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Author Update 2022: Chuck Greaves

Former attorney Chuck Greaves is the award-winning author of four books in the Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries. Writing as C. Joseph Greaves, he has also authored three standalone literary fiction novels. His newest MacTaggart release, The Chimera Club (Tallow Lane Books, May 2022), presents the newest case for main character Jack who one reviewer calls “a man with the talents and ethics of Clarence Darrow combined with the charm and mischief of Jack Sparrow.” You’ll find Chuck at, on Facebook, and on his Amazon author page. Read more about Chuck’s writing in his 2016 and 2019 interviews for SouthWest Writers.

What is your elevator pitch for The Chimera Club?
When film producer Ari Goldstone is murdered in Los Angeles, the DNA evidence points to only one possible suspect: disgraced financier Jimmy Kwan. Except that Kwan was seven thousand miles away in Hong Kong on the night of the murder. Hired by Kwan’s daughter to defend her father, attorney Jack MacTaggart must first solve an even more urgent mystery – how to stay alive long enough to bring the real killer to justice.

What unique challenges did this work pose for you?
As a former L.A. trial lawyer, the procedural aspects of writing a legal thriller like The Chimera Club come naturally and don’t usually require much in the way of research on my part. This novel, however, required quite a bit of research into DNA evidence, how it works, and how it might be challenged. Then, of course, came the secondary challenge of presenting that information to the reader in a way that’s both understandable and compelling, all without slowing the story’s forward momentum.

Tell us how the book came together.
Unlike most of my novels – this is number seven – this one began with a very high-concept ending that, unfortunately, I can’t really describe here without ruining the surprise. Suffice it to say that, with that ending in mind, the writing process involved creating compelling characters and confecting a propulsive plot that would lead readers to that inevitable conclusion. For me, this was the opposite of how I usually work. In most of my MacTaggart novels – this is the fourth – I begin with a milieu into which I toss Jack and follow along with him as he muddles his way to an ending that I might not necessarily know myself until we get there, together. In the case of The Chimera Club, it took me two years to arrive, but I always knew where I was heading.

With this fourth novel in the Jack MacTaggart series, did your protagonist still surprise you as you wrote his story? How would Jack’s friends describe him? How about his enemies?
Jack is such a likeable guy that I think even his enemies would have to concede that he’s pretty good company. Good for a laugh, in any event. I’m not sure it surprised me, but Jack definitely falls in love this time around, with his client’s daughter, a former fashion model who, when the story opens, owns and operates the hottest nightclub in L.A. Jack usually maintains a certain emotional distance from the women in his life – that’s why he’s still single in his early forties – but this time he falls head-over-heels. Which in crime fiction is rarely a good idea.

When did you know Jack was a strong enough character to carry a series?
From the jump. When we sold the debut novel Hush Money to St. Martin’s Minotaur, they recognized Jack as a strong series character, and we never had to pitch them. Which is a good thing because Jack is basically me – or a smarter, funnier, better-looking version of me – and I’d hate to be writing anyone else.

What is the main setting of The Chimera Club, and why is it the best place for the story to unfold?
Great question because, as I mentioned earlier, I started with an ending and could have set the story literally anywhere. Well, anywhere in L.A., given Jack’s backstory and history. Why I chose Chinatown is a bit of a mystery even to me – how do these things happen, anyway? Maybe blame Jake Gittes. I guess it began with Jack’s love interest, a Eurasian beauty whose father, Jack’s client, is a disgraced hedge fund manager known, since his conviction a decade earlier, as the Chinese Bernie Madoff. I needed Jimmy Kwan to be a felon because, for the story to work, his DNA had to be on file with the authorities when film producer Ari Goldstone is murdered in Los Angeles. And one thing led to another, as these things will do.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
Returning to Jack. The first three MacTaggart novels – Hush Money (2012), Green-eyed Lady (2013), and The Last Heir (2014) – are now eight years old. In the interim, writing as C. Joseph Greaves, I expanded into literary fiction with my titles Tom & Lucky (Bloomsbury), a Wall Street Journal “Best Books of 2015” selection and a finalist for the Harper Lee Prize, and Church of the Graveyard Saints (Torrey House), which was the six-city “Four Corners/One Book” community reading selection for 2019-2020. So returning to Jack, my first-ever literary creation, was its own reward.

You began your fiction writing career later in life. What did your mature self bring to the writing table that your younger self never could have?
I don’t think I could’ve written a credible legal thriller without having practiced law for as long as I did. Not, at least, without a lot of research and effort (kudos here to Michael Connelly). So there’s that. Also, I like to think Jack brings a certain world-weary philosophy to the MacTaggart novels, and those calluses are earned. Not to mention the discipline required to write seven novels in fifteen years. And finally, fairly or not, the writing life is infinitely more accessible to those with some savings in the bank, at least at the outset.

