Thursday, 31 March 2011

Dancing With Myself: LIBBY HELLMANN interviews LIBBY HELLMANN

Another of those 'pinch me' moments today as I have the honour of having April slot at All Due Respect. It's a story called Hoodwinked and I loved writing it. is where you'll find it. I'd be delighted to hear your opinions (good, bad and indifferent) if you go over, so leave a comment or a hello.

All Due Respect have Matthew Funk's story up in the Spinetingler Best Story On The Web category, so you know it's a place you should get to every once in a while.

Brilliant work by everyone at Spinetingler. They deserve to get a huge turn out their awards and there are so many interesting choices to be made.

Don't be an April fool, get on over to

And today, the lovely Libby Hellmann....


A: Hey, I’m a little nervous – I’ve never interviewed myself before.

Q: Don’t worry. It will be fine.

A: That’s what you say. How do I know your questions will be fair?

Q: You don’t. That’s the great thing about being inside your head. I know all your secrets.

A: (Groan)…. Maybe I should reconsider… um… Nigel? Nigel? Where are --

Q: Too late. Here we go.

Q: What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?

A: Curious, insecure, relentless.

Q: Care to expand?

A: No.

Q: OK, Tell us a fact that no one knows about you.

A: Does it have to be true?

Q: Don’t be a smart-ass.

A: OK. George Harrison said 5 words to me.

Q: Really? How did that happen?

A: The Beatles came to Washington DC for their first (I think) American concert in February, 1964. It snowed that day and we got out early. The hotel they were staying at was only a block from my house, so my friend and I went down to see them enter the hotel. Then my friend told me her parents had a friend who lived on the 7th floor of the hotel. We went up to visit, and when we stepped out of the elevator, there were several policemen. That’s when we knew the Beatles were on that floor. I tore down the hall to another set of elevators… the doors opened… and the Beatles got out. I rushed up to George, and asked…

Q: What? What did you say?

A: Suspenseful interlude here…

Q: Well, the whole world is waiting…

A: Okay, Okay. I asked him for his autograph.

Q: What? An autograph? Are you lame?

A: Evidently.

Q: (Long sigh…) OK. Well? What did he say?

A: “Do-you-have-a-pencil?”

Q: You’re kidding. (long pause) Well, did you?

A: No. Never got the autograph either.

Q: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you as an author?

A: I wouldn’t call it embarrassing… but it was sad, perhaps even tragic…

Q: Well?

A: My first agent dropped me after trying unsuccessfully to sell my second manuscript.

Q: Ouch.

A: He said he thought I needed to change my plots, change my characters, change my voice, and while we were at it, change agents too.

Q: What did you do?

A: What any curious, insecure, relentless person would. I cried and drank a lot of wine. Then I picked myself up off the floor and started to think about what he said.

Q: What’s the most wonderful thing that’s happened to you as an author?

A: Taking the agent’s advice. I actually started writing a new novel with a new voice, et al. I’m in a writer’s group so I read the first chapter to my group. At that point I was still the newbie in the group and everyone loved to critique my work. (I still remember thumbing through the pages I’d read after they critiqued me one week, saying, “I don’t think you guys missed a single line…”) At any rate, after I read the chapter, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I thought I was screwed. Royally. Then the person who’d been the hardest on me said, “You found your voice. This is wonderful.” That is still the most awesome moment I can think of. Btw, that book became my first published novel, An Eye For Murder.

Q: You’ve gone to the dark side recently with your short stories and novels. Why?

A. I wrote four amateur sleuth crime novels about a video producer and single mother in the Chicago area who solves mysteries. By the fourth one, I was turning backflips trying to find a credible reason for her to get involved in a nurder investigation. I keep thinking “this just wouldn’t happen.” At the same time, I started to reflect on what I was writing. Murder, actually taking a life in a willful, premeditated way, is probably the most heinous crime I can imagine. I couldn’t justify trivializing it, however gently, with an amateur sleuth. Happily, one of the characters in those books was a female cop. She was very different from my protagonist – where Ellie will go out to lunch with you and tell you more than you wanted to know about herself, Georgia is the opposite. She’s cautious, guarded, and doesn’t want to tell you anything. So I turned her into a PI (What a relief) and started writing darker stories with her as my protagonist. I’ve written two, and am 60 pages into a third. However, I have been sidetracked recently by writing stand-alone thrillers. SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE was the first – it was released in December, 2010. But I have two more, one of which is finished and the other half written. All three are partly or totally historical. So I guess you could say I’m writing my way around the genre, although suspense is always at the heart of what I do.

Q: Why did you start writing in the first place?

A. It was O.J. Simpson’s fault. Really. For years I could tell you when I started – in 1996 after my father died – and how – I went into my basement and emerged 4 months later with arguably the worst written mystery in the world. But I never quite figured out what was the “spark,” you know? Q: You forget… I’m in your head. I certainly do. A: When OJ was arrested in Vegas a few years ago, it suddenly came to me. I had been glued to the TV when his murder trial was broadcast. I would throw things at Marcia Clark and scream that she was screwing it up. At the same time, however, I was introduced to a world I’d never known before: Forensics. There were shoeprints, blood spatter, DNA, fingerprints, a bloody glove, broken eye glasses – it was a forensic investigator’s dream. I soaked it up, fascinated. Six months later, it was all regurgitated in that manuscript, which I realized, after the fact, was a police procedural. (Kinda, sorta.) But by then I was addicted and proceeded to learn the craft of fiction.

Q: Which of your books do you like best?

A. Whichever one I’m working on at the time. Trying to choose is like choosing which of your children you love the most.

Q: Oh go ahead, be a lousy mother. You know you want to.

A: Okay. I do have a soft spot – or spots – in my heart for An Image Of Death, the 3rd Ellie Foreman book. Also Easy Innocence , and Set The Night On Fire.

Q: Why those?

A: Image ended up saying things about women and the choices they make when they’ve run out of options. Easy Innocence was about teenagers and the lengths high school girls will go to win approval from their peers, and Set The Night On Fire was a personal exorcism of sorts.

Q: You also write short stories, don’t you?

A. I do. I have two collections of stories on Kindle: Nice Girl Does Noir, Vol. 1 and Volume 2. I also have several more in the pipeline. I love writing short stories. Actually, I could talk about that for another few pages. I see short stories as a ….

Q: Sorry. You only have thirty seconds left to say something pithy and memorable… Twenty-nine… twenty-eight…

A: Um. Well. In that case, I guess it’s a wrap.

Q: All right. We’re done. You see? You survived.

A: In a manner of speaking. This was definitely strange. But fun. In a narcissistic kind of way. Thank you, Nigel.

Q: Yes, Nigel. Thank you!

For those who’d like to read excerpts of everything I’ve written, check out my website at .

