Friday, November 4, 2011
Q & A with Chester Campbell
Here's an interview with Hardboiled Collective member Chester Campbell...
Q: What makes Sid Chance different from other (unofficial) PIs?
Sid Chance’s motivation lies in the belief that his efforts can have a major effect on righting the wrongs done to his clients, situations such as the one he found himself caught in before becoming a PI. After nineteen years as a National Park ranger, he enjoyed his position as police chief in a small town south of Nashville. Until an unsavory sheriff fell for a drug dealer’s ruse to falsely accuse him of bribery. Though ultimately absolved of guilt, he felt too tarnished to remain in the town and totally fed up with the ways of flawed humanity. After three years of self-imposed exile in a hillside cabin, he came back home to Nashville to take on the bad guys.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
I had been writing a husband and wife PI team who are, as one reviewer put it, “like the people next door.” I wanted a more hard-edged story so turned to a big, impressive guy (he’s six-six and wears a black beard). He had served with Army Special Forces in Vietnam, then further developed his rugged image in the wilds of national parks. To give him a little additional quirk, I named him Sidney Lanier Chance, after the nineteenth century Southern poet who had some career similarities.
Q: What's next for you and Sid?
I’m sure he’ll come up with another exciting adventure. My next book will be number six in the Greg McKenzie series, then it’ll be Sid’s turn again. I don’t plan ahead, so each new book gets a fresh plot search.
Q: How do you promote your work?
Every book has a couple of pages on my website (http://chesterdcampbell.com). I have a blog called Mystery Mania, and I blog a couple of times a month on two others, Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. I also post on Facebook and occasionally on Goodreads. I attend a few conferences each year and do several book fairs. I do occasional interviews like this one and post on listserves such as DorothyL, the granddaddy (or grandma) of mystery lists. I also stay on the lookout for ways to push my name out there.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I find them a bit implausible but enjoy reading about them. I gave Sid Chance an unusual sidekick in Jasmine (Jaz) LeMieux. Her father was a French Canadian who came to Nashville after the Korean War and established a national chain of travel centers. Jaz was disowned by her aristocratic mother after dropping out of college and joining the Air Force. She then became a champion woman boxer and finally a Metro Nashville cop. After her mother’s death, she returned to good graces with her father and inherited controlling interest in the business. Serving as chairman of the board without an active role in day-to-day operations, she has time to assist Sid in tough cases like the one in The Good, The Bad and the Murderous.
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 haven’t read enough of the newer crop to hazard an informed guess, but Robert Crais seems to be holding up well at the present.
Q: Larry Block came up with the following question: How do you keep the series from running out of steam?
I think the key is to come up with fresh, interesting characters in each outing. That and finding unusual cases to keep the reader intrigued. I like to weave in subplots that wind their way back into the main story.
Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Would your PI commit an obvious breach of the law to solve a case? My answer: Yes, if it was a technical violation and the circumstances warranted it. But if it involved a felonious act, he’d look for a way to get around it. Real PIs avoid actions that would jeopardize their licenses.