Saturday, 25 December 2010
Dancing With Myself: JOHN HARVEY interviews JOHN HARVEY
It's also amazing how quickly Christmas Day passes - all that build up and then it's gone.
If you're feeling derelict, hungover, despondent, tired or disappointed then you're in the right place.
If you're feeling pukka, lively, optimistic, happy and desperate to seize another day, you're also in the right place.
Going out to the Christmas sales or reading an interview with an old master? No contest.
Ladies and Gentleman, for your Boxing Day delight, please welcome the one and only John Harvey. I'll be back on 2nd January 2011.
Were you always going to be a writer?
No way. Until I was 20 and working in an office, editing an in-house magazine, I had no idea what I wanted to be - at which point I went off and taught as an unqualified secondary school teacher in a pretty tough inner London school for a year and decided that was my vocation; so I got trained and then taught for 12 more years.
The only indications that one day I might write fiction could only have been gleaned from a childhood habit of spending my pocket money on notebooks, and the fact that both at secondary school and at college (and that office) I edited newspapers and magazines – despite which it never occurred to me to take up journalism. Oh – and my friend Jim and I, when we were in our mid- to late-teens and hanging out in jazz clubs, used to spend a little of our time making up the perfect first sentence for an as yet undiscovered novel by Raymond Chandler.
Nevertheless, you’ve made a success of a writing career that, so far, has lasted 35 years with more than 100 published titles - how come?
In brief, I’m consistent and (until recently) I deliver on time.
When I began writing it was in the footsteps of one of the unsung masters of British pulp fiction, Laurence James; he was my mentor and my model. 50,000 word manuscripts handed in on schedule and providing the publisher with the wherewithal for a 128 page paperback. Didn’t matter if they were war books or westerns or teen romances, there were plenty of others out there who could do the job as well but not as reliably.
It helps that I’ve always seen myself as a writer of popular fiction, content to work within a genre and find little spaces for myself inside that without forgetting the readers’ and the publishers’ expectations. I’m a story teller first and foremost and everything else – attitudes, ideas, personal style – are all subservient to that.
What does the American artist, Chuck Close, say? “Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
Crimewise, early on, of course, I read Hammett and Chandler and James M. Cain and then had to learn to forget them, Chandler especially. (See four early pulp attempts – the Scott Mitchell series – if you don’t believe me.) After that it was a pretty obvious progression through Ross Macdonald, Ross Thomas and George V. Higgins to Elmore Leonard.
The Resnick books have all that at the back of them somewhere, but more specific influences would be the ten Martin Beck novels by Sjowall & Wahloo and “Laidlaw” by William McIlvanney, which combine an urban setting with a leftish political attitude and a documentary feel.
And since my urban setting has, most usually, been Nottingham, I would have to acknowledge also the Alan Sillitoe of “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” and “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner” and the D. H. Lawrence of “Sons and Lovers” and the early short stories.
It’s important to acknowledge, also, the influence of the British television series “Z-Cars”, later “Softly, Softly”, which took the crime story out onto the streets and into real peoples’ lives, and numbered Ken Loach amongst its early directors.
And movies. All my life I’ve seen movies. Oft times, three or four a week while growing up. On a good day, I move the camera like Chabrol or Arthur Penn; cut like Dede Allen or Walter Murch. I wish!
The basic style, though. The style rests on Hemingway. I read him constantly for inspiration and, if I’m getting above myself, as an emetic.
What’s with the Poetry?
I’ve stolen that question from Reed Farrel Coleman (Hi, Reed!).
I wrote poetry with any degree of seriousness from the mid-70s until my youngest daughter was born a little over 12 years ago. For most of that time I edited and published poetry, including some pretty heavy hitters - Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, Simon Armitage, Lee Harwood, the list goes on.
I think – I hope – it taught me something about rhythm and timing (listening to Monk and Parker and Billie Holiday helped) as well as the importance of honing in on the right word. Contrary to some popular conceptions, poetry trains a writer to be concise rather than verbose – though if you look at the prose of a good many writers who are described as “poetic”, you might believe the opposite.
Editors - Don’t you love ‘em?
Well, yes. Good ones, at least, and mostly I’ve been lucky in that regard - and I’ve only had one I might characterize as bad. Some, like Majorie Braman in the States, and François Guerif in France, have been tremendous in the way they’ve given support, but there are two I would single out as being especially important - Marian Wood,whose editing of the ten Resnick novels published in the US by Henry Holt was diligent and rightly demanding, and Susan Sandon, who has been my editor at William Heinemann/Random House UK since the first of the Frank Elder books, and combines competitive and wide-ranging publisher’s know-how with a finely-tuned eye for detail. Both Marian and Susan have been responsible for much that is right in my books and for limiting much that is wrong.
Even though you more or less left him alone for 10 years, the gap between “Last Rites” and “Cold in Hand”, Charlie Resnick is, in readers’ eyes, your most successful character - so where DID he come from?
He came from a series of conversations with a good friend and fellow writer, the late Dulan Barber (who wrote crime novels as David Fletcher and horror as Owen Brookes). He owes quite a lot to Jim Rockford and more, perhaps, excluding the alcoholism, to Valnikov in Joseph Wambaugh’s “The Black Marble”, especially as portrayed by Robert Foxworth in the Harold Becker movie. He certainly isn’t much like any actual Nottingham policeman I’ve met before or since, though he does bear something of a resemblance to McIlvanney’s Laidlaw, maybe to Martin Beck, and, in appearance and manner, to the Tom Wilkinson version of him in two television adaptations that were shown on BBC-TV in the early 1990s.
There’s a lot of music in your books, what do you listen to yourself?
Just recently I’ve started most mornings listening either to Nelson Frier playing Chopin Nocturnes or a new recording of Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater” by the period music ensemble, Florilegium. (The latter a habit I owe to my architect friend, Meredith Bowles).
The last live music I heard was Viktoria Mullova playing Beethoven Violin Sonatas; the next should be contemporary jazz by the American trumpeter, domiciled here, Andre Canniere.
My current Thelonious Monk CD (there’s always one) is the 1964 set with his then usual quartet just called “Monk”.
And at various times today, largely via my iPod, I’ve heard and enjoyed Leonard Cohen’s “Chelsea Hotel No. 2”, Lou Reed’s “Caroline Says II”, “When I Ran Off and Left Her” by Vic Chesnutt, various tracks by Eels and KT Tunstall, “How Do Birds Hear Music” by the Basquiat Strings with Seb Rochford, and, delightfully, “Reconnez Cherie” by Wreckless Eric.
Ten Underrated Crime Novels ?
“Voices in the Dark” : Andrew Coburn
“The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes” : KC Constantine
“The Edge of the Crazies: : Jamie Harrison
“Roses, Roses” : Bill James
“Looking for Chet Baker” : Bill Moody
“Drive” : James Sallis
“Gumshoe” : Neville Smith
“The Fools in Town Are On Our Side” : Ross Thomas
“Ladder of Angels” : Brian Thompson
“Give Us a Kiss” : Daniel Woodrell
Okay, some of these may not be underrated at all; but I don’t think they’re as well-known as they should be.
Don’t go there!
Best Crime Novel I’ve Read in the Last 12 Months?
“Truth” : Peter Temple - by a country mile
Runner-Up : “Started Early,Took the Dog” : Kate Atkinson (Couldn’t be more different)
What Am I Reading Now?
“U is for Undertow” by Sue Grafton.
If I weren’t a writer what would I be?
Right now? Retired.
All right, I know, that’s 12 ...
