Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Q&A with Aaron Philip Clark


Photo by Stanley Wu



Aaron Philip Clark is the author of the new novel Blue Like Me. It's a sequel to his novel Under Color of Law. He is also a screenwriter and has worked in law enforcement.


Q: Blue Like Me is your second novel featuring your character Trevor “Finn” Finnegan--did you know before you wrote Under Color of Law that you'd be writing about him again, and do you think he's changed from one book to the next?


A: Yes, I always saw Trevor's character arc as spanning multiple books. The goal has been to show the transition from a conflicted man to a steadfast hero. And heroes aren't born overnight. It takes time for someone to form an unshakable moral core and a belief system that governs everything they do. While Trevor isn't at that point yet, he's getting closer to fulfilling that promise with each novel.


Q: What inspired the plot of Blue Like Me?


A: I was heavily influenced by numerous cases in which police officers failed to uphold their mandate. Sometimes these were high profile but often were reported in local newspapers. Some instances involved officers who had inappropriate relationships with youth cadets or had stolen money from victims and suspects.


In many of the cases, there was a common thread. The impropriety usually began with one officer and spread like cancer. An officer would do something illegal or against policy and face no consequences, and then that officer's partner would join in the same behavior.


Once exposed, many officers noted they participated in the behavior because their partner/friend was doing it. They blamed their actions on the intense bond partners could develop. This special bond between partners became toxic and perpetuated a cycle of corruption. I wanted to explore that.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Well, I think the title will become clearer once folks read the book. But the idea was that even though Trevor Finnegan has left the police department, it's part of his identity and always will be. He'll continue to see himself as an officer with the LAPD--he'll always be "blue," and his loyalty to his ex-partner comes into conflict in this book.


Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I had a rough sketch of how the novel would end, but the discoveries came as I wrote the book. About halfway through, I started to get an idea for the third installment and decided to foreshadow that story with the ending of Blue Like Me.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I'm writing a novel inspired by Patricia Highsmith's work, specifically The Talented Mr. Ripley. The story is set in the music industry and centers on two dueling sociopaths who are also brothers. There are plenty of secrets and underhandedness, and I anticipate readers may have difficulty determining who to root for.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I'd also like readers to be aware of a wonderful story collection I contributed to called Witnesses for the Dead: Stories (Soho Crime). It was edited by authors Gary Phillips and Gar Anthony Haywood. Proceeds will benefit the Alliance for Safe Traffic Stops, and it publishes on Nov. 8, along with Blue Like Me.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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