Nice guy Robert McClure writes gritty father-son crime novel, Deadly Lullaby
Robert McClure’s novel, Deadly Lullaby, is about family relationships. McClure says, “a family relationship is a timeless theme because they can be so rife with conflict.” Although there is a lot going on in Deadly Lullaby—gangland politics, violence, murder mystery, romance, pure lust—at the core is a story about a man who loves his son.
Deadly Lullaby, a crime fiction thriller, is based on the acclaimed short story My Son previously published by McClure in ThugLit and later reprinted in Best American Mystery Stories 2009. The story is about a father, Babe, a career hitman for the mob, who yearns to have a relationship with his son, Leo, a police detective for the LAPD. Serving two separate stints in prison as a result of his murderous profession has caused Babe to miss his son Leo’s formative years.
Readers are safe to assume that Babe has some character flaws — he is, after all, a career hitman. Leo with a career in law enforcement is not free of character flaws either — the first dilemma Babe faces is helping Leo settle his gambling debts to an individual in the very world of organized crime that Leo is sworn as a police officer to fight.
What led McClure to tackle the challenge of converting his gritty father-son short story into a full length novel? In an interview with BooksChatter, McClure credits his agent, Nat Sobel of Sobel-Weber, for selecting My Son as the basis for Deadly Lullaby, “a work that never would have happened without Nat coaching me through many drafts and never accepting a single sentence he didn’t consider to be the best I could form.”
McClure talked about the challenge of making characters with human flaws likable or at least sympathetic in a recent interview with the book blog Compelling Beasts:
The unique feature about Deadly Lullaby is that most people would probably have a hard time finding a character in it who’s “good” in the traditional sense, including the two protagonists, Babe and Leo Crucci. From the very start, though, my goal in writing crime fiction has always been to create characters that thieve, kill and create other forms of mayhem who readers can’t help but love, and the guiltier the reader feels about it, the better. I feel like I accomplished that with Deadly Lullaby.
So do these characters come from actual life experiences? McClure, a lawyer, devoted husband and father, says there’s not much in the plot of the book that he has experienced (to his relief and, no doubt, to his family’s). McClure explains that although the characters in Deadly Lullaby are quite different than any in his own life, he has been up close to many seedy characters over the years, and not all of them in the course of practicing law. McClure was born and raised in downtown Louisville, Ky., directly across the street from the backside of Churchill Downs Racetrack, the site of the Kentucky Derby. His father’s gun shop, not far from his house, was in the heart of a notorious block that was then known for its strip clubs and prostitutes.
Growing up in the Churchill Downs neighborhood was a study in the characters that surround any race track–professional gamblers, bookies, bail bondsmen (one of the most notorious being the father of my then best friend), fences, pawnbrokers, loan sharks, prostitutes and pimps, hustlers of all stripes and nationalities, and cops. Lots of cops. All these people were my father’s customers, especially the detectives and patrolman who purchased their service weapons from us and often asked Dad to modify shotguns and handguns to their specifications. I hung out at Charlie’s [Gun Shop] often and worked the counter during summers when I hit 20 or so, and like my father grew to respect all these people, and I liked most of them.