Thursday, 23 December 2010
To All My Friends
It's been a great year for me. One of the finest and nicest I can remember.
There are lots of reasons for that and I doubt I could remember them all.
Here at home I got married in the summer. Remember this?
Thanks to all that came along from far and near, for the gifts and the wishes.
On top of that, my children have hit milestones, have remained healthy and well and bring me more pleasure than headaches without any shadow of a doubt.
More relevant to here, it's been a year when I've felt I've grown feet as a writer.
I've been around for a while in various guises, but making connections with crime-fiction's cream has been very special.
First off, I joined Twitter. I thought it might be useful to follow posts from educationalists and that I might get better at my job. I soon realised that I could follow people I was interested in and then follow some of the people they were linked to as well. How bizarre, yet how satisfying.
Next step was setting up Sea Minor. It's title comes from a story I wrote a while back. Many of you won't have seen it, but I can assure you it's one of my finest. It's available as a free download with the rest of the magazine (including Seamus Heaney and Vanessa Hemingway would you believe?) athttp://www.scribd.com/doc/28552445/The-Reader-36-Emotional-Surges
The title also gives a nod to Captain Beefheart who died last week. He's a sad loss for the world.
I only created the blog to enter a short story competition and now it's something I hold dear to me.
The rest is all about you guys.
It would be silly to make a list (though I might like to try) of you all in case I missed anyone out (and with my memory and organisation skills that would be inevitable.
So here are my thanks to all. Please accept them.
Thanks to all the bloggers I've followed and popped in to see for all the hard work you put in. It's a wonderful world here in the ether, one I'd have scoffed at ten years ago - what did I know?
Thanks to all the editors who've taken the time to read my work and accept it, made the effort to include it in an anthology, blog, online mag.
Thanks to those who didn't accept my work for the kick in the pants and for spending your lives wading through a mixture of things you love and things you don't.
Thanks to all the writers I've read. To the short story makers, the novelists, the anthologists, the poets, the ebookers and the magazine folk - Cheers.
Thanks to all the fine people who've taken up the chance to interview themselves here at Sea Minor as part of the 'Dancing With Myself' series.
Thanks to everyone who has taken time to come to this site, to take a look around, to leave comments or just to say hi.
Thanks to everyone who has helped to promote me or this blog in any way - there are lots of you out there and I think you'll know who you are.
Thanks to those who've invited me to take part in their own projects asking for stories to be written, interviews, reviews and lists. Each and every one of them has made me feel good about who I am.
Thanks to those who have been kind enough to take me under their wing. Some of you people are amazing. I feel protected by your friendship and support right from the little things to the big. You've offered help in so many ways, but as much as anything helped out when you might not even have known you were doing it.
Thanks to those who put up with my lazy spelling eye and 'bull in a china shop' approach.
Thanks for the Retweets.
Thanks for the books.
Thanks to the readers who've taken time to improve my work with their comments or gone out of their way to educate me in some way or other.
Thanks to all who read any of my work.
And thanks for being there.
It may seem daft to feel so close to so many whom I haven't even met in the flesh. I didn't think it was possible. In real life I have good, solid and strong friends who have been around for a long time, but I've struggled to find new mates who share my interests. To have a group around me who don't need my passion for reading or writing explained at any point is a wonderful thing. I'm lucky to have you and, indeed, we're lucky to have each other.
Hopefully there'll be days when some of us do actually meet. If that happens, I'll consider myself twice blessed.
So to check out until Boxing Day I need to leave you with a gift.
A song should do it, I reckon. Something for Christmas.
I'm off to have a look. Come back in a minute.
OK. 5 minutes of movie perfection. Sinatra or Mathis?
and because of the answer:
Wednesday, 22 December 2010
Dancing With Myself: MELANIE BROWNE interviews MELANIE BROWNE
How did that go?
What did you get?
For some reason I took a bottle of Rebel Yell Whiskey into the tattoo shop and said “do this.” I’m a Billy Idol fan but also I love whiskey and I love the south ,Chicken fried steak, guns, classic cars and Moonpies.
I really am a Billy Idol Fan, so I had to lol when the title of this interview series was Dancing with Myself.
What else are you interested in?
The supernatural, like ghosts
Have you seen Celebrity ghost stories?
Yes. Celebrities are awesome but when you combine that with ghost stories, Oh man.
So are you really related to John Fogerty or is that just a rumor?
Nope. Just a rumor, but I love Credence.
Who are you related to?
I heard I’m related to Anne Boleyn. That’s why I sleep with the covers up around my neck.
Is it true she had three boobs? Or was it six fingers?
No worries. Just want to get my facts straight
I have a strange craving for whiskey and moonpies.
Oh, me too. Me too. This was a lot of fun.
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
Dancing With Myself: R C BRIDGESTOCK interviews R C BRIDGESTOCK (BOB AND CAROL)
Yesterday, I posted up an interview with the amazing Kathleen Ryan, a former police officer from the States. Today's post links nicely in with it as we have a couple of veteran officers from the UK.
A warm welcome for Bob and Carol Bridgestock if you please.
1. Bob and Carol you have clocked up a staggering 47 years of employment with the Police. So with that vast amount of experience was the writing of crime novels a natural progression for you and have you found it easy?
People have always told Bob that he should write a book because he was forever making people laugh and cry with some of the real life stories he told. He had always dismissed the idea until one day, out of the blue his attention was drawn to an advertisement for a course at the local college ‘Write Your first Novel.’ On impulse he enrolled us both. A change of career path and a steep learning curve made for a difficult transition. It required a vast amount of determination and rewrites to complete the first novel, ‘Deadly Focus’.
2. How does it work as co-authors under the name R C BRIDGESTOCK? Do you sit down and write together?
We initially work in separate rooms so not to disturb each others direction. Bob writes the plot and the storyline taking the reader with him from the moment Inspector Jack Dylan gets the call to a body. With his experience they can travel with him to the dark corners, feel frightened and threatened as well as being amused by some of the incidents. If you didn’t have these moments you’d probably cry. He will take you through the investigative processes as the man in charge, the individual with the responsibility of bringing the offenders to justice.
Carol then works on the draft, building up the storyline and characters that they have discussed whilst bringing out importantly the true underlying emotion of the hard faced detective. She also lets you into the highs and lows of the home life of Dylan’s partner Jen who constantly has to deal with the demands of his high profile job. Whilst Carol is working on that book, Bob looks forward at the next in the series. Once they have added their own style to the story they work through the rewrite together ensuring that every sentence is relevant and moves the story forward at pace.
From the original course a writing circle evolved that meets monthly and is chaired by Carol which is a great asset in obtaining sound bites about each others writing.
3. Do you ever disagree over a storyline?
No, we love working together and feel fortunate to be able to do so after spending so much time a part in the past because of the job! We have long discussions about characters and plots whilst walking the dogs. But, Bob obviously knows how the job is done ,what it feels like to be given the task of taking charge of a murder and how frustrating it is to get the justice the victim and family deserve. Carol knows how it feels to live with that person and what the job does to their home life. So the roles are quite defined really. The most difficult part for Carol is drawing out of Bob how it really feels to see the horrific sights he has seen, to go to a post mortem even and to pursue killers. He sees it all in a days work whilst she sees it as most people would, a nightmare you would never want to face.
4. What did you do before you both wrote?
Bob was born in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England in 1952. He left Grammar School at the age of 15, served an apprenticeship as a Butcher then two years in a dye works before joining the police force on the 28th January 1974.
