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Every Crime Has a Perpetrator

November 27, 2005|VICTORIA NAMKUNG

From pulp fiction to comic noir, all things suspenseful and suspicious were represented at the sixth annual Men of Mystery luncheon, an event that lets fans get up close and personal with their favorite gentlemen of the genre. We checked in with some of the 65 male mystery authors at the Irvine Marriott to find out what thrills and kills.

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Barry Eisler

Most recent novel:

"Killing Rain" (Putnam)

Give us a plot summary.

My books are based on my experiences, which included a three-year covert position in the CIA, a martial arts background and living in Japan.

Who's your protagonist?

It's a series about a half-American, half-Japanese assassin named John Rain whose specialty is making it look like natural causes.

Why do you write mysteries?

I don't really know. It seems like when I go to write a story it turns dark and suspenseful.

What is the allure of the mystery genre?

There's a lot of wishful thinking because you're in the safety of your armchair. You can go do a lot of anti-social things while reading.

What makes a mystery irresistible?

Character is more important than plot. We are hard-wired as humans to not to care about "what" until we care about "who."

Do you have a day job?

This is it after working as a spy, a lawyer and an entrepreneur with a Silicon Valley startup.

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Jonathan Miller

Most recent book:

"Crater County" (Cool Titles)

Give us a plot summary.

A prosecutor has to move back to her small town in New Mexico. She falls in love with the defense attorney on a case, but he might be the real killer.

Who's your protagonist?

Luna Cruz, the prosecutor.

Why do you write mysteries?

I view law as performance art, and I see great stories every day as a lawyer myself.

What is the allure of the mystery genre?

There's an intellectual question, and people like to feel like they've figured it out or been fooled.

Who is the typical mystery lover?

I'm really big with Hispanic women over 40. I try to write real female-friendly mysteries.

What kind of person hates mysteries?

Young lawyers like me. Lawyers don't read. Legal secretaries buy my books much more than lawyers.

Do you have a day job?

I'm still practicing criminal law. Some of my criminal clients take my book to prison. A lot of the female jail guards love my books.

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Gary Phillips

Most recent book:

"The Cocaine Chronicles" (Akashic Books)

Give us a summary of your latest.

An anthology of jaw-grinding criminal behavior by various people and authors.

Who's the central character in your own mystery novels?

I have two, a private eye named Ivan Monk, and Martha Chainey, an ex-showgirl.

Why do you write mysteries?

It's good therapy and it's a great landscape to do all sorts of stories.

What is the allure of the mystery genre?

I think it taps a part of the id. We always want some type of justice.

Who is the typical mystery lover?

My typical fan is somebody on parole. But generally speaking it's mostly middle-aged white people.

What kind of person hates mysteries?

My kids. They won't read my books.

Do you have a day job?

I also work in nonprofits and political consulting, which sometimes makes it into the mystery writing.

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Gregg Hurwitz

Most recent novel:

"Troubleshooter" (William Morrow)

Give us a one-line plot summary.

It's a hard-boiled thriller about an escaped fugitive in Los Angeles on the 10 Freeway.

Who's your protagonist?

Tim Rackley, known as the Troubleshooter, who is a deputy U.S. marshal. He's got a very interesting skill set.

Why do you write mysteries?

I think it's because my parents didn't let me watch television when I was young.

What is the allure of the mystery genre?

It's an opportunity to have a darker look at the fabric of society.

What kind of person is the typical mystery lover?

There are all types in all shapes and sizes. Some of the fan letters I get are from little old ladies. My readers are from teachers to Navy SEALs.

What's the secret to writing an irresistible mystery?

Rewriting.

Do you have a day job?

I've never had a real job, so I'm really fortunate.

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