Or follow me on Twitter at

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Dancing WIth Myself: MARC NASH interviews MARC NASH

So schizoid time Marc Nash (if that's even your/our real name, which I/we happen to know it isn't). Ready for me to probe you like an alien abductee?

Am I ever?

If you answer a question with another one, we'll eat up our ration in double quick time won't we?

Do you want me to answer that?

Ornery bugger aren't you?

See what you've done there is mix your idioms. 'Ornery' is an American usage, while 'bugger' is quintessentially English. I like words me.

Okay, tell us about words then.

Writers organise their material, maybe around plot, or story, or character, or perhaps a central metaphor or conceit. None of these are the primary organising principle for me. I have to get the voice of the book right and that comes from language. My books, my main characters talk to the reader. It's a conversation, so the language has to seduce, wheedle, persuade, annoy, and generally communicate, to suck the reader into it. This voice varies from book to book. It is not necessarily my writer's voice, though it clearly has some relationship to me.

But language does something else for you as well doesn't it?

Yes, language is both our primary writing tool, but also it obfuscates. Whatever we mean by 'reality' - and that's all I'm personally concerned with writing about - is entirely constructed on one level through language. We see things through our visual cortex, but we name them through language. As many assumptions, elisions and approximations as are made by the eye to make a sight fit with its recognition templates, is immediately doubled by the groupings and classifications imposed by language. If you make a slave bend over and eat a meal from his back, does he become a table? Of course not, the word table here is completely obviated by the moral dimensions of such a scenario. Language is slippery, elusive and ingrained with implicit power relationships. That is part of what I explore.

You are very strident about your views of the contemporary novel. Are you trying to convert everyone to your worldview?

Not particularly. I'm happy to plough my own furrow. If I can bring readers along with me for the ride, then all the better. I happen to believe that there is an audience out there hungry for something a bit different. The ones with jaded palates. The ones like me to whom Jane Austen, stylist supreme as she is, just doesn't speak to me or whet my whistle. I started writing novels that I thought I would like to read, but which I couldn't find out there in the market place. I'm not in competition with the vast majority of the books that reside there, so I see no need to try and proselytise to such authors. Having said that, I seem to have come up with some sort of twelve step programme to ripping up the rules, but this itself is a work in progress. I write instinctively and only at the end figure out what I've just done. That's when I get theoretical about it, not while I write. I haven't a clue where any novel is going as I write it, that way I learn about it and myself and my characters as I go along and this way hopefully it stays fresh within the lines themselves. I couldn't conceive of a novel planned out from beginning to end before the author sits down to write the first draft. I could only imagine that to be an arid exercise, but hey whatever works for you right?

Care to share the 12 step programme with the reforming addicts, er class?

It's not actually 12 steps, that was what we call poetic license in order to allude to something that is both other and yet sufficiently similar. But yeah, I'll throw you some bones:

1) The patterning of story is an artificial imposition that holds us back. The human mind and memory are not linear. Stories, even those told in flashback proceed linearly. Beginnings, middles, ends. Do you regard your own life like that? Futures and pasts perhaps, but not completed beginnings, middles and ends. While we persist with such artifice, we can never approach reality, because we cannot model it in its intricacy. Linear patterning was important while we were limning reality through cause and effect. Quantum reality has outmoded this.

2) Why do we tell fictions? Why does the story you are writing, which you put in the mouth of your narrator, demand to be read by the reader? What is the relationship between writer, character and reader? How does it relate to your fiction and the reader's reality? I don't want to tell a story per se, but I do want to probe the dynamic of storytelling that lies behind our tripartite relationship. The three of us need to seal a contract within the pages of our book.

3) If one takes the view that daily life is built on huge assumptions and consensus called reality, then the role of fiction can be to reveal the fictitious nature of this consensus, of these assumptions. But fiction probably ought to steer clear of seeking to erect an alternative set of assumptions in its place. What it can do is show its characters adrift in such a world, bit like our everyday 'realities' in point of fact. Then we might be able to approach some sort of emotional intelligence in the novel.

4) Non-linear writing is the only way to approach both the human mind (character) and pursue emotional intelligence.

5) People don't really change all that much, despite all the attempts at break outs and breakthroughs. The ever increasing mound of self-help books should be testament enough. So characters in the course of 300 pages ought not go on journeys, don't transcribe arcs. And certainly don't achieve any redemption by the end. Redemption is a superannuated notion derived from religions that are dead on their feet.

6) The notion of hero originated in Classical Greek literature. It remains a literary trope, since 'hero' in society is a completely malleable notion - coming home in a bodybag from Iraq makes you a hero; kids describe a peer as a legend etc. If it's redundant in everyday life, it's now also time to pension it off in fiction. Good and evil are religious concepts so bye bye to them too. Morality is no longer absolute; consider murderous monsters like Hannibal Lecter and Dexter being offered up as the empathic pov in films and TV. There has never been any such thing as evil. 'Evil' acts emerge from within us humans. 'Evil' merely externalised them so the protagonist didn't have to take responsibility for their heinousness.

7) Language. We've said that words are slippery and elusive. Most have shades of meaning. Some echo their etymological roots, others interestingly have deviated from them. You want to talk about schizoid? Our dear old English language, torn between Anglo-Saxon ('ask') and Norman-French ('demand') veers between two poles - interestingly with the class and power divisions between the two writ large through the vocabulary. Not enough emphasis is given to language. Precision is virtually impossible because of words' sliding scale of meaning. Therefore probe going the other way and embody two or more of a word's meaning simultaneously in your utilisation of it. Set off reverberations and resonances of meaning by doing so. Like a distorting hall of mirrors. 'Cleave' for example has diametrically opposite meanings, imply them both!

8) Don't stop at the word unit. What about exploring alphabets? Explore design and typographies. We can produce illustrated manuscripts, which may preserve a niche for the printed book in the face of e-versions, but it has to develop organically from the text, not just be a pretty-picture add-on.

9) Metaphors. Literary metaphors are a bit tired these days don't you find? And yet there are so many new bodies of knowledge, quantum physics, theories of mind, alternative realities, which are themselves just extended metaphors. Why is it the scientists trying to explain their equations, who are coming up with such delicious metaphors? What the hell are we authors doing lagging behind? These are rich sources for us potentially to structure our narratives around. You don't have to be an expert in science either, even getting them wrong is fruitful. After all the Americans based their whole Constitution on a misreading of John Locke.

Humble, ain'tcha?

Look, all of the above could well be my misreadings of the artform. I have no formal training beyond A-Level English. I have only read maybe 10 novels written before the First World War. My interest is the contemporary novel that seeks to speak of contemporary things. Of course mistakes are going to be made. It's very hard to get outside of the present in any overview and nail down everything correctly. Doesn't stop me trying though.

