Authortalk: From Professional Hockey Player to Published Novelist
by Luke Murphy
It can almost be said with certainty that I didn’t follow the path of the average writer. As a child, I never dreamed of writing a best-seller, never aspired to write the next classic novel, I wanted to be an NHL superstar…period.
From a family of avid readers, even as a child, I always had a passion for books. Whether it was reading novels on road trips or writing assignments in school, literature was always part of my life.
In the winter of 2000, after sustaining a season ending eye injury while playing in Oklahoma City, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and a new hobby emerged.
Some of my favorite authors are Greg Iles, Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben. I love suspense-thriller books, movies and everything about the genres.
One day, with an idea in mind, I sat down in front of a computer and began writing. I wrote a little every day, around my intense rehabilitation schedule and before I knew it, I had completed my first manuscript.
I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing, as a hobby. Ever the perfectionist, I didn’t see my novel at the level to compete with best-selling authors across the country. I continued to hobby write through the years, honing my craft, making time between work (hockey) and family obligations.
Then I made a decision – I enjoyed writing so much, I decided I wanted to take my interest one step further – write a story with the intention of being published and making it available for friends, family, and readers around the world to enjoy. I realized that I wanted to be like my favorite authors – entertain readers and allow them, like when I read, to escape reality and for a moment be in another place and time.
I’ve never been one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft. I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. I continually researched on the internet, reading up on the industry and process. I attended writing conferences, rubbing elbows with other writers, editors, agents and publishers. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.
Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2007, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of my novel.
I then worked with editors and joined a critique group, doing anything I could to learn, to improve my writing and my novel to point where I could create the best possible novel.
I sent out hundreds of query letters to agents. After six months of rejections, I pulled my manuscript back and worked on it again. Then in my next round of proposals, I was offered representation by Ms. Jennifer Lyons of the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency.
After months of work with Jennifer, and more rejections from publishers, my dream was finally realized in April, 2012, when I signed a publishing contract with Imajin Books (Edmonton, Alberta).
My one piece of advice for all aspiring hockey players and writers…you need to be persistent, patient and thick-skinned. You’ll get a lot of “no’s” along the way and people trying to bring you down. But remember, it only takes one “yes”. Stick with it. Anything is possible.
Dead Man’s Hand by Luke Murphy
What happens when the deck is stacked against you…
From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.
…and the cards don’t fall your way?
When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.
What if you’re dealt a Dead Man’s Hand?
Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.
About the Book
Dead Man’s Hand is a death-match on several levels. The action pits the serial-killing casino owner Ace Sanders against Watters, both of whom are racing against a police investigation. This central action is interlaced with a sub-plot involving another murderous scheme.
Can Watters regain his sense of himself, or has his time as a leg-breaker made him corrupt beyond redemption? Which of the would-be killers is the most devious and ruthless? Can Dayton trust his instinct that Watters is innocent against pressure from cops and the mayor’s office?
In the final third of the novel, Watters, Sanders and a professional hit man head for a showdown on the edges of Las Vegas.
Thriller readers looking for an atypical thriller hero—an African-American who is no saint.
Sports fans will be fascinated by Watters’ struggle to recover his decency and win, a kind of Blind Side story with little sentimentality and few illusions.
A Las Vegas setting—the world of The Hangover movies and many youth films like Bridesmaids—will appeal to 20s-30s readers.
Watters’ romance with a former prostitute will appeal to younger female readers. The marital tension between Detective Dayton and his wife will interest adults. Both men and women will enjoy the twist on the femme fatale figure of the murderer’s lover, who has her own schemes.
Similarities to other Books
As far as characterization goes, Black Beats the House’s protagonist Calvin Watters faces racial prejudice with calmness similar to that of Walter Mosley’s character Easy Rawlins. But Watters’ past as an athlete and enforcer will remind other readers of (Jack) Reacher of the Lee Childs series. The Stuart Woods novel Choke, about a tennis player who, like Watters, suffered greatly from a dramatic loss that was a failure of his psyche, is also an inspiration for Black Beats the House.
In plot, this is a relatively non-technical police-procedural in which the team of the investigating officers is thwarted by the simplicity, speed and brutality of slayings by knife-stroke, facing a challenge not unlike the mystery that surrounded the Jack the Ripper murders. The lead investigator, as in Michael Connelly’s novels and in line with the tradition of the police procedural, is pressured by police authorities who are corrupt as well as inept.
Points of Distinction
DEAD MAN’S HAND has tension and excitement as a result of the action taking place in a single week.
The African-American protagonist is not stereotypical. While his race is significant, he does not moralize about the issue or his situation.
The “find out who framed you to save yourself” plot has a twist in that Watters researches the crime online, primarily using analysis of character rather than physical evidence.
Point of view is easy to follow but engagingly complex, with scenes from the perspectives of Watters, the detective, the cheating wife, and a hired assassin.
“Dead Man’s Hand is a pleasure, a debut novel that doesn’t read like one, but still presents original characters and a fresh new voice.” Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Flower
“You may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out.”—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter
“Part police procedural, part crime fiction, Dead Man’s Hand is a fast, gritty ride.”—Anne Frasier, USA Today bestselling author of Hush
“Murphy writes in a clean, mean style, as compelling as a switchblade to your throat…the real deal.”—Rick Mofina, award-winning author of They Disappeared
Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, two daughters and pug.
He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).
Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.
For more information on Luke and his books, visit: www.authorlukemurphy.com, ‘like’ his Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-Luke-Murphy/268343729930467 and follow him on Twitter www.twitter.com/#!/AuthorLMurphy