Wallace Stroby has a wide taste in reading material, but when he set out to write fiction, he wanted something that felt real. “It wasn’t until I really started reading crime fiction that I felt something closer to real life that would let me explore certain things,” says Stroby, a former Star Ledger editor who lives in Ocean Grove.
Kings of Midnight is Stroby’s second book about Crissa Stone, who steals so she can bribe her lover’s way out of jail. It opens with Crissa knocking over an ATM with a backhoe—what should be the perfect crime where no one gets hurt.
Prior to Cold Shot to the Heart, the first Crissa Stone novel, Stroby had written books centered on men associated with the good side of the law: The Barbed Wire Kiss and The Heartbreak Lounge focused on an ex-New Jersey-state trooper.
But Stroby liked the idea of writing about a criminal who follows a personal code. He hit on the idea of making that person a woman after reading interviews and profiles of armed robbers.
“All the women they interviewed had been brought into the life by a man,” he says. That’s what happened with Crissa. “She’s self-made. She’s self-taught. She has stolen a life for herself, and she has to fight to protect it.”
Stroby hadn’t planned on building a series around the Crissa character. “As I got to the end of Cold Shot, I realized I still had her voice pretty clearly in my head,” he says. Apparently, that voice is still there. Stroby is working on a third Crissa Stone novel.
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