An Interview with Marco Conelli: Who is Matthew Livingston and Where in the World is he?

Jul 12, 2011 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico

Marco Conelli

1) Marco, first of all, a bit of background. When did you first get interested in police work and how did you start out?

I am a second generation Police Officer. My father had worked in the NYPD during the 50’s, 60’s 70’s, 80’s. I was eager to enter into this field so I began by taking the exam as early as possible, age 17. The benefit of starting that early was that the NYPD’s hiring age back then was 20 and by the age of 20 I was sworn in. I worked a solid year for the city before I was even the legal age to purchase alcohol in New York.

2) Since I used to teach in the South Bronx, and know Manhattan and Brooklyn fairly well, tell us about where you used to work?

I began my career and had my best times in the South Bronx. I learned the job in the 44th precinct, a short distance from the house that Ruth built, Yankee Stadium. Shortly after that, clinging to a youthful appearance I was recruited into the Organized Crime Control Bureau where I became an Undercover and continued to work in the borough of the Bronx. By the time I had eight years of service I had amassed case work in all 5 boroughs of New York.

3) What got you writing?

I was a big fan of reading and I just thoroughly enjoyed characters and story development. Night after night working as an undercover you were seeing situations and strange things. Later on you would tell your friends a story and they wouldn’t believe you were telling the truth. On the heels of that, storytelling and writing seemed to be inevitable.

4) Now who is Matthew Livingston and what has he found himself embroiled in ?

Matthew Livingston is one of 3 main characters in my young adult mystery series. I entered into the writing field appreciating the mystery genre, but felt that the Young Adult section was in need of a mystery with characters that were unique and could grow, unlike Matthew’s predecessors, namely Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown.

While I admire both of those titles, Nancy and Encyclopedia, I felt the character development never got addressed and the personalities were too perfect. Matthew Livingston is a seriously smart 17 year old, who isn’t much for socializing. The character is driven, darkly, by a quest to understand things. He is embroiled in using his intelligence and lateral thinking to
unravel diabolical crimes that take place in his town.

5) What is wrong, if anything with the public perception of police?

A big wrong with the public perception is that the police impose the law because they have it in for you. Laws are written and the police enforce them. The public can fail to realize that the Police deal with the best people at their worst, and the worst people at their best. How would you feel about having to do that every day?

6) Marco, I enjoy the t.v. show Blue Bloods. How accurate a portrayal is that show?

I am not entirely familiar with Blue Bloods, but I understand it is pretty well received. Reading a little bit of the back story I learn that Tom Selleck is the NYPD Commissioner and his kids are all cops except for one who is an Assistant District Attorney. One son is killed while conducting an undercover operation. The FBI then recruits another of Selleck’s kids to continue the operation.

This is a fallacy. How would they expect a sibling to contain emotions while investigating the murderers of his own brother? It’s an accident waiting to happen or a good case of vigilantism.

Also, I understand that the daughter who is an ADA prosecutes her brother’s arrests. That would be a defense attorney’s lottery ticket in the form of a lawsuit. I wish the show well, but for me the best portrayal of NYPD police work in a television show remains (seriously) Barney Miller.

7) Your book is subtitled “ The Politics of Death”. This sounds grim. What is this all about?

During a local political campaign a candidate is shot and killed by a sniper. In the style of a “locked room” mystery the shooter has evaded the police. The book’s narrator and aspiring journalist, Dennis Sommers, is covering the campaign for the high school newspaper and witnesses the shooting. He then informs Matthew Livingston. Matthew is intrigued by the killer’s evasive tactics and using pictures and an audio recording of the incident constructs a theory. As the police conduct a headstrong investigation into the matter, Matthew profiles the incident in such a way that he believes the killing is the first of more to come. Along with Dennis and Sandra Small the trio hatches a scheme to bait a maniac before he can strike again.

8) Where can parents and kids get a copy of this book?

Matthew Livingston and the Politics of Death and all the Matthew Livingston books are available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever young adult books are sold.

9) Do you have a web site?

Yes, please visit www.marcoconelli.com where you can hear all about happenings in the Matthew Livingston series as well as events where I will be appearing and conferences where I lecture aspiring mystery writers about the realisms of Police work in novels.

10) What have I neglected to ask

I would like to add that along with writing the Matthew Livingston series I advocate the awareness and support of literacy programs in America. I donate lots of my books to schools and programs where books aren’t available. When youngsters explore the joy of learning they nurture a love of reading. Through reading groups they gather to have fun. This experience can enrich and shape their lives.

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