|photo: Sandy Poirier
Rory Flynn is the pen name of novelist Stona Fitch. Fitch was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and his family moved often throughout the South and Midwest. At Princeton, he edited the student daily and studied fiction with Joyce Carol Oates and Russell Banks. After brief stints as a reporter in Anchorage, Ala., and Miami, Fla., Fitch joined the country-punk band Scruffy the Cat and spent years touring the U.S. in a smelly van and washing dishes in a dive bar. His disturbing second novel, Senseless, is now an equally disturbing feature film. In 2008, he co-founded the Concord Free Press, the world's first generosity-based publisher, publishing novels by Scott Phillips, Lucius Shepard, Gregory Maguire and others. Fitch's debut novel as Rory Flynn, Third Rail (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 10, 2014), begins a series featuring Eddy Harkness, a Boston narcotics detective with a knack for finding drugs, clues and trouble. NBC/Universal recently optioned Third Rail for television.
On your nightstand now:
My nightstand is usually a jumble of new books and $2 paperbacks from way back. I've always read without worrying about whether a book fits within a certain category, or whether it's what I'm "supposed" to read or like. So here's what's there now: The Fever by Megan Abbott; Harlequin's Millions by Bohumil Hrabal; Bruno, Chief of Police by Martin Walker; Fallen Land by Patrick Flanery; The Ballad of a Small Player by Lawrence Osborne; The Impossible Exile, an excellent biography of Stefan Zweig by George Prochnik; and A Man Called Destruction by Holly George-Warren, a very different biography of the equally problematic Alex Chilton.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Other by Thomas Tryon completely freaked me out when I read it as an impressionable young reader back in Cincinnati. Weird twins, a deadly fire, a severed finger--The Other has it all.
Your top five authors:
I'd read anything by these five authors: Elmore Leonard, J.M. Coetzee, Shirley Jackson, John Fante and Bohumil Hrabal. But it's difficult not to mention Walter Mosley, Kate Atkinson, Robert B. Parker, Tom McCarthy, Anthony Burgess, Harry Crews, B. Traven and Bruno Schulz.
Book you've faked reading:
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, American Gods by Neil Gaiman and any other long book someone recommends. So I also faked reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. I like my jests finite.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I used to push Under the Skin by Michel Faber all the time. Then it morphed into a Scarlett Johansson film and now everyone knows it, though the book is still a must-read. I also evangelize for Go with Me by Castle Freeman, Jr., which is one of the finest, darkest short novels ever.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Any of the "lurid" '50s paperback covers of repackaged literary novels, like Faulkner novels with sexxxy covers. Talk about bait and switch. I kept looking for the juicy parts and never really found them, but the covers got me to read more Faulkner, so they worked.
Book that changed your life:
George V. Higgins's The Friends of Eddie Coyle, because both the book and its film adaptation with Robert Mitchum make Boston seem so bad, but in a good way. That book was definitely one of the reasons I ended up living in Boston.
Favorite line from a book:
"It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in." --Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
I began reading Georges Simenon way back, before I moved on to Ed McBain, Charles Willeford and Ian Rankin--and way before I burrowed into books by dead Czechs. So I'd love to be able and go back and read anything by Simenon for the first time, since it's an eye-opener--no matter what book it is.
Your inspiration for Third Rail:
Originally, I wanted to write a novel about a Boston cop who loses his gun and has to fight to get it back. But it definitely moved on from there. The Eddy Harkness series uses Boston as a resonant locale for exploring broader human frailties--with characters who act against their own interests, get involved with drugs and schemes they shouldn't, miss opportunities and make deadly mistakes.