Amazon Best Books of the Month, July 2012: It’s not often you hear a book described as a pre-apocalyptic police procedural. But in the hands of Ben Winters (Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters), the mash-up of murder mystery and gloomy end-of-world melodrama works perfectly. Detective Hank Palace knows the world will likely be destroyed in six months by the meteor headed toward earth like a bullet. But unlike those who are giving up, quitting jobs, doing drugs, running away, or killing themselves, Palace has a job to do. He’s got a murder to solve. So he keeps plugging away, unwilling to let the looming apocalypse distract him from finding the killer. Palace is an appealingly off-kilter character, more goofball than hard-boiled. So it’s a very good thing that this is the first in a planned trilogy. --Neal Thompson
Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Ben H. Winters
The Last Policeman is set in a world in which a massive asteroid is hurtling toward Earth, but the novel centers on one detective's murder investigation. Where did you get the idea to combine these two disparate elements of storytelling?
Well, you know, story ideas are like giant planet-dooming asteroids: they always take you by surprise. But I've always had a soft spot for certain kinds of science fiction, books that imagine one grand change to the human situation and tease it out. P. D. James's Children of Men is a marvelous example, or Philip José Farmer's Riverworld series.
The "pre-apocalyptic" side of this "pre-apocalyptic murder mystery" definitely came first. I thought it would be fascinating to imagine my way into the sad and terrifying last months of civilization. Then I set about imagining the right hero for this kind of book, and I thought that what I needed was someone who is extremely dedicated to his work, who cannot let the world end before solving the puzzle before him. That's where the character of Detective Henry Palace came from, my intensely, even bizarrely dedicated public servant.
The obligatory question: What would you do if Earth would be annihilated in six months?
Well, I'm under contract with Quirk Books to write the sequel to The Last Policeman, so first I'd get that done.
Just kidding. I think, honestly, that I would spend time with my children. I'd read them a lot of books, and take them to beautiful places, and try to prevent them from hearing anything about what was coming. (The idea of that, by the way, makes me tearful, as it did periodically over the course of writing this.)
Can you give us any details about the upcoming second and third novels in the series?
Like The Last Policeman, each of the sequels will have at its center a crime that Palace is trying to solve. But, also like this one, each will be at least equally interested in the details of the disintegrating world, and in plumbing the psyche of this lawman: how and why he remains "on the job" even as the job, along with the rest of civilization, crumbles around him.
“...a heck of a lot of fun.”—Locus
“Winters constructs a sturdy, functional, entertaining page-turner.”—Greg Cook, WBUR.org
“I'm eager to read the other books, and expect that they’ll keep me as enthralled as the first one did.”—Mark Frauenfedler, Boing Boing
“...darkly intriguing...”—Discover magazine
“Full of compelling twists, likable characters, and a sad beauty, The Last Policeman is a gem.”—San Francisco Book Review
“...resonant and powerful.”—Locus
“This is a book that asks big questions about civilization, community, desperation and hope.”—io9
“...an entertaining and well-plotted tale.”—Wired.com's GeekDad
“I'm in the middle of it and can't put the dang thing down.”—USA Today's Pop Candy
“...sharp, funny, and deeply wise.”—Slate.com
“The Last Policeman succeeds both as a mystery, with a quirky detective and an intriguing whodunit, and as a piece of apocalyptic speculative fiction. That’s good news. The even better news is that this novel is supposed to be the first of a planned trilogy, with each case occurring closer to the moment when, as Henry repeatedly notes, ‘Bam!’ And that is something we can anticipate with a good feeling.”—Sacramento News & Review
“Winters is masterful in crafting a plausible image of a society that’s hanging onto sanity by its fingernails as it teeters on the edge of mass hysteria....This is a novel that grabs ahold of you and doesn’t let you go until the very end.”—The Nashua Telegraph
“If the next two books are as good as this one, I can't wait for the end of the world.”—Asbury Park Press
“...a solidly plotted whodunit with strong characters and excellent dialogue...This memorable tale is the first of a planned trilogy.”—Booklist
“This thought-provoking mystery should appeal to crime fiction aficionados who like an unusual setting and readers looking for a fresh take on apocalypse stories.”—Library Journal
“Ben Winters vividly describes the decline of civilization in this pre-apocalyptic story, and spins a wonderful tale...This engrossing story is the first in a planned trilogy. It is a well-written mystery that will have readers eagerly awaiting the second installment.”—NY Journal of Books
“The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States.”—Tor.com
“Ben Winters makes noir mystery even darker: his latest novel sets a despondent detective on a suspicious suicide case—while an asteroid hurtles toward earth.”—Wired magazine
“Normally, only Stephen King and Dean Koontz can suck me into a book and not release their stranglehold until I, exhausted from lack of sleep, have turned the last page. Now [Ben Winters] has joined their ranks...The Last Policeman is extraordinary—as well as brilliant, surprising, and, considering the circumstances, oddly uplifting.”—Mystery Scene magazine
“Absolutely outstanding, I completely loved it from start to finish and I’m already rueing the fact that there will only be two more in the series...this gets the highest recommendation I can give. Buy it.”—In Search of the Classic Mystery Novel
“A promising kickoff to a planned trilogy. For Winters, the beauty is in the details rather than the plot’s grim main thrust.”—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review