Can you tell us a bit about your PI in this series, Gulliver Dowd, and why you like to write about him?

I wrote two short stories featuring Gulliver about ten years ago, one was published in Plots with Guns. I had wanted to write a novel featuring him, but my then agent advised against it. Go figure. Gulliver is a little person who would hate the label little person. He would hate it because labels won’t make him taller or more like everyone else. He also feels cursed because he was born handsome as well as short. He was adopted and had an adopted African-American sister, Keisha, who became a New York City cop. Keisha was killed on the job. Her case remains unsolved. Her death is what motivated Gulliver to become a PI so that he might solve the case himself. To that end he became an expert in martial arts and an expert shot. He sometimes enlists the aid of an ex-Navy Seal, Ahmed, who had once dated Keisha. Between hunting for his sister’s killer, Gulliver usually works missing persons cases and most of them involve missing teenagers. As Gulliver says, he understands teenagers because they feel inside the way he looks outside.


Brooklyn, especially the Red Hook section, is important to this story. What does Brooklyn offer you as a writer that makes it so special?

That’s easy. Brooklyn, like the rest of New York City, is a thousand different places. I picked Red Hook because it’s a bit like Gulliver: cut off, improving, but still rough around the edges.


A dog plays a prominent part in VALENTINO PIER. Do you have or have you ever had a dog? Do pets have a special meaning for you?

I have never had a dog, though I love them. My wife is a cat person and so I became one by extension. We almost got a dog, then we found out my daughter was allergic. Also, with my career I travel a lot. Cats are cool with that. Dogs, not so much. Someday maybe.


Will there be more Gulliver Dowd stories? And what else is coming up from you?

Yes. I signed a contract to do at least two more. I’m writing one now and it goes back to Gulliver hunting his sister’s killer. I hope this series runs a long time because Gulliver is a very interesting character for me to write.


VALENTINO PIER is your second novella for Rapid Reads. Their mission is to publish books that are intended for a diverse audience, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants an high-interest quick read. Do you approach writing them differently than you do your other books?

Yes. With the Gulliver Dowd books, I have to keep my audience in mind much more than when I was writing, say, a Moe Prager novel. But that’s a good thing. Writing these books forces me to take the advice I give my writing students: When in doubt, use short, declarative sentences. You’ll notice that both Dirty Work and Valentino Pier are comprised almost entirely of the aforementioned shot declarative sentences. I also have to be aware of my vocabulary and avoid words like aforementioned. In cooking, there’s a technique called reduction. It’s when you take a liquid and boil it down so it concentrates the flavor and thickens the sauce. That’s how I think of these books, they are concentrated forms of what I do with my other novels.