In Carol O’Connell’s It Happens in the Dark, Kathy Mallory’s 11th outing, the New York Special Crimes Unit detective investigates the murder of a Manhattan playwright.
Tell us a little about the genesis of Kathy Mallory.
Whenever I go out on tour, someone will ask if Mallory is autobiographical. It always startles me. I like to think that I show no markers for a sociopath. Mallory is purely a work of imagination. This answer disappoints everyone.
What do readers make of Mallory’s lack of lovability or even likability?
After my first book was published [Mallory’s Oracle], I received an envelope full of religious material from a fan who wanted to save my soul. That’s when I knew I was on to something.
Mallory’s drive remains as intense as ever, and she’s still lacking in warmth.
Sometimes readers ask for a kinder, gentler Mallory. I explain that if I do that, I’ve got no book. These are character-driven novels, and I like the way the lady drives. In that respect, she has a vehicular-homicide way about her: always a challenge to go through a red light before it can turn green. I suppose I could try to warm up her image by giving her a dog, but the dog would be frightened all the time.
Why does art play a major role in several Mallory novels?
I was raised and educated to be a painter, so I wrote in the closet. When I left school, it was with the objective of becoming a starving artist and dying in the gutter. I messed up that idea when my first book was published. And now, through no fault of my own, I seem to have stumbled on job security as an author.
How would you characterize Mallory’s deductive style?
A lot of Mallory’s display of deductive reasoning is based on her unique sense of sport, tossing something out there just to make your head explode. But then a solid rationale unfolds as one’s brain matter is peeled off the ceiling. She has no superpowers, just a good intellect and the skill set to do the job. Also, as Woody Allen once said, “It’s amazing what you can do when you’re neurotic.”
What keeps Mallory from becoming a PI?
I never flirted with the idea of a PI. They are never involved in open homicide cases; they could lose their licenses for interfering in one. They have very little in the way of resources, no access to evidence, and zero authority. If I were to write a book about private detectives, a novel that would not cause readers to laugh in all the wrong places, it would be a deadly boring book.—Bob Hahn