FEATURED AUTHOR: R.G. BELSKY
ABOUT THE BOOK
When the murder of a “nobody” triggers an avalanche.
Every human life is supposed to be important. Everyone should matter. But that’s not the case in the cutthroat TV news-rating world where Clare Carlson works. Sex, money, and power sell. Only murder victims of the right social strata are considered worth covering. Not the murder of a “nobody.”
So, when the battered body of a homeless woman named Dora Gayle is found on the streets of New York City, her murder barely gets a mention in the media. But Clare―a TV news director who still has a reporter’s instincts―decides to dig deeper into the seemingly meaningless death. She uncovers mysterious links between Gayle and a number of wealthy and influential figures. There is a prominent female defense attorney; a scandal-ridden ex-congressman; a decorated NYPD detective; and―most shocking of all―a wealthy media mogul who owns the TV station where Clare works. Soon there are more murders, more victims, more questions. As the bodies pile up, Clare realizes that her job, her career, and maybe even her life are at stake as she chases after her biggest story ever.
Title: Below The Fold
Author: R.G. Belsky
Series: Clare Carlson, book 2
Publisher: Oceanview (May 7, 2019)
Print length: 354 pages
LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT INTERVIEW WITH R.G. BELSKY
Things you need in order to write:
A yellow legal pad and a pen. Yep, that’s about it. I write my fiction out in longhand like that, then put it in a computer after I have a rough draft down. Not sure why I do it like that, I’m a journalist who has always written news stories directly on a computer. But, when it comes to fiction, I find it more creative to write it out longhand first. I once read that Ernest Hemingway wrote all his descriptive stuff out in longhand, instead of on a typewriter. Not that I’m Hemingway. But he’s not a bad example to try and emulate as a writer!
Things that hamper your writing:
Nothing really. Except maybe for the day to day activities that take away my writing time. I write pretty much every day though wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. I write on planes, trains, subways, in coffee shops, parks, bars – wherever I am. So no, I don’t let very much hamper my writing.
Things you love about writing:
I’m one of those people who actually love the writing process. I’ve never had writer’s block or anything like that. I look forward to sitting down every morning at a blank page (well, not really blank because I’ve thought about what I’m going to be saying), and then just seeing what I can produce for that day.
Things you hate about writing:
The line editing processing. Checking each little fact and all the punctuation and that kind of thing. Too much like work I do as a journalist. As a journalist, I have to deal with facts all day. As a mystery author, I mostly get to make them up. That’s the fun part. The editing and fact checking . . . well, that’s not so much fun.
Easiest thing about being a writer:
Easy answer. The writing itself. Because then it’s just you and whatever you want to say. Simple and fun. It’s after that when the whole thing of being an author gets a bit more complicated.
Hardest thing about being a writer:
All the promotional and marketing work an author needs to do now on his or her own in order to get people to read their books. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to people about my writing at conferences or bookstore appearances. But there is a day-to-day pressure to maintain a presence on social media and a lot of other places to keep your name in the publishing world’s eye. I’ve been writing novels for a long time, and it wasn’t always like that. But now every author, even some of the big ones, have to spend a great deal of time selling their book. To paraphrase the old saying of “publish or perish,” it’s now “promote or perish.”
Things you love about where you live:
I live in New York City, the greatest city in the world. It has everything: shows, stores, there’s always something exciting going on in New York. I’m not from New York City originally, but I came here to make my mark in journalism (“New York, New York, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere”) and have lived most of my life in the heart of Manhattan. There’s no other place in the world quite like it.
Things that make you want to move:
Well, New York City is noisy, dirty, chaotic and a lot of other bad things too. You can certainly live a simpler, more peaceful life in other places than New York City. I have moved away because of that in the past, but always moved back again. Like most New Yorkers, I have a love-hate relationship with this damn wonderful city!
Steak. Pizza. Hot dogs at the ball park. Popcorn at the movie theater. Yep, I’m a pretty basic foods person.
Things that make you want to throw up:
Any kind of “raw” bar. Uh, not for me.
Things you always put in your books:
Jokes. I like to make my books funny, even if they are about serious topics like murder and betrayal and lots of other bad things. I still want people to have fun when they read my novels. Because that’s the kind of novels I like to read or watch on TV or at the movies. Whether it be Spenser or Raymond Chandler or screen detectives like Jim Rockford and Columbo, I like characters who don’t always take it all too seriously and can laugh at themselves. That’s what my character Clare Carlson does, no matter what the situation.
Things you never put in your books:
I don’t do a lot of specific sex or violence or sensitive subjects like rape or child abuse in my books. But I have touched on those topics as part of the story. So there’s really nothing that I would say I NEVER put in my books. It depends on the story that I’m trying to tell.
Things to say to an author:
“I just bought your book;” “I stayed up all night reading your book, couldn’t put it down;” “I’ve told everyone I know how great your book is!;” “I’m going to go back and read all your other books now;” “Would you sign my book for me?” and, of course, “You’re my favorite author now.” Oh, plus one more: “I’m a big time Hollywood producer, and I’d like to pay you a lot of money to turn your novel into a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.”
Things to say to an author if you want to be fictionally killed off in their next book:
‘I don’t want to buy your book, but could you send me a copy for free?”
Favorite places you’ve been:
Martha’s Vineyard; Santa Barbara, California; Nashville; Princeton; and, of course, New York City.
Places you never want to go again:
Vietnam. I’m sure its a lovely country now, but I spent a year there as a soldier during the Vietnam war. Too many memories from back then.
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler (best detective novel ever); On Writing by Stephen King (terrific advice from the master); Not in Your Lifetime: The Defining Guide to the J.F.K Assassination (and no, I don’t believe a word of the Warren Commission Report); The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly (finest mystery author writing today); and The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract,
by Bill James (any of them or anything else Bill James writes about baseball).
