Quick Hit Q&A: David Corbett

David Corbett is the author of four critically acclaimed suspense thrillers. Before becoming a novelist, he spent fifteen years as an investigator for San Francisco private detective agency Palladino & Sutherland. In 1995, he left the business to help his wife set up her own law firm, and in 2000 he sold his first novel, The Devil’s Redhead, a thriller about drug smuggling. David’s story, “What the Creature Hath Built,” can be found in SCOUNDRELS: TALES OF GREED, MURDER AND FINANCIAL CRIMES and is the latest to share his thoughts on crime fiction with Down & Out Books.

Down & Out: What event or idea inspired your story for Scoundrels?

Corbett: The mortgage crisis has inspired a variety of criminal acts and actors, and I had experience with this once before as a PI in the 1982-1983 time period, when mortgage brokers were getting “inventive” in who they allowed to qualify for loans. The real estate market is particularly ripe for insider shenanigans, and the use of “straw buyers,” especially in an arson context, is one I found intriguing. Of course, when the market crashed a lot of hucksters were holding properties they couldn’t move, thus a story idea.

The moving of money among union accounts to disguise misappropriation came from a local story where union PACs weren’t following state authorized procedures and were audited. It looked a lot like money laundering from the outside, but no one could prove criminal intent. I decided to supply some.

And I’ve been fascinated by major fires for a long time (my second novel DONE FOR A DIME, centers around a catastrophic fire). My nephew has been a firefighter and/or arson investigator in Dayton, Baltimore, Birmingham, and Christchurch, New Zealand, and now is a fire captain in Woodinville, Washington, outside Seattle. I’d had a friend who’d used the type of highly combustible lacquer I mention in the story — with similar results, improperly stored rags self-igniting — and ran the scenario past my nephew. He recalled the fire at One Meridien Plaza in Philadelphia was caused exactly the same way; the three firefighters died fighting that blaze.

D&O: How do you think readers will connect with a collection of stories about financial crime?

Corbett: I think readers almost always connect with stories, authors and the quality of the writing. The topic is for marketing folks. The readers aren’t so easily distracted.

D&O: What’s your favorite crime novel and why?

Corbett: Oh, an impossible question with no real answer. I love Richard Price’s LUSH LIFE and Daniel Woodrell’s TOMATO RED, and tweener novels like Pete Dexter’s GOD’S POCKET, Robert Stone’s DOG SOLDIERS, David Benioff’s THE 25TH HOUR, Joe Connelly’s BRINGING OUT THE DEAD and Newton Thornburg’s CUTTER AND BONE. I recently read Denise Mina’s THE DEAD HOUR, Stuart Neville’s THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, Kate Atkinson’s WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS?, Jim Sallis’s DRIVE and Larry Block’s WHEN THE SACRED GINMILL CLOSES and loved them all.

Generally I’m moved by a novel that tends toward the realistic mode and captures something essential about this curious life we live, and does so with a compelling story, told with a unique voice and an engaging style. Which, I realize, says next to nothing.

You can find out more about David at his website.

Edited by Gary Phillips

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