Andrew Welsh-Huggins just released the sixth book in his Andy Hayes detective series, Fatal Judgment. He kindly agreed to a quick interview with BCW’s Jim Sabin to talk about it and his next project.
Your sixth Andy Hayes book, and eighth overall, Fatal Judgment, came out in April. Does that feeling of holding your own new book in your hands ever get old?
If it does, it’s probably time to hang it up. It’s a moment of accomplishment that I treasure and would hope never to take for granted.
Andy has taken on everything from fracking to human trafficking to Islamophobia to politics. What’s the general theme in Fatal Judgment?
The plot of Fatal Judgment revolves around Andy’s search for a local judge—who happens to be his ex-lover—who sought out his help and then promptly disappeared. The ensuing mystery focuses on themes of environmental destruction and the growing prevalence of artificial intelligence and the server farms needed to power it.
Readers of your books can legitimately say they know Columbus better after reading them – I know this reader does. What inspired you to make Columbus the setting, and essentially a character, in this series?
I always wanted to base a mystery series in a real locale, but it took me a while to figure out where because my wife and I moved around a lot early in our marriage. Once we arrived in Columbus in 1998 and burned our moving boxes, and I learned to appreciate the city and all it had to offer, I knew this was the place. The opportunity to give Andy an Ohio State football background cinched the deal. And as I like to say, you can kill a lot more than time in Columbus.
Andy is a character who never quite stops paying for his past. Do you envision a day when his good deeds ultimately outweigh his past mistakes in the public eye? I think there will always be people who can’t forgive Andy for his (fictional) football-related misdeeds, just as there are people today who still can’t forgive the Buckeyes for their real-life loss to Michigan State in 1998, thus ruining their national championship dreams that year. But as Andy ages and matures, and has more adventures under his belt, I think people recognize there’s more to him than just his wayward youth.
The Andy series isn’t your only project at the moment. Can you tell us a little more about Columbus Noir? I’ve long been a fan of the Akashic Books series of noir titles—books of mystery stories set in cities across the U.S. and around the world. I was also puzzled that Ohio wasn’t represented in that collection. I successfully pitched Columbus Noir in 2017 to Akashic, and three years later, in March 2020, the resulting book will be out. It includes 14 dark but wonderfully written stories set across the city, with neighborhoods including Olde Towne East, the South End, Clintonville, German Village and the Hilltop.
Now for the details: Where/when is your next event? My next local event is June 8, when I’ll lead a nature walk at Scioto Audubon Metro Park just south of downtown. We’ll start at the Grange Audubon Center at 505 W. Whittier St. at 11 a.m. with a few stops along the way while I read from some of the environmentally themed portions of the book. We’ll follow that with a book signing back at the center. It’s the same day as the Columbus Arts Festival, so a good opportunity to come downtown and appreciate the city.