I've wanted to interview Mr. Ford since I started this blog. With the return of his PI Leo Waterman we've got the perfect moment for this.
Leo's humanity. He's a regular guy forced into irregular circumstances. He doesn't take himself or anyone else too seriously. I'm not altogether sure he's hardboiled either. More like poached.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
Leo's a composite of some of the detectives I've loved along the way. At about ten, I fell in love with Nero Wolfe and haven't been the same since. Travis, Spenser, Fletch...guys like that. A little bit of James Crumley's C. W. Sughrue and Milo Milodragovitch thrown in for spice. I see the world in comic rather that tragic terms, so I always knew there was going to have to be a humorous element to them. The secret is to keep the serio out of the way of the comic and the comic out of the way of the serio. Mixed up in the wrong proportions, it doesn't work at all.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A godsend. At last, writers have options. For the past twenty years I've been listening to unpublished authors moaning about how they're misunderstood geniuses. How big publishers only want one kind of book, as if there's some conspiracy to keep them out of print, which is, of course, horseshit. Publishers are in the money business.
You show them something they can make a bundle on and they'll snap it up in a second. They don't care who wrote the damn thing. They're looking to make a profit.
With the advent of ebooks, you can publish it yourself and let the general public decided whether it's any good or not. They're remarkably good at separating the wheat from the chaffe. My present publisher is Thomas & Mercer (Amazon) whose approach to the business is antithetical to traditional publishers such as Harper Collins, for whom I toiled for twenty years. No book tours, no signings, no sitting around waiting to hear what some fat-ass critic in New York said about your book. Just get the book in front of as many faces as possible and let the readership decide whether or not the book is worth reading.
Q: What's next for you and Waterman?
I've just started Leo Waterman #8. "Chump Change." Should have it done by the end of the summer 2012.
Q: How do you promote your work?
I'm pleased to say that I no longer have to do much of anything. Amazon could wring a hundred thousand units out of the Boy Scout Handbook. All I have to do is write good books and cash the checks. Let's hear it for algorythms.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
Been reading quite a bit of neurobiology lately. Incognito, Thinking fast and Slow, Sleight of Mind...that sort of thing. When I'm writing, I read almost exclusively non-fiction. I find non-fiction less likely to creep into my voice.
Q: Will Corso return as well?
RIP Corso. Nope. We've seen the last of Frank. Onward and upward.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
While the psyhco part is a fairly recent addition to the genre, the "man of thought and the man of action" pairing has been there from the very beginning. Dupin and his partner, Holmes and Watson, Nero and Archie, Travis and Meyer. It goes on and on. They're buddy movies with a mystery. The psycho part allows for amoral things to happen without tarnishing our hero's semi-saintly aura. Allows for a wider range of options.
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?
To be honest, I haven't read much recent mystery fiction. The one that comes immediately to mind is Urban Waite. "The Terror of Living." The guy can write.
Q: O'Neil DeNoux came up with the following question: How did you come up with the name of your detective?
That's easy. Leo...because I wanted an old fashioned name. And Waterman because we both live in Seattle, which is about as watery as cities get.