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The Price You pay is the latest novel from JIm Fusilli. It's a tight coming of age tale, with a young man Mickey, having to deal with his crooked cop father and The Genovese Family connected Teamsters he works for as he falls for Debbie, a girl he goes to college with. Fusilli uses the seventies setting well to offer up a book of suspense and emotion. He was kind enough to talk with us about the personal nature of the book and the period it's in.

SCOTT MONTGOMERY: How did the idea to The Price You Pay come about

JIM FUSILLI: I'd had it in mind for decades.  Following "Narrows Gate" and "The Mayor of Polk Street," both of which toyed with autobiography (even though they're set decades before I was born), I wanted to write something firmly anchored in actual events in my life.  I never really talked that much about having been a teenage Teamster or being in close proximity to the Genovese crime family, so that was fertile ground.

S.M.: This seems to be the book taken most directly from your life. Did that affect the writing in any way?

J.F.: Even though the protagonist Mickey and I have many similarities -- growing up in urban New Jersey, the same college, jobs as Teamsters at a young age, the nearby presence of crime, the desire to escape -- there are also great differences.  I needed to be true to him and his ambitions.  For me, "The Price You Pay" is about whether Mickey can achieve his dreams.

S..M.: What about that time and place did you want to convey to the reader?

J.F.: Setting always gives birth to character and story.  I want the reader to feel the conflict between Mickey's native optimism and the oppressive environment the gangsters, politicians and police create and exploit.  We root for Mickey to escape, but understand that he may not be able to.  Not everyone does.

S.M.:I happened to finish this book right before I went to a screening of The Godfather Part 2. Why do you think mixing family dynamics in crime fiction is so often effective?

J.F.: I love Coppola's "Godfather" films, but I'm not at all of fan of deifying or honoring gangsters.  What the films illustrate is that the Corleones aren't all that concerned with family.  They say they are, but they aren't.  In "The Price You Pay," Mickey's father is ambivalent at best about his son and he has no interest in his daughter.  Teamsters in the book lie to their wives and daughters.  They put their families at risk repeatedly.  The actual admiration family dynamic in the book is in Debbie's family and they are, to use the vernacular, civilians.

S.M.: Not only does the book take place in the seventies, it has a feel of crime novels and films of the era. How conscious where you of that going in?

J.F.: Thanks for that.  "The Price You Pay" is set where the events took place in 1973.  I wasn't looking to do anything other than to portray the time and place as accurately as I could recall.  But the 1970s were my formative years as someone who was looking at art for a way to understand larger issues.  Much as I can remember every word to hundreds of songs from back then, I can tap into my memories from that period fairly easily and things emerge in full form.  No further thought is required.  As a sidebar, we considered doing a trailer to help promote the book and were going to take a film crew to Jersey City.  But then I realized that that Jersey City doesn't exist anymore.  There would be nothing to film.

S.M.: Do you have any favorite crime novels from that time?

J.F.: I was an English major in college -- unlike Mickey, who is studying Accounting -- and had to read what was considered the canon in those day.  I was reading 19th century Russian novelists instead of Lawrence Block, George V. Higgins and Donald Westlake.  It wasn't until after graduation that I resumed my interest in crime fiction.  Robert B. Parker was a favorite.  "Early Autumn," in particular.


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