Author Profile: Paul Marks, Shamus Award-winning author

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Paul Marks, now an Acton resident after living in Saugus since 1994, is the author of the Shamus Award-winning novel “White Heat” and its sequel, “Broken Windows.”

“Broken Windows” was recently released Sept. 10.

Marks was born and raised in Los Angeles, growing up in the mid-Wilshire area. He attended San Diego State University and California State University, Northridge.

Marks holds a B.A. in film and television, and said he’s been a writer for his entire adult life, making a living in Hollywood.

“I was a script doctor for many years — no credit, no glory,” he said. “As a script doctor, you are told what to do.”

Seeking more control over his writing, Marks decided to begin writing short stories and novels. His first novel was a promising satire of a screenwriter trying to make it in Hollywood. The novel was picked up by a major publishing house, but before it could go to print, the entire editorial staff was replaced.

“Like a new broom sweeps clean, when they got swept out, so did my book,” he said. “Because it was satire the humor was a little dated, and would have required major rewriting to take it anywhere else.”

Marks said he learned a lesson from the experience.

“Don’t write anything that has any topical humor,” he said.

Marks then concentrated on selling his short stories.

“My short story career is going really well,” he said.

In 2012, “White Heat” was published by Timeless Skies Publishing. It garnered many favorable reviews not only for the quality of the writing but for the unique blend of mystery and current events.

“White Heat” is a crime yarn set in 1992 against the turmoil of the Los Angeles riots that followed the acquittal of the police officers charged with assaulting motorist Rodney King. The action in the book is set against the chaos that erupted after the Rodney King verdict.

“The book is a lot of fun, I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback on the book, but it also deals with deeper issues, issues of race and racism,” he said.

Marks said living in L.A. during the Rodney King Riots left him wanting to write about the experience in a meaningful way.

The book, a mystery thriller, was named the winner of the 2013 Shamus Award for Best Indie P.I. Novel. The Shamus Awards are awarded by the Private Eye Writers of America (PWA) for the best detective fiction genre novels and short stories of the year.

His latest novel, “Broken Windows,” continues to explore the subject of racism in contemporary society by using the mystery thriller genre.

“Broken Windows” is set in Los Angeles during the debate over Proposition 187, the 1994 ballot initiative to establish a state-run citizenship screening system and prohibit illegal immigrants from using non-emergency health care, public education and other services in California.

“‘Broken Windows’ holds up a prism from which we can view the events burning up today’s headlines, like the passionate immigration debate, through the lens of the recent past,” he said. “It all comes down to the saying we know so well, ‘The more things change, the more they stay the same.’”

Marks’ influences include Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, David Goodis, Dorothy B. Hughes, John Fante, Ross Macdonald, Walter Mosley, James Ellroy and artist Edward Hopper. He’s also been influenced by film noir, Los Angeles history, including the Hollywood “dream factories” and various styles of music.

In addition to the Shamus Award Marks has won a bevy of other accolades for his work including: “Windward” chosen for The Best American Mysteries 2018, No. 1 in 2016 Ellery Queen Reader’s Award Poll for “Ghosts of Bunker Hill, “Windward” nominated for 2018 Best Short Story Shamus Award, “Bunker Hill Blues” No. 6 in 2018 Ellery Queen Reader’s Award Poll, “Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea” nominated for 2018 Best Anthology Anthony Award, “Windward” nominated/short-listed for the 2018 Derringer Award for Best Novelette and “Ghosts of Bunker Hill” nominated/Short-listed for the 2017 Macavity Award, as well as a host of others.
Marks most recent award was earned in September, when he traveled to Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention, in Florida. Bouchercon is the world’s largest convention of mystery readers and writers.

“I’m very grateful to have come home with another award, the Macavity for Best Short Story for “Windward,” he said.

Marks and his wife, Amy, have been married more than 30 years. He said he enjoys living in Acton, despite the occasional snow.

“One year, we had 18 inches of snow, and my wife couldn’t get home from work,” he said.
Marks has served on the board of the L.A. chapter of Sisters in Crime and currently serves on the board of the SoCal chapter of Mystery Writers of America. He also blogs for 7 Criminal Minds and SleuthSayers.

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