"...A RESPONSIBILITY TO CONVEY SOME KIND OF ATMOSPHERE...": THE DARK EDGE OF NIGHT'S MARK PRYOR
The Dark Edge Of Night Mark Pryor's second novel to feature Henri Leforts, a police detective working Paris' occupied streets takes him deeper into into times. A case of a missing doctor leads to his discovery of horrifying experiments and puts Leforts into a position of his future actions in the occupation. The book starts as engaging police procedural and turns into a dark thriller. Mark was kind enough to talk about the book and Inspector Leforts with us.
SCOTT MONTGOMERY: You had been developing the first Leforts book, Die Around Sundown for some time. Was it a challenge to deliver a follow up on shorter notice?
MARK PRYOR: The biggest challenge has been book number three - we signed the contract in May and they wanted it in August, which (even for me!) is a fast turnaround. But the book is done, and I'm entering the stage that I go into every time I finish a book - dread that it's terrible, that my editor will hate me, that my time as an author is finished. Apparently, though, I do this every single time I finish and submit a book (source: darling wife). The second one just out this month, THE DARK EDGE OF NIGHT, did feel like that, too, as I recall so here's hoping I'm right. I do have one rather unconventional aspect that makes me anxious, but we shall see... S.M.: Henri is more pessimistic than your other series character Hugo. Has the personality of your protagonist affected the writing in any way? M.P.: In a way, yes. I find it actually more fun to write someone who can be snarky and a little mean at times. And the beauty of Henri being less kind is that everyone on the planet can empathize with him because those he's generally being rude to wear swastikas on their sleeves. I feel like that's given me some license to make him on the one hand brusque and sarcastic but also likeable, relatable, and understandable. It also lets me generate the lifeblood of any novel - conflict. Of course, I miss the goodness and likeability of Hugo, but it does make me wonder how Hugo would be in Henri's circumstances. Would that cynicism and snark creep in? Fun to think about. S.M.: What is the biggest challenge of writing in this period? M.P.: The first challenge I noticed was the difficulty in creating strong female characters. As you know from my Hugo books, there are plenty of those (Claudia, Camille, Maman etc), but the problem with the past is that there were not really any (or very few) female detectives, politicians, or business owners. I've had to look harder for that diversity but, fortunately, have also found it. I also find it a responsibility to convey some sense of the atmosphere of Paris in the 1940s. I don't want to glibly sail past how bad it was, how dark and terrifying those times were, so it's more work than the Hugo books to convey a sense of time, as well as place. S.M.: How did you decide to put journalist Eric Severied into the book? M.P.: I love putting real people in my books, and it's much easier when they are dead! Picasso and Princess Marie Bonaparte are great characters in the first, and I wanted to keep that theme going, with Eric and Virginia Hall. I think they add a touch of realism, even with their fleeting appearances. They are also a little like Easter eggs for people who know their history, I like the thought of an older reader coming across the name and thinking, "Oh, neat, I know who that is." S.M.: He and the other historical figures with Henri as well as the fictional characters. how do you approach writing them? M.P.: I try to portray them as they were, get the basics right. They're not typically major characters so I don't have to worry about getting every single detail spot on. And frankly, I write fiction so if I do get something wrong, I'm not going to tear my hair out over it. In some ways, and I'm struggling with how to say this, I think the historical figures in my books deserve to be brought back to life. They deserve attention and to have people read their names. Maybe someone reads my book and goes to find out more about the amazing Virginia Hall. She deserves that, and if y novel can foster that, I'm happy. S.M.: You deal with the French Resistance. Was there anything that surprised you in researching them? M.P.: Most definitely. I hadn't realized how disorganized and fractious it was - to the point where, especially in the beginning, there was no "it." Different groups had different ideas (and motivations) on how to go about resisting, and for a while it seems like it was more a ragtag field of disparate groups than any unified or coherent force. And that made it difficult for those trying to help the resistance movement, for the English and Americans. They had to pick and choose a little, decide who to trust and who would be most effective. Research also showed me just how ' normal' the resistance fighters were. They weren't all the gun-toting warriors zooming through the night on motorcycles to blow up train tracks, not at all. They were brave women operating radios, old men providing shelter. I'm glad for my own education that I've had to look more deeply into this aspect of the war.