Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Q & A with Tony Black
Q: What makes Gus Dury different from other PIs?
A: Gus Dury isn't a PI as such, he's more of a down-on-his-luck hack who has fallen into the role, but he has a lot in common with the great Hardboiled heroes, he's a drinker and a brawler for a start and his personal life is hell.
With Gus being such a damaged man I had to show more of his emotional side that you normally see with PIs, hopefully explaining why he's so screwed up and spends most of his time wailing like a nut-house on meds night.
Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
A:I think it has to be used very carefully if it's not to be a blatant device. I gave Gus two sidekicks -- an ex-con called Mac the Knife and an old school friend called Hod. The pair kind of balance each other out and share the sidekick role between them, but I had to be careful not to have them behave like the old 'devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other' . . . all characters have to be lifelike in their own right to earn their space in a book and be effective.
Q: Do you do a lot of research?
A: I liked what Spillane said about research: 'I don't research anything. If I need something, I'll invent it.'
I'd love to be that relaxed but I have to know what I'm writing about is actually accurate; it's probably a hang-up from being a hack for ten years. I don't go overboard though, too much research, like too much planning, and you're in danger of leaving the fight in the gym.
Q: What would be the soundtrack to your first novel?
A: Gus is about as far from the detective with a taste for jazz as you can get -- can't see him opting for any music that has a beret as required dress code! So it would have to be something he'd listen to, like punk.
The Sex Pistols would work, and there's a great Aussie punk outfit called Frenzal Rhomb -- Gus actually bigs them up in PAYING FOR IT, they have a song called 'Russell Crowe's Band' which takes an even bigger swipe at Crowe that South Park's 'Fighting Round the World'.
Q: What’s next for you and Gus?
A: The next one is called GUTTED and kicks off with Gus turning up a fresh corpse in Edinburgh. It's another delve into the 'genteel' city that the tourists never see. There's a vicious dog-fighting ring that seems to be tearing itself apart after the jailing of their guvnor, but as Gus finds out that's just the surface of what's really going on. A family that wants revenge for a child's death, bent coppers, and gang deals gone wrong have him fighting for his sanity and his life.
Q: How do you promote your books?
A: All the usual ways . . . but I've also hired a team of 1,000 Swedish 'body artistes' who will spell out PAYING FOR IT with their naked forms in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens on launch day, July 17.
Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
A: Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor is the one that always comes alive for me. I grew up in Bruen's Galway -- I actually went to the same school as the man himself -- and every time I pick up a Jack Taylor book it's like I'm back in my old home town. Bruen is an out-and-out genius and Jack is one of his greatest creations.
And Andrew Vachss's Burke series consistently blows me away. Vachss's made that whole urban family vibe his own. He's a fantastic stylist too, one of the all-time greats. The series remains so fresh that's it's incredible to think that TERMINAL was book number seventeen.
Another one I'm massively impressed by is Ray Banks's Cal Innes. I only recently came to Banks's work but I'm bloody glad I did, NO MORE HEROES is one of my books of the year. I'll be hanging out for the next from Banks, which I believe is called BEAST OF BURDEN.
I'm also a big fan of Martyn Waites's Joe Donovan series, which although not strictly a PI series, is well-worth a mention. Waites is another brilliant stylist, I love his lean prose. What I always take away from his books though is the depth he gives to his subject matter; he's a writer who cares about the issues he takes on. Nothing is faked. Look at his latest WHITE RIOT -- the man's a class act.
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: We're already seeing Bruen's influence on a whole new generation of crime writers and I'm sure that will continue. Bruen has created such brilliant characters, with such fascinating interior lives, that he's almost reinvented the way we think of the form. When I talk to new writers now it's always Bruen they namecheck and I'm sure he'll have a knock-on effect well into the future.
Andrew Vachss is another writer who has already had a huge influence. His style, the darkness of his subject matter, the sheer economy of his storytelling is all incredible. A stand-out writer of his generation who will be read for generations to come.
Q: Michael Wiley came up with the following question: Where can I get a copy of your books?
A: In the UK at Waterstone's, Borders, Blackwells -- all the main stores. And, of course, for all of you living elsewhere, there's Amazon.co.uk.
Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
A: 'Does film influence your work?'
Big time. Things like China Town, L.A. Confidential, Michael Mann's Heat, and all the Tarantino stuff like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Killing Zoe have influenced me over the years.