Friday, April 12, 2024

My character, my mirror – #HardBoiledPI #GuestBlog @DanaKingAuthor

Off the Books tour banner

By Dana King (Guest Blogger)

I asked my guest today to tell us about the inspiration for his main character Nick Forte, in particular whether Nick resembles him.~ Lisabet

I can safely say Nick Forte includes aspects of my personality; when I first thought of him, Nick Forte was me.

I was in the process of disengaging from my life as a musician when a small controversy broke out about whether an audition had been rigged. I had a little distance by then and decided to have some fun with it, so I wrote a short story about a private detective who had been a trumpet player and was engaged to investigate the audition. All the characters were friends of mine under different names, but I got to be the star, of course. I spent a couple of weeks reading a few Mickey Spillane novels to get some idea of the style and sent hard copies of “Auditioning Can Be Murder” to my friends. They loved it, so I wrote another for my current job at the time, then the next. All were so well received I decided to try my hand at a Nick Forte novel.

So now you’re wondering how many people I’ve killed, as Forte has a handful of notches on his trusty .45. None – yet, honest to God - but that’s about the only part of him that’s not me. We’ll get more into that a little later.

The best feedback I get about the Forte novels concerns the relationship he has with his daughter, Caroline. Forte is a divorced father – like me – with one daughter – like me - who makes every effort to be as involved in her life as he can even though he doesn’t live with her anymore. (You may sense a pattern developing.) Nick spends time with Caroline in every book and, unless the scene has to do with a specific plot point, everything they do together is taken directly, sometimes literally, from things The Sole Heir and I have done. Forte can be a violent prick at times; it’s his relationship with Caroline that not only keeps him grounded but keeps readers rooting for him.

Forte is also an inveterate smartass; he can’t help himself. It gets him into trouble. Sometimes a lot of trouble. Been there and done that myself, and since I haven’t figured out how not to do that in 68 years, I wouldn’t bet your house payment on me figuring it out anytime soon.

Forte and I also have a keen hatred of injustice, or even unfairness. His reactions are more severe than mine – sure they are; I can get him out of literally anything – but his distaste for such situations is very similar to mine. For example, in Off the Books he notices a man putting something into a woman’s drink while she’s in the restroom. I hope I would do what he does were I ever to see something like that, though it’s safe to say I would not carry it as far.

Nick Forte is so much like me I have mixed emotions about him, but he also serves a purpose. James Ellroy once said Raymond Chandler wrote about the kind of man he hoped he was, while Dashiell Hammett wrote about the kind of man he was afraid he was. I write another series, and Penns River Detective Ben “Doc” Dougherty is the kind of man I hope I’d be if confronted with similar circumstances. Nick Forte is the man I’m afraid I would be. Not evil, but with sometimes unpleasant boundaries. Writing him is fun, but it also makes me think about things I might not otherwise ponder, which includes better problem resolution skills.


Nick Forte has lost his detective agency and makes ends meet doing background checks and other paperwork. He pays for everything else through jobs he takes for cash and without any written contract. What starts out as a simple investigation into a traffic accident exposes Forte to people who have truly lost everything and have no viable hope of reclaiming their lives. That doesn’t sit well with Forte, leading him and his friend Goose Satterwhite to take action that ends more violently than anyone expected.

The return of Chicago private detective Nick Forte, the tough protagonist of two Shamus Award nominated novels, is well worth the wait. Nick’s latest escapade Off The Books—the first in nearly six years—will surely earn additional praise for the acclaimed series.”

~ J.L .Abramo, Shamus Award-winning author of Chasing Charlie Cha

"Nick Forte reminds me of Robert B. Parker's Spenser: a PI with a finely tuned sense of justice who doesn't take anyone's s***. Any fan of hardboiled detective fiction is in for a helluva ride."

~ Chris Rhatigan, former publisher of All Due Respect Books

Off the Books book cover

I told Jason Worthington I’d find his daughter in a week. I surfed the internet and searched flophouses, cathouses, bar rooms, pool rooms, jails, hospitals, morgues, and SRO hotels. Found her in a pay-by-the-hour motel at 10:48 p.m. two days after her father and I spoke.

Worthington would have preferred me to find her alive.

Cindy’s body was warm, the spike still in her arm. She looked as if she’d fallen asleep waiting and didn’t hold my tardiness against me.

I did what any real-life professional investigator would do, and what no fictional private eye would even consider.

I called the police.

The cops kept me at the scene half the night, at the station until dawn. They asked the same questions both places and got the same answers.

Why were you there?”

Her father asked me to find her.”

Why was the father looking for her?”

My guess would be to keep what happened from happening. You’ll have to ask him yourself to be sure.”

The usual bullshit.

I called Worthington on my way out of the police station. Told him I had news but would prefer to deliver it in person. I didn’t suppose I needed to tell him anything after that, but it wouldn’t hurt to allow him time to prepare before I scarred the rest of his life.

He answered the door already dressed for work. Navy suit, white shirt with French cuffs, gold links. His tie was blue with small designs, maybe horses, gathered in a perfect four-square knot. Red suspenders. A suit coat hung from the newel post behind him. His forehead gleamed beneath a silvery hairline. His teeth were as white and straight as a Klan meeting.

About the Author

Dana King author image

Off the Books
is Dana King’s sixth Nick Forte private investigator novel. Two of the earlier books (A Small Sacrifice and The Man in the Window) received Shamus Award nominations from the Private Eye Writers of America. Dana also writes the Penns River series of police procedurals set in a small Western Pennsylvania town, as well as one standalone novel, Wild Bill, which is not a Western. His short fiction appears in numerous anthologies and web sites. He is a frequent panelist at conferences and reads at Noirs at Bars from New York to North Carolina.

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for featuring today's book and author.

Dana King said...

Thanks for hosting me, Lisabet. I'll be around all day, so if anyone has questions, drop them in a comment and I promise to get back to you.

Marcy Meyer said...

Thanks for sharing. The blurb and excerpt sound good.

Sherry said...

This sounds like a fantastic read!

Kim said...

I enjoyed the guest post. This seems like a really good series.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello, Dana - Sorry I was not here to welcome you on Friday. I was traveling and off the net. Thank you for your frank and entertaining post, as well as the intriguing excerpt.

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