Charles Belfoure's writing career began when he wrote his thesis while studying for an M.A. in architecture at Columbia University. While he'd done a lot of drawing in his bid to become a professional architect, it was the first time, he says, that he actually wrote anything of any significant length. Belfoure got hooked on writing, he says, "because it's fun to make stuff up." After taking a job as an architect in Baltimore, specializing in historic preservation, Belfoure started writing fiction on the side.
The plot, he says, of his two novels—The Paris Architect (Sourcebooks, 2013) and House of Thieves (Sourcebooks, Sept.), revolves around the world of an architect. There's precedent for basing stories on the profession of the writer, he insists, pointing out that John Grisham was a practicing attorney with no writing background when he started writing legal thrillers: "And he does okay for himself."
While The Paris Architect takes place during WWII, House of Thieves is set in 1886 New York City. A high society architect is blackmailed by a gang of thieves into helping the criminals rob mansions and museums that he has designed, and he comes to enjoy being a scofflaw a little too much. There are many reasons, Belfoure explains, that he wanted to set this novel in New York City and in the late 19th century. First, he says, the architecture of the Gilded Age is his favorite, and since he once lived in New York City, he knows its neighborhoods well. His reasons for including a criminal element in his second novel are a little more colorful: Belfoure has always been intrigued by George Leslie, a 19th-century architect who became a bank robber "because he liked that more," and he's also wondered what it would be like to be pulled into the criminal underworld ever since he brushed shoulders with a Mafia kingpin while working on the man's house. Belfoure insists that he was "kept at arm's length" and did not participate in any criminal activity, but says that he observed "what was going on" and it has stayed with him for the past two decades. "The threat of violence enhances productivity," Belfoure says. "Employees and contractors showed up on time, they got things done, they were reliable. They were scared."
See the book at the Sourcebooks booth (3039).