A Welcome Grave (Lincoln Perry Series #3)

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Sometime after midnight, on a moonless October night turned harsh by a fine, windswept rain, one of the men I liked least in the world was murdered in a field near Bedford, just south of the city....The detectives went looking for suspects—- people whose histories with Jefferson were adversarial and hostile. At the top of that list, they found me.

So begins A Welcome Grave, the third novel by award-winning mystery writer Michael Koryta, featuring private investigator Lincoln ...

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A Welcome Grave (Lincoln Perry Series #3)

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Sometime after midnight, on a moonless October night turned harsh by a fine, windswept rain, one of the men I liked least in the world was murdered in a field near Bedford, just south of the city....The detectives went looking for suspects—- people whose histories with Jefferson were adversarial and hostile. At the top of that list, they found me.

So begins A Welcome Grave, the third novel by award-winning mystery writer Michael Koryta, featuring private investigator Lincoln Perry. Once a rising star on the Cleveland police force, Perry ended his career when he left one of the city's prominent attorneys, Alex Jefferson, bleeding in the parking lot of his country club—-retribution for his affair with Perry's fiancée.

Now Jefferson is dead, the victim of a brutal murder, and his widow has called upon Perry for a favor he knows he shouldn't accept but can't turn down: to find Jefferson's estranged son, partial beneficiary of the dead man's fortune. The case is simple enough, a routine "locate," and he'll be paid plenty of money for the work. The encounter should be simple, too: a brief exchange of information and maybe an empty condolence before Perry gets back into his truck and returns home. Instead, he's loaded into a police car and taken to a rural jail while Jefferson's son is zipped into a body bag.

Perry soon learns that Jefferson's millions are the target of a thirst for revenge that hasn't been satisfied by blood. As a pair of deadly assailants push deep into the investigator's life, they bring with them police from two states who are determined to see Perry in jail.

Building on the skill that prompted the Toronto Sun to call him "one of America's best young mystery writers," Michael Koryta makes A Welcome Grave an intense exploration of the lengths to which a desperate man is forced to go in order to clear his name and solve a crime. This is a thrilling new book that justifies the critical acclaim and solidifies his role as an emerging talent among today's top writers.

Praise for Michael Koryta


"For a while now, Michael Koryta has been called one of the rising young talents in crime fiction. I say enough of that. A Welcome Grave proves the promise. Koryta is one of the best of the best, plain and simple. With stories like this, his Lincoln Perry is going to be around for a long, long time."—-Michael Connelly, author of The Overlook and the bestselling Harry Bosch series

"With the publication of A Welcome Grave, it's time to stop referring to Michael Koryta as a boy wonder and just focus on the sheer wonder of his storytelling. Koryta knows how to put his characters—-and his readers—-into an ever-tightening vise of twists, turns, and conspiracies, but it's his empathy that makes his work stand out. This is a nuanced, mature novel that proves both the depth of Koryta's talent and the vitality of the PI genre."—- Laura Lippman, Edgar Award winner and author of No Good Deeds

"In the last few years, new writing talent has entered all subgenres of crime fiction. One of the names at the top of the list is Michael Koryta. He is a breath of fresh air, his writing is clear and concise, and his observations on the darkness of the human condition show how the PI novel is one of the finest forms in all of fiction writing. Mr. Koryta is on his way to being a master of the PI novel, sacred ground indeed."—-Richard Katz, Mystery One Bookstore


"Sorrow's Anthem is no sophomore slump."—-The Washington Post

"Koryta displays the maturity of a writer with several novels under his belt, and his plot percolates with crisp dialogue that might impress Chandler himself."—-Booklist (starred review)


"Say hello to a new crime talent."—-Chicago Tribune

"[Koryta] has produced what few thought possible—-an incredibly fresh PI novel when the subgenre had been long declared fatigued…Koryta emerges fully formed in his first effort."—-The Baltimore Sun

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly Audio
Koryta's third Lincoln Perry novel is given a first-rate rendition by Scott Brick. Originally published in 2007, A Welcome Grave, like other titles in the series, chronicles an investigation that involves the private detective personally as well as professionally. Here, he's hired by his ex-fiancée to locate the estranged son of Alex Jefferson, her recently murdered husband, the same husband Perry once battered, leading to his dismissal from the Cleveland police force. Brick adds a shade of guilt to the detective's already downbeat first-person account. And when Perry is framed for murder by a pair of brilliant, homicidal (and sinister-voiced) villains, a tone of frustration and near hopelessness completes the well-performed vocal portrait. Brick is especially successful in voicing the supporting players, capturing the halting uncertainty of Perry's partner, Joe Pritchard, wounded in body and spirit from a previous adventure, and a hint of honor in the heavily accented, unemotional speech of Thor, a cold-blooded Russian mob enforcer who assists Perry in a time of need. A St. Martin's paperback. (Feb.)
Publishers Weekly

