When we first read Central Park West by James Comey we were drawn in by the fast-paced thriller. Comey uses his experience of thirty years in federal law enforcement to craft federal prosecutor Nora Carleton's case against the Mob as it is blown wide open with a shocking revelations. Nora must now investigate the darker side of New York City to try to stop the mobster walking free.

This courtroom drama was first released in hardback in June 2023 and with the paperback coming to our shelves on the 1st February 2024 we're thrilled to have the opportunity to ask James Comey about his debut, writing and inspiration for Nora, Benny and the case in Central Park West.


James Comey was born in New York City and attended the College of William and Mary and Chicago Law School. He worked as an assistant district attorney in New York, prosecuting organised crime figures, and worked on terrorism cases as assistant DA in Virginia. He served as the seventh Director of the FBI from 2013 until May 9, 2017, when he was dismissed by President Donald Trump. Central Park West is his first novel.


You have received some incredible reviews of Central Park West. Our reviewer called it “an authentic, fast-paced thriller, bursting with tension." Harlan Coben called it “a truly outstanding debut”, Ian Rankin commented: “it reeks of authenticity and the plot goes like a train”. How does that feel as a debut author?

It gives me a flaming imposter complex.

James, you have thirty years in law enforcement with the FBI, how important is authenticity when writing a political thriller?

Very.  I hope one of the things I can offer readers is an accurate view of places most people don’t get to visit.  So I work to show readers the FBI, or a federal prosecutor’s office, or a hedge fund in a real way.  

The jury is in, we adored Central Park West. When did you first decide you wanted to write and what made you decide to write a courtroom drama?

I had to be talked into it, but now I’m addicted and want this to be what I do when I grow up. The editor of my second non-fiction book pushed me to try writing fiction because he thought I wrote narrative and dialogue well. He kept referring to parts of that non-fiction book, which was about cases I had done, as “scenes.” I kept correcting him, saying, “That’s not a scene; that’s my life.”  He would laugh and answer that I could just as well make it up and people would enjoy it.  

Now tell us more about your key cast of characters, they are just awesome, we can’t wait to see more of Nora, Benny and the team. How did they develop as the plot came together? 

Nora is inspired by my oldest daughter, who is a federal prosecutor in Manhattan, and was prosecuting Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein’s coconspirator, as I was writing Central Park West. In an incredible twist, she was standing in courtroom 318 in the old federal courthouse in lower Manhattan as I wrote; it was the very same courtroom in which I had prosecuted mobsters when she was a little girl. (She wouldn’t let me attend the Maxwell trial because, she said, “It will be ‘a thing’ if you go, Dad.”) In Nora, I see parts of all four of my daughters, but it was easy to close my eyes and picture the character. And the same is true for Benny, who is based on a close friend and amazing mafia investigator named Kenny McCabe, who died in 2006. Having the key characters inspired in that way made writing about them a literal labor of love.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process? Where do you write and do you have any writing habits? 

I like to write outside with my laptop on the back porch in a rocking chair if the weather permits. That lets me look at trees when I pause to think. When the weather is bad, I sit inside in an armchair looking out the window at the trees. As for process, I write until I run out of gas, then I take a break and start again when I can feel the tank more full. That means some days I will write for hours and hours but take the next day entirely off. I try to share what I’ve done in real time with my wife, who gives me notes on a Google doc. She has an amazing story vision and a keen sense for whether I’ve captured something well. 

Which authors do you like to read? What was the last book that you read and would recommend? 

I have intentionally tried to read fiction in recent years, which is new for me.  

The last book I read in any format, which was in hard copy, was a spy novel, “The Helsinki Affair,” by Anna Pitoniak, which I especially enjoyed because of its female protagonist, a rarity in the genre.

Looking at my Kindle, which is normally how I read, the last five books I read on it were:

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

Human Capital by Stephen Amidon

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai

What is your desert island book, and why? 

Can I take my Kindle? If not, I’d bring something long and engrossing that I could ration out for the entire time; maybe one of Ken Follett’s Kingsbridge novels or a Brandon Sanderson fantasy.

We hear there’s more from Nora in a book on the horizon in 2024. Tell us more!

Yes! Nora moves to work as the chief lawyer at a financial management company in the New York suburbs (something I did between government jobs) and ends up at the center of a murder mystery in ways she never expected.  Benny comes to help her and must navigate a very strange culture, one he’s never known.  

What are you writing right now?

I’m writing book three in the series, which will be out in 2025. We’re back in Manhattan and in the middle of a case focused on domestic terrorism and right wing extremism.