Vol. 111 (2021)

Five Questions for Novelist David Swinson
about City on the Edge





David Swinson is a highly decorated, retired police detective from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, DC, having been assigned to the Major Crimes division. It was his background in law enforcement that brought authenticity to his acclaimed Frank Marr detective trilogy: The Second GirlCrime Song and Trigger. As the son of a United States Foreign Service Officer, however, he lived in Washington, DC, Beirut, Mexico City and Stockholm growing up, and those early life experiences helped to form the basis for his latest novel, City on the Edge; a story that Publishers Weekly called "...  a deeply felt coming-of-age novel set against a background of powerful authenticity. This is not to be missed." 


Stay Thirsty Magazine was thrilled to visit with David Swinson from his home in Northern Virginia for these Five Questions about his new book.


STAY THIRSTY: Your latest book, City on the Edge, is a departure from your Frank Marr trilogy of crime novels. With a background in early West Coast punk rock and alternative music, spoken-word performance and recording, film and then law enforcement, what was your reason for writing a "coming-of-age" story set in the Middle East?


DAVID SWINSON: I have wanted to write a story set in Beirut for a long time. Living there in the 70s as a kid was one of the most memorable times of my life. The timing was never right, though. After I finished the Frank Marr trilogy it came together. I finally had the story I wanted. I think it took all those years with the police department and finishing the Marr books to finally figure it out. I never really intended for it to be a departure. It was all about timing.

STAY THIRSTY: Although your book bills itself as a novel, the parallels between your life growing up with a father in the Foreign Service and your teenage years spent in Beirut seem more like a memoir lightly fictionalized than a novel made from whole cloth. How did your early life inform your new book?


DAVID SWINSON: City on the Edge is fiction but based on my experiences growing up in Beirut. I like to write books based on my experiences. I would not have been able to write City on the Edge if I had not lived in Beirut as a kid. I think that is why it reads like a memoir because a certain amount of authenticity comes with the life experience.



STAY THIRSTY: Your career as a decorated police detective exposed you to some of the worst of humanity. Did your years in Beirut and your family's disfunction play a role in your decision to join the police department? Did you ever consider following in your father's footsteps in the Foreign Service?


DAVID SWINSON: There are two things I have always wanted to pursue in life – being a writer and having a career in law enforcement. My life’s path took a different course for many years, though living in Beirut is one of the most memorable times in my life. Growing up in a Foreign Service family and my parent’s divorce did have an impact on my life, but didn’t play a role in my decision to join the police force. I never wanted to pursue a career with the government because I didn’t want to chance being uprooted every three to four years. I wanted to be planted in my own corner of the world. Washington, DC, was always home base between countries, so that is the location I chose when I decided to become a cop.

David Swinson

STAY THIRSTY: Your father also worked as a reporter and as an editor, and eventually became a novelist. Did your father's career in writing influence your decision to become a novelist? Which writers do you look up to in the crime genre and what impact did they have on your story construction and style?


DAVID SWINSON: My father was a major influence in my wanting to become a writer. I grew up in a household surrounded by books by authors like Graham Greene, Ross Macdonald and John le CarrĂ©, and with a father who loved to read those books to us at bedtime. He also loved to write, so I think I inherited a bit of that.



STAY THIRSTY: How do you think the audience you developed for your Frank Marr series will react to City on the Edge and do you plan to return to your crime novel roots with your next book or venture in another direction?


DAVID SWINSON: City on the Edge is radically different from my Frank Marr books, but I certainly hope that fans of the Marr trilogy will appreciate it. So far, I haven’t received any negative feedback from my fans. I do plan on returning to crime fiction with a book that involves a PI in 1987. It will involve a PI who also works part-time as a doorman at a punk/alternative music nightclub in Long Beach, CA. And yes, it will be based on my experience as a punk rock/alternative music promoter in that time. I’d like to call it "punk noir."




David Swinson



All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.