Fresh Blood

Name: David Levien

Title of Book: City of the Sun

'...cries out to be read in one sitting...'

Twelve-year-old Jamie gets on his bike before dawn to deliver newspapers in his neighbourhood. Somewhere en route he vanishes without a trace.

Fourteen months later, still with no sign of Jamie and having lost all faith in the police, his parents make one last desperate plea for help.

Enter Private Investigator Frank Behr - a tough, reclusive ex-policeman, abandoned by his former colleagues, separated from his wife and haunted by his own terrible past...

This book starts with every parent's worst nightmare - a child that has been snatched without a trace. Coping with police force inactivity, the parents are forced to hire a private detective to find out what has happened, which is where Frank Behr comes into the picture.

Although Behr starts out as quite a laconic, almost morose person that the reader has little connection with, he is one who will grown on you - and you will certainly end up liking him

It has been a long time since I have been tempted to read the last page of a book barely two chapters in, but City of the Sun did just that. From the very outset, this is a gripping book with characters that you really want the best for.

I am really hoping Levien will continue to write books featuring Behr. He is a complex and interesting character and if any future books are as good as City of the Sun, they are also guaranteed to be sure fire hits.

This is yet another book that cries out to be read in one sitting - and comes highly recommended.

Reviewed by: H.A.

CrimeSquad Rating

Fresh Blood Questionnaire

1) As it slowly evolves and increases in popularity, crime fiction seems to be organically sub-dividing into a number of widely diverse categories. Which genre (or sub-genre, even…) of crime novel would you say you write in?
I wasn’t aware, or particularly cognisant anyway, of all the sub-dividing while I was writing. I would need a full list in order to properly categorise my book. Let’s say it definitely wouldn’t fit into the mystery-recipe genre like Carrot Cake Murder. It’s noir thriller more than mystery, and pretty hard-boiled.
2) What type of crime novels do you like to read? Do you prefer series or standalone?
I generally prefer standalones. One deep dive into plot and character. Naturally enough, I like them noir and pretty hard-boiled. Very few series bring enough growth of character to maintain interest for me, though there are some exceptions. The Matt Scudder series by Lawrence Block is an example of one that does. Ellroy also repeats characters to great effect.
3) Where did you get the idea of Frank Behr and is he based on someone you have known or met?
The crime came first in writing City of the Sun. I had a clear image of a bucolic setting ripped by perhaps the worst possible event. The parents’ grief was very real to me, but the story didn’t take off until the towering, hard-bitten figure of Frank Behr walked into that bleak landscape. He was someone who was scarred but capable, and prepared for the world.

Behr is a fictional creation, though my stepfather is a private investigator, and he happens to be large of stature and hails from the American north west. We’ve talked about his work over the years, though no specific cases of his found their way into the book. Through him, I gained a window into the mundane realities, and the perseverance required, in the life of a private investigator, and those play well as counterpoint to the more action-oriented moments in the book.
4) Will Behr be featured in your next novel?
Yes, Behr is coming back. The second book is set in Indianapolis and concerns a murder with a very personal connection for Behr, and it leads to a web of other crimes. Some other characters from City of the Sun will be back, but not the Gabriel family. I believe and hope Behr has the potential to really grow as a character.
5) For a man with such a tough exterior, Behr has quite a sensitive side. Which is the real Behr?
I like this question. The answer is: both. The exterior, the toughness, and the martial skills are important markers, but Behr is not a character that experiences violence in a glib manner and without cost. He bears the weight and wears the marks of his past acts and his mistakes. At one point in his life he was a ‘regular’ guy. But the things he saw, did, and encountered on the streets and in his personal life changed him. He needed to learn things that ‘civilized’ folk shouldn’t have to know. There is a pull in him to lay down the arms and armour of his job and lead a more normal life, but there is also the pull of the cases, the streets, and the dark alleys inside the people he comes up against. His being a detective is the driver, but the contemplative interior is what makes it worth it for me, and I hope, for the reader.
6) What made you choose to switch from screen writing to writing a novel? What inspired this novel – or did you always feel you had it inside you?
This story covers some extremely dark terrain, and I felt that writing it as a novel would be the most complete way to explore that. The events of the story would constitute a satisfying screen plot, but the inner voices of the characters seemed more accessible to me in the pages of a book. I do hope to adapt City of the Sun<.i> as a film in the near future, and hope I can bring a good deal of the specificity and emotional content of the novel. That will be the challenge and will be the difference between a merely exciting or suspenseful crime movie and a potentially great one.
7) The events described in the book – and in particular the locations involved – seem based on fact. Is this the case and is anything being done to help the plight of these children?
The book is a complete work of fiction. That includes plot, location and events. Obviously horrible things happen to children every day, some similar to the events in the book. Reading the tragic, unending accounts in the news is a sad and sickening experience. I hang on for the rare instances when a (somewhat) happy ending occurs, and a child is recovered alive and fairly intact. Organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Children of the Night, in the United States, do great work, and people like John Walsh of America’s Most Wanted are real heroes.
8) Without giving away the plot, which book - yours or another by another author - included your favorite plot twist of all time?
Does it break the rules to name a movie? The end of Chinatown, when the secrets of the Mulwray family are revealed is shocking and inevitable all at once.

As far as books go, when reading a crime book, even a good one, I find myself on guard for ‘twists’, which is why Tim O’Brien’s In The Lake of the Woods, comes to mind. It doesn’t even feel like a crime book until the huge twist at the end.

Then, of course, further along on the gore continuum, there is Hannibal Lecter’s escape move, with the unwilling guard’s facial assistance, that was beyond inventive, in The Silence of the Lambs.
9) What is your favourite movie adaptation of a crime novel?
Probably The Godfather, though ‘crime novel’ isn’t a completely accurate tag. Goodfellas as well, based on the Nick Pileggi non-fictioner Wiseguy. And I love Miller’s Crossing, based on Red Harvest and The Glass Key by Hammet. And more recently No Country For Old Men. The Coen brothers’ movies have novelistic qualities even when they’re not based on books, like Fargo.
10) Would you describe yourself as a crime fiction fan in general and, if so, which authors do you most admire and why?
I am definitely a crime fiction fan. I love reading James Ellroy – American Tabloid, Black Dahlia (though definitely not that movie), The Cold Six Thousand and L.A. Confidential are real favourites.

I love McCarthy’s No Country For Old Men, (and many of his other books that are not strictly crime related).

I read the ’Spencer For Hire’ books when I was younger, along with the Matt Scudder series by Lawrence Block that I mentioned before, and John D. MacDonald too.

I am also a huge fan of non-fiction crime writing. The Executioner’s Song, In Cold Blood and Helter Skelter are fantastic.