FEATURED AUTHOR: CHARLES SALZBERG
ABOUT THE BOOK
When Henry Swann is asked by his quirky partner, Goldblatt, to find a missing psychic who's swindled his ex-wife out of a small fortune, he just can't say no. Although he doesn't actually expect to get paid, he figures it might give him a chance to finally learn more about his partner's mysterious past. His search takes him into the controversial, arcane world of psychics, fortunetellers, and charlatans, while raising questions in his own mind about whether or not there is an after-life.
While working his partner's case, he's approached by a former employer, attorney Paul Rudder, to track down a missing witness who might be able to provide an alibi for his client, Nicky Diamond, a notorious mob hitman who's scheduled to go on trial in a week for murder he claims he didn't commit. Swann's search for the missing witness, who happens to be the defendant's girlfriend, takes him from Brooklyn to a small beach town across the bay from Mobile, Alabama. But what does she really know and will she even come back with him to testify for her boyfriend?
Title: Swann’s Down,
Author: Charles Salzberg
Series: Henry Swann Mystery, book 5
Publisher: Down & Out Books (May 20, 2019)
Print length: 300 pages
On tour with: Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours
LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT WITH CHARLES SALZBERG
Things you need in order to write: all I need is my computer and the will to actually sit down at it and write.
Things that hamper your writing: just about everything. What I mean is that I am always distracted by “shiny” objects. In other words, I’ll use every possible excuse not to write.
Things you love about writing: what I like best is having written. But in terms of what I love about writing is seeing these letters magically appear on the page when I press down on a key. And then seeing them form words, then sentences, then paragraphs, then pages. And there’s nothing better than the feeling of thinking you’ve written a perfect sentence. Of course, as soon as I think that I begin to think it’s probably the worst sentence I’ve ever written.
Things you hate about writing: seeing that blank page.
Easiest thing about being a writer: writing.
Hardest thing about being a writer: writing.
Things you love about where you live: I live in New York City, and I’d never live anywhere else. I love the energy the city gives off. I love knowing that at any time of day or night there’s someone out on the street and there’s some restaurant and drug store that’s open.
Things that make you want to move: absolutely nothing. I don’t care how noisy or dirty or loud or crowded it gets, I’m here for the long haul.
Things you never want to run out of: ketchup.
Things you wish you’d never bought: all those clothes in the back of my closets and drawers that I never wear but am too lazy to throw out or give away.
Favorite foods: pasta; anything Mexican; hamburgers; lamb chops; fries.
Things that make you want to throw up: tongue, beets (although the latter I just retch a little).
Favorite music or song: very eclectic. Blues, classic rock, country, classical, or any combination of the aforesaid. Anything by the Beetles or the Stones or The Band.
Music that make your ears bleed: that kind of disco that mimics your heart beat.
Something you’re really good at: I’d like to say everything but then everyone who knows me would know I’m a liar. I’ve always been good at sports, remembering people’s names, and typing—I can type around 90 words a minute. And I have an excellent memory for the spoken word. If you say something, I will remember it forever, almost word for word. It’s a talent that came in very handy when I was a journalist for reasons I won’t go into here. I warn my friends, “Don’t say anything to me that you hope I’ll forget.”
Something you’re really bad at: most things requiring good balance: bicycle riding, roller skating, ice skating, and driving a car. For the latter, I learned but never got a license, and I think I’ve probably saved hundreds of lives because it.
Something you wish you could do: ride a bike.
Something you wish you’d never learned to do: I love learning new things, so I can’t imagine something I’ve learned to do that I wish I didn’t—except maybe washing dishes.
People you consider as heroes: anyone with a disability, no matter how large or small; anyone who lives life in a way that doesn’t harm anyone or themselves.
People with a big L on their foreheads: people who hate or belittle other people; people who are intolerant; bullies; people who think they know who you are but really haven’t the slightest idea.
Things you’d walk a mile for: I’d walk a mile for just about anything because I love walking, especially here in New York. But please don’t call it hiking! I associate that with climbing up, and that’s far too much work. I’d also walk a mile, more than a mile, actually, to help out a friend.