Edgar-finalist Koryta stakes a claim as one of today's pre-eminent crafters of contemporary hard-boiled mysteries with his third Lincoln Perry whodunit (after 2006's Sorrow's Anthem), which finds the cops trying to pin murder charges on the Cleveland PI. Formerly a detective with the Cleveland PD, Perry was forced out of the department when he assaulted a rich lawyer, Alex Jefferson, who had married Perry's still beloved ex, Karen. When Jefferson's brutalized corpse is discovered in a field, suspicion soon focuses on Perry, and the gumshoe only makes more trouble for himself by accepting Karen's commission to find the dead man's estranged son, Matt, who has inherited millions from his father. But no sooner does Perry locate Matt in Indiana than the unwitting heir commits suicide in Perry's presence, another death the authorities find suspicious. Despite Koryta's youth (his 2004 debut, Tonight I Said Goodbye was published when he was 21), his haunting writing and logical, sophisticated plotting rival that of established stalwarts like Loren Estleman. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
A routine "locate" to find the estranged son of a murdered Cleveland attorney gets P.I. Lincoln Perry behind bars in the third series title. Koryta lives in Bloomington, IN. With a regional tour. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A hard-boiled shamus knows better than to answer the distress call of his ex...or does he?Police pay a visit to Cleveland gym owner and sometime private eye Lincoln Perry (Sorrow's Anthem, 2006, etc.) when wealthy Alex Jefferson is found in a dumpster, the victim of torture and murder. Jefferson's widow Karen is Perry's ex, and the last time he saw Jefferson, he beat him to a pulp at Jefferson's country club. A week later, Karen calls Perry, and against his better judgment, he goes to see her. Jefferson left a huge estate, much of it to his missing son Matthew. So Karen hires Perry to find her estranged stepson and give him the news. When Perry tracks Matthew down in Indiana, the young man pulls a gun but uses it to commit suicide, making Perry again a murder suspect until forensics clears him. Teaming at times with Cleveland detective Harold Targent, Perry sets out to discover Matthew's secret in hopes of identifying Jefferson's killer. A violent ex-con named Andy Doran may hold the key. Many twists await along the way, with Perry himself never far from the dubious status of prime suspect, much of the evidence apparently designed to frame him. The plot has its share of boilerplate elements. But sentence for polished sentence, no one in the genre writes better. Agent: David Hale Smith/DHS Literary Inc.
From the Publisher
“Stylish...well observed.”—The New York Times

“Addictively readable.”—Chicago Tribune

“A nuanced, mature novel that proves both the depth of Koryta's talent and the vitality of the PI genre.”—New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman


“Edgar-finalist Koryta stakes a claim as one of today’s pre-eminent crafters of contemporary hard-boiled mysteries...Despite Koryta’s youth ...his haunting writing and logical, sophisticated plotting rival that of established stalwarts like Loren Estleman.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“If you haven’t already discovered Michael Koryta…now’s the time. A Welcome Grave is his best book.” —Toronto Globe and Mail

“The Rust Belt never looked so scary...a nightmare chess game.” —The Rocky Mountain News

“The story is graced by Koryta's humor and style...”  —Cleveland Plain-Dealer

A Welcome Grave...is proof that after only three novels it is possible to become a 'must read' in crime fiction...one of the best P.I. against the world books I've read in a long, long time. Koryta's dialogue remains vivid and his characters sharp as a diamond drill bit.” —Crimespree magazine

“In his third efficiently plotted mystery, Koryta lands most of his punches...” —Entertainment Weekly

“Koryta’s story-telling is enhanced by a fluid prose style...” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“An exciting novel with carefully rendered characters, even secondary ones, who will remain with the reader long after turning the last page.” —Bookreporter.com


“This is the book that will put Koryta on everyone’s ‘must read’ list...The action is relentless.—The Kingston Observer

“The best entry yet in the Lincoln Perry private-eye series” —Library Journal (starred review)

“It’s time to stop referring to Michael Koryta as a boy wonder and just focus on the sheer wonder of his storytelling...A Welcome Grave is a nuanced, mature novel that proves both the depth of Koryta’s talent and the vitality of the PI genre.”—New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman

“For a while now Michael Koryta has been called one of the rising young talents in crime fiction. I say enough of that. A Welcome Grave proves the promise. Koryta is one of the best of the best, plain and simple. With stories like this, his Lincoln Perry is going to be around for a long, long time.”Michael Connelly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781441758545
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Series: Lincoln Perry Series , #3
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 10

Meet the Author

Michael Koryta

MICHAEL KORYTA's first novel, Tonight I Said Goodbye, was published when he was just twenty-one. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana, where he has worked as a newspaper reporter and private investigator. Tonight I Said Goodbye won the St. Martin's Press/Private Eye Writers of America contest for first novel and the Great Lakes Book Award for best mystery and was a finalist for the Edgar Award for best first novel. His novels have been translated into several languages.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


Sometime after midnight, on a moonless October night turned harsh by a fine, windswept rain, one of the men I liked least in the world was murdered in a field near Bedford, just south of the city. Originally, they assumed the body had only been dumped there. That Alex Jefferson had been killed somewhere else, dead maybe before the mutilation began.


