Intro to an interview with one of our IAW&A founders and past president Peter Quinn

Peter Quinn’s newest novel is Dry Bones, the third book in a trilogy that also includes Hour of the Catand The Man Who Never Returned. His previous works include the novel Banished Children of Eve, which won a 1994 American Book Award and is now entering its twentieth year in print, and Looking for Jimmy: In Search of Irish America, a collection of nonfiction essays. Quinn, a historian and a former political and corporate speechwriter, has published numerous articles and reviews in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times,America, and Commonweal. He recently spoke with Commonweal’s digital editor, Dominic Preziosi.Dominic Preziosi: Your new novel, Dry Bones, completes the trilogy that began with Hour of the Cat. Did you start out with the intention of writing a series?

Peter Quinn: No. I had written Banished Children of Eve, and it took ten years, so I wanted to write a quick book. And because I love Raymond Chandler, I wanted to write a noir detective novel. So then I had an idea that instead of stumbling on a single murder, what if a detective stumbled on the biggest murder plot in history—eugenics and the Holocaust. So my quick book turned into an eight-year book, because of all the research. But I then found that I wasn’t finished with this detective and I had another idea. I’ve always been fascinated with the Judge Crater case, and my publisher said, “We’ll put your detective Fintan Dunne on the case and we’ll do a trilogy.” But I didn’t want to be locked into a time schedule—I wanted to be able to skip around. So Hour of the Cat is set in 1938, The Man Who Never Returned is set in 1955 but goes back to a case from 1930, and the third book is in postwar Slovakia in 1945 and then jumps to Havana in 1958.

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