The Boys Are Back in Town

(Originally published in Mystery Readers Journal, Volume 29, Number 2 – Summer 2013)

Five years ago, I wrote the first book in the Boystown series; a hard-boiled, gay mystery series, taking place in Chicago during the early eighties. The series follows private investigator Nick Nowak, a former police officer haunted by his abrupt departure from the CPD, as well as the traumatic end of his relationship with librarian Daniel Laverty. The five books follow Nick’s cases, and his personal relationships as he chooses between his former love and a new relationship with police detective Bert Harker.

I lived in Chicago through most of the eighties in the neighborhood I now write about. At that time, the neighborhood was called Newtown – occasionally it was called Boystown, though mostly with derision. Now, it’s officially Boystown on Googlemaps. I also draw on many of the experiences I had there, working as a waiter, a bartender, a temp, a theatrical director and, very briefly, as a gossip columnist.

Writing about a period from my own life seemed easy at first, but I’ve found that I still have to do a lot of research to make sure I’ve remembered things correctly. I don’t always. Chicago is a rich canvas for the type of mysteries I write. I enjoy writing about the architecture, the streets and the unique neighborhoods. One of the most flattering reviews I’ve gotten was from an Amazon reviewer who suggested reading Boystown 3 with a CTA transit map.


Originally, I conceived the series as short stories to be sold separately. My publisher suggested grouping them consecutively so they read somewhat like a single novel with more than one mystery. The first two books have three stories each, the third two novellas, and then with the fourth book I began to write complete novels. There is also one short story, Little Boy Dead, which is a prequel and sold on its own so that readers can sample the series.

Both of the publishers I’ve worked with are primarily romance publishers. My books, though, are really more classic-style mysteries. Nick does have an active romantic life, sometimes too active for his own good, but the real focus is on the mysteries.

The series has been very well reviewed and fortunate enough to receive two honorable mentions in the Rainbow Book Awards in 2011 and 2012, and was also chosen as a finalist for the 2012 Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Mystery.

Currently, I’m working on the next book in the series, titled, Boystown 6: From the Ashes.

The six available titles, in chronological order, are:

Little Boy Dead

Boystown: Three Nick Nowak Mysteries

Boystown 2: Three More Nick Nowak Mysteries

Boystown 3: Two Nick Nowak Novellas

Boystown 4: A Time For Secrets

Boystown 5: Murder Book

Marshall has an MFA in screenwriting from UCLA, where he received the Carl David Memorial Fellowship and was recognized in the Samuel Goldwyn Writing awards. He has also had plays produced in both Chicago and Los Angeles, and stories published in The James White Review and Frontier Magazine.

One response to “The Boys Are Back in Town

  1. I have visited Chicago several times over the past few years and love it. I think that’s why I first picked up the Nick Nowak stories. There are several other detective series I have followed because they were set in Chicago. Similar to the reviewer mentioned I follow along with Google maps. I recall going to “street view” during one of your descriptions and, even years later from the story, it was spot on.

    I am glad you are doing Book 6. I really like Nick and I’m looking forward to reading what he does next.


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