Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Darkness First by James Hayman: Interview


Darkness First

by James Hayman

on Tour October 2013

Book Details:

Genre: Thriller
Published by: Witness
Publication Date: 10/1/2013
Number of Pages: 434
ISBN: 9780062301697
Purchase Links:


Darkness First by James Hayman is the third book in the McCabe and Savage series.

The sadistically mutilated body of a young woman is found in the secluded seaside town of Machiasport, Maine and detective Maggie Savage is drawn home to solve the murder and restore peace. Maggie is the daughter of a sheriff, and justice is in her blood. What makes her so desperate for answers, though, is the fact that her dearest childhood was found just a few steps away from the corpse, comatose, with 150 tablets of Canadian Oxycontin in her pocket.
Maggie delves through the darkest parts of Machiasport, trying to find whichever doomed corner the murdered girl wandered into. After casing old haunts and interviewing the locals, whispers of a menacing character begin to surface: a faceless and nameless man who nobody knows but everybody fears.
In the tradition of John Sandford and William Kent Kreguer, Darkness First is a gruesome thriller about a small town rocked by a savage crime.

Tell us about your current release.


Darkness First tells the story of Tiffany Stoddard, a beautiful, ambitious young college student who wants to get rich quick. When Tiff agrees to help a man named Conor Riordan smuggle illegal drugs from Canada into the US and help sell them, she has no idea she’s just made a deal with the devil.


She soon realizes, however, that Riordan is, indeed, the embodiment of pure sociopathic evil. Someone who not only kills anyone and everyone who threatens his operation, but who also kills for the sheer sadistic pleasure he derives from the act.  The more vicious the murder, the more Riordan enjoys it.


When Tiff Stoddard’s mutilated body is found in the parking area of a remote Maine state park, Portland Detective Maggie Savage is called in to help track down the killer. Maggie agrees partly because her oldest and best friend, a local doctor, was badly injured in the same incident.


Maggie and her partner, Detective Sergeant Mike McCabe, doggedly track Riordan through a strange and frightening labyrinth of murder, mayhem and false leads only to realize they are in a race against time to find Tiffany Stoddard’s eleven-year-old sister Tabitha (the only person still alive who knows what Conor Riordan looks like) before Tabitha becomes the killer’s next victim.


Darkness First is the third McCabe/Savage suspense thriller. The first two are The Cutting and The Chill of Night.


At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer? How did you start your writing career?


Aside from a brief childhood flirtation with playing third base for the New York Yankees, I pretty much always knew I wanted to be a writer.  I liked writing and it was about the only thing I felt I was genuinely good at. (No way, I’d ever cut it at third base.) After graduating from Brown University, I started looking for a company that would actually pay me money to write.  I found two. A trade magazine and an ad agency. Since the agency offered ten dollars a week more than the magazine, I went there.  I spent the next 25 years writing and producing TV commercials, print ads and marketing pieces for a variety of clients.

What was your first sale as an author?


It’s the kind of Cinderella story that makes a lot of other first-time writers grit their teeth and want to strangle me.


After leaving the agency business, I decided it was time to scratch a lifelong itch and try writing fiction which I had, literally, never tried before.


My first effort was a thriller featuring a Portland, Maine homicide detective named Mike McCabe. The title was The Cutting and it was about a killer who cuts out his victims’ hearts to sell for use in illegal heart transplants. It took me eighteen months to write and polish the manuscript to within an inch of its life.  When I had finished, I made a long list of the best agents I could find who specialized in the mystery/thriller genre.  I decided to send it first to a woman named Meg Ruley who represented other New England-based writers like Tess Gerritsen, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Lisa Gardner.  I sent Meg the manuscript and, to my utter amazement, after only a week or so, she emailed back and said she loved the book and wanted to discuss representation.  Within a few months, I’d signed a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Minotaur.   For my third book, Darkness First, I accepted an offer from Harper Collins’ new ebook-first imprint, Witness Impulse.


Where do you research for your books?


The Internet provides most of the easy answers for easy research questions. For example, I found YouTube videos that taught me how to pick a lock, how to clean a Glock 17 and what a 1957 T-Bird looks like both inside and out. .


I physically visit places I describe in the books. Sometimes I’ll check out the interiors of appropriate houses by checking out “the virtual tours” available on and other sites.


To research characters who do specific jobs in the books, I seek out and talk to real people who hold the same jobs in real life. For my continuing hero, Detective Sergeant Mike McCabe, who heads the Crimes Against People unit in the Portland Police Department, I spent a number of hours talking to a detective who actually held the same job.  Whenever a new question comes up he and I correspond by email.


For my first book, The Cutting, I learned about heart transplants by interviewing a number of heart surgeons including one who specialized in transplants.


For Darkness First, I interviewed the real sheriff of Washington County, Maine, a real member of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency, a real solo practitioner in family medicine and went to the real version of my fictional bar, The Musty Moose. Its actual name is The Thirsty Moose.


How do you describe your writing style?


I’d describe my style as cinematic. It’s tightly written, fast moving with lots of dialogue.


