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Interview: December 1, 2021

Matt Coyle, whose books are set in contemporary San Diego, has revived the Raymond Chandler hard-boiled PI model. His protagonist, Rick Cahill, finally has reached a pinnacle. He’s engaged to Leah Landingham, and they’re expecting their first child. And he has developed skills as a computer investigator for wealthy clients who need corporate background verification. Yet LAST REDEMPTION is an ambitious undertaking that stretches the limits of his traditional investigative skills. In this interview, Coyle chats with’s Dean Murphy about the challenges he faces while writing, what he hopes readers learn from the series, and Rick’s complicated friendship with Moira MacFarlane. Rick Cahill appears to be Gordon MacRae singing “Everything’s going my way” from the 1955 film Oklahoma. Without mentioning any spoilers, why the short-lived good news followed by bad?

Matt Coyle: As both appear on the first page of LAST REDEMPTION, it’s not a spoiler to say that Rick’s girlfriend is pregnant with the child he thought he’d never be able to have and that he has the devastating brain disease Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, also known as CTE. When I began writing Rick Cahill some 20 years ago, I decided that every bad decision, action and physical encounter had to matter. They’d have repercussions.

Continuing readers have seen the emotional scars left on Rick. For this book, it made sense to me that, after all the physical abuse Rick has endured in his life, including boxing Golden Gloves as a teen, playing football from the ages of about 10 to 20, and incurring multiple concussions as a cop and private investigator, Rick would have CTE. I try to make my fiction as real as I can, so I didn’t see any other path for him.

BRC: You previously mentioned that my wishful desire to see Rick win the lottery touched on LAST REDEMPTION. Now, readers know that Powerball is a metaphor for Rick and Leah’s pending marriage and parenthood. Care to add a smirk to this?

MC: Hmm. He won one lottery with Leah and lost another with the disease.

BRC: Fellow PI Moira MacFarlane and Rick share a symbiotic relationship, as well as being best friends. Is Moira a permanent character in the Cahill series?

MC: Yes. I never knew there’d be a Moira until I needed her for one scene in the second book, NIGHT TREMORS. Then she started talking and being Moira, so I put her in a few more scenes in the book. She’s had a larger piece of the action ever since. I can’t imagine writing a Rick book without her now.

BRC: What should readers learn from this book?

MC: I don’t think I do a good job of teaching anything or shining a light on any topics in my books. They’re about one man’s struggle to overcome his own nature. However, LAST REDEMPTION is centered on the importance of family.

BRC: Your website identifies many awards and nominations. BLIND VIGIL took home the Shamus Award for Best Mystery and was nominated for Lefty, Barry and Macavity awards. It is a masterpiece and tested all limits, as does LAST REDEMPTION. What other accolades have you received in 2021?

MC: Thanks for the kind words. I was lucky enough to be named the 2021 Mystery Writer of the Year by the San Diego Festival of Writers.

BRC: H. Terrell Griffin, the late, great author of the Matt Royal series, wrote, “It just doesn’t get any better than this.” That 2015 quote seems to prognosticate your success. What are your thoughts on this, and that Oceanview published both your and Mr. Griffin’s novels?

MC: Thanks. I’m honored to be mentioned in the same sentence with Mr. Griffin.

BRC: What were the most challenging aspects, and the biggest reward?

MC: Making the decision to give Rick a debilitating disease that most likely will shorten his life was the most challenging decision I’ve ever made in writing the series. However, in the end, I think I made the right decision, so maybe that’s the reward.

BRC: Will you ever write a Rick Cahill (or Matt Coyle) mem-noir?

MC: Ninety-nine percent no.

BRC: This Rick Cahill addict needs to know what’s in store for the next installment. Do you have a proposed title?

MC: All I can say is that my next book is titled DOOMED LEGACY.

BRC: Thank you for a thrilling read, and for this interview. Do you have any final thoughts?

MC: Thanks, Dean, as always, for giving me the space to talk about my books. You are a generous force for mystery writers.

» Click here for Matt Coyle’s events calendar.