By Sabina Mollot
Last August, Dick Belsky, a former journalist and editor at several publications, including the Post and Daily News, released a novel called The Kennedy Connection. The book, published by Simon & Schuster, was about an embattled journalist in what was to become a three-part series.
Now, Belsky, who’s also a longtime resident of Gramercy Park, is releasing the second in the series, a novella coming out as an e-book on February 3. Titled The Midnight Hour (Simon and Schuster, $3), the story once again follows an ambitious but discredited reporter for the Daily News named Gil Malloy.
Recently, Belsky sat down for an interview with a Town & Village reporter at Irving Farm coffee joint to discuss the series and what went into writing it. Additionally, for those who haven’t seen the first book, here’s a recap:
Malloy, a somewhat cocky creature who’d been a rising star, had written an award-winning story about a mysterious prostitute. The problem? He’d never actually spoken directly with the prostitute, not being successful at finding her, while the story made it seem as if he did.
“In the beginning of the book, that’s where he is, barely hanging onto his job,” said Belsky. “He’s not being given the big stories, because nobody can trust him. His integrity has been lost. He was riding high, now he’s riding low and no one wants anything to do with him.”
At the same time, the plotline also focuses on the Kennedy assassination 51 years ago. Belsky chose to write about this after learning, as the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death was coming up, that most people still found the assassination just as important and relevant as they did when it happened.
In the story, it’s the present day in New York City where Malloy is the one to break the story of the link between a string of murders. The pattern lies in a Kennedy half dollar that’s found at each of the crime scenes. At the same time, a man is claiming to be the secret son of Lee Harvey Oswald
In the new book, Malloy’s busy investigating the massacre of a family of which a college professor in Ohio has already been tried, convicted of and executed for.
“Years later, DNA evidence showed that he was not guilty, but he’s already dead,” said Belsky. “Gil starts to look into it and finds that there might be a lot more to it.”
Meanwhile, Belsky said there will be more emphasis on the economics of the current state of the newspaper world as well as the workings of digital media. He recalled how when he worked at the Daily News (in 2005), the newspaper’s website operated to change once every 24 hours. When compared to the present day’s news cycle of stories being updated throughout the day and night, “It sounds very bizarre now,” said Belsky.
With Malloy being in his late 30s, at the start of his career, “his job was just about getting the story, so he, like a lot of people, has to adjust.”
The book, though not yet released, is available for pre-order. The third book in the series, which will come out in print as well as an e-book in August and be full novel-length, is called Shooting for the Stars. In that story, Malloy will investigate the cold case of an actress murdered long ago.
Throughout the series, the character’s personal life isn’t neglected, as he tries to maintain a relationship with his ex-wife, an assistant district attorney who he’s still in love with. Malloy, said Belsky, was inspired by many of the ambitious reporters he’s worked with as an editor, though no one specific.
As for his decision to make his character’s workplace the Daily News rather than at a fictional newspaper, Belsky said he didn’t overthink it.
“I was at the Daily News most recently,” he explained. “The Post I was at a lifetime ago. That’s probably what it was.”
During his journalism career, Belsky also worked at Star magazine and most recently handling online news for NBC. He left that company after six years last April to focus full-time on his book writing career.
For him, the Gil Malloy series, which he’s writing under the name R.G. Belsky, was actually a return to novel writing. In the 1990s Belsky wrote a series of four novels around another reporter character named Jenny McKay. He also wrote a couple of thrillers, Loverboy (1997) and Playing Dead (1999). Though his article bylines had been written under the name Dick Belsky he’d been advised, when making the transition to books, to use his initials. This was because he was writing from a woman’s perspective with the Jenny McKay series. It was in 2013 he got the contract to do the Gil Malloy three-parter.
Belsky is now a full-time novelist, and often writes in coffee joints or at a writers’ studio in the East Village. He’s originally from Ohio but has lived in New York, specifically Gramercy Park, for most of his life.