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S. A. Cosby on finding fascination in writing a good guy

By Kobo • September 06, 2023Kobo in Conversation Podcast

"Titus is that tarnished knight-errant who really wants to do the right thing for everyone. And I think that's as fascinating, if not a little bit more, as writing about the badass outlaw."

Michael spoke with crime novelist S. A. Cosby, author of the 2021 breakout bestseller Razorblade Tears. His new book is All the Sinners Bleed, the story of Titus Crown, former FBI agent and Charon County Virginia’s first ever Black sheriff, who’s moved back to the county to live with his aging father. On the first anniversary of his election to sheriff he’s called to a school shooting. The investigation into the shooter's motivation leads Sheriff Crown into the darkest corners of Charon to reckon with the ghosts of its past and present.

In this conversation we learned that Cosby grew up reading all kinds of books, and horror was an early passion:

Clive Barker is one of my favourite horror writers.

On how he feels about taking his stories into very dark places:

I had a conversation with Dennis Lehane [...] and he was saying it's difficult for him to write novels nowadays, to go to those dark places. I don't know what this says about him or me, but it doesn't bother me. I can write really dark stuff and play with my cat. Maybe when I get older it'll bother me. [...] I think also, every dark thing I write about is in service to the light.

If Cosby ever breaks his streak of writing standalone novels and brings some characters back, he sees his path as a writer bending a certain way:

If you asked me, am I going to write a series like Lee Child's Jack Reacher, or am I going to write like Elmore Leonard, where he revisited characters over the years—I think I'm closer to the Elmore Leonard style.

For S. A. Cosby, belonging to an intimate community of fellow writers continues to be a vital part of his creative process.

They're indispensable. There's a reason they're always acknowledged in my books—and I'll mention a few of them here. Eryk Pruitt, Nikki Dolson, James D. F. Hannah, James Queally, Jordan Harper—who is in my opinion one of the great crime writers of the last twenty-five years. They knew me before I was S. A. Cosby, when I was just Shawn Cosby, trying to get published. [...] They were here before the halcyon days. They're the folks who are always honest with me, and vice-versa I'm always honest with them. [...] Those are the folks who keep me buoyed when things aren't going great. [...] The process of writing a book for me is like chopping down a tree, where some days you're using a chainsaw, some days it's an axe, and some days you're using a butterknife—and those folks are there when the butterknife days come."

All the Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby

Titus Crown is the first Black sheriff in the history of Charon County, Virginia. In recent decades, quiet Charon has had only two murders. But after years of working as an FBI agent, Titus knows better than anyone that while his hometown might seem like a land of moonshine, cornbread, and honeysuckle, secrets always fester under the surface.

Then a year to the day after Titus’s election, a school teacher is killed by a former student and the student is fatally shot by Titus’s deputies. As Titus investigates the shootings, he unearths terrible crimes and a serial killer who has been hiding in plain sight, haunting the dirt lanes and woodland clearings of Charon.

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