Synopses & Reviews
An interview with Reed Arvin
You were a musician for quite some time, yes?
My musical voyages have taken me to some very strange places. I was once in a reggae band in which the drummer's name -- I mean the one on his driver's license, not his nickname -- was Turnip Greens. First name Turnip, last name Greens. I've been in salsa bands, and I once played in a Latin band in the garage of a Ford dealership in Guadalajara. Another time, I played for some drug dealers in Colombia. I didn't know they were drug dealers until afterwards, when they tried to pay the band with cocaine. Believe me, the music business was everything I had heard about and more. Eventually I became a producer, which at least meant I got to stay home for a change. Academically, I have two degrees in music.
Do you feel that background helped with your new career as a novelist?
For me, studying music was actually better preparation for writing than studying writing. Some things you have to learn by coming at them sideways. Also, music -- learning it, playing it -- taught me to respect hard work. More than anything, it was teaching me the love of rhythm and melody. A sentence that sings is just as beautiful as a good melodic line. And, yes, my travels as a musician showed me many sides of this world, experiences which I draw from for my novels.
Your main characters in "The Last Goodbye are involved in the areas of law, big business, genetic research, drug therapies, and even computerhacking. Why these areas?
These are some of the arenas today where ethics are being played out in our society. There's nothing as interesting to me as the great debate going on right now about how people decide right and wrong. We have the great religious traditions, which used to inform our moral choices. But society is currently undergoing an experiment in little gods, where everyone gets to decide what's right and wrong for themselves. It's having some explosive results, obviously. And just as it does in our real lives, that drama plays out in the book. There are people who wield enormous power in the story, and they're thoroughly modern in their worldview. They're like Jeffrey Skillings or Ron Lay, I suppose. They're making up their morals as they go, and they're taking a lot of people along for the ride.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
For the genetic technology, I consulted with the head of mass spectrometry at Vanderbilt University. He's a brilliant, colorful character who is worth a book on his own. And I had no idea these guys made the kind of money they do. They actually get up to a half of any patent they discover, so they can make millions. My guy made multiples of what the football coach made, and I doubt one person in a thousand has any idea.
Lest we think this is all about serious stuff, there is a powerful romance in "The Last Goodbye.
Jack, the main character in "The Last Goodbye, ends up in a very unlikely romance for him. He's a small town Alabama boy, now a hard luck Atlanta lawyer, who falls hard for a glamorous opera singer. She's the wife of a biotech firm's CEO, an upstanding citizen but unscrupulous businessman who Jack suspects isinvolved in the murder of a friend. They meet as he investigates the case, and some sparks fly.
They are from very different worlds, but I wanted to create this pairing in order to turn some cliches upside down. She is black, sophisticated, speaks several languages, and is rich. Jack is white, barely paying his bills, and something of a hick. But he's also a guy with a ton of street smarts who is determined to get to the bottom of what is killing people in the inner city of Atlanta, and it ends up she might be involved in some way.
And music works its way in after all, doesn't it?
Jack went off to college, but is always fighting that small town stereotype. Still, you can't take the country out of the boy. His take on opera is pretty hilarious, actually. He's moved by the music on occasion, but he'd rather be listening to Waylon Jennings. When he falls for an opera singer, it's a pretty massive clash of cultures, but they are both looking for something from each other.
Friendship plays a big role in the book, and in your life?
Friendship is huge to me, as is loyalty. People run through our lives these days, and friendships tend to last only a season. But I'm the kind of guy who likes to dig in with a few people and stay loyal. Jack is like that. He will go to the mat for his friends, and they repay the favor.
There was a lot going on in your life just before you wrote "The Last Goodbye, wasn't there?
You could say that. You know how psychologists say there are five main stresses in life? Hopefully you stretch these over years, because they're psychologically tectonic. The five are: divorce, moving from a long-held residence, change of career, a life-threateningillness, and the death of a family member. In a 90 day period, I experienced 4 out of 5. I got cancer, got divorced, put my house on the market, and decided to become a full time writer. The missing one was the death of a family member, but my father did have a heart attack just before this time, which, thankfully, he recovered from. We were still on edge about his health, naturally. It's as near as five out of five as makes any odds.
How did you survive?
So as hard as all that was, it was more than just a dark time for you.
When it comes to handling a crisis, I learned a big lesson from my mother. She's blind, and has accomplished an astonishing amount in her life. She went to law school blind -- as a woman, in the forties, mind you -- got in the Harvard Book of Outstanding Lawyers in America, and ultimately became the first blind woman judge in American history. She taught me that life is for living, not whining. You get up. You do the work. You rock on, and anything else is just crying in your beer. She doesn't use the phrase 'rock on', though. She would say something like, and I'm not kidding, 'Get your gumption up.'
Is that the source of Jack's mantra? "Strip it down, let it go."
That phrase means different things at different times. But yes, it means to let what's wrong go and get on
"[J]ust might kick [Arvin] to a whole new level, critically and commercially. He presents love, sex, money, power, and violence in an irresistibly melancholy noir package in which redemption is the motive but hell beckons at every turn." Wes Lukowsky, Booklist (Starred Review)
"It's not Grisham that Arvin should be compared to, but the incomparable John D. MacDonald. Those readers who value intelligence, fine writing and action will find it all in this outstanding novel." Publishers Weekly
"[A]s breathlessly entertaining as it is preposterous. Less original than The Will but fleeter and more ambitious in a legal-gangbusters way that genre fans will find as irresistible as a call from the grave for revenge." Kirkus Reviews
"Unlike his more original debut, The Will, Arvin's sophomore effort treads familiar ground....The plot also feels pieced together, which means the sum of the book's parts does not make a believable whole." Library Journal
When a down-on-his-luck attorney gets mixed up with a gorgeous singer with a secret past, it results in an absorbing tale of love, betrayal, and murder.
From the hot new suspense writer critics predict will have Grisham fans "switching their allegiance in midstream" comes a thrilling tale of love and murder set on the mean streets and in the sleek society haunts of Atlanta. . . .
Sleeping with a client's gorgeous girlfriend may have been the gutsiest move in Jack Hammond's formerly booming law career, but it wasn't the smartest. Booted from his elite law firm, Jack now scrapes by as a court-appointed attorney, his client list a revolving door of small-time drug offenders and petty thieves.
When his friend -- a computer whiz and former addict who'd brought his life back from the brink -- is found dead in his apartment with a syringe stuck in his arm, Jack knows something is very wrong.
Where the cops see just another overdose, Jack sees a murder. Investigating the case, he learns that his friend was obsessed with a beautiful singer -- who also happens to be half of the most popular power couple in Atlanta.
Talented and privileged, the spellbinding Michele Sonnieris nevertheless a deeply troubled woman, plagued by secrets. Against his better judgment -- and in a disturbing echo of his earlier fall from grace -- Jack is pulled further and further into her world, where he discovers more suspicious deaths, all pointing toward a mysterious cover-up.
A volatile tale of love, betrayal, and murder shot through with tenderness and poignant humanity, The Last Goodbye is a riveting thriller with a thunderously beating heart, a masterful page-turner that probes the meaning of love and the burdens of the past.
Investigating the mystery of a friend's death, a a down-on-his-luck attorney gets mixed up with a gorgeous singer with a secret past--a dangerous involvement that pulls him into the worlds of high-tech biological research, big business, and high society.
About the Author
Reed Arvin grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Kansas. After a successful career as a music producer in Nashville, Arvin began writing full-time. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.