Jim Winter sat down with himself to talk about his new book, Second Hand Goods (US). This alarmed Jim’s wife, but he persevered and got the interview.
SECOND HAND GOODS. WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Nick Kepler gets roped into looking for a stolen limousine by a beautiful Russian girl when all he really wants to do is go on vacation. He’s already on the slippery slope when a car thief he knows discovers that same limo in his chop shop. Before long, he’s in a shooting war trying very hard not to get his head blown off.
YOU TOOK A LONG TIME BETWEEN RE-RELEASING NORTHCOAST SHAKEDOWN AND SECOND HAND GOODS. WHY?
Life in general. I’ve been going to school for the past three years, and that’s slowed down my output to some extent.
BUT THESE BOOKS WERE WRITTEN TOGETHER.
They were. While Northcoast was getting passed around for the big group edit, I worked on Second Hand Goods. Many people said, “Shouldn’t you sell the first one before you write the second one?” I said I’ve seen too many bad second novels written by authors who had to scramble to meet a sudden deadline.
SO WHAT’S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS BOOK?
Well, Lenny Slansky (“A Walk in the Rain”) returns, and we learn some of his history with Kepler. There’s a new character, Eric Teasdale, who plays a role in this book and the follow-up, Bad Religion. And then there’s the relationship between Nick and Elaine. In Northcoast, there was a definite undercurrent of sexual tension there, but it was benign. In this one, Elaine is more blatant about her attraction to Nick, who has qualms about sleeping with a married woman. And we see Nick getting involved, reluctantly, with organized crime.
YOU PICKED THE RUSSIAN MAFIA FOR THIS ONE. AREN’T THEY PASSE NOW?
When I wrote this in 2003, they were newish. You couldn’t have the old goombahs anymore. The Five Families in New York have been severely weakened by RICO. The Mafia of old is virtually nonexistent in Cleveland. This was true back then as well. The Russians had just emerged as the new ethnic power in organized crime.
NIKOLAI KARPOV. WHY IS HE THE ANTICHRIST?
Supposedly he’s ruthless, and I think the nickname makes him scarier than he is. But the real reason is that, like John Gotti, he’s a slippery bastard, and the police and local feds are frustrated trying to take him down. So to them, he’s the devil. Of course, he has people killed regularly, so the nickname’s not much of a stretch.
I’m toying with releasing all the Kepler shorts, including one I’m working on now, as a collection. In the meantime, I’m going to do a new draft of Bad Religion, the third Kepler novel. It was in mid-revision when the publishing company folded.