They were wrong.


It was past noon the next day when the body was discovered. A dozen vehicles were soon assembled in the field—police cars, evidence vans, an ambulance that could serve no purpose but was dispatched anyhow. I wasn’t there, but I could imagine the scene—I’d certainly been to enough like it.


But maybe not. Maybe not. The things they saw that day, things I heard about secondhand, from cops who recited the news in the distanced way that only hardened professionals can manage . . . they weren’t things I dealt with often.


Jefferson was brought from the city with his hands and feet bound with rope, duct tape over his mouth. A half mile down a dirt track leading into an empty field, he was removed from a vehicle—tire tracks suggested a van—and subjected to a systematic torture killing that was apparently quite slow in reaching the second stage. Autopsy results and scenarios created by the forensic team and the medical experts suggested Jefferson remained breathing, and probably conscious, for fifteen minutes.


Fifteen minutes varies by perspective. The blink of an eye, if you’re standing in an airport, saying goodbye to someone you love. An ice age, if you’re fighting through traffic, late for a job interview. And if your hands and feet are bound while someone works you over slowly, from head to toe, with a butane lighter and a straight razor? At that point an eternity isn’t what the fifteen minutes feel like—it’s what you’re begging for. To be sent to wherever it is you’re destined, and sent there for good.


The cops were preoccupied with the basics for most of the first day: processing the crime scene, getting the forensic experts from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation involved, identifying the body, notifying next of kin, and trying to piece together Jefferson’s last hours. The locals were interviewed, the field and surrounding woods combed for evidence.


No leads came. Not from the basics, at least, not from those first hours of work. So the investigation extended. The detectives went looking for suspects—people whose histories with Jefferson were adversarial, hostile. At the top of that list, they found me.


They arrived at ten past nine on the day after Alex Jefferson’s body was discovered, and I hadn’t made it to the office yet, even though I live in a building just down the street. Below my apartment is an old gym I own and from which I occasionally make a profit. I’ve got a manager for the gym, but that day she had car trouble. She called me at seven thirty to say her husband was trying a jump start, and if that didn’t work, she might be late. I told her not to worry about it—no rush for me, so none for her. I’d open the gym and then leave whenever she made it in.


I’d gone downstairs with a cup of coffee in hand and unlocked the gym office. There’s a keycard system that allows members to come and go twenty-four hours a day, but Grace, my manager, works the nine-to-five in the office and at the cooler. We make most of our money off energy drinks and protein shakes, granola bars, and vitamins, not the monthly membership dues.


There were two women on treadmills and one man lifting weights when I opened the office, our typical crowd. One nice thing about working out at my gym: You never have to wait on the equipment. Good for the members, bad for me.


I checked the locker rooms to make sure there were fresh towels and found Grace had taken care of that the previous night. I was on my way back through the weight room when I saw the cops standing just inside the office. Two of them, neither in uniform, but I caught a glimpse of a badge affixed to the taller one’s belt, a glint of silver under the fluorescent lights that made my eyebrows narrow and my pace quicken.


“Can I help you?” I stepped into the office. Neither one was familiar to me, but I couldn’t pretend to know everyone at the department, especially now, a few years since I’d last worked there.


“Lincoln Perry?”




The one whose badge wasn’t clipped to his belt, a trim guy with gray hair and crow’s feet around his eyes, slid a case out of his pocket and opened it, showing a badge and identification card. harold targent, detective, cleveland police department. I gave it a glance, looked backed at him, nodded once.


“Okay. What can I help you with, Detective?”


“Call me Hal.”


The taller one beside him, who was maybe ten years younger, lifted his hand in a little wave. “Kevin Daly.”


Targent looked out at the weight room, then back at me. “You mind shutting that door? Give us a little privacy?”


“My manager’s late. Don’t want to close the office up until she gets here, if that’s okay.”


Targent shook his head. “Going to need some privacy, Mr. Perry.”


“That serious?” I said, beginning to feel the first hint of dread, the sense that maybe this had nothing to do with one of my cases, that it could be personal.


