Friday, August 30, 2013

Q & A with Clive Rosengren

Like me, Clive Rosengren understands LA is still the perfect place to set a PI series. I had the pleasure to interview him about his character Eddie Collins, his debut novel and the genre.
Q: What makes Eddie Collins different from other hardboiled characters?
 I think the main difference about Eddie is that he's both a working actor and a licensed private investigator. As is common knowledge, many non A-list actors in Hollywood are forced to take "day" jobs, subsistence jobs to make ends meet. Rather than tend bar, sell real estate, drive a limo or a cab, Eddie operates his own investigative office. Many times he believes the PI hat he wears fits better than the actor's hat, but he attempts to exist in both world being Hollywood and the entertainment business.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I'm not exactly sure how this character came into my head. Murder Unscripted began life as a screenplay, and I'd always been enamored of the hard-boiled PI, guys like Mike Hammer and Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
The e-book revolution is here to stay, like it or not. I still prefer having the pages in my hands, but for many authors, and for many fans of authors who are out of print, the ebook offers a means of getting to know some of the bright lights from the age of the "pulps." [Incidentally, Murder Unscripted is available as an audio book--narration by the author, of course--through Blackstone Audio and Amazon.]
Q: What's next for you and Eddie Collins ?
I've written a second Eddie Collins story, called Red Desert, and am currently looking for a home for it. Eddie is hired to find the source of threatening letters an A-List friend of his has been receiving, and in doing so, finds a long-time friendship being tested against the backdrop of Hollywood.

Q: How do you promote your work?
I have a website [], am on FB, and I did a scaled-down book tour last year. Financial resources prevent me from doing a lot of traveling to promote the book.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I must confess that my reading is predominately in the crime fiction genre. However, I do like reading autobiographies and biographies--chiefly of actors and actresses. I also read non-fiction works about Hollywood.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Well, I wouldn't necessarily consider Hawk and Pike "psychotic." Prone to violence, yes. Clete Purcell, however [Dave Robicheaux's sidekick], might fit the description. I think guys like Hawk and Pike play a role that sometimes the PI can't do, and that is, operate a bit sub rosa, in the shadows, using methods that Spencer and Elvis can't, or won't use.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
There's a whole new breed of writers out there that I'm sure influence budding writers. Certainly Connelly, Crais, and James Lee Burke are influences. Steve Hamilton, William Kent Krueger, T. Jefferson Parker, Ace Atkins, are some names that come to mind.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I write in this genre because I like the opportunity to create a character who can influence behavior in other people and attempt to set things right, sort of crusader, in a sense. Crime fiction appeals to me because it involves the reader and delights in taking you on a journey.


Colt (Nicholas Colt) by Jude Hardin

I loved Jude Hardin's first Colt novel, but felt the later ones became a bit too action-packed and thriller-like for my taste. I'm very happy to say that with this new, self-published start of the series (a prequel of sorts to the other books) we see Jude AND Nicholas Colt return to true form.
Colt, ex-member of rockband Colt 45 and survivor of a terrible plane crash makes his living as a PI. When a client goes missing he starts to investigate and discovers someone is killing the kids of a sperm donor.
Colt is a good investigator, tough but not unbelievable. The rock-past is cool (I'm a fan of rock music) and the pacing is spot-on.
I hope this one will be followed up soon by another novel set before the later ones.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Q & A with Dana King

