Today we’re talking to P.A. Brown, author of the L.A. Series including L.A. Heat, L.A. Mischief, L.A. Boneyard – the book we’re discussing today, & L.A. Bytes among many other works of fab fiction. While I’m certainly not a mystery aficionado, I was so impressed after reading Heat that I promptly went out and purchased the rest in the series. I have yet to be disappointed. : )
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Ethan: Before we dig into Boneyard specifically, I wanted to touch on the origins a little bit. One thing I love about these books is the way you’ve blended the police procedural & crime-mystery elements so seamlessly with the gay love story of two unlikely protagonists. I mean, these are guys – even had they both been out of the closet you wouldn’t ever imagine would click, at least not outside of a fantasy fulfilling one-nighter on both their parts. But even from the very beginning of Heat, when Laine is investigating Chris as a murder suspect, there’s something there between them. At least I felt it. So give us the what, where, and how, PA. Where did it all come from?
P.A.: David had his genesis in Jonathan Kellerman. I was a huge fan of his Alex Delaware books, and especially was drawn to his openly gay cop, Milo Sturgis. I wanted to write a book with the cop as the main character instead of being a side kick. I also wanted him to be gay. But one of the things I loved about Milo was he didn’t fit the stereotype of the gay man – buff, obsessed with youth, clothes and being in the A list. I’d spent too much time in West Hollywood to accept that view of gay men. But I wanted to take it a step further. Originally, David was going to be even less attractive than he is, but that eluded me, or maybe people really can see an ordinary guy with pockmarked skin and a bit of a belly who loves American beer and baseball as sexy. Chris obviously can. Also, unlike Milo, he wouldn’t be comfortable with his sexuality. He didn’t deny it, he just kept it from the people around him. His family knew, but not many other people, especially not the cops he worked with. And he had a doozy of a partner – homophobic Martinez. Actually not really homophobic so much as he didn’t like anyone all that much. He’s one of those equal opportunity bigots.
And of course once I’d decided on a cop, I had to put him in L.A. The city fit him and he fit the city. Plus the fact that I just couldn’t forget the place, even though I’d been gone from it for nearly two decades by that time. So he was cast as an LAPD homicide detective.
Once he existed, he had to have an opposite. That person would be the epitome of that ‘ideal’ gay man. Beautiful, out and proud, a guy who loved living, who had expensive tastes and had the money to afford the things he liked. The computer angle came about because that was what I did. Besides, in all my time reading mysteries, I had never seen a computer geek as a main character. And I personally knew some damn good looking IT guys. Thus Chris was born. Originally, I was going to put him in a house in the Hollywood Hills, but that seemed too clichéd. Everybody in crime fiction seemed to live up there, so I looked around for another place and I remembered Silverlake. When I started researching it, I knew it was perfect for those two.
Ethan: One aspect I’ve found particularly interesting about David’s character, who even after four years with Chris still wrestles with his own sexuality, is that one of the things he takes the most pleasure in with regard to Chris – his pretty boy looks – is oddly also one of the things he’s most embarrassed about when it comes to his professional life. I think it’s a very subtle way of showing that part of him still longs to be closeted. That despite the happiness he’s found, he still wishes he could go back to being one of the many as opposed to the shiniest penny in the box. It leaves me wanting to slap the SOB while liking him a little more because he’s so genuinely flawed. How did this guy come to you and have you been surprised at all by any aspect of the evolution of this character?
P.A.: Yes, he’s grown a lot from what I originally saw him as. You’re right, in some ways he’s still not totally comfortable with everyone knowing he’s gay. He doesn’t want to be known as the gay cop. He sees himself as a damn good homicide detective who just happens to be gay. But he also knows being out limits him. Before his life changed and he fell in love with Chris, he could have aspired to be a homicide special detective working the Robbery Homicide Division, the elite LAPD officers who are recognized as the best of the best. But his love for Chris makes up for it, and there are still times he will look at Chris and be amazed that this man loves him so whole-heartedly. Without reservations. Which of course makes him feel guilty for those occasional times he slips and wishes he was back in the safety of his closet. That inner conflict is always there.
