Saline author Steve Hagood has hit his stride in the crime novel genre, recently publishing his second book, "Cold, Dark Places," an even grittier, suspenseful and intense tale than his first.
Those who read his debut novel, "Chasing the Woodstock Baby" will recognize returning, singularly-named protagonist Chase, a former Detroit Police Department detective who has a hard time staying out of major crime investigations despite his retirement.
The action once again begins at a Detroit bar, owned by Chase and his former sergeant, Sarge. It's April, and Hagood paints a bleak picture of a cold, salt-covered city struggling to rid itself of one of the most brutal winters on record.
This time, Chase is asked to investigate when a local basketball prodigy, Bowe Bradlee, becomes a suspect in the disappearance of a female college student at the school they mutually attend. A criminal indictment would ruin Bradlee's shot at a top pick in the NBA draft, as well as all the money that comes along with it.
As the victims and suspects mount, Chase finds himself in a ruthless world of violence, gangs, drugs and sex that he must navigate in order to get to the bottom of the case.
Though Hagood said the narrative came together relatively quickly, this book was a bit more challenging to flesh out.
"From start to finish it was maybe a year or year-and-a-half," he said. "This one was a little more difficult, actually. The first one was set here in Saline so I knew the territory better."
To familiarize himself with necessary setting details, Hagood said he researched in Detroit.
"I would just go down and walk around, drive around, go into the police station. That sort of thing," he said.
Chapter two begins there, as Hagood describes.
"Homicide was housed in the new Public Safety Headquarters. The seven-story gray and green office building, renovated from the MGM casino after they moved into their fancy new digs, had replaced the ages-old, grime-covered block of limestone that had housed police headquarters for more than 80 years. Chase parked and took it in. It was nice, but he missed the old dump at 1300 Beaubien."
Hagood also draws inspiration from the screen.
"I'm a big fan of all the (crime) TV shows," he said, mentioning Law and Order among other programs.
News headlines often also find their way into Hagood's books, something which he said offers a palpable sense of reality.
“I like that real-life kind of thing," he said. "I'm always searching for real-life mysteries that maybe I can incorporate into a story."
Hagood wrote the book while grieving the death of his son, Nickolas, who passed away after a long battle with opioid addiction. Looking back, he said that circumstance certainly influenced the novel.
"This book gets kind of dark in some places and I was in a dark place while I was writing some of it," he said. "I was angry and some of that anger comes through in the book."
It wasn't a conscious decision, Hagood said.
"I don't think I even realized it was coming out that way until after I finished it and I started shopping it around a little bit," he said. "I got a couple of publishers who read it and came back to me and said, 'Wow, Steve, this is too dark or too hard for our list.'"
The text as it exists now was dialed back slightly, but still retains much of its original grit.
"I tried to smooth it a little bit, but for the most part it is what it is," he said, indicating his original publisher, Indigo Sea Press, agreed to terms on the novel.
Currently, Hagood is writing the third installment in the Chase series, and the plot involves a real-life friend of his who is now an out-of-state sports radio host.
Hagood said many of his best ideas come to him in the evening, so he keeps a bedside notebook at the ready.
"I try to take notes because I'll forget if I don't," he said. "I read a lot at night and a lot of my inspiration comes from favorite authors. I re-read them: Michael Connelly, Robert Parker."
Though his stories come to his mind in a basic structure, Hagood said the ending is usually unknown to him, too, as he begins writing a book.
"The conclusion is a mystery to me when I start," he said. "I think I know where it's going to go, but I don't try to steer it that way. I just let it flow and I let it go where's it's going to go."
As to the long-run, Hagood said he hopes to eventually be a self-sufficient novelist.
"I enjoy doing it and I hope to keep doing it," he said. "Obviously, the ultimate goal is to write full time, not have to work, and crank them out like the big guys do."
"Cold, Dark Places" is available for purchase at online retailers such as amazon.com, and can also be found around town at places like Carrigan Cafe and Brewed Awakenings.