Guest Blog: The Boystown Mysteries author Marshall Thornton chats about writing the series

Boystowncollection

I first discovered Marshall Thornton’s Boystown series in the summer of 2013 – long after he’d originally published the first four novels; Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries, Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries, Boystown 3: Two Nick Nowak Novellas and Boystown 4: A Time for Secrets. By the time of the release of Boystown 4, I had become familiar with Marshall’s mysteries, and decided to start at the beginning since the first full-length novel of the series had caught my attention. About this same time, Marshall had begun to release the first few books in the series via Audiobook, narrated by the incredible Brad Langer, and offered to me a promo-copy of Boystown 2 to review. Through Marshall’s words, Brad Langer made quirky, tough, rough around the edges, at times jaded, former Chicago cop turned private detective, Nick Nowak come to life, and I eagerly await each novel’s release in the series.

LammySeal-actualsize_2013-e1377558848107

Boystown 7

I got to interview Marshall for my Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group in 2013 and reposted the interview in January 2016 with updates (interview), have written numerous reviews of both his novels & audiobooks, and got to finally such a warm, sweet man in person when we both attended a Mystery Writer’s of America seminar in Atlanta a couple years ago. Numerous novels in the Boystown series have been finalists for the prestigious Lambda Literary Award. Boystown 7: Bloodlines actually won the Lammy for Best Gay Mystery this year at the 28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards.

There is so much more I’d love to share about Marshall and Nick Nowak, but instead of rambling on, I thought I’d share a recent blog post that says everything I would want and more. You can read it below.

How Far Will I Go?

Guest Blog by Marshall Thornton

Reposted with permission; originally posted February 24, 2016

One of the questions I get a lot about the Boystown series is, “How many books will there be?” Of course, since the question is about the future the most honest answer is, “I don’t know.” But at the same time, how many books to write and where to leave Nick Nowak is something I think about and obviously something that interests my readers so I thought I’d put down a few thoughts…

Typically, as I finish one book I get ideas about the next one. Boystown 8: The Lies That Bind came out a few days ago and I already have about fifteen percent of Boystown 9: Lucky Days written in the form of notes and first draft scenes. This is important as I have to keep track of the mystery arc in books 7-9 about Jimmy English, and of course the ongoing lives of the recurring characters. I imagine if I finish one of the books and have no ideas, or very few ideas, about the next book I’ll know that the end has arrived.

boystown8

The first eight books cover the period from January 1981 through August 1984. I definitely want to do two more books set in 1984 and have one in mind for 1985. That would bring me up to eleven—Joseph Hansen, one of my idols, did twelve in his series. I hope that I’ll write more than eleven. I wouldn’t mind getting all the way to nineteen or twenty like Michael Connelly, another of my idols. It would be nice to take the books all the way to the first glimmers of hope in the AIDS epidemic, but that wasn’t until the mid-nineties, which right now is a long way off.

As a gay man who lived through the eighties there are so many stories from that period I feel I can tell. So many stories I think are still important. One of the most satisfying aspects of writing this series has been collecting the little bits of real life that I remember from that period and weaving them into the mysteries. Quite a few of the characters and situations I’ve touched on in the stories come from people I knew during the period, in many cases people who can no longer speak for themselves. Collecting those stories matters to me a great deal on a very personal level.

There are many ways to classify the Boystown series. I think it would be fair to include it as AIDS literature. Most of AIDS literature took place in the eighties and nineties, and most of it was a cry for help, a warning bell rung as loudly as possible. Writing about AIDS from this vantage point is a very different experience. I’m able to focus on the way very real people reacted to the crisis. Knowing that things improve, allows me to focus on the ways in which individuals reacted, sometimes heroically, sometimes not. Of course, AIDS is still an issue. It hasn’t gone away. Reminding people of how it began and how we got to where we are is something I find to be vital.

I think if the Boystown series were a romance series with mystery elements—as opposed to being the opposite of that—I would have would have stopped at two or three books as I find manufacturing “conflict” in a happy couple uninteresting. Some writers do it well; I don’t think I’m one of them. Several of the Boystown books have ended in a happy-for-now kind of way, but if Nick ever finds a truly happy ending it will likely mean the end of the series.

Boystown 1 Cover 2nd Edition2Boystown 4 Cover 2nd Edition2Boystown 5 Cover 2nd Edition2

An important indicator of whether a writer should keep writing a series is sales. Not for financial reasons—certainly many writers do well writing multiple series of three or four books—but because each sale represents one or more readers. The last year has been very positive for the Boystown series. Boystown 7: Bloodlines opened better than any of the previous books, and even though it’s only been a few days it looks as though this year’s book is on tract to exceed that. Equally important is that last year the first book in the series actually sold more copies than it had since it was published five years before. The audience is finding the books and I’m so happy about that. With all of that said, I’d like to send out a big thank you to all who’ve bought and supported the series over the years. It means a lot.

