Friday, May 24, 2024

Q&A with Robert Dugoni


Photo by Douglas Sonders



Robert Dugoni is the author of the new novel A Killing on the Hill. His many other books include the Tracy Crosswhite series. He lives in Seattle.


Q: What inspired you to write A Killing on the Hill, and how closely does your novel follow the actual case on which you based it?


A: I found two large scrapbooks in my attic. Turns out they belonged to my wife’s grandfather, a prominent Seattle lawyer who kept clippings of his most well-known cases.


In it, I found the story of the shooting at the Pom Pom Nightclub on Profanity Hill. This was during The Great Depression, and Prohibition and as I read, I realized it was a terrific story. 


I created the narrator, William Shumacher, and I changed a few names of the characters in the story, but the trial itself comes from the clippings, which included dozens of newspaper and magazine articles with snippets of the witnesses and their testimony.


The motivation for the killing is also based on a different, also true story, one I have been familiar with for years.


Q: How did you research the book, and what did you learn that especially surprised you?


A: I read all the articles, then I looked for books on Seattle during that time period, 1933. I didn’t find many, but I did find some good biographies which described the time period, what people wore, and what they did to try to stay ahead of the Depression.


I then contacted the Seattle Public Library and a librarian helped me to locate maps of Seattle during that time period with the names of the business and the restaurants and theater.


I guess two things surprised me. The first was Wyatt Earp came to Seattle to open a gambling establishment but got run out of town because he refused to pay off the police and politicians. 


The second was that Al Capone never came to Seattle because he didn’t think there was any money to be made here. He worried about having to pay off the police and the politicians and decided it wasn’t worth it.

Q: How did you create your character William “Shoe” Shumacher, a young reporter?


A: He just popped into my head as a logical choice. I initially contemplated a defense attorney, but I thought I needed a character reflective of the story itself.


Someone naïve to the way things were done, who still believed in right and wrong. Someone who was himself struggling and whose family was struggling to survive during the Depression. I wanted someone vulnerable, but also smart and courageous.


He just developed along with the story, and he grows to become someone much more experienced than the reporter who initially gets the story.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: My only hope is that they are entertained and get a flavor of how remarkable Seattle was in the 1930s - all the excitement amidst the despair. I see the story as a bit like The Great Gatsby and The Boys in the Boat - the dichotomy between the “Haves” and the “Have nots.”


I want readers to live in that time period and see how one young man could rise above his circumstances and not be corrupted.


Q: What are you working on now? Will this become a series?


A: I’m working on a number of different projects. I have a second book in the Keera Duggan series coming out next October 24 called Beyond Reasonable Doubt. 


I am writing the 11th Tracy Crosswhite novel set to come out April 2025. I’m also working on a World War II historical, Hold Strong, that will come out January 2025.


I’m also just beginning research and excited about the next novel in the William Shumacher series.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Nothing I can think of. My novels have been optioned, but nothing appears imminent.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Robert Dugoni.

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