Chicago Way, then move on to read The Fifth Floor and The Third Rail in the order they were written?
The first three can be read in any order. Probably better if you start with the first, but not critical. My next book will be a sequel to The Third Rail, so those two have be read in the proper order.

Kelly is getting darker. As I dig into his character....and especially his childhood...I find more things from his past that are following him around. Along with the usual assortment of bad guys, shady clients and dead bodies!

I'm a Chandler/Hammett devotee, and your Michael Kelly books -- first person POV, tight sentence structure, turns of phrase like "a soft frat boy and his softer girlfriend" -- give me that same great hardboiled kick. Were you writing like this before you moved to Chicago or did something about the city bring about that voice?
Raymond Chandler once said (and I paraphrase here) a classical education is a perfect background for writing novels in the hardboiled-vernacular, because it knocks all the pretense out of your writing...which is exactly what most modern fiction is too full of. I agree with Chandler and his overall premise. Why not? It’s a good camp to be in.

What Chandler is getting at (I think) is that Latin and Greek are beautiful, elegant and, most importantly, economical languages. Aeschylus can say in a sentence what it takes us a page and a half to say in English And he says it a whole lot better.

I have a background in classical languages (B.A. from Holy Cross, ten years total of Latin and six of Greek) and find it to be invaluable. Maybe we are all just trying to justify all those years of sweating out Homer, but I think it’s helped me to be a tougher, more physical and more concise writer.

Well, then I have to cut right to the chase and ask, what are you reading?
A Cormac McCarthy marathon....No Country For Old Men, Blood Meridian, The Road. Yikes... seriously good. Night Soldiers by Alan Furst. Rereads...Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises, The Plague. Speed the Plow (Wonderful play by David Mamet).


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