NOTE: This interview is a republication- Source: CrimeReads (by Dwyer Murphy).
Don Winslow has written his last novel. That was the unavoidable takeaway from our latest conversation, which came in the weeks before the release of City of Dreams, the second installment in Winslow’s trilogy following the life and times of Providence’s Danny Ryan. The new book, picking up after a bloody gang war, takes Ryan and company west, orbiting around a splashy Hollywood adaptation of their recent exploits. The story follows a structure tied to Greek epic poetry, conveyed through Winslow’s knowing, streetwise prose, all with a relentless sense of momentum powering toward the next tragedy in the sequence. Which brings me back to that first revelation. Winslow is on the record: he’s retiring as a novelist after this latest trilogy is done. Talking with him, I found out that third novel is already written. Winslow exuded a cool confidence discussing the decision to hang it up and what’s next.
Murphy: With City of Dreams, you’re still working in the idiom of epic poetry. Can you situate me in the legend? Where are we picking up with this book, vis-à-vis the Greeks and Romans?
Winslow: It’s the beginning through the middle of the Aeneid. When you talk about, for lack of a better term, the Trojan Horse cycle—the Iliad, the Odyssey and the Aeneid—it was always my intent to follow Aeneas through his life cycle, but that starts in the Iliad, where he’s a minor player, which for me was book 1, City on Fire.
We all think of the end of the Trojan Horse story as being told in the Iliad, but it’s not. It’s actually Aeneas who tells us that part of the story, when Dido asks him about his life. Aeneas says, ‘Sorrow, unspeakable sorrow you ask me to bring to life once more, my queen.’ Obviously, the through line of the book is Danny, our Aeneas. He loses the war and has to leave with his increasingly senile father and infant son and what’s left of his crew and wander for years and years.
I was fascinated by what happened to certain characters after the Trojan War ended. It’s really a noir novel if you follow Agamemnon. He goes home, and his wife has blamed him for the death of their daughter. She and her lover kill him in the bathtub.
Murphy: It’s a James M. Cain novel.
Winslow: Exactly, and that’s in the Greek dramas. The Oresteia cycle of Aeschylus. When I read them for the first time, I thought, Jesus, it is, that’s a James M. Cain novel.
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