Today, I have a Q&A from Dwyer Murphy about his latest novel, The Stolen Coast, which was just released this week.

The Stolen Coast is set in a town called Onset, MA, right next to Cape Cod. Why there?

This is a beach town novel, no doubt about it. I grew up in a place called Wareham, Massachusetts; within that town is a village called Onset, which lent its name and some geography to this novel. It’s a beautiful town with a culture all its own, steeped in old fishing traditions and New England lore, especially from the Portuguese and Cape Verdean diasporas.

The community tends to produce good food, good music, and an ingrained distrust of the wealth and ease on offer a few miles over, across the bridge, on Cape Cod. It also, at one time, had a reputation as a place to lay low, avoid the law, and escape the world. There are a lot of towns like that, where you can disappear. Often, they’re on the coast: vacant cottages, motels that don’t ask questions, boats around, if you need one. I started thinking about the possibility of a town where that experience was deliberate: an organized haven. A place where you go to vanish.

I think that idea—what it might feel like to run off, to start over with a new life, a new identity—is something that passes through a lot of people’s minds. Especially near a beach.

Your protagonist Jack Betancourt is a Harvard-educated, basketball-obsessed lawyer whose job is relocating fugitives. How did you devise such a complicated character?

Through a life-long interest, bordering on obsession, with most of those activities. It’s been my experience in ports and fishing villages that you have a few eccentrics with peculiar backgrounds minding their own business, plying mysterious trades. If people are always going to be interested in the possibility of disappearing, shouldn’t there be someone out there—an expert, with the requisite skills—to help them along in the process?

And, well, I love basketball. Especially pickup, ideally in a playground near the beach.

Jack’s father—and his colleague in the family business—is a former spy, as is your own father. Can you tell us about how your dad’s work and life made their way into the book?

My father was a career bookseller, but before that he worked in intelligence, mostly around the eastern Mediterranean. I once had the disorienting experience of finding a box of passports and documents—different countries, different names, all with my father’s photo inside. He spoke reluctantly about his past, rarely in specifics, but sometimes we would find ourselves in a family conversation about the best way to slip across a particular border or checkpoint. I consider myself quite lucky. A lot of people who come out of that world do so with great demons hanging on them; I’m sure my father has his, but I’ve always thought he was remarkably well-adjusted for a former spy. We’re still close. The fact that he became a bookseller probably helped. In our family, books are what bind us.

You seem to know a lot about relocating fugitives and stealing diamonds…from research?

Before I was a writer, I was a lawyer, and I made this something of a sideline interest: how is an identity built and conversely how is one shed? In a pinch, how would I lose whoever is on my trail (you’re going to want to stir up a lot of credit checks in far-off places, to keep them busy) and begin the long process (a social security number is a peculiar beast) of starting over somewhere new. As for the diamonds, safecracking is an exciting field of study, and the appearance and value of a rough diamond is an ineffable thing, which allows for mischief. I think the same part of me that loves pickup basketball also loves the idea of assembling a team and concocting an overly-elaborate plan to steal something valuable, especially if we all swear that it’s ‘one last job’ and really we’re doing it for love. What a great excuse to hang out with friends.

Jack’s former love interest and would-be partner, Elena, is a grifter and con artist who is no stranger to the fugitive life. Do you follow any special inspiration in creating female leads?

I enjoy and admire crime stories that have a courtship dance at the center: that electricity you find when two hustlers can’t decide whether and how to trust one another. I want to spend time locked in a trunk with J.Lo and George Clooney, like every other human, right?

On another level, my wife is a fascinating woman who speaks several languages without accent and has at least three passports that I know of. She generously lends certain traits to my characters and likes nothing better than an evening of friendly conversational combat.

You referenced Out of Sight. Were there a lot of movies that influenced this world for you?

Casablanca was on my mind as I began the novel: this idea of a town on the edge of a continent where everyone is either trying to flee or to work over the people who are making their exits. Danger and geopolitics aside, there’s a great deal of romantic possibility in a place like that. And of course, I was also trying to tap into a heist tradition, from Rififi to the Westlake/Parker novels to The Thomas Crown Affair to Queenpin to The Town. I take The Town very seriously, always have. (Don’t even get me started on The Friends of Eddie Coyle; I’ll never stop.) And then hanging over all of it, over everything I write, is the work of Elmore Leonard. For me, he’s the guiding light. I love schemers and crooks who can be counted on to weave a good story.

How has reading and reviewing hundreds of mysteries and thrillers as an editor at CrimeReads informed you on writing a crime fiction novel?

It’s given me a deep appreciation for mystery fiction as a means of telling vivid, passionate, provocative stories of human striving and misunderstanding, a form passed down through the centuries, built around the dark art of suspense, entertainment, and respect for your readers. The crime fiction world today is full of new voices telling timeless stories. I’m grateful to be part of it.


You can buy The Stolen Coast as an ebook at any of these retailers.

Or buy it in print from my online bookstore.

I’m reading it now. It’s great!


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This