Monday, March 26, 2018



Francis Hoyt, arrogant, athletic, brilliant, manipulative and ruthless, is a master burglar. He specializes in stealing high-end silver, breaking into homes that seem impenetrable. He’s never been caught in the act, although he has spent some time in prison on a related charge, time he used to hone his craft and make valuable connections.

One day, Charlie Floyd, brilliant, stubborn, an experienced investigator, who has recently retired from his job with the attorney general’s department for the state of Connecticut, receives a phone call from Manny Perez, a Cuban-American Miami police detective. Perez, who’s worked with Floyd previously, wants to enlist the former investigator in his efforts to put an end to Francis Hoyt’s criminal career. Floyd accepts the offer and they team up to bring Hoyt to justice.

As Floyd and Perez get closer to their prey, Hoyt finds out they’re after him and rather than backing down, he taunts them, daring them to bring him in. As the story develops, the stakes get higher and higher, until the three men confront each other in a stunning climax.

Book Details

Title: Second Story Man

Author: Charles Salzberg

Genre: Literary Crime/Suspense
Series: Henry Swann

Publisher: Down & Out Books (March 26, 2018)

Print length: 296 pages


Charles, what’s the story behind the title of your book?

The novel centers around three characters. First, and most important, because without him there’d be no story, is Francis Hoyt, a master burglar. He’s literally a “second story man,” who breaks into the homes of the wealthy. In winter, he’s based in Florida. In summer, he moves north, following his prey. He began his career breaking into homes at dinnertime, when he knew his victims would be home, along with their valuables, and most probably downstairs, dining. His “second story,” is that as a result of a bad decision, he’s spent some time in prison, but now that he’s out, he’s changed his modus operandi. Now, he works late at night, when his victims are asleep.

The two men after him, Charlie Floyd, a recently retired Connecticut state investigator, is in search of his “second story,” wondering what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. Manny Perez, a Cuban-American Miami police detective, is living his “second story,” in his adoptive country, now trying to make up for a mistake that got him temporarily suspended from the force.

How did you create the plot for Second Story Man?
I don’t write with an outline. In fact, I never know what’s going to happen from one page to the next. I start with an idea or a character—in this case it was Francis Hoyt, the thief, after reading about two master burglars, the “dinnertime bandit” and the “silver thief.” Once I had the character, I borrowed two other characters from an earlier novel, Devil in the Hole (which was based on a true crime, a man who murders his three kids, wife, mother and family dog, and disappears), shook everything up, and then saw what happens.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
In this book, only Francis Hoyt, who’s an amalgam of the “dinnertime bandit” and the “silver thief,” in terms of the way they worked. But everything about his character was totally invented. But I do sometimes use the names of people I know in my novels, and this is no exception. People seem to like the attention, even if it’s negative.

Is your book based on real events?
Partially. Some of the thefts I describe that happened before the book begins, are based on real events.

Sounds very intriguing. Where’s home for you?
Born and raised in New York City. And the most time I’ve spent away from it was four years of college and one year of law school. I get a little antsy when I’m away from the city for more than five or six days.

What do you love about where you live?
I could easily say everything, including all the things that non-New Yorkers (and sometimes New Yorkers) complain about, but that would be avoiding the question. I love the energy. I love the diversity. I love the various neighborhoods. I love the interesting people I meet and associate with every day (most of them having come from somewhere else). I love that it’s a city that never closes down. I once came home from a Jerry Lee Lewis concert around two-thirty in the morning, when everyone should be asleep, only to find my neighbor was on her way out. It’s a city where if you’re bored there’s something wrong with you. And, I love the anonymity. I can live in a building for ten, twenty years, and maybe know one or two neighbors, and then only to say hello. I love that your lifestyle is, for the most part, unjudged by my fellow New Yorkers.

If you had an extra $100 a week to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
I know this might sound a little ridiculous, but I really do have all I want (and need). But if a hundred bucks were burning a hole in my pocket I’d probably spend it on books and movies.

Excellent choice! 
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Two things, no good deed goes unpunished (thanks to Clare Booth Luce for that insight), and we are all our own worst enemies.

Who would you pick to write your biography?
There’s no way my life has the makings of anything anyone would want to read, which is perhaps why I’m drawn to writing. But if I had to choose, I’d pick my friend, T.J. Stiles, who writes wonderful biographies, including two of my favorites: one on Jesse James and the other on George Armstrong Custer.

What dumb things did you do during your college years?
My problem isn’t the dumb things I did it’s the dumb things I didn’t do. I was a shy kid, a year younger than anyone else in my class, because I skipped a grade in junior high, and so I led an incredibly boring and low-risk college life.

What is the most daring thing you've done?
Quitting a job in the mailroom of New York magazine after three months with no other job in sight, having sold not one word of what I’d written, to start my life as a freelance writer. I look back and ask myself, “What the hell was I thinking?”

