By: Roger A. Canaff
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publication Date: 10/01/2022
My Rating: 5 Stars ++
A vanished mother, the grip of darkness, a lifelong mystery. Forty years later, a prosecutor faces them all again, this time as a murder suspect in a pulse-pounding legal thriller of psychological suspense.
On a steaming night in 1977, New York City is plunged into darkness, and two boys, Joe and Robbie, are abandoned by their mother, Lois.
Forty years to the day after this unforgivable moment, Joe is a hard-drinking ADA and Lois has resurfaced: Joe wakes from another alcoholic fog to learn she’s been found murdered on a Coney Island beach.
Joe throws himself into his work, struggling to reconcile his memories of Lois with the relative stranger found by the NYPD. And when another murder hits close to home and DNA links Joe to both crimes, he sinks deeper into the abyss. Joe can’t remember a thing. His last hope as the evidence mounts against him is Aideen Bradigan, a brilliant and dogged lawyer from his past.
It will take Aideen’s drive and Joe’s own shrewd legal mind to uncover a potentially terrifying truth—and to shatter the devastating secrets that claw back to that fateful night in the dark.
#legalthriller #copprocedural #policeprocedural #jdcmustreadbooks #oct2022books #thriller #suspense #NYblackout1977 #fiction #sexualabusve #aids #newyork #LGBTQIA+ #CityDark #RogerACanaff #psychologicalthriller #familydrama #mystery #topbooksof2022
AVAILABLE IN e-book, paperback, audiobook, and audio CD.
About the Author
Photo Credit: Roger Canaff
Roger Canaff is a widely known child protection and anti-violence against women advocate, legal expert, author, and public speaker. He has devoted his legal career to the eradication of violence against women and children, first as a prosecutor in historic Alexandria, Virginia, then as a Special Victims ADA in the Bronx, and then as deputy chief of the New York State Attorney General’s Office, Sex Offender Management Unit.
Most recently, he was employed as a US Army civilian, serving as a highly qualified expert training and advising military prosecutors on sexual assault and other special victims cases. With over 20 years’ experience, he has prosecuted and consulted on cases involving sexual and physical abuse of children and adolescents, sexual assault against adults, and crimes against the elderly and persons with disabilities. Canaff continues to provide training to other attorneys, medical experts, law enforcement officers, victim advocates, and the general public on all issues related to the investigation and prosecution of child abuse and sexual assault. He teaches law, comments on special victims issues for major networks, and is the author of four novels. He lives and works in New York City.
CITY DARK (10/01/22)
BLEED THROUGH (Book 2 of 2: Alex Greco ADA)
2020 Winner IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards Mystery & Thrillers
AMONG THE DEAD (Book 1 of 2: Alex Greco ADA)
Please visit his website to learn more about the author and his work.
Connect with the Author
From the Author
I'm a former prosecutor and current consultant and legal expert on special victims’ issues, born in New York City and raised in Northern Virginia. I'm back in NYC and continue to write, speak, teach law, and consult.
Stephen King once dedicated a novel to his children with the words "Kids, fiction is the truth inside the lie." That's a beautiful sentiment, and I suppose when I reflect on the gifts in my life, the one of simple storytelling, either of a story I've enjoyed or one I've told, ranks as high as any.
The reality of sexual abuse in early childhood drove me, in a way, to what I considered a calming distance from the concept of truth. But in boomerang fashion I returned to it with a vengeance and became a special victim’s prosecutor in the late 1990's, a career I loved dearly and still take part in as a trainer and consultant.
Like many who write, I probably have little choice. There's magic in the ability to tell a tale; I've known this since I was a toddler. Truth telling, in particular, is power; a disarming, vivacious force. I told that to the victims I worked with- hundreds of them, mostly children- when preparing them for testimony. From their shared memories and my own, I have created fiction that I believe is the very essence of myth: Every bit the truth inside the lie.
I own a sailboat and love nothing quite like feeling her fly beneath me when the wind is around 12 knots and steady. I'm blessed with a loving family, a beautiful nephew, and the best childhood friends- still steadfast after 40 years- that I could have asked for to help pull me through. Newer friends have appeared and decorated my life in layered ways I never thought possible. I believe in a God and still practice as a left-leaning Catholic, although with strong Deist tendencies. Lately my most tempting image of God is one of a frustrated artist and the cosmos a palette. Magnificent. But still striving.
