Science Book a Day Interviews Ben H Winters


Special thanks to Ben H Winters for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – Countdown City: The Last Policeman Book II

Ben H. Winters is the author of seven novels, including most recently Countdown City (Quirk), an NPR Best Book of 2013 and the winner of the Philip K. Dick Award. Countdown City is the sequel to The Last Policeman, which was the recipient of the 2012 Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America; it was also named one of the Best Books of 2012 by and Slate. World of Trouble, the third in the Last Policeman Trilogy, comes out in July of 2014. – From Ben’s Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for Countdown City (and the Last Policeman Trilogy)?

My idea was to do a detective novel, an old and durable and well-loved form, but to find an intriguing spin on it. The intriguing (I hope) spin was, what if the world is about to end? How and why does my hero nevertheless continue in his work, solving mysteries and maintaining law and order? So the asteroid entered the universe of the book to serve that conceit; to plausibly create the world I wanted for the setting of my story.

#2 – How did the use of the deadly asteroid help or challenge your writing of this novel?

It helped and challenged it in myriad ways. It was hugely helpful in that every story is about a protagonist trying to get something, and encountering obstacles along the way; for my hero, the impending destruction of the planet creates a lot of obstacles. So those were fun to imagine out and throw in Henry’s path. The challenge for me as an author was to do enough research and enough hard thinking to make this altered world as realistic as possible, as grounded as I could.

#3 – What inspiration did you draw on for the hero of Detective Hank Palace?

None, consciously; except I suppose Batman just a little bit, just in his background, a fact that one of the secondary characters gleefully points out to him in The Last Policeman. The main inspiration was really just the old and reliable trope of “the cop who cares when no one else does.” I was like, let’s see what happens when there’s a pretty good reason for no one to care, but he still does, you know?

#4 – What was it like to win the Phillip K Dick Award?

It was a huge, huge, honor, and entirely unexpected. I had not prepared a speech, or even really thought about what I might say, so certain was I not to win. But I absolutely love Dick’s work (particularly The Man in the High Castle), so it means a great deal.

#5 – Are you working on any new books/projects you can tell us about?

The conclusion of the Last Policeman trilogy is titled World of Trouble and it comes out in July of this year. And yes, I am indeed working on a new book, which shares some elements with the Last Policeman series, but is in most ways very different. All I can tell you is that it is driving me totally insane, and every morning I wake up thinking either its the best thing I’ve ever done, or that it’s a giant pile of garbage and i’m a total hack. I suspect that any of your readers who have written a book—or done anything that requires perseverance, nerve, and taste—will know what I mean.

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