What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
See above answer.

What’s one thing that you wish you knew as a teenager that you know now?
That not everyone is judging you all the time like you think they are. The truth is, they’re probably not thinking about you at all.

What makes you bored?
I don’t think I’ve ever been bored in my life. There’s always a book to read, a newspaper to read, a movie to see, a TV program to watch, a magazine to catch up on. Or just being lost in my own “deep” thoughts. By the way, sometimes these thoughts are like, “What should I have for dinner tonight?”

What is your most embarrassing moment?
It would be impossible to answer this since I’m pretty much embarrassed every moment of my life.

What choices in life would you like to have a redo on?
I don’t think about that too much, because all the choices I’ve made have made me who I am, but I guess the choices would pretty much all center around relationships with women.

If someone gave you $5,000 and said you must solve a problem, what would you do with the money?
I can’t imagine any problem that could be solved by throwing $5,000 at it, but I would probably donate it to something like Meals on Wheels. My mother benefited from that program, and it’s more than just feeding the elderly or infirm. It’s about giving them daily contact with another human being, and having someone who actually keeps tabs on them. I might split it with visiting nurse services. Or, I’d give it to a friend in need.

What makes you nervous?
Pretty much everything, but certainly any level of success, since I think it’s always going to disappear.

What makes you happy?
Anything going right makes me happy. Seeing my friends and family happy, makes me happy. Being able to get up every morning and do whatever I want, makes me happy. Not having to wear a tie and jacket to work every day (or ever), makes me happy. See, it doesn’t take much.

What makes you scared?
Prejudice. And clowns.

What makes you excited?
Getting published. Having people enjoy my books. Seeing my students get published. Waking up every morning. Seeing friends.

Do you have another job outside of writing?
I teach writing.

Who are you?
I’m still working on the answer to this one.

If you could only save one thing from your house, what would it be?

Would you rather be a lonely genius, or a sociable idiot?
Can I be both?

What’s one of your favorite quotes?
 "What if a much of a which of a wind should give the truth to summer’s lie.” A line from an e.e. cummings poem. It not only feels good to recite, but think about what it means.

And two more, both from Shakespeare: “Those were pearls that were his eyes.” And, “What fools these mortals be.”

What would you like people to say about you after you die?
“You know, I kinda miss him now that he’s gone.”

What’s your favorite line from a book?
I’ve got so many, but the one that comes to mind is: “I am an American, Chicago born – Chicago, that somber city – and go at things as I have taught myself, free-style, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man's character is his fate, says Heraclitus, and in the end there isn't any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.” Saul Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March.

What would your main character say about you?
“What a sucker.”

Who are your favorite authors?
Vladimir Nabokov, Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Dashiell Hammett.    

What book are you currently reading and in what format?
I usually have two or three books going at the same time, and though I prefer reading paperback or hardcover to digital, I wind up reading both ways. Right now, I’m reading my friend, David Swinson’s Crime Song, Ranger Games, by Ben Blum, and The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins. But I’ve got a stack of other books to catch up on, and when I go on vacation I always bring my Kindle and read them on that.

Do you have a routine for writing?
I wish I did. I’m horrible about that. I’ve never, ever missed a deadline, and that includes all those years working as a magazine journalist, but I am very undisciplined in terms of carving out particular times to write. I just do it when I feel like it. Fortunately, I’m a very fast typist—90 words a minute—and I can focus really well when I sit down to write.   

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about your writing?
When Devil in the Hole came out a writer friend of mine, Ken Wishnia, asked me to come speak to his college class. They all read the book. As soon as I got there one young woman stood up and said, “You know, I feel really guilty because after reading this book I felt sorry for the murderer.” That was the best thing anyone could have said, because I wanted to write a human character, someone who’d committed a horrendous crime, murdering his entire family, but could still be, on some level, someone you could feel for, not simply a monster. Monsters are stereotypical. People are much more complicated than that. And during the same class, another young woman stood up and said, “Your book is the first book I’ve read all the way through since junior high school.”

If you could be a ghostwriter for any famous author, whom would you pick?
I actually was a ghostwriter and I’d never do it again.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on the next Henry Swann novel, tentatively called, Swann’s Down, which might be the last. Of course, I said that about the last one, too. The truth is, if I come up with an idea, I’ll probably write a sixth.


Swann’s Last Song
Swann Dives In 
Swann’s Lake of Despair
Swann’s Way Out 

Devil in the Hole

Triple Shot


Charles Salzberg is a novelist, journalist, and acclaimed writing instructor. He is the author of the Henry Swann detective series, including Swann’s Last Song which was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First PI Novel and Devil in the Hole, which was named one of the best crime novels of 2013 by Suspense magazine. He has taught writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Hunter College, the Writer’s Voice, and the New York Writers Workshop, where he is a Founding Member. His writing has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, New York Magazine, and GQ. He lives in New York City.

Connect with Charles:
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