Interview with Marshall Stein

Today, we’re speaking with Marshall Stein. He’s here to speak with us about his novel, RAGE BEGETS MURDER. Here’s what one reviewer has to say about the book…

“Marshall Stein has pulled off an author’s tour-de-force in his debut novel. Set in and around Philadelphia, the city native son David Goodis turned into a jungle of noir, RAGE BEGETS MURDER follows the strangely intertwined destinies of two extended families–one Jewish, the other Italian–during the early years of dance-party television. Race relations clash with under-aged girls searching for any career path leading them out of their stifling neighborhoods and suffocating parents. The dialogue is crisp, clear, and dead-on for the period, making RAGE BEGETS MURDER a strong contender in the Best First-Novel sweepstakes.”
Jeremiah Healy, author of RIGHT TO DIE and SHALLOW GRAVES

Tricia: Welcome, Marshall. It’s great to have you here. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Marshall: I am a retired lawyer. Early in my career I was an Assistant United States Attorney in Boston, MA and later served as the Chief Staff Attorney for the First Circuit Court of Appeals [Federal courts in New England]. During 28 years in private practice I have tried both civil and criminal cases and argued appeals in state and federal courts on every level.

Since retiring from my law practice I have been selected for master level fiction workshops at Grub Street Writers in Boston, Massachusetts.

I currently live in suburban Boston with my wife.

Tricia: When did you begin writing?

Marshall: I wrote some in high school and college, and returned to writing two years before retiring from law. Workshops at Grub Street Writers provided a setting for that return.

Tricia: Can you tell us about your most recent release?

Marshall: RAGE BEGETS MURDER is set in 1950’s Philadelphia at the beginning of ‘teen-dance’ television. Here is a summary from the back cover:

“Naomi was all too aware of Varsity Dance, the 1950’s dance show that was a gold mine for everyone. Her father owned part of it; her husband David was the lawyer for the show, and her husband’s cousin, Eddie Greene, was the host. She also knew its dark side: Morris Chumsky, the gangster businessman; Sophia, who danced on the show and bewitched Eddie, and Sophia’s uncle, who was head of the Vice Squad and wanted Eddie dead.

It was just a matter of time until there were murders, investigations, and great personal loss for Naomi.

Enter the world of Rage Begets Murder where business, politics and crime intersect.”

Tricia: How did you get the idea for the book?

Marshall: I went to high school in a Philadelphia suburb at the time Bandstand successfully moved from radio to TV. The original DJ was accused of having an affair with a girl on the show. Two trials followed. It was a huge scandal. Dick Clark was brought in to save Bandstand. I have fictionalized these events and added a narrative of my own creation. The result is RAGE BEGETS MURDER.

Tricia: Of all your characters, which one is your favorite? Why?

Marshall: Naomi. Because she evolves in the book. She reaches great depths, learns from this, and grows. I use flashbacks to show formative experiences in her early and later adolescence, as well as her adult years, so that the reader can understand how she became the woman she is.

Tricia: What was the most challenging aspect of writing your book?

Marshall: Sticking with it through numerous rewrites. I wrote a humorous blog on this process for my writing center. It was called “SUCCESS STORY: Grub Street, Endurance and Getting Published” http://grubdaily.org/?p=10137.

Tricia: What is your primary goal as an author?

Marshall: To write a page-turner, with memorable characters and scenes, and give a sense of the times in which the book is set. In short, to keep trying to write as well as Dashiell Hammett did in THE BIG SLEEP. I’ll not reach those heights, but the closer I get, the better my book.

Tricia: What projects are you currently working on?

Marshall: I’ve begun a sequel to RAGE BEGETS MURDER. I’m also working on a novel set in 19th century Germany involving an opera conductor, who was a descendant of generations of rabbis, and Richard Wagner, the anti-Semitic opera composer. The story turns on Wagner choosing the conductor to debut Parsifal, the most Christian of Wagner’s operas.

Tricia: What advice would you offer to new or aspiring authors?

Marshall: Get feedback on your writing from voices you respect. If there is a writing center where you live, sign up for workshops. Submit story length pieces to magazines. Do not give up if your writing is rejected. RAGE BEGETS MURDER, both as individual chapter submissions to magazines and as a total MS, was turned down dozens of times. I do not know of any published writer who has not had this experience. I had rejections from well-regarded magazines that were very encouraging: “I love the narrator’s voice”; “This is not a form rejection. You are encouraged to submit again.” Etc.

Do not be afraid to rewrite. RBM went through three major revisions. Hemingway wrote 32 versions of the last sentence of The Sun Also Rises.

Rejection, rewriting, and revision go with the territory.

Tricia: How have the reviews been?

