Saturday, March 8, 2008

Q & A with John Rickards

Q: What makes Alex Rourke different from other PI's?
Not much, probably. He's basically a nice enough guy, which sets him apart from some, without being a total white knight figure, unlike others, and isn't a colossal screw-up. I suppose the main difference is that - if I remember right, anyway - he doesn't do much actual private investigating. The only time Joe Public hires him is for an incidental job in the second book. In one and three he's basically a consultant to the cops/Feds, in the main part of two he's working for himself and in the fourth book he's just caught up in something else. He's basically a thriller character masquerading as a PI.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels? Bloody dreadful device. It's a cheap way of keeping the hero(ine)'s hands clean and their moral character above question while still allowing the book to contain plenty of dirty work. Very cheap.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
Less and less as time goes on. I don't write much in the way of technical stuff and by choice I make my settings up.

Q: Has your writing changed a lot over time?
Oh boy, yes. Hopefully for the better. My style's grown shorter and more terse, I'm better with some of the more mechanical aspects of story construction and I don't feel the same need to fill books with cheese as I used to. Parts of Winter's End make me wince these days. But that's probably the way it should go; no sense in keeping going if you know everything there is to know.

Q: How do you promote your books?
I carve their titles into my forehead and run screaming through the centre of town. That, or pay performing midgets to spell them out from the rooftops in semaphore. (Lies upon lies. I only *wish* I could do that.) Q: What's next for you and Alex? Book Five is done and off being read by people who'll tell me just how awful it is. But it's unlikely to be an Alex Rourke book when all's said and done on it. It's very much a departure from the other novels, which has been great fun doing. I understand the genre's thirst for series fiction, but I've found it starts feeling like a straitjacket at times, even with the amount of variation I've been able to put into the last couple of books.

Q: Do you have any favorite Sons of Spade yourself?
As much as it pains me to inflate Banks' already gargantuan ego, I like Cal Innes a lot. The Jack Taylor books, too. And even though it's a one-off, 'shit magnet' Mike McGill from Warren Ellis's Crooked Little Vein was a great character. Every cliche present and correct, and then turned on their heads.

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?
I know I'm not the only person here to suggest Ken Bruen - both stylistically and in terms of the, well, misery that the genre embraced in its early days, which he's been able to bring back to the fore without it seeming stupid. Laura Lippman deserves to; her fiction carries the social and emotional side without falling into the trap of being overpowering.

Q: Ray Banks came up with the following question: When are you going to write a real book?
I'll do it when he does, the swine! Or, equally accurately, probably never. I'm basically a big kid at heart.

Q: What questions should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
What do you bring to the genre that few others have? If I've brought anything to it it'd be an ambivalence and a lack of resolution, but I don't think that's anything much new. Bugger me, what a disappointing answer to my own question. I wish I'd asked something else now.

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