Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Q & A with Ed Gorman

Here's the first Q & A of 2008, featuring Ed Gorman, writer, editor and a longtime player in the field.

Q: What makes Sam McCain different from other fictional
private eyes?

With the McCains I'm trying set the record straight on what living in the Fifties and early Sixties was really like for many Americans. The era is usually dismissed as dull and irrelevant but in fact it was a terrible time for people who didn't fit into the white Christian tradition. One reviewer called the series "The dark side of `Happy Days'" and I think that's a fair description. Sam's mysteries usually involve the issues of the time.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
I don't have strong opinions one way or the other though I imagine that by now that particular trope has been played out for the time being.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
I do for the McCains. For the Jack Dwyer series I did very little. That's the nice thing about setting your books in the present. You don't have to look stuff up.

Q: How do you select and find the stories and / or writers for anthologies you edit?
Selling anthologies has become difficult and frankly I've lost interest in most projects except for the Year's Best series I do with Marty Greenberg. For that I read everything I can find. Though I wish more publishers would send us their anthologies and collections.

Q: How do you promote your books?
I'm not good at it. Self-promotion embarasses me. I have a political whodunit coming in April that I'll probably try and sell a little harder than I have with my previous books.

Q: What's next for you and Sam?
There'll be one more Sam and that'll be it. I'm not by nature a series writer and seven books is plenty for me.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?Lists scare me because I always leave somebody out. Let's just say that there is an abundance of great private eye writers working today.

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 and in what way?
That's a good question and one I'm too old to answer. Jason Starr or David Zeltersman would know but I sure don't.

Q: Sean Chercover came up with the following question: How long did it take to writer your current book?I'm a thrower-away. My usual process is to write until I "hear" the book. This has taken up to a few months. On many books I throw away as much as one hundred pages or more. In some cases I've tossed complete manuscripts. But once I "hear" it I work quickly. The current McCain, after several false starts and more than one hundred pages pitched, was done in about two months. This is my process. It's a curse. But I can't seem to find any other method that works for me.

Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
I'd ask pi writers what I'd ask any writer. What is your greatest joy as a writer? Your greatest sorrow? For me my joy is achieving at least eighty per cent of what I hoped to achieve. My greatest sorrow is seeing what seemed to be a fine idea never quite shine the way I'd hoped.

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