R.G. BELSKY
Mystery Scene|Summer #164, 2020
Social distancing may have been common among working writers before it was a necessity, but not all members of that tribe adhered to the stereotype.
John B. Valeri

“I’ve spent most of my life as a journalist working in loud, chaotic, busy newsrooms. So that’s the atmosphere I’m most comfortable writing fiction in too,” R.G. Belsky says. “I work in coffee shops, bars, on the beach, even on the subway. Solitary confinement—either in a home office or a library-type situation— just doesn’t work for me.”

And while the Big Apple’s streets may be uncharacteristically quiet these days, the customary hustle and bustle of the city has served Belsky—who counts Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, Agatha Christie, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly among his influences— well in the past. He has written 14 crime novels—including May’s The Last Scoop—and thrived in a business equally volatile to publishing: the news industry.

In his decades-long career, Belsky served as metropolitan editor of the New York Post, managing editor of the New York Daily News, news editor at Star magazine, and, most recently, a managing editor at NBC News. Despite the necessary fidelity to facts, this background has notably benefited his fiction.

“I think my journalism background helps me in many ways as a novelist. The two most important are: 1) writing clearly and straightforwardly for the reader and 2) meeting deadlines for my books,” Belsky says. “Both of these things are critical for a journalist, and they’ve helped me enormously in my career as a fiction author, too, I believe.”

Which is not to say that there aren’t obstacles when shifting from one realm to the other.

“The biggest one for me? Telling the story too fast! As a journalist, especially a tabloid journalist, which I’ve been for most of my career, my job is to tell the news story to the reader as quickly and simply as possible. Put all the main facts—who, what, when, where, and why—right in the lead paragraph,” Belsky says. “You can’t do that with a mystery story. If you tell the reader everything on the first page, well...there’s no mystery. So, as a mystery author, I’ve had to learn to slow down, to hide facts, to not be as straightforward in telling the story as I would as a journalist. It’s fun to do, but the transition from journalist to mystery fiction writer can be challenging sometimes.”

The ever-changing machinations of innovation, which can be critical to a contemporary novel’s validity, also pose unique considerations.

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