From every ending, a beginning: In my debut novel Past Crimes, the protagonist Van Shaw is an active-duty soldier, who is forced to re-engage with the criminal life in which he was raised. During the course of that adventure, Van butts heads with his command structure, and his career in the Army Rangers is seriously jeopardized.
When I was planning the follow-up book, Hard Cold Winter, it felt right that Van would have recently mustered out the military and become a civilian for the first time in his adult life. I liked the notion of Van facing a future that he never expected to have. It’s a struggle. He’s used to the short-term, tactical way of thinking that kept him and his men alive, and now he has all the challenges of finding a new direction.
My preparation for Hard Cold Winter included interviewing veterans, some from our recent wars and some from decades past. Their stories helped me find the beating heart of the novel. I’m tremendously grateful. Beyond the differences of their time in service, in combat, and as new civilians, most echo Van’s experiences of re-discovery. They look at their home with different eyes now.
In Hard Cold Winter, a former criminal accomplice of Van’s grandfather asks him to hike up into the Olympic Mountains and check on the accomplice’s absent niece, who Van knew as a teenager. Van finds the remote cabin, and discovers a grisly murder scene. One of the victims is the scion of an extremely wealthy Seattle family. Before long, Van finds himself under heavy pressure from a billionaire businessman on one side and vicious gangsters on the other, each willing to play dirty to get what they want.
Van’s investigation into the murders also introduces him to a social strata which he’s never encountered before, the one-percent of his generation. These millennials have been afforded every advantage – education, influence, a head start on lucrative professions – and Van would admit to some envy. But being wealthy doesn’t make them immune to mistakes. All their trust funds and VIP lounges can’t tame real trouble when it bares its fangs. Van, on the other hand, hardly knows what life is without an element of danger.
Although the young elite and Van may be on the opposite sides of society, they are still both on the edges. Both are used to making their own rules, and dissatisfied with “normal” life. Van can at least appreciate that his new acquaintances are trying to carve their own unique paths. His own road is somewhere between the young criminal he once was, and the veteran soldier he’s leaving behind. And perhaps in the difference between what Van knows is legal and what he considers to be justice.
Van’s search for renewed purpose begins in Hard Cold Winter. As for most of us in real life, it’s not a simple journey, or an easy one. But it is very exciting.
Hard Cold Winter is published by Faber
Glen Erik Hamilton’s debut PAST CRIMES has been nominated for Best First Novel at the 2016 Edgar Awards, and for the Barry Award for Best First Novel. PAST CRIMES was given starred reviews by Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal, and called "an exciting heir to the classic detective novel" by Kirkus. The second book in the Van Shaw series, HARD COLD WINTER, was published in March by William Morrow (US) and Faber & Faber (UK). A native of Seattle, Glen now lives in California but frequently returns to his hometown to soak up the rain. Follow his wet footprints on Facebook and on Twitter @GlenErikH. glenerikhamilton.com
© 2016 Glen Erik Hamilton