Self-published = self promotion, so what do you do for yourself?

Nobody knew what Don Delillo or Hubert Selby Jnr looked like maybe as recently as 10 years ago. They just put their books out there and let the words speak for themselves. I wish it was still like that, but of course it isn't. So as much as I like to kick against the tide, I put myself out there like any other author. If I raise my head above the parapet, then my natural bent is to stir up an argument. To get a debate going on some or all of the above. But to do it with humour and as much good grace as possible and to avoid insulting people. I find Twitter an invaluable resource. It's like an endless comedy smoker.

And of course your infamous live readings. Tell us about them?

I have a voice with very little range. I would venture to say it's quite dull to listen to. So, I have to provide something extra in a reading. I put on a show. It's akin to the slam poets, I 'act' out my pieces with gestures, mostly with one hand since the other is holding the book. But a lot of thought goes into the symbology of any show. I've performed handcuffed to the micstand; dressed as a nurse; dressed a la hen party; with an electric cable wrapped around my neck; 'viewing' the audience alternately through toy micro/telescope/binoculars. Whatever the piece calls for. It's always about direct interaction with them. I did a promenade piece snapping them on my mobile phone, in a piece about the disposability of the image, the instantaneity of capture. I wrote a piece about bukkake and performed it lying down with the audience over me. I really wanted them to move around me, taking it turns to hold the mic to my lips and pass it on to the next person, but they weren't quite ready for that level of participation. I'll try it again maybe. I think of the same question as with the narrative, who is this for and what is the precise nature of our relationship? Only this time we're all present in the same room.

Do you have any fears at all with writing and performing?

None that hold me back in any way. Like any mortal there are dark periods when I think I've misjudged my approach horribly and I'm projecting into a vacuum. But then a new enthusiasm comes along and I'm inspired by some other aspect or metaphor and am usually able to banish the black dog until its next walkies. The whole thing is a grappling match with language. No falls, no submissions, just a knock-out and neither me nor language is asking for quarter just yet. For me there's too many delusions and illusions to be torn down. This is the political part of me, though it's not aligned to any theory in particular.

What's your definition of success?

To leave behind a body of work that forms part of the library of the world beyond its own lifetime. Marc Nash debut novel "A,B&E" available on Amazon. You can sample the first chapter + attached cover

Website on the book, picking up some of the themes discussed above

Marc has also contributed the introduction and two short stories to the "Pop Fiction" Anthology - Stories Inspired By Songs also available on Amazon. Lots of fiction pieces contributed to sites such as


Takes a genius to see the obvious and do something about it before anyone else. Allan Guthrie's such a genius. He's just launched the brilliantly titled blog Criminal-E to showcase the crimewriting that's available in Electronic formats. Pretty soon, that'll be all of it, but for now here's the link to add to your favourites:

You'll find Tony Black (The Truth Lies Bleeding), Iain Rowan (Nowhere To Go) and Susie Levin already up with their interviews.

It's going to be so hot there'll be metling cables, so get in quick.

Great work Mr G.

Sunday, 27 March 2011


The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing Repulsive -- What is that & Where can I get one?

The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive is my first book. It’s a 92-page collection of short stories and poems interwoven into a gripping narrative that follows a group of gay & lesbian Latino club kids during the course of the 2008 presidential elections. As they plunge deep into the agonizing lows of anxiety and addiction, we see how they affect and are affected by the national politics happening around them.

You can read two excerpts if you’d like:

1) Short Story “Mourning

2) Poem “Need

The book is available for purchase online at numerous well-known and independent sites such as, Barnes and, and You can keep up to date with The Voting Booth After Dark’s recent reviews, interviews, and readings by “liking” its Facebook Fan Page. Hope you enjoy the read!

Vanessa Libertad Garcia, what’s the story behind your middle name Libertad?

My family is Cuban. Libertad is my mother’s name, which my mom passed down to me as a middle name. Back in Cuba during the 1950’s my grandfather Armando abhorred the cruel Batista regime and therefore, like most other Cubans of his generation, turned his political support toward Fidel Castro’s Communist Revolution. The Communist Revolution triumphed and overthrew the Batista regime, and my mom was born shortly thereafter in November of 1960. To celebrate the revolution’s victory, my grandfather decided to name my mother “Libertad,” which means Liberty in Spanish. Subsequently, however, my grandfather realized that Castro’s Cuba was a big sham – they’d all been had. He said that in lieu of what communism actually brought Cuba, he should have named my mom “Miseria” i.e. “Misery” instead of “Libertad” i.e. Liberty. Oh, papaito! Lol.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing and/or making movies?

I have a blast gorging on other people’s art. Mostly everything outside of the usually torturous & boring mainstream. I enjoy underground, local, and international pieces that tend to experiment with form while reflecting upon the trials & triumphs of everyday lives. EX: Theatre Plays and Movies (Documentaries, Fiction, Foreign, Experimental), Film Festivals, Reading Books/Zines (Fiction, Poetry, Biographical, & Spiritual), Art Exhibits, Live Music – Jazz & World Fusions mostly, Mixed Media Performances, ETC. I also enjoy blogging about them sometimes at my blog Bloggimia. ( ) Oh yeah, and watching hilariously AWFUL films with one of my best friends Baby Dewds (Danielle O’Terry), and then reviewing them at our blog: The Blockbuster Exclusive Academy ( ) I also have fun not going to parties. Man, I hate parties.

What finished projects are you currently touring?

The two most readily available projects are: Book: The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive summarized in answer to the first interview question. And Film: The feature documentary I co-produced titled Synthnation, which explores the revolutionary impact underground dark electronic music has had on “outcast” club and youth culture by investigating music geniuses such as VNV nation, Front 242, and others.

You can order a copy online at its website:

What books and films are you making next?

My 2nd Book: Bloody Fucking Hell is a collection of poetry and essays that chronicle the splendor, torture, and confusion I experienced as a lesbian falling in love with various straight women. Since I “came out” at the age of 18, I have only fallen in love three times -- each time with a self-identified “straight woman.” The poetry contained in each chapter -- of which there are only three -- pertains to the girl after whom it is named: “Sonia,” “Adelaide,” and “Lucetta.” Bloody Fucking Hell takes an in-depth look at these intimate, rather distinct, relationships and explores where feminine identity, classifications of love, and roles in friendship blur in soul splitting ways. Although the poetry was written during different periods of my life, I am working to properly compile, edit, and polish the pieces so they may fit the structure of the book in an effortless way. I find myself continuously searching through countless journals, old and new, to properly choose the best pieces for the collection. I will also include some reflective essays and personal drawings in the book, specifically in the “Adelaide” chapter, and possibly a poem Adelaide wrote to me. My First Narrative Feature Film: It’s a full-length fiction titled Dear Dios based off the characters in The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing Repulsive. Dear Dios is a drama with dark comedic undertones, which chronicles the tribulations of 22-year old Cuban-American Lesbian Dolores Amorosa Marti. While hitting rock bottom in the gay hipster club scene, struggling photojournalist (Marti) turns bottom-of-the-barrel temp for an LA celebrity tabloid rag. I have a completed script, which I’m devising a business plan for and preparing to pitch to potential producers. I plan on directing and editing the project.

