Friday, October 2, 2009
Q & A with Mike Knowles
We interviewed Canadian Mike Knowles, author of the Wilson series.
Q: What makes Wilson~different from other (unofficial) PIs?
Wilson is unlike most PI s because he is a criminal by trade. Nothing he does is legal and no one he works for is an honest citizen. The character itself has almost a complete lack of an identity. His parents died early and he was raised by his uncle who was a career thief. His upbringing took him off the grid and he spent his formative years learning his uncle’s trade. When his uncle suddenly died, Wilson found himself without a job. His uncle had run every job and without him, Wilson was truly alone for the first time in his life. Paolo Donati, a powerful mob boss, who Wilson and his uncle had done jobs for in the past, seized the opportunity and began using Wilson for under the table jobs. Wilson helped Paolo stay in power by doing jobs that hurt the competition. He spent years working for just one man making sure nothing rocked the status quo. Eventually Paolo turned on Wilson and he found himself alone again, only this time he was alone against the mob.
Q: How did you come up with the character of Wilson?
I have always been into pulp books and seventies crime fiction. Back then, there were a lot more books revolving around criminals and how they managed to survive living outside the law. For a while, I had been noticing that most popular crime fiction was starting to narrow its focus. There were a lot of do gooder reporters, police procedurals, and smart talking private eyes. What there weren’t enough of were the mean, pulpy, hard-boiled crime novels I read as a kid. I set out to write the kind of book it was getting harder to find. Wilson evolved out of the idea of a contemporary ronin. A lone man with no allegiances and many enemies. I always loved books where one man takes on all comers and manages to survive. Richard Stark was a master of this in his Parker books.
Q: What would a soundtrack for your novels sound like?
James Brown. Not the upbeat stuff. I’m thinking The Payback and The Boss kind of stuff.
Q: What's next for you and Wilson?
Next year there will be a new instalment. Wilson will get away from the gangsters a little bit and tangle with another group that is equally powerful and corrupt: the police.
Q: How do you promote your books?
I’ll do anything the publisher asks me to do. So far it is newspaper interviews, blogs, twitters, and appearances that only my mother comes to.
Q: Do you have any favourite Sons of Spade yourself?
Mike Hammer has always been a minor deity in my world. A more current PI would be Dan Simmons Joe Kurtz. Kurtz is a PI and an unofficial son of Richard Stark’s Parker. How can you go wrong with that. Every year I hope for a new instalment, but I never get one.
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 a lot of less mainstream writers are going to influence the coming generation. There are Canadian’s like John McFetrdige, Scottish writers like Allan Guthrie, and Irish writers like Ken Bruen who are putting out ridiculously consistent noir fiction that is both a throwback to the classics and a new twist on the genre. I also think there is going to be an eventual re-emergence of interest in the pulp classics. Darwyn Cooke recently did a Richard Stark graphic novel and it opened a lot of eyes to the genius that most people never realized was there all along. Hard Case crime is also reprinting a lot of amazing work from the past and they are easily my favourite reads each month. I am hoping this trend continues for a long time.
Q: Sam Millar came up with the following question: How do you sleep at night with all that blood on your hands?
If you’re asking Wilson, he’d say something moody like.
There’s blood on everyone’s hands. The city runs on blood. People bleed to keep it and cut to take it. I don’t loose sleep worrying about other people’s blood, I’ll sleep plenty when someone else gets mine on theirs.
Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
What are you tired of seeing in PI fiction?