Dana King has been a loyal follower of my Noah Milano stories and this blog, that made it extra cool to learn he has a PI novel coming out and made me anxious to interview him...
Q: What makes Nick Forte different from other hardboiled characters?
A: Wow, a hard one right out of the chute. On a superficial level, nothing much. He’s not superhuman, like Mike Hammer or Spenser. He’s not an alcoholic or a drug addict. He’s a regular guy, with the skills needed to do the job, so he’s not an everyman who somehow gets out of situations he shouldn’t be able to. His biggest problem at the start is not getting to spend as much time with his daughter as he’d like as a divorced dad. He subliminally compensates by taking cases with parent-child issues in them, which turn out to be increasingly violent, and the juxtaposition of violence and family concerns wears him down as the series progresses .
Q: How did you come up with the character?
A: It was a joke. I was a musician and wrote a short story in the style of Mickey Spillane, about a rigged orchestral trumpet audition. My friends were supporting characters, under different names, easily recognizable if you knew them. Nick Forte was a former trumpet player who became a teacher, then a cop, then a PI, so he’s the logical person to look into the audition rumors. “Forte” is the musical term for “loud;” literally “strong” in Italian. For a first name, I wanted something with hard sounds that sounded tough.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A: For me, it’s great. As a writer, it allows me to get my work out to whatever audience wants to read it, even if it’s only a few dozen people. If they had an entertaining read, that’s a good thing. Storytellers need an audience at some level. Making up stories solely for oneself is the most masturbatory thing I can think of. Well, except for masturbation.

As a reader, I save shelf space and money, which allows me to read a lot more without having to worry about shelf space and money. As someone whose taste is not what bestsellers are made of, e-books make it easier to try authors I am unfamiliar with, as I don’t have to wonder if I’m about to drop twenty-eight dollars on a book I’ll set aside after fifteen pages.
I know there are unresolved business issues, but no one knows how those will shake out. Hell, people can’t tell what will be the hot seller next month. I prefer to hope things will come out well for everyone.


Q: What's next for you and Nick Forte?
A: Funny you, of all people, should ask. I’m proofing and formatting a story about an actor Forte is hired to protect, who is about to launch a one-man play using what he claims is the actual Maltese falcon from the climactic scene in the movie, the one Sidney Greenstreet nicks with his penknife. It’s called The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of, and it was written as my homage to the book and the movie, using quotes from both, and titling each chapter, as Hammett did. (What a pain that was.)

Q: How do you promote your work?
A: Not very well, I’m afraid. Facebook, my blog One Bite at a Time, and by depending on the generosity of people like you to give me an opportunity to get out the word.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
A: Other than crime, I read mostly non-fiction. The non-crime fiction I read can be anything good, by an author worth the time to read. I knocked off a couple of Kurt Vonnegut novels earlier this year, and some Mark Twain. Pete Dexter’s Deadwood is a wonderful book, and Charles Portis’s Masters of Atlantis as about as much fun as I’ve reading that I can remember.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
A: The psycho sidekick can serve a valuable role, so long as he doesn’t become a caricature, or a crutch. Joe Pike is a good example of a sidekick done well, though I don’t think of him as a psycho. Walter Mosely’s Mouse is another, though he really is a psycho. (Even Easy is afraid of Mouse.) The trick is not to use the sidekick as a means of letting the hero get himself into all kinds of things he can never get out of himself, or you run the risk of creating a Stephanie Plum and Ranger scenario. (Which is fine for Janet Evanovich, as she’s writing humorous stories.) In my case, it’s the sidekick who tries to talk Forte out of stuff, especially as the stories progress and the violence wears Forte down until Forte is almost the psycho protagonist.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
A: Two who stick out to me are Sean Chercover and Declan Hughes, both of whom have unique ideas about sidekicks. Sean’s Ray Dudgeon has a friend named Gravedigger Peace, a former mercenary who has renounced his violent past and lives in a cemetery. Declan Hughes is the Irish Ross Macdonald. His detective, Ed Loy, has an unreliable sidekick who will stand with Ed—up to a point—but who cannot be assumed will complete the task as expected.
Tim Hallinan’s Junior Bender series is another interesting angle on PI stories that may influence writers to look for characters who do PI work, but who aren’t actually PIs. Not amateur sleuths—I hate those—but Junior’s a career criminal, a burglar, so he has skills and smarts.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
A: I think PI stories, when done well, can be the highest form of crime fiction, especially when done in first person point of view. Seeing what the detective sees, and, more important, feeling what he (or she) feels, allows the writer to take the reader places where it’s difficult for other forms to go. I love police procedurals (Ed McBain, Joe Wambaugh, etc.) but cops are about closing cases; that’s their job. PIs can be about providing closure, however imperfect, which makes the ripple effects of crime more evident. Americans are notorious for liking happy endings in their stories, but there are no true happy endings to violent crime. The victim is still dead, or damaged in some other way, even if no physical signs are evident. This can’t help but affect everyone close to them. Cops can’t do much with that, but PIs can.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Post Pattern (Burnside) by David Chill

