I ran into JJ Lamb's work on Facebook and thought it might be interesting to learn more about him and his PI Zach Rolfe.
Q – What makes Zach Rolfe different from other hardboiled characters?
JJ – First, I never think of Zach as a hardboiled PI; somewhere between Archer and McGee in approach and demeanor. And then there’s the fact he only handles cases involving gaming; he also has an offbeat sense of humor.
Q – How did you come up with the character?
JJ – I was living in Virginia City, Nevada, running a saloon with my wife, Bette, and writing short stories when I had a moment or two, mostly for men’s magazines. One of the magazine publishers decided to get into doing books and asked if I would like to try my hand at a PI novel. I’ve always been a great fan of the genre, so the combination of a book offer, living in Nevada, and being surrounded by gambling sort of set it up for me. I wanted an unusual name for my lead character and invented Zachariah Tobias Rolfe III. The use of all three names, then tacking on the III, was the result of having worked in a movie theater with a guy named Marion McKinley Parsons III. I’d always wanted to do something similar, and it creates a lot of room for backstory. It was also about as far away as I could get from Bill Pronzini’s “Nameless,” a personal favorite.
Q – What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
JJ – I think it may be more evolution than revolution. Traditional print publishers are all over the place about it, and it’s going to take a while for it to shake itself out. It’s a great opportunity for authors, but I personally think it could turn harmful if some kind of trusted filter system doesn’t come to the fore ... soon. Bad writing is bad writing and I think free and 99-cent books only demean this exciting new segment of publishing.
Q – What’s next for you and Zach?
JJ – Wish I could tell you that I’m well into another Zach book, but unfortunately that’s not the case. I am keeping a close watch on the gaming scene in the U.S. and elsewhere, looking for the seed of an out-of- the-ordinary plot. In the interim, Bette and I are hard at work on the fourth book of our Gina Mazzio RN medical thriller series, the most recent of which is Bone Pit. I’ve also got a good start on a follow-up book to our suspense-adventure novel, Heir Today....
Q – How do you promote your books?
JJ – Almost any way possible – Website, author page on Amazon, FaceBook, LinkedIn, blogs, bookstore appearances, panels at Left Coast Crime, Bouchercon, and other mystery book conferences and seminars, write articles for mystery magazines, Mystery Writers of America events, Sisters in Crime showcases, various Yahoo groups, mailing out flyers, and email blasts.
Q – What other genres besides crime do you like?
JJ – If you mean like rather than write, I’m an eclectic reader. It’s really difficult to find something I’m not interested in, at least at some level. I’ve done some science fiction stories with Bette, but nothing published in the way of books.
Q – What’s your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
JJ – They have to be done exceptionally well, like the two you mentioned, but I can’t see Zach taking on a sidekick, psychotic or not. Psychotics as adversaries, yes, but no teaming up with one, male or female. Zach is too much of an I’d-rather-do-it-myself kind of guy.
Q – In the last century we’ve seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, and later, Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation?
JJ – You left out some important names, like MacDonald and Pronzini; and females such as Muller and Grafton. The best place to look for new trend setters is by checking out writers who win best book awards sponsored by Private Eye Writers of America, MWA, and International Thriller Writers.
However, don’t be taken in by “best” awards that are nothing more than popularity contests; the winning books may be good, bad, or ugly, but the authors are sure to have many, many friends and large families who cast many, many votes.
Q – Why do you write in this genre?
JJ – Because I enjoy it ... it was what I read primarily before I ever attempted to write fiction (I originally was a journalist). At its best, it combines high adventure with fascinating characters and complicated plots.