It's a joy-filled, messy thing. I can only smile ear to ear at the chance to be a part of it, every day, until the last one meets me. Until then, I'll tell stories. Thanks for reading this one.
—Roger A. Canaff
Q&A Elevator Ride with
Roger A. Canaff
Bestselling Author, Legal Expert, Law Professor
Anti-violence and Child Protective Advocate
"Behind the Book"
Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.
INTRIGUING QUESTIONS. INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW
Welcome Roger, let's dive in!
Q. Give us your BEST Elevator Pitch for CITY DARK.
ROGER: City Dark is for readers who enjoy short, clipped chapters, intense characters, dark subject matter, and who enjoy following two timelines in the form of flashbacks. NYC is laid bare in the book, particularly in 1977, and readers who remember or have studied that time will enjoy it tremendously.
Q. Describe CITY DARK in three words or less?
ROGER: gripping, nostalgic, hopeful
Q. INSPIRATION: The spark that ignited the novel? Where were you when the idea came to you?
ROGER: NYC suffered a minor blackout in July of 2019, almost 42 years to the day after the tragic 77 blackout. I’ve been fascinated by the 77 blackout most of my life. The 2019 brush with darkness sparked the idea of this story for me.
Q. SETTING: Tell us more about the book setting (s) and your dual timelines: NYC: July 13, 1977 and 2017.
You mention in your interview with The Big Thrill, that NYC (two different cities— are almost like a character of its own). I like this. Please expand.
ROBER: Yes, the City of New York itself becomes not one but two characters, one in July of 1977 and one in 2017. At bottom, the city is displayed as a younger character (decaying, struggling, in darkness, generally in decline) and then an older character (re-established, still relevant, booming and bustling, still highly imperfect). The protagonist, Joe DeSantos, tracks that kind of character arc as well. He is 10 in 1977 and he is 50 in 2017. His brother does also, being 15 in 77 and 55 in 2017. Both men were deeply affected by the blackout and the events of that night. Both were shaped by it, in some ways for better and in many for worse.
Q. NEW YORK CITY BLACKOUT July 13–14, 1977: The novel revolves around this date and crucial time in history. Share why you chose to write about it and inspiration.
ROGER: Mostly covered above, but it’s important to note that I was in love with NYC as a kid. I was born in Staten Island. My parents were born to immigrants in Queens and Brooklyn. Aside from the pedigree, though, something about it, its energy, its looming presence in my life and the lives of my parents, charmed me immensely. And then as a small child I watched it crumble toward the blackout of 1977 and the very hard years after that. When the city rebounded in the 1990’s I was overjoyed and eventually had the chance to make it my home.
Q. RESEARCH: Any fascinating research for the novel, or anything you learned along the way?
ROGER: I did plenty of research, in particular with NYC gov photo archives, which are a wonderful public resource. I studied the 77 blackout in many different news sources from that time.
Q. CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: What fantastic and complex characters! Your favorite character to write, and/or most challenging?
ROGER: Aaron Hathorne was probably the most difficult character to write. He needed to be truly psychopathic, but mostly high functioning. There needed to be fatal flaws, though subtle. I worked hard to keep him balanced.
Q. Joe DeSantos: Do you see a little of yourself in Joe’s character?
ROGER: A little, for sure. He is exactly my age. But Joe has a much more subtle mind than I ever did, and he struggles with addiction in a way that (thankfully) I have not had to face.
Q. ADAPTATION: For fun, do you have any cast of stars in mind for any of your leading roles for movie or TV series?
ROGER: I think George Clooney would make a terrific Joe DeSantos. He’s played lawyers on the outs before.
Q. WRITING: Do you have a favorite chapter or scene in the novel you enjoyed writing the most?
ROGER: There’s a scene near the very end where Joe—now 18—returns from an overseas trip and encounters his uncle just hours before he dies of AIDS. It takes place at Bayley Seton Hospital in Staten Island. I researched that Monday night in April of 1985 down to the Monday Night Movie that actually aired then. I love the scene because Joe is confronting his uncle’s death and he’s comforted by a young man (not much older) who is obviously familiar with grief. This was the time AIDS was tearing through New York, the gay community in particular. Young men like Joe’s comforter, probably a hospital volunteer, were getting cruelly indoctrinated into the process of death and grieving.
