An Interview with Cathi Stoler

Cathi Stoler–a three time finalist & winner of the 2015 Derringer for Best Short Story, Cathi serves on the board of NYC Chapter of Sisters in Crime NY, and is a member Mystery Writers of America & International Thriller Writers–is a busy woman. Her second Nick Donahue adventure, Out of Time, releases soon and is my excuse to catch up with her to ask a few questions.

For those who have yet to be introduced to Nick Donahue, can you give us some background?

Nick, a native New Yorker, lives in London and makes his living as a professional blackjack player. Tall and handsome with dark hair and dark eyes, Nick fits into any casino in the world. The consummate professional, he’s cool and calculating at the blackjack table but a pushover for a pretty face. He has a way of finding trouble even when he’s not looking for it, which is how he met Marina DiPietro, an agent for MI6. When he is kidnapped while helping her with a case, she rescues him. Later, it’s his turn to secure her freedom from the New York mob by winning ten million dollars, which they believe Nick owes them from the part he played in closing down a money laundering scheme.

There are two Donahue novels (so far). How does Out of Time relate to Nick of Time?

Out Of Time builds on the characters I established in the first book, as well as Nick’s and Marina’s relationship. Now living together in London, Marina has left MI6 and started a fledgling investigative agency. As the story progresses, Marina is hired by billionaire Adnan bin Haddad to protect his Thoroughbred race horse from death threats. As Nick did in Nick Of Time, he sets out to help Marina, becomes involved in the case, and discovers the real threat: terrorist are trying to steal bin Haddad’s new invention—the ultimate weapon of war, a cloaking device.

You are in the wonderful position of having two successful series going. How do you manage to write two different protagonists?

Nick grew up in Manhattan in a well-off family, while Jude Dillane, my protagonist in Bar None, comes from a working class family in the Bronx so their backgrounds are completely opposite. Both are reluctant amateur detectives who use their intuition and skills in different ways. Their voices are unique as well, although both can be a bit sarcastic. Most importantly, the plots and story lines of each series are literally worlds apart. In both books, Nick travels the globe—from London, to Prague, to Geneva, to Monte Carlo, and Dubai—places where he’s worked and lived. Jude owns The Corner Lounge, on 10th Street and Avenue B, and the lower East Side of Manhattan comprises most of her world. The crimes Nick solves are high concept, while Jude’s are grittier and more down to earth.

Do you share any qualities with Nick?

His sense of adventure, his love of travel, and his persistence in not giving up until he finds a solution. If I were choosing a new career today, I’d probably become a globe-trotting detective who took on the toughest cases.

The theme for this week’s Miss Demeanors is friendship and farewells. In all of your books and short stories, have any of your characters had to say goodbye to something, someone, some place they loved? 

In my short story, “The Kaluki Kings of Queens,” the protagonist, Petey, now a young man recalls his time as a boy when he was left ‘in charge’ of his two card shark grandpas, Shy and Louie, every Saturday afternoon. The men always hinted that they’d done something awful to one of the people they played Kaluki with who suddenly disappeared, and that they’d hid the evidence in the basement. From then on Petey was afraid to enter the dark, cramped space, terrified of what he’d find there. When Grandpa Shy is nearing the end of his life, he sends Petey to the basement to discover the truth. Knowing that it was a far cry from what he believed had happened, Petey and Shy are able to say goodbye.

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