Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Q & A with GM Ford

I've wanted to interview Mr. Ford since I started this blog. With the return of his PI Leo Waterman we've got the perfect moment for this.

Q: What makes Leo Waterman different from other hardboiled detectives? 

 Leo's humanity. He's a regular guy forced into irregular circumstances. He doesn't take himself or anyone else too seriously. I'm not altogether sure he's hardboiled either. More like poached. 

Q: How did you come up with the character?
Leo's a composite of some of the detectives I've loved along the way. At about ten, I fell in love with Nero Wolfe and haven't been the same since. Travis, Spenser, Fletch...guys like that. A little bit of James Crumley's C. W. Sughrue and Milo Milodragovitch thrown in for spice. I see the world in comic rather that tragic terms, so I always knew there was going to have to be a humorous element to them. The secret is to keep the serio out of the way of the comic and the comic out of the way of the serio. Mixed up in the wrong proportions, it doesn't work at all.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
A godsend. At last, writers have options. For the past twenty years I've been listening to unpublished authors moaning about how they're misunderstood geniuses. How big publishers only want one kind of book, as if there's some conspiracy to keep them out of print, which is, of course, horseshit. Publishers are in the money business.
You show them something they can make a bundle on and they'll snap it up in a second. They don't care who wrote the damn thing. They're looking to make a profit.
With the advent of ebooks, you can publish it yourself and let the general public decided whether it's any good or not. They're remarkably good at separating the wheat from the chaffe. My present publisher is Thomas & Mercer (Amazon) whose approach to the business is antithetical to traditional publishers such as Harper Collins, for whom I toiled for twenty years. No book tours, no signings, no sitting around waiting to hear what some fat-ass critic in New York said about your book. Just get the book in front of as many faces as possible and let the readership decide whether or not the book is worth reading.
Q: What's next for you and Waterman?
I've just started Leo Waterman #8. "Chump Change." Should have it done by the end of the summer 2012.
Q: How do you promote your work?
I'm pleased to say that I no longer have to do much of anything. Amazon could wring a hundred thousand units out of the Boy Scout Handbook. All I have to do is write good books and cash the checks. Let's hear it for algorythms.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
 Been reading quite a bit of neurobiology lately. Incognito, Thinking fast and Slow, Sleight of Mind...that sort of thing. When I'm writing, I read almost exclusively non-fiction. I find non-fiction less likely to creep into my voice.
Q: Will Corso return as well?
RIP Corso. Nope. We've seen the last of Frank. Onward and upward.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
While the psyhco part is a fairly recent addition to the genre, the "man of thought and the man of action" pairing has been there from the very beginning. Dupin and his partner, Holmes and Watson, Nero and Archie, Travis and Meyer. It goes on and on. They're buddy movies with a mystery. The psycho part allows for amoral things to happen without tarnishing our hero's semi-saintly aura. Allows for a wider range of options. 

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?
To be honest, I haven't read much recent mystery fiction. The one that comes immediately to mind is Urban Waite. "The Terror of Living." The guy can write.

Q: O'Neil DeNoux came up with the following question: How did you come up with the name of your detective?
That's easy. Leo...because I wanted an old fashioned name. And Waterman because we both live in Seattle, which is about as watery as cities get.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Baronne Street (Burleigh Drummond) by Kent Westmoreland

I already knew Kent Westmoreland writes fantastic short stories, but with this one he proves he can also write a great novel.
Suave New Orleans fixer Burleigh Drummond investigates the murder of the one woman he really cares about, Coco. Soon he and his not-quite psychotic but very dangerous sidekick are hip-deep into Big Easy crime and politics and facing off a gay mobster and his thugs.
Kent really knows how to write first-person stories. We're right there with Drummond as he tries to come to grips with the guilt and losses he feels.
The mystery isn't that great, but the atmosphere and the quality of the writing itself is high-class stuff as is Burleigh Drummond's character.
This is one of those crime-writers you maybe hadn't heard of before but should be reading if you like this blog.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Q & A with Barry Crowther

Barry Crowther lives in the USA but is a Brit. He's also the author of the Matt Spears series and Sons of Spade's guest today...

Q: What makes Matt Spears different from other hardboiled detectives?
One of the main things that makes him different is that he isn't a PI or Police detective. He's a debt collector with a checkered past and a team of people he works with, who are quite colorful. I still stick to several of the hard boiled crime conventions when I work on Matt's novels, for example, there is always a clearly defined task (mystery) that must be solved, he is part of a duo so he has a foil to work off, there is usually violence and a little sex, plus the language is very contemporary. It's not very often that one of the gangsters in my books get shot in the leg and says 'oh fooey!'. To me the writers who present vicious and nasty characters and don't allow them to speak are copping out. I'm not saying they need to scatter expletives all the way through but it still has to be real.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
He was the culmination of several characters that I tried to work with but didn't quite hit the mark. To a degree all heroes or heroines are expanded versions of the consciousness of the writer. They are the writers alter-ego: tougher, smarter, sexier. I wanted him to be a little flawed too. His partner Nathan Draper is a homogenized side kick from various sidekicks or heroes that I had been reading or watching on the small screen from being young. He is smart, dapper, efficient and also violent. He even has some blue blood, so a type of Raffles-style hit man, if that makes sense. Matt can only go so far, then you need another more extreme character to go the remainder of the distance. More of Nathan is revealed in the second book 'As the Sun turns Black' and his links to MI-5.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I really think this is as important to the publishing industry as the Gutenberg press. The shift in technology and the publics acceptance has opened doors to many types of fiction that may not have seen the light of day in traditional publishing. To me, this is a carbon-copy style movement that the music industry has been transitioning through for the last twenty years. There are good and bad parts of this. I am still nostalgic (as my children seem to groan about) of vinyl discs. Nothing was cooler than going and buying a couple of seven inch singles on a weekend and rushing home to play them and then decide on whether the B-sides were go or not. The whole thing was an experience. Like browsing a bookshop, buying a novel because you thought the cover was cool and then reading it only to be amazed at how good it was and why you had never heard of the author. It was cool…but it's the past, and that's long gone!
Q: What's next for you and Spears?
The plot for Spears three is pretty much in shape, but I am working on the prequel to the novella 'Nothing' right now. It's an enjoyable process and involves quite a bit of research so Matt and Nathan's next adventure will have to wait a few more weeks before the fun begins.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Mostly I use Twitter as my social media outlet as well as my blog and also the KDP Select program from time to time. It's important to try and cut through the noise sometimes and offering people free samples is an easy way to get some eyeballs on your fiction and hopefully turn them into fans. I'm not very happy about the number of new 'writers' that are coming to Amazon as some kind of get-rich-quick scheme and using all kinds of tricks to get readers to buy. They seem to forget one of the most important elements of selling fiction - writing. Recently I've picked up a few pieces of fiction that need a tremendous amount of work before they should have been released and one of the "authors" revealed that they didn't even write it. It was ghost-written for them, they were in essence just the promoter! This sucks, and muddies the water for the writers that look at writing as a long-term career. 
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
My reading tastes are pretty broad. Right now, I'm reading a Jeffrey Archer novel and a new Russel Blake action thriller, they couldn't be further apart. But if pressed I would say the mystery/crime genre is my thing but I do enjoy Horror fiction too. Horror was my first love and I was a big fan of Brian Lumley (Necroscope series) when I was younger, so I would always fall back on the scary stuff if needed.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Love them all. Much prefer the colorful over the top nut jobs as good guys than the prosaic bumbling buffoon of the thirties and forties. Give me a Tarantino style sidekick any day of the week.
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?
Personally, I think David Peace's novels will change the landscape of crime fiction. In the UK for sure, maybe not in the US unless enough people get turned on to him. Most of my novels are UK based with the exception of the Zero quartet which is based in Michigan and California, so I get the way Peace works. David Peace has not only introduced a new style to the crime fiction genre but also created a world where true crime and fictional crime cross over. It's very hard boiled and not for everyone but his Red Riding series blew my mind. The only other crime writers I see emerging as new leaders are the scandinavians: Jo Nesbo and Henning Mankell. They seem to be leading the charge, but to me they are heading back around to the beginnings whereas Peace is heading into something new.
Q: O'Neil DeNoux came up with the following question: How did you come up with the name of your detective?
Lots of names belonged to the main series character before I landed on Matt Spears. I have another series character who is part of a paranormal mystery series and his name is Alex Campbell. I was going to go with Alex initially but thought that I might want to use Alex Campbell in the future so I had to be more creative. (Alex is the protagonist in Killing Flow). So I have a friend called Matt and I thought that worked. First name then was in the bag. The last name came about when someone was doing an interpretation of first names and how they related to biblical times. They used a book, so my wife put her name up for analysis, which came up blank - it's Wendy and just for you trivia buffs this name was invented by JM Barrie solely for the purpose of the Peter Pan books. Another name Peter was interpreted as The Rock. My name came up next and Barry was interpreted as The Spear. I wrote this down and then when I got home I looked it up and then thought, what about Matt Spears. It stuck.
 Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
That's a tough one! I would probably ask about the process. Do you plot or do you write and discover the storyline as you go along? That's something that interested me with writers since I began. For the Matt Spears Mysteries I write and plot methodically. Each scene is plotted and the whole thing hangs together as a tapestry before I even write the first word. For the Zero quartet I tend to write scenes by hand based around the previous scene and then when I have 20,000 words in the can I start typing them into my writing software (I use Scrivener) this then allows me to polish them, add more scenes, scrap the bad ones and then add more story or depth if needed.  I like to understand the process of how a novel came to be. This is as intriguing to me as the mystery contained in the novel itself.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Frame Up (Fenway Burke) by James Phoenix

The last time I felt like this reading a book was when I was reading The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais.
When I read that debut of PI Elvis Cole I was so pleased to see someone understood the greatness of Robert B. Parker's Spenser series but managed to give it his own twist. Through the years Crais developed his own voice and Cole became more and more unique. That bodes well for the future of James Phoenix and Fenway Burke.
In this novel we follow PI Fenway Burke's defeat at the hands of a dangerous assassin and his return in a way that reminded me of Spenser's defeat at the hands of the Grey Man (in Small Vices). There's also his meeting with Harvard lawyer Megan who gives Susan Silverman a run for her money when it comes to intelligence.
The surprises here are that they actually get married and start a family, taking the idea of the Spenser series (a tough guy involved in a steady relationship with an intelligent woman) to the next level.
I really enjoyed how Fenway schooled himself to be more of an intellectual equal to Megan.
There's a few Hawk-like guys in here as well, Ax and . They're not Pike or Hawk yet, but I'm sure they'll grow on me in the novels to come. I do think I like Fenway's dogs better than Pearl.
I liked the Spenser references that will appeal to the hardcore fans, like a Starbucks versus Dunking Donuts discussion for instance.
One of my favorite books this year... Get it here.

Mirror Image (Daniel Rinaldi) by Dennis Palumbo

I'm a big fan of Jonathan Kellerman's Alex Delaware series so I had hopes I'd love the Daniel Rinaldi series as well. Both feature shrinks as sleuths.
I wasn't disappointed. Danny is a harder boiled Alex (he for instance used to box). The cops surrounding him feel real enough but aren't as entertaining as Milo Sturgis (but which fictional cop is).
The story deals with a patient dressing up as Rinaldi and getting knifed in Rinaldi's parking lot. Did the killer really want to kill Rinaldi? Or are there ties to the victim's rich father? Dan Rinaldi investigates and along the way ends up sharing his bed with a very sexy DA with a dark side and uncovers some very dirty secrets.
There's series of climaxes in the last few chapters revealing surprise after surprise in a way only Harlan Coben does better.
A well-written thriller with an intricate plot.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Q & A with O'Neil De Noux

Vice-president of the Private Eye Writers of America, cop, a driving force behind the great Big Kiss Productions and author O'Neil De Noux was kind enough to answer my questions...

