Friday, January 29, 2016

Background Check on: Brooklyn Justice (Nick Ventura) by J.L. Abramo

J.L, Abramo, writer of the Jake Diamond series has a brand new book coming out... With a new PI! Reason enough to ask him some questions here...

Tell us what the novel is about.
Brooklyn Justice is a work of fiction which I have come to affectionately refer to as a novel in stories.
It is about a man who know trouble—but not how to keep his nose out of it. A pool of blood spreading across a casino poker table, a Buick plowing through a storefront with a dead detective aboard, a fatal rendezvous in the shadow of a Coney Island landmark, a childhood friend gunned down walking his dog in the wrong place at the wrong time, a film distributor who thinks he can get away with murder through intimidation and violence, a mob boss assassinated leaving a neighborhood restaurant, and the particular brand of retribution necessary to level the playing field in the fourth largest city in America

Where did you come up with the plot? What inspired you? Why a new PI character?
It began with Pocket Queens, inspired by my observation of a high-stakes poker game at an Atlantic City casino and the crime-fiction writer’s mantra: What If? Pocket Queens became too long for a short story, and resisted being stretched into a full-length novel—resulting in something resembling a novella.
The story introduced Nick Ventura—a Brooklyn private investigator unlike Jake Diamond in that Ventura is considerably more hardboiled. Why a new PI character? I suppose the character developed from my subconscious interest in writing a much more dangerous protagonist.
When Pocket Queens was completed, my new ‘hero’ would not let me go. Ventura insinuated himself into five short stories—Buick in a Beauty Shop, The Last Resort, Walking the Dog, Roses For Uncle Sal and The Fist. The six pieces are tied together by common characters—and the action from the beginning of Pocket Queens to the finish of The Fist cover a period of only ten months. So, although they can be taken separately, consecutively they become a six-part work called Brooklyn Justice. The plots of the stories came from imagination and experience and the idea for each was partly dictated by the one previous.

How long did it take you to write BROOKLYN JUSTICE?
The writing went unusually quickly—ten months in the hazardous life of Nick Ventura penned in only a few months real time. In part, the quick result was inspired by the novelty of developing and making acquaintance with new characters—particularly Ventura who is much less inhibited than many of the protagonists in my other work. The was also a thread running through the stories, weaving them together and driving the writing—legal justice and street justice are, in many instances, very different things.

Did the writing require a great deal of research?
In terms of research—I did a bit with regard to the dynamics of a casino poker match, and a lot with regard to the logistics and character of Atlantic City. The Brooklyn characteristics, environment and geography came naturally—since Brooklyn was my little hometown.

What scenes did you most enjoy writing?
There is a secondary character in all of the parts, John Sullivan, who is in fact the narrator of Walking the Dog. I think the relationship between Ventura and Sullivan were the most enjoyable to write because they are often at odds but remain loyal to each other. I also enjoyed writing the opening poker hand—it has a sense of urgency that I believe ambushes the reader.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the book?
I like many of the characters. Ventura and Sullivan stand out. Freddy Fingers because he is such a colossal screw-up. Carmella Fazio, Nick’s landlady and proprietor of the pizzeria below Ventura’s office because she is the mother figure every hard guy needs. Roseanna Napoli, Nick’s very smart lady friend. Uncle Sal. Uncle Sal. Uncle Sal. And several others I will not name here—because, sadly, they do not survive.

Is there anything else you would like to say about the book?
All I can add is I believe Brooklyn Justice will appeal to current fans of my work and perhaps attract those who savor a little more cold-blood. Readers who enjoyed the journey through Gravesend should also relish a return to the Borough of Churches.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Q & A with Ryan Sayles

You know that awesome new school of noir writers who publish in all the cool zines like Thuglit, Plots With Guns, Shotgun Honey? Not too many of them write PI fiction, but our man Ryan Sayles actually does. Here's what he's all about...