His distinguished career spanned some thirty years, after which he received a Certificate of Loyal Service to the Community. During his role as a detective he worked within the CID at every rank. For over half his service he was a senior detective, retiring at the rank of Detective Superintendent in charge of homicide enquiries.
In his last three years alone he took charge of a staggering 26 murder investigations, 23 major incidents including shootings and attempted murders and over 50 suspicious deaths as well as numerous sexual assaults.
He has received numerous commendations running into double figures from High Court Judges and Chief Constables for his personal commitment, professionalism, expertise and diligence .His skilful leadership was utilised in a protracted high profile investigation into Police corruption with another Police force. Bob although carrying a heavy workload was also an ‘on call’ Force negotiator for kidnap and hostage situations, as well as suicides and extortion.
Carol was born in Halifax, West Yorkshire in 1961. She left Grammar School at the age of 16 and went onto study hairdressing at College. Having qualified at the age of 20 she was running her own business, a successful hairdressing salon. She also returned to College but not as a pupil but as a teacher helping others to achieve a high standard.
In 1988 she commenced working for West Yorkshire Police as a member of the support staff in the Administration Department working in various roles before becoming a Supervisor. Carol also she received a Chief Constable’s commendation for her drive and determination in establishing a crime prevention initiative involving Schools and the local community.
5. I assume your legal knowledge and working within the police environment is a great asset in writing Crime fiction saving a lot of time researching?
Yes, definitely. One of Bob’s pet hates is police procedure that isn’t portrayed correctly either in books or on the TV which is why perhaps secretly he wanted to put the record straight about what really happens his writing.
A lot of Police work is mundane but through fictional work you can keep it moving at a pace.
Yes knowing the processes is a huge advantage coupled with real life incidents keeps research at an absolute minimum leaving more time to write.
A regular question we are asked is,’ Are the characters based on people you know?’
Dylan obviously sees the sights through Bob’s eyes and Jen through Carols so very loosely they are linked to them, as for the rest of our characters these are drawn upon through our life experiences of an abundance of people, they do not relate to any individual.
6. What’s your first book about?
An excited little girl goes to show her grandmother her bridesmaids dress; she never returns vanishing without a trace.
This opening story line introduces a new hero in the form of Jack Dylan in Deadly Focus, a hero you’ll easily get to know within just a few hours of being introduced. The story is seen through the eyes of senior investigating officer Jack Dylan as he hunts down a serial killer in the present but has to look to the past to get the answers he most desperately needs. During the course of the investigation Dylan’s own personal principles are put to the test as he is attacked on the job. With no obvious motive for the murders or attack on Dylan the need to solve the crime is more frustrating than ever. Dylan has passion and a relentless need for justice, and outside of the office readers are introduced to the lovely Jen who is Dylan’s life, however as the killer ups the ante, Dylan’s health is affected and his relationship is under enormous strain. Jack Dylan has to maintain the impetus to catch the killer and secure justice for the victim’s families. Reading Deadly Focus gives the reader a rare insight to the routine of police life, which hopefully makes this story, hit home even more.
7. Once written what were you’re high’s and lows?
Having being a high profile Police Officer, what would the media or ex-colleagues make of it, if it was published?
Trying to get a publisher definitely is even harder than writing hundreds of thousands of words. There are a lot of good writers out there! The most nervous point was waiting for reviews. However, a week after Carol sent Deadly Focus to Natasha Harding for a review she got a phone call as we travelled north to start out publicity campaign to say it was in that day’s newspaper! That feeling was surreal. Below is the review in a national newspaper.
When nine-year old Daisy Hind vanishes while walking home from her grandma’s house, the town of Harrowfield is in uproar. Then footie ace Christopher Spencer is found hanging after celebrating two winning goals – and investigating office Jack Dylan knows he has a serial killer on his hands. The perpetrator is intent on causing as much pain to the families of his victims and needs to be caught soon. The husband-and-wife co-authors, who spent years working within the police force, make this fictional tale believable in every way. A cracking story.
The reviews have continued to be excellent which is encouraging.
The best part was seeing and holding the finished version of a novel you have written for the first time. Very satisfying after all the hard work.
8. What are you doing at the moment?
This year we secured a publisher for our second book ‘Consequences’.
Darren E Law at Caffeine Nights Publishing has a simple goal and that is to publish books that entertain – fiction aimed at the heart and the head. Caffeine Nights Publishing will be re launching Deadly Focus in spring 2011 as a platform for Consequences in summer 2011. We will be working alongside and competing with the best of crime writers. Carol is presently in the process of re-writing book 3 and Bob has just finished the outline for book 4. So as you can see the writing has become addictive and we continue to enjoy it.
9. Who designed you book cover and do you have a website yet? Are you on face book?
Andrew Beckwith – http://www.andrewbeckwith.com/ is presently designing a website for us and he also designed the book cover for Deadly Focus.
We have a Deadly Focus Facebook group page with over four hundred and sixty people following and that number grows every day.
10. Where is Deadly Focus available?
Deadly Focus is available through most major book sellers and online. But Caffeine Nights will re publish next spring. You can register for Caffeine Nights newsletter on their website. http://www.cnpublishing.co.uk/ for the latest news.
You can now keep up to date with their movements at their revamped site at www.rcbridgestock.com .
Monday, 20 December 2010
Dancing With Myself: KATHLEEN A. RYAN interviews KATHLEEN A. RYAN
You were a music teacher before becoming a cop. Any other professions?
I’ve been a babysitter, bakery clerk, gal Friday, deli clerk, letter carrier, record store manager, and a waitress. In the early 80s, I worked for the Street Pulse Group. I called radio stations to obtain their playlists, to predict and project record sales. When my boss, Mike Shalett, moved his business to Connecticut, he offered me a job, but I declined. He revolutionized the music industry by tracking retail sales; he developed SoundScan, and later, VideoScan and BookScan (maybe I should have followed him).
What made you turn to writing full-time?
After 21 years with the Suffolk County Police Department, I retired in 2007 to spend more time with my family and pursue writing full-time. After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2004, I underwent a mastectomy, chemo, radiation, and breast reconstruction, but continued working throughout. After breast cancer claimed the lives of several friends, leaving nine children motherless, I decided to retire.
What do you write?
I have been writing since I was a child; as a teenager, I had 50 pen pals around the world; in junior high, I worked on the yearbook and newspaper staff. I wrote poetry, lyrics, and kept an occasional journal. As a cop, I wrote reports every day. In Public Information, I wrote press releases; in Crime Stoppers, I took anonymous tips from the public, regarding homicides, robberies, narcotics, larcenies, and many other crimes; I wrote Crime Alerts and Wanted profiles, and articles for several police publications.
I write on two blogs: Women of Mystery (http://www.womenofmystery.net/) with fellow members of NY/TriState Sisters in Crime, and my personal blog, From Cop to Mom and the Words in Between (http://www.kathleenaryan.blogspot.com//).
I’m active on Twitter (http://twitter.com/katcop13).
I enjoy crime fiction, flash fiction, and hint fiction.
I have written a true crime memoir (which I am currently revising, before sending out for agent queries).
What is this true crime memoir about, anyway?
At the heart of the story is the unsolved 1955 hatchet murder of a taxi driver on Scudder Avenue in Northport, Long Island. My grandmother, an armchair detective who lived two miles from the scene of that crime, used to talk about it often during my childhood. She died when I was 13, unaware that I became a cop in the Northport/East Northport area. I met a volunteer fireman (my future husband), Joe Ryan, at my relief point. I learned that he grew up on Scudder Avenue. I mentioned the taxi driver murder — and let’s just say, with good reason, he knew about it.
