My 2013 Shamus Award-Winning novel White Heat is an intense mystery thriller that begins where the “Rodney King” riots leave off. The main character, Duke Rogers, is a former Navy SEAL turned PI – a tough guy with a tarnished soul and a big heart.
Duke finds himself in a combustible situation in this racially charged thriller. His case might have to wait... The immediate problem: getting out of South Central Los Angeles in one piece during the 1992 “Rodney King” riots and that’s just the beginning of his problems.
While Duke tracks down the killer he must also deal with the racism of his partner, Jack, and from Warren, the murder victim’s brother. He must also confront his own possible latent racism – even as he’s in an interracial relationship with the dead woman’s sister, Rita.
Duke and his partner Jack, as well as most of the other characters in the novel, are definitely flawed and imperfect. Duke’s actions on a case inadvertently lead to the death of a young black actress. And his guilt in her death sets the plot in motion and eventually threatens the nascent interracial romance between Duke and Rita.
And though I wrote White Heat as an exciting, fast-paced mystery-thriller, what really interests me are the characters. I like flawed characters and I like characters that develop as the plot progresses. And I don’t think they have to be totally sympathetic for people to identify with them.
Duke is a flawed hero, but still he’s a man that I think we all want to be or at least identify with in some ways. His partner Jack is an outright racist, who voices things that many people probably think but are afraid to say. Still, when push comes to shove, Jack is the kind of person who often says the wrong thing, but always does the right thing.
I thought people would have an issue with Jack in particular, but they actually seem to like to him. Why? Are they all racists or latent racists – I don’t think so. I think the reason is that we all have flaws, weaknesses, shortcomings and prejudices – and we also all have people in our lives who have faults, big and little, but who are still basically good people. The world is not always black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, and this is one of the things that I try to portray in White Heat and my other writings.
I look at Duke and Jack as opposite sides of the same coin, the cartoon Devil and Angel on the characters’ shoulders. But when push comes to shove, when they are tested, what will they do?
The spark for White Heat – and I’m not sure if that pun was intended or not – of course comes from the 1992 “Rodney King” riots. When the riots broke out I was living in L.A. and you could see and smell the smoke from pretty much any part of the city. The police were AWOL much of the time in many places. Reginald Denny was yanked from his truck and beaten. People were scared, hunkering down in their homes. They were buying guns. Waiting for it all to end.
I wanted to write something about the riots. But I didn’t want to do a morality play. I come from a screenwriting background which is very audience/entertainment oriented, so I wanted to do something that would be entertaining and also deal with hard-hitting underlying themes, while portraying people and incidents in a realistic way – flaws and all.
I hope flawed characters set against a realistic and tense background intrigues you. And Duke and Jack will be back in the sequel Broken Windows sometime in the (hopefully) near future.
Thank you, Jean, and your readers, for having me.
Paul D. Marks pulled a gun on the LAPD...and lived to tell about. A former "script doctor," Paul's novel WHITE HEAT is a 2013 SHAMUS AWARD WINNER. Publishers Weekly calls WHITE HEAT a "taut crime yarn." Paul is also the author of over thirty published short stories in a variety of genres, including several award winners. And he has the distinction, dubious though it might be, of having been the last person to film on the fabled MGM backlot before it bit the dust to make way for condos. According to Steven Bingen According to Steven Bingen, one of the authors of the recent, well-received book MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot: “That 40 page chronological list I mentioned of films shot at the studio ends with his [Paul D. Marks’] name on it.”. You can learn more about Paul at: www.PaulDMarks.com as well as:https://www.amazon.com/author/pauldmarks
White Heat novel: http://whiteheatnovel.blogspot.com/
Paul will be giving away two copies of White Heat. Leave a comment to be eligible to win.