Babies don’t have rules, of course. That’s why they make such great subjects
for online videos. As long as you keep the hand tools and the vodka out of
their reach, it’s a lot of fun to watch a bouncing bundle of pure id. Bigger
challenges come when they get a little older, and it becomes time to start
teaching our children the very abstract concepts of right and wrong.
Those were concepts that I was struggling with myself. Not as a
mostly-functional adult (quick, hide the hand tools), but as a writer. I had
just begun to write seriously, working on the book that would evolve into PAST CRIMES. The
protagonist is Van Shaw, a man raised by a career criminal, in the kind of
environment where breaking the law is literally all in a day’s work.
So during the day I might need to explain to my daughter why we can’t just grab
the stuffed hippo and leave the store, while at night I was writing about Van,
who would not have been taught the same rule. Van would have learned how to
case the place, so that he and his grandfather could break into its combination
safe later that night to remove a whole lot of stuffed hippos, if you catch my
Not that Van still believed that was the right way to behave. Since breaking
from the criminal life and enlisting in the Army, Van had become a decorated war
veteran. And that added an extra challenge in the writing: explaining what
Van’s convictions had been in his youth, and showing how he’d fought to change
those as an adult.
Whenever we taught our child a new rule, we could see her wrestle with the idea.
Sometimes she accepted what she was told. Sometimes she negotiated the fine
points (which I see friends’ children doing too; are all children naturally
lawyers?) Once in a while she would break a rule, just to see what would
happen. In watching our daughter grapple with right and wrong, I occasionally
wondered what was going on in her mind. Was she angry at the sudden
restrictions? Confused about whether the rule applied to everyone, or just her?
And that led me to my favorite part of writing Past Crimes: popping in on
Van’s life when he was a child and young adult, in interstitial chapters
throughout the main plotline. The book is written in first person, and I
quickly found it both fun and challenging to write as a nine-year-old. Or at
fourteen, or seventeen. To think like a kid for a while, without having to
endure those years again. I wanted challenge, not abuse.
I believe we’re giving our daughter better principles than Van was taught. But
if not, I have faith that she’ll learn on her own when to put the hippo back
where it belongs.
About Glen Erik Hamilton
Glen Erik Hamilton is a Seattle native, who lived aboard a sailboat as a boy,
and grew up finding trouble around the marinas and commercial docks and islands
of the Pacific Northwest. He now lives in California with his family. Past Crimes is his first novel.
You can find Glen at glenerikhamilton.com, on Twitter @GlenErikH, and on Facebook.
About PAST CRIMES
When his estranged grandfather is shot and left for dead, an Army Ranger plunges
into the criminal underworld of his youth to find a murderer . . . and uncovers
a shocking family secret
From the time he was six years old, Van Shaw was raised by his Irish immigrant
grandfather Donovan to be a thief—to boost cars, beat security alarms, crack
safes, and burglarize businesses. But at eighteen, Dono's namesake and protégé
suddenly broke all ties to that life and the people in it. Van escaped into the
military, serving as an elite Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, after
ten years of silence, Dono has asked his grandson to come home to Seattle. "Tar
abhaile, más féidir leat"—Come home, if you can.
Taking some well-earned leave, Van heads to the Pacific Northwest, curious and a
little unnerved by his grandfather's request. But when he arrives at Dono's
house in the early hours of the morning, Van discovers the old thief bleeding
out on the floor from a gunshot to the head. The last time the two men had seen
each other Dono had also been lying on the floor—with Van pointing a gun at his
heart. With a lifetime of tough history between him and the old man, the
battle-tested Ranger knows the cops will link him to the crime.
To clear his name and avenge his grandfather, Van must track down the shooter.
Odds are strong that Dono knew the person. Was it a greedy accomplice? A
disgruntled rival? Diving back into the illicit world he'd sworn to leave
behind, Van reconnects with the ruthless felons who knew Dono best. Armed with
his military and criminal skills, he follows a dangerous trail of clues that
leads him deeper into Dono's life—and closer to uncovering what drove his
grandfather to reach out after years of silence. As he plummets back into this
violent, high-stakes world where right and wrong aren't defined by the law, Van
finds that the past is all too present . . . and that the secrets held by those
closest to him are the deadliest of all.
Edgy and suspenseful, rich with emotional resonance, gritty action, and a
deep-rooted sense of place, Past Crimes trumpets the arrival of a
powerful new noir talent.
10 comments posted.
Loved learning about your writing process and the challenges Van faced. I can't wait to "meet" Van and his story.
(Joanne Hicks 11:55pm February 23, 2015)
Congratulations on the publication of Past Crimes! Van sounds like a very interesting character. Thanks for sharing.
(Bonnie H 10:35am February 24, 2015)
Maybe I shouldn't say this, but, as a rule, I prefer books written by women authors. I guess it's the outlook given, but I'm changing my mind. Past Crimes sounds like a fascinating read and I think I would enjoy it.
(Anna Speed 12:41pm February 25, 2015)
Your book sounds real exciting , I hope to be reading it very soon. I love the ' who did it ' books , and always hate to put them down , like to read from beginning to end , but never have that much time . Congrats on your book and Best of Luck to you .
(Joan Thrasher 3:34pm February 25, 2015)