Thursday, 7 October 2010
Dancing With Myself: GAR ANTHONY HAYWOOD interviews GAR ANTHONY HAYWOOD
Before the dancing begins, here's a list of interview postings for the weeks ahead.
Sunday 10th October - Tom Llewellyn
Monday 11th October - Alice Thomspon
Tuesday 12th October - Martin Edwards
Thursday 14th October - Brian Wiprud
Saturday 16th October - Vicki Delany
Sunday 17th October - Jedidiah Ayres
Saturday 23rd October - Benjamin Whitmer
Sunday 24th October - Charlie Stella
Tuesday 26th October - Graham Bowlin
Thursday 28th October - Jen Forbus
Saturday 30th October - Tim Hallinan
Sunday 31st October - Matthew McBride
And now to some dancing.
GAR ANTHONY HAYWOOD is the Shamus and Anthony award-winning author of
eleven crime novels and numerous short stories. He has written six
mysteries featuring African-American private investigator Aaron Gunner;
two starring Joe and Dottie Loudermilk, retiree crime-solvers and
Airstream-owning parents to five grown Children From Hell; and three
Gar has written for both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and for
such television shows as NEW YORK UNDERCOVER and THE DISTRICT. One of his
more recently published short stories---THE FIRST RULE IS---will be
featured in the 2010 edition of Best American Mystery Short Stories. His
latest novel is the urban crime drama CEMETERY ROAD, which Publisher's
Weekly has called, in its starred review, "a beautifully crafted novel of
Here he is, Dancing With Himself.
DANCING WITH MYSELF:
RAY SHANNON (AKA GAR ANTHONY HAYWOOD) INTERVIEWS
GAR ANTHONY HAYWOOD
RAY SHANNON: This feels weird. Does this feel weird to you?
GAR ANTHONY HAYWOOD: It does, yes. Especially this business of jumping back and forth between your chair and mine between every question and answer.
RS: Yeah. Exhausting, isn't it? Anyway, shall we get started?
GAH: Fire away.
RS: Let's start with why you write what you write, and why you can't seem to make up your fucking mind what you want to do. Over a 22-year career, starting in 1988, you've published six hardboiled mysteries featuring South-Central L.A. P.I. Aaron Gunner; two comic cozies starring Joe and Dottie Loudermilk, a pair of fiftysomething Airstream owners with five troublesome grown children; and one standalone crime novel.
GAH: Actually, I've written three standalones. Or, to be precise, you've written two---MAN EATER and FIRECRACKER---and I've written one, CEMETERY ROAD. Does that make any sense?
GAH: I didn't think so. Your question?
RS: Why all the changing up? Are you really as easily distracted at it would appear, or is there a method to your madness?
GAH: Well, some of those sudden changes in direction were forced upon me and some were deliberate choices. I've always wanted to operate in more than one sub-genre, so the Loudermilk series was something I took on after finishing my third Gunner book strictly to test my chops for comedy. As a change of pace and just for the stupid fun of it, I'd still be doing those books if the market had demanded it.
As for the two standalones you wrote---or rather, I wrote as you---or, no, I guess what we did, technically, was write them together...
RS: Jesus God, man, just get on with it.
GAH: MAN EATER and FIRECRACKER. Those two books were my take on the Elmore Leonard crime novel, the unpredictable, character-driven adventure yarn which, speaking strictly as a reader, is damn near the most entertaining kind of read there is.
RS: Publisher's Weekly called MAN EATER "the best Elmore Leonard rip-off since Elmore Leonard," as I recall.
GAH: Yeah. That was a blast. I had no problem being outed as someone trying to imitate the master, because hell, that was exactly what I was doing. But if I'd been accused of doing it badly, of dishonoring the form Dutch has almost single-handedly created, that would have really sucked.
RS: Were those books fun to write?
GAH: Um, shouldn't I be asking you that question?
RS: Oh, yeah. I guess you should.
GAH: So? Were they fun to write?
RS: Hell, yes. Enough so that I plan to do more. In fact, I'm working on a book right now---
GAH: Are you talking about QUEEN'S RUN?
GAH: Actually, you're not the one writing that. I am.
RS: Excuse me?
GAH: I probably should have informed you of this earlier, but the pen name experiment was a bust. I'll never write using a pseudonym again.
RS: Say what?
GAH: Don't take this personally, but you only exist because Putnam's thought putting your name on the books instead of mine would have a profound impact on how the major chains would treat them.
GAH: Apparently, to Barnes & Noble, you're just as big a loser as I am. So despite some great reviews, all I ended up with were two examples of some of my best writing that many of my fans still don't know I wrote.
RS: Can we talk about something else? This subject is pissing me the hell off.
GAH: Okay. Ask me something about CEMETERY ROAD.
RS: Your latest book, and another one I had nothing to do with, correct?
GAH: Correct. It's also another shift in direction, in the sense that, while it's my third standalone, it has more in common with my Gunner novels than my---your---Ray Shannons.
RS: Pray tell how so.
GAH: Its tone is dark and its setting is Gunner's inner-city Los Angeles. It's a gritty, urban noir, featuring a predominantly African-American cast, that follows two separate story lines separated by 26 years.
RS: Sounds like it should have been a bear to write.
GAH: It was. But from a challenge standpoint, it was also a great deal of fun. Jumping back and forth between one time frame and set of characters to another is quite a balancing act, especially when the story you're telling is a mystery that can't be fully resolved until the end. Your timing has to be perfect. One false step and the entire construct comes crashing down. Nobody did this sort of thing better than Ross McDonald. It was his work I had most in mind when I set out to write this book.
RS: How about porn?
RS: If you won't write any more novels as me, how about some porn? Nobody uses their real name to write porn. Just ask Larry Block.
GAH: Could we move on? Or do I have to do the rest of this interview myself?
GAH: Oh, yeah. I guess I'm already doing that, aren't I?
RS: Your last Aaron Gunner novel, ALL THE LUCKY ONES ARE DEAD, was published way back in 1999. Is Gunner himself dead?
GAH: Not a chance. I plan to start my next Gunner book early next year.
RS: Got a working title yet?
GAH: LOSER DIGS THE GRAVES.
RS: Pet peeves. You wanna talk about pet peeves?
GAH: Comparisons to Walter Mosley. Book titles that are either mind-numbingly obvious or criminally unoriginal. Self-professed "hardboiled" or "noir" writers who think "bastard" is a perfectly acceptable alternative for "motherfucker." People who confuse mediocre books with great ones. Cover blurbs that read like they were written at gunpoint, i.e., "Haywood has a style few readers will fail to find unforgettable." Egomaniacal authors who approach the necessary evil of self-promotion like global terrorism. Farmville.
RS: Last question: Writers whose books read like a masters class in crime writing?
GAH: Martin Cruz Smith. Ace Atkins. Elmore Leonard. James Lee Burke. Donna Leon. Richard Price. Michael Connelly.
RS: And Ray Shannon?
GAH: Say goodnight, Gracie.
RS: Goodnight, Gracie.