Q. NOVELS: Congratulations on your 4th Novel! Tell us about your other novels.
ROGER: My first, Copperhead Road, is a coming-of-age story with male child sexual abuse as its literary device. It’s told by an adult looking back at his last year of high school (in the mid-80s) and describes a lifelong struggle with his own victimization and then a crescendo of horror as he, his friends and other boys are pulled into the final acts of the abuser who has evolved into a serial killer.
The second two novels (Among the Dead and Bleed Through) are books 1 and 2 in the ADA Alex Greco series. Both are set in New York City and surround a brilliant but troubled prosecutor who has fled his former life (after the death of his son) to NYC where he works on special victims cases. I plan to continue the series.
Q. BACKGROUND: Roger, you have quite an extensive and highly impressive background. Please share more.
ROGER: I was a special victims prosecutor for most of my career, in both Alexandria, Virginia (outside of Washington, DC) and in Bronx, NY. I was also the Deputy Chief of the Sex Offender Management Unit of the NY State Attorney General. I also trained full-time on investigation and prosecution of sexual assault and child abuse for both the National District Attorneys Association and as a Highly Qualified Expert for the United States Army.
Q. DID YOU KNOW? Name 1-5 things that readers may not know about the book.
ROGER: All of the flashback scenes written about the 1977 blackout are accurate in terms of times and places described. Looting at the Woolworths at 79th and Broadway actually occurred, for instance.
Q. TAKEAWAY: What would you hope readers would take away from reading CITY DARK?
ROGER: I hope readers get a feel for the painful era that was 1977 NYC as well as a glimpse of the AIDS era. I also believe the story is ultimately hopeful (for most of the characters) and is a testimony to the power of loyalty and friendship in the face of crippling addiction and uncertainty.
Q. GENRE: What draws you to this genre?
ROGER: A lifetime of professional work in this area, as well as being a survivor of child sexual abuse myself, are (I believe) the two things that drew me to crime and legal thriller writing.
Q. UPCOMING: Can you share what you are currently working on or what is next in ten words or less?
ROGER: Stand-alone crime and psychological thriller with occult aspects.
Now, let's go behind the scenes and up close
and personal with the author!
"Behind the Author"
BIRTH STATE? or (Country)
New York, NY
New York, NY
FAVORITE THING ABOUT WHERE YOU RESIDE?
Everything other than the weather and taxes
Most things Italian with a well-made Old Fashioned
YOUR FAVORITE LIFE LESSON QUOTE?
Understand that everyone—all of us, all the time, have two tasks we’re always focused on. We are trying to raise our self-esteem and lower our anxiety.
FAVORITE TYPE OF MUSIC?
DESCRIBE A PERFECT DAY.
Sailing with my wife and friends, a great dinner afterward
FAVORITE SONG OR ARTIST?
Don Henley- The Boys of Summer
Billy Joel- Scenes from an Italian Restaurant
IF YOU WERE STUCK IN AN ELEVATOR ALONE WITH ONE CELEBRITY, AUTHOR, OR CHARACTER— WHO WOULD IT BE? (Male or Female)
FAVORITE HOLIDAY OR SEASON?
YOUR SECRET TALENT?
FAVORITE READING FORMAT?
FAVORITE TV SERIES? (Or Movie/Video) binge-watch, series, etc.?
MOST MEMORABLE PLACE YOU HAVE TRAVELED TO? Paris, France
IF YOU WERE GRANTED 3 MONTHS OF UNINTERRUPTED WRITING TIME—WHERE WOULD IT BE?
1. A Busy Urban City
2. A Quiet Scenic Mountain Cabin surrounded by nature
3. A Coastal Seaside Cottage
4. An Exotic Tropical Island
5. A Countryside Farmhouse surrounded by animals and organic gardens.
6. A charming, quaint historic Bed and Breakfast Inn
7. A Scenic Hunting Lodge
8. A Nostalgic Lake House
9. A Writer's Retreat
WHEN YOU RECEIVE A SPARK OF INSPIRATION FOR A BOOK:
1. Do you immediately get out of bed or stop what you are doing and start typing? Totally immersed
2. Make a few quick notes on a pad or device.
3. Save it for later when you are at your desk or office during your regular working hours?
A FAVORITE CHARACTER FROM YOUR BOOK(s).
John Cotler from Copperhead Road
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU WRITTEN?
NAME ONE THING YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE BAD AT.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
INTROVERT OR EXTROVERT?
DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS OR LESS.
