‘Pulse’ Is a Brisk Detective Thriller With a Sci-Fi Twist

A conversation with Chicago's own Michael Harvey.

Michael Harvey, cold case TV producer, crime fiction writer, and now…science enthusiast? Harvey’s new novel Pulse is a departure — light years worth of departure — from his past novels. The story of a young man dragged into trouble by circumstance and stripped of everything he thought he knew, Pulse is still the mean-streets crime story we’ve come to expect from Harvey (and for which Harvey’s biggest fan, Stephen King, has given astonishing blurbs). But it’s also a story with some unexpected elements. Quantum physics, for instance.

But all that science really just forms the framework for what Harvey really wants to say.

And that is? Not so fast. You’ll have to read Pulse to get the full story of Daniel Fitzsimmons, the boy with powers he doesn’t understand who finds himself, without knowing how, at the scene of his brother’s murder. You’ll have to read Pulse to see why New Line Cinema snapped up the film project based on Harvey’s book, why 21 Laps, best known for Stranger Things and Arrival, is producing. You’ll have to read Pulse to understand fully the beating heart at the center of the universe it creates.

I spoke to Michael Harvey by email about his new book and, yes, science.


Lori Rader-Day

Pulse has a bit of the supernatural to it. Maybe that’s not the right word? Tell us about the book in your own words, and how it’s a departure for you, and not. 

Michael Harvey

Crime novels often serve as a mirror for the times in which they were written. I suspect there is a little bit of that going on in Pulse. As we free fall through the twenty-first century, it’s hard to ignore how divisive, how disconnected, how incredibly isolated we’ve become. From our politics to our entertainment to the way we treat each other on a daily basis, there seems to be an increasing inability to grasp the simple fact that there are other people on this planet, lots of them, with opinions that might be different than our own, and priorities that might be more pressing. There is, however, another way of looking at the world, and our place in it. It argues that mankind needs to stop thinking vertically and start living horizontally. We need to realize each of us is part of a whole, sharing the same biology and same planet with countless other living organisms. That is our birthright. And our fate. We are all connected —every person, every animal, every flower, plant, sun, moon, star in the heavens. We are each individuals, and yet we are all of one piece. It’s both a paradox and an essential truth—and it lies at the heart of Pulse.

Lori Rader-Day

Was writing something “different” than past books a goal?

Michael Harvey

Not really. Like most of my books, the premise for Pulse sort of dropped from the heavens. I was reading a lot of mystics—the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodron, Richard Rohr, Eckart Tolle—and noticed a strong connection between their spiritual themes and some stunning discoveries in the field of quantum physics. The idea of a connection between cutting-edge science and ancient ideas about the nature of the human soul fascinated me, as did the idea of trying to ground it all in a crime novel. I feel like I got to some of it in Pulse, but there is more there for sure.

Lori Rader-Day

Where did this story start for you? All in a flash, or did you have to write into it a bit?

Michael Harvey

The story never comes all at once. I started with the idea of a teenager, Daniel, who is just coming to grips with the idea he might be enmeshed in a reality much larger than the flesh and blood world around him. I wanted him to suffer a loss—in this case the murder of his brother, Harry—and I wanted that loss to serve as the catalyst for an exploration of this enhanced reality and Daniel’s place in it.

Lori Rader-Day

Did you have any books or authors in mind as inspiration as you wrote this book? Your new best friend Stephen King, by any chance?

Michael Harvey

I know where you’re going with Stephen King and, yes, if I can get even a little bit of him in any of my books, I’d be all for it! Without giving away too much of the book, however, there is another author who had a significant influence on parts of Pulse. One of my favorite authors to translate in school was the Latin poet Ovid and his poem “The Metamorphoses.” I loved Ovid’s descriptions of characters as they transformed from human to some other form (animal, plant, rock, etc.). And I especially loved the psychology behind those transformations. There is certainly a little bit of Ovid’s influence in Pulse.

Lori Rader-Day

What’s the most difficult part of writing fiction for you? You can say promotions if you want to.

Michael Harvey

You read my mind! Kidding. A lot of writers complain about promoting their books, but the secret is we kind of love it. I especially enjoy talking to readers at signings and seeing how they interpret certain characters. I learn a lot from these conversations and try to carry that forward to the next book. The most difficult part of the process is getting out a first draft. The book is in my head. Actually, there are a few books in my head—a torrent of words, a dozen characters and half-dozen story lines, all fighting to get onto the page. I need to relax, settle down, and let the process unfold. Allow the characters to take me where they will. Sometimes, however, I get impatient. Sometimes, I get in the way.

Lori Rader-Day

What advice would you have for young writers just getting started?

Michael Harvey


Fiction, non-fiction, any and all genres. As along as the writing is good, it doesn’t matter. Reading does at least two things. It fires the imagination in a way film and television just can’t do. And it builds vocabulary. Without a lot of words in your gas tank, the engine that is your writing talent just won’t go very far. By page twenty-five you’ll be trotting out the clichés and putting yourself to sleep with boring characters that never should have been created and boring sentences that never should have been written. This is not (necessarily) because you can’t write. It’s because you haven’t read!


Lori Rader-Day

You mentioned at an event we did together recently that you based some of the story of Harry’s murder on a real story…

Michael Harvey

In 1976, a Harvard football player named Andy Puopolo was murdered in Boston’s Combat Zone. I was in high school when Andy was killed and remember it very clearly. For many in the city, Andy represented the future in all its infinite possibility. He was also a sudden reminder of how fragile life can be and how everything can (and does) change in a moment. The details of the murder in Pulse are completely different from what happened to Andy. At the end of the day, however, I’d like to think there’s a little bit of Andy in Harry. A little bit of the eternal nature of hope, the pristine wonder of youth and the immutable power of love. If we can reflect on those simple principles and make them part of our DNA, that’s probably a pretty good thing.

By Michael Harvey
Published October 23, 2018

Michael Harvey is the author of seven previous novels, including Brighton and The Chicago Way. He’s also a journalist and documentarian whose work has won multiple News & Documentary Emmys, two Primetime Emmy nominations, and an Academy Award nomination. Raised in Boston, he now lives in Chicago.

Lori Rader-Day is the Edgar® Award-nominated author of Under a Dark Sky, The Day I Died, Little Pretty Things, and The Black Hour. She lives in Chicago, where she co-chairs the mystery readers' conference Murder and Mayhem in Chicago. Her next novel, The Lucky One, is out from Harper Collins in February.

1 comment on “‘Pulse’ Is a Brisk Detective Thriller With a Sci-Fi Twist

  1. I will recommend this to my husband, sounds like he’ll like it!


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