“Serious, yes. Serious the way it gets when people die, Mr. Perry.”


I swung the office door shut and turned the lock. “Let’s go upstairs.”


To their credit, they didn’t waste a lot of time bullshitting around without telling me why they were there. No questions about what I’d done the previous night, no head games. Instead, they laid it out as soon as we’d taken seats in my living room.


“A man you know was murdered two nights ago,” Targent said. “Heard about it?”


My last contact with the news had been the previous day’s paper. I hadn’t seen that morning’s yet, and I get more reliable news from the drunk who hangs out at the bus stop up the street than I do from the television. I shook my head slowly, Targent watching with friendly skepticism.


“You going to tell me who?” I said.


“The man’s name was Alex Jefferson.”


It was one of those moments when I wished I were a smoker, just so I could have something to do with my hands, a little routine I could go through to pass some time without having to sit there and stare.


“You remember the man?” Daly asked.


I looked at him and gave a short laugh, shaking my head at the question. “Yeah. I remember the man.”


They waited for a bit. Targent said, “And your relationship with him was, ah, a little adversarial?”


I met his eyes. “He was sleeping with my fiancée, Detective. I spent two hours working my way through a twelve-pack of beer before I beat the shit out of Jefferson at his country club, got pulled over for drunk driving, got charged with assault. Pled the assault down to a misdemeanor but got canned from the department. All of this, you already know. But, yes, I suppose we can say that my relationship with him was, ah, a little adversarial.”


Targent was watching me, and Daly was pretending to, but his eyes were drifting over my apartment, as if he thought maybe I’d left a crowbar or a nine-iron with dried blood and matted hair stuck to it leaning against the wall.


“Okay,” Targent said. He looked even smaller sitting down, as if he weighed about a hundred and twenty pounds, but he had a substantial quality despite that, a voice flecked with iron. “Don’t take it personally, Mr. Perry. Nobody’s calling you a suspect. Now, if I can just ask—”


“Were you there when she was notified?” I said.


“Excuse me?”


“Karen. His wife. Were you there when she was notified?”


He shook his head. “No, I was not. Lots of people are working—”


“I can imagine. He was a very important man.”


Targent blew out his breath and glanced at Daly, whose eyes were still roving over my apartment, looking for any excuse to shout “probable cause” and begin tearing the place apart.


“I was out with a friend till about eleven Saturday night,” I said. “We had dinner, a few drinks downtown. I’ve probably got the receipts. Came back here, read for an hour, went to bed. No receipt for that.”


Targent smiled slightly. “Okay. But you’re getting ahead of us.”


“Like he said, nobody’s calling you a suspect,” Daly said.




“Just covering bases,” Targent said. “You were on the job not long ago, you know how it goes.”




He leaned back and hooked one ankle over a knee. “So you had an admittedly adversarial relationship with Mr. Jefferson.”


“Three years ago.”


“And had you—”


“Seen him since? No. The last time I saw him he was on his back in the parking lot, doing a lot of bleeding, and I was trying to make it to my car.”


That wasn’t true. I’d seen him twice after that, but always from a distance, and always unnoticed. Once in a restaurant; he’d been standing at the bar, laughing with some other guys in expensive suits, and I’d walked in the door, spotted him, and turned right back around and walked out. The other time was the day he and Karen were married. I’d parked across the street and sat in my car, watched them walk down the steps as people clapped and whistled, and I’d thought that it was all kid stuff, really, the marriage ceremony, and that when people like Jefferson—nearly fifty years old and trying a third wife on for size—went through it in public, it was pretty sad. Pathetic, even. Almost as sad and pathetic as being parked across the street, eighty-eight degrees but with the windows up, watching another guy marry your girl.


That was during my bad phase, though. Fresh out of the job, shiftless and angry. Time had passed, things had changed. Alex Jefferson, while never really gone from my mind, no longer weighed on it, either.


“You’re wasting time,” I said. “I understand you’ve got to go through the motions, but this is a dead end, gentlemen. I hadn’t seen him, I hadn’t seen her, and I didn’t kill him. Happy he’s dead? No. Sad? Not particularly. Apathetic. That’s it. He and his life were of no concern to me and mine. Not anymore.”


Targent leaned forward, ran a hand through his hair, and looked at the floor. “They took their time on him.”




He looked up. “Whoever did kill him, Mr. Perry? They took their damn sweet time doing it. Slow and painful. That was how he went. With forty-seven burns and more than fifty lacerations. Burns from cigarettes and a lighter, lacerations from a razor blade. Sometimes the blade was used to cut deep, like a knife. Other times, it was used like a paint scraper across his flesh. He had duct tape over his mouth, and at some point, trying to scream, maybe, or maybe just going into convulsions from the pain, he bit right through his own tongue.”


