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Behind The Fiction,
Interview with Michael Harvey, Author
Now, here's a guy I'd like to know and be able to call a pal. He's a writer, journalist, professor and a Chicago saloonkeeper. If that don't blow your mind, how about, he's also a famous documentary producer in television and films!
Michael Harvey created the television series Cold Case Files and after the first fifteen hours he became the show's executive producer overseeing a team of producers, editors and photographers.
He has received national and international awards for his work. He was an Academy Award nominee for his documentary "Eyewitness", and is a former investigative reporter for CBS.
His educational background is certainly outstanding. He earned a law degree from Duke University, a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor's degree in classical language from Holy Cross College. Impressive–to say the least.
Harvey's first attempt to write a hard-boiled private investigator's novel began sometime in 2004. He had written a couple hundred pages, consisting of the beginning and the end, but not much else in between, and put it in a drawer. Then, in April of 2006, he decided it was time to pen his first novel, The Chicago Way.
In his debut novel, he creates a character named Michael Kelly, an ex-cop turned Private Investigator. The story opens up with Kelly sitting in his second floor office when his ex-partner shows up asking for help in an old rape case.
After Kelly agrees to help, his troubles begin. He gets tangled up with the mob, a serial killer and some double-crossing friends. But, let me stop here and relate my interview with this author who some say is poised to take the crime-writing world by storm.
Michael G'Francisco: Give me the skinny on how "Cold Case Files" came to be?
Michael Harvey: In 1997, I was involved in documentary projects for television and films. My work varied, but most of it was focused on the inner workings of the criminal justice system. During the course of my work it came upon me that the new DNA testing was definitely going to be part of the future of forensic science.
I was approached and asked to come up with "something different" in the way of a detective series. The idea of telling a story from a box sitting on a shelf for more than a decade tantalized my thoughts. I felt it could be the "ultimate whodunit."
The first hour show was written, produced and received high ratings. That caused the network to order an additional ten to fifteen hours. The show was twice nominated for a Prime Time Emmy for best non-fiction series.
Michael: Did working on unsolved crimes tease your desire to create a protagonist crime fighter?
Harvey: Yes, in a way. I've always been a great reading fan of fictional characters that track down the bad guys for a living. Most good mystery authors try to write scenes and plots parallel to the real life detectives.
Michael: So, could I say that your work as an investigative reporter plays a great role in helping you pen your first novel?
Harvey: Mike, let me put it to you this way: Hemingway was just one of the great storytellers who wrote about things they knew. Their success made me believe that I could make my work more exciting and fast-paced if I wrote what I had learned from my journalism and documentary experiences.
During my research, I realized that most real life serial killers and their dastardly deeds are about themselves. They want to be in control and manipulate their victims or anyone else that happens to tickle their fancy for murder. This has been also brought to the big screen by James Paterson in his "Along Came A Spider" (Alex Cross series) with his antagonist Gary Soneji spinning a fast paced web of intrigue in a race against time to stop him.
My being able to talk to serial killers like Wayne Gacy gave me an insight on how their minds works, which made it easier to set realism into a fiction setting.
Michael: It has been said that you share a few traits with your fictional character Mike Kelly?
Harvey: Ah, yes. Parallels in 'The Chicago Way" are quite evident with Kelly's interest in classical languages. I studied Latin and ancient Greek in grade and high school, and of course, earned a degree in Classical Languages at Holy Cross College.
The book gave me a good opportunity to use what I had learned to give a more in-depth interesting flair to Kelly.
Michael: In August of 2008, you released your second book, a sequel, titled "The Fifth Floor." Tell my readers a little bit about it.
Harvey: The book perpetuates my protagonist, Michael Kelly, but this time he's drawn into a case where dirty politics and the history of Chicago play a major role in the story.
A crude, diabolical and powerful mayor, John J. Wilson, is running for re-election. A body is found in an old house on the north side of Chicago dangling from a railing. It turns out the murdered man was a close friend of the mayor and a political fixer for hire. Further investigation uncovers a certain party's family secret that goes back to the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. Now–Michael, you'll just have to read the book to find out the rest.
Michael: Ok. You have dangled the carrot and it's up to me to bite. But, now it's my turn. M.H., we have a few things in common. I was born and raised in Chicago, a novelist with several books about a female protagonist of a once secretive investigative unit of the Chicago Police Department and also an ex-Chicago saloonkeeper. Which brings me to the point of asking: How you became involved in the "Hidden Shamrock" bar on North Halsted Street?
Harvey: So, you know about that. It was a lark between a couple of college buddies and myself. It's an old place we purchased and remodeled into–well: take your pick, a yuppie Lincoln Park bar, an Irish Pub or a Sports Bar. It has been a wonderful experience over the years and has given me great memories and lot of good friends.
Michael: M.H., that's a wrap. It's been great chatting with you.
Michael Harvey's books are available online and at all major bookstores.
Here are a few reviews about the author's debut work.
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