Passionate, loyal, romantic
YOUR MOST PRODUCTIVE TIME OF THE DAY?
WHAT IS SOMETHING YOU CAN NOT LIVE WITHOUT? (Excluding computer, tablet, phone)
An ocean nearby
YOUR FAVORITE SANDWICH?
A FAVORITE INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE?
Mysterious Bookshop- TriBeCa, NYC
THE LAST BOOK YOU RAVED ABOUT?
With Prejudice by Robin Peguero
WHAT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT?
IF YOU COULD CURE ONE DISEASE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
ONE BIT OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE AN INSPIRING AUTHOR?
From Vonnegut: On every page, make sure a character wants something. Even if it’s a glass of water.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
Writing impactful stories and being a loyal friend
WISH STATE OR COUNTRY? (Where you would love to live)
WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF A BOOK?
7. The Ending
WHAT ARE EARLIER JOBS YOU HAD BEFORE BECOMING AN AUTHOR?
Special Victims Prosecutor
HOW HAVE THESE EARLIER JOBS HELPED YOU OR HAVE BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN YOUR WRITING CAREER?
Informed me of all procedural matters and most of the emotions involved.
COULD YOU RECOMMEND ANY BOOKS THAT YOU HAVE READ RECENTLY AND LOVED?
Jordan Harper, She Rides Shotgun. Razorblade Tears, SA Cosby, Lush and Seething Hell, John Horner Jacobs, World War Z, Max Brooks, Pretty Evil, Zoe Rosi
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS LIKE?
LEADER OR FOLLOWER?
WINE, MIXED DRINK, BEER, OR OTHER?
BEST PART OF BEING AN AUTHOR?
The ability to create
AT WHAT AGE DID YOU CONSIDER BECOMING A WRITER?
IF YOU COULD WRITE ANOTHER GENRE IN ADDITION TO THE CURRENT ONE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
FAVORITE CHILDHOOD BOOK?
Grapes of Wrath/East of Eden
NAME SOMETHING YOU FEAR.
IF YOU COULD GIVE YOUR YOUNGER SELF SOME WISE ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
When you go out in the world, be a gentleman. Be charming. But play your cards close to the vest, and keep your personal business to yourself.
YOUR FAVORITE AGE (in your life)?
IF YOUR FOOD IS BAD AT A RESTAURANT, DO YOU SAY SOMETHING?
HOW OFTEN DO YOU LOOK AT YOUR PHONE EVERY DAY?
DESCRIBE YOUR LIFE USING ONE WORD.
TRAVELER OR HOMEBODY?
THE GENRE YOU READ THE MOST?
Crime and Thrillers
AN AUTHOR (s) WHO HAS INSPIRED YOU?
Stephen King, Steinbeck, Vonnegut
A CHARACTER FROM YOUR BOOK YOU ARE MOST LIKE OR WOULD LIKE TO HANG OUT WITH?
ONE OF THE EVILEST CHARACTERS FROM YOUR BOOK?
ONE THING YOU HAVE LEARNED SINCE YOUR DEBUT NOVEL?
AN ITEM ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
SUNSHINE OR RAIN?
WHAT SOUND DO YOU LOVE?
A SMELL YOU LOVE?
THE ONE FOOD YOU COULD NEVER GIVE UP?
WHAT ARE YOU FREAKISHLY BAD AT?
YOUR BIGGEST CHEERLEADER?
My wife Kristi
IF YOU WERE NOT A WRITER, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR IDEAL CAREER?
I’d be back in court as a DA
IF YOU COULD LOCK UP ONE PERSON IN A MENTAL INSTITUTION, WHO WOULD IT BE?
Donald J Trump
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WRITTEN ON YOUR TOMBSTONE OR WHERE DO YOU WANT YOUR ASHES SCATTERED?
New York Harbor
WHAT VILLAIN DO YOU FEEL FOR?
BOOKS YOU LOVED AS A KID THAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A WRITER?
Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout
IF YOU COULD HAVE A TV SERIES OR MOVIE ADAPTED BASED ON ONE OF YOUR BOOKS, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE?
IF YOU WERE GRANTED ONE WISH, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
A long and healthy life for my nephew Davis
THANK YOU, Roger, for spending time with us today! Yes, on George Clooney. Fingers crossed.
Readers: Be sure and check out the praise, buy links, and my glowing 5-star review! I am delighted to discover this author and look forward to many more books! I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.
