Skip to main content

Interview: December 3, 2019

Matt Coyle revived the Raymond Chandler hard-boiled PI model, set in today’s fancy (and seedy) side of San Diego. LOST TOMORROWS finds protagonist Rick Cahill returning to Santa Barbara --- the city of lost tomorrows --- where, 14 years ago, he was charged with but not convicted of his wife Colleen’s murder. He attends the funeral of Police Sergeant Krista Landingham, his only alibi, who remained silent. Rick’s investigation into the deaths of Krista and Colleen is as intertwined as Napa Valley grapevines. In this interview, Coyle chats with’s Dean Murphy about his appointment as the 2020 Left Coast Crime Convention Toastmaster, the deaths of Rick’s friend and wife, and the next Cahill adventure. Perhaps the most personal Rick Cahill dilemma --- the perfect gift for Christmas and all occasions. What inspired Krista’s death linked to Colleen’s murder?

Matt Coyle: Great to be with you again, Dean. Yes, nothing like a little death and despair for the holiday season. I don’t want to get into the nuts and bolts too much for fear of giving away anything. This was, however, the book I knew I’d write at some point in the series. The mystery surrounding the murder of Rick’s wife, Colleen --- which predates the first book, YESTERDAY’S ECHO --- has been the backstory that has driven Rick’s compulsion for redemption throughout the series. I wasn’t ready to write an emotional book like this after writing BLOOD TRUTH, two books before, but each time I sat down to come up with the next story, Colleen’s conclusion kept butting its way in. I’m glad it persisted because I’m really happy with the way things turned out. I hope readers feel that the Colleen story was given an appropriate ending.

BRC: When writing your Anthony Award-winning debut, YESTERDAY’S ECHO, did you know about Rick’s alibi and why both parties remained silent?

MC: Sounds like you’re familiar with my messy writing process, Dean. In this case, however, I actually did know the story to the unrevealed alibi. Now, I didn’t know who killed Colleen 14 years before until I started writing LOST TOMORROWS, which is more my, let’s call it, method. And once I identified the killer, I had to give that person a valid reason for murder. As usually happens, everything came together.

BRC: What inspired Krista’s character and her reopening Colleen’s cold case?

MC: Krista was promoted to the Major Investigation Unit shortly before LOST TOMORROWS begins, and part of her responsibilities was to oversee cold cases. She chose Colleen’s case because she, alone, knew that Rick --- still the main suspect --- could not have committed the murder. Honestly, Krista was only a cardboard cutout to me until I started writing this book. She was mentioned in YESTERDAY’S ECHO, but was never fleshed out as there wasn’t yet a need for her to be. She became three-dimensional in LOST TOMORROWS, and I really like her. And from Krista’s story came her sister, Leah Landingham, who becomes an important person in Rick’s life.

BRC: Nemesis Jim Grimes had pursued Rick as Colleen’s murderer, even after Rick’s acquittal. You tease readers with Grimes’ forgive-and-forget demeanor. When did Grimes realize he had not connected enough dots in Colleen’s murder?

MC: I’m fearful of a mini-spoiler here, so I’ll dance around the question, but I was glad to revisit Jim Grimes, who is also in YESTERDAY’S ECHO. He’s an old-school cop, now retired, who again clashes with Rick, but for completely different reasons. Grimes is a follow-the-facts investigator, and Rick is a follow-his-gut kind. Having them battle while trying to coexist was fun and challenging.

BRC: Rick has reached a breaking point, financially and emotionally. Was the LOST TOMORROWS denouement meant to ease the latter?

MC: You’re right, Rick is at his nadir when LOST TOMORROWS opens, dealing with the emotional repercussions from actions he took in WRONG LIGHT. Actually, Rick deals with the repercussions of all the questionable decisions he’s made in his quest for redemption throughout all the books. Everything has caught up to him at the beginning of the book. He has long lived by his father’s credo, which is: Sometimes you have to do what’s right even when the law says it’s wrong. Dangerous, especially now that Rick has begun to question his own boundaries for right and wrong. Those boundaries are stretched to the breaking point in LOST TOMORROWS.

BRC: This Rick Cahill addict needs to know what’s in store for the next installment.

MC: I adore Rick Cahill addicts! They have been so supportive of me. I wouldn’t have a career without them. However, I can’t give specifics on my next book. I just turned it in, and it will come out in December 2020, but that’s all I can say. Sorry!

BRC: Your website identifies many awards and nominations you’ve earned. What honors have you earned since our 2018 interview?

MC: Well, since you asked, I’ve had a couple more nominations other than those you identify, but no wins. I wouldn’t want to break a five-year streak. WRONG LIGHT was nominated for a Shamus, San Diego Book Award and the Lefty, which you note. I’m happy that people think highly enough of my books to nominate them for all these great awards.

BRC: You’ll be the Left Coast Crime San Diego 2020 Convention Toastmaster in March. WRONG LIGHT, BLOOD TRUTH and DARK FISSURES were Lefty Award finalists. Please educate those on the other coast, and in between, about the significance of the Lefty Awards and Left Coast Crime.

MC: Since we’re keeping count, NIGHT TREMORS was also nominated for a Lefty. I’m excited and honored to be toastmaster for Left Coast Crime 2020 in San Diego next March. LCC is a version of Bouchercon, which hosts the biggest mystery fan conferences in the world. The Leftys are nominated and elected by conference attendees, akin to the Anthony Awards at Bouchercon. I’m thrilled to be a part of LCC 2020, where we will honor T. Jefferson Parker and Rachel Howzell Hall. They are both friends and great writers. Additionally, Raymond Chandler will be honored, which is neat as he’s been an inspiration to me since as a kid I first thought about writing. Finally, the iconic San Diego bookstore Mysterious Galaxy will be honored. This great store staffed by wonderful people, unfortunately, may not exist in its present form when the conference starts. Every author and customer who’s ever had the pleasure of stepping inside its hallowed walls is hoping for a last-minute miracle to give it new life. [ suggestion: support Mysterious Galaxy!]

BRC: Thank you for a thrilling read and this interview. Final thoughts?

MC: Thanks for having me, Dean. You’ve been a great supporter of mine and other mystery writers whom the reading public may not have discovered had it not been for your gracious efforts. I hope you can make it to San Diego in March, so I can buy you your favorite libation...or three.

Matt Coyle’s events calendar is at this link.