David Chill told me in an interview he was inspired by Les Roberts and his Saxon series and it shows. Clean, well-paced writing and a fine murder mystery balanced by just enough of the protagonists' social life .
Burnside used to be a cop until a young streetwalker he took under his wing betrayed his trust. In this first novel he's hired to investigate why a football players was shot at on a California freeway.
Along the way he gets involved in a murder case, meets lots of sexy young co-eds and falls in love.
As an ex-cop and ex-football player Burnside (no last name in homage to Saxon, not Spenser as you might think) knows how to take care of himself, and that is a good thing too because the bad guys try to take him out resulting in a spectacular car chase for one. Don't think this is Jack Reacher territory though, it's a nice solid first person PI mystery in the vein of Les Roberts, Robert B. Parker and Stephen Greenleaf.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Win, Place, or Die (Milan Jacovich) by Les Roberts & Dan S. Kennedy

I am a huge Les Roberts fan. He's right up there with Robert B. Parker and Robert Crais for me. I love Milan Jacovich and like his sidekick KO Bannion at least as much. The dynamic duo of PI fiction is back again, investigating the unexplained death of a wealthy horse owner. The investigation takes Milan and KO to the darker corners of harness racing.
This story is very well researched, Les had some expert help of Dan S. Kennedy (a harness racer himself) and you can about smell the manure in some scenes.
There's a cool dog with an unusual name making sure there's some comic relief and the budding relationships of the private eyes with their ladies is developing just nicely.
As ever, KO is an interesting and fresh new PI and reading about Milan feels like catching up with an old friend again. More and more I feel these novels are as important to me because of those two guys as the (well-plotted) mystery.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Q & A with R.E. Conary

R.E. Conary writes a really cool series about a female PI, Rachel Cord. I was lucky enough to land an interview...

Q: What makes Rachel Cord different from other hardboiled characters?
 That she shares so many common elements with others makes that difficult to answer. I think more than anything, it's her openness. The extent to which she  exposes her innermost thoughts, desires, accomplishments and mistakes. She holds nothing back.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
 Private investigator Rachel Cord was created by a desire for a modern-day Cyrano de Bergerac willing to stride through Raymond Chandler's mean streets -- with attitude and panache -- taking on any odds, yet humanly flawed and tender within. A James Rockford in drag.
  Rachel's character is greatly based on the independent tough attitude of the film women I watched avidly on afternoon TV movies: Hepburn, Dietrich, Roz Russell, Jean Arthur, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford; also the bubble-headed comediennes like Judy Holliday, Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Marie Wilson who off-stage were real-life astute and successful business women. And a lot from my mother who worked in a man's profession (precision tool cutting), yet kept her feminine side, read a book-a-day, and liked her humor served dry with a wry twist.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
 Robert Heinlein had five simple rules for writing. The most important to me was that you must put your work in the marketplace and keep it there until it sells. For Heinlein and others that meant submitting it endlessly through editors and publishers until someone said "okay, I'll buy it and publish it." Maybe it would reach the public, maybe not.
 The eBook revolution lets the author jump directly into the toughest marketplace of all: the readers. It's both exciting and scary.

Q: What's next for you and Rachel?
 There are three books out ("Life's a Bitch", "Still a Bitch" and "Bad Bitch Blues") and I'd like to get audio versions developed of them as that's a very popular and profitable format.
 As for Rachel herself, I think her next venture will bring her home to Iowa and resolve some of her family issues that have lingered for 20 years. It'll be set in 2010 after Iowa allows gay marriage and is the impetus for the story, but she will also stumble upon a crime or two to be solved.