Fourteen years later, I had the unique opportunity to review the 47-year-old case, the first murder in the history of the incorporated village of Northport. On my own time, I tracked down witnesses, family members of the victim, and interviewed several of my own relatives with connections to the case. One of the original detectives told me I had gathered more information than four agencies in five decades.
What were some of the most memorable moments on the job?
The tragedy of Flight 800. As a PIO (Public Information Officer), I worked with the worldwide media for eight weeks at the East Moriches Coast Guard Station.
The Katie Beers kidnapping; it was a rare, happy ending, in which the ten-year-old victim was found alive after being held in a dungeon for 16 days.
Regarding the death of two young brothers that has haunted me since 1996, I wrote, “Playing With Matches,” which appears in W.W. Norton’s Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in Twenty-five Words or Fewer, edited by Robert Swartwood.
I wrote a personal essay, “The Watcher,” about a 911 call I handled in 1989. Frank McCourt prompted me to write it after I shared the story in his memoir workshop in 2007. It won a Creative Non-Fiction award from the Public Safety Writers Association in 2009, and was published in The Southampton Review in March 2010.
I write about lighter moments on the job on my blog (From Cop to Mom), in my “War Story Wednesday” segments.
Is it true, you had a drink with Billy Joel when you were 19?
In 1980, Billy Joel came to listen to his favorite Long Island band, the New Day Band, at the Lion’s Cage in Huntington ~ my hometown. Billy sat alone at the end of the bar, while patrons stood, stared, and whispered nearby. I sat right next to him. I could have talked about so many things ~ he had just appeared on the cover story in Rolling Stone, Glass Houses was released earlier that year, and here I was — a music major in college — but I remained calm and spoke with him as if he was a regular guy. He offered to buy me a creme de menthe; he said, “They smooth me out,” but I asked for a Seven-up instead (I wish I could turn back time and take him up on that). He bought a shot for the barmaid, too. He left in a Mercedes Benz limo, and the other patrons crowded me, asking me what it was like to speak with Billy Joel.
True or False: You named your daughter after the Miranda warnings?
Miranda, my miracle IVF baby, was named after the admired Miranda in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
This year, you traveled to Florida (twice), Maine, Canada, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. Where else have you been, and where would you like to visit?
I’ve visited Germany, Austria, Ireland, St. Thomas, the Bahamas, Bermuda, Grand Turk, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Arizona, every state on the eastern seaboard and more. I dream of visiting England, Italy, France, and Greece, and I’d like to return to Ireland.
How have you survived the loss of your brother?
My only brother, Ernest, was 37 years old when he was killed in a motorcycle crash, four days before his fifth wedding anniversary, in May 2001. His 30-year-old widow was left to raise their five-month-old son alone. I am extremely close with my nephew, who just turned ten. Several things helped: first, I attended a bereavement group with my mother and sister-in-law. Second, my mother found an audiobook, called Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and the Living by Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler, and immediately shared it with me. It literally saved my life, and explained the meaning of life and death. For Christmas that year, I ordered 30 copies of the book as gifts. I often recommend it to those grieving the loss of a loved one.
Three months after the death of my brother, I attended a taping of Crossing Over with John Edward. A strong spirit, my brother came through loud and clear, and did so again during John’s appearances at the Huntington Hilton and the former Westbury Music Fair. My brother has sent me awesome signs that are impossible to deny.
Since the moment a show called The Seinfeld Chronicles appeared on TV in 1990, my brother, a fellow TV and movie nut, asked if I was watching it. I hadn’t. He bugged me for two years about it. Finally, I caught my first episode: “The Contest,” which later won an Emmy. I called my brother. “I finally watched it ~ I understand.”
Every time I watch Seinfeld, it’s as if my brother’s in the room, laughing alongside me.
It also helps to hear songs from artists we both admired, such as Bruce Springsteen, the Police, and Genesis. I took Ernest to see The Boss at the Nassau Coliseum when he was 17 and I was 19. The last birthday present my brother gave me was a ticket to see Sting. Our sister and my husband joined us for that phenomenal concert at Jones Beach theatre.
What else are you doing, since retiring?
Besides being a full-time mom to two teenagers, I volunteer with Crime Stoppers of Suffolk County, Inc. It’s our job to promote awareness of the program and raise funds to pay the rewards to the anonymous callers whose information leads to an arrest. I am a Reach to Recovery volunteer with the American Cancer Society. I speak with recently diagnosed patients who express a desire to talk to a survivor.
I participate in a writers group that meets once a month; I belong to NY Sisters in Crime and the newly formed chapter, Long Island Sisters in Crime; the Public Safety Writers Association, and MWA.
I do tons of reading and writing. I’m thrilled that my flash fiction piece, “Secret Identity” (which won a flash fiction award from the Public Safety Writers Association this year) appears in DISCOUNT NOIR, edited by Patricia Abbott and Steve Weddle.
Thanks, Nigel, for allowing me to “dance with myself.”
Kathleen’s work appears online at:
A Twist of Noir
Flash Fiction Chronicles
Six Word Stories
In print or e-book:
“Fraternization” appears in 6S: The Love Book
“Autumn Reckoning” appears in 6S: Volume III
“The Watcher” appears in The Southampton Review
“Secret Identity” appears in Discount Noir
“Playing with Matches” appears in Hint Fiction: An Anthology of Stories in Twenty-five words or Fewer
Sunday, 19 December 2010
The Captain's Dead - A Tribute To Captain Beefheart
The Captain, our Captain has gone.
It happens sometimes when a well-known figure dies that the blow is as real as if you'd known the person really well. This is one of those times for me.
Hard to say exactly why.
Partly, of course, it takes me back to my youth. Listening to John Peel on the radio playing as eclectic a bunch of music as is possible to imagine. The Good Captain was his hero. I remember him talking about meeting him. So John, another of those whose departure caught us as ripples moved outwards from where he lay, went over nervously to his hero. I'll not get this right, but the Good Captain said 'From here to here is too far. From here to there is not far enough.' The way I recall it, that was it. Brilliant and totally in keeping with the way I hold him in my mind.
So there was his music. It was like nothing else. Crazy lyrics and compositions, that ash-tray voice so good a mimic, poetry and politics and drugs and free love and madness.
Way I understand it is he was a composer. Had all this stuff in his head and let it pour out to be recorded so that we could share in it. There's stuff to dance to, smooch to, trip out to, party to, make love to, jump to, open the jaw to and mainly to listen to. You can hear different things every time. Maybe the make love to bit was an exaggeration - a track or two, but not a whole album.
Trout Mask Replica. Enough said.
Blues, jazz, R&B, hippy shit, poetry, folk, tribal. I'm sure it's all there and more besides.
Meeting someone who likes Beefheart is a great thing. It's something that immediately creates a bond. Tells you that the person you've just come across is made of the right stuff. Likes and knows their music.
Makes me think of friends. Tim, Martin, Greg and places Leytonstone, Preston, my imagination.
I could try and talk a lot about the stuff the Captain's done, but others will do that bigger and better.
My tribute is this.
6 years or so ago I had a few drinks and collapsed into my smoking room (yes, selfish and ugly inside I was) to get high and empty the whisky bottle. I put on Safe As Milk and floated away with it. And it came to me that the man was such a genius, such a one off product of place and time that there'd never be another, that I'd write a novel based on him so he could read it out in the desert - you need to remember I was out of my skull.
I was inspired.
I took a notebook with me on a visit to a friend in Hamburg and wrote. Crazy rambling it was, but I wrote none-the-less.
Orinoco Pony I called him. He was Beefheart in my mind, though I'd scarred his face in a car accident.