Cover Preview – Coming early 2017 – Boystown 9: Lucky Days

Boystown 9

Website:

https://marshallthorntonauthor.com/

Guest Blog: Author of the very Popular Boystown Mysteries, Marshall Thornton

Boystowncollection

I first discovered Marshall Thornton’s Boystown series in the summer of 2013 – long after he’d originally published the first four novels; Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries, Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries, Boystown 3: Two Nick Nowak Novellas and Boystown 4: A Time for Secrets. By the time of the release of Boystown 4, I had become familiar with Marshall’s mysteries, and decided to start at the beginning since the first full-length novel of the series had caught my attention. About this same time, Marshall had begun to release the first few books in the series via Audiobook, narrated by the incredible Brad Langer, and offered to me a promo-copy of Boystown 2 to review. Through Marshall’s words, Brad Langer made quirky, tough, rough around the edges, at times jaded, former Chicago cop turned private detective, Nick Nowak come to life, and I eagerly await each novel’s release in the series.

Boystown 7

I got to interview Marshall for my Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group in 2013 and reposted the interview in January 2016 with updates (interview), have written numerous reviews of both his novels & audiobooks, and got to finally such a warm, sweet man in person when we both attended a Mystery Writer’s of America seminar in Atlanta a couple years ago. Numerous novels in the Boystown series have been finalists for the prestigious Lambda Literary Award. Boystown 7: Bloodlines is being considered in the Gay Mystery category this year as well. Finalists for the 28th Annual Lambda Literary Awards is expected to be announced any day now. Good luck, Marshall!

There is so much more I’d love to share about Marshall and Nick Nowak, but instead of rambling on, I thought I’d share a recent blog post that says everything I would want and more. You can read it below.

How Far Will I Go?

Guest Blog by Marshall Thornton

Reposted with permission; originally posted February 24, 2016

One of the questions I get a lot about the Boystown series is, “How many books will there be?” Of course, since the question is about the future the most honest answer is, “I don’t know.” But at the same time, how many books to write and where to leave Nick Nowak is something I think about and obviously something that interests my readers so I thought I’d put down a few thoughts…

Typically, as I finish one book I get ideas about the next one. Boystown 8: The Lies That Bind came out a few days ago and I already have about fifteen percent of Boystown 9: Lucky Days written in the form of notes and first draft scenes. This is important as I have to keep track of the mystery arc in books 7-9 about Jimmy English, and of course the ongoing lives of the recurring characters. I imagine if I finish one of the books and have no ideas, or very few ideas, about the next book I’ll know that the end has arrived.

boystown8

The first eight books cover the period from January 1981 through August 1984. I definitely want to do two more books set in 1984 and have one in mind for 1985. That would bring me up to eleven—Joseph Hansen, one of my idols, did twelve in his series. I hope that I’ll write more than eleven. I wouldn’t mind getting all the way to nineteen or twenty like Michael Connelly, another of my idols. It would be nice to take the books all the way to the first glimmers of hope in the AIDS epidemic, but that wasn’t until the mid-nineties, which right now is a long way off.

As a gay man who lived through the eighties there are so many stories from that period I feel I can tell. So many stories I think are still important. One of the most satisfying aspects of writing this series has been collecting the little bits of real life that I remember from that period and weaving them into the mysteries. Quite a few of the characters and situations I’ve touched on in the stories come from people I knew during the period, in many cases people who can no longer speak for themselves. Collecting those stories matters to me a great deal on a very personal level.

There are many ways to classify the Boystown series. I think it would be fair to include it as AIDS literature. Most of AIDS literature took place in the eighties and nineties, and most of it was a cry for help, a warning bell rung as loudly as possible. Writing about AIDS from this vantage point is a very different experience. I’m able to focus on the way very real people reacted to the crisis. Knowing that things improve, allows me to focus on the ways in which individuals reacted, sometimes heroically, sometimes not. Of course, AIDS is still an issue. It hasn’t gone away. Reminding people of how it began and how we got to where we are is something I find to be vital.

I think if the Boystown series were a romance series with mystery elements—as opposed to being the opposite of that—I would have would have stopped at two or three books as I find manufacturing “conflict” in a happy couple uninteresting. Some writers do it well; I don’t think I’m one of them. Several of the Boystown books have ended in a happy-for-now kind of way, but if Nick ever finds a truly happy ending it will likely mean the end of the series.

