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The Sirens of Suspense




Today Pro-Files features Dennis Tafoya, author of DOPE THIEF and the upcoming WOLVES OF FAIRMOUNT PARK (June 2010), which received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Although Dennis is a relative newcomer to publishing, he truly knows the nitty-gritty world of his characters.

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Dennis comes to crime writing rightly—he’s always been obsessed with the way criminals move through the world and is fascinated by compromised people. “Writing crime,” he says, “lets me concentrate on people who struggle with their own limitations while they get involved in tense and hopefully compelling situations. It’s a lot of fun for me to write about criminals as they seem to really be in the world, to try and capture a reader’s sympathy and interest while staying with the people on the margins.” Although Dennis “might enjoy being somebody who isn’t restrained by convention or conscience for a day or so, the consequences are seldom good,” and he doesn’t think he’s “cut out to rob drug dealers like Manny and Ray in DOPE THIEF, or carry a gun into a bank like the guys in the novel [he’s] working on now.” He thinks “everybody wants to be a badass once in a while,” just without the consequences.

What’s fascinating about Dennis’ writing, beyond the story, is his penchant for providing details that sell the scene. So where does he find those details? He spends “a lot of time on some pretty sketchy websites as well as forums for law enforcement, guns, and other more mainstream stuff.” But he’s quick to point out that although he writes about “blue-collar guys who live pretty desperate lives, and [who’ve] mostly been in and out of prison,” he’s a pretty solid middle class guy. Although he’s “read about how to make meth, [he’s doesn’t] think [he’s] giving it a whirl anytime soon.”

Dennis is at work on his third novel, BLACK HORSE PIKE, about criminals in South Jersey, and he has short stories in the upcoming Akashic anthologies, PHILADELPHIA NOIR, and CRIMEFACTORY.



QUESTION FOR DENNIS? COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW? Ask him here, or tell us your thoughts further down on this page, or commenting on this blog entry on our Facebook page.



Dennis’ writing ambience: My dining room table, currently. It’s not ideal, but hopefully it’s temporary. At least it’s not the basement, which is where I wrote DOPE THIEF. There were giant bugs down there!

What Dennis is reading now: A VOYAGE LONG AND STRANGE by Tony Horwitz, BEST AMERICAN CRIME REPORTING, one of Otto Penzler’s great series, which I read every year, and David Grann’s THE DEVIL AND SHERLOCK HOLMES, a collection of great articles that mostly appeared in the New Yorker.

Dennis’ favorite protagonist (other than his own): I really like Cormac McCarthy’s characters like Llewelyn Moss and the father from THE ROAD. Smart, resourceful guys, even if they’re essentially doomed. The autistic child from THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME was great, both because he was fascinating and because Mark Haddon did such an excellent job making his protagonist sympathetic despite his lack of emotional presence.

Who Dennis would like to see play his protagonists onscreen: I think Leonardo DiCaprio would be excellent [as Ray from DOPE THIEF], because he can bring some depth to rogue-ish characters, but I’d love to see a real character actor work on that, too. Ben Foster, who was in The Messenger last year, or Sam Rockwell, who seems to be able to back and forth between character roles and leading men. I think Jeremy Renner would be awesome as Orlando in WOLVES OF FAIRMOUNT PARK.

Dennis’ ideal vacation spot: Martha’s Vineyard. I think if I got some kind of life-changing financial windfall, I’d just move back and forth between New York City, Martha’s Vineyard and Vegas.

Dennis’ favorite online resource: Google street view. I have it open all the time while I’m writing. I always hope I’m going to find something weird, like a clown with a gun, but even the normal view of the street is really helpful.

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