On Friday April 28, Boston College welcomed home novelist and screenwriter Chuck Hogan, BC ’89, as part of the Lowell Humanities Series. The event, co-sponsored by the Alumni Association, featured a conversation between Hogan and Christopher Wilson, a professor in the English department and an expert in the crime fiction genre.
Moderated by Carlo Rotella, director of the American studies program and a professor in the English department, the event attracted a hearty crowd who listened to Hogan speak about his writing process.
The discussion began with an exploration of Hogan’s inspiration for his novel Prince of Thieves (on which the 2010 movie The Town was based). The author said he would attribute his insight to “a few thoughts here and there and then about eight years of research.”
Hogan said he first came up with the idea after reading a Boston Globe article, but hit a brick wall when it came to researching the armored cars that he so desperately wanted his characters to rob. “It’s a lot harder researching those things than you might imagine,” Hogan said. “Especially when you’re asking the drivers about how the cars work.”
Comparing Thieves to the Oscar-nominated The Town, Hogan spoke of the surreal nature of the whole ordeal, mentioning that he found himself “mesmerized watching the movie, even though [he] kind of already knew what was going to happen.”
When pressed for more information about what differences lay between the two, Hogan said that the movie’s ending was certainly more dramatic than that of the novel, and also pointed to the omission of a triangular relationship that he considered the “blood and bones” of the novel.
Wilson and Rotella both spoke frankly about crime novel conventions, praising Hogan in his both reverence to and non-adherence of the all too formulaic nature that the genre had adopted. Wilson brought up the importance of technology to the crime novel, which Hogan said was the reason he chose to set Thieves in the ’90s rather than the present.
“For one thing, there is certainly a change in novels thanks to technology,” Hogan said. “But more importantly, I think, today there is a lot more integration between the federal and the local authority. The tension that existed in the ’90s is what makes it more exhilarating.”
Hogan made an effort to pay homage to Boston, the city that both raised him and inspired his writing. In discussing the city, the author confessed to the nerves that plagued him about getting details right. “I don’t want someone coming up to me and claiming that ‘There isn’t a Dunkin’ Donuts on that block!'” he said.
The event concluded with a question and answer period that ranged from queries about Hogan’s writing process to his thoughts on the casting of The Town. “For the record, when my agent called to tell me that Blake Lively was spotted reading Prince of Thieves on Page 6 of the New York Post, I quickly hung up the phone and Googled Blake Lively,” he said. The audience cracked up as the BC grad said that he was “not privy to that whole Gossip Girl thing.”
When pushed to disclose what he was currently working on, Hogan said that he was working with the producers of The Town on a new movie that is “based on a real person, another Boston-based crime film.”
The event was the last in the Lowell Humanities Series, culminating a successful year-long program.