Boystown 1 Cover 2nd Edition2Boystown 4 Cover 2nd Edition2Boystown 5 Cover 2nd Edition2

An important indicator of whether a writer should keep writing a series is sales. Not for financial reasons—certainly many writers do well writing multiple series of three or four books—but because each sale represents one or more readers. The last year has been very positive for the Boystown series. Boystown 7: Bloodlines opened better than any of the previous books, and even though it’s only been a few days it looks as though this year’s book is on tract to exceed that. Equally important is that last year the first book in the series actually sold more copies than it had since it was published five years before. The audience is finding the books and I’m so happy about that. With all of that said, I’d like to send out a big thank you to all who’ve bought and supported the series over the years. It means a lot.

Audiobook Narrator, Actor, Writer, Sound Engineer, Voice-Over Artist, Brad Langer

Interviewed by Jon Michaelsen  © 2014

Brad, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.

Let’s start off with, where do you live?

I live in Rockland County, which is upstate New York, about 25 miles north of Manhattan.

Artist’s rarely like to toot their own horn, but what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

I met my life partner many years ago, and then we drifted apart for a long time. Years after we first met, we found each other again, and have been together since. I consider that a major accomplishment and a miracle too. But if that wasn’t enough, I started recording my voice when I was 6 years old on  a portable battery driven 3 inch reel to reel tape recorder, and while the medium for recording has changed, I am still recording my voice today. It’s what I love to do, and I’ve been blessed in being able to do it now for the world to hear.

Boystown

Without getting too personal, can you share a little about your home life?

I work from my studio which is located in my residence. My partner is an author as well, and most days find us working on two levels of our home, one writing, one recording. And then at night we get to share our days with each other.

What inspires and challenges you most in your work as a narrator of audio books?

I love telling stories, and becoming characters. I have been American, Southern, British and an alien. I have been a detective, a scientist, a traveling businessman, a tween chef, a drakul and God. I never know what the next page and next project will bring and I get to explore new worlds, new adventures and new points of view every day.

How does it feel to be a virgin? Lol…I mean, you are the first narrator of audio books I’ve interviewed. Can you give up a brief overview of your experience and what got you into this line of work? Do you read the novel before narrating?

You make me blush! When I was in high school, I started a radio station by myself. I would record a show at night and then play it back to the school at lunchtime the next day. And I loved telling stories, loved the idea of talking into a microphone. Later in college, I had one of the most widely listened to radio shows on our small AM station. And for years I have been told that I had a great voice. Finally, several years ago, a voice agent approached me and suggested I try narrating. Needless to say, I fell in love with the idea, and look forward to working every morning.

And while I normally skim a novel before reading, I don’t believe in fully reading before I narrate. I feel that the spontaneity of the moment is best captured as life is, without a crystal ball to know what’s coming next.

How do you prepare for narrating a book? Where do you go to record?

I try to choose only projects that I feel I can add something to with my voice and interpretation, and then I dive into the character, often staying in character for a short time even after I come out of the recording booth! My recording booth is in the ground floor of my home, so work is just mere steps away. A great time saver as traffic and weather are never an issue!

I’ve read all six novels in the Boystown series by Marshall Thornton. I’ve also listened to the first five novels via audiobooks, and I can assure you, listeners get a real treat to have you narrate all the novels in the series. You ARE Detective Nick Nowak as far as I am concerned! What is it like to step into the skin of such a complex character as Nick Nowak?

Again Jon, thank you for the complement, it means so much! I think Marshall has done an amazing job of crafting Nick. I connected with his character right away. One of my passions growing up was reading true crime and watching TV detectives like Mannix and Columbo. I always loved how they put the puzzle pieces together to take the chaos of a crime and assemble it into a logical and ordered solution. The process of looking outside the box and considering what others missed. To me, a good detective is the guy who finds the treasure in the spot that everyone else looked at , but didn’t see. I love that, and the aha moment, the moment went the light bulb goes off, the moment of reveal.

Boystown3

How do you prepare for reading an intimate and/or erotic scene?

Honestly, the same way as I do for any other scene. I am so invested in my character and the world around him that I feel it is best to just let “him” feel the way I would. For my intimate and erotic scenes, my investment is real. What you hear is me “in character” living the scene, experiencing the pain and/or pleasure much the same as the character would. Truth is, sometimes I emerge from the booth drenched in sweat after a particularly demanding scene.

Have you ever experienced bigotry and/or homophobia after an audiobook you’ve narrated is released?

