Ron Corbett is the author of the new novel The Sweet Goodbye, the first in a series featuring his character Danny Barrett. His other books include the novel Ragged Lake. A journalist and broadcaster, he lives in Ottawa, Canada.
Q: What inspired you to write The Sweet Goodbye, and how did you create your character Danny Barrett?
A: I was looking for a character that would move around from place to place. The setting – the place – has always been something that interests me, and I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun with that in this series.
Danny Barrett has similarities to the recurring character I have in another mystery series – the Frank Yakabuski mysteries – and I started there. Barrett is younger than Yakabuski, more active, definitely moves around more. There are as many differences as similarities, but that’s how it started.
Q: The writer Ace Atkins said of the book, “The Sweet Goodbye is a throwback to the days of moody, flawed heroes and fun, complex bad guys. Compelling classic noir that plays out in a forgotten America.” What do you think of that description?
A: I think I love Ace Atkins. If I’d slipped him money and gave him the words, he would have written something like that.
I do have fun complex bad guys. I enjoy having that. Noir is a word that doesn’t threaten me, and classic noir puts me in the company of writers that I admire and have no right hanging around with. Yeah, I love Ace Atkins.
Q: The novel takes place in rural Maine—can you say more about how important setting is to you in your writing?
A: Place is hugely important. If I’ve finished a novel, and the readers doesn’t have a good sense of the place for the story, then I’ve failed. Doesn’t matter how good the plot, or how interesting the characters. No place, no story.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?
A: I hope they enjoy the story. Let’s start there. We sometimes get so caught up with being “writers” that we forget we’re also entertainers. People should enjoy the story.
After that, I hope they do walk away with some of the thoughts and feelings that Ace Atkins had. This is a story about a forgotten America, and what people will do sometimes when things turn bad.
Q: This is the first in a series--what are you working on now?
A: I’m working on the second book. I have a deadline in the next few weeks, and some editors are expecting me to meet it (I’m less adamant about it).
Barrett is on the West Coast this time, trying to solve a bank robbery that has more loose ends than loose cash. A lot of the action takes place on a string of islands around Seattle called the San Juan Islands. Having a lot of fun describing that place.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb