Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Q & A with Gar Anthony Haywood

When he won the Shamus Award for Best Short Story I just had to talk to him... Here he is, Gar Anthony Haywood...

Q: What makes Aaron Gunner different from other (unofficial) PIs?Well, first, he IS an "official" PI, in that he's licensed in the state ofCalifornia to practice private investigation. How he differs from otherfictional, official PIs (aside from his ethnicity):
1. He likes to drink, but suffers no addiction to alcohol or any other drug.
2. He's not running from anything in his past (a woman, a dark secret, adeath he caused accidentally, etc.)
3. Technically, he's not an ex-cop (he went to the LAPD training academybut got booted out before graduating).
4. He's only moderately competent at his job.
5. The novels that feature him (unlike the short stories) are always toldin third person, not first.
6. He's got a biting wit, but it's used quite sparingly; you'd nevermistake Gunner for a stand-up comedian.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
Basically, by deciding over time what I DIDN'T want him to be: white,altruistic, invulnerable, sexually irresistible, ingenious, fearless,addicted to (booze/cocaine/heroin/meth/painkillers), fast with a one-liner, dependent on someone less scrupled to do his heavy lifting.

Q: What's next for you and Gunner?
I'm only a couple of pages into book #7: GOOD MAN GONE BAD.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Through my website (; personal blog; my postings on the Murderati writersblog (; Facebook; and convention appearances.

Q: How did it feel to win the Shamus for short stories? I made light of it in my acceptance speech, but I am always incrediblyhonored to have my stuff recognized by my peers in the PWA. The nominatedauthors were awesome (Mickey Spillane vs. me? Are you kidding?), so thisShamus win was particularly special to me.

Q: What are your thoughts on ebooks as a reader AND a writer?
I've long ago given up thinking that ebooks are not the wave of thefuture. They are. And as an author, I intend to jump onboard the ebookexpress with both feet very soon (we're negotiating now with Severn Housefor the rights to re-publish the early Gunner novels in ebook form). However, I love paperback novels like some people love crack, and bookstores will always be my greatest passion. The heft of a new book in myhands, the texture of the pages against my fingers as I flip through them,the embossing on an awesome cover suitable for framing---these are allexperiences the ebook can't offer me, so while I'll become an ebook readereventually, I'm in no hurry to get there.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe

While the two sidekicks you mention are exceptional and worthy of their extended roles in the work of Parker and Crais, respectively, I have always felt that such characters in general are something of a cheat, inthat they allow an author to lay waste to his villains without having toget his protagonist's hands dirty. Mouse serves this same function forEasy Rawlins in Walter Mosley's work. Mouse can do things on Easy'sbehalf that readers would find unconscionable were Easy to do them forhimself. And yet, these particular sidekicks are fascinating charactersin their own right. Their purpose might be simplistic, but theirpsychological profiles are not. Will I ever develop such a character for Gunner's benefit? Possibly. Butright now, I enjoy the challenge of having Gunner get out of his ownmesses, all by himself, regardless of how much blood this makes itnecessary for him to personally spill.

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?
Larry Block. Robert Crais. Walter Mosley.

Q: Max Alan Collins came up with the following question: Are you a Hammett man or Chandler?
This is like asking me if I'd rather be in a locked room with Christina Hendricks or Halle Barry. I can only choose ONE? Okay, I'll go with Chandler. Though THE MALTESE FALCON is damn near asgood as a P.I. novel can ever get.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer? What other P.I. writer, alive or dead, would you want as a huge fan? My answer: R
oss Macdonald.