Q: How do you promote your work?
 Not as well as I should. I have a website and promote the books on a few discussion threads at sites like Amazon, Kindleboards, Barnes & Noble, and I've done a couple of interviews such as this one. But I haven't done any blogging or joined any of the social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pininterest. I still have a reticence and desire for privacy I need to overcome. My audience would probably be larger if I did.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
 Genre is a poor term. To me, fiction is fiction and I lump it all together and read everything, but I also understand the desire to categorize subject matter. For the longest time I concentrated on reading fantasy & science fiction. I enjoy some spy and espionage thrillers, some historical novels.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
 Characters like Hawk, Pike, Lisbeth Salander, Mouse from the Easy Rallins series are there to do the heavy lifting -- do what needs to be done now -- without the soul searching that makes the main character hesitate or guiltily regret doing. Actions have consequences. Spillane's Mike Hammer. Sam Millar's Karl Kane. Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor. Richard Stark's Parker. Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Rachel Cord. They don't need no psycho sidekicks.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
 Very difficult to say. New writers may claim a particular author spurred them to write, but I believe their writing will be influenced by everything they've read, seen or heard.
 I think that Sam Millar, Ken Bruen, Jo Nesbo, Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson and Roslund & Hellsträm are already influencing new writers, and that Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller and Sara Paretsky will continue to do so, as do lesbian authors like Katherine V. Forrest, Val McDermid and Claire McNab. But as writers broaden their reading experience -- and I think writers are primarily readers first -- they discover or rediscover classic authors and, therefore, will be influenced by them as well.
My influences were J. A. Jance, Lawrence Block, John D. MacDonald, Stephen J. Cannell (The Rockford Files) and, particularly, Edmond Rostand (Cyrano de Bergerac) and Raymond Chandler with help from fantasy & science fiction writers like Fritz Leiber, Keith Laumer and William Tenn, as well as other writers as far afield as Aristophanes, Walt Whitman, Chekov, Kafka, Hemingway and Steinbeck. The list is endless.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
 I like the PI format. There's a problem or puzzle (i.e. crime) to solve that invites reader participation. That's the major draw. The main characters are mostly mavericks who won't be pigeonholed. The stories are usually first-person POV. What you see is what you get.  
 Rachel plays fair letting her readers solve the mystery as quickly -- often more quickly -- as she does.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Killer Sex Game (Frank Boff) by Nathan Gottlieb

Frank Boff returns, taking on another righteous case. Boxer Danny Cullen, Frank's sidekick / friend, gets involved with the murder on another boxer, prompting Boff to investigate. He's still not fond of taking cases that involve getting people behind bars instead of away from them, but his wife insists, hoping it will mean he will go to heaven.
The case gets Boff involved with high class call girls and a dangerous mobster. The personal danger to Cullen and Boff is even higher than in the first novels, prompting Boff to come up with a pretty devious scheme that will show you why Boff is as much anti-hero as he is a hero. Written in Gottlieb's usual, easy to read and witty prose this is another great thrillride with some very funny but also very devious characters.

Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me (Vic Valentine) by Will Viharo

Vic Valentine spends his days and nights tracking down missing loved ones and jacking off to old movies. When he is hired to track down a ballplayer's missing lover the case gets very personal for Vic quickly.
This is as much a literary novel as it is a PI novel. It is about how lonesome a man's life can get and how hard it is to be a romantic and not get your heart broken time after time. I loved the references to B-movies and surf music as much as Valentine's wonderful voice. Anyone who has been lonely will find a lot in Vic to identify with.
Don't skip the intro by the writer, it is as interesting as the novel (which was published by Wild Cards Press years ago) and will make you understand the story better and give an understanding about why fantastic actor Christian Slater is painted on the cover.
Funny, tragic and dark. A great novel.