The synopsis went like this:
STEAL SOFTLY THROUGH SUNSHINE (STEAL SOFTLY THROUGH SNOW): A SYNOPSIS
Two stories have been woven together in alternate chapters, the first detailing the life of ORINOCO PONY in the 1960s and written in the third person; and the second the pursuit of a story by journalist JOSH PORTEOUS, written in the first person and the present day. The ending sees the two elements come together as one.
Prologue - An old man stands in a river catching fish by hand. The routines of survival dominate his life. The summer heat has been unprecedented. A plague of flies has been keeping him awake at night and he has been having visions; in them he sees the arrival of the man he’s been waiting to see for many years.
Theme one - Orinoco Pony’s biographer found it difficult to find out about his early life because he created new stories about himself to fit his mood. Even the genesis of his name was open to question; in one story he had himself inventing a writing system, in another he claims that it reflects the fact that he was ‘hung like a horse’.
EWAN PORTEOUS and KATYA, Josh’s father and mother, meet at a DANDELION ADVENTURES gig in New York. They are present at later gigs, studio recordings, a visit to Warhol’s Factory and an evening at The Exploding Plastic Inevitable. When the band become disillusioned with New York the couple follow them to San Francisco. The band set up a juice bar (Obscura) in Haight Ashbury and later move to Big Sur where they form a commune known as the Post Office. Things begin to unravel when two of the women become pregnant. Orinoco Pony accidentally shoots guitarist WILSON BROWN whilst obsessively chasing a fox and the band miss out on Monterey. The final nail in the coffin for the commune comes in the form of a forest fire. Josh is born just after JESSICA BROWN. Playing at an anti-war event they burn their backdrop of American flags and are arrested. Their trial prevents them from playing at Woodstock. A demonstration of support closes down the Golden Gate Bridge and the band are cleared on a technicality. To end the decade the Dandelion Adventures play for a party in LA. Orinoco Pony and Katya drive away as the fireworks are set off. Orinoco Pony comes up on the acid he has taken. The car crashes and Katya’s body is found next to the vehicle.
Theme two - In New York, Josh interviews DOUG TANOURY (manager), BILL BRAMPTON (octogenarian, communist poet) and Jessica Brown (whom he remembers from his childhood and to whom he is immediately attracted). As he gets closer to his past, Josh becomes less stable. The interviews suggest that Orinoco Pony survived the crash in which Katya died. Intent on finding Orinoco Pony in order to establish his own genesis, he begins to fantasise about exacting his revenge by killing him. He invites Jessica to San Francisco to join him on a trip to the Post Office, which he has inherited from his father. It is OCEAN HICKS, drummer, war veteran and only surviving member of the band, who confirms that Orinoco Pony didn’t die in the car accident. Josh is certain that he will find out all he needs to know at the commune and invites Jessica to accompany him. WAINWRIGHT, the heavily scarred caretaker, gives them a tour. Jessica and Josh have an intense affair.
Resolution - When Jess returns home, Wainwright offers to help Josh get over his loss with medicinal herbs. They become friends. Wainwright reveals his true identity (Orinoco Pony and Josh’s biological father) whilst Josh is hallucinating to the extent that there is no possibility of him exacting revenge for his mother’s death. When Josh comes round he is alone. Confused and disappointed about letting Orinoco Pony off the hook, he turns his back on his old life and decides to stay at the Post Office to live off the land as Orinoco Pony had done for thirty years.
I loved Orinoco Pony.
I loved the way he spoke and moved and I so wanted everyone else to see him walk and talk and breathe, my own personal replica of CB.
The Captain (Don) never saw it. Neither will you. Some I sent it to liked it enough to get back to me, but in the end I just couldn't turn it into an engaging read because I didn't have the skill.
Two years of work was distilled into one short story that made it up at Pulp Metal and you know what, it was worth every moment.
The real Captain was a crazy, musical poet and artist whom I loved. He said to me that it was OK to be a little mad, long as you were just being yourself. I gave up trying to hide my querks long ago.
The truth for me, because of my fiction, is utterly blurred.
I read an excellent biography to help me that I'd recommend - CAPTAIN BEEFHEART by MILES BARNES. You read that and you'll know. You'll see how things have changed and how a man like that was even more an anomaly to the human race in the sixties and seventies than he'd be considered now.
There was also a brilliant documentary by the BBC (Arena, I think) on Don Van Vliet as a painter, happily creating in the desert the most amazing canvases done by the BBC. Hopefully they'll show it again. If not, look out for it.
Nothing more to say.
I love Captain Beefheart still. Can't help it. His beard, his hats, his grumblings, his insanity and his primitive drawings. Most of all for his music.
Enough to have my son named after him (with a little nod to Donald Byrd on the sly).
And a track to go out on?
Apes Ma gets me every time. Seems perfect to say goodbye.
The Guardian Newspaper On Books
Before I do that, however, I'd like to have a little pop at them.
It's a newspaper of an amazing tradition. The journalism is of the highest order and the breadth and depth of its stories never ceases to amaze. You only have to read some of the sports reports to feel the quality of the writing.
Before the internet, I was never much of a paper reader. I have issues with the way my eyes scan texts which make the thin columns of print extremely frustrating. Even so, it's the Guardian and the Observer that I'd go for if I'd forgotten my book before a long train journey or on the pre-children days when browsing their papers at the weekend was a treat.
Where I think the Guardian / Observer productions, I do get frustrated by their coverage of the arts. I know that I'll take some flack for this, but I'm going on anyway.
Mainly, I'd focus on the book pages.
They're like an academic's paradise. Many of the reviews are so in depth and full of the reviewers desire to show off their own knowledge that navigating through them can be like eating dry cream-crackers.
It's not just the style I have an issue with either.
It is a guardian, in many ways, of the established order. It plays safe too much of the time (I can imagine those whose idea of being radical is to be seen in public without a white fedora). Its roots, rather than heading deep into the ground to discover and unleash exciting new talent or ideas, grow sideways - feeding of the mainstream, telling us what's going to be big because that's what the bigger publishers are telling them.
I'd like to see them do what they should as true observers - look everywhere, upturn stones and not rehash ideas like they're a talk show that throws things out for discussion on a cyclical basis.
Of course I'm not really qualified to criticise too deeply. I'm not clever enough by half, not in the same game as they are.
I would like to think that those from the arts pages will look into their fields with the tenacity of some of their investigative journos on the news pages.
Slating coming to an end, I must also congratulate them for throwing out pearls on a fairly regular basis.
It's lovely that poetry is always present. There are regular reviews of crime. There are great pieces on great writers from the past and the present that are outstanding. On occasion, pieces are so cutting edge one should really wear gloves to turn the page.
And here's another thing I'd like to flag up.
They're running an audio series on great short stories chosen by fine authors and read by them. The voices are, at times, incongruous with their text, but never mind.
Follow this link and feel the quality:
Tessa Hadley reads 'The Jungle' by Elizabeth Bowen
Day seven: Tremain reads Yiyun
Day six: Winterson reads Calvino
Day five: Drabble reads Mansfield
Day four: Tóibín reads McCabe
Day three: Enright reads Carver
Day two: Boyd reads Ballard
Day one: Pullman reads Chekhov
From Carver to Carter: authors explain their choices.
It's a cracking series and I'm not knocking it. I'll make sure I listen to them all.
You might, however, have guessed my stand before I mention it.