Q: What makes Richard Dean Buckner different from other hardboiled  characters? 
Easy. He’s a magic alien from another universe.
Just kidding.
I actually struggled with this question a little bit before deciding RDB is different just because of his personality and how I write him. I followed a lot of tropes when I first began, trying to give them my own spin as I went. He was a celebrated homicide detective who wound up getting punished for an incident where he probably should have gone to prison. That punishment put him in a spot where he did some high-stakes undercover dope buys, and that led to an assassination attempt which forced him to retire from the PD. So now he chain-smokes, binge drinks hard alcohol and gets work as a bare-knuckles PI. He’s funny and has a solid moral compass, but he’s able to crush and destroy bad guys without remorse to get what he wants. That was the number one comment most people had about the first book. RDB hammer-smashed everybody without blinking and then just went off to the next scene. Maybe got a sandwich after drowning a man in a dirty toilet bowl. Apparently it was a standout trait.
I just figured that was what was necessary.
I always wanted him to be a damn good cop. Now that he’s a PI and not restrained by the Constitution or department policies, he should be more effective. Right?
But mostly I just wanted to write a badass. I love tough guys, I love tough guys who don’t hesitate to throw the first punch, and I think we need a renaissance of chivalry. RDB doesn’t mind meeting bad guys on their level and dealing with them in terms that they understand. He’s a little tough rough around the edges to be truly chivalrous, but in my mind that’s always something that pulls at him to do what he does. In his limited way, he tries for that brass ring. And if he has to stand on a mountain of dead rapists and molesters to reach it, well, so be it.

Q: How did you come up with the character?  
In 2006 I read a book called Shadows Over Baker Street which was a short story collection about Sherlock Holmes dealing with the world of H.P. Lovecraft. His superior logic versus insane evil. Then I read Kiss Me, Judas by Will Christopher Baer and fell in love with the narrative voice. I wanted to combine the two. I wanted a badass cop whose skills as an investigator were matched up against the forces of evil. For real. So my first RDB novel was a horror story. When that didn’t pan out, I returned to him later without the monsters.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
Doesn’t bother me. I think the rise of the eBook really helped writers get published. This blockbuster movie, The Martian, is based on a novel which was self-published as an eBook. That’s tremendous. I remember back in the day eBooks and self-published folks were, generally speaking, looked down upon but now the cream of their crop is completing with the cream of traditional crop. The most successful writers published through eBooks are setting their own terms with traditional print, just like the most successful traditional writers.
I tie in eBooks with print-on-demand publishers, who existed well before electronic media. But with POD, any goofball with a computer--like me, for example--could become a writer. The eBook thing was a huge boon for that. I have never landed an agent and I’ve been looking on and off since 2005. Either I’m marketing wrong, am not really publishable outside of genre fiction and the indie scene, or I have the worst luck known to man. But, I’m a published novelist and that is because of eBooks.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I’m working on RDB3 now. I’ve already got the main ideas for RDB4 lined out as well. As long as Down & Out books will publish me, I’ll have an RDB for them. In RDB3, Buckner meets an abused woman who reminds him a lot of his deceased wife. He’s intoxicated by her, and winds up getting his balls in a sling over her. Then his best friend and former partner Detective Clevenger has to investigate Buckner. Now he’s on the run from his old alma mater and violent hijinx ensue.
 I’m at a point in my life where I want to do different things, and I think with the exception of RDB--I’ll always write him because, well, RDB--I’ll be dipping my toes in different waters. After becoming friends with Craig McNeely I’ve really developed an interest in writing pulp action/adventure and sci fi.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I work. Right now, the question is really what do I do when I’m not working? I was a police officer for six years and left that to become an industrial maintenance technician. I work on the machines and systems in a nearby factory. And man, it’s a lot of hours. At the PD I could write between calls and in that way was able to keep up with my obligations. As a tech, I’m running around constantly. When I get home, I have to be a husband and father to five first. That, and sleep.
I am enjoying listening to audio presentations of various Catholic things. My drive to the PD was around twenty minutes each way, so I got used to popping in a CD or streaming a podcast and learning. I dig that more than listening to music now. For Christmas my wife bought me the “history package” from Catholic Answers, an apostolate based in San Diego, CA. It consisted of four audio presentations and four books, all covering Catholic history topics. The one covering The Battle of LePanto, where a Christian League of sailors and swordsmen repelled the vastly superior fleet of the Ottoman Empire in a decisive and world-changing fight, was incredible. If they’d lost, the Ottoman Empire probably would have taken control of much of Europe.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
Ha! Not well. I have a Twitter, an author page on Facebook, a website. I’m not good at keeping up with any of them.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like? 
Most, really. I’m not a romance guy. But if it has some adventure, mystery or cool plot twists I’m pretty game. I’m not really attracted to Lord of the Ring knockoffs; elves, dwarves, magical swords, evil sorcerers. I don’t seek them out but if one were recommended I’d read it.
I’ve gotten past the “more noir than any other noir” concept people seem to be latching onto nowadays. If things are so damn bleak that you want to commit suicide after reading it, I don’t want to read it. I’ve lost enough faith in humanity over the past several years to where I don’t want to read about it as well.
That affects my writing in a lot of ways. It’s one of the main reasons I’m so attracted to the not-crime stuff now. I like the Indiana Jones-type stories where it’s serious but fun. Big chase scenes, mostly unbelievable fist fights and action, exotic scenery. That’s something I’d like to get into.

