Perhaps most of all, Megan Abbott knows what’s wrong with the hearts of men (and women, too). It explains Ms. Abbott’s ability to cast the perfect bad guy — ahem, a contractor — in her latest crime novel, the ballet-focused thriller, “The Turnout,” which will be published on August 3.
Records show that Ms. Abbott, 49, also the author of “Dare Me,” “You’ll Know Me” and “Take My Hand,” was not writing from personal experience.
Seventeen years ago, when she and her then-husband, Josh Gaylord, a novelist, bought a Junior Four in Forest Hills, Queens, they earned a Ph.D. were completing. program and had anemic bank accounts to prove it. The kitchen, which had long been inexpensively renovated, would have benefited greatly from an intervention, and the floors would have needed to be refinished. But serious home improvements will have to wait. (It’s still waiting.)
“We were young and silly, and what we did was mostly cosmetic,” Ms Abbott said. She and Mr Gaylord replaced a section of cigarette-smoke-infused, gold-thread brocade wallpaper with a far more sober silver stripe and did some painting. But they gave too wide a space to anything that would have required the presence of a contractor.
“They tell you, ‘Write what you’re afraid of,'” said Ms. Abbott, smiling.
Megan Abbott, 49
This is a theft: “It was very common to break into your apartment in the ’90s. In Hell’s Kitchen, the lock on my building’s door never worked. This is the first place I’ve been in New York that hasn’t been stolen from me “
“For a crime writer, the contractor-client relationship is marred by probabilities,” she said. “I know people whose renewal lasted a year or more; Contractors missing and I know of contractors who couldn’t get people to pay. That’s the other side.”
“Weirdly,” she said, “one of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching ‘Real Housewives of New Jersey,’ and there are some contractors on that show, and they never finish the job. It’s a fairytale.” -It’s a bit like a legend or a vampire. Once you let the contractor in…”
Ms. Abbott moved from the Detroit area in 1994 to attend graduate school at New York University, first renting in Park Slope, Brooklyn, then in Hell’s Kitchen, where there were holes in the floor and tramps in the lobby.
“I kind of loved it,” she said. “I was coming from Gros Point, so it was a great bohemian experience. But there’s a certain point in your life where you think it would be nice to live in a place where you didn’t have to step on broken 40-ounce beer bottles. Don’t need it.”
Buying a place in Forest Hills was a mix of random and counterintuitive. Mr Gaylord’s friends had grown up there and the couple decided to look around. “At the time nobody was going from Manhattan to Queens. It was the opposite direction, so it was a good moment to get into that market, and it was a good deal,” Ms. Abbott told the 1,000-square-foot, L-shaped About the place.
A good deal, perhaps, because it overlooked the Long Island Rail Road. Double paned windows were a must.
Still, the apartment was lovely, built in mahogany bookcases, courtesy of the previous owner, a woodworker. And Ms. Abbott was charmed by the original 1950s bathroom. “I’m probably the only person in the building who hasn’t torn it down,” she said. “I love the old-fashioned quality.”
She was a little ahead of the curve in making the apartment a celebration of mid-century modern. “Not Eames,” Ms Abbott clarified, “but regular person mid-century modern.”
After a year of living in the apartment, her grandparents began downsizing, and Ms. Abbott became the heir to the classic 1950s coffee table and two-level side table, both of which had tile inlay. That furniture was right at home, with Russell Wright tableware (a wedding gift from Ms Abbott’s parents) and a cache of chalkware – figurines of Paris and wall hangings that were given away as prizes at Carnival and had become popular decorations in the post-war era. For what it’s worth, they are heavy enough to be murder weapons.
“My dad collected them, so I started collecting them, and we’d give them to each other as gifts. He passed away a few years ago, so I took some of the pieces I gave him,” Said Ms Abbott, whose possessions include a Shirley Temple, a Snow White, a shepherd and a cornucopia of brightly colored fruits.
Old mid-century modern flamenco- and ballet-dancer figures hang on one wall in the living room. “I see them as providing some bohemian artistic energy to the Long Island family of the 1950s,” she said. “I’ve always loved the ballerina fantasy in pop culture — it’s the perfect, pristine thing — so I often end up with tchotchkes that have a ballerina vibe. Obviously, ‘The Turnout’ was a long time coming.” “
A frequently discussed topic during psychotherapy sessions, Ms Abbott said, is her financial hardship. She was a staff writer and story editor on the HBO series “The Deuce”; a creator of the USA Network series “Dare Me”, an adaptation of their 2012 mystery about a ruthless cheerleading squad; And she’s developing “The Turnout” as a limited series. But the success hasn’t gone all the way to his head — or his apartment.
“I’ve never been one to say, ‘Oh, this fabulous $5,000 couch is just what I want.’ It’s never really happened to me,” she said. “But I’m an addicted collector. And after I’ve done a few TV shows, feel free to bid high and get some special books.”
Among them are the earlier versions of “The Moth” and “The Butterfly” by James M. Cain; Reims of first-edition Pulp Fiction such as the first version of Daphne du Maurier’s less-acclaimed thriller “My Cousin Rachel” and Mickey Spillane’s “I, the Jury”.
“Some of them are very vague,” Ms Abbott said. “But if they have an interesting cover or a great title like ‘The Rat Begins to Gno the Rope’….'”
There was also an original Spanish-language poster for “Some Like It Hot”, one of his favorite films. It hangs on his desk. Make of that what you will.
The overcrowded shelves above the computer often change their payload. “It’s stuff to watch to excite my imagination,” she said.
At the moment, there are some mannequin hands (perhaps the start of another collection), tarot cards, bone dice, some ballerina sculptures, a “nutcracker” soldier, a Victorian eye and side-by-side statues of St. Francis Assisi and Sigmund Freud.
“The patron saint of writing,” said Ms. Abbott. “Dr. Freud.”