No. I can’t say that I have. Although I can relate to you a true story of contractors who were working on my house one day, and heard part of a murder scene that I was doing and thought it was real and told a mutual acquaintance that they thought I had killed someone and was confessing. They had no idea that I was a narrator/actor and had no idea that what they were hearing wasn’t real. Although I was taken by surprise when I was told the story, I often smile when I think of it as testament to the “life” I am able to give my characters!

Boystown5

Last question; will you share with us a little about your next release in the Boystown series by Marshall Thornton?

Let’s see… without revealing too much, some time has passed, and Nick is no longer a private investigator, deciding to give it up after he killed the Bughouse Slasher. As usual, once he has made his mind up to stay away from the profession, there is nothing that can drag him back into it. As we know, Nick is a very strong minded individual. His only weakness is a loyalty to the past, to the people who were once close. And the only thing that would drag him back to being a P.I. would be a sense of obligation to someone he could not turn down. And when that person turns up with what ought to be a slam-dunk…

On behalf of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook Group, thank you so much for sharing your time with us and answering questions fans of the genre would like to know.

Email Brad @ promobrad@aol.com

Find Brad Langer on the web:

http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3ABrad%20Langer

Bio:

Brad Langer has been in the entertainment industry for over 30 years. Brad is president of Absolute Entertainment, a growing entertainment company that services the New York tri-state area. Given his broad range of skills and interests, Brad has been involved in every aspect of the business from acting, writing, sound engineering and audio production, to voice-overs, emceeing, and narrating. Brad’s background includes stints as a radio announcer on AM & FM stations in New York & Florida; puppeteering for Disney, working for Jim Henson on the Muppets movies, television programs, and special events such as Radio City’s Night of 100 Stars. A master of accents and dialects, Brad is currently a book narrator with titles available through Amazon.com, and is also the worldwide voice for

Forever Yours, International.

Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets written by Marshall Thornton – A Review

BOYSTOWN 4: A TIME FOR SECRETS – Audio Version

Written by Marshall Thornton – Narration by Brad Langer

Review by Jon Michaelsen

In Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets, Marshall Thornton has penned the first full-length novel featuring tough, rough around the edges, at times jaded, former Chicago cop turned private detective, Nick Nowak, which is perhaps my favorite of the series thus far. A Time For Secrets contains a stunning mystery that reveals an older gentleman’s longing to learn whatever happened to his long lost lover, a decades old murder and a mix of Chicago politics; the novel is first rate and deftly written with enough twists, turns and red herrings to keep a reader flying through the pages to find out what happens.

Click on image to purchase

Also contained within the pages is further insight into the sometimes odd relationship between Nick and his cop-currently on medical leave-boyfriend, Bert Harker, who still has both feet firmly in the closet when it comes to his overbearing and unaccepting mother, Mrs. Harker. Unlike previous Nick Nowak stories, Thornton tosses in a budding friendship his lover, Harker, has with an ambitious young reporter with starry eyes, and seemingly ulterior motives. The boy inserts himself more and more into Nick and Harker’s home — and relationship — in the guise of learning more about the vicious Bughouse Slasher, the last case Harker was working before having to take medical leave as his health got worse.

The Bughouse Slasher case continues a story-arc that has existed since the release of the second Nick Nowak novel, Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries and comes to a head by the end of the novel when readers learn Harker has been secretly carrying on the investigation into discovering the identity of the serial killer, perhaps aided by the doe-eyed young reporter who has now inserted himself into Nick and Harker’s relationship. Not surprising, really, considering the time – early 80s – and the openness of most gay relationships of the time, but readers come away with a real sense of the deep love Nick has for Harker, especially when he is forced to face his own jealously, something even Nick didn’t think he could ever exhibit.

Once again, I listened to the unabridged audio book version. Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets. As I’ve said before, reading and/or listening to a Nick Nowak novel is like slipping on a well-worn leather coat, comfortable and warm and the same feelings holds throughout this novel. Nick Nowak continues his tough man, studly persona, while just beneath the surface he knows he must come to terms with his lover’s worsening health and be there to support Bert. Yet, it’s Harker who comes across stronger than Nick in this regard, working to prepare and provide support to his lover through the enviable, clear his conscience by finally coming out to his mother, and to enjoy what remains of his life.

Narrator, Brad Langer, who has narrated the previous Nick Nowak mysteries, has become Nick Nowak to me. His voice is perfect for the series and I couldn’t imagine anyone else in the role. Not only can I highly recommend Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets, but I can also assure any reader of mysteries the entire Nick Nowak mystery series is destined to become a classic, ranked up there with the likes of Michael Nava’s Henry Rios, Richard Stevenson’s Donald Stratchy and Greg Herren’s Chanse MacLeod series.

