Seven years ago, Marcus Sakey and his girlfriend, g.g., went looking for a new place to live. Sakey’s Atlanta-based graphic design company had folded, a victim of the bursting Internet bubble, and he and g.g. had decided they wanted to move to a “real city.” “We opened a bottle of wine, took out a map, and went around the country,” Sakey recalls. “We said too cold, too rainy, not big enough, not enough mass transit. It came down to Chicago, Boston, and Toronto as the leading contenders.” The couple finally settled on Chicago, little realizing they had chosen not only a new home but also the setting for the crime novels that would soon catapult Sakey to fame.
Flash forward to the present. Sakey and g.g. are married now, living in a Lake View graystone. Sakey’s latest thriller, The Amateurs —the story of four Chicago friends whose unlikely foray into high-stakes theft yields calamitous results—is due out in August, and it seems preordained to share the success enjoyed by its three predecessors. Ben Affleck’s production company has optioned Sakey’s first novel, The Blade Itself, while Tobey Maguire has picked up the rights to Sakey’s third book, Good People. And it’s not just Hollywood’s A-list lining up to pay homage: Reviewing his second novel, At the City’s Edge, the Chicago Tribune anointed Sakey “the reigning prince of crime fiction.”
Sakey, however, resists being pigeonholed within a particular genre. “I’m not at all upset to be considered a crime novelist,” he says. “But for me, it’s never really about the crime or the violence. I’m much more interested in exploring issues.” In The Amateurs, says Sakey, those issues are twofold: “What if your best friends became your worst enemies? And at the same time, what if you had to make a choice between the lives of a handful of people you love and countless people you didn’t know?” As with any Sakey novel, the mystery resides not in who done it but in the way those ethical questions are finally resolved.
Not that readers won’t also be treated to a series of heart-in-the-mouth moments that will have them frantically turning pages to see what happens next. “One of the things that I love about crime novels is that you can turn the volume all the way up,” Sakey admits. “If I can make somebody blow their subway stop, I win.”
(Geoffrey Johnson, Chicagomag.com, August 2009)