You’re sort-of broke right? Which means you made this book on very little $$$. Who are some of the core people that helped you bring The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing Repulsive to life?

I feel wildly blessed to form a part of the artistic family I do. We’re basically a group of spiritually & creatively aligned artists with little to no dinero who are constantly helping each other manifest and complete projects. My two main squeezes on this, my debut book which I self-published, are as follows:

1) Brit Lauren Manor: We attended the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts’ Theatre Program together. I’ve known her since I was 14 years old. She’s one of the most gifted, well rounded, & generous artists I have ever known. She served as the book’s editor. She’s actually the main editor of mostly all my writings, and is working as the editor of my second book Bloody Fucking Hell. In addition to being an editing superhero, she’s also a stellar actress & singer.

Check out some Brit Lauren tunes at her official music page( )

2) DJ Warlock (Danny): Oh my 6 foot 5’ teddy bear!!! He’s an industrial music deejay and documentary filmmaker, which I met back when I was a crazy 19-year old malt-liquor chugging, club-hopping loca. One of the most brilliant minds & kind spirits I’ve ever known, Danny helped me design the front & back cover of my book, put together my website, and fix all the technical glitches i.e. monstrosities that popped up along the way. He’s the executive producer and director of the documentary I co-produced Synthnation, which I mentioned above. I could go on & on, but I’ll briefly name just two more greats: Leo Cesareo who created the cover art, and Linda Marie Alvarez who worked tirelessly to format that entire book (inside & out) so that it was ready for publication.

What populations do you most like to write about in your books & films?

I love assembling works of literature and film (both documentary and fiction) that reflect the varied experiences of underrepresented, atypical, and eccentric human communities. The common thread running through all of my projects tend to spotlight GLBTQ characters, and people of color (Latino, African-American, Gypsy, etc).

What are some quotes you turn to for inspiration, guidance, and relief when FEAR tries to strangle you, and force you to sabotage your life?

“May we be fearless...from known and unknown...May all the directions be our allies.” - Atharva Veda "In those sombre forests of his striving his own soul rose before him, and he saw himself, - darkly as through a veil...He began to have a dim feeling that, to attain his place in the world, he must be himself, and not another." - W.E.B. Du Bois "I have not always been right, but I have always been sincere." - W.E.B. Du Bois “Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard. Jimmy Dugan: It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.” – A League of Their Own "The Universe gives you 3 answers: 'Yes,' 'Not Yet,' & 'Not this, I have something better for you.' " - Unknown "I couldn't wait for success, so I went ahead without it." - Jonathan Winters

What are your favorite feelings?

1) Humility 2) Gratitude 3) Compassion 4) Fearlessness 5) Peace

I feel like chugging a 40 oz. bottle of Poetry. Can I read an excerpt from your next book Bloody Fucking Hell?

Please do! Here’s an excerpt called Killer Of Sheep which is posted on my blog. Thanks for reading & enjoy!

Saturday, 26 March 2011


My initial thought on the title was that a ‘Smokehead’ must be a pot-smoker or a poorly organised pyromaniac. It turns out to be a term for someone who’s in love with the malt-whiskies of the Isle of Islay.

The book tells the tale of a group of 4 middle-aged men who share a love of the brown nectar. They’re taking a tour of Islay to get as many tastes of the hard stuff as they can manage. We have Adam (whisky taster extraordinaire), Roddy (coke-snorting live life to the full millionaire), Luke (enigmatic musician and loner) and Ethan (Mr Average).

The book opens on a cliff-hanger, with our protagonist falling through the ice into a frozen lake. We know immediately that he’s in trouble - damned if he gets out and drowned if he doesn’t. It certainly grabbed my attention from the off.

The story then steps back and tells us how he ended up there.

Adam has a plan to change his life from the mundane to the exciting by persuading Roddy to invest in a remote, old still. In the meantime Adam finds himself hoping to rekindle the odd spark with Molly, a local whisky expert, who last time they met was married to Joe.

Unfortunately for Adam, Joe still carries a torch for his ex and is keen to use it to ignite the odd fire of his own. Worse, he’s the hard man of the local police force and has more than the odd screw loose.

Having encountered the charm of a small community, they soon discover the drawbacks of being outsiders.

Following a car accident, life for the whisky tourists is never going to be the same ever again.
By the time I got back to the frozen loch scene I was almost as exhausted as the characters, not having had the chance to rest since the off. The good news was that the resolution to the cliff-hanger is only a new beginning and there’s still plenty that remains unresolved.

I feel that Doug Johnstone’s work is at its best when taking us through action scenes (and there are plenty of them). He raises the temperature by degree so that it becomes increasingly uncomfortable (no boiling frogs here). He also has a great knack of taking his characters from extreme situations and surprising them with things that aren’t so much left-field as Outer Limits.

By the end of the book, I realised that I didn’t actually like any of the main characters. I’m not sure I’d want to spend much time with them, but I’d certainly buy them a drink to steady their nerves and to wipe out their memory banks – that would be the compassionate thing to do.

I’d recommend this to fans of fast-paced action, quality writing, thrilling and unexpected twists, harsh landscapes and those who like a little bit of black humour. I guess it’s also a must for any smokeheads out there.

Excellent stuff.


Thursday, 24 March 2011

Dancing With Myself: JOHN VORHAUS interviews JOHN VORHAUS

I'm proud to be able to say today that I'm one of the nominees for Spinetingler's award for the Best Story Online category. I'm proud for lots of reasons.

First off, there are some amazing stories out there, many of which have given me a lot of pleasure.

Secondly, to be part of a group with the others on the list is a magnificent feeling. They're all talented stars who've earned their places.

Thirdly, it's Spinetingler.

Anyone who likes a quality read should pop over and see who and what they've chosen. Every writer gives you a huge, satisfying portion of themselves and a lesson or two in the art of the short form, should you feel the need.

Read them all, chose your favourite and then go and vote. That's how it works. You'll have a lot more fun than when you're voting in your government, I can assure you.

And, as if life couldn't get any better, here's John Vorhaus:

Q: Okay, JV, interview time, me against you, you against me. Do you think you’re up to it?

A: Being as how I’m deeply schizophrenic, yeah. I think I can manage.

