Today, let’s welcome Gabriel Valjean to the #NoContact Book Tour! Gabriel’s latest – Dirty Old Townofficially launched in late January, which feels like years ago now. And because Gabriel is such a constant supporter of our literary community, I’m so used to seeing him at book events all over town. But it looks like it’s going to be a little while before I can go to a real-life party for Gabriel. While we all stay inside and stay safe, books have become even more important. So let’s celebrate Gabriel and Dirty Old Town here today. 

Tell us about your book!

My most recent book is Dirty Old Town from Level Best Books (January 14, 2020). Shane Cleary is formerly of the Boston Police, now a private investigator. He’s broke and the client who approaches him was his first love. Her husband thinks he’s being blackmailed. Shane has mixed feelings about the case, but he needs the money, and he has that sense of dread common to noir, that this isn’t going to go as planned. And it doesn’t.

The novel is the first in the series and introduces readers to Boston’s South End during the 70s. I’m drawn to the era because it’s gritty, not politically correct by any stretch of the imagination, and many of the social issues of the day then are still with us today. Robert B. Parker and George V. Higgins covered the decade with style, but I’m not aware of anyone writing specifically about the South End. The neighborhood has a rich and notorious history, so I hope readers will join Shane on his cases.

What would you have been doing now to promote it? Where would you have been speaking? What bookstores would you have visited? (Feel free to add links!)

I have yet to get any of my books into stores, so I can’t say I had that a promotional tour in the works. I do have a virtual book blog tour with Partners In Crime. Level Best Books did reach out to local stores in Boston. I’m also hopeful that my nomination for an Agatha Award for Best Historical Mystery for my second in the Company Files series, The Naming Game, with Winter Goose Publishing will get me some traction.

The Shelter-in-Place has, as far as I can tell from social media, encouraged readers to shop online and support local bookstores. My hope is that both authors and local shops receive the love they deserve. If I had one thing to ask of readers, it is this: please write a review. PLEASE. A few words help authors and they do mean a lot, especially with all of us in isolation. I know many folks don’t think they can’t craft a review. It doesn’t have to be professional. A sentence or two is enough. It takes only a few minutes, and they mean so much to authors. Then, go and read your next book.

Are you working on anything now? Is your process or routine different?

I’m editing the second Shane novel, Symphony Road. The story takes its title from a Boston street, in a neighborhood that was notorious for suspicious fires. Arson was a prevalent crime throughout the 70s, in Boston and across the nation. Shane has a full plate in book 2, and he’s pulled in several direction at once. 

My editing process hasn’t changed much over the years. I read my work as a stranger, or at least try. If something is unclear, I tag it and return to it. It’s not uncommon for me to do three or four passes before I send the manuscript over to my editor. The biggest change right now is that, while the project keeps me busy, I feel as if writing seems superfluous and indulgent when I read or hear the latest reports on Coronavirus. This is an ugly time, a painful time, of horrific tragedy that illustrates flaws and failures in our social infrastructure. In retrospect, when this is over, I think there will be a night of long knives, because so much of this could have been avoided.

Do you think your writing will be changed by this crisis?

I don’t think so, and I hope that doesn’t sound disrespectful. I’m a driven person and organized so I’ve always had an acute sense of how precious time is, and I seldom allow myself to become scattered and distracted. I set a goal and I do something every day until I get it accomplished. One step at a time. 

What’s the first thing you’re going to do when we’re free to be social again?

This may sound simple and some people say I can do it now, but I would say take a long walk. At the moment, I’m indoors and avoiding contact with others as much as possible. It doesn’t bother me because I can go weeks without talking to another person. I should mention I was an only child, so solitude comes easily to me. As long as I can see the sky, I’m fine. What I miss is the sensation of the present moment, the breeze and the smells, the seeing and hearing people on the sidewalks, the dogs barking and playing with their friends. I suppose I’m low-maintenance. 

I know what you mean, Gabriel. Just the sounds of normalcy will be so welcome. Be well!

Read an excerpt from Dirty Old Town here:


Level Best Books:

My Partners in Crime Tour:

Dirty Old Town on Amazon:

Excerpt from Dirty Old Town:

Naming Game on Amazon:

Excerpt from Naming Game:

Winter Goose Publishing:

Agatha Award Nominees (all categories):

Social Media

Twitter: @GValjan