Sean Chercover’s new thriller The Trinity Game has just come out, and its garnering great reviews and super buzz. Kieran Shea caught up with Chercover for a bite of lunch at the new bistro Le Petit Goût in Chicago for this interview.
Kieran Shea: Hey, Sean. Glad you could make it. Hope you don’t mind, but I ordered appetizers and lunch already because this place is nuts. The whole wait staff here is in the weeds. Anyway, seeing that it’s lunch and not Bouchercon, I went ahead ordered us both some fizzy water too. Please tell me you’re a carnivore.
Sean Chercover: Thanks, Kieran, nice place you picked. The wait staff are all strangers to me, but they seem very friendly. I’m good with whatever you ordered. I’m not strictly a carnivore – I’m an omnivore. Truth be told, there’s a quiet voice in my head that says, “Stop eating animals.” But then someone offers me a burger and the voice goes away (for a while). Like I said, it’s a quiet voice. Maybe it’ll get louder. But not today.
Cool. Frites on the side for both us, but pretty straight up standard fare. I’ll let it be a surprise. Anyway, The Trinity Game. I recall you talking about this project at Indy B’con a couple of years back. Obviously this book is a complete departure from your Ray Dudgeon novels–a supercharged thriller with a sweeping canvas of locales. I kept thinking, boy, this must have been simmering for Sean for quite a while.
It simmered, all right. The idea for The Trinity Game first came to me in 1996, and I started writing it as a screenplay. Soon decided it should be a novel and put it on the shelf while I focused on a different screenplay, which I sold but which later died in development hell. Then I turned my attention to the Ray Dudgeon novels, but this idea kept calling to me from afar, sending me love notes, tugging at my sleeve. Finally it got right in my face and screamed “Write me!” So I did. By the way, have you ordered wine, or is this to be a dry lunch?
Wine? Um, no. Sorry, but when the waiter wanders back we can get some. (Flags waiter—orders mid-priced bottle of Côtes du Rhône.) Anyway, I’m sure you’re accustomed to slinging the quick elevator pitch, can you give Spinetingler readers an idea about what The Trinity Game is all about?
(Extremely long pause) It’s about con artists and mobsters and priests and televangelists and secret knowledge and global conspiracies. It’s also about fathers and sons, faith and skepticism, spiritual and carnal love. And New Orleans. That’s a terrible pitch, but I can seem to bring myself to regurgitate the flap copy (which can conveniently be found on my website, www.chercover.com). Maybe when that wine finally gets here…
I don’t think that’s a terrible pitch at all. This book and what’s always blown me away by about your work is the scope and depth of your creative canvas, you know? That you move your stories into a larger frame…addressing societal challenges and concerns without being preachy. I heard someone once say that what’s different about Sean Chercover–he’s got soul.
Wow – that may be the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me. Whoever said that, please give them a kiss on the mouth for me.
You seem to be going full bore on many fronts, at what point does Sean Chercover the storyteller ever take a breather, man? Do you ever run out of ideas?
I take time out from work to have adventures with my wife and son, I go running in the ravines with my dog, but beyond that, I’m pretty much always working. Look: I get to sit around in my underwear and make stuff up for a living. It’s the greatest job in the world, and one I’ve wanted basically my whole life. Why the hell would I want to take a breather from that? Do I ever run out of ideas? No. But it takes some time and effort to ascertain which of the ideas are the good ones.
I hear that. (At this point in the conversation, the wine arrives and we both help ourselves to generous pours after the waiter does his tasting thing. We both agree. Not bad for twenty bucks.) Hey, I’m sorry this may be off the cuff, but I’ve always wanted to ask you this. Are you a Paul Butterfield fan, Sean?
Right. Yes. Sorry, I zoned-out there for a minute. Paul Butterfield. I’m a fan, but probably not as much as I should be.
Blues harp players that occupy more mind-share for me include…Junior Wells, Sonny Boy Williamson (I and II), Sonny Terry, Little Walter, James Cotton, Carey Bell, Charlie Musselwheite, Billy Branch… But yes, Paul Butterfield deserves all praise. I have no idea where to rank him, but he clearly belongs with the names I’ve named. You wanna hear a Paul Butterfield story? You probably don’t. Mine isn’t very fun.
Sure, go ahead.
I was working as a talent coordinator on an Easter Seals telethon in Toronto, and after the show was over, we all went up to a hotel suite … it was quite a party. And Paul Butterfield was one of the musicians. He was a very nice man, very sweet, polite, but also very troubled, and was actively losing his battle with addiction. Actively. It was a rough night. And he died not long after that.
Wow. So tragic. But I had a feeling you were well-versed in that kind of groove. Besides promoting THE TRINITY GAME, the cons and the like, what’s next in the hopper for Sean Chercover?
Well the next few weeks are about promoting The Trinity Game. I’m hitting the road for my book tour, but next in the hopper? I’m finishing up book 2 in the Trinity Game Trilogy – THE DEVIL’S GAME, which will be out next year. And I recently had a short story published in the BEAT TO A PULP: Round 2 anthology.
(Our appetizer arrives. An amazing pâté platter complete with rillettes, crusty bread, and fresh house pickles. Our steaks showed shortly thereafter. Needless to say, we ate like kings.)
Sean Chercover is the author of the crime novels BIG CITY BAD BLOOD, TRIGGER CITY, and THE TRINITY GAME, as well as short stories that have appeared in a number of anthologies. His work has received the Anthony, Shamus, CWA Dagger, Dilys, Crimespree, Gumshoe and Lovey awards, and has been shortlisted for the Edgar, MacAvity, Barry, ITW Thriller and Arthur Ellis.