I am delighted to be on the blog tour for Chuck Caruso’s latest novel, The Lawn Job and the author himself is joining me … Over to you, Chuck!
Introducing Craig Collins, My Anti-Hero in The Lawn Job
By Chuck Caruso
In an early chapter of my debut crime novel The Lawn Job, my protagonist the “anti-hero” Craig Collins steals a wallet from an unattended purse in a pizzeria. He grabs the wallet, quickly emptying it of cash and dumping it in a trash bin, before sitting down to calmly drink his beer and wait for his food to be delivered to his table. He’s immoral and impulsive, but he’s also lazy.
An ex-con, Collins reveals an eagerness to take advantage of people and situations in petty ways. Snatching the wallet was just an easy crime of opportunity. Although his court-ordered counsellor has told Collins he has “poor impulse control,” Collins himself has a hard time seeing this theft (or anything else he does) as wrong. He sees himself as being constantly presented with either opportunities or obstacles.
To people like Collins, life feels chaotic. Why other people do the things they do often mystifies him. Other people either help or hinder him seemingly at random, so his response is Hobbesian. If they help him, Collins takes as much as he can from them, often taking so much that he destroys whatever good will may have existed. If they hinder him, he still tries to take from them but in more sneaky or surreptitious ways. If they thwart him, he lashes out or seeks revenge.
Writing about Collins proved to be something of an experiment in empathy for me. I had to stretch my consciousness to view the world as he does. That expansion of my empathy via Collins strikes me as rather ironic since Collins himself basically lacks empathy. Collins feels like a victim of circumstances beyond his control. Nothing is ever his fault. He always sees himself as a man more sinned against than sinning.
In real life, I’m a perfectly nice guy, so people who know me are often surprised that I can write so convincingly from that criminal perspective, but we all contain darkness. As a writer, you just have to be willing to risk visiting those places in yourself. You have to start looking for places to hide a body, even as you reassure yourself that you’d never commit an actual murder.
While writing The Lawn Job, I benefitted from knowing people like Collins. Although he’s not based on anyone in particular, I’ve had friends and even family members who have followed similar paths to his. They’ve been in and out of jail. They’ve been involved in drugs and prostitution and other petty crimes. I listen to their stories. I try to see things from their perspective. That’s what we do as writers.
Beyond all the fun we have writing and reading crime fiction, I believe the genre remains vital because it reminds us that ultimately there’s no “us” and no “them.” Imagining criminals, even murderers, as somehow “other” or monstrous provides only false comfort.
Crime fiction has fascinated us for centuries because we know we’re all secretly capable of such things. There, but for the grace of God, go I.
I can’t wait to hear what you think of Craig Collins and The Lawn Job.
I am so excited about this book and cannot wait to read it!!! What’s that you say? You can’t either? Thought not, pop over to Amazon now and grab your copy!!!
Here’s the blurb …
Cloud Lodge Books (21 July 2017)
When ex-con Craig Collins began his new job mowing lawns, he was ready to leave his former life where it belonged-in the past. But everything changes when Craig suddenly loses one of his contracts after staring a little too hard at the aging trophy wife of his pizzeria mogul client, Big Gino Pasarelli. Soon, Craig begins to hatch a plan for revenge-along with his transgender sort-of-girlfriend, Juana. Since Big Gino seems to enjoy cheating on his wife, Craig and Juana decide to blackmail him with a sex tape. Their plan goes horribly wrong, and Craig finds himself in deeper and deeper trouble. It might be up to Big Gino’s wife, Sheila, to bail him out, but can she be trusted? Thrilling and comical, The Lawn Job is a delightfully suspenseful look at what can go wrong in a deceptively simple suburban neighbourhood. As Craig finds himself fighting for his life among a colourful cast of characters, it’s hard to believe it all began with a simple lawn job.
Be sure to keep up with the rest of the tour!
About the author …
Chuck Caruso is a nineteenth-century Americanist and Edgar Allan Poe scholar. He teaches in the Department of English at Marylhurst University and has contributed to academic publications from Johns Hopkins University and the documentary film Edgar A. Poe: Buried Alive. Caruso’s crime and horror writing has been published in Cemetery Dance, Shroud, and Dark Discoveries. Caruso lives in Vancouver, Washington. The Lawn Job is his first published novel.