I turned and stared out the window. “I don’t need the details, Detective. I just need you to scratch me off the list and move on.”


They lingered for about ten more minutes before finally clearing out. They would check out my history with Jefferson now, try to prove that our contact hadn’t stopped when I’d said it had, probably verify what they could of my activity the night he was killed. If things went well, went the way they should, I wouldn’t hear from them again.


When they were gone, I left the gym office locked, walked up the street, and bought a newspaper. I sat on a bench outside the doughnut shop, a cool breeze ruffling the pages as I read. Jefferson made the front page, of course, but it was brief. A rewritten police press release and a note that the attorney’s wife, Karen, was unavailable for comment. They’d gotten the tip late—classic police public relations. We might have to leak the news eventually, but you can be damn sure that when we do it’ll be as close to your deadline as possible.


I didn’t recognize the name of the reporter who’d written the story. I could call my friend Amy Ambrose at the paper, see if she knew anything more—but what the hell for? At the end of the day, why did I care? I threw the newspaper away and walked toward my office.


I came to the corner and crossed the street, went up the stairs, unlocked the office door, and stepped inside to be greeted by silence. My partner, Joe Pritchard, was out indefinitely, had been for a couple of months. Right now he was probably at physical therapy, where he went three times a week, trying to regain as much use of his left arm as possible. A bullet had gone in his shoulder not long ago, and although it came out, it left behind plenty of damage. And an empty chair at the desk beside me.


I turned my computer on and sat behind my own desk, staring out the window. Maybe I should call Joe, let him know what had happened. Hell, he probably knew already. Joe always seemed to. He hadn’t called me, though, and that was surprising. Unless, as usual, he was a step ahead of me and a hell of a lot smarter and realized that, despite the police reaction, this thing wasn’t personal to me.


“It was a long time ago,” I told the empty office.


I pulled the stack of case files on the desk toward me and flipped the first one open. There was work to do, and nobody else would be coming in to do it for me.


Karen’s call came at ten in the morning on the day after her husband was buried. I was in the office again, alone again, typing up a report on a custody case. The father was my client, and he wanted proof that his ex-wife’s new boyfriend was a drug dealer. Thought it would help him in the court battle for the kids. During the two weeks I spent on the case, I determined that the ex-wife had no boyfriend and that my client was a prick. Although he found time to call me six times a day, complaining that I must not be doing my job because “that bitch” most definitely did have a boyfriend, and a drug-dealing boyfriend at that, he somehow managed to miss his seven-year-old son’s birthday by three days. When he realized that, he blamed the ex-wife, naturally.


I was sitting in front of the computer, momentarily frozen as I sought words that would allow me to tell my client he was an idiot without sacrificing the rest of my fee, when the phone rang. I hit the speakerphone button, a habit I’d developed only in Joe’s absence, and said hello.


“Lincoln?” Voices on the speakerphone always seemed to come from a long way off, but this one put a different spin on that quality. It was coming from a long way off and a place I’d been trying to forget.


“Karen.” For a moment I regretted saying her name, wished I’d pretended not to recognize her voice from just that one word, but then I realized that was a pointless exercise. I would’ve known her even if she’d only sneezed when I answered the phone, and she knew that.


“How are you?” she asked.


“I’m fine. Certainly better than you must be doing, at least.”


“Are you free for a little while?”


I paused. “I’m working. Why do you ask?”


“It’s just . . . I was hoping you could come by. I wanted to apologize, that’s all. I just found out what the police did. That was ridiculous. I can’t believe they talked to you. There was no reason for it.”


“There was a reason for it,” I said. “It’s called doing a job. I didn’t take any offense.”


“Well, I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure . . . wanted you to know that I didn’t send them. That I wasn’t the one who gave them the idea they needed to bother you with this.”


Hearing her voice was surreal. I knew it so well, the pitch, the cadence, and yet in a way it felt like listening to a singer whose face you’ve never seen. That voice couldn’t be any more familiar, yet I didn’t know who she was. Not anymore.


“I understand,” I said.


Silence. I leaned back in my chair and waited.






“I wasn’t sure if you were still there.”


“I’m here.”


Another pause, then, “Anyhow, I was hoping, if you had a few minutes, you could come by.”


“So you could apologize?”


“Well, yes.”


“You just did. And, thank you, but it was unnecessary.”


“Okay,” she said. “Okay. Well . . . goodbye, Lincoln.”


“Goodbye, Karen. Good luck.”


She hung up, but only when the phone began to beep at me did I remember to lean over and click off the speakerphone.


Ten minutes later, it rang again. Karen.