“Canaff keeps the reader guessing to the end about what happened to Robbie on that fateful night. This character-driven family drama satisfies.” —Publishers Weekly
“A pulse-pounding thriller from a New York insider. When NYC goes dark, two brothers’ lives are forever altered. Part legal thriller. Part police procedural. City Dark will thrill every reader.”
—Robert Dugoni, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author
“In this gorgeous and shattering novel from powerful new voice Roger A. Canaff, two young brothers must navigate their way through New York City during a blackout after their mother goes to get gasoline and never comes back. Something happens to the boys on their trek through the city, something that changes them irreparably. Decades later when the woman who abandoned them turns up murdered, it’s finally time to deal with the consequences of that terrible night.”
—Molly Odintz, CrimeReads
“A mix of police procedural and legal drama, City Dark is entirely thrilling. Roger A. Canaff asks how far we can trust our loved ones… and if we can even trust ourselves. This twisty, devious story kept me up until all hours, frantically turning pages with white-knuckled fingers.”
—Hilary Davidson, bestselling author of Her Last Breath
“In the depths of the historic New York City Blackout, the ultimate betrayal occurs. A riveting psychological thriller, City Dark is a probing drama that will anchor you to your seat until the bitter end.”
—David Swinson, author of The Second Girl
“Dark family secrets haunt this gritty and intriguing novel, which is both a sharply-observed police procedural and layered family drama. A unique and memorable read.”
—Zoe Rosi, author of Pretty Evil
“With City Dark, author Roger Canaff tears the top off the New York City crime story list and waves it like a battle flag. City Dark is a waking nightmare of murder, dread, doubt and violent, secret history and a sure bet for another list: the Edgar Award for best mystery.”
—Mark Bergin, retired police officer and award-winning author of Apprehension
From the Publisher
We affectionately refer to New York as the “city that never sleeps.” The lights and bustle are part of the appeal. But during a blackout, everything changes. Buildings go dark. Cars stall at nonfunctional traffic lights. Strange noises echo in alleys.
Roger A. Canaff’s latest legal thriller opens during the infamous 1977 blackout. Young Joe and Robbie are abandoned by their mother as the city fades to black, and that’s the last time either of them sees her—until forty years later when Joe, now a lawyer, must identify her body.
Joe does what he does best: he drinks and he works, trying to reconcile his memories of that night in 1977 with his life now. But there’s so much he can’t remember; there’s so much he’s never understood about his family. And now, he’s suspected of his mother’s—and another—murder. And again, he doesn’t remember anything.
City Dark is the rare kind of legal thriller that combines incredible emotional depth with legal expertise. But it’s also a fierce cat-and-mouse game that will leave you hoping no one switches off your lights.
—Jessica Tribble Wells, Editor
Roger A. Canaff's CITY DARK is a gritty and riveting must-read, character-driven emotional journey of two brothers. Childhood trauma, from boy to manhood. In addition, an intriguing exploration of the city of New York from the blackout of 1977 to 2017 with dual timelines, post 9/11.
A menacing game of cat-and-mouse with sexual predators out for revenge. Good versus evil. Two brothers with different traumas on the night of the NYC blackout left alone by their mother, never to return, and how they each handled that trauma later in life.
Can we forget our past?
Thank you, Amazon, for the introduction. A well-written razor-sharp superb legal thriller: CITY DARK is part psychological thriller, family drama, and cop procedural —a Top Book of 2022!
The novel starts with a young mother, Lois DeSantos, and her young sons, Joe (age 10) and Robbie (age 15), in their car packed and on their way out of NY, but first, they must stop by the boy's uncle's house for money.
However, they run out of gas on the highway during the NYC blackout of 1977.
NYC BLACKOUT: July 13, 1977: The mother leaves the boys the car and plans on walking to get gas.
The mother never returns. The two brothers, utterly afraid for their lives, set out on foot in the dark, trying to get to safety in Manhattan, and a phone to call their uncle Mike.
There are many scary and fearful events, but ultimately they meet up with their uncle's gay black friend who lives in the city to help them get to their uncle's house in Staten Island. However, some tragic events occur along the way that will forever change the course of lives.
New York City 2017: Flash forward to Joe DeSantos. He is a hardworking ADA but has turned into a functional alcoholic and a workaholic attempting to numb the pain. He also has plenty of enemies as he puts sexual predators behind bars and does everything he can to keep them from getting out.