Things that make you want to run screaming from the room: boring people and people who are boors.
Things you always put in your books: information about something I didn’t know before I started writing the book, and that includes anything about myself. I always try to make my books about something and have them take place in worlds I’m not all that familiar with.
Things you never put in your books: if hardly ever counts, then it would be love scenes.
Things to say to an author: “I’ve read your books and I love every single word you’ve ever written.” And “When can I expect your next one?”
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book: “Have I ever heard of you?”
“Have I ever read anything you’ve written?”
“I read your book and loaned it to three other people.”
“I took your book out of the library (don’t get me wrong, I love libraries, but we actually want you to buy our books so we can write another one, not so we can get rich, which for a writer is pretty much impossible.)
“On page 142 there’s a mistake . . .”
Favorite books: Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov, Seize the Day, by Saul Bellow, Portnoy’s Complaint, by Philip Roth, The Continental Op by Dashiell Hammett, Naked and the Dead and The Executioner’s Song, by Norman Mailer, In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, anything by Margaret Drabble and Jean Rhys, Desperadoes by Ron Hansen.
Books you would ban: not a single one. Ever. No matter what was in it.
Most embarrassing moment: every single moment of the day . . . and that can even include sleeping hours.
Proudest moment: when I first saw my name in print . . . it was a magazine article in the Daily News Sunday magazine.
Best thing you’ve ever done: learned to say yes to everything. It’s the underlying reason behind every single thing I’ve accomplished, from being published to teaching to taking jobs I had no business taking.
Biggest mistake: saying no when I should have said yes. And giving in to my shyness and not asking for something I wanted.
Most daring thing you’ve ever done: quit my job in the mailroom at New York Magazine, while having very little in the bank, not having another job lined up, and not having published a single thing.
Something you chickened out from doing: the page isn’t long enough to list the things I’ve chickened out of doing but what comes immediately to mind is being too shy to ask out a woman I found interesting and attractive, and not standing up for myself when I should have.
EXCERPT FROM SWANN'S DOWN
The Age of Aquarius
"We're partners, right?"
Nothing good can come from that question when it comes from the mouth of Goldblatt.
"I mean, all for one and one for all, am I right?" he quickly added in an attempt, I was sure, to seal the deal.
"I think you're confusing us with the three musketeers. May I point out there are only two of us, and I'm afraid that's not the only fallacy in your declaration. But you might as well finish what you've started."
We were having our weekly Friday lunchtime sit-down to discuss what Goldblatt likes to refer to as "business." I have another name for it: waste of time.
Our venue changes from week to week but the concept is always pretty much the same: a cheap diner-slash-coffee shop somewhere on the island of Manhattan. Today's eatery of choice (Goldblatt's choice, my destiny) is the Utopia Diner, on Amsterdam, near 72nd Street. And as for the business we'd just finished discussing, well, to be honest, there never is very much actual business to discuss and today was no exception.
At this particular moment in time, we were going through a bit of a dry spell, which always makes me a little nervous because no matter how much I banish it from my mind, the rent is due the first of every month and at least three times a day I seem to develop a hunger that must be quenched. Still, a good fifteen, twenty years away from Social Security, and with precious little dough in the bank--okay, let's be honest, no dough in the bank--and no 401-K to fall back on, I need to keep working. And, as much as I don't like to admit it, lately it's been my "partner," as he likes to refer to himself, as opposed to my preferred albatross, who's brought in the bulk of our clients.
We'd already finished eating--though technically, Goldblatt never actually finishes eating which means a meal can easily turn into an all-day affair, if I don't apply the brakes--and we were just waiting for the check to arrive. This is a crucial point of any meal with Goldblatt because it is the opening gambit in what has become our weekly routine of watching the check sit there in no-man's land somewhere between us until I inevitably give in, pick it up, and pay. Otherwise, I risk one of two things: either we'd be there all afternoon or, worst case scenario, Goldblatt will decide he's still hungry and threaten to order something else. Neither one of these options is the least bit appealing.
"I'll get right to the point," he said.