Q: So then let’s start there. Does having a split personality help you as a writer?

A: Okay, I don’t actually have a split personality, but I do have the knack for both guiding my characters and being guided by them. Even as I’m composing a scene or a sequence, I’m looking at it from the protagonists’ point of view and seeing if it makes sense to them. That’s always the bottom line: Does this make sense to the people in the story?

Q: In your last two books, The California Roll and its new sequel, The Albuquerque Turkey , you write about cons and con artists. Some people think you know a little too much about that world, and some people think you know a lot too much. So let me ask you point-blank. Are you, John Vorhaus, a con artist?

A: Categorically not. And you can take my word for it because I’m a trustworthy liar.

Q: “Trustworthy liar?” What the hell is that?

A: Someone who lies to you, tells you he’s lying to you, tells you why he’s lying to you, and insists that he’s doing this for your own good.

Q: Sounds like self-serving bafflegab to me. Can you give me an example.

A: Of course. I wouldn’t have asked me the question if I didn’t have an answer. In addition to writing, I teach and train writers all over the world – 26 countries on four continents at last count. It often happens that the writers I’m working with have serious confidence issues. They don’t believe they’re up to the task at hand. I tell them that I’m 100 percent sure they will succeed, even though I never am.

Q: I lost me.

A: Look, if I tell them I don’t think they can do the job, how can I endow them with the confidence to do it? If I tell them I believe in them – whether I believe in them or not – I let my confidence support and inform their own. It’s called self-fulfilling prophecy: say you believe in something and you help that thing come true. And oh by the way, that’s how I write every book I write. I tell myself I can do it whether I actually think I can do it or not (often I don’t). So I not only lie to others, I lie to myself, and all for everyone’s own good.

Q: Okay, I guess I buy that. Tell us about The Albuquerque Turkey.

A: It brings back the old gang from The California Roll: world-class con artist Radar Hoverlander, his conny girlfriend Allie Quinn, and their halfwit sidekick Vic Mirplo. Radar and Allie want to give up their lives of con artistry and go straight, because they’re in love, they want to be honest with each other, and think it’ll be hard to do that if they’re still lying to the rest of the world.

Q: Wow, honesty really seems to be a thing with you.

A: Honestly, yeah, I’m interested in the subject. Anyway, they’re trying to go straight. Only now here comes Radar’s dad, Woody Hoverlander, with the scam of a lifetime – and with his life on the line. The question of the novel is whether Radar will stick to his commitment to go straight, or revert to his true nature – his destiny – and be the top-flight flim-flam man he is.

Q: So what happens?

A: Oh, dude, read the book.

Q: Yeah, but I’d rather sample it first.

A: No problem. You know what they say: The first taste is free. So go here to read an excerpt.

Q: Uh-huh. Any other goodies for us?

A: There’s an outstanding promo video for the book. I promise it’ll be the best 4:44 you spend today. I also tweet @TrueFactBarFact.

Q: Again with the truth and lies. What the frick is a bar fact?

A: Okay, see, there are two classes of reality, things that are true and things that sound true in bars late at night. The object of the game is to figure out which.

Q: Example?

A: During the American Civil War, the state of Maine attempted to secede from the Union and join Quebec.

Q: Wow, that almost sounds like it could be true.

A: A few beers from now and it certainly will.

Q: Well, I must say, JV, it sounds like a strange and troubling world you live in, there inside your brain.

A: You should know, dude, you’re right there with me.

Q: And if I want more of “the drug that is John Vorhaus?”

A: Read my books on writing, The Comic Toolbox and Creativity Rules! or my many Killer Poker books. Or the novels. Or just poke around at It’s the happiest place on Earth.

Q: I thought that was Disneyland.

A: Nah, they stole it from me.

Q: True fact or bar fact?

A: Okay, that’s it, interview over! (Storms off in a huff).

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Dancing With Myself: MICHAEL HASKINS interviews MICHAEL HASKINS

Michael Haskins, Key West Mystery Writer, interviews himself.

Isn’t Key West inundated with writers?

Not really. While writers seem to vacation here, few writers live here fulltime and even less write about the island. My friend Tom Corcoran has a long-running series – the Alex Rutledge Mystery series – set in Key West, but I can’t think of anyone else besides Tom and me with a series set in Key West. You don’t run into many of New York’s published elite here or publishers. If they come, most of them must continue to live as if they are still in Manhattan and avoid the local riffraff like myself. You must remember, Key West is a vacation destination and we accept everyone, even the elite.

Why did you choose Key West as your home?

I grew up outside Boston and then went to Los Angeles – kind of jumping from the frying pan into the fire – and after my West Coast stint, I need to escape earthquakes and smog. I was spring break vacationing in Naples, Florida with my twin daughters – Seanan and Chela – and two of their friends, and it was raining. The local news showed Key West as sunny, so I packed up the four teenagers and drove the eight hours. I told them I’d never be this close to Hemingway’s house again, so off we went. We stayed at the hotel the Beatles stayed at on South Roosevelt Boulevard, (gone now, replaced by time shares) and that made them happy; we spent two days walking, shopping, and whatever tourists do downtown – including two visits to Hemingway’s home. They discovered Jimmy Buffett’s restaurant and T-shirt shop and I discovered my Muse.


I feel in love with Key West, the history, the architecture, the water, the diverse people and felt at home, something I hadn’t felt since leaving Boston. I don’t know what else it could have been if it hadn’t been a Muse guiding me to where I belonged, where I could write and be happy.

Writing about Key West, what is that like?

It’s fun. I spent five years as the business editor/writer for the daily Key West Citizen and then five years as the city’s public information officer and both these jobs afforded me an insight into life in Key West that most people are not privy to. It has helped my writing and it has given me contact with business people and politicians so I can pick-and-choose where my stories go. It has also given me the ability to present the island more honestly than a writer who only visits the island for research or spends six months or less “absorbing” Key West. One of the comments I often get from locals is that I captured the essence of Schooner Wharf Bar, the Hog’s Breath, and other local hangouts, and that is welcomed praise since these people frequent the establishments.

Tell us about the new book.

Thanks for finally asking!

Free Range Institution was released in mid February and is the second in my Mick Murphy Key West Mystery series. I’ve just signed a contract for my third in the series – Car Wash Blues – and it should be out in 2012. We really don’t have crime in Key West, not like Miami, Los Angeles, and Boston. I am a news junkie and read newspapers and newsmagazines looking for that quirky news crime story from anywhere. When I find it, I run it by a few friends in law enforcement or my military intelligence source. When it’s possible, usually with some adjustments for the Keys, I work on bringing that crime to Key West. In Free Range Institution, I have a corrupt city commissioner and others attempt to smuggle a drug residue from cocaine processing – “paco” – into the states via Key West’s fishing fleet. In between the opening when a body comes off a hotel roof and lands on a car on Duval Street and the RPG attack on the good guys at Cay Sal Banks, I shoot up much of Key West and the body count and attacks turn the small island into the old west. What I did after discovering ‘paco’ the drug was come up with a probable scenario involving Key West. With the help of my sources, I think I pulled it off pretty well.