Q: What makes Lucien Caye different from other hardboiled detectives?
 Lucien is tough but not outwardly. He’s not a law-and-order guy. If he thinks a criminal should get away, he lets them. He’s practical and has a soft heart. He’s a womanizer but is not aggressive in his pursuit. He drinks – occasionally. He doesn’t smoke or wear a hat. He reads a lot and doesn’t consider himself near as good as his heroes Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer. He is deceptively smart with a wicked sense of humor.
Q: How did you come up with the character?
 Setting created Lucien Caye. I wanted a private eye living and working in the French Quarter in the 1940s-1950s. Once I came up with the character, he took over and told me what to do with him. I’m not kidding. Ray Bradbury once said he didn’t write his books, his characters wrote the books. It’s the same here. I set up the plot and let the characters take me through it. I hear Lucien’s voice as I’m writing him. The same goes with my other recurring characters.
Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
 It’s the best thing that’s happened to my writing career. After over twenty years of living as a low-list writer and going around with a tin cup begging agents, editors and publishers to put my books out there – I took control of my career in 2009 and teamed with a group of New Orleans artists, writers, editors, a literary lawyer, an agent and a publicist to form a co-op – BIG KISS PRODUCTIONS and we're doing it all – writing, editing, layout, design, promotion. We're still a little light with the promo but the products are excellent and we're doing better each month. At least we get most of the royalties (70% eBooks and 35% of trade paperbacks).
Any way a writer can control more of his product – the better.

Q: What's next for you and Lucien?
Enamored is my first PI novel and is set in 1950. Three years before that, Lucien Caye was hired on a wandering daughter case that has it all - murder, blackmail, villains galore, a bevy of pretty women and a black kitten to boot. This second Caye novel is a very sexy crime story set in 1947 New Orleans. The book will be released in 2013.
Q: How do you promote your work?
This is my weak link. BIG KISS PRODUCTIONS is still trying to get a foothold here. I do my best, but it’s not enough. Most of my sales are from word or mouth or the fact that amazon and google have the books listed on search engines.
Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
 Historical fiction. BATTLE KISS, published earlier this year, is my epic novel (320,000 words) set at the Battle of New Orleans. It was a titanic endeavor and I’ve followed it up with a companion book that will be out in 2013. This one is only 230,000 words. I have a degree in European History and enjoy historical fiction.
Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
 Whatever gets you through the night. Whatever a writer feels about his/her character, series, book needs is good. I don’t have one of those although I find them entertaining and very 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?
 I really have no idea. I don’t look for that.
Q: Keith Dixon came up with the following question: How do you arrive at the structure of your books?
 My books are character-driven. I develop a plot and outline the elements necessary to the story. I get it written, then get it right. Drafts. Along the way the characters do a lot of unexpected things. In order for the book to make sense, things in the plot change. It makes the books less predictable. Sometimes a minor character grows into a major one and their ancillary plot grows.
Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
 How did you come up with the name of your detective?
In my case, I found it on a banquette (a sidewalk in New Orleans). When I spied the blue-and-white tiles embedded in the sidewalk on Royal Street near Toulouse Street in the French Quarter, I saw ‘Lucien Caye’. I later learned it was actually ‘Lucien Gaye’ (like Marvin Gaye) and the ‘G’ has been worn down by people walking over it to make it look like a ‘C’. I later learned it was the name of a restaurant on Royal Street that went out of business in 1941.

Friday, October 5, 2012

New Noah Milano novelette is out now!

Behind a great cover by Big Kiss Productions lurks another great Noah Milano story....


A pregnant woman hires ex-mob fixer and security specialist Noah Milano to track down the man who got her pregnant. When it turns out this man is quite the scoundrel Noah gets involved with Russian gangsters and a murder case.

Praise by other authors:
''The writing is fresh and vivid and lively, paying homage to the past while standing squarely in the present." -James W. Hall, author of Silencer.

''Great pop sensibility with a nod to the classic L.A. PIs.'' - David Levien, author 13 Million Dollar Pop

'Noah Milano walks in the footsteps of the great P.I,.'s, but leaves his own tracks." - Robert J. Randisi, founder of PWA and The Shamus Award

"J. Vandersteen takes us back to the glory days of pulp fiction. And I mean the genre, NOT the movie. His Noah Milano character rings completely true as a tough, lone-wolf private." - Jeremiah Healy, author of TURNABOUT and THE ONLY GOOD LAWYER
Buy it here.