These are great pieces, real gems, but where are the stories I've been reading all year? Hundreds of them. And I know you've read hundreds more than me. I limit my focus these days, but the world of contemporary work is at their feet and is completely ignored. It would be wonderful if some of those best works we given space and time at a newspaper of the Guardian's stature and quality.
Even the Mail On Sunday, I hear, is putting up a short story by a young dude called Mr Rankin - watch out for him.
Isn't it about time the Guardian became the champion of the little fish? Couldn't they print a short work from a newcomer every week? Run a competition that was worth its salt? Use poetry from the street and the gutter as well as from the Poetry Society's list?
Report - B minus.
Summary - could do better
I'll help them out right now by advising them of a few places to look:
http://death-by-killing.blogspot.com/ (Bill Crider will have you under your seat this week)
and that's but a few and just from one small slice of the huge cake that is fiction.
Enough from me - go and enjoy those audios.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
Dancing With Myself: DAVE ZELTSERMAN interviews DAVE ZELTSERMAN
A quick plug for a mighty fine writer. On Monday, if you pop over to http://www.theauthorsshow.com/ you'll find our friend Richard Godwin being interviewed.
I've had the pleasure of some fairly regular contact with Richard of late - he's been here at Sea Minor and I was over at The Slaughterhouse for a Chinwag only a couple of weeks ago.
Thing is, I don't know what his voice is like. I'd lay money he's got rich, deep tones, the sort of voice you'd hear doing a trailer for a horror movie. I'm going to be there to find out - no matter what the sound's like, the words will be worth hearing.
Meanwhile, over at Day Labor, Brian Lindenmuth picks a book of the year from an 'Allan Guthrie with ovaries', which has got to be one of my favourite lines of the year, too.
And to the main event. It's a real honour to have one Dave Zeltserman here today. Tighten those seatbelts guys and gals, we're off :
Where Dave Zeltserman has a schizophrenic break and talks back to the voices in his head:
Q: Congrats on winning the Shamus Award for you novella, ‘Julius Katz’. I understand there’s a Julius Katz novel in the works?
A: Yep, already written, and it’s good. Feedback I’ve gotten from Julius Katz fans who I showed it to has been great. So keeping my finger-crossed.
Q: You just put out your first original e-book, ‘Vampire Crimes’. What’s it about?
A: Vampire Crimes is a kick-ass, high octane thrill ride of a book, easily the most noir book I’ve written, think Pulp Fiction with vampires. Anyone who likes Small Crimes, Pariah, Killer or Outsourced, is going to really dig this book, especially with a $2.99 price. I have to believe this will find its readers.
Q: What else is in the pipeline?
A: Essence will be published by Overlook Press in the Fall of 2011, and I’ve completed two other books that I’m excited about, Monster and Murder Club.
Monster is easily the best book I’ve ever written and will ever write. It’s not crime, but instead of a retelling of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, where I layered the book very carefully over the original, but in this version I have the monster as a tragic and heroic character, with Victor Frankenstein as a depraved villain who is in league with the Marquis De Sade to bring hell to earth. But again it’s layered very closely over Mary Shelley’s original brilliant novel, where the same journey is taken, but each path of the journey for very different reasons.
Murder Club is easily the best crime novel I’ve written. Very dark, very noir, and as much about the coldness and isolation in modern society as it is a crime novel.
Q: What about your next book, Outsourced. It’s being published now, right?
A: It came out in August in the UK, and will be published in the US this coming February. It took six years, but am very happy to see it in print, and am very thankful to Serpent’s Tail for publishing it, as well as publishing Small Crimes, Pariah and Killer. It’s also got foreign deals so far with publishers in Germany, Netherlands, France and Lithuania.
Q: How’d you get a film deal already if the book still is several months away from being published in the US?
A: My agent back in 2005 sent the book to a topnotch film agent, Steve Fisher at APA. Steve’s someone who doesn’t take on much, but when he does find something he believes in he pushes the project until he gets a deal. I have a feeling that Steve thought the literary rights for Outsourced would sell quickly, because it makes things a lot harder to get a film deal when you don’t have a book deal, but even without the book deal, there was a lot of interest in Hollywood from the very beginning, and a lot of different deals almost happened with it over the years, including a cable series.
I wrote Small Crimes in 2003 and didn’t sell it until 2006, and I had a lot of low periods for a few years with the difficulty I was having selling both Small Crimes and Outsourced, and the interest from Hollywood for Outsourced kept me from quitting writing during this time. John Tomko, who produced the movie Falling Down, was sold on Outsourced from the beginning but things finally broke in 2008 when the Impact Picture guys got involved-they’re the ones who make the Resident Evil movies. What really helped was Small Crimes being named by NPR as one of the 5 best crime and mystery novels of 2008—I think that’s what cinched the deal with the financing people. I know writers aren’t supposed to count on Hollywood, and things can take forever there, but I think this movie is going to get made. We have the financing approved and a script that’s not only been accepted but has tested off the charts, and now it’s a matter of getting the right director and actors. So I’m very optimistic about this.
Q: And the book’s about a bunch of unemployed software engineers who try for a bank heist. Let’s see, you worked as a software engineer for over 20 years. A bit autobiographical, huh?
A: Well, I never robbed a bank, or entertained thoughts of doing so, but in some ways this was the crime novel I was born to write. My mom insists that I based the main character on myself. I didn’t, at least not entirely, but I will say this, the group of oddballs and misfits that I create in this book, while maybe not based on any particular people I know, could easily be folks I’ve worked with over years. Outsourced is a different tone than my ‘man out of prison’ noir books. While it’s violent, and there’s certainly some darkness to it, it’s still lighter and has more humor than those others. This wasn’t anything I was consciously aware of while writing it, but my agent back in 2004 told me he thought it read as a mix of Richard Stark’s Parker and Westlake’s Dortmunder books, and I think he’s right.
Q: You mentioned Essence earlier. What’s that one about?
A: The title might be changing to The Essence of Monsters, not sure yet. I’m a Red Sox fan, and I had a lot of fun centering the book around the 2004 ALCS Championship series between the Red Sox and the Yankees. The book’s protagonist is a Brooklyn homicide detective, and we get to watch the Yankees monumental choke job through the eyes of a diehard Yankees fan. The book is very moody, very atmospheric, and while it’s a crime novel, it’s also very much a novel about confusion and chaos. I’m extremely happy Overlook is publishing this one, and it’s very different from my other crime novels.
Q: The Caretaker Of Lorne Field was just nominated by Dark Scribe Magazine for their Black Quill Award for best dark genre novel of the year?
A: Yep, and to do some name dropping they’ve put me with some very stiff competition, including Stephen King’s Under the Dome, Peter Straub’s A Dark Matter and Justin Cronin’s The Passage.
Q: Your favorite reads so far this year?
Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith, a very violent South Africa Cape Town thriller without the usual cartoonish elements of a lot of violent thriller. This book reminded me what I like most about Elmore Leonard. No Sleep Till Wonderland by Paul Tremblay, which features his narcoleptic PI Mark Genevich. In other writers’ hands, Genevich could’ve ended up very cutesy, but Paul plays it straight and has this wonderful voice. This and The Little Sleep are the Boston PI books people should be reading and talking about! Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto, which is a wonderfully dark noir debut and I highly recommend it. Also Florida Gothic Stories by Vicki Hendricks, which is just this very fun and perverse collection of noir/horror stories.
And when you get back, get straight over to here -
where David Cranmer of the almighty Beat To A Pulp has an interview up that you should see.
Wednesday, 15 December 2010
Dancing Cheek To Cheek PART 3: JIMMY CALLAWAY and CAMERON ASHLEY
JC: Aw, I don't see how they couldn't...