What is next for you?

Car Wash Blues, as I said, is due out in 2012 and I am busying working on my fourth in the series, Stairway to the Bottom. In Car Wash Blues, I bring two Tijuana, Mexico drug cartels to Key West. Both are after Mick Murphy and there is a lot of what is happening today in Mexico between the cartels and the Mexican government in the book. There’s also betrayal of old friendships and a link to Murphy’s past in Mexico and Central America. I should mention I spent most of 28 summers in Tijuana attending the bullfights and had the opportunity to befriend many of the city’s residents. I also have followed the LA Time’s long-running series “Mexico Under Siege” and used it as a research tool. In Stairway to the Bottom, I get away from drugs, dredge up some old Cold War agents in search of millions of dollars worth of diamonds, a hit man for Whitey Bulger from Boston running away from witness protection, and mix it all together. It is going well and I am having fun bringing all these people to Key West. Anyone that wants to discuss my books can come to one of my book signings, the information is on my website:

Michael will be signing copies of his book at Murder By The Book, Houston, on Saturday 23rd April (the day after Joe Lansdale, no less) at 4:30 pm. If you need more information, is where you'll find out more.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Crime Spots and Slow Learners

Are you slow on the uptake like me?

Take you a while to catch up with the world?

Need someone out there to point out the good things in life?

A Paul D Brazill, perhaps?

In case there isn't enough of Paul D to go around, if you've not seen it before, take a look at Crime Spot. It's been going since 2006 as far as I can work out, and today was my first visit.

Lovely work.

And here's a link for the trailer of the The Bastard Hand:

Sunday, 20 March 2011

More Sinned Against

The first work I read by Dave White was his story in the ‘Terminal Damage’ anthology.
That’s a brilliantly constructed piece about a young man who has lost his grip. It was so good that I had to get hold of ‘More Sinned Against’ as soon as it came out.

Here I found a very different voice.

I met Jackson Donne, a Private Detective in the classic mould who has a strong enough profile to make him stand out from the rest.

This is a series of tales that are beautifully self-contained. There’s enough tension, pathos and character in each one to make them the perfect read for fans of the detective genre.

It’s extremely satisfying, also, to have complete stories that can be read in one sitting, reminding me of Block’s Hit Man in that respect. Nourishing tales in manageable bites, it’s just the kind of thing Kindle was invented for.

Jackson (and I feel I know him well enough now to use his first name) is just the kind of man I’d want batting on my team. A+

Dancing With Myself: ALLAN LEVERONE interviews ALLAN LEVERONE

Thanks for joining us. It says here your name is Allan Leverone. Now that’s obviously an alias. We’re not playing games here, why don’t you stop screwing around and fess up your real name?

You’re welcome. And, yeah, my name really is Allan Leverone. If I was going to pick an alias, I would choose something much better than that. Something like Lee Child, or maybe Clive Cussler. Something cool. Why would I use an alias, anyway?

To cover for those Penthouse letters you flooded the magazine with so long ago, of course. And I’m asking the questions here.

Uh, that must have been a different guy. Really. And, um, do you have one?

One what?

A question.

Oh. Right. Of course. Stop being so evasive, for chrissakes, and come clean. We’re supposed to believe you write novels, is that correct?

You don’t have to believe it, but it’s true.

If you say so. Okay, wise guy, have you written anything I would recognize?

You know the John Rain series of thrillers, with the Japanese-American assassin?

That was you?

I wish. That was some other guy. But I wrote Final Vector, the thriller featuring Nick Jensen, an air traffic controller who gets tangled up in a plot to assassinate U.S. President Robert Cartwright by blowing up Air Force One.

You really wrote FINAL VECTOR? No kidding. That’s the best book I’ve ever read!

Um, okay, thanks, but everyone knows you’re really me, so maybe you should just cool it.

Oh yeah. You’re probably right. Well, it’s still a pretty cool book. What the hell made a thirty-year air traffic controller decide to write novels, anyway?

Since I was a little boy I’ve loved to read, and always had a fascination with stringing words together in interesting and entertaining ways. I originally went to college with the intention of becoming a newspaper journalist, but once I began to realize the small percentage of journalists who actually earned a living wage, I decided to change majors. I know, I know, I was a sellout. Sue me.

After graduation, I got hired by the FAA as an air traffic controller in 1982, got married and raised a family, and writing just sort of faded into the background. Then, about five years ago, I started up a sports blog at, kind of as a lark, and began to actually cultivate a small following. A year or so after that, I had an epiphany. I realized that as much as I enjoyed blogging about sports, what I really wanted to do was write fiction. So I did.

Listen, guy, take a breath will ya? Nobody wants to hear your life story.

But I thought—

—Never mind what you thought. Honestly, you’re really starting to try my patience. How about you share some of your literary influences with us?

Okay, well, that’s a tough one; it’s hard to narrow the list down because there are so many. I love thrillers and horror novels, and also mysteries to a slightly lesser degree, so my influences are spread out among those genres. I’ll say Lawrence Block, Lee Child, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Donald Westlake, Bill Pronzini, Tom Piccirilli, Barry Eisler, Sophie Littlefied. Man, I could use up the rest of this post naming authors I admire.

I believe that; you’re already using up my patience. What are your goals with this writing gig? Sell millions of books and retire, probably, am I right?

No! Well, I mean, I’d love to sell millions of books, don’t get me wrong, but I’m always going to write. If I go more than a day or so without writing, I start to get a little . . . I don’t know . . . twitchy.

Kind of like a junkie.

You said it, not me.

What are your plans following FINAL VECTOR?

Thanks for asking. I’m actively pursuing publication of a thriller titled THE LONELY MILE, in which a divorced hardware store owner stumbles upon the kidnapping of a teenage girl and manages to break it up, but in so doing, thrusts his own daughter directly into the sights of a sociopathic killer. I’m also working on a paranormal horror/thriller tentatively titled FLICKER, but that’s still a ways away from being ready for anyone to see.

Anything else you want to get off your chest before we release you on your own recognizance?

Yes, I’d like to say thanks to Nigel Bird and Sea Minor for giving me an opportunity to take part in this very cool experiment. I’m following in the footsteps of some real authorial heavy hitters, and I pray I didn’t just bring down the property values in this whole neighborhood.

Kiss-ass. Okay, that about does it. You can go. Just don’t leave town.

