Sunday, January 27, 2008

Q & A with Ray Banks


Q: What makes Cal Innes different from other fictional private eyes?
Well, technically, he's not a private eye. He's not licensed, and he doesn't really have much of a business. It's a label he puts on himself because it's a lot more glamorous than "drunk", "ex-con" or "hatchet man". I hope he's a little less heroic and a little more realistic. But that probably says more about me than him.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
It's cheap, unless the guy's name is Mouse.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
Enough to get the point across, but not too much that some pedant can pull me up on something niggly. I have a tendency to write about situations that I have some interest in and knowledge about anyway.

Q: Has your writing changed a lot over time?
I hope it's changed considerably for the better. I know I'm a lot more comfortable with certain nuts and bolts aspects of it now. I think I can plot better than I used to, in that I tend to have plots now. And I'm less inclined to witter on about nothing just because I like the way it reads. So it's definitely changed. It has to. As long as you keep learning, you keep changing.

Q: How do you promote your books?
Dropping fliers from a hot air balloon, sky-writing, spray-tagging public buildings, tattooing homeless people. Y'know, the usual.

Q: What's next for you and Cal?
The fourth book, Beast Of Burden. That needs some work right now. After that, we'll see what happens. I don't really talk beyond the next book if I can help it.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
C W Sughrue and Milo Milodragovitch. Jack Taylor. Easy Rawlins. Lew Griffin. Derek Strange and Terry Quinn. David Brandstetter. Favourite Daughter of Spade: Tess Monaghan. I've probably missed a couple. They know who they are.

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?
I think Ken Bruen is already a massive influence on newer writers, and not just stylistically. He's bringing emotion back to what is still primarily a chilly, investigative sub-genre. Laura Lippman, Walter Mosley and George Pelecanos bring in the sociological elements, without becoming either too preachy or too political. James Sallis deconstructs the mythology and the very idea of a fictional private investigator. And James Crumley happens to write some of the finest, meatiest prose I've ever read.

Really, the PI will never die. He or she will just evolve into something more meaningful for their time.

Q: David Fulmer came up with the following question:
Why did you want to write in this genre?

Because I don't have the time, patience or inclination to learn about the filth. PI novels also have a tradition of first-person narratives, which is my natural comfort zone, and I thought there was a lot of interesting stuff in the mythology of the PI, especially when it was applied to a British setting.

Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer? My question: When are you going to write a real book?
My answer: When I enjoy reading "real books".

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