I've added Brad Smith's previous books to my Canadian authors displays at the library in the past, but I admit I hadn't read this author until I picked up his new release - Red Means Run. And I really wish I had, because he's good - really good.
Criminal attorney Mickey Dupree is found dead at the local golf course. It looks to be murder - the golf club shaft through the chest points to it. And the cops think the clues point straight to Virgil Cain. Once they've locked him up in jail, Virgil realizes that the only way to prove his innocence is to do it himself. So....he breaks out of jail and starts to work the case himself.
Smith's forté is the characters he has created. Virgil is described as a 'clever, laconic charmer' and I don't think I could say it any better. But I would add in sexy. Kind of a country Jack Reacher if you will. The two cops pursuing Virgil are poles apart. Joe Brady is an inept bumbler completely unaware of his deficiencies, certain that he is the man. But Claire Marchand is another story - she's a match for Virgil - maybe in more ways than one. Their cat and mouse game is fantastic. The aging vet, Mary, is a solid supporting character with many of her own tales I suspect.
But those characters are also carrying a plot that is fun, fast and furious. The run up to the ending (which featured a great twist) had me turning pages at breakneck speed. Okay, so the characters and the plot are great - what else? The dialogue - short and snappy, matching the pace of the action. The book is set in the US, but I enjoyed the sly Canadian jibes and references thrown in.
Red Means Run will appeal to all readers - Smith has provided strong protagonists of both sexes. I can't wait to read the next in this new series.
Just a fantastic read - highly recommended. You can see Brad talking about Red Means Runs in this video. (And I think there's more than a little of Brad in Virgil.... which means I'm a little bit in love with Brad too...)
You can find Brad Smith on Facebook. Appetite whetted? Read an excerpt of Red Means Run.
I'm thrilled that Brad was able to stop by for a quick Q&A.
1) The title Red Means Run is taken from the Neil Young song Powderfinger. Did the lyrics inspire the idea behind the book? Or was the title added after you'd finished writing? (Check out the Red Means Run playlist)
The lyrics were definitely an inspiration as the song is a presence in the book. Virgil mentions that his late wife used to sing it to him from the porch when he walked home from a day in the fields. And the lyrics come back to him in the book’s climactic scenes.
2) Continuing with that idea - was the name of the main character - Virgil Cain - inspired by the song The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down? (also penned by a Canadian)
In part, yes. The book has a real musical element to it on several levels. And because Virgil lives near Woodstock – where The Band resided around the time they produced The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – it just seemed to fit. And Levon Helm – whose wonderful vocal makes that song so memorable – still lives in the area. I want to send him a copy of the book. (you’ll note I did drop the final “e” from Cain, though)
3) You've pursued a number of jobs and professions - what made you pick up writing? How much of your personal experiences do you draw on for your books?
I always wanted to write, but it took me a lot of years to develop the self-discipline required. During my ‘20’s I was pretty much committed to having fun (which can be a great source of research). As it turned out, I use a considerable amount of my personal experience in my books. You’ll notice I write more about carpentry than I do about interpretive dance. Trust me, that’s not by accident.
4) The cover of Red Means Run also carries the tag line " A Virgil Cain Mystery". I'm thrilled that there will be more of this - can you tell us anything about the next in the series?
Yes. In the next book, Virgil stumbles upon a steel cylinder containing a couple million dollars’ worth of pure cocaine and suddenly finds himself pursued by a whole bunch of unsavory characters – mad Russian cowboys, dirty cops, homicidal drug dealers…and a single mother trying to keep herself from returning to prison. Sort of like The Sound Of Music…without the music…and the Alps…and the Von Trapps…
5) I'm always interested to see what authors are reading themselves. What books/authors have been influential in your life?
I read a lot of non-fiction when writing. I recently finished Rin Tin Tin by Susan Orlean and Charlotte Gill’s terrific Eating Dirt. Going back to my youth, I’ve had a lot of influences – Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Hammett, William Kennedy. I like Richard Russo, Jim Harrison, Willie Morris, the early fiction of Ellen Gilchrist. I love all of Charles Portis.
Thanks Brad! Red Means Run releases January 10.