The Hard Bounce is one of my favorite debut novels ever... So, it is a delight for me to interview its author, founder of Thuglit.com, Todd Robinson.
Well, the first thing that I think makes Boo different is his career-choice as a bouncer…which isn't much of a career at all. He has a job, but it's not one that I'd seen before in crime fiction for a main character. He has no experience in a professional capacity as an ex-cop or ex-military—which we tend to see a lot of in the genre. He lives on a fatalistic fringe that we don't see in a lot of hardboiled characters. He has no big goals and dreams, he just gets by. He's not a tough guy simply for the sole reason of stating his toughness. His toughness is an extension of his survival mechanism and he carries all the scars from a life that has made him so. But I also needed him to retain the humor that is another aspect of the survival mechanism that I've experienced from some of the most damaged people I've been blessed to have in my own life. For them, you learn to laugh at shit—and laugh very hard—or you eat a bullet well before middle age. The toughest guys I've ever known are also the funniest. Real tough guys don't fucking advertise.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
Honestly? For the most part, Boo's voice and reactions are my own in a slightly different world—one in which I'm braver, better with women, am in better shape and have more hair. There are certain situations that have arisen in my own life that I've taken for Boo and Junior's adventures, but went with a "what if?" added on. THE HARD BOUNCE was a matter of "What if I were charged with the task of finding a runaway?" Where would I start? How would I go about getting from point A to B?
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
Like it or not, it's where it's all headed. I think there will always be a market for paper and ink, but I think that fewer and fewer writers are going to get the opportunity to hold their books within their hands, to smell that ink on paper, for much longer. I consider myself blessed that I got to. I'm still a bit of a Luddite as far as how I choose my reading instruments.
Q: What's next for you and Malone?
I'm working on the follow-up, ROUGH TRADE, in which Boo and Junior find themselves on the run after accidentally getting themselves accused of a hate crime. And lord knows, I hope you'll get to read it. THE HARD BOUNCE was a one-and-done contract. I have no publisher lined up for book number two. And if enough people don't dig THE HARD BOUNCE, then that's unfortunately going to be it for Boo and Junior.
It took me ten years to get THE HARD BOUNCE onto shelves. If nobody wants the second, I don't know if I have it in me to fight for another decade. I was in the middle of writing a horror/noir novel when Tyrus Books bit on THE HARD BOUNCE. I was at the end of my rope as a crime writer, and I know how incredibly fucking lucky I am to not only have it published, but for all the love that the book and characters have received from readers.
Q: How do you promote your work?
Internet and a limited book tour—which is basically trying to make appearances in stores that'll have me and those that I can afford to get to. Let's face it, promoting…realpromoting…means money. That's just business for ya. And brudda? I ain't got none. Again, counting my blessings for all the support that the book has been getting from other writers and those that have read it.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
Probably 90% of what I read is crime. Other than that, I read a little bit of everything.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I don't know if they're all psychotic, or if some just have a looser moral code than our heroes. Part of what I set out to do with the world of Boo and Junior was have main characters that in other books might have been the emergency hardcore back-ups. Who do those guys call when they're in need? That was where I brought in my character of Twitch. Twitch is the least tough guy in a world populated with thick necks and calloused knuckles. He has no straight-up skills like martial arts or any other training—nothing but a complete lack of moral code towards those who are trying to hurt his friends. None whatsoever. I tried to flip the dynamic a little bit with that.
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 have no idea. I really don't. They might not be published yet, or if they are, the audience might not have found them yet. Big market books tend not be anything much on the "new and different" side. Publishers tend not to risk publishing new and unique voices. It's just the nature of the business. the word "NEW" is scary to business people. And publishers are business people. For years, I had editors telling me how much they enjoyed the novel, only to have it struck down in marketing. And I don't think I'm re-inventing the wheel or anything here. Is my voice different? I sure as fuck hope so. Am I starting a fucking revolution? Um…no.
Maybe it was all the cursing…
Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I don't think I have a choice. It's just the kind of stories I tell. Years ago, a friend told me a heartwarming tale about her father's pharmacy and his Christmas generosity. I tried to turn that into a short story, and it wound up being a botched heist tale about a one-legged crackhead. I have no idea why my brain works the way it does.
I have issues.