Today I’m hosting prize-winning author Douglas Corleone
and his novel Night on Fire.
Douglas, an ex New York criminal defence attorney, will be posting about how he set up his Kevin Covlelli mystery series
and has also sent an excerpt of his latest novel. Look forward to a treat! Take it away, Douglas.
The Kevin Corvelli mystery series was inspired by two of my greatest experiences – working for several years as a criminal defense attorney in New York City and beginning a new life in Hawaii at the age of 30. When I first moved to Honolulu in the fall of 2005, I saw the island paradise through completely fresh eyes — I’d never even visited Hawaii before. That served as a great jumping-off point for my protagonist Kevin Corvelli. Like me, Kevin Corvelli had been a criminal defense attorney in New York. Only Kevin’s reason for fleeing was a bit different from mine. Kevin felt responsible for the death of an innocent client; I simply desired less stress in my life.
So Kevin Corvelli and I moved to Waikiki at the same point in our lives. But that’s when our two lives completely diverged. Kevin continued to practice criminal law in Honolulu, and I set out to write about his adventures. My debut novel ONE MAN’S PARADISE is both a fish-out-of-water story and a tale of redemption. Kevin Corvelli must find a way to adapt to this entirely new world while handling a high-profile murder case and trying to relieve his conscience of the events that transpired in New York.
The seeds of that first novel were planted by the around-the-clock coverage of the Natalee Holloway story. ONE MAN’S PARADISE begins much the same way – a beautiful young woman last seen on a tropical beach with a local man. Of course, that’s where the similarities cease, with the exception of the news media’s relentless speculation about what really occurred on that dark beach. ONE MAN’S PARADISE went on to win the Minotaur Books/Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award, and immediately, I began work on the sequel, NIGHT ON FIRE.
NIGHT ON FIRE was also inspired by an event in my own life. In NIGHT ON FIRE, Kevin Corvelli narrowly escapes a deadly arson fire at a popular Hawaiian beach resort, only to land the prime suspect as a client. When I was a child, traveling with my family in Canada, I was awoken one night to the sound of a fire alarm. I was terrified, and I remember that feeling of terror as though it occurred just recently, even though I don’t recall a single other moment of that trip. The fire had started two floors down from ours, and all hotel guests were evacuated without any serious injuries. Still, I don’t think I had a fitful night’s rest in a hotel in the ten years following that event. And even as I re-read NIGHT ON FIRE now, I still feel a sense of dread as Kevin Corvelli attempts to escape the fire – and rescue a small child in the process.
So that’s how the Kevin Corvelli mystery series came about – partly autobiographical, except for all the danger, of course.
Kevin Corvelli—a hotshot New York defense attorney who packed up his bags and hung his shingle in Hawaii to dodge the spotlight—is deep in his mai tais at a resort when an argument erupts down at the other end of the bar. It’s a pair of newlyweds, married that very day on the beach. And since Corvelli doesn’t do divorces, he all but dismisses the argument.
That’s at least until the fire breaks out later that night, and he barely escapes his hotel room. Most weren’t so lucky, including the new husband. His wife, Erin, becomes not only the police’s prime suspect for arson and murder but also Corvelli’s newest client, and she has a lot working against her, like motive and opportunity, not to mention a history of starting fires.
The heat gets turned all the way up in Douglas Corleone’s scorching legal thriller Night on Fire, his second following the MB/MWA’s First Crime Novel Competition winner, One Man’s Paradise.Excerpt from NIGHT ON FIRE
DOUGLAS CORLEONE is a former New York City defense attorney and winner of the Mystery Writers of America/Minotaur Books First Crime Novel Competition. He now lives in the Hawaiian Islands with his wife and son. This is his second novel.
As I rise to consciousness I realize the prison alarm is just an alarm clock, maybe the loudest alarm clock on earth. Lying on my stomach I feel around for an extra pillow, place it atop my head and try to smother my ears.
When the cougar begins clawing at my back I realize this is no alarm clock. It’s a goddamn fire alarm, the kind of fire alarm even the dead could hear. I reach for another flat, lifeless pillow and tug it down hard over the first.
The cougar’s growling something at me.
“…time is it?” I shout.
I peek out from beneath my pillowed teepee and glance at the window. It’s still night, no light spilling in at all. My eyes flutter toward the digital alarm clock, which reads two-twenty something, the last digit blacked out by one of my socks.
Quickly I take inventory of myself: pounding head, burning stomach, a mouth that tastes like rum and coconut suntan lotion. So, nothing out of the ordinary.
The cougar meanwhile is on her feet, slipping back into her sundress, shouting at me to get out of bed.
“No way,” I say, lowering the heavy lids of my eyes.
Fire alarms, they go off all the time. Like car alarms, only louder. I’ve been putting up with this ever since my first semester at URI, some jacked-up resident advisor constantly chasing me naked out of the freshman dorm. Drills they called them. Drills held in the dead of night just to get the girls outside in their underwear, nipples instantly hardening under white cotton tank tops in the brisk New England air. Gossips loitering with their binoculars ready to report the following morning on who is sleeping with whom. Dorms, hotels, condos, apartment buildings, it’s always the same. Always a prankster, some joker or toker higher than an elephant’s eye blowing bong smoke up at the ceiling. Never is it a bona fide emergency.
Well, almost never.
The cougar smacks my bare back so hard that it stings. “There’s a fire,” she shouts.
I groan. “How do you know, baby?”
“Because there are flames out in the hall and there’s smoke coming in under the door,” she yells. “And stop calling me baby!”
That gets me up. Still in my boxers, I’m out of the bed and by the front door in a few rapid heartbeats, checking the handle for heat.
My hand sizzles for several seconds before I yank it away and yelp in pain. Yeah, it’s hot. Hellishly hot. And even from a few feet away I can see the flames licking the peephole I’m too frightened to approach with my face.
I turn and glance toward the sliding glass door to the lanai, but we’re sixteen floors up and cougars can’t fly. As far as I know, neither can lawyers.
There is one more exit in the room, a door that leads to a door that leads to the adjoining suite. By the time I raise my singed hand to point to it, the cougar is already there, the first door open, checking the second for heat.
“It’s cool,” she says, frantically trying the handle. “But it’s locked.”
I edge closer to the front door, squint my right eye and catch a glimpse out the peephole. The hall is now filled with thick black smoke, and it’s nearly impossible to see anything. But the smoke appears to be billowing from the left, and the suite adjoining ours is to our right. If we can get through that door, we might just have an avenue of escape.
In the distance I hear sirens. But for us it’s too little too late. If we’re going to survive, we’re going to do so on our own.
I don’t know about you, but I’m dying to know what happens next! Doug, thank you for a most interesting post. From chilly Norfolk in England I envy you those Hawaiian Islands and the susnshine and blue ocean.
To learn more about Douglas Corleone and his novels here are links to amazon and to Doug’s website.