I try to set a scene the way a director would set a scene in a film. First an establishing shot to orient the viewer.  Then the camera moves in on the characters who proceed to advance the story through dialogue; both internal dialogue (the thought voices of the POV character) and external dialogue, what they actually say to each other.


Here’s a fairly typical example from Darkness First. Detective Maggie Savage has just arrived at the crime scene where Tiff Stoddard has been killed and sees her father, the four term Sheriff of Washington County, for the first time in nearly a year:


She continued toward the park. John Savage broke away from the group he was with and came to meet her. A lean six-four, with a gray mustache and a weathered face, Savage looked more like a sheriff in a John Ford western than one in a rural county in Maine. He was even armed like Wyatt Earp with his pride and joy, an original 1873 long-barreled Colt .45 Peacemaker, strapped to his waist. All he needed was a horse and a Stetson hat to complete the image.  And somewhere at home Maggie was pretty sure he had the hat...

John opened his arms. Maggie stepped into them, rejoicing in the familiar scent of the only man she’d loved forever. A pot pourri of unfiltered Camels, J.W. Dant Straight Kentucky Bourbon and wet gun dog.

Then she pulled back and examined him closely. He looked thinner than she remembered, but then he’d always been lean. There were a few new furrows on his always furrowed face. A little less hair on his head.  None of this, at his age, was much of a surprise. She saw nothing more than worry reflected in the dark-brown eyes everyone said looked exactly like hers. Still, at seventy-four, it was way past time for John Savage to admit he was getting older and stop working so hard at a job he should have retired from years ago. Except he loved the job. Lived for it. Probably kill him if he quit. Kill him if he didn’t. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

“How you doing, Mag?” he asked as they broke the hug.

“Hanging in,” she told him. “How about you?”

“Aching all over. Should have been in bed hours ago.”

As they started back, John reached into his shirt pocket for his pack of Camels, the short unfiltered kind he’d been smoking forever. She waited while he tapped one out and lit up. He took a deep drag and blew a steady stream of smoke into the crisp morning air, the blue smoke tinted bluer by the flashing light bars of the cruisers.

“Thought you promised me you’d give those up,” Maggie said.

“Yup. I did. Promised you. Promised Em. Promised Anya. But the truth of the matter is I don’t really want to give them up. I enjoy smoking. I enjoy bourbon too. And sex when I can manage it.”

“The bourbon and sex probably won’t kill you.”

“No, but I’m turning seventy-five next month. At this point it seems more’n likely something else’ll kill me first.”

Maggie wondered if he had anything specific in mind.  But that conversation would have to wait. In the meantime she knew enough not to argue. John was at least as stubborn as she was.


Plotter or Pantser? Why?


Definitely a “Pantser”.  Every time I try to create an outline for a plot, I find I veer off it by page three. From that point on, I let the characters take me where they want.  Usually, it’s to a much better place than my outline would have suggested.



How do you react to a bad review of your book?


So far (knock on wood) I’ve only gotten one really bad review and a lot of really, really good ones. But, man, that bad one was a lulu.  The reviewer started off with three words I remember to this day, “Hayman’s clichéd debut…” And it went downhill from there.


My reaction? First, I reviled the reviewer with every nasty four-letter word I could think of and, trust me, I’m really good at coming up with nasty and often highly original four-letter words.


My second reaction was to snarl at my wife for responding to the review in a quiet, rational tone, “The reviewer doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” she said. “So don’t worry about it.”


My third reaction was to pour myself a large glass of Scotch whiskey, sit down and feel sorry for myself.  After about twenty minutes, I took my wife’s advice and stopped worrying about it.


Do you have a favorite quote, quip, or saying? What is it?


“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”-Groucho Marx


James Hayman is a native New Yorker having been born in Brooklyn and raised in Manhattan. Like many city kids, he was sent off to a New England boarding school at fourteen. Eight years later he graduated from Brown University and returned to New York where he spent the next twenty-five years working as a copywriter and creative director at some of Madison Avenue’s biggest ad agencies, creating print and TV advertising for clients like the US Army, Lincoln Mercury, Merrill Lynch and Procter & Gamble.

After deciding that the New York agency business was “no country for old men,” Jim left Madison Avenue and moved to Portland, Maine where he worked for several years as a freelance business writer, publishing dozens of articles and two non-fiction business books.

In 2007 he decided to follow in the footsteps of other former “Madmen” (James Patterson, Stuart Woods, Chris Grabenstein and Ted Bell to name just a few) and begin a new career writing suspense/thrillers. His debut novel, THE CUTTING was the first in a planned series featuring Portland homicide detectives Michael McCabe and Maggie Savage. It was quickly published and garnered rave reviews both in the print media and online. THE CUTTING was followed by THE CHILL OF NIGHT. Both books have been published around the world and translated into six languages.

The third McCabe/Savage thriller, DARKNESS FIRST, is due from Harper Collins’ new Witness imprint in October. Jim lives in Portland with his wife, the artist Jeanne O’Toole Hayman.

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