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?
No idea. That’d be a great question for Brian Lindenmuth, Benoit Lelievre or Craig McNeely. Or are you asking if I will be the sole influence for the next generation? Because if you are, then yes. Without me, there are no 21st century private investigators.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I started off writing in it for two reasons: one, I liked the tone and two, I used it to work out my own moral experiences. I had to be someone different than who I am to cop where I did. People don’t really understand how shitty that job can be. I think that’s why some cops--not nearly as many as the media would have you believe--turn bad. No one calls the police when they’re having a good time. People only call police when they need back-up. Your nephew show up uninvited to Thanksgiving high on meth? Again? Can’t make him leave? Call back-up. Grandma is dying in the hospital tonight and the whole family is in the waiting room, letting their drama take center stage and you can’t control the crowd? Call for back-up.
So we show up and deal with other people’s messes, and inevitably they don’t like that we had to arrest someone so now we’re the bad guys. They spent years cultivating problems and we were supposed to fix them in five minutes.  I’ve pulled over people for doubling the speed limit, zipping in and out of traffic like they were bumper cars, and when I give them their well-deserved ticket I get to listen to how there are murderers and rapists out in the world and I was wasting my time on that particular stop. “Well, I mean, sure, this is crime right here,” they’d say as they motion to their ticket, “but there are real criminals out there. This is just ridiculous.” But I imagine that same person would see someone else driving just like they were and whine, “Why isn’t there a cop pulling over that asshole?”
People like cops when the cops aren’t applying the law to them.
So I wrote crime to illustrate that in some way. To work out the moral oddities I saw in people. I never really wrote about cops per se because I saw it everyday. I usually wrote from the “bad guy’s” perspective because it gave me a way to work through why they were doing what they were doing. That took a long time to find peace, but I think I have now.



BIO - Ryan Sayles is the author of Subtle Art of Brutality, Warpath and the forthcoming Goldfinches and Swan Songs Always Begin as Love Songs. He has over two dozen short stories in print, online or collected in That Escalated Quickly! and the forthcoming I’m Not Happy til You’re Not Happy. He is a founding member of Zelmer Pulp and may be reached at Vitriolandbarbies.wordpress and myBEARDDOMINATESyou.wordpress.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Down The Darkest Street (Pete Fernandez) by Alex Segura

I commented before the first book by Alex Segura reminded me a lot of early George Pelecanos. With this book he finds his own voice and style. It is easy to read, engaging and well-paced.
Pete Fernandez struggles with an alcohol addiction and his ex-wife after the first novel. Now he tries to find purpose by trying to find a missing girl. He ends up involved with the FBI's hunt for a serial killer.
I don't like serial killer books much, but if done well it can work in a PI novel. I tried it myself in GUILT even. Alex manages the trick, even though he uses some of the tropes (switching to serial killer POV, then to victim POV, the FBI involvement) that I have grown tired of.
What makes this book work is the fact Pete Fernandez is such a complex character, a real anti-hero and the excellent prose.
I just loved reading the book, couldn't put it away... That is just the most important praise I can think of really. That's what a good book should be about. I wanted to know how Fernandez manages to overcome his struggle against depression, his feelings for his wife... I felt involved.
I think the story would make a pretty good movie as well, that's what makes it unique as a PI book I guess. The PI story is interwoven so well with the more commercial serial killer story it will be a treat to the larger audience as well as the fans of true hardboiled fiction.
I was lucky enough to get the review copy, you will have to wait until April but can pre-order the book here.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Free Fiction: Runaway Bride Part Two (A Lenny Parker Serial) by Jochem Vandersteen

Last episode Lenny Parker, roadie / PI was hired to find out why a young woman (Jill) left a young man (Tommy) without any good explanation...

