Redux: Bob Kroll – The Hell of it All + Q&A

Halifax Noir

A body long buried and undiscovered. An ex-con with vengeance raging in his brain. A prostitute with personal history with Peterson, and a missing daughter. All underscored by pain, loss and regret.

T.J. Peterson takes the hard way through everything, leaving those in his wake either gasping or puzzled. For him it’s not the hard way through it’s the only way through.

Kroll goes unexpectedly deep and narrow into subordinate characters like a funnel into their soul. The scenes are poignant and wounding. He knits together these people and scenes, doling them out in small packages. The end yield with comes with a chunk of Peterson’s guilt.

~ June Lorraine is a Feedspot Top 100 Crime Novel Blog

Q&A with Bob Kroll

– with text from The Hell of it All

He looked without seeing Halifax as the “vibrant and safe capital city by the sea” promoted by the tourist board. He saw something else. He saw what cops see: the hard side, the ugly side, the side unreported in the press.

You use Halifax, where you currently live, as Peterson’s city. Intrinsic or extrinsic?

I have been writing about crime and punishment in Halifax since the 1970s, about Halifax past and Halifax present. Halifax is a port city, and like most port cities, it has a strong undercurrent of crime, which goes back to the city’s founding in 1749.

Some characters from Halifax’s recent past people my writing, some have stepped off today’s front pages, and a few, such as the Runt in The Hell Of It All, have climbed from brown cardboard boxes containing dusty court documents in the Nova Scotia Archives.

The dark atmosphere in my writing comes from years of researching Halifax’s historic underworld. So when it came time to create a setting for my crime novels, I could not help but make it Halifax.

His head brewed with shame for feelings thick with disappointment. For friendships scoured down to loneliness.

How long did Peterson live in your head before you got him on ‘paper’?

In one form or another, Peterson has been following me around for most of my adult life. He has been like a shadow, both literally and figuratively.

He was shaking and he was crying, and he was wondering if being born was worth the cost of living.

What does Peterson want?

Peterson seeks purification. The opening lines of Dante’s Inferno are:

“Midway upon the journey of our life

I found myself within a forest dark,

For the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

Peterson must descend the broken pathway to the bottom of hell before he can climb up the frozen body of Satan in order to re-enter the light.

Usually he opened the journal just anywhere and read a single entry, not so much for content as for the intimacy of the scrawl of words.

It’s a foggy Thursday at 2PM and you’re sitting at your local. What author would you like to tip a glass with?

I’ll make mine a mug of black coffee, and the author I would like to be drinking it with is John Williams. He wrote one of the finest novels I have ever read – Stoner.

It is not a well-known novel. The New Yorker magazine considered it “the greatest novel you have never heard of”. Nor is it a crime novel. It is simply a heartbreaking story that is beautifully written.

What would I want to talk about with John Williams? The depth of human sadness, the tragedy of life, the angst of failure in the face of death – all the things I have tried to explore through my anti-hero, Peterson.

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