CA: And when you talk about people pushing forward – He is pushing forward...
JC: Oh, absolutely. It's almost like, and this is not to say that Frankie doesn't work his ass off because I'm sure he does...
CA: Yeah, nah, he does.
JC: Even that phrase, “pushing forward,” I don't think that guy has anything to work against, I think that guy's a fucking natural and that it's not like I'm not happy about it, but I'm certainly not surprised...it's inevitable. It's inevitable. Like, even in Tosches' stuff, he's pissing and moaning about the publishing industry, but here is, still...there, still doing it. Sure it's a struggle, but – and I was saying this to you or to Matt Funk – I don't have much faith in anything, and that the closest thing I have to a belief in a Higher Power is in this....art, in this Literature that I love so dearly, that speaks to me and I go, yeah I can do this. So, you know...like I've been saying to you all week, it's inevitable.
CA: Yeah, look, this is – okay, we should probably clarify this a little bit – I am actually a little bit surprised, certainly not disappointed, but I am a little bit surprised at your kind of...relentless positivity....
JC: As am I!
CA: We are...you and I are very similar in a lot of ways and we like a lot of the same shit, and...
JC: We're pretty much the same dude.
CA: We're pretty much the same dude. But where we are quite different, to use a horrible analogy, is that you're the half-full glass and I'm the half-empty. That's just the way it is. And I wonder how much our different backgrounds have to do with that...
JC: As far as like...?
CA: Me being on one side of the planet and you on the other. It's an interesting thing. Like I was saying to you the other day. Australians, generally, unless it's on a sports field, we don't generally talk things up very much.
JC: Culture Cringe? Is that what you called it?
CA: We have Cultural Cringe...
JC: I love that phrase...
CA: We're not...really cool with a lot of our product a lot of the time. It is getting a lot better, I have to say...but you, you're just like, fucken bring it, it's going to happen.
JC: I'm as surprised as you are that I have this attitude, and that's just further proof that I'm right. I've been a horrible pessimist my whole life...I'm getting better...but I really was just like Everything Sucks and I'm Going To Be Killed Tomorrow and all this constant cry-baby bullshit but I don't think I was wrong. I hadn't really found literature. I hadn't really found it yet. I've been writing since I was in high school, or you can even go back to third grade and the writing I did there if you want to count that...
CA: Yeah, I would.
JC: But it wasn't really until the last few years where it really started clicking and all the work and all the horrible shit I'd written as a teenager and into my twenties, it was starting to pay off and watching this neo-noir, electric zine scene build up around me and being a part of that – well, fuckin' A! I believe in it because it's the most important thing to me and I feel lucky that I found something like that. I feel pity for people who just kind of go through the motions...
CA: I agree.
JC: Graduated high school, off to college and job and blah blah. And nobody ever really sticks to the cliché that closely, but guys my age start to get a little despondent because they're not married and...look, I work in a fucking warehouse and I live at my mom's and to objectively look from the outside, it's like “What's this guy's fucking problem?” But I really feel that it's all a part of and all feeds into my work and that it's all an investment. It may be a long-term investment...the Long Money is pretty much....
CA: Pretty much Jimmy's phrase since I met him.
JC: The Long Money. I was in this writing class and the woman who ran it was like, “well, why don't we go around and introduce ourselves and tell each other a bit about why you want to write.” And she came to this one woman, middle-aged mother of three, nice lady, but she goes, “Well, I want to make money. I want to write a best-seller and I want to be set for life.” and I just wanted to throw my desk over and go, “NO! Go buy a fucking lottery ticket if you want to hit it rich. We're trying to do something here!”
CA: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.
JC: Not to be like...you know, money's great...I can't get enough of it. Or any of it.
JC: But that's not valid. You want to make a living and, goal-wise, we all want to make a living of off this. But to me, that's a secondary goal.
JC: Cause I live at my mom's house. I don't need to support myself!
JC: The main goal, the primary goal is to be a good writer, to work to your utmost, cause if it's not, if you don't, nothing really matters. You could be a fucking millionaire writing bestsellers, but if you hate your books, then you'll be miserable. How many drunken best-seller authors are there out there? Quite a few, I'd wager.
CA: We've been extremely drunk all week though...
JC: You're right. But to wind that up, that optimism, as much as a surprise to me as anyone, it doesn't surprise me because it just make sense to me. I look at it logically: you do the work. You do it to your best and everything else will fall into place. Because nothing else really matters anyway. Not to me, anyways. And that's kind of optimism via complete scepticism. The fucking world could blow up tomorrow, so what difference does it make? But if my comic collection blew up tomorrow, that would be another story.
CA: That would. That'd be terrible.
JC: So, we should talk about comics a bit, eh? Do you think we're boring people with this yet?
CA: Probably, yes. But they will hopefully blame it on Nigel for running it un-edited. Anyway, forty minutes in my brain's finally working, so fuck it.
JC: I really want a cigarette. Do you think if I roll the window down a bit the recorder--?
CA: Nah, do it.
JC: So, it seems that comics and crime go hand in hand these days.
JC: What do you think that's about?
CA: I think....well, obviously, there's a very, very, long tradition of crime comics and there's a very long history of crime novels and what we've got here is just cross-pollination of pulp. The idea that there is no kind of lesser medium anymore.
CA: Everybody wants to try everything because everything is really fucken cool and everybody is realising this finally. Comics are no ghetto-medium-step-child anymore. And even if they were still regarded as that, I think that everybody would still want to do them, because that's where everybody's at now. It's such a vital, beautiful medium. And we talked to Megan and Allison (Gaylin) and Duane (Swierczynski), you know, and there's a lot of editorial freedom. Those guys have never had so much editorial freedom on anything they've ever written. And the speed at which you can actually get stuff done. Obviously Megan and Allison's is a little bit different, we're talking long-form graphic novel that comes out in one big chunk, but in terms of serialised stuff, man.....
JC: Yeah, think of Swierczynski and (Ed) Brubaker. I know Duane writes more superhero stuff as far as his comics go, but he's an excellent crime writer.
CA: Yes, he is.
JC: One of my personal faves. I was telling him this, and maybe he thought I was just blowing smoke up his ass, but The Wheelman is, for me, what The Friends of Eddie Coyle was for all those guys back in the '70s.
JC: And I was really like, “Holy shit! Look what you can do with this!” and I think Duane's brought that to his comics work and Brubaker certainly has and (Greg) Rucka as well and, yeah, I think you're right. There's this cross-breeding where someone goes, “Hey, what are you guys up to over here?” “We're doing the same shit you're doing.” “Why are we on separate sides of the room?” It's like being at a junior high dance and nobody wants to get up and start dancing, but once “Jump” comes on or something, then everyone's having a good time. And I also think it's that editorial freedom and I think that goes back to what we were saying – nobody's paying attention. Comics have been, for years, just for kids. So guys have been getting away with fuckin' murder in comics, going back to Robert Crumb and those guys with their underground stuff...
JC: ...and Marvel was doing all kinds of stuff, all kinds of crazy shit with Steve Gerber and everything...
CA: Yeah, yeah...a big influence on Charlie Huston. I also think that, if I was an editor....crime books are predominantly action-driven, comic books are predominantly action-driven, at least the mainstream ones, and why wouldn't you want Charlie Huston who writes probably the best action sequences in the world, pretty much, to write your comics. It just seems like a no-brainer.