TWO
Lenny figured the best place to start was Tina Tristam’s. He debated with himself if he should ring the bell or be a bit more covert in his actions. He decided it would be wise to be covert first. He could always ring the bell after that. So he sat in his Dodge Ram, playing the new Iron Maiden record and watching Tina’s house. She lived in an apartment building in a nice area of San Diego, all white stucco and potted plants on the balconies.
A Honda drove up the parking lot. A chubby brunette left it after it got parked. She fit the description Tommy had given Lenny of Tina. Lenny watched her walk to the apartment building. She was wearing one of those power suits and was curvy enough to still look feminine in them.
He figured he could get out of the Dodge and ask her some questions. He also figured she wouldn’t want to talk to an overweight PI with arms full of tattoos. If Jill didn’t want to talk to Tommy her friend probably wanted to keep her mouth shut about anything she knew as well. Besides, the Iron Maiden record was really good.
Tina disappeared into the building. Lenny waited, putting on the Iron Maiden cd a second time when it was done. Another car appeared on the parking lot. An Audi, a preppy looking young man exiting it.
More waiting, the Iron Maiden record being replaced by the new Lamb of God album. A few more people arrived, a few more left. And then things got interesting.
The car that parked then was very different from the Audi, Honda and other run of the mill cars that had been arriving the last few hours. This was an honest to gosh Cadillac. It was red, had some fuzzy dice in the window if you can imagine that.
Out stepped a huge black guy in a leather jacket. It reminded Lenny of the one Samuel Jackson wore in Shaft. He loved that movie. The guy was wearing a ton of rings and bling around  his neck. He was wearing shades while it was already in the evening. Yeah, this guy stood out.
The guy glanced at Lenny’s car. Lenny ducked and banged his head on the steering wheel. The claxon honked. The black guy was startled, but when he saw Lenny rubbing the painful spot on his forehead he chuckled. He shook his head and walked towards the apartment building.
Lenny wondered what he should do now? This guy made him. Well, made him… Noticed him. He didn’t really seem to have him identified as a private investigator.  Maybe he should just get rid of the car. He’d been taught by his mentor, Old Man Jackson, that people focused on the car, not the people behind the wheel. Except when you were a good looking woman. All rules changed then. Lenny was neither good looking nor a woman.
Lenny drove off and parked the car a street down the road. He got out, carrying the latest copy of Metal Hammer and walked to the parking lot of the apartment. He leaned against a tree, pretending to read the magazine while he in fact kept a keen eye on the building.
He stood there for about ten minutes when the black guy and a pretty young woman left the building. He almost yelped out when he realized the woman was in fact Jill. She wore white shorts, a pink tank-top and stiletto heels. She was even better looking in person than on the picture Tommy had shown him with her long, smooth, milky white legs, small but firm bosom. He’d found her already! He was even better at this than he thought. Maybe he could do this fulltime, ditch his roadie job. He’d probably miss the life on the road, though. Hanging out with the bands, seeing the sights. Of course he could do without the hangovers, aching back and lousy motel beds.
Then he understood this might have been only the easy part of the job. He found her, but he still had no clue why Jill left Tommy. Unless of course she left him because she had a new lover, namely the big black dude. They didn’t look like much of a couple though. He had an arm around her, but they weren’t strolling like lovers. It was more like he was dragging her along.
The black guy opened the door of the Cadillac, seemed to shove Jill inside and slammed the door. He got in as well. They drove off.
Lenny ran to his Dodge. He made it halfway until he had to stop for a second, wheezing, hands on his knees, throat burning. He didn’t work out as much as he used to. And used to was a few times a year. In January, the first few days after his usual new year’s resolution. He just wasn’t built to run.
He watched the Caddie disappear from view. He made up for his lack of stamina with his razor-sharp mind though. He’d memorized the license plate of the Cadillac. He was going to find out who owned it soon enough.

See, he was pretty good at this job.

TO BE CONTINUED

Q & A with Corey Lynn Fayman

Corey Lynn Fayman writes a cool series featuring PI Rolly Waters. The fact he's a guitar-player makes this particular blogger / rock reporter very excited. I asked him a set of questions, just in time for his newest book, Desert City Diva.

Q: What makes Rolly Waters different from other hardboiled  characters?
I like to call Rolly a cozy hero in a noir world. He’s not the tough guy protagonist that usually defines hardboiled mysteries. He’s over forty, overweight, and he doesn’t own a gun. His only advantage in a fight is his weight and I doubt he could throw a decent punch. Also, he lives next door to his mother.
The situations he finds himself in end up more noir, though. He meets nasty people and has to deal with some horrific crimes. He is tough as nails on the inside, though, and won’t give up on a client. It’s part of his promise to himself that he’ll see a job through. In that way he is a lot like a more hardboiled character.

