For more than three decades, Jim Nesbitt roved the American outback as a correspondent based in Texas, Florida and Washington, D.C. He chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, ranchers, migrant field hands, neo-Nazis and nuns—always with an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the voices that give life to a story. Nesbitt is a natural storyteller with a taste for hard-bitten noir, which he serves up with chicken-fried flare in in his debut noir, The Last Second Chance: An Ed Earl Burch novel. Recently, Nesbit was put on a hard chair under the bright lights and questioned…
WHAT LED AN EX-JOURNALIST TO WRITE A DETECTIVE NOVEL?
I've always thought of hard-boiled detective novels an American art form. At their best, they're more than who-dun-its or thrillers, they're vehicles for a writer's observations about culture, politics, philosophy, music, history, and a time or a place. Or life, it’s ownself. When you read James Ellroy, Dashiell Hammett or James Lee Burke, their stories are always about far more than good guys chasing bad guys. That’s the kind of book I wanted to write.
WHERE DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR MOST RECENT BOOK?
When you write, you start with what you know. I knew a little something about the violent crevices between Texas and Mexico from my journalism days. I also knew some cops and redneck outlaws. I knew I wanted to mashup those elements in a noir drenched detective novel. When I mixed those elements together, out popped Ed Earl Burch, Carla Sue Cantrell, and The Last Second Chance.
GIVE ME THE SCOOP ON ED EARL BURCH...
He’s a cashiered vice and homicide cop, working as a private investigator in Dallas in the 1980s—the time of the oil bust and the savings and loan crash. He’s got his life narrowed down to the bare essentials—work, whiskey, a ratty apartment, and the occasional fling with women who drink in the same bars. He’s a burnout with three ex-wives and a dead partner. He mostly wants to forget and be left alone. But when fate comes calling, he finds out he’s still got enough fire for one last ride.
Reading good writers. It doesn't always inspires me—sometimes, the writing is so good I get depressed I'll never reach those heights. Then I get prideful and a bit angry and take the challenge to up my game.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY WORKING ON?
When not figuring out this new game of promotion for The Last Second Chance, I’m editing the second Ed Earl Burch novel, The Right Wrong Number. When I can catch my breath, I’m starting to do research for my third novel—another Ed Earl yarn. Sense a pattern there?
A violent waltz across Texas, The Last Second Chance, is a taut, fast-paced slice of noir about to rain down on cashiered vice and homicide detective Ed Earl Burch—now living a stripped-down life as a Dallas private investigator in the mid-1980s. Burch is an ex-jock with a hollowed-out soul weighed down by the violent mistakes that got him booted off the force—including a dead partner and a killer who got snuffed before Burch could track him down.
Now he plays it smart and cautious. Keep the lines straight. Don’t take a risk. Don’t give a damn. It’s the creed of the terminal burnout living a day at a time, drink by drink, with a boot on the rail of any saloon. But then Carla Sue Cantrell, a short blonde with ice-blue eyes and a taste for muscle cars, crystal meth and the high-wire double-cross, changes everything.
Pointing a Colt 1911 at his head, Carla Sue tells Burch his partner’s killer—a narco named Teddy Roy Bonafacio—is still alive. Framed for murder and chased by cops and gunmen, Burch takes Cantrell on the run through the scrubby Texas Hill Country—home of the sixth largest bat cave in the world, and the high desert of El Paso and northern Mexico. They're gunning for the same man who they both want dead—the narco, known as El Rojo Loco. Final destination—kill or be killed…It’s going to be a helluva dance.
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