ON THE CREATION OF “IRON CITY”
By David Scott Milton
Ten years ago I made the first notes on “Iron City”. It began as a stage play, became a screenplay, and eventually was written as a novel. It’s a companion work to my earlier novel, “Kabbalah”, though I hadn’t planned it that way. Both take place in Pittsburgh, Pa., the Squirrel Hill and Greenfield sections, and both involve murder. In “Kabbalah” the murder takes place at the very beginning and the reader knows who the murderer is. It is a chase novel in which two people who grew up with the murderer, a cop consumed by ineradicable envy and a rabbi obsessed with the ancient Jewish practice of Kabbalah, for their own complex reasons, set out to find him.
(You can read the preface to the reissued edition of “Kabbalah” to learn how I came to write it, not an uninteresting process. See www.dsmilton.com or www.redroom.com/author/david-scott-milton)
“Iron City” is more traditional, a dense mystery involving a string of bizarre murders that is not solved until the very end. A disgraced ex-cop, Frank Kalinyak, a Greenfield native, is on a mission to find why the victims are being killed and who the murderer is. Kalinyak, who has suffered a tragic loss in his life, seeks to redeem an existence that is drifting, splintering, by tracking the murderer who has terrorized the city he grew up in, Pittsburgh, Pa., known by people raised there as Iron City. The area that Kalinyak operates in, the area where the killer lurks, is a harsh, brutal environment of pimps, hookers, druggies, failed clergy, business hustlers, closed-down, rotting steel mills.
We follow Kalinyak on his increasingly desperate search for the murderer and to prevent further terror and slaughter, through the underbelly of Iron City. We find ourselves in a maelstrom of political and church intrigue, brutal encounters, surprising duplicities, ghosts of the past, furies of the present.
There are complex psychological elements in both novels. I have always had great respect for the mystery form. Dostoyevsky was an early influence on my work, as were the novels of the Belgian, Georges Simenon. I admired the seriousness, the complexity in their works, Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment”, “Brothers Karamazov”, “The Possessed,” Simenon, “The Man Who Watched Trains Go By”, “Belle”, “The Brothers Rico”: they were less “whodunits” as “whydunnits”, mysteries of character: they were about peeling away levels of reality to reach the core of a human being, the person’s soul.
“Iron City” is a mystery that’s not solved until the end. I’m limited in what I can reveal about what propelled me to write this story. It involves a series of murders that are connected by a horrific act that has poisoned a community. As is true of all of my novels it has relevance to my life and the complications in my life.
The texture of the neighborhoods I grew up in is a very important element in the book, as it is in many of my books. Squirrel Hill and Greenfield to the south; North of Forbes, above Squirrel Hill—these neighborhoods have become my Dublin, North and South Sides, the Hill District, my Nighttown. Squirrel Hill proper was middle-class; as you moved into Greenfield the environment became working class. North of Forbes was upper middle class with pockets of wealth. These areas form a checkerboard of class and religious tensions, envies, wounds that fester, scars that remain open.
I must warn you—the novel is dark. I recently read a review of Simenon’s “The Man Who Watched Trains Go By”, and the critic said of the book, “Despair and negation predominate in Georges Simenon's ‘The Man Who Watched Trains Go By’, a book that I considered to be darker than noir.” I’ve told you how much I admire Simenon. And it’s possible that “Iron City” is darker than noir. It’s possible that all of my novels are darker than noir. Sorry.
The book forms an intricate puzzle. I think the writing is strong. I have not condescended to the genre. It’s a serious novel, ambitious, ingenious. If you’ve liked my earlier novels, plays, and films, I think you’ll like “Iron City.” It’s a tough book, a journey through a hellish world of harsh entanglements, brutal relationships, reversals, twists, piercing insights into the dark night of the soul. To be true, also, there are bright spots and entertainment and the pleasures in what the novel illuminates, much darkness, but also explosions of light, rich characters, the way they talk and behave, their ambitions, dreams, foibles. And there is also tenderness and love and the generosity that grows from love.
I aspired, ultimately, to reveal something true and strong about our lives, about retribution, foundering dreams, guilt, love lost, and love redeemed, to tell one tale of this strange journey we all take to a dusty end.
About the Author:
David Scott Milton (born September 15, 1934) is an American author, playwright, screenwriter, and actor. His plays are known for their theatricality, wild humor, and poetic realism, while his novels and films are darker and more naturalistic. As a novelist, he has been compared to Graham Greene, John Steinbeck, and Nelson Algren. Ben Gazzara’s performance in Milton’s play, Duet, received a Tony nomination. Another play, Skin, won the Neil Simon Playwrights Award. His theater piece, Murderers Are My Life, was nominated as best one-man show by the Valley Theater League of Los Angeles. His second novel, Paradise Road, was given the Mark Twain Journal award “for significant contribution to American literature.
Learn more about David at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Scott_Milton
You Tube Video of David reading from Iron City http://youtu.be/U-ERnDTWhaA
By David Scott Milton
Publisher: White Whisker Books Date Published: September 1, 2011
Genre: dark mystery
Frank Kalinyak, disgraced ex-cop, returns to Pittsburgh, Pa., “Iron City”, his hometown, from Tucson where he has been living a desperate existence since the death of his young daughter. He has been summoned home by Bobby Mack, an Assistant D.A., to find out who murdered an old high school friend. Kalinyak is swept into a whirlpool of bizarre killings, religious fanaticism, church duplicity, hustlers, cops, junkies, old friends gone bad. Amid the fractured landscape of Iron City, rusting mills, rotting industry, he struggles to find sense in his life. Ultimately he must ask: who is he and can he survive?
“David Scott Milton can write like an angel… a writer hell bent on fulfilling the legacy of John Steinbeck, carrying on the tradition of James Jones and exploring his own heights.” -- Alabama Journal