Spending time with the author of the BOYSTOWN mystery series; Marshall Thornton

This week I got to spend some time with the author of the highly popular, BOYSTOWN, series: Marshall Thornton. I love his sexy character, Nick Nowak, a former cop turned private investigator, during the 1980s in Chicago – Interview by Jon Michaelsen;

Boystown1

Where do you live? City, town, island, country?

I live in Long Beach, California about a block from the beach. I’ve been in Southern California for twenty-five years. Before that I lived in Chicago.

Writer’s rarely like to toot their own horn; seriously! What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?

Well, aside from simply still being alive, I’d have to say that my Boystown mystery series is what I’m most proud of. I suppose, I’m also quite proud of the fact that I put myself through college; several times.

Without getting too personal, can you share a little about your home life?

I live in a very large apartment with two roommates, two step-dogs and one pampered pedigree cat.

What inspires and challenges you most in writing?

I think the best writing advice I’ve ever seen is to write something you’d like to read. I find that both inspiring and challenging.

You’ve probably answered this question a hundred times, but please indulge as our readers (and fellow writers) would like to know: Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing, or plot out your storylines?

It depends on the project, but generally I start an outline before I begin a project and then never finish it. Sometimes if I loose my way, I stop and re-outline. I will admit that the first five Boystown books have an arc that was unplanned and completely seat of your pants writing. I have actually thought through an arc for the next three or four books… I don’t want to trust in luck twice.

How do you deal with the constant distractions such as blogs, FB, promo and real life (like that dreaded daytime job)?

I’m a multitasker by nature. I don’t have the patience to just do one thing at a time. As I write this I’m also checking my sales numbers, playing World of Warcraft, and considering ways in which our government could become functional.

I have been listening via audio book to the first Nick Nowak novel: Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries. I am looking forward to the next release in audio book. How do you sustain serialized, continuing characters? What are your thoughts about printBoystown5_Murder Book versus audio book?

I think the best series, whether in book form or on television, are stories in which the main character has an unsolvable internal conflict at the center of their character. An easy example of that would be the TV comedy Everybody Loves Raymond. Raymond is a guy who hates his family and loves them at the same time. That’s a problem without a solution. In my series, as in many detective series, the main character’s central conflict has to do with the desire for justice and the inability to get justice in an unjust world; in a gay mystery series this internal conflict mirrors the external conflict of our community’s fight for justice.

There are some big differences between audio and print. With audio, I think there’s a temptation to spell everything out for the listener and I’m trying to avoid that. I prefer the listener feel that they’re being told a story rather than having a story acted out for them. Some of the books I’ve listened to go too far with elaborate voices and characterizations; personally, I have trouble finishing those.

Your first book in the Nick Nowak series Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries was a 2012 Lambda Literary Award finalist. Can you share how you learned your novel was a finalist and how you felt?

Honestly, I don’t remember how I found out. I think I saw that the finalists had been announced and went to their site and saw my book. Of course, it felt great. I think I’ve wanted a Lammy since I first heard about them twenty-five years ago – years before I was even writing fiction… It was very exciting to come close.

After your book(s) come out, have you ever had to deal with homophobia, and if so, what form has it taken?

No, I wouldn’t say I’ve dealt with any homophobia. Or at least, not homophobia with a big H. The books are pretty clearly labeled so I wouldn’t expect to. I’ve had a little pushback from some m/m romance readers who aren’t comfortable with Nick’s unrepentant promiscuity. But then, I’m not trying to write that kind of book and I think readers have figured that out by this point.FinalistSM

On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre really want to know. And a huge congratulations on your Boystown 5: Murder Book making finalist in the 2013 Rainbow Awards in the Gay Mystery/Thriller category.

Thank you!

Last question; will you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?

Before the end of the year, my next book The Ghost Slept Over should be out. It’s a romantic comedy for a change of pace.

 Here’s the bluTheGhostSleptOver_finalrb: When failed actor Cal Parsons travels to rural New York to claim the estate of his famous and estranged ex-partner he discovers something he wasn’t expecting…the ghost of his ex! And, worse, his ex invites Cal to join him for all eternity. Now. As Cal attempts to rid himself of the ghost by any means he begins to fall for the attractive attorney representing the estate. Will Cal be able to begin a new relationship or will he be seduced into the ever after?

And, of course, Boystown 6: From the Ashes will be coming out in the spring of 2014.

Have any questions to ask Marshall? Feel free to post them here and Marshall will be happy to respond!

 

http://marshallthornton.wordpress.com/