By Sabina Mollot
Dick Belsky, a longtime Gramercy resident and novelist, has released the third book in what was supposed to be a three-part series (but has recently been extended to include at least one more book) around an investigative reporter character named Gil Malloy. The book, called Shooting for the Stars, was released on August 11 ($16 paperback, Simon and Schuster) and focuses on the reporter’s search for the person who murdered a famous actress some 30 years earlier. Police seem reluctant to reopen the case, which was blamed on the wrong person who later killed himself, and the mob be even be involved somehow, but Malloy remains set on cracking the case — and breaking the story.
Shooting for the Stars follows two other books; the first being The Kennedy Connection, which came out last year and focuses on how Malloy, whose career is on the rise, ends up in disgrace after fabricating an interview with a notorious New York prostitute. In reality, the quotes in the story he’d attributed to the street walker named Houston were all second-hand; he’d never gotten to meet her. He then becomes untouchable and has to redeem himself — through a story on the link between a string of murders. The second book, an e-novella called The Midnight Hour, was released in January of this year. In that story, Malloy investigates the massacre of the family that turned out to be blamed on the wrong person, who was executed for the crime.
The subject matter of newsroom investigations is second nature to the author, who previously worked as an editor for publications including the Daily News, The Post, Star magazine and later as a managing editor for NBCNews.com. Belsky left journalism last year to focus on his Malloy novels, the fourth of which is already in the works.
This week, Belsky spoke with Town & Village about the series and what it’s like to write detective-esque mysteries that aren’t actually based around a detective or private investigator. “There are pros and cons,” said Belsky. “The reporter can’t do certain things a detective can do like get people to talk by use of his badge, but he can do things a detective can’t do because he’s not the law. He can reach out to people to get people to trust him and talk to him as a source. It does present a challenge, but it also allows you to go to different places with the story.”
Like in previous installments, the character’s obsession with getting the story has led to his leading a somewhat lonely personal life. He’s in love with his ex-wife. He’s also struggling to adapt to the new reality of journalism, with a boss who’s 26 and seems more interested in click-bait puff pieces and social media than actual news.
“In the old movies, the reporter would run to a pay phone and the story would be out the next day,” said Belsky. “That still happens, but there’s so much more now. We see (Malloy) post things directly to the web and get involved in social media. He’s pushing 40, so he’s not some crusty guy who can’t relate, but he’s somebody who (wrote news) in a traditional way. And now he has to relate to the new newsroom. It’s using technology and social media to tell the story and there’s no way you can ignore that in this day and age.”
Belsky said Malloy is mainly based on some of the more ambitious reporters he worked with over the years whose personal lives were were a mess.
“He’s trying to get the front page story,” said Belsky. “If he was the perfect husband who does everything right, it would be a pretty boring book. I think he’s a man of integrity, a good guy who wants to do the right thing, but sometimes it takes him a long time get to the right thing.”
Belsky admitted there’s also some of himself in the character, who originally was named Joe. However, in the earlier stages of writing the book, he found that he couldn’t really relate to the character. But then Belsky changed Malloy’s first name to Gil, which is Belsky’s father’s name. “I always thought he exuded strength and a sense of humor,” said Belsky, adding that Gil is also his own middle name. After that he found that the voice of the character became more authentic. Friends have even commented that Gil sounds like his creator — while Belsky said he finds that his character, who’s on the sarcastic side, says “all the things to people I wish I could say.”
The next installment in the series is supposed to come out in late 2016. It does not yet have a title, but Belsky said it will be focused on a serial killer case and is set in New York.
“I’m going to keep writing Gil Malloy as long as they’ll let me,” he said.
The novels are written under the name R.G. Belsky, as opposed to Dick (which the author used for his bylines) since he had previously used his initials when writing a series of novels in the 1990s from a female character’s perspective.