Books you would ban:
I would never ban any book. No matter how much I disliked or disagreed with it. That’s a slippery slope to start down...
People you’d like to invite to dinner:
LeBron James (the greatest athlete of our time, even though I hate that he abandoned my hometown of Cleveland twice); Stephen King (the greatest writer of our time); Bob Dylan (the greatest songwriter/poet of our time); and - just for fun - Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi (but only if they promised to go back and forth at each other during the entire meal).
People you’d cancel dinner on:
This is a trick question. Because the real answer is no one. Even a dinner with the most despicable, hateful, evil person in the world might be fascinating on some level because you’d learn something about why they’re so despicable, hateful and evil. So I don’t think I’d cancel a dinner like that with anyone. I might not enjoy it, but I’d be there!
Best thing you’ve ever done:
Became a newspaper journalist. One of my favorite quotes is from Humphrey Bogart in Deadline USA when he says: “Let me tell you something about being a reporter. It may not be the oldest profession, but it’s the best.” Columnist Mary McGrory once wrote: “I should confess, I have always felt a bit sorry for people who didn’t work for newspapers.” That’s how I feel about newspapers too. I had the opportunity to work for both the New York Post and later the New York Daily News during the heydays of the New York City tabloid newspaper wars. It was, as they say, the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
Becoming a newspaper journalist. They’re underpaid, under-appreciated, and now a dying breed with newspapers going out of business in recent years. I sure would have been a lot more successful and made a lot more money if I’d gone to law school or medical school or business school instead of getting a journalism degree and spending my life in a newspaper city room. Having said that, I wouldn’t change a thing!
EXCERPT FROM BELOW THE FOLD
THE RULES ACCORDING TO CLARE
Every human life is supposed to be important, everyone should matter. That’s what we all tell ourselves, and it’s a helluva noble concept. But it’s not true. Not in the real world. And certainly not in the world of TV news where I work.
Especially when it comes to murder.
Murder is a numbers game for me. It operates on what is sometimes cynically known in the media as the Blonde White Female Syndrome. My goal is to find a murder with a sexy young woman victim to put on the air. Sex sells. Sex, money, and power. That translates into big ratings numbers, which translates into more advertising dollars. These are the only murder stories really worth doing.
The amazing thing to me is not that there is so much news coverage of these types of stories. It’s that there are people who actually question whether they should be big news stories. These critics dredge up the age-old argument about why some murders get so much more play in the media than all the other murders that happen every day.
I don’t understand these people.
Because the cold, hard truth—and everyone knows this, whether they want to admit it or not—is that not everybody is equal when it comes to murder.
Not in life.
And certainly not in death.
It reminds me of the ongoing debate that happens every time Sirhan Sirhan—the man who killed Robert F. Kennedy—comes up for a parole hearing. There are those who point out that he’s already served fifty years in jail. They argue that many other killers have served far less time before being paroled. Sirhan Sirhan should be treated equally, they say, because the life of Robert F. Kennedy is no more or less important than the life of any other crime victim. Me, I think Sirhan Sirhan should be kept caged up in a four-foot by six-foot cell as long as he lives—which hopefully will be to a hundred so he can suffer every minute of it. For God’s sakes, people, he killed Robert—freakin’—Kennedy!
And so, to those who think that we in the media make too big a deal out of some of these high-profile murder stories, I say that’s completely and utterly ridiculous. I reject that argument completely. I won’t even discuss it.
Now let me tell you something else.
Everything I just said there is a lie.
The truth is there really is no magic formula for murder in the TV news business. No simple way to know from the beginning if a murder story is worth covering or not. No easy answer to the question of how much a human life is worth—or what the impact will be of that person’s death by a violent murder.
When I started out working at a newspaper years ago, I sat next to a veteran police reporter on the overnight shift. There was an old-fashioned wire machine that would print out police slips of murders that happened during the night. Most of them involved down-market victims in bad neighborhoods whose deaths clearly would never make the paper.
But he would dutifully call the police on each one and ask questions like: “Tell me about the body of that kid you found in the Harlem pool room—was he a MENSA candidate or what?” Or, “The woman you found dead in the alley behind the housing project—any chance she might be Julia Roberts or a member of the British Royal Family?”
I asked him once why he even bothered to make the calls since none of these murders seemed ever worth writing about in the paper.
“Hey, you never know,” he said.
It was good advice back then, and it still is today. I try to teach it to all my reporters in the TV newsroom that I run now. Check every murder out. Never assume anything about a murder story. Follow the facts and the evidence on every murder—on every crime story—because you can never be certain where that trail might take you.
Okay, I don’t always follow my own advice in the fast-paced, ratings-obsessed world of TV news where I make my living.
And usually it does turn out to be just a waste of time.
But every once in a while, well . . .
Hey, you never know.
Excerpt from Below The Fold by R.G. Belsky. Copyright © 2019 by R.G. Belsky. Reproduced with permission from R.G. Belsky. All rights reserved.
ABOUT THE AUTHORYesterday’s News, came out in 2018. Belsky previously wrote the Gil Malloy series - The Kennedy Conection, Shooting for the Stars, and Blonde Ice - about a newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News. Belsky himself is a former managing editor at the Daily News and writes about the media from an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and TV/digital news. At the Daily News, he also held the titles of metropolitan editor and deputy national editor. Before that, he was metropolitan editor of the New York Post and news editor at Star magazine. Belsky was most recently the managing editor for news at NBCNews.com. His previous suspense novels include Playing Dead and Loverboy. Belsky has been nominated as a finalist for the David Award at Deadly Ink and for the Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville. He also was a Claymore Award winner at Killer Nashville.
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