His past comes back to haunt when his estranged mother of 40 years is found dead on a beach in Coney Island. Then he is charged with murder. He has not seen or heard from her since the night she left them in the car.
To complicate matters, Joe has no alibi for that period as he tends to drink and black out, not remembering things. Then someone else close to him winds up murdered. Again, he does not remember.
He is also estranged from his older brother, Robbie, who goes from one dead-end job to another, always looking for money, and works as a janitor at a rehabilitation center in Staten Island.
There is a criminal investigation, and things do not look good for Joe. How can this be possible? Luckily he has a lot of friends that know he is not a murderer and goes to work for him and works diligently to put the pieces of this mystery puzzle together to prove his innocence.
Is he being set up, or framed, and if so, what is the motive? Victim or suspect?
Caniff shines a heartbreaking light on a troubled family and abuse while steadily ratcheting up the tension to a genuinely surprising and emotional finale. Utterly absorbing, you won’t be able to put it down—and it will haunt you long after you turn the final page.
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! Checks all the boxes for me. The author's writing is highly impressive, and check out his bio, which is equally as impressive. He has done so much good and continues to be an advocate. He was born to write this story! Perfect background for these types of stories. This book would make for an ideal book club pick and prime for the big or small screen.
Readers will be surprised by the jaw-dropping twist toward the end, which connects all the pieces. I did not see coming. You will also like the wrap-up, which answers all the mysteries of the 40 years in question.
There are so many cool elements, from the baseball card (heartbreaking) to Joe's poem.
What a great cast of characters! I adored Joe's character. He is tormented and does so much good, and you want to root for him to the end. You hope he will stay sober. You are invested in his character and glued to the pages. He reminds me of Lisa Gardner's character and series: Frankie Elkin.
I also enjoyed Mike's character (the closet gay uncle who sacrificed so much for his nephews) to help others and ultimately died of AIDS when Joe was 18. This was such a bad time for gays back in the 1970s when they were misunderstood. Also, to help Joe go to law school and so much more.
Also enjoyed Nate Porter's character (gay black), who helped the two boys and the former partner of their uncle.
The author really dives deep into the human minds of these evil predators and what they are willing to do behind bars to seek revenge on the outside.
I loved Aideen Bradigan's tenacity (to help Joe) and her brilliant daughter (this part reminds me of Michael Connley's Bosh, his daughter Maddie, and defense attorney, Honey "Money" Chandler).
The best Amazon First Reads ever! Delighted to discover this new author, and he has been added to my favorite author list. I am looking forward to reading his backlist and forthcoming novels! Highly recommend.
For fans of authors— Michael Connelly, John Lescroart, Karin Slaughter, and Lisa Gardner.
One of the reasons I enjoyed this novel so immensely was that I read it directly after reading the books below. I was so blown away, immediately after reading had to email the director of communications for Kensington Books (these two books below are her babies), and she was so excited to learn about CITY DARK and the connections.
Check out my #AuthorElevatorSeries Interviews with these two authors, where we go behind the book and the author. I have read all of their books and have been a fan for many years. These THREE books are must-reads and connect.
If you enjoyed CITY DARK, you MUST read the two following books that connect in many ways with this one.
THE LOST GIRLS OF WILLOWBROOK by Ellen Marie Wiseman. (8/30/22) 1970s Staten Island, NY
An instant NYT bestseller! Girl, Interrupted by way of “Cropsey,” Wiseman's most powerful novel to date, blends fact and fiction, as a young woman desperate to find her missing twin sister (she thought was dead) and is mistakenly imprisoned at the notorious Willowbrook State School. It is a harrowing yet ultimately hopeful story of social injustice and survival, an anniversary tie-in, published 50 years after Geraldo Rivera's groundbreaking exposé and on the 35th anniversary of Willowbrook’s long-overdue closure.
SUCH A PRETTY GIRL by T. Greenwood (10/25/22)
Westbeth Artists Housing NYC: 1976-1977: (Blackout 1977) with dual timelines to NYC 2019 when a photo resurfaces. Precarious lines between art and obscenity, girl and woman, fetish and fame flicker and ignite for a young girl on the brink of stardom and a mother on the verge of collapse in 1970s New York City. A story of a young girl, age eleven, left alone by her mother during the blackout, and a photo of that night turns up in the hands of a millionaire sexual predator 40 some years later.