Q: How did you come up with the character?  And does he owe his name to Muddy Waters?
Nice catch there. Rolly does owe his last name to Muddy Waters. Most of the character names I come up with are combinations of musically-related names. His first name, Rolly, is short for Roland. Within the world of the books, the backstory on his first name is that his mother had been reading “Song of Roland” when he was born and saddled her first born with that noble moniker. It got changed to the nickname of Rolly in high school. I got the Roland name from Roland Instruments, a company that’s been making electronic instruments for years, including one of the original and most well-known drum machines, the TR-808.
As far as where Rolly came from, I’m not quite sure anymore. I had an idea for a musical play that would include a private eye narrator who was also a guitar player. The play never got very far, but the idea for that character morphed into Rolly Waters.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I’m all for disruptive technologies and I think eBooks have revolutionized the publishing business in ways no one fully understands yet. It’s always good to threaten the dinosaurs, which in this case are the major publishing houses and chain bookstores. Ebooks have made publishing available to anyone who’s interested in writing a book. There’s basically zero cost. In the late 90s and early 2000s I worked for a company called MP3.com, which made the distribution of music available to anyone. The record companies were so resistant to it then, but they’ve had to go along now. It can’t be stopped. The same thing’s happening with publishing companies.
That said, I find more and more these days that I like the tactile feel of a book and most of the books I read now are in hardback or paperback form. But I still read things on my Kindle, especially when I travel.

Q: What's next for you and your characters?
I’m working on the fourth Rolly Waters mystery now. The working title is “Ballast Point Breakdown”. Rolly has been traveling pretty far afield in San Diego County in the last two books, so I’m bring him back, closer to home. This case takes place in and around San Diego Bay. The U.S. Navy’s ocean mammal training program was based in San Diego for many years and if you hung around the bay you would occasionally see a training session in process, with scub divers and sea lions or dolphins. I’m building the book around that.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
I read a lot, because that’s what writers have to do. You learn a lot from great writers, but also from average ones. I’m still a big music fan, so I’m always listening for something new and interesting. My wife and I moved to the Little Italy section of downtown San Diego a few years ago. Aside from the all the great restaurants, it’s fun just to walk around the city these days. There’s a lot going on, much more than when I was growing up here.

Q: Any special reason why your main protagonist is a musician? Are you a big music lover?
I’m a big music fan. In my teenage years I was mostly interested in blues-based rock, but I like almost everything. Except Smooth Jazz. It’s literally painful for me to listen to that stuff. That and all this American Idol power ballad schtick.
I played piano and keyboards for many years in various bands and I wrote a fair amount of songs, as well. Basically, I got to watch and study guitar players for many years from behind my keyboards. That’s probably why I made Rolly a guitar player rather than a keyboard player like myself. Guitar players tend to have more dramatic personalities, especially rock and blues players.

Q: How do you promote your work?
I have some background in web design and such, so I developed my own web site using Wordpress. I’ve developed a mailing list over the years, as well. At first it was just friend and acquaintances, anybody who knew me and wouldn’t automatically delete the email. I’ve been adding to the list over the last couple of years with people who come to signings, sign up for giveaways, and people I meet at conferences. If you give me your business card, you will be on my list.
I have a Facebook business page in addition to my personal page. I’m playing around with Facebook advertising, as well. I like the way you can focus it on very specific audiences like “People who read mysteries in Southern California.” I have a Twitter account, although I’m not a very dedicated Tweeter.
For other promotion work, I found a publicist in San Diego, Paula Margulies, who’s great about tailoring her efforts to your budget. She’s been a great help getting me into bookstore signings, speaking engagements and more traditional media.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I grew up loving Science Fiction, although I may have burned out when I was young since I don’t read much of it anymore.  I’m a big fan of William Gibson, who really combined the science fiction genre with the noir tradition. He is the father of cyberpunk. Other SciFi writers I’ve enjoyed are China MiĆ©ville and Neal Stephenson.

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?
I’m not sure I have an answer to that question. I’ve read some very good young authors, but none that were innovative enough to make me want to put them in that kind of company yet. So I’m not offering any names yet, but they may develop that way. It will be someone who has a feel for the changes technology will have on our lives, as well as understanding the traditions of the genre.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Many years ago, I got a B.A. in Creative Writing with a specialty in poetry from UCLA. I rarely wrote poetry after that, but it was helpful with my songwriting efforts. I came to the crime genre fairly late. Chandler, of course, made an impression, but the three writers who really made me want to work in the genre were Ross MacDonald, Elmore Leonard and John LeCarre. They all write deeply, and in very different ways, about character and morality and the delicate strands of experience that tie them together.
From a more technical point of view, writing mysteries forces you to work with plot. It’s essential that you plot well. That helps me focus and keeps me from running too far off track with my characters, settings and philosophical ruminations. I like that discipline. It’s a kind of navigational device that gives me a star to fix on.