Award-winning journalist Maureen Boyle is the author of two true-crime books. Shallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial Killer was published in 2017, and The Ghost: The Murder of Police Chief Greg Adams and the Hunt for His Killer (Black Lyon) was published in June 2021. Her next book, Child Last Seen: The Disappearance of Patty Desmond (Black Lyon), is set for release in May 2023.
Maureen was named New England journalist of the year three times and has been honored for her work covering crime, drug issues, and human-interest stories. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism, and a master’s in criminal justice. She is now the journalism program director at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts.
Do you write in more than one genre? After decades as a cop/court/crime reporter, writing true-crime feels natural to me. That might change, but the research needed for this genre aligns with what I had been doing for years working on newspapers in New England.
What brought you to writing? I can’t imagine doing anything other than writing. In the second grade, when the teacher was going over sentence structure and how to use quotation marks, I remember thinking: “Pay attention to this. You will need to know this when you write.”
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? After working in noisy newsrooms, very little distracts me. I have a very cluttered home office surrounded by stacks of notes, books, and digital recorders. Some might consider it chaotic; I call it being surrounded by work. I shut the door and just write. I’m pretty focused when I’m at the keyboard.
Tell us about your writing process: I generally write as I research while the information is still fresh in my mind. I do this so I don’t forget scenes, the tone of individuals, and other bits of information that might get lost over time. Of course, this also means I need to rewrite a number of those early sections as I gather more information.
What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Making sure every fact is correct is always challenging when writing true-crime. Writing about crimes involving communities in states you are not familiar with can be extra challenging. For example, in New England, there are cities and towns, not townships or boroughs. Making sure I understood the different local governments and the different levels of law enforcement in other states was crucial in my second and third books. I couldn’t rely on what I already knew. However, the most challenging part is always making sure the victims’ stories shine through and that the families of the victims feel comfortable talking to me. The bottom line in this genre, at least to me, is making sure the victims’ stories are told.
What are you currently working on? My latest true-crime book, Child Last Seen: The Disappearance of Patty Desmond, was released June 1, 2023. I discovered this case through retired Pennsylvania State Police investigator Danny McKnight while working on my second book, The Ghost: The Murder of Police Chief Greg Adams and the Hunt for His Killer. I have two other true-crime projects in the research phase. One is about a murder during Prohibition. The other is about the abduction-murder of a teenager by a sex offender, the decades of court appeals before the killer was finally convicted, and the effect the case has had on a small community.
Who’s your favorite author? My favorite author is always the one I’m reading at the time. I read a wide range of writers and across genres, looking at how each crafts his or her work. Good writing is good writing, whether it is true-crime, thriller, mystery, horror, science fiction, romance, or anything in between. I have been a huge Stephen King fan since the 1970s and am always amazed at how he can turn a phrase. I read Erik Larson for the way he crafts detail in his non-fiction. I read Laura Lippman for both how she structures her novels and her unique stories. I read Hank Phillippi Ryan for the writing, structure, and story. Each author brings something different to the reader in each genre, so I am always open to reading everything that comes my way.
How long did it take you to write your first book? I like to say it took me thirty years to write Shallow Graves: The Hunt for the New Bedford Highway Serial Killer, but that would be an exaggeration. I covered that story in 1988 when I was a reporter at the Standard-Times of New Bedford in Massachusetts and always planned to write a book on the case. The delay? I was waiting for an arrest. Finally, I decided it was time to write the book and started re-interviewing investigators and victims’ relatives. I had stayed in touch with most of them over the years. Once I got started in 2015, things went pretty quickly.
How long did it take to get it published? The book was published in 2017 by the University Press of New England thanks to help from a friend, Elaine McArdle (who is also a terrific writer). Several agents at the Boston University Narrative Conference rejected the book proposal, and she suggested I contact her agent, who rejected me. However, that agent suggested I contact UPNE directly, and things went quickly from there. UPNE has since closed, but Brandeis University Press took over the list.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? William Faulkner was an author I couldn’t stand when I was in college. His run-on sentences drove me crazy. Since then, I’ve grown fond of his short stories and other works and can appreciate his fine writing.
Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have one book coming out in May then it is back to researching and writing. I am bouncing between the novels, and the non-fiction works right now.
Do you have any advice for new writers? If you want to write, sit your butt in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard, and do it. Pick a time that works bests for you but do it. Don’t wait for divine inspiration. The more you write, the better you get. Writing is an art, a craft, and a business.
How do our readers contact you?
I’m on Twitter (@maureeneboyle1)