Regular readers of this blog know I like to search for and interview writers of PI fiction (official or unofficial private eyes) who you might not now but might enjoy. I found Michael Beck, whose Mark Tanner series sounds like great reading for fans of Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar...
Q: What makes Mark Tanner different from other hardboiled characters?
Tanner’s childhood tragedy gives him a unique focus. His tragic past and the mystery surrounding it helps define his being and life. Tanner, unlike many famous characters, is not indestructible, super-smart and always right. In fact, he probably has more faults than admirable traits. He is capricious and rude. He is violent yet emotionally vulnerable. He can be ruthless and merciless yet he baby sits his nieces. Personally, he is afraid of commitment yet, conversely, he has committed his whole life to one purpose.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
I have always enjoyed characters with an irreverent and sardonic view of the world. I am a self-confessed sports-nut so basing Tanner’s exploits around the sporting-world and making him a Fitness Trainer was a no-brainer. I wanted to create a character that I would like to read about. A person with admirable character traits but with flaws like a real person. I enjoy reading books where the characters display a dry humour so I wanted to create a character who displayed these qualities.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I think it is great for both writers and readers alike. More budding writers than ever before have a chance of getting their work published. There are so many great writers out there that we never would have heard of if it wasn’t for the eBook revolution. And for people who love books they are now more accessible and cheaper than ever before. I love the fact I always have a library of books on my IPhone and that I can read or download a new book wherever I am. And I no longer have to drive to a bookstore to peruse the latest releases. I can shop wherever and whenever I like.
Q: What's next for you and Tanner? Will he return?
Yes, Tanner will be returning in a sequel to Killpoint by the end of the year (or, at the latest, early 2014). I had to write at least one more Tanner book as I wanted to resolve a lot of the issues that Killpoint had left open. What happened to Tanner’s parents? Who killed them and why? Is Tanner’s never-ending search vindicated? What does the future hold for his comatose sister, Jade? I have finished the first draft of the sequel which, at the moment, is titled Pump Fake.
In PumpFake, Tanner is also dragged into the world of professional football when his ex-girlfriend, Liz, asks him to find out who is trying to destroy the career of her current boyfriend, who just happens to be the quarterback for an NFL team. Tanner must enter the world of professional football, in the guise of a player no less, to discover who would want to kill the quarterback. Tanner also discovers that his parents weren’t the only ones murdered in
such a gruesome manner fourteen years ago. He traces the dark steps of the killer, (dubbed Cupid for a reason beyond imagining), which leads to a final revelation that horrifies and angers Tanner to the core of his being.
In Pump Fake, Tanner’s obsession for the truth leads to two mysteries, both linked deeply to the past and both likely to kill him.
Q: How do you promote your work?
I must admit I am pretty hopeless at promoting my work. I would much rather be actually writing. My books can be viewed on my website www.michaelbeckbooks.com
I suppose that is one of the main advantages of publishing with a big publishing house; you have someone who is keenly interested in promoting your work.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I have always loved science fiction. My first novel, Shifter, was science fiction. Along with westerns(!), science fiction was my favourite genre growing up. Back then, I lived on a diet of Heinlein, Card and Dickson. Horror has always appealed to me and I have read everything by King, Koontz and Laymon. The genre is not important to me so long as the main character and story grabs me.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I think they are great so long as the sidekick doesn’t become a caricature. He has to be believable and real, definitely not indestructible, or he loses credibility. I grew up reading the Spencer novels and so was heavily influenced by them. However, Tanner’s sidekick, Bear, is very different from the norm. Most sidekicks (Pike, Hawk, Win) are often violent, dark characters. In mine, Tanner is the hot-headed one and Bear is the stabilising influence. Bear is the opposite of the traditional sidekick who tends to have some of these characteristics – single, violent, hot-headed, womaniser. Bear is married, has kids, a normal job and tends to be a calming influence on Tanner. Bear is the voice of reason. I think sidekicks run the risk of becoming one dimensional and therefore boring. By making Bear a more normal, well-rounded person I hope he comes across as more believable and interesting.
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?
Good question! The crime writers that first attracted me were Parker, McDonald and Leonard. These days I really like DeMille, Crais, Connolly, Finder and Coben. Of course, strictly speaking, Tanner is not a PI. Technically he is just a Fitness Trainer doing favours!
Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I enjoy the layers that envelope the stories in this genre. In a good crime thriller you can just keep peeling the layers back. I love the mystery and plotting the twists and turns that the story takes. Often the story takes me down a path I hadn’t planned and I would think, “Where did that come from?” The characters in a good novel write themselves and constantly