What Motivates Me/How I Started: I’ve always been a voracious reader and, as events would later prove, a closet writing aspirant. After 25 years as a trial lawyer in L.A., I finally made the decision at age 50 to follow my dream, quit the law, and pursue writing on a full-time basis. After penning two spec novels — a legal thriller and a Depression-era true-crime saga — I submitted both manuscripts to the 2010 SouthWest Writers’ International Writing Contest where, out of a field of over 680 entrants, HARD TWISTED (the historical) came in second and HUSH MONEY (the thriller) came in first, making for a heck of an after-party chez Greaves.
Within two months of the SWW awards banquet, St. Martin’s had acquired HUSH MONEY in a multi-book deal, and Bloomsbury had acquired HARD TWISTED. Once published in 2012, HUSH MONEY earned starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, was a Critic’s Pick from Kirkus, and went on to be a finalist for a number of national honors, including the Shamus Award (Private-Eye Writers of America), the Rocky Award (Left-Coast Crime) and the Audie Award (Audio Publishers Ass’n) for Best Mystery of 2012. HARD TWISTED, also published in 2012, was hailed as a “taut and intriguing thriller” (London Sunday Times) and “a gritty, gripping read, and one that begs to be put on film” (L.A. Times,) at which point I could finally say, “Hey, I’m an author!”
Favorite Genre: I read pretty much everything, and because I publish with two houses simultaneously — something of a rarity — I actually write in multiple genres. As Chuck Greaves I continue to write the Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries (HUSH MONEY, GREEN-EYED LADY, and the newly-released THE LAST HEIR) for St. Martin’s Minotaur — breezy, first-person crime fiction — while as C. Joseph Greaves I write what I like to think of as more aspirational literary fiction for Bloomsbury. If there’s a common denominator to my writing, it’s that all of my novels thus far have touched to some extent on the legal system. As for my reading, I enjoy mysteries, literary fiction, general fiction, classics, and the occasional nonfiction.
What I’m Writing Now: I’m working on a really interesting (I hope) novelization of the 1936 vice trial of mobster Lucky Luciano. I’m taking four principals from the trial (prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, defendant Luciano, defense counsel George Morton Levy, and star witness Cokey Flo Brown) and following their lives over the course of a decade or so, culminating in one of the most famous criminal trials in American history. It’s been an exhausting effort, but also a fascinating look at New York in the Roaring Twenties and during the hangover years of the Great Depression, when so many lives were turned upside-down.
Encouraging Advice: I’ve yet to meet an author, now matter how famous, who can’t tell you a great rejection story. We all have them, and we wear them like battle scars. So don’t be discouraged by the subjective opinions of one or ten or even twenty so-called experts. Remember, Harper Lee had her manuscript for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD rejected by ten different publishers before it found a home at Lippencott. As William Goldman said of Hollywood, “nobody knows anything,” and that goes double for New York publishing.