Marshall: I’m very pleased.

“This was a fantastic murder suspense book. I found that I was drawn in by the history, characters and story all wrapped up in a package I couldn’t get enough of. . . . I loved how each character was so well-developed yet could still progress through the story. It was this infusion of humanity that made the story so believable.” The Book Maven Blog, 6/28/2013. For full review go to http://www.bookmaven623.wordpress.com, Archives, June, 2013.

“A TV show reminiscent of ‘American Bandstand’ becomes a breeding ground for teenage prostitution, organized crime and bloody mayhem – a juicy premise triggering twists and turns in this murder mystery set in 1950’s Philadelphia. Stein, a retired attorney, wrings plenty of suspense from his exploration of a seamy demimonde during the not-so-innocent Eisenhower years.” Brandeis Magazine, Fiction Issue [August, 2013], On the Bookshelf http://www.brandeis.edu/magazine/2013/summer/bookshelf.html

And here are some of the reader reviews on Amazon:

“This book is a classic crime thriller! The characters are gritty and fully developed. The descriptive passages are richly detailed.” Savannah Sue

“This is an absolute page-turner. It left me longing for more.” P. Saka

“I am a frequent mystery reader and I really loved this book.” Hummingbird

“I never read mysteries but this one held my attention from page one. Characters well developed and the story is riveting.” Vermontreader

Tricia: I know you have given readings and met with book groups in the metropolitan Boston area, where you live. Will you be doing anything outside of Boston?

Marshall: I will be a panelist at NoirCon in 2014. It is held every two years in Philadelphia. In 2012 it had such panelists/presenters as Joyce Carol Oates, Lawrence Block, Jonathan Kellerman, Thomas Perry and Jeremiah Healy.

Tricia: Where can readers go to learn more about your book or to purchase a copy.

Marshall: My website is http://www.marshallstein.com. It contains four separate pages, one of which has blogs on the historical background of RBM. I am on Linked In, Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads.

RBM can be bought online at Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/Rage-Begets-Murder-Marshall-Stein/dp/0615770096 .

Tricia: Marshall, thank you so much for joining us today and for sharing the following excerpt with my readers.

Prologue


“Miz Naomi, I wouldn’t go in there right now,” Liz warned me.

Her thin body was shaking.

“That Mister Chumsky is as mean as any Georgia cracker.”

“What’s going on?”

“Your daddy and some others are in there with Mister Greene, talkin’ about movin’ his radio show to TV. I brought in coffee, and Mister Chumsky said I was spying and that I should be fired.”

I walked into my parents’ dining room. Seated at the table were Daddy, Morris Chumsky, two men I did not know, and Eddie Greene. Eddie was my husband’s cousin and hosted a radio show that played colored and rock-a-billy music, Fats Domino, and Jerry Lee Lewis. It was very popular with teenagers. Eddie’s show was owned by the Karps. Maybe the fat man was Jay Karp. Daddy had money in it. He kept saying it was the best investment he ever made.

Morris had his back to me and did not hear me on the thick carpeting. He was facing Eddie. “It’s one thing to play the records, but something else to see the kids dancing to it. White kids at that. Philly’s got a big Catholic population. There’s already grumbling from some of the priests.”

“The way we’ll set it up will work,” Eddie said.

“Hi, Daddy.”

“Hi, Princess. What are you doing here?”

“I was driving over to see Rachel and thought I’d drop in while I was nearby.”

“Well, we’re having a business meeting right now.” Daddy ran his tongue across his bottom lip. He was nervous.

“Is there a problem with Liz?” I asked.

Morris swiveled around in his chair. “I told you to fire the schvartza. The sooner the better. I want her out of here now.”

“Maybe you should be the one to leave, sir,” I told Morris. “And please stop using that word. Liz has been with us for a long time.”

The skin drew tight on Morris’s face. He stood up. Daddy jumped between us and led me into the kitchen, closing the swinging door behind us.

He whispered, “You have no idea what you’re doing. Morris can be very dangerous.”

“Then why is he your friend? Why are you in business with him?”

Daddy asked if Mother was home. I told him she was out shopping.

“Take Liz and leave. Now! I’ve got to get back and apologize to Morris.” Daddy was pale and sweaty.

“Why?” I demanded.

He grabbed me by the arm and pushed me toward the door leading outside.

“Liz, come with me,” I told her. “You have a new job. In my home.”

When I turned around I saw Daddy from the rear in the now open space leading to the dining room. He took out his handkerchief and wiped his face. Then he disappeared, and I heard him say, “Morris, I’m sorry. I love Naomi, but she’s really a child. A thirty-eight-year-old child.”

Liz and I marched out of the kitchen and down the driveway to my car.

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