Welcome to Steven P. Marini!
We met this past summer, at the Cape Cod Writers Conference, where we both took CE Lawrence’s terrific Mystery and Thriller Workshop. Steven’s got a crime series out, and he took the time to answer a few questions.
Devon Elington: What were the inspirations for this particular story and these particular characters?
Steven Marini: Jack Contino was inspired by a real life cop with Boston’s Metropolitan District Commission Police, Joe McCain. He was portrayed in a non-fiction work called LEGENDS OF WINTER HILL (Cops, Con Men and Joe McCain, The Last Real Detective), by Jay Atkinson. I think Leo Barbado is my take on Lenny Brisco from Law and Order. Maria is an amalgamate of several women, but nobody in particular. Ben is pure fiction.
DE: How do you manage to juggle the threads of Jack, Maria, and Ben? Did you work each out separately all the way through first individually and then weave them, or work through, section-by-section and then see how it fit together?
SM: I just wrote the story as it came to me, but there was a lot of change along the way, especially for Jack. He was not the protagonist at first. Maria was, but I realized that wouldn’t work for a series. I had to cut back on her story and build up Jack’s. Ben just seemed like a natural antagonist and badass killer, with a soft spot for Maria.
DE: What was the most surprising thing you learned while writing this book?
SM: That I could write a book. Really. I’ve never been able to do this before. I tried once, but with a full time job (I was in my early thirties) and little kids at home and before word processing, I just couldn’t stick with it. Old age has made writing much easier.
DE: Can you tell us a little about the next book, DECEPTION?
SM: The title is up for grabs on that one, but let’s still call it DECEPTION for now. It’s the next story in the Jack Contino series. After thirty-plus years of chasing bad guys and taking a serious shot to the gut, Jack decides to slow down and retire. His wife helps push that decision. But Jack can’t give up it up altogether, so he takes a job in Dennis, MA, on Cape Cod. He’s the Chief of Detectives in the small town and hopes for a quieter life. But small towns can have big problems. A murder takes place, with racial overtones. In CONNECTIONS, I created an underworld character named Tommy Shea who is a thorn in Jack’s side. He carries over into DECEPTION and he heads up a gang from the Winter Hill section of Somerville, MA. Sound familiar? Well, any resemblance between Shea and Whitey Bulger is purely coincidental. There is a twenty-something waitress who worked with the victim. She’s a bit unstable. Her boyfriend, Jared Wilkes, has a history of racist behavior. Tommy Shea and his pal, Sammy White, are involved. Jack, Leo and the FBI work to solve the murder, but there is a twist at the end that leaves them stunned.
DE: Do you plan on continuing the series indefinitely, or do you have a fixed end point in sight?
SM: I’m about 45,000 words into the third book, currently called CALCULATION, and I certainly hope to write at least one more. I guess it depends on how successful I am in this genre. I also have an idea for a history book about the Kennedy cabinet, but I’m having too much fun writing crime fiction right now. Let’s see how far it will take me.
Although he describes himself as a “card carrying New Englander,” Steve lived for twenty-six years in Maryland while pursuing a career spanning four federal agencies. His background has enabled him to serve as a project manager at the National Security Agency, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Fire Academy and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, where he worked with teams of experts in various fields to develop state-of-the-art training for both classrooms and distance learning technologies.
A “Baby Boomer,” Steve took up fiction writing as he moved into his career final frontier. Married since 1975, a father of three and a grandfather, Steve and his wife Louise own a home on Cape Cod that will serve as his private writer’s colony for the years ahead.
His first novel, Connections, is being published by Gypsy Shadow Publishing, an ebook publisher from Texas. It is the first in a series featuring Detective Jack Contino, battling crime in New England in the 1970’s.
Steve holds a Master’s degree in Educational Technology from Boston University and a B.A. in Business Administration from New England College and spent over thirty years in the Education/Training field, including posts in higher education and the federal government. In 1999 he won a finalist Telly award, for writing , producing and co-hosting a training video on the Emergency Education Network (EENET), a cable network that serves firefighters and law enforcement emergency responders
CONNECTIONS, by Steven Marini:
Four guys lay dead. Can Detective Jack Contino connect a name in a dead man’s notepad, a young Mob guy and a Back Bay beauty?
“Fat paced and suspenseful…Skillfully constructed…the perfect blending of characters, action and drama gives the reader topnotch entertainment…The perfect read for a weekend of enjoyment…”
-Tom Farrell, Massachusetts State Police (Ret).
“A dash of Chandler, a dab of Hammett and a fast paced narrative that will keep you glued to the page. Connections is a roller-coaster ride into Boston’s past, complete with snappy dialogue, engaging characters and an intriguing plot. If you like crime novels that seamlessly blend violence, sex and action, this is your kind of novel.”
_Arlene Kay, Author of INTRUSION.
And now, an excerpt from CONNECTION:
“You know him, Jack?”
“I’m afraid I do. Young Tommy Shea, neighborhood tough guy and overall pain in the ass. I went to high school with his older brother, Jimmy. He’s an asshole of another kind. This one thinks he can beat up the world. He’s already done time in juvy. He’s getting on my nerves.”
Jack stood up from his table and pushed his chair back.
“Jack, we’re off duty.”
“I know. This will be strictly unofficial. Stay back unless he’s got help. Just me and him.”
He approached Shea while Leo looked around the room to see if anybody else got up.
“Hey,” he said, getting in Shea’s face. “I’m trying to enjoy my beer and you’re making it difficult with all this noise. Why don’t you take it outside?”
Shea turned and recognized Jack. “Oh, the big tough cop wants me to take it outside. Yeah, I know who you are. Think you’re a tough guy ‘cause you’re a cop. Contino the wop cop.”
Jack swallowed hard and kept quiet. His mother had always taught him to count to ten when he got mad. This time, he didn’t make it past five. “Like I said, why don’t you take it outside.”
“Why don’t you take it outside, wop cop, if you got the balls.”
Jack felt his heart quicken as the anger built. “You know what, Shea? This is my lucky day because I just happen to be off duty. So I’d be happy to get in some fresh air. Why don’t you come along?”
In a minute they were standing in a back parking lot facing each other close up. About half the bar patrons, including Leo, rushed out the door to form a circle around the too fighters. Jack held his fists like a trained boxer. Shea looked like a caged animal about to pounce on whoever opened the cage door.
They inched closer to each other and suddenly Shea threw a fast right hand at Jack’s head. He slipped the punch easily. Shea stepped towards Jack and threw another right. Jack deflected that one with his left arm. Then Shea landed a left hook to Jack’s mid-section. He followed it up by rushing into Jack with his shoulder, hitting Jack in the gut, knocking him back but not down. He grabbed Jack, wrapping his left arm around him in a clinch. While they tugged at each other, Shea’s right hand produced a shard of beer bottle glass from his pants pocket. As Jack pushed him back from the clinch, Shea swung at Jack’s face with the glass, grazing the left side of his chin. Blood appeared immediately.