Interview: Dana King

Let’s get to know Dana King, author of the Penn’s River mystery series.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I used to listen to classical music when I wrote first drafts but now I need silence. There are a couple of reasons for this. I used to be a professional musician so the music can itself become a diversion. More to the point is I need to hear the dialog in my head to get its rhythms and inflections right and music gets in the way. I’d sometimes rather use the “wrong” word that sounds better than the “right” word that disrupts the flow or sound I’m going for, especially in dialog.

cover-king-ten-seven-6What made you interested in writing this particular story?

I got the idea for the underlying crime from an episode of “Homicide Hunter” on Investigation Discovery. Liked it so much I watched it again and took notes. It struck me as a story that fit in well with the things I like to write about in my Penns River series, people making a go of it in a small town where the economy has passed them by years ago.

Tell us about your main character.

Ben Dougherty—everyone except his family calls him “Doc”—grew up in Penns River before sending nine years in the Army as an MP. He had several offers from civilian security companies but always wanted to go home, mainly so he could work with his Dutch uncle, Stan “Stush” Napierkowski. Doc has a connection to Penns River only a native can have, but he’s also seen enough of the world to understand its flaws and love it anyway. He’s a clever cop who knows how to take best advantage of the limited tools a small and economically strapped town can provide.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

Every time I see a question like this I think of a pocket notebook my daughter bought me a few years ago. The cover reads: If I could have sex with any famous person, living or dead, I’d probably choose living.

As for this little soiree, I’d have to say Dashiell Hammett, Dennis Lehane, Elmore Leonard, Ed McBain, George Pelecanos, and Joseph Wambaugh. Leonard, McBain, and Wambaugh have been the most overtly influential to my writing; Hammett because he laid the groundwork and would provide historical perspective to the conversation; and Lehane and Pelecanos because every time either one of them open his mouth something worth hearing comes out.

Tell us a bit about your new book.

A man is shot as he and his friends leave the local low-roller casino. There’s no obvious motive and suspects keep not panning out. The case is tough enough but the police still have to deal with all the things that go on in this small town that only has four detectives total; three new cops forced on the town by a consent decree and no one knows how good they are; a deputy chief wrangling for the top job; a growing drug problem; the local mob boss who may be switching sides; and a bridge jumper.


Dana King has two Shamus Award nominations for his Nick Forte novels, for A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window. He also writes the Penns River novels, of which the fourth novel in the series, Ten-Seven, releases from Down & Out Books on January 21. His work has also appeared in the anthologies The Black Car Business, Unloaded 2, The Shamus Sampler 2, and Blood, Guts, and Whiskey.

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Blog: One Bite at a Time
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