When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
My junior high school teacher, Alan Glatthorn, had us write weekly. All manner of writing, from short stories to haikus, and he made it fun. If another student’s remarks were toxic, Dr. Glatthorn intervened. I remember beginning THE SUN ALSO RISES, and reading into the middle of the night until I reached the end. Surely, writers had magical powers! In the middle of college I realized it was unlikely I could support myself, and a family, by writing. I went on to be a lawyer for 35 years, holding on to the notion that someday I would write again. I loved being a courtroom lawyer, and it has been a rich source of stories.
How long does it take you to write a book?
At this point, I have written my debut novel, RAGE BEGETS MURDER, a crime thriller. It took me over six years to write. I had to unlearn legal writing and learn how to write fiction. I wrote my first novel to see if I could. It has never seen the light of day. I showed it to Jeremiah Healy, a very successful crime novelist, who also started off as a lawyer [RIGHT TO DIE, SHALLOW GRAVES, SPIRAL, et al]. Jerry knew that I had spent about half of my legal career writing and arguing appeals at every level of state and federal courts. After reading the first 30 pages of that unpublished thriller, Jerry told me it was a good appellate brief. At that point I started taking workshops at Grub Street Writers in Boston, MA and later was selected for Master Fiction Workshops. The proof of the pudding was Jerry wrote a blurb for the back cover of RAGE BEGETS MURDER that begins: “Marshall Stein has pulled off an author’s tour-de-force in his debut novel.”
For an accurate and humorous account of the editing and revising process for my thriller, here is a blog I wrote for my writing center called: “SUCCESS STORY: Grub Street, Endurance and Getting Published” http://grubdaily.org/?p=10137.
All of this work came to fruition when Post Mortem Press’s publisher, Eric Beebe, selected the book and Elizabeth Jenike, PMP’s Associate Editor, performed a brilliant final editing.
What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I usually write in the morning. This takes place in my inner sanctum, an office in my house. Since it is filled with books, bags full of material for RBM and future novels, no one is allowed to clean it up. My wife would like to post a notice on the door: THIS OFFICE HAS BEEN CONDEMNED BY THE BOARD OF HEALTH.
How many crime novels have you written?
My debut thriller, RAGE BEGETS MURDER.
Where do you get your ideas?
I went to high school outside of Philadelphia, PA. Bandstand had been brought from radio to TV by the disc jockey Bob Horne. It was a huge success in the Delaware Valley [Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware] and then one of the teen dancers on the show accused Horne of having had sexual relations with her for two years, since she was 13. Trials followed, and Horne was eventually acquitted. He was let go; Dick Clark was brought in; and the show went national as American Bandstand. The scandal played out over months in the media. That was the seed for RAGE BEGETS MURDER.
Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
Naomi, the narrator in RBM. She evolves over the course of the book. Through flashback a reader sees her relationship to her parents, and then her husband, and learns how she became the person she is. Naomi also has a deep friendship with her housekeeper/cook Liz that helps sustain her in the worst of times. Through all of these connections the reader not only watches individual characters, but also is immersed in the times in which they live, primarily the early 1950’s in the Northeast United States.
Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Dave Robicheaux in the book series by James Lee Burke [HEAVEN’S PRISONER, THE NEON RAIN, PEGASUS DESCENDING, etc.] Robicheaux is complex, a mixture of warmth for those he loves, violence against those he detests, and much self-destruction, growing out of his prior alcoholism and PTSD from Vietnam. Burke has given us full access to Robicheaux’s emotions, his thoughts, his flashbacks, his culture, and sometimes to the shoulders of the writers on whom Burke stands, e.g. William Faulkner. Robicheaux is as real to me as many of my real life friends; he is an enviable achievement.
If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
Meyer Lansky. He was both involved in carrying out crimes first hand in Murder, Incorporated, and later was an astute business manager of crime in Las Vegas and Havana [ his famous line “We are now bigger than U.S. Steel.”] He lived long, and died before he was jailed. He must have been totally amoral, possibly sociopathic, and intellectually brilliant. Though the government had a large team assigned to gathering the evidence to indict him, they did not succeed until the end of his life. It would be fascinating to be inside his head to see how he thought, analysed, planned, what was important to him - money, power, or both, and what was not - friendship, family, etc.
What are you working on now?
I’ve begun a sequel to RAGE BEGETS MURDER. I’m also working on a novel set in 19th century Germany involving an opera conductor, who was a descendant of generations of rabbis, and Richard Wagner, the anti-Semitic opera composer. The story turns on Wagner choosing the conductor to debut Parsifal, the most Christian of Wagner’s operas.
I am a retired lawyer. Early in my career I was an Assistant United States Attorney in Boston, and later served as the Chief Staff Attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit [New England]. During 28 years in private practice I have tried both civil and criminal cases and argued appeals in state and federal courts on every level. Since retiring from my law practice I have been selected for master level fiction workshops at Grub Street Writers in Boston, Massachusetts. I currently live in suburban Boston with my wife.
My website is http://www.marshallstein.com. One of its four pages contains 13 short blogs of background on RAGE BEGETS MURDER. I am also on Facebook and Linked In. I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. My Amazon pages are http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rage-Begets-Murder-Marshall-Stein/dp/0615770096