Ethan: One of the other really smart things I think you’ve accomplished in this series is setting up Chris as an actual equal to David. He’s obviously very different, doesn’t mince words nor does he care who knows he’s gay. Chris makes no apologies for who he is now or who he’s screwed in the past. But he’s also, something else that I think is crucial for David – Chris is incredibly competent at what he does. David is a great detective, probably one of the best in his field and I believe it’s the mutual respect and admiration that ties Chris is the same in his line of work that makes these guys stick. That this respect is the foundation for their relationship which everything else is built upon. Of course this is merely my impression of things. Tell us what you think binds them both to one another despite all the odds which seem forever stacked against them.
P.A.: I think it is the fact that they are equals in their respective jobs. He’s a good cop, and he knows that and Chris knows it too. He respects what David does, even though he’s sometimes uneasy about David’s safety. Chris also knows he’s the top of his field. It’s not braggadocio, he works very hard to stay on top. What they really have is a mutual respect beyond their relationship. They’re friends as well as lovers, which I think is one of the keys to a strong, long term relationship.
Ethan: The addition of Jairo to this already set and solidified cast of characters was both inspired as well as a bit of a shock. He wound up having a large role and effectively stirred things up quite nicely. I found myself constantly wavering on whether or not I liked him, which I don’t think is an easy feat for an author, so kudos to you! I felt sorry for him one minute, hating him the next before finally wanting to sleep with him after another turn of the page. You kept me on a constant loop with this guy. Talk to us a little about where he came from. How did his role in the book develop and did he change on you once the writing began?
P.A.: Jairo had that affect on a lot of people. I even got an angry email from someone before the book was even released about him. I had posted a blurb about the threat to Chris and David’s relationship from David’s new partner. I got chewed a new one for even hinting David would be unfaithful. LOL. Originally the affair was going to go further, but I realized that wouldn’t be acceptable and might alienate his fans. Bad enough he went as far as he did. But I share your wavering. I loved the guy, thought he was hot, but I seriously wanted to smack him, too – and David. I mean the guy was deceitful to everyone, even worse than David had ever been in his closet. At least David never chose marriage to hide his identity. He was too honorable. Jairo had no honor. But he sure was a sexy devil.
Ethan: I still have yet to read L.A. Bytes, but I’m greedy…so I have to ask. Any plans in the works for another book in this series? If so…let me just add that it’s totally okay to tease the animals in this joint.
P.A.: There are at least 2 more coming out. Bermuda Heat should be released February and the following one probably early next year. Right now I’m calling that L.A. Storm, and may bring back Jairo’s family to bring yet more trouble. I’m planning a trip to Los Angeles in April of this year to do a lot more research. The idea for it is still nebulous, but I think it will deal with bank robberies. Los Angeles is the bank robbery capital of the world so there will be no shortage of ideas to play with. After book six, I’m not sure what will happen.
A letter. A secret. A tragedy. David’s mother told him his father died when he was born. His mother lied.
David Eric Laine always believed his father had died in Vietnam before his birth. His mother remarried and he was adopted by his stepfather and grew up knowing Graham Laine as his only father. Forty years later, a letter arrives and David finds out everything he thought was a lie.
Saturday, 9:20 am, Rigali Avenue, Atwater Village, Los Angeles
The brown Ford squealed when it failed to take the corner at sixty. Instead it threw up streamers of dust as it bounced across a gravel verge into an empty parking lot. Martinez cursed as his partner, LAPD homicide detective David Eric Laine took the same path, their unmarked Crown Vic blowing out whatever shocks might have been left in the aged vehicle when they screeched onto the lot after the fleeing Ford. Martinez reported their twenty and called for backup, then hung on as David maneuvered ever closer to the other car’s rusted out bumper.
David ignored everything but the Ford and the two Pinoy boys they’d been closing in on for days. Since somebody stomped a Temple Street Trese boy to death and put all the Asians on edge, ready to stomp back, it was paramount they be stopped. David and Martinez were working with the local gang cops to try to stop it before it got bloody.
They’d spotted Sokun, the leader of the Pinoy’s at a liquor store on Brunswick five minutes ago, the chase had been on. David figured they would try and double back, make a break for Rigali. But then a whoop and a new cloud of dust announced their backup had arrived. A black and white roared in, lights and siren on full code three.
