For the next eight years, Hogan researched banks, bank robbers, Charlestown, and armored cars. “[Armored cars] were most fascinating because it was so hard to find things out,” he said. “If there’s a movie about bank robberies, you can pick up a little information here and there. But with armored cars . . . I couldn’t find anybody involved who wanted to talk about it.”
The dearth of information inflamed his curiosity. “I started seeing these armored trucks everywhere,” he said. “I would be in a store somewhere, like Kohl’s, and a guy would walk past with the bag. I’d head out to the front and I’d observe [him], walk around, see what was up.”
Nobody gave him a second glance. “I had very young kids at the time,” Hogan said. “They were a great cover.”
He poured his research into a novel. Things felt different this time. “My wife is my first reader,” he explained. “I remember working on what became Prince of Thieves and giving her the first 25 pages, and she had Ben Affleck cast. She was not able to foresee Jon Hamm, but she was all over it.”
Simon and Schuster published Prince of Thieves in 2004. “Something happened: the story came together and it really clicked,” Hogan said. “The publisher called me one day and said that Donnie Wahlberg read the book and really liked it.”
Wahlberg ended up recording the audio book. “One day, the phone rings. My wife answers. It’s someone asking for Chuck. She asked, ‘Who’s this?,’ and he’s like ‘Donnie Wahlberg.’ She was trying to think which friend of mine it was.”
Although Wahlberg had plenty of enthusiasm, his interest proved to be another blind alley. “I think he was trying to get a TV show going that had something to do with Charlestown, and he wanted me to get involved with that . . . It never actually happened.”
The book passed through a battery of screenwriters and directors, Law and Order’s Dick Wolf and Fatal Attraction’s Adrian Lyne among them, before Affleck signed on. “I was reading Variety online,” Hogan recalled, “and it said, ‘Affleck moves to Town,’ and I was like, what?”
Eventually, Hogan did end up getting properly invited onto the set of The Town. And meanwhile, he had started working with another A-list director: Guillermo Del Toro, who chose him as a co-author for a trilogy of vampire novels. They met at the New York Film Festival in 2007.
“I knew him as the director of Hellboy. . . so I was excited.” Then Pan’s Labyrinth came out. “I was like, ‘Holy shit. I better step up my game and make something happen.’ ”
“We worked on it for about a year on a handshake,” Hogan said. Del Toro wrote an outline of the story arc. When they begin each installment, the pair meets, then sends passages back and forth to one another via e-mail. Unlike many celebrities, Del Toro — whom Hogan describes as a “fascinating cat” — didn’t want a ghostwriter. “He wanted a real partnership,” Hogan said. “I’m still not entirely sure how I fell into this.”
Since they debuted the series last year, the pair have done book signings and appeared together at geek conventions. “He’s President Obama, and I’m Joe Biden. Everyone wants to ask [Del Toro] questions, and occasionally there’ll be something I can comment on.”
Who knows — people might start noticing him.
Eugenia Williamson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.