Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Q & A with Jason Ridler

Jason Ridler is an innovative writer who writes both horror and crime. His Spar Battersea ows