One day I walked past my local coffee shop and I saw a flyer in the window. It was advertising a book called BOULEVARD by an author named Stephen Jay Schwartz. Apparently, much of the novel had been written in the shop, and I made a mental note to check it out.
Fast forward to March 2010 and the Left Coast Crime conference in Los Angeles. Stephen Jay Schwartz was there, and I made a point of introducing myself (and I will totally forgive him for not remembering). I bought the book during that conference, and I read it shortly after.
BOULEVARD was a book that made me, for lack of a better word, squirm. It's protagonist, Hayden Glass, is a vice cop who happens to also be a recovering sex addict, and his job often places him in the role of protector to the same women he at one point (and sometimes, still does) exploited–prostitutes.
The story itself is intense and unflinching. Hayden is called to a murder scene involving the homicide of the niece of a prominent LA politician. As he attempts to solve this crime, more murders happen and Hayden is led by the investigation to believe that the homicides are linked, not only to each other, but to him and his addiction.
The most important aspect of this novel isn't the plot, but Hayden Glass himself. Stephen Jay Schwartz nails what I call the "addict mentality" so accurately that I actually felt uncomfortable at times, being in Hayden's head. For this I say to Stephen, "bravo!" for such an experience is a rare and wonderful thing.
BEAT, the sequel to BOULEVARD, was released in September 2010, and is set not in LA but San Francisco. Hayden Glass on the streets of San Francisco? You can't go wrong.
Since that first meeting at Left Coast Crime, I have met and spoken with Stephen on many occasions, and I'm fortunate to be able to call him a friend. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for this post:
1) Hayden Glass is a great cop, but a fairly troubled man. What gives him hope?
It is his desire to change that gives him hope. He wants to be a better person. It is sometimes hard for him to see that he is innately good. But others see it, and they help lead him to the light.
2) What inspires you (writing or otherwise)?
My children inspire me. As with all children, they are innately good. My job is to encourage this goodness, to give it room to grow and a place in this universe to play.
3) What is your favorite meal, beverage included?
Favorite meal is the eggplant parmesan at the North Beach Restaurant in San Francisco. I’ll take a bottle of Stags’ Leap Cabernet Sauvignon to go with it.
4) Besides writing, what is your most important aspiration?
First, to be a good father. After that, to direct feature films. Next, to learn jazz guitar.
5) Any hints on what might be next for you (or Hayden Glass, or both)?
Looks like I’ll be doing a screenplay rewrite on a zombie-action film. That’ll be cool. I’ll juggle that with writing my next novel, which is an international thriller set in the U.S. and Europe. It won’t be a Hayden piece, but it will be dark, fast and furious. I’ll come back to Hayden in a year or two.
Thanks for answering my questions, Stephen. I can't wait to read whatever you publish next. It's sure to be great.
If you're buying books as gifts this holiday season, please consider purchasing from your local independent bookshop. The level of customer service you'll receive is unmatched, you'll have the added benefit of making new friends of the staff, and you'll help support a local business.
Books featured in this post can be purchased from the Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles (firstname.lastname@example.org).