“Lincoln, I really do need to see you. I’m drained, and emotional, and I hung up before because . . . well, your voice was so defensive. And I understand that. I do. But I need to see you. In person.”


“Just to apologize?”


“Lincoln . . .” There were tears in her voice now.


Shit. I pushed back in my chair, rolled my eyes to the ceiling, and shook my head. What the hell was this about?


“Twenty minutes,” she said, speaking the words softly and carefully, trying to keep the emotion out of her voice. “It’s important.”




“The house.”


The house. Like it was Monticello, some sort of damn landmark.


“I don’t know where the house is, Karen.”


“Pepper Pike. Off Shaker, near the country club.” She gave me the address.


“The country club,” I said. “Of course.” That had been the location of my last encounter with Jefferson, but Karen didn’t strike me as someone who’d appreciate that particular flash of nostalgia, so I kept it to myself.


“You’ll come?”


“Like I’ve got no sense at all.”




“Nothing. I’ll see you in a bit.”


“Thank you, Lincoln.”


We hung up again, and, after a few minutes of swearing at myself, I got up and walked out the door.


Copyright © 2007 by Michael Koryta. All rights reserved.

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Interviews & Essays

An Interview with Michael Koryta

Q: What came first, the interest in mysteries and the life of a private investigator or the writing of stories?

MK: Definitely the stories. I was drawn to the PI trade with an eye toward fiction, even at the start. I understood that real-world PI work was going to be a good deal different from the fictional, but I thought the experience could help my writing. There's an element of discovery to everything I've done, be it journalism, investigation, or fiction writing. I suppose that's the common thread that runs through all three.

Q: How did you end up working for a private investigator and why was that important to your writing?

MK: I actually approached the detective I still work for when I was only 16. I didn't have a driver's license yet, so I had to take a city bus from my high school to meet him at a coffee shop. I told him I'd like to learn the business, and after he got done trying to talk me out of it with stories of boring surveillances and tedious public records research and the like, he gave in and agreed to take me on. That was an incredible stroke of good fortune, finding someone who was not only over-qualified to teach the trade but was actually willing to do so.

In the years since, he's been just wonderful to me, and I've learned a lot and had some experiences that definitely fed the writing.

Q: You also worked as a journalist. How has that experience helped your fiction writing? Did your time at the local newspaper help you create Amy, the reporter, who plays a key role in the series?

MK: The newspaper work helped me in two ways: the characters I met, and the lessons learned from writing on deadline. I think what you learnfrom that, the ability to organize thoughts and put them on paper quickly and efficiently and to rewrite relentlessly, probably shaved years off the development time I would have had if I'd only been writing fiction. And the people I met...the odd, quirky stories and characters I found, that was just a really rich field to mine for fiction. I haven't written much of Amy's professional life, but her personality -- that caustic, cynical bravado -- is definitely a trait common to the newshounds I met and learned from.

Q: How does your real life PI work compare to Lincoln Perry's? He lives dangerously. Do you drive a four-wheel-drive truck and carry a big gun?

MK: The real-life work is of course much less exciting. I do drive a four-wheel drive vehicle like Lincoln (bad roads out here in the winter) but if I had to go through all of his gun play I'd probably be seeking work elsewhere. I think in the real world Lincoln would have a lot more difficulty keeping his liability insurance and bond. I mean, the guy is clearly prone to danger. I'd have dropped his policy long ago.

Q: To what extent is Lincoln Perry Michael Koryta? Really.

MK: My standard line here is that if I were taller, tougher, stronger, smarter, better looking and funnier, we'd be the same guy. I think the similarity is certainly there in sense of humor and some world view issues, but I don't think of him as an alter-ego or anything. He exists for me as an independent entity...and I swear if you drive past his office in Cleveland at the right time of evening, you can see him in the window. Joe's always sitting in the background with his feet up on the desk, looking disgruntled. That guy...

Q: I hear that your fourth book is finished, and that Lincoln Perry is not a character. Please say you will bring him back in a fourth PI novel.

MK: The new one is indeed Lincoln-free. It's a standalone with all new characters, all new setting, and it's third-person and multiple point of view instead of the first-person Lincoln narration. Trying all of those different things was a wonderful break for me, and I think it's important to do that to grow as a writer. You've got to try new directions, push yourself. As far as Lincoln riding again, contract calls for a fourth appearance, so you're safe, and I think he's beginning to knock on my door again. I'm not sure of the details yet, but it seems something is afoot.

Q: And what are you doing writing a book without him?

MK: See the above answer. I'm a young writer, no secret there, so assuming I don't get hit by a bus or something I'll have a fairly long career to sustain. I can't do that just with Lincoln novels, and wouldn't want to. The writers I most admire are those who are willing to challenge themselves and step outside the comfort zone, try some new things.

