For the sixth time in as many years, writer Matt Coyle is torturing the titular P.I. of his Rick Cahill series in a new crime novel.But as he explains in the following email interview about Lost Tomorrows (hardcover, paperback, Kindle), just because this new mystery may give Rick some closure, that doesn’t mean his story is closed.
For those unfamiliar with this series, who is Rick Cahill and when and where are the Rick Cahill novels set?
Rick Cahill is a disgraced ex-cop who, fourteen years after the fact, is still a suspect in his wife’s murder. He was kicked off the Santa Barbara Police Force and returned to his hometown of San Diego where he eventually became a private investigator. The books are set in present time and mostly in San Diego, although Lost Tomorrows takes place in Santa Barbara. Rick lives with a cloud of suspicion over his head not only when dealing with the police, but the press and civilians. When he takes a case, he seeks the truth no matter the repercussions.
And then what is Lost Tomorrows about, and how does it connect, both narratively and chronologically, to the previous novel, Wrong Light?
Chronologically, Lost Tomorrows follows Wrong Light by about seven months. It is the sixth in the Rick Cahill series, but can be read as a stand-alone. However, there is some carryover from Wrong Light in that Rick grapples with something he did in the last book that makes him question if he’s losing his moral compass. He’s always lived by his father’s credo which is: Sometimes you have to do what’s right even when the law says it’s wrong. Rick is starting to question if he still knows the difference between right and wrong when it comes to his own sense of justice. In Lost Tomorrows he’s forced to take at a look at who he’s become and decide if he can live with taking justice into his own hands once again.
When in relation to writing Wrong Light did you come up with the idea for Lost Tomorrows, and how did that idea evolve as you wrote the story?
Great question for a couple reasons. One is that I usually don’t know what I’m going to write about in the next book until I finish the one I’m currently writing. That was definitely the situation when I finished writing Wrong Light. I always want to write a story that puts my protagonist, Rick Cahill, under as much pressure as possible. Character always comes first for me, so the plot has to be something that Rick becomes emotionally invested in. He’s a private investigator, so the case he takes in each book has to have meaning to him or it won’t have any meaning for the reader. He has to risk something in going forward with the case. So, before I began Lost Tomorrows, I ran through a bunch of what if scenarios that would put Rick under as much pressure as possible. The one scenario that I couldn’t escape was Rick going back to Santa Barbara and bringing a resolution to the mystery of his wife’s murder. It was the book I’d avoided writing for years, but it came at the perfect time for Rick and for me.
The stories always evolve and take a life of their own as I write them. I don’t outline but I have an inciting incident and a target for the ending when I begin a book. Even with Lost Tomorrows, where I had a much more definitive blueprint in my head, the story went to places that surprised me. Especially the end.
The previous books have been noir crime novels. I assume Lost Tomorrows is too, but are there any other genres or subgenres at work in this story as well?
This may sound stupid or self-important, but I really don’t think about genres or subgenres when I write. Obviously, I write mysteries that are on the darker side, so they could be considered noir, but I just call them all crime novels. However, I do think that I’ve been influenced by every good writer I’ve read, no matter the genre. I write crime novels because I’ve read them all my life and I think character is revealed by people having to deal with all the different sides of crime.
Are there any writers or specific stories that were a big influence on Lost Tomorrows but not on any of the other Rick Cahill novels?
My biggest influences have been Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don’t consciously try to emulate them or examine topics they did, but I’m sure influences can be found in my writing, along with many other great writers I’ve read.
What about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or video games that were a big influence on Lost Tomorrows?
Nothing specific to Lost Tomorrows, but the movie Chinatown has definitely had a big influence on my writing. It showed me that a great story could be told and felt without a happy ending or justice being served. Sometimes the bad guys win and the “hero” has to find a way to live in that world and still maintain his decency.
As we’ve been discussing, Lost Tomorrows is the sixth of the Rick Cahill novels. But what you said about it makes it sound like it could be the last one. Is it?
Hmm. I’m not at liberty to say. Although it could very well serve as an ending to Rick’s arc. I can’t get any more specific than that. However, I am under contract with my publisher to write two more books. They may or may not be Rick books. I love Rick and writing about him, but there will come a time when I find another character I’d like to write about in another series or write a standalone or two. The clock is ticking.
However, I’ll say this, I haven’t run out of things for Rick to do. I learn more about him with each new book I write. It took me ten years to get published. Even though Lost Tomorrows is only the sixth book in the series, I’ve been writing Rick for seventeen years. He’s in my DNA, a part of my daily routine. I’d be a bit lost without him.
Earlier I asked if Lost Tomorrows had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or video games. But has there been any interest in adapting it, or really any Rick Cahill novel, into a movie, show, or game?
Your timing is pretty good on this, but I’m not even crossing my fingers about anything getting done soon. However, I’ve always thought that Rick Cahill stories would best be told on the small screen. He’s got a wide arc and enough surrounding characters to give TV a run. We’ll see…
If Lost Tomorrows and the rest of the Rick Cahill books were going to be adapted into a TV series, who would you like them to cast as Rick and the other main characters?
I always thought Mark Wahlberg [Deepwater Horizon] would make a good Rick, though he may be a bit long in the tooth now. In his serious roles, I always feel there’s an untold dark backstory that gives him a brooding, yet decent, demeanor.
I haven’t really thought about the other characters, but I think I’d know them when I saw them. However, there is one actor who screams Peter Stone: Ray Wise [Twin Peaks]. A lot has to do with his hairline, but he also plays a villain every well.
Speaking of adaptations, have you ever talked to comic book artist Matt Coyle about collaborating on a graphic novel adaptation of a Rick Cahill novel? Or maybe even an original Rick Cahill story in comic book form?
I have not. I stay in my lane.
Finally, if someone enjoys Lost Tomorrows and the other Rick Cahill books, what crime novels would you suggest they check out next?
Silent Joe by T. Jefferson Parker. I read this when I was a baby writer who was still working on my first draft of what would become Yesterday’s Echo. It reminded me that character is more important than the crime in mysteries.
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. I think it’s his best. If you want to read hard boiled, you might as well start with the master.
Devil In A Blue Dress by Walter Mosley. My favorite Mosley book about someone trying to find the truth while battling powerful, corrupt institutions. That’s right up Rick’s alley. A very dark alley.
The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly. My favorite Bosch novel has Harry investigating the long ago murder of his mother. Dark and brooding. Love it.
Suspect by Robert Crais. My favorite Crais book and it doesn’t even have Elvis Cole or Joe Pike in it. The story of two damaged souls, a wounded cop and a wounded bomb sniffing dog. I’ve been a dog lover and dog owner all my life and I learned more about canine behavior in the first two chapters than I had in fifty years. Beyond that, it’s about someone on a mission to find the truth no matter the consequences and that is what drives Rick Cahill.