CA: It just makes sense. And plus the fact that Huston and Duane and Rucka and all these people, they grew up reading and loving it. So, for them, it's just natural to do it. But then you have...I'm a bit worried about Megan and Alison's book....and I'm not worried because I don’t think it's going to be any good, because it sounds fucking incredible, what I'm worried about is that it's going to be treated as a novelty....you know, who are these people coming in to do comics? Because there is kind of that snobbish mentality in the comics community...
JC: There really is, yeah.
CA: But, having talked to them...sure, man, they're getting their feet wet, but they LOVE IT.
CA: They're approaching it with as much passion and open-mindedness and willingness to learn...how to pace things differently and how to break things down and where to put a splash page and all that kind of stuff...they worked their arses off. They're passionate about that stuff, you know, and I can't wait for that comic.
JC: Yeah, it's great. And I just think it's a matter of time before comics in America...the birthplace of the modern comic-book...
CA: Oh, there's no doubt about that.
JC: ...and to be the last country on the planet that takes them seriously...like in France and Europe and Japan, they're considered as important an artform to their culture as any other.
CA: Oh, yeah. I think...argh, I'm going to get this wrong, but I think at the moment, the top four of the top ten best-selling books in France, books, are comics. Blacksad volume 4 is currently the best-selling book in France, of any book, any genre, any medium, any whatever, Blacksad volume 4 is sitting at the top.
JC: Yeah, and I think this generation of comics writers, that we're kind of coming in at the tail-end of, are the most aware of that.
JC: You had your Golden Age guys and your Silver Age guys doing what was then your standard super-hero stuff, and then in the '70's you had Gerber and those guys and they were toeing the line, so to speak, but they were also branching off. Roy Thomas catches a lot of flack you know, from your more high-minded comics aficionados, and maybe rightfully so in some cases....
CA: Yeah, but he also did some great stuff.
JC: Yeah, I was reading some of his Conan stuff a while back...
CA: It's incredible.
JC: There's times where he starts to...shuck the unnecessary exposition and all this stuff that was commonplace at the time and it's fucking beautiful. And Thomas was growing up on all that really early Marvel stuff and it showed in his work, but I think this generation of writers, guys like Bendis and Brian K Vaughan, even though he's in TV now, and Daniel Way who I love, and Jason Aaron, who we could not do without.
CA: No, we could not.
JC: Scalped is...the crime novel of the last six, seven years.
CA: It is hugely important.
JC: But these guys, like us, they're not just big into comics, they're big into literature.
JC: So the guys coming in Roy Thomas' generation were clearly more influenced by Stan Lee than anybody else...not there's anything wrong with that, but I think that this generation is really branching out and bringing more of that in. So when I read comics by Brian Michael Bendis, as an obvious example, there's this undeniable glee in his work...in working with these characters that he grew up with and that he loves...
CA: I worry it's going to destroy him, personally.
CA: We'll edit that out.
JC: And Brubaker, you get the sense he's having the fucking time of his life. Bringing back all these characters from the '80s that nobody gave a shit about in the '90s. Brubaker's doing Captain America and he brought back Batroc the Leaper, who is one of the....queerest villains of all time...
CA: Master of – what is it? Savate!
JC: Right! The Leaper. He leaps. So there's this real lovely mix of junior high, pure escapist enjoyment of these characters, but tempered with this literary-minded style with the way they go about it. Comics have never been better than they are right now.
CA: No, I agree with that.
JC: So, yeah, I think it's only a matter of time before comics get their due in the culture that spawned them. And it's the crime writers who'll be leading that pack.
CA: It is quite ridiculous that Victor Gischler is writing the X-Men.
JC: It is!
CA: If you'd told me that two years ago, I would've gone, fuuuuck off. There's noooo chance. And I'd love to talk to him about that, because he probably says the same thing. He probably sits down in front of his computer every day and goes, No, I'm not doing this! Are you serious? It's crazy.
JC: Yeah! And I certainly, this weekened we've spent at Bouchercon, I've walked around going, What the hell is going on around here?
CA: Yeah, oh, yeah, it's been amazing.
JC: Duane Swierczynski's following me on Twitter. That's not the world that I live in! I follow him on Twitter. But it's just amazing that there's this camaraderie.
CA: Oh, it's just brilliant. And he's the nicest man in the world.
JC: Absolutely. Couldn't be nicer. And I think that feeling, I'm sure Gischler has it when he sits down to write X-Men, we all have that, that deep and abiding passion that comes from the enjoyment of the work, that “Why would we ever do anything else?” and why do we have to do anything else? Why do I have to back to my fucking day job tomorrow? Cause I got to eat.
CA: So why do we write? And why is everybody so...nice about it?
JC: Errr. Hmm. Question for the ages, isn't it? I think, I know when I first started writing, it was to be part of something. And I don't know that leaving a legacy is really that important to me now, but that can't be ignored, that there is that drive to leave your mark. I think the film version of American Splendor nailed that really well. That was (Harvey) Pekar's mission. To not just be a clerk in a hospital his whole life. As it turned out, he was a clerk in a hospital his whole life. But that became his art. And that was what he worked from. That comes from that drive...to be somebody. I don't know, maybe it's how we're hard-wired. There's something in this literature....you meet your everyday Joe in the street or some guy who hasn't read a book since graduating high school and then the Chargers come to town to play the Raiders or whatever and they go fucking apeshit and I go, yeah, you know, I like to watch the Chargers as well...but it's not my life. I totally get it though, that specific passion may not make any sense to me, but the passion behind it completely does.
CA: I think, with me, it goes beyond that. It took me a long time to realise that I just had to write. If I didn't write for like two weeks or something, which to me now just seems like a ridiculous amount of time, but a few years ago that wasn't the case...
JC: No, no.
CA: ...but I would just get shitty. Really shitty. I could never put my finger on what it was that was wrong with me. It was like I had some weird physiological reaction to not-writing. The act of not-writing actually fucked me up, so it just became this process. That for my own sanity, it must be done.
JC: Yeah, you hear that a lot, that it's this therapeutic thing. And that's true. I work out a lot of my own personal stuff through it. But I don't know that it's what drives it, that's just the material I have at hand...
JC: But you're right, there is definitely something physiological about it. Same exact thing, couple years ago, I could go a couple of months without writing a word and I would feel pissed off.
CA: Yeah, it's weird, it's weird.
JC: It really has gotten to the point where I really can't do anything else if I haven't written something. I won't be able to enjoy anything else...
CA: Yeah, that's actually very true.
JC: I know it's the thing I'm most passionate about, because it's the first thing on my to-do list every day. And if it doesn't get done, then nothing else will get done. Talking to Greg Bardsley last night, the guy coached his son's soccer game yesterday morning then he came up to Bouchercon to get drunk with all of us. And I don't know how he does it. And he loves his wife and his kids and he's a family man and it's great, but he goes, yeah, it's hard to balance it all out. You simply do it. It has to be done.
CA: That's right. Well, (Joe R.) Lansdale wrote entire books with a baby on his lap.
JC: Right! Oh, that's such a great story. Once you accept that it's like something that just has to be done, then it's just like any other...daily function you have to got through. Sometimes you'd rather stay up and watch The Honeymooners, or you know, everything becomes secondary, but you still do it. Nothing to it but to do it, as they say...in rhyming fashion.
Nigel: Quite amazing, guys. I've love this piece and ended up feeling like I was in the room with you. Boucheron sounds amazing and you two seem like twins separated at birth. What a great combo.
A quick reminder to you all that they'll be appearing together as joint authors in Plots With Guns in the New Year and that they'll be sorting out Drugland Paradise (Hamsterdam?) pretty soon.
Thanks for sharing.
Nothing to it do but do it, our new mantra.