Don’t leave town? Why would I—oh, never mind, it doesn’t matter. I don’t get out much, anyway.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Dancing With Myself: DES NNOCHIRI interviews DES NNOCHIRI

This week, I was delighted to hear that a story of mine that I'm very fond of has found a home. It's going to be published by the very exciting Voluted Tales.

They have a superb site to go and visit at What I like is the approach. I've not seen quite so many things in the one place.

You can advertise your work or put out news items that will be on display at the home-page. You can look up writing resources and tips. You can blog and join a forum thread. You can follow the news of their up-coming projects and the submissions dates and, of course, you can submit work.

Not only that, they pay for the stories they use. Not bad for the one site, huh?

The magazines they produce are General Fiction, Noir/Thriller, Paranormal Romance, Serials and Young Adult - something for many, I'd say.

Why not pop over and see what you think? If you like what you see, join (for free) and start to use the resources - I for one am keen to take a good look around.

I might even go over there and advertise today's interview by Des Nnochiri. He certainly deserves a wide audience. Take it away, Des:

Q: Okay. So. Des. Why "Des?"

A: Because "Desmond" sounds like somebody's stodgy uncle. Which I actually am. An uncle (Hi, kids!), not stodgy. But still.

"Des" is racier, pacier, more...

Q: How would you describe yourself?

A: Not too short; not too tall. Good-humored - with an edge.
Hey. I thought we were gonna talk about my writing, here.

Q: Who inspires you, as a writer?

A: Stephen King, Ed McBain, James Ellroy, Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, Thomas Harris. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. P.G. Wodehouse. Also, Gary Larson's "The Far Side", Glen Baxter, and Handelsmann's "Freaky Fables." The Encyclopedia Britannica.

Q: The Britannica. Really?

A: No. I just wanted you to waste a question. Though, there was a time, back when my dad was stationed at the Nigerian Embassy in Gabon, when I tried reading the Britannica from A to Z. Interesting stuff. I didn't finish. What was your question, again?

Q: I didn't ask one. Hmm. An eclectic mix, of influences. Quite a few thriller writers, there. What's your approach to the crime and thriller genre?

A: I tend toward the psychological. Sure, there's blood and murder, but I'm more concerned with what motivates the killers - and the bloodhounds that pursue them. I like to get into their heads; explore what made them who they are. And makes them do the things they do.

Q: You have a reputation for using very few words, in your short stories. Why is that?

A: Umm... Less is more?

Q: So, what have you been working on, lately?

A: Well, there are three major projects, in the works.

First is "The Truck Stop's Here", a collection of my noir short stories. Some of the material in it first aired on Christopher Grant's blog site, A Twist Of Noir. Some of it's fresh. All of it, I highly recommend.

Then, there's my novel, "Xero Option." It's a thriller, based on my feature-length screenplay, of the same name. And the project itself fleshes out the characters of two police officers who featured in one of my best-received short stories at A Twist of Noir. Which (the story) you'll find in "The Truck Stop's Here." Way leads to way, and all that.

And the third one is called, "And We Didn't Get It" (Subtitled: Tweets, from The Lighter Side of Dark). Kind of experimental. It's a collection of - I guess you'd call them Twitter vignettes. Darkly humorous scenarios, played out in 140 characters, or less.

Q: Any other projects, we should know about?

A: I have several short and feature-length screenplays out there, screaming for celluloid. Couple of the shorts have made it off the printed page.

A young director named Andy Burchett filmed "GhostWriter" for me, in 2010. It's a horror story, about a pair of writers who make the wrong sort of bargain, to achieve success.

Then, there's "BFF: Best Friend Forever", a cautionary tale about the dangers of unrequited puppy love. That one's currently in production.

You can visit my website, at:

(a.k.a. The Website of Des Nnochiri) to find those two, and all my other scripts.

I also blog, at:

(Des Nnochiri's Write to Speak)

Haven't had an avalanche of reader comments, yet. But, I occasionally say something interesting.

Q: Des Nnochiri. Writer. Screenwriter. Thank you.

A: Not at all. Nice suit, by the way.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Dancing With Myself: JODI MACARTHUR interviews JODI MACARTHUR

Reality is not how an artist sees it. Yet, it isn’t as practical and straight edged as your physics professor insists either. One has to maintain a balance. But that doesn’t mean one mind isn’t allowed to overcome the other and take charge based on the needs of the moment. If I’m writing/creating, the artistic mind rules and the practical mind sits in the background and laughs, I can’t believe the crap you come up with. Who do you think you are? Just like when you were little flapping your arms and jumping off that balcony thinking you are going to fly like a bird, like super woman? And when you fall flat on your face for the 30th time what are you gonna do? Huh?

If my practical mind dodges an oncoming Semi, thereby avoiding being squished, the artistic one sinks back, but whispers, you missed a perfectly beautiful meadow of sunflowers back there. And if you’d paid attention to that trucker’s license plate you would have seen that it read idiot666 and I could have written about that later. That was worth a chance with a bumper thumper, I think. Yes, it was. You wimp! You speak of courage, but where is the courage now?

This may sound a bit crazy, but I have a feeling that every single one of you writers know exactly what I’m talking about, and you readers? Well, you gotta give something for the price of admission. I think this recent interview with practical ol’ Jo and J.Mac explains a lot.

Jo: Hi there.

J.Mac: Hi.

Jo: So wassup?

J.Mac: Suppressing the beast & taming 10,000 monkeys.

Jo: Is that it?

J.Mac: No, I’m also painting my bedroom red.

Jo: Why?

J.Mac: To suppress the beast and tame 10,000 monkeys.

Jo: You already said that.

J.Mac: I know. WTF?

Jo: You tell me.

J.Mac: No, you tell me.

Jo: I’m asking the questions, dammit.

J.Mac: Then ask them.

Jo: Fine. I will.

J.Mac: Fine.

Jo: What else are you doing?

J.Mac: I’m painting a big X on my red bedroom wall.

Jo: Why are you doing that?

J.Mac: To make a spider web.

Jo: A spider web for what?

J.Mac: To catch them.

Jo: Catch what?

J.Mac: The things that crawl through…here. *Taps head*

Jo: Jodi, what do you do with the things you’ll catch in your spider web?

J.Mac: I will consume them.

Jo: You kill them and eat them? That makes you a monster.

J.Mac: No, no, I give them life. A birth. A living breath.

Jo: That’s absurd. You’re not a god. Who gives you the right to give or take a life?

J.Mac: They choose me. I don’t choose them.

Jo: You’re fucking crazy. I think someone needs to call 9-1-1 and take your paint away, what do you think about that?

J.Mac: I think they can take my paint, my pens, my paper, my clothes, my dignity. They can tie me to a cross and burn me in flames, but they can never take what is between my ears and behind my eyes. Never. Only I can suppress or set that free. And that is why I must paint my bedroom red…

Jo: Why?!?

