Carrie Smith on New York, Detective Claire Codella, and Edgar Allen Poe
Alison: First of all, congratulations on winning the Killer Nashville Readers’ Choice Award and being a Silver Falchion Award Finalist for 2018! Unholy City is the third in your Detective Claire Codella mysteries. Like the first book Silent City and then Forgotten City, your books are set in New York. What about the city do you find makes for a compelling background? Carrie: There are endless hidden pockets of the city to explore, and an abundance of characters to cast. Nowhere else, at least in this country, do you find so much diversity—socio-economic, ethnic, religious, gender—and I have always been compelled to explore the interactions among characters with different passions, perspectives, beliefs, and motivations. Alison: For those who don’t already know Detective Claire Codella, can you introduce us? Carrie: Claire Codella is a tough, tenacious NYPD detective who earned her spot on a central homicide squad after solving a series of high-profile cold case homicides. Shortly after her promotion, she was diagnosed with lymphoma and spent ten months fighting for her own life. When readers meet her in SILENT CITY (the first novel in the series), it is her first day back on the job after cancer. She’s under pressure to prove that she still has what it takes to do the job, and she is well aware that her angry, misogynistic lieutenant would prefer that she had succumbed to her disease. Alison: Is there a fourth book in the works? Anything you can share? Carrie: I finished my fourth crime novel last month, but it’s not a Claire Codella mystery (I’m just taking a break). This one’s a thriller that follows a fiery young immigration attorney and her client, a hotel worker framed for theft and facing a terrible choice between deportation and sexual servitude. Alison: I mentioned to you, I’m dedicating this week to writers in New York. So, I’m going to get personal. You were born and brought up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. Do you consider yourself a New Yorker? If so, why? Carrie: Absolutely, I consider myself a New Yorker, although even after all these years people still hear the inflections of the Midwest in my voice. I’ve lived in the city since 1982, spending a decade in Park Slope, Brooklyn, before moving to the Upper West Side. And while I will never be able to claim “native New Yorker” status, my New Yorker resume does include raising two now-twenty-year-old native New Yorkers here. Alison: How has the city changed since you moved here? Carrie: When I moved to New York City in 1982, Ed Koch was mayor. The city was still recovering from a financial crisis. The crack epidemic was raging. City streets were dirty. The subways were graffiti’d. The AIDS crisis had begun. It was by far a grittier place than it is today. I’ve watched the skyline change, Broadway become a giant outdoor mall, and entire neighborhoods be gentrified (for better or worse). Alison: What New York writers do you love? Carrie: Edgar Allan Poe has to sit at the top of my list, since I live on Edgar Allan Poe Street (West 84th Street) in a building that stands on the location where he is said to have written The Raven. In Cold Blood is, in my mind, the ultimate true-crime book, so I’ll include Truman Capote as well.And I have to include award-winning author SJ Rozan, whose Lidia Chin and Bill Smith mysteries vividly portray New York’s neighborhoods, especially Chinatown. Patricia Highsmith wasn’t born here, but she lived here for many years, and I love her work, so I’ll include her, too.
Alison: What about New York could you not live without? Carrie: Broadway theater, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Riverside Park, the footpath around the reservoir in Central Park where I do most of my plot thinking, bread from Zabar’s, fish from Citarella, organic produce from Fairway. I’m sure I’m forgetting something… Alison: Thank you, Carrie! Next time I’m at Fairway standing in line (or “standing on line,” for those of you who really want New York), I’ll think of you.