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Richard Zappa’s “Double Indemnity” Is a Riveting Read

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Courtesy of Richard Zappa

Double Indemnity is Richard Zappa’s third crime thriller. Here, Zappa gives us a glimpse into the story, the characters and his inspirations.

Readers of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books will encounter a familiar style in Double Indemnity, the latest novel from Delaware writer and retired lawyer Richard Zappa. The book, his third, was released last summer and brings back homicide detective Jo Crowder, who teams up with an FBI agent to investigate a series of mysterious deaths. Mayhem ensues when they confront an insurance company founder who has a scheme to make millions and an ethical code unbothered with trifles like murder.

Double Indemnity Richard ZappaHow does this book build on the previous two?

It develops the principal protagonist in the story, the homicide detective Jo Crowder. She’s evolving through these books, and in the first one she’s not even introduced until a third of the way through the novel. The first part of the book focuses on the villain, who was clever and cunning and just diabolical. So I needed a principal protagonist, a sleuth, who was up to the task. It had to be somebody who had forensic skills, was well-trained physically in martial arts and use of weapons, and who was intuitive. And who was also stubborn and persistent and liked to bend the rules, if not break them, on occasion.

It takes a while for readers to connect the dots in Double Indemnity.

That’s the truth, and that’s what I was hoping to attain. You don’t want all the beans spilled too early in the case. You want people saying, “What the heck?”

What authors have influenced your storytelling style?

I’m an avid reader of Lee Child. And interestingly, when I wanted to create the sleuth, the homicide detective who would be clever and cunning and sort of brave, good with her fist and good with her gun, I’m thinking, how interesting would it be to have a female version of Jack Reacher? I read so many of them. I’ve read (Scott) Turow and Grisham and Michael Connelly.

Although you were born and raised in Delaware, these are set in New Orleans. Are there any Delaware influences?

I wanted to do it completely different. When you do it locally, you make up things. You can’t use Grotto Pizza; you have to make up a different name for a pizzeria, and people will say, “I don’t know that place.” So if you know your base is going to be your local readership, [you] just have it take place somewhere else. Now, New Orleans, I’ve actually been there; I love the city. And by the way, it is always in the top 10 for the most homicides of any major city in the country. So, it’s a great place to have [as]a setting for the books.

What type of reader does your book appeal to?

They like crime drama thrillers that have complex plots, multiple subplots, and interesting and complex characters where you don’t always know what the next scene is going to hold for you.

“I used to be a trial lawyer for decades, [so] I’m a storyteller by instinct. And a good trial lawyer is somebody who creates a story and tells it to the jury twice during the trial: in the opening statement and a closing argument.”
—Richard Zappa

What has the reception been like so far?

The reviews have been consistently very good on all three books, but this last one in particular has gotten a lot more excitement, I think.

Have you been doing any book tours?

No, not really. I have book signings here locally, but I haven’t really been able to avail myself of any other marketing opportunities, because quite frankly, my passion is writing now. I used to be a trial lawyer for decades, [so] I’m a storyteller by instinct. And a good trial lawyer is somebody who creates a story and tells it to the jury twice during the trial: in the opening statement and a closing argument. But I just felt, how much fun is it to create a story in fiction, because in fiction the parameters are only those you set for yourself. I can create any kind of story line.

You can find Richard Zappa’s works online. Double Indemnity is available for purchase from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. 

Related: Delaware Poet David P. Kozinski Discusses His Love of Language

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