J.Mac: To suppress the beast and tame 10,000 monkeys.

Jo: I give up.

J.Mac: And that’s why I win and you are lame.

Jo: You literary bunch piss me off.

J.Mac: I write for the everyday not for the overlords. I’ll never be hung on a literary noose.

Jo: *Smiles. Nods approvingly.* You still piss me off.

J.Mac: Ditto.

When Jodi MacArthur isn’t suppressing the beast she unleashes it at

Monday, 14 March 2011

Dancing With Myself: HINKSON on HINKSON

Floodgates opened at A Twist Of Noir last night as the 600 - 700 series got back on the road.

It didn't just limp back either, but shone like a carnival. You'll find Kieran Shea, Matthew C Funk, Paul D Brazill, Katherine Tomlinson and Jim Harrington as well as a little something from myself called 'Breakfast TV'. Enjoy.

And here with some amazingly great news to share is Jake Hinkson. Let's hear all about it.

Let’s start with the obvious, is it weird to interview yourself?

I’m a big believer in conversational masturbation. I talk to myself on a daily basis. I was talking to myself a few minutes before I sat down to do this interview, and I’ll be talking to myself after it’s done. It is odd to do it in writing, though.

Right now is a busy time for you. Tell the roiling masses the big news.

The big news is that I’ve just signed on to publish my first novel, Hell On Church Street, with New Pulp Press. We’re looking at a release in January 2012.

How did that come about?

I like a lot of what they’ve done in the past—The Disassembled Man by Nate Flexer, the Gil Brewer reprints—so I decided to send them something. I had this novel, and it seemed like such a good fit for what they’re doing.

What’s the novel about?

The youth minister at a Baptist church begins an inappropriate relationship with his preacher’s teenaged daughter. When the town’s corrupt local sheriff finds out about it and tries to blackmail him, murder and chaos ensue.

So something light and airy?

It’s noir for sure. As dark as the human soul.

Is it a critique of mainstream religion? A condemnation of professional clergy? A rage-filled attack on the hypocrisy of the self-righteous?

Next question please.

Come on, Hinkson.

Here’s how I think it breaks down: Some clergymen are deeply admirable people. Some are lazy, second-rate conmen hiding behind a title. And some are monsters. I write about the conmen and monsters.

What’s your back story?

I was born and raised in Arkansas, the buckle of the Bible belt. I came from a very religious family, and we lived for a while on a religious campground tucked away deep in the Ozark mountains. So I grew up in an environment where the phrase “Jesus Freak” was a badge of honor. I was like a Flannery O’Connor character. Now, that’s as far as you can get from the mean streets, but at the same time I always had a weird attraction to the hardboiled stuff.

Like what? What was the first hardboiled writing you came across?


What can you remember of those books?

Vengeance is Mine begins, “The guy was dead as hell.” I loved that. Spillane once said, “Your first lines sells the book, and your last line sells the next book.” Eventually, I outgrew Spillane—once I discovered Hammet, and then Chandler, and through them, Parker. For my money, Robert B. Parker was one of the great American entertainers. I don’t write like him—I write noir and he wrote pop adventure-mysteries—but he’s one of my heroes.

How can he be a hero if you don’t want to emulate him?

Parker was, I think, essentially an optimist about human nature. I’m essentially a pessimist. But I love his optimism precisely because I lack it myself. Spenser was Parker’s idea of the perfect man. He’s pretty much my idea of a perfect man, too. But I don’t write about perfect people. I tried, and I can’t.

So how would you describe what you do?


Which you would define how?

Transgression and ruination.

I hear the smack of Calvinist theology there.

I think it’s an intrinsic part of noir: crime and punishment. The pleasure of sin and the agony of consequence. I don’t know if that’s exclusively Calvinist or not, because if you look back at the development of noir—both in literature and in film—there was a code that mandated that the criminal be brought to justice. In America, there’s a religious undercurrent to damn near everything, and that applies to crime fiction as well. We dig transgression but we want to see it punished as well.

Which brings us to Thompson and O’Connor.

If Jim Thompson had knocked up Flannery O’Connor in a cheap Ozark motel, I’d be their offspring. Between his godless Oklahoma and her Christ-haunted Georgia sits the tormented terrain of my sweaty little slice of Arkansas.

Do you write rural noir?

Depends on the story. Someone commenting online on one of my stories called it “hillbilly hardboiled.” I love that term, and I’ve certainly written stuff that fits into that genre. But I haven’t lived in Arkansas for ten years now. I was in DC for the last few years, and I’ve spent a lot of time in Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New York. And now I live, of all places, in suburban Jersey. All that experience goes into the hopper. So I don’t know what it makes me. It’s not that I’ve replaced my rural roots—I couldn’t and I wouldn’t—but I’ve added volumes and variety to my store of material. I’m working on a novel right now that’s set in DC. Nothing rural about it.

And for the last two years or so you’ve been working on a guidebook to film noir. By all means, tell us more about this magnum opus.

It’s a collection of essays, 365 days of film noir. Full length essays on 365 films. Knowledgeable and well researched, but irreverent and fun. There are a lot of guides out there, but this one will be unique in its tone and perspective. One man—one distinct voice—transversing the bullet-riddled corpus of film noir. It’s a guide book so it’ll have the functionality of a guide book (in other words, it’ll help you figure out what to Netflix first), but it’s not a bunch of capsule reviews. It’s a collection of essays, each essay giving you a sense of the film but it also focusing on a different aspect.

So for example…

I talk about Robert Mitchum as a symbolic child molester in The Night of the Hunter. I talk about the post-war fear of disease in The Killer That Stalked New York. I highlight largely forgotten films like Too Late for Tears and Roadblock. I focus on different personalities like the tormented writer Cornell Woolrich, the massively underrated Norman Foster, and the scrappy journeyman director Felix E. Feist. I also make a pretty strong case that Lizabeth Scott is the true Queen of Noir.

How far along are you?

Over halfway. I’ve watched a shitload of films noir. I’ll watch a shitload more. I’m not in a rush. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had on a project. I’ve gone from being a well adjusted man to being someone who can’t stop thinking about Robert Siodmak’s camera angles.

So do you consider yourself primarily a fiction writer or a non-fiction writer?

I’m a writer. Fiction and nonfiction are just different expressions of the same impulse. Both are acts of creation. Both are about looking at the world. Nonfiction is about holding up a subject (a movie, a person, an experience) and examining it, figuring out what it is and how it works. Fiction is about taking a lot of elements from life and art, scrambling them into a mix, and letting your imagination take over. It is, in its way, much like talking to yourself—a dance between your conscious and unconscious.

And that seems to bring us full circle.


Nice one, Jake.