Q: How much of what appears in a first draft of a book is still present in the final one? Do you, as we writers say, "kill babies?"

MK: Oh, yes. It varies from book to book, though. Tonight I Said Goodbye rewriting was mild, Sorrow's Anthem was ruthless, and A Welcome Grave somewhere in between. For Sorrow's Anthem I wrote more than a thousand pages (and my editor, bless him, waded through every one) to end up with a finished draft of somewhere around 320. So, that's a lot of rewriting. The main antagonist of that first draft didn't even make an appearance in the published novel. Nor did the original plot. All that remained was some of the backstory.

Q: Who is your first-read editor and how hard is that person on you? And how well do you respond to criticism? Lincoln Perry might not be receptive...

MK: First-read editor is a dear friend and mentor named Bob Hammel, who taught me how to write. He's liberal in doling out the red ink, but always insists they are "suggestions, not corrections." Of course, his suggestions are almost always right. I think I respond well enough to criticism but for an honest answer you should ask the critics, who can give the unbiased opinion. But I think my editor, Pete Wolverton, would agree that I'm not shy about rewriting. An editor is a lot like a coach, and the most important thing a coach can do for you is push, push, push. Stay in your face and keep challenging you. Pete is certainly not shy about that, and at the end of the day, I'm always grateful. I'm the sort of writer who is often more inclined to say "Let's just blow this whole thing up" than to fight to save what's there. I think that's because, in general, I have a high level of confidence in what I'm about to write and far less in what I've just written. What's on the horizon always looks better.

Q: Dennis Lehane has been one of your more important influences, correct?

MK: Dennis Lehane, hands-down, was and is the most important. Gone, Baby, Gone is the novel that sent me into this genre, and I think Mystic River is one of the best novels the genre has ever seen, maybe the best. Dennis teaches in an MFA program in Boston and runs a writing conference called Writers in Paradise down in Florida, and I've had the privilege of working with him several times now, through both programs. That's been of just huge, huge importance to me. I can't overstate how much I've learned from him. I also don't know of any other writer who's had that level of success and still remains dedicated to teaching, and he deserves all the credit in the world for that. He's a writer of tremendous talent and ambition, and I cannot wait to see this historical epic of his when it finally comes out. I've heard him read from it a few times and have read one short portion and all of that has been outstanding, amazing work. I cannot speak highly enough of Dennis as a writer and as a teacher.

Q: Who are the other writers who have inspired you? Who should we read?

MK: Michael Connelly is one the best writers and people I've ever been around. He has a level of generosity that is really tough to fathom, and I don't believe anyone has ever sustained a series character any better than he has with Harry Bosch. But he'll go out and do those standalones, too, and I think those are some of his best work. His writing is extremely influential to me, and watching the way he carries himself and handles his success...I don't know if there is a better role model in this profession than Michael Connelly. Other writers I love and try to learn from are Daniel Woodrell, James Lee Burke, Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, George Pelecanos, Stewart O'Nan...I could go on all day. Stephen King's book On Writing came out when I was in high school and that became tremendously important to me. It was a really key discovery for me as a writer.

Q: You read a lot of books. How do you decide what to pick up? What's the best book you have read this year? Do you read just mysteries and the like?

MK: The truth is that I read far fewer crime novels now than I used to, maybe 20 percent of my total reading. I read all over the board, non-fiction and fiction. Word-of-mouth is generally how I decide to pick up a novel, and I love to read author interviews and see who people cite as influences. That's probably my favorite technique for finding new writers.

The best novel I've read this year? Hmm...favorite novel of 2006 was definitely Winter's Bone, by Daniel Woodrell, who is a genius. This year I really enjoyed Twilight, by William Gay. Let's see, what else...The Zero, by Jess Walter. In crime fiction I came late to Peter Abrahams but really enjoyed going through his whole body of work. Oblivion is a marvelous PI novel, so unique. There's a scene where his character, who is suffering from brain cancer, takes one of these medicinal wafers of the sort that are supposed to fight the cancer and puts it inside his mattress, and then he goes to sleep with his head positioned over it, makes into a sort of talisman...that's a poor summary, but that scene is incredibly powerful and beautifully told. It's a very unique PI novel.

Q: Your books are being translated into languages ranging from Polish to Japanese. They are being sold in food markets in Italy and at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Did you ever imagine such widespread distribution of something you wrote? What's that like for a 24-year-old kid from Indiana?

