With City in Ruins (Morrow, Apr.), Winslow wraps up the Danny Ryan trilogy—and his career as a novelist.
When did you get the idea for this series?
Decades ago. I wrote the opening sentence in the mid-’90s, and I never changed a syllable. I’d recently read the Greek classics—the Iliad, the Aeneid, the Odyssey—and the reverberations of those great themes in contemporary crime fiction were just striking. That’s where the idea came from: could I take these Greek and Roman classics and make fully contemporary crime novels that you could read without any knowledge of the classics at all, and they would stand alone, but still reflect those stories and themes?
Did that assignment ever feel like a curse?
Most people who have read the books make no reference to the classics at all, and they’re somewhat surprised to hear it, but it’s the task that I set for myself. That was the fun of it, the challenge of it, and yes, the curse of it at times.
Coming into City in Ruins, you’re juggling a lot of reference points and tying up a lot of plot threads. Did that make this the most difficult entry to write?
Yes, for all the reasons that you alluded to. I’m looking at the ends of three major works—the Aeneid, the Odyssey, and Aeschylus’s Oresteia cycle—and that’s a lot to handle. What carried me through it was an emotional tie to these characters. That, and the trial sequence that’s modeled on the end of the Oresteia cycle, which contains the first trial that I’m aware of in Western literature. The whole Oresteia cycle is such a noir story; if you put it in black and white and throw a trumpet behind it, it’s instant film noir.
What moved you to end the trilogy in Las Vegas?
Vegas is a crime writer’s paradise. You can build anything in Vegas if you’ve got the money and the dream, and once I hit on the fact that this book’s central conflict would not be over love, but over real estate, it developed pretty quickly.
Is this truly your final novel, or might you be tempted to write another down the line?
Never say never, but at this point I’m not at all tempted. I’ve had a career so much bigger and better than I’d ever dreamed, and I mean this sincerely: I feel very blessed to have had the life I always wanted. Having wrapped up this trilogy, which took 30 years of struggle, seemed like a logical ending point. It just feels like the right time.