Gerry Boyle is a crime novelist based in Maine. Boyle is the author of a dozen novels, including the acclaimed Jack McMorrow mystery series, featuring ex-New York Times reporter Jack McMorrow and his social worker wife Roxanne Masterson. Boyle recently published the 11th Jack McMorrow novel, Straw Man.A former newspaper reporter and columnist, Boyle came to Maine from Rhode Island to attend Colby College. After graduation, he went on to work in Manhattan, but soon realized his heart was in the rural reaches of his adopted state, and so he returned, taking a job at a local newspaper, which he calls “the best training ground ever” for mystery writers. Boyle’s reporting centred on crime scenes and courtrooms, and those dramatic experiences became the fodder for his gritty, authentic, fiction. Boyle plies his trade from his home in a small village on a lake in central Maine, where he lives with his wife, Mary. When he isn’t writing fiction, Boyle serves as the editor of Colby Magazine.
Miramichi Reader: Gerry, please tell us about your background, education, employment, etc.
Gerry Boyle: I grew up in Rhode Island in a house full of books. My dad worked for the Post Office and my mother worked in the home. They were great readers and influenced me to love writing and eventually to become a writer. My dad read mystery novels and introduced me to Dick Francis. I attended Colby College in Maine, studied literature and creative writing. My resume includes jobs as a roofer and a postman but, most importantly, working as a newspaper reporter and columnist. I did that in Maine for 18 years. Now I’m editor of the Colby College alumni magazine and I write books.
MR: Let’s talk about some of the books or authors or other people who may have influenced you to become a writer.
GB: I had good professors in college who taught me to love and respect good writing, though I wasn’t thinking crime fiction at that time. The late Robert B. Parker of Spenser fame was both an influence and a big help early in my career. He recommended me to his agent, the late Helen Brann, and I remained her client for most of my books. My biggest influence in terms of my writing was John D. MacDonald, whose Travis McGee novels are wonderful. MacDonald is a great story-teller and student of human behaviour. And he loved boats, an interest we share.
MR: Straw Man is the latest Jack McMorrow mystery. In my review of it and it’s predecessor, Once Burned, I noted that your writing style was reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op stories: told in the first person, tough, sparse dialog and our man Jack McMorrow, like the Continental Op is not afraid to take some chances and doesn’t back down from confrontations. Am I imagining things? Are you a fan of the hard-boiled detective stories of the 40s and 50s?
GB: I’m a huge fan of Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I love the succinctness and power of their prose and characterizations. I like writers whose prose is unadorned but still has the power to stop you in mid-paragraph with a perfect phrase or word or line of dialogue. Also, the chivalric element of those novels is something I have adopted, I suppose. McMorrow, Spenser, McGee, Marlowe. It’s a lineage.
MR: How has Jack McMorrow ‘grown’ over the years? Has he become more dimensional for you with each book published?
GB: Very much so. McMorrow and I have travelled the same stretches of rural Maine, run into the same people, some good, some bad, most somewhere in between. Over the years we’ve grown up together, and as he layers on experiences he become more complex. The early McMorrow of Deadline and Bloodline is a different person from the McMorrow of Once Burned and Straw Man. He has a wife and child. He’s learned from his battles. He’s scarred a bit, emotionally and physically. In that way, he’s just like the rest of us.
MR: If they were to make a movie based on the Jack McMorrow Mysteries, who do you see as playing the main characters (Jack, Roxanne, Clair)?
GB: I’m a big fan of the work of these three actors: Michael Fassbender, Jessica Chastain, and Ed Harris. I think they’d be great for the parts.
MR: Do you have a favourite book, one that you like to revisit from time to time?
GB: I have a few crime novels on my shelf that I pick up and reread. MacDonald’s The Deep Blue Goodbye, Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Maj Sowall’s and Per Wahloo’s The Fire that Disappeared. Ken Bruen’s Vixen. But I’ll also pick up The Commitments by Roddy Doyle, Thoreau’s The Maine Woods, and move down the shelf.
MR: If you could write a biography of any person, living or dead, who would that be?
GB: I’m fascinated by gifted musicians. I’d love to write about Jimi Hendrix.
MR: What are you working on now?
GB: Two novels, one in progress and one nearly complete. I’m well into a Brandon Blake novel called Port City Killshot. And I’m finishing a crime novel set in Ireland. That’s a collaboration with my daughter, Emily Westbrooks, who lives in Dublin. They have some very mean streets in the Old Sod. More to come on both.
You can see all Gerry’s novels and more at his Islandport Press author page: http://www.islandportpress.com/gerry-boyle.html