The 1970s: I enjoy any book that takes place in the seventies. I graduated from high school in 1970, and so many memorable events in the 70s from college, my marriage, building our first home, the birth of my two sons, and my first career. It was an exciting time and one of change. I enjoyed the dual timelines of two different NYC
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
Pub Date: Oct 1, 2022
My Rating: 5 Stars ++ ✨✨✨✨✨
THE BIG THRILL INTERVIEW
City Dark by Roger A. Canaff
By Dan Levy
If you’ve been involved with writing at any level, the phrase “write what you know” likely conjures images of your middle school composition classes. As the information age dawned, a variation on this writer’s chestnut surfaced: “Write what you’re willing to learn.” For Roger Canaff, either version of this age-old wisdom has served him well in his publishing life.
A victim of child sexual abuse himself, Canaff’s stellar career as a child protection and anti-violence against women advocate, prosecutor, a special victims ADA in the Bronx, New York, and deputy chief with the sex offender management unit in the New York Attorney General’s Office has provided him a seemingly endless well of real-life plot lines.
Yet, he describes his newest work, CITY DARK, as a character-driven story. Of his protagonist, Joe DeSantos, Canaff says, “There are aspects of me in him. The rest of the character is an amalgam of the most interesting, smart, and just haunted [attorneys] that I knew. They were good-hearted and reckless. But they were fighting demons and unresolved hurts.”
Canaff notes that two other characters help drive his latest thriller—and he wasn’t necessarily expecting them. “They’re both New York City. One was the City of July 13, 1977, and the other the City of 2017.” He adds, “It’s not just a writer’s trick. I wanted the City as it was in its nadir, in its rock-bottom at least in the last 80 to 100 years. A city in crisis as it was. Then I wanted the City as it was today, post 9/11, to be another character. I had this dream to bring New York City alive in this dual form.”
In CITY DARK, Canaff takes on the challenge of weaving together critical narratives from today and long ago to explore the question: How do we process childhood trauma almost 40 years too late? In Joe DeSantos’s case, he believed he had enough going for him that he could escape, or maybe outrun, past traumas without having to look them in the eye. But Canaff shows us through his storytelling and real-life experiences that this only makes things worse.
Roger A. CanaffIn Joe’s case, that means bingeing on the all-to-familiar alcoholic/workaholic cocktail to numb the pain. That is until the hard-charging New York ADA’s estranged mother of 40 years is found dead on a beach in Coney Island.
Four decades provide a lot of ground for cultivating a deep and compelling narrative arc for Joe, starting as a 10-year-old boy on July 13, 1977. That was a pivotal day for another character, too. New York City was plunged into a blackout that caused journalist Martin Gottlieb to later reflect in The New York Times, “New York had reached an arson-scarred, drug-infested, economically challenged nadir.”
Canaff picked up that storyline. “A New York City that went through 1977. A New York City that went through the AIDS crisis. A New York City that went through 9/11. Part of what I love about this book, and what I hope readers get out of it, is that journey,” he says. “You’re not just journeying along the path of Joe DeSantos, Aideen Branigan, and the people who try to save Joe; you’re also journeying across time with this incredibly important city.”
While Canaff contrasts the characters of yesterday with what they’ve become today, he also uses CITY DARK as a stark reminder that some of the best (and worst) parts of a being don’t change through time. He notes that one of the more poignant scenes in CITY DARK is when an 18-year-old Joe visits an uncle who is dying of AIDS during a time when it was seen as an unforgivable stigma of the gay community.
“There were thousands of [gay] men, particularly in the early days of AIDS, who took on these ministerial roles as helpers and social workers—getting families through the deaths of these young men,” he says. “It’s unbelievable how much power was in that.”
Canaff explains that the experience wasn’t lost on Joe later in the story. When asked what surprised him as his protagonist came to life on the page, Canaff says, “Pretty much the entire book is Joe dealing with the consequences of his past. Even at the end, there was some tenderness about that time period. This wasn’t something [Joe] had to conquer. [He realized] there was something beautiful about it in its own right.”
Canaff attributes those moments of tenderness and, at times, resiliency in Joe DeSantos and New York City not so much to his own experience as to the survivors of abuse he has been privileged to work with over the years. “Especially the kids. I obtained so much insight from them. Insight into their courage, into what made them laugh, what made them cry, what made them keep going.”