Beat cop, homicide detective, special victims unit officer, police lieutenant, crisis negotiator—Trudy Nan Boyce did it all in her 27-year career with the Atlanta Police Department. And during her retirement, she’s turning her experiences into crime thriller fodder. In her debut novel, Out of the Blues (on bookshelves February 23), the first in a trilogy, Boyce introduces readers to Detective Sarah “Salt” Alt, a rookie homicide detective investigating the murder of an Atlanta blues musician in the late 1990s. Alt navigates among musicians, cops, drug dealers, politically influential pastors, and the homeless.
“The only thing I’d written for 30 years were police reports, where it’s just the facts, ma’am,” says Boyce. “Writing helped me to understand more of the complicated components of what I’d been doing.”
On the autobiographical nature of the book
It’s inspired by events; certainly some of the key characters really are amalgams of people I knew on the street. The gang members, for example, I really knew them and interacted with them on a daily basis when I policed Carver Homes . . . The character of Man and his brother were based on two young men who did control the gangs at Carver Homes.
On how she started writing
I had one of those best friends who you talk to everyday on the phone; you’ve been through being single, being married, being divorced, children . . . When she died [of breast cancer], I knew that would be a huge hole for me, not only because she was my best friend but because we had had such a close relationship right to end. She had been a writer, so after she died, I thought, “I can leave this hole, or I can do something that would be interesting to her and honor her.” So I started going to Callanwolde and the writers group there.
On the book’s music theme
My husband was in the music business for a long time, and now he runs a jazz workshop at our house. He has a real understanding of the creative process because jazz is really creative. The blues and jazz are the only art forms that are indigenous to this country, and I think many of us don’t appreciate how much that has given us.
Three more books by Atlanta authors out in February:
Blue Laws, Kevin Young (Knopf, 2/2 )
This collection showcases the best poems from Young’s 20-year career, including a few previously unreleased pieces.
Listen to the Lambs, Daniel Black (St. Martin’s Press, 2/16)
The Clark Atlanta professor’s latest novel tells the story of Lazarus Love III, who voluntarily leaves his possessions—and his family—to become homeless.
The Opposite of Everyone, Joshilyn Jackson (William Morrow, 2/16)
In the Decatur author’s seventh novel, an Atlanta divorce lawyer must embrace her past when her estranged mother comes calling.
This article originally appeared in our February 2016 issue under the headline “By the Book”