MK: Unreal. The book that's being published in all those places right now is Tonight I Said Goodbye, because there is a long lag time for translation, or at least there was for me. That's a book that I wrote in my college apartment bedroom, while my roommate was out in the living room doing sit-ups and watching Animal Planet. He watched Animal Planet because he was a biology major and he wanted to feel better about skipping class. Needless to say, he didn't finish school in the biology department. But to remember where I was when I wrote that, and to think that the story I put down on paper somehow had appeal to people in other countries who speak languages I can't understand...that's a very special feeling.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2008

    Awesome, Full of suspense

    It only gets better with each book he writes. I love the main character Lincoln. You know a good author, as Michael is, when you can visualize the characters and adventures as real as you are reading the story. He has a natural talent for writing. I am looking forward to Michael's next book in this series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Welcome Tour de Force!

    Lincoln Perry's back! And, once again, I have nothing but praise. A Welcome Grave is somewhat darker than its predecessors, but I again read the book cover-to-cover, unable to look away until I reached the end. With how easy Koryta makes it to empathize with the good guys, hate the bad guys, and worry through the shades of gray, it's no wonder it's so easy to be completely swept up into this not-so-fictional world.

    By this book, the reader knows that Lincoln lost his job on the police force when he found out his fiancée was having an affair with prominent lawyer, Alex Jefferson, got drunk, drove to see him, and punched Jefferson in the face. So when the first lines of the book are, "Sometime after midnight, on a moonless October night turned harsh by a fine, windswept rain, one of the men I liked least in the world was murdered... The detectives went looking for suspects -- people whose histories with Jefferson were adversarial and hostile. At the top of that list, they found me..." you know right away Lincoln's in trouble. Being investigated for murder by the very department for which he used to work, Lincoln complicates matters more by being unable to refuse an assignment by the widow Jefferson, his ex-fiancée. She sends him to find her late husband's estranged son and let him know of his inheritance. Instead of the simple assignment he expected, Lincoln ends up in a jail in Indiana, and Jefferson's son ends up in the morgue. With the case against him growing increasingly strong, Lincoln must race against time to find the real killer and clear his own name.

    With an unrelenting pace and depth far surpassing expectation, it's no wonder this new addiction is so compelling. More please!

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  • Posted November 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

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    A writer in search of an editor

    Koryta is a good writer. That is all that saves this book, and his other books, from my waste can. But he can't plot worth a tinker's dam. The books are big and blowsy, filled with pages of empty blather while he builds, tears down and rebuilds his bloated storyline. And leaves holes in these inflated plot lines that the space shuttle could comfortably fit through. Bad guys pile on his Lincoln Perry character for no more good reason than they want to. Sadistic killers take time to construct elaborate frames for Perry because, well because. The cops are beligerant, bungling and inept ... until it is time to bring home the bacon, as it were. Then the cops become noble, intelligent and, of course, grudgingly admiring of Lincoln Perry.

    Too much. Koryta writes well enough that I don't simply throw the book into the fire at some of the ridiculous twists and turns of the plot. But I sure wouldn't waste the price of a hardcover for this guy. Wait for the paperback editions, save money for better authors.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2008

    A Welcome Thriller!

    I couldn't put this book down about a private eye (Lincoln Perry) who is framed for a few murders and must clear his name as the police are tightening the noose. Perry has only his partner Joe and his new girlfriend Amy behind him and everyone else against him. Add to that, the mysterious Thor is thrown into the mix and when all can't get any bleaker, Lincoln must team with Thor to maybe turn the tables on the 'real' bad guys. A great thriller!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    terrific third urban noir

    In Cleveland, in a fit of jealousy enhanced by the man¿s superior airs Lincoln Perry assaulted influential affluent attorney Alex Jefferson. His actions led to his dismissal from the Cleveland Police Department and he still lost the woman as his beloved former wife Karen married Alex. Lincoln moves on becoming a private investigator ruing his foolishness. However, Lincoln soon has a new reason to rue his temper fit when someone brutally murders Alex. The police immediately think of Lincoln whose motive remains jealousy as the homicide looks like it was performed by a raging culprit. However, unable to say no to Karen, he agrees to search for Jefferson¿s estranged son Matt although that makes him look guiltier to the cops investigating the murder. He finds the lad in Indiana only to have Matt commit suicide in front of him. Now the police suspect Lincoln for murdering the father and the son all because they assume he still holds the torch for Karen and ergo will do anything for this 'femme fatale' especially with millions involved. --- Lincoln is terrific in his third urban noir case (see TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE and SORROWS ANTHEM) is personal as he is the prime and only suspect in the murder of Alex and the questionable (by the cops that is) suicide of Matt. The story line is fast-paced as the police assume Karen is a femme fatale black widow who uses Lincoln as her tool to get Jefferson¿s millions. Fans of hard boiled detectives will want to read the escapades of Lincoln Perry has he struggles to expedite himself from quite a mess. --- Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 1, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

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