SOMERS, N.Y. - Matthew Farrell writes about bad people doing bad things.
The Somers author’s edgy crime thrillers have been sending chills down his readers’ spines for the last few years.
Born into a family of cops and raised in Peekskill, the novelist was weaned on the works of horror-meisters Stephen King and Dean Koontz. As a young adult, he devoured detective novels by Michael Connelly and suspense tales by Mary Higgins Clark.
Farrell has known fear in real life, too. In 2001, when the 28-year-old and his wife Cathy were expecting, the couple got into a serious car accident. Luckily, they emerged unscathed. Eight weeks later, baby daughter Mackenzie came into the world.
There was another scare when the active infant, after rolling off her parents’ bed and onto the carpeted bedroom floor, bumped her head and burst into wails. The nervous young dad called 9-1-1. A small army of first responders arrived. Curious neighbors gathered. Mackenzie was checked out and declared fine.
Farrell recalls feeling embarrassed, but in hindsight thinks it was better to overreact than not.
While awaiting their second child, the couple was told tests indicated a possible genetic disorder. They went forward with the pregnancy and, thankfully, the results turned out to be false-positive. Jillian was born perfectly healthy and is now a 15-year-old high school freshman. Mackenzie, 19, is thriving in college.
The point, Farrell says he found, is that there’s always something new to be afraid of, whether it’s rational or not.
Farrell first aims to entertain his readers, but he also writes to drive his demons out into the light.
In a recent parenting advice piece for fatherly.com, Farrell acknowledged that “cathartic” element.
“But at the end of the day, it’s fiction, and we all know real life is more frightening,” he wrote.
His assessment couldn’t be more dead on—and nowadays there’s no need to guess whodunit.
As an invisible bad guy spreads relentlessly across the planet, fears both rational and irrational are keeping folks hunkered down at home. Meanwhile, businesses have locked their doors. The economy has ground to a halt. The government is limping along.
Schools are shuttered.
And there are more chilling plot twists coming.
Hospitals are gearing up for a tsunami of COVID-19 patients. Farrell’s wife is already on the frontlines; she’s a nurse at Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow.
The best-selling author has long supported causes aimed at eradicating hunger and homelessness. He volunteers with Jan Peek House, a shelter in Peekskill; United Way, and Love Holds Life, a children’s cancer foundation.
Feeling blessed by his beautiful family and enjoying financial success as a writer, Farrell plans to donate 100 percent of his book royalties during the month of April to No Kid Hungry, an organization that works with local partners across the country to provide healthy school breakfasts and free meals after school and during the summer.
Millions of those children could be missing out on the one “good, reliable meal they get a day,” he explained.
No Kid Hungry says it is continuing to help schools and community groups during the closures. It has released more than $1 million in emergency grants and plans to free up $5 million more in the coming weeks.
According to the nonprofit, one in seven American kids face hunger. In 2018-19 alone, it helped get an additional 11.5 million nutritious breakfasts to schools across the U.S.–from big cities to rural communities to everywhere in between.
In a testimonial on its website, nokidhungry.org, an elementary school cafeteria worker in Virginia revealed that more than half of her low-income students may go home each day and not have anything substantial to eat, “maybe a bag of chips.”
“They don’t have fresh fruits, they don’t have fresh vegetables, milk. They may not have anything like that. It’s terrible, but it’s reality,” she said.
Farrell has penned four thrillers: “Winter Hill,” “What Have You Done,” “I Know Everything” and “Don’t Ever Forget.” A fifth page-turner is in the works.
His short stories have been featured in the world-renowned fantasy/horror publication Heavy Metal magazine. Farrell’s even done spec script writing for Hollywood.
The books that will generate the royalties Farrell plans to donate are all handled by Thomas & Mercer, an imprint of Amazon
Publishing, but can also be purchased through Barnes & Noble booksellers and “anywhere else books are sold,” Farrell says.
(Note: “Winter Hill” is currently out of print. “Don’t Ever Forget,” due out in September, has a cover graced by a stunning aerial photograph of an iconic Hudson Valley span, the Bear Mountain Bridge.)
So far, Farrell’s good and bad guys include homicide detectives, forensic scientists, state troopers, police investigators, psychiatrists and vice presidents of major financial corporations.
It’s a bit of write-what-you-know. Besides having police officers and a medical hero in the family, Farrell’s day gig–so to speak–is in banking and finance. He is a vice president and commercial relationship manager for Westchester County with Tompkins Mahopac Bank.
The Putnam County firm just announced it was implementing a temporary loan assistance program for customers faced with unexpected financial burdens during the coronavirus crisis.
It sounds like a cliché, but Farrell apparently hopes the pen, once again, will prove mightier than the sword.
“Readers can not only get a book at a time when folks are in their homes and reading more,” they’ll also be helping to contribute to a worthy cause, Farrell says.
With any luck, this is one frightening chapter that will come to a swift close.