In your SWW 2016 interview, you mentioned the possibility of writing a “madcap caper novel” with author Deborah Coonts using her Lucky O’Toole character and your Jack MacTaggart. Have you two made progress on the book? And in your 2019 interview you talked about collaborating with a TV director on a possible cable series set in the Southwest. How is that project coming along?
Funny, I ran into Deb not long ago, up in Crested Butte, Colorado in October, when we both were speakers at their annual crime writers’ conference. Unfortunately, the Jack MacTaggart-Lucky O’Toole mashup never got off the ground, although I still think it would be fun to write, since we have similar senses of humor (which is to say, offbeat). The TV pilot, on the other hand, did come to fruition. Director Felix Alcala (ER, The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Madam Secretary, etc.) and I raised around $700K to film the pilot episode from my original script. We shot it in 2020, mostly in Mancos, Colorado, during the worst of the Covid pandemic (fun!), and are still looking for a distributor. If you think traditional publishing is a tough gig, try Hollywood. It’s been a real slog.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
Only that The Chimera Club, the fourth installment in my Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries, is now available in trade paperback, ebook, and audiobook, wherever books are sold. Oh, and it’s a perfect beach read. “MacTaggart is full of awesome.” – Library Journal

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy has a new speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

Author Update: C. Joseph Greaves

Chuck Greaves/C. Joseph Greaves won SouthWest Writers’ Storyteller Award in 2010 for his debut novel Hush Money (Minotaur, 2012), which became a finalist for the Shamus, Lefty, Audie, Reviewers’ Choice, and New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards. Church of the Graveyard Saints (Torrey House Press, 2019) is his sixth novel. Chuck is also the book critic for the Four Corners Free Press newspaper in southwestern Colorado, where he lives and writes. You’ll find him at and on Facebook. Read his 2016 SWW interview to find out more about Chuck and his writing.

What would you like readers to know about the story you tell in Church of the Graveyard Saints?
That it’s a compelling read! I’ve likened it to a Shakespearean tragedy in which the Capulets of resource extraction and the Montagues of environmental conservation square off in the background while an intensely personal love story plays out in the foreground. It should appeal to readers who enjoy a little romance with their adventure, and a dash of real-world relevance in their otherwise escapist fiction.

Tell us about your main characters.
Addie Decker is a 23-year-old grad student at UCLA who, thanks to a difficult father and a bad breakup with her boyfriend, left her family’s ranch in the Four Corners vowing never to return. Only now, five years later, she does return in the company of her new beau (who’s also her faculty adviser) to combat the expansion of gas drilling in and around the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument which adjoins the family ranch, only to find that her father welcomes the gas rigs and her old boyfriend, newly divorced, works on one. The story is told from four points of view—those of Addie, her father, her new beau, and her old boyfriend. Each has a very different view on the subject of resource extraction, and that frisson, together with the incipient love triangle, propels the story forward.

How did you come up with the title?
I’ve been asked the question, “What does the title mean?” at virtually every book signing I’ve done, and my answer in each case has been, “When you get to the end, you’ll understand completely.”

How did the book come together?
At just over 70,000 words, this is the shortest of my six novels, and yet it took the longest—almost three years—to write. It’s also my first foray into purely commercial/literary fiction, which might explain the care I took to get everything right. I moved to the Four Corners from Santa Fe seven years ago, and I wanted to write a book that captured both the beauty of the region and the challenges facing those who live here, particularly the multi-generational farmers and ranchers struggling to eke a living out of this harsh high-desert environment. That setting—the red-rock canyon country of southwestern Colorado—is very much a fifth character in the novel.

What was your favorite part of putting this project together?
I love writing fiction, so the creative process is always a thrill. What’s been particularly gratifying about this novel is that, while still in galleys, it was selected by six public libraries in the Four Corners region—those of Cortez, Dolores, Mancos, Montrose, and Ignacio (Colorado) and Moab (Utah) —to launch their inaugural “Four Corners/One Book” community-wide reading program. It was a tremendous honor, and I’ve been busy with kickoff events and public readings, all of which will culminate in January with a series of group discussions of the novel and the issues it raises. My favorite moment so far came when Karen Sheek, the mayor of Cortez, pulled me aside to say she both laughed and cried while reading Church of the Graveyard Saints. That’s something every novelist longs to hear.

Was there anything surprising you discovered while doing research for Church of the Graveyard Saints?
Unlike my historical novels Hard Twisted (2012) and Tom & Lucky (2015), both from Bloomsbury, Church of the Graveyard Saints didn’t involve a whole lot of research other than a generalized understanding of, and interest in, the environmental challenges facing the desert Southwest. The book is chock full of interesting tidbits in that regard. For example, did you know that the world’s human population in the year 1800 was one billion, and that by 1960 it was still only three billion? Today it’s approaching eight billion, and growing exponentially at a current rate of approximately a quarter-million people per day. Issues like that—population growth, public lands cattle grazing, oil and gas extraction, methane emissions—all get a passing mention without (I hope) interfering with the story.

What does a typical writing session look like for you?
I agree with whoever it was that said, “I only write when I’m inspired, but I make it a point to be inspired every morning at nine o’clock.” So yes, I’m fairly regimented, and I believe in visiting the manuscript every day, even if only to polish what I wrote the day before. I think the worst mistake a writer can make—particularly a new writer—is to put the story aside and hope for inspiration to come. For me, inspiration comes from putting words on paper and seeing where they lead.

Is there something you’d like to develop from material you haven’t been able to use?
I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve finished every novel I’ve started and sold every novel I’ve finished. Next up for me is the fourth entry in my Jack MacTaggart series of legal mysteries, which I plan to complete this winter. I just turned my short story “The Weight of a Feather”— which appears in SWW’s The Storyteller’s Anthology—into a one-act stage play that I hope to see performed next year, and I have another short story, “The DQ Rules,” scheduled to appear in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Lastly, I’m collaborating with a TV director on a possible cable series set here in the Southwest. So I’m always developing something, even if it’s just carpal tunnel syndrome.

KLWagoner150_2KL Wagoner (writing as Cate Macabe) is the author of This New Mountain: a memoir of AJ Jackson, private investigator, repossessor, and grandmother. Kathy posts to a speculative fiction blog at and writes about memoir at

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