Monday, February 14, 2011

"HOW I CAME TO WRITE THIS BOOK" Brad Parks



This is a book that began with discarded mattresses.
As a reporter with The Newark Star-Ledger in the winter of 2008, making daily drives
through Newark, I felt like I was suddenly seeing mattresses everywhere – leaning up against porches, discarded on sidewalks, tossed near dumpsters. Finally, I asked the question: What’s with the mattresses?
Foreclosures, I was told. People were defaulting on their loans and being ordered out of
their houses. They tended to be folks who didn’t have cars, or only owned small ones, and
therefore couldn’t take along their mattresses. So they were left behind.
Little did we guess, but those mattresses foretold a worldwide economic collapse – and,
as it turned out, also led to my next book, Eyes of the Innocent.
The first part of that story is, by now, well known. We began learning about something
called “mortgage-backed securities” – mortgages, many of them of the subprime variety, that had been packaged, sliced into pieces, and sold to investors who were assured they were ultrasafe.
Except they weren’t. Not even close. Mortgage-backed securitization was really just a pretty
ribbon on a bunch of ugly loans, given to borrowers who couldn’t afford them. In Newark, it
wasn’t unusual to find applicants making $35,000 a year being approved to buy houses that,
with prices inflated by speculators and flippers, were going for $350,000 or more. The math
didn’t work. And as soon as the global credit crunch hit, depriving the housing market of the
easy money that had fueled the insanity, it all got bad in a hurry.
The wave of foreclosures that first pounded Newark in 2008 – which I covered in some
depth for The Star-Ledger – soon spread across the country. Many mortgage-backed securities became worthless, a blow from which some of the world’s largest financial institutions never recovered.
For Newark, the pain has been no less acute. Houses left empty by foreclosure are magnets
for trouble. And all those years of speculation and house-flipping left a messy legacy,
especially for the people who dove in it over their heads and were left standing when the music stopped and the market crashed.
Those two elements – what happens to the houses and the people victimized by the
subprime mortgage scandal – helped inform and inspire Eyes of the Innocent, fictional reporter Carter Ross’s latest romp into urban America.

Brad Parks is also the author of FACES OF THE GONE.

6 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Thanks for hosting Brad.

Brad - What's happened with the mortgage situation is just horrible and it does affect real people. It's not just some big "thing" out there. Real live people - down the street people - have been hurt. That's a compelling basis for a book. Thanks for sharing how it compelled you to write yours.

Brad Parks said...

Margot -- It really is quite a shame. Too much greed on the part of some. Too much naivete on the part of others. And a big mess -- ongoing -- for hard-hit communities. Worse, it's not even over! (But I hope you like the book, despite the grim subject matter).

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

I've seen firsthand the devastation of home foreclosures and it is painful for not only the victims, but also the relatives and friends of them. I really hope jailtime is given out to the materminds of these crimes. Best of luck with the new novel!

Charles Gramlich said...

A great stimulus for a book. Makes me want to read it for sure.

Dorte H said...

Discarded mattresses? Fascinating post, but also scary. The crisis has also hit Denmark, but so far the main difference in my life has been that publishers stopped sending me ´encouraging rejections´, suddenly it was just rejections.

Kathleen A. Ryan said...

I am lucky, as I got to hear Brad explain this at the Mysterious Bookshop in NYC last week. It's an amazing story, and glad that Brad incorporated it into EYES OF THE INNOCENT (which I'm enjoying tremendously, BTW!) Thanks for having Brad on your blog, Patti! Nice job, Brad ~ I really like Carter Ross, he's a lot of fun.