Just then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the waiter, like a white knight, approaching with our check in hand. If I acted quick enough I might be able to get out of there before I can be sucked into something I don't want to have anything to do with.
"That would be nice," I said, reaching for my wallet. "What is your point?"
"I need to hire you."
I was stopped in my tracks before I got my wallet halfway out of my back pocket.
"Really? To do what?"
"I want you to find someone for me. Well, to be more precise it's not really for me. It's for my ex-wife."
Wait a minute! Goldblatt married? Goldblatt with a wife? Goldblatt a husband? This was a new one on me, something I'd never even considered.
"You…you've been married?" I stammered.
Truth is, I never pictured Goldblatt being in any relationship other than with, yes, as irritating as it might be, me. I mean the guy isn't exactly anyone's idea of Don Juan, although I suppose in theory there are women who might find him if not attractive in the conventional way at least interesting in a specimen-under-glass way. Or maybe as a project. Women love a project. They love a challenge. They love the idea that they have the opportunity to remake a man in their image. Maybe that was it. But whatever it was, my world was shaken to the core. And what would shake it even more would be to find that he was actually a father, too. But one shock per meal is more than enough, so there was no chance I was going to pursue that line of questioning.
"Unfortunately, the answer is yes. More than once, in fact."
"Holy Cow," I blurted out, channeling the Scooter. "You're kidding me?"
At this point the same bald, squat waiter who seems to serve us in every diner we patronize, reached our table and dropped the check right in front of me.
"This is not something a man usually kids about."
"How many times?"
He held up three fingers.
"Three times! You've been married three times?"
"Are you married now?"
He shook his head. "Nah. I'm kinda between wives. Giving it a rest, if you know what I mean.
But chances are I'll be back in the saddle again soon enough."
"Okay, so let me get this straight. You've been married three times and now you're single but you would consider getting married again?"
"Man is not meant to be alone, Swannie. You might consider the possibility that your life would be enriched if you found your soulmate."
You're fortunate if you find one soul mate in life and I'd already had mine. She was yanked from my life as a result of a freak accident, a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I didn't know if Goldblatt knew the circumstances of her bizarre accidental death, but I wouldn't have been surprised because he seems to know a lot of things he has no business knowing.
"Some men are meant to be alone, Goldblatt. I'm one of them and after three failed marriages maybe you should consider the possibility you are, too."
He smiled and puffed out his chest. "What can I say, Swann? I'm a friggin' babe magnet."
I would have laughed, should have laughed, but I was still processing the scary fact that he'd been married three times. That meant there were three women in the world who not only were willing to marry him but did marry him. I wanted to know more. Much more. Everything, in fact. But this was not the time and certainly not the place to delve into Goldblatt's mysterious, sordid past. Nevertheless, I promised myself I would revisit this topic in the not too distant future.
Still in shock, I avoided our weekly "who's paying for this meal" tango, grabbed the check and reached for my wallet...again.
"So, wanna know the story?" he asked.
"Which story would that be?"
"The story of why I want to hire you?"
Excerpt from Swann's Down by Charles Salzberg. Copyright 2019 by Charles Salzberg. Reproduced with permission from Charles Salzberg. All rights reserved.
OTHER BOOKS BY CHARLES SALZBERG
ABOUT THE AUTHORSwann’s Last Song, Swann Dives In, Swann’s Lake of Despair, Swann’s Way Out, and Swann’s Down. He is also author of Devil in the Hole, which was named one of the best crime novels of 2013, and Second Story Man, which won the Beverly Hills Book Award for Crime Fiction in 2018. His novellas, Twist of Fate and The Maybrick Affair, were included in the collections Triple Shot and Three Strikes.
He is a former magazine journalist, whose work has appeared in New York Magazine, Esquire, Redbook, The New York Times Book Review, GQ and other periodicals; and he has written over two dozen nonfiction books including Soupy Sez: My Zany Life and Times, with Soupy Sales, and From Set Shot to Slam Dunk, an oral history of the NBA.
Charles was a Visiting Professor of Magazine at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, and he teaches writing at the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. He is also on the MWA-NY Board.
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