This time in Q & A a very special guest... Robert J. Randisi, president of the Private Eye Writers of America, editor of anthologies like Mystery Street and the Shamus Game and of course writer of several PI novels...
Q: What makes your PI's different from other fictional private eyes?
A: The fact that I created and write about them. I know that's too simple an answer. Another difference between mine and some of the more recent ones is that mine don't have homicidal sidekicks to do their killing for them. And mine have pieces of me in them, which is what basically makes ALL fictional P.I.'s different.
Q: What made you use PI's as central characters in some of your series?
A: A love of the form I basically discovered in the 60's through t.v. and books. I wanted to be part of that genre--although it wasn't a genre back then, just a sub-genre of the mystery.
Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
A: He's a tool some writers like to use. I don't know why. The simple answer might be that they want to keep their main character pure, in the Chandleresque mold. I can't say. Personally, I don't find the character useful. It actually breaks the Chandler mold of the lone wolfe PI, doesn't it? Hey, maybe that's why they do it.
Q: You edit a lot of anthologies... Where do you find the writers to write the stories or do they find you?
A: For the most part I invite them. I know 75-80% of them personally. I come up with a theme and then invite writers I think would fit the theme, whether I know them or not.
Q: Has your writing changed much?
A: Over the years? Good God, I hope so. For the better. I'm a better writer just from experience and maturity. A better story teller, too.
Q: What's next for you and or your PI characters? We haven't seen them in a while.
A: I'm glad someone noticed. I don't really know. I have another Delvecchio I'd like to do, eventually. There is a P.I. in my Rat Pack series. Might do some short stories about him. Not sure what I'll do with Jacoby. Sometimes you just have to be satisfied with what you've done with a character and move on. I have a couple of other characters I'd like to write about. I've done short stories about them--Truxton Lewis being one of them. He's been in four short stores, one of which is still to appear.
Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
A: I think Wallace Stroby has one of the freshest voices in P.I. fiction. I loved his Barbed Wire Kiss, and also enjoyed his second book. I also like Stuart Kaminsky's Lew Fonesca books.
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 and in what way?
A: I think if Lehane is to have an influence it's still in the future. Not that he's not good enough, but you're lumping him in with some old timers. While I was influenced by Chandler and Macdonald, Bill Pronzini was also an influence. I think Grafton and Paretsky have already influenced a generation of female P.I. writers. So many P.I. writers--like the 80's crop of Valin, Greenleaf, Art Lyons--look like they're going to influence the genre, and then stop writing for one reason or another. But our crop of contemprary writers still have to prove they'll be around long enough to influence anyone.
Q: Jack Palms creator and podcaster Seth Harwood came up with this question: How do you know when a novel's really done?
A: You don't. You can always revise, always continue. You just have to decide it's done and move on to the next one. Let it go!
Q: What question should be asked every PI writer we interview and what would be your answer to it?
A: "Why?" My answer is, "I don't have a choice."