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September 21, 2018

Emmy Award–winning songwriter of "I've Gotta Be Me" turns to writing mystery novels with his Detective Jericho series.

You've won an Emmy Award for music and have written Broadway shows, a novel, a screenplay that was produced by Merchant Ivory, and songs that have been recorded by the likes of Sammy Davis Jr. and Michael Jackson. What inspired your turn toward noir? What does crime fiction allow you that these other creative forms do not?

I've always been fascinated by the 1920s and '30s, particularly the crimes and mysteries of that period. My film The Wild Party is actually a musical murder mystery, inspired by the Fatty Arbuckle scandal of Hollywood's silent film era.

Writing fiction is a late-in-life endeavor that gives me the opportunity to dig into human behavior on a more granular level. It allows me to be more personal and circumspect, which in turn teaches me more about myself. It's also fun.

What was the inspiration behind A Man's Partner?

"When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it," Sam Spade says at the end of The Maltese Falcon, which is one of my favorite films. Spade is explaining his dogged search for the killer of his partner even though he didn't like him that much. This line got me thinking about the possibility of my character Jericho's partner from his NYPD homicide days being killed back in the city. How would he feel? How would he investigate? Would it lead him out of East Hampton and back to the mean streets of East Harlem?
To what extent do you draw from real life or from actual crimes?

I occasionally draw from true crime, but my main source and interest is the endless variety of humankind's inhumanity toward itself. I'd also like my books to raise the consciousness of the reader about social, political, and cultural issues.
Why or how do you think A Man's Partner and your Detective Jericho books are particularly relevant now?

The literary detective is a character people always respond to. He or she is strong, courageous, brilliant, and tough-minded, virtues that are always combined with flaws: emotional insecurity, ambivalence toward love, distrust of human relationships, and cynicism about life and the mean-spirited times in which we live. But through it all, the detective is always a kind of knight-errant, seeking justice in an unjust world, a hero with universal appeal.

Who is your ideal reader and why?

My ideal reader is someone who loves and respects the genre of detective fiction. Someone who loves solving puzzles and matching wits with the author. This reader is a person who can enjoy a book that is fun to read but also has an underlying sense of purpose.
What is the one thing you most want to say about you or your book?

All of my Jericho books are about a tough, streetwise NYPD cop and amazing detective who is a fish out of water in posh East Hampton. They're complex and entertaining and would make an amazing TV series.