What Sokun did next startled David. Instead of braking and coming around, the brown piece of crap’s laboring engine roared, tires spat gravel and the car lunged forward. The fence protecting this section of concrete river was old and worn through years of neglect and abuse. Twisted by the elements and vandals, repaired repeatedlly, it inclined at a fifty degree angle, sagging as though tired of trying to hold out the world.
The Ford slammed into it at a good twenty miles per and snapped off the single metal pole pole, puncturing the radiator and killing the engine. There was a tortured shriek of metal on metal, sparks flew from underneath the battered vehicle. The engine rattled to a stop.
Both doors flew open. Sokun and his passenger bailed. The passenger, who David hadn’t been able to ID, headed north. Sokun scrambled over the battered remnants of fence and vanished over the lip of the cement trough.
"Oh, tell me he did not just do that," David muttered.
Martinez growled what might have been a reply before he too was out the door and hot on the trail of the passenger, along with a young, female uni. David bolted after Sokun. The other uni followed.
David always figured he was in shape. He ran nearly every day with Sergeant, the Doberman he and Chris had adopted three years ago. Legs pumping, he slowed only long enough to clamber over the chain link and he was off, half skidding, half running down the angled concrete wall, avoiding chunks of broken wall, hot on Sokun’s ass.
It was long after the last winter rain. The bed of the river was little more than a few scummy patches of rainbow hued water and scattered weeds that had broken through the concrete and clung to life amid the detritus of a city. He dodged a shopping cart, abandoned with a broken front wheel. A black garbage bag split open, spilled its reeking contents down the slope. A pair of fat gulls took flight when Sokun raced toward them. They squawked and protested as they flew south toward the distant smog-shrouded basin.
Ahead of him and losing ground fast, Sokun clearly didn’t do any recreational running. He stumbled over broken concrete and his leather loafers were not designed for top speed flight. David closed the distance between them. Behind him the uni was gaining ground.
Not surprisingly, the asshole in questions ignored his orders.
David came up on Sokun’s left side. The Cambodian gang leader threw one wild-eyed look over his shoulder and tried to dodge right. David body checked him and the two of them went down. An elbow caught David’s chin and he kneed Sokun’s kidney, missed and caught him square in the groin. The younger man folded with a groan and rolled onto his side, holding his bruised crotch in both hands. At least until David wrenched them behind him and cuffed him. The uniformed cop arrived seconds later and stood over the downed pair, one hand on his duty weapon, his other on his baton.
David sat on his haunches, his butt resting against Sokun’s legs. His arms over his knees, panting as he stared across at the graffiti tagged wall on the other side of the river.
"I’m getting too old for this," he muttered as Martinez appeared at the top of the concrete wall, his own prisoner looking as worse for the wear as David felt.
The uni pulled Sokun to his feet as David rose and dusted his linen pants off. "Get him out of here," he said and climbed up to join Martinez. He watched the two uniformed officers, one who barely looked old enough to be out of middle school lead their prisoner away and shook his head.
Sokun cursed in Cambodian and English.
"Either they’re getting younger or I’m getting old."
Martinez clapped him on the back. "It ain’t us, ese."
"God, I hope not." David scrubbed his hand through his shaggy hair. Together they trudged back to their Crown. He threw a glance back at the Ford, doors still open, water leaking out from underneath.
Martinez grunted as he eyed the messed up Ford. "Well, look at it this way. At least the asshole didn’t try to make a run for it down there in that." He stared balefully down the concrete slope. "That would have been a real circus."
"More like the Indy 500. Better call a tow truck." David shook his head and did his best not to think about it. "Get a warrant for that thing, too."
He put his hand on the still warm hood of their city-owned junk heap. He climbed in behind the wheel. "Might be time to trade this thing in, too. Call the motor pool. See if we can’t get this one put out to pasture." He slotted the key in and fired it up. It grunted but fired on the first try. Barely. He met his partner’s gaze. "Ever think it might be time to hang it up yourself?"
"What? And give up all the excitement? Not to mention the respect and love we get."
"You left out the fabulous pay check."
"I guess I did kind of forget that. Come on. Let’s go down and book these mutts. At least earn some of those big bucks."
A second black and white rolled onto the lot and Sokun was loaded into it. The two shops rolled back out onto Rigali, followed by David and his grinning partner.
"Another fine day on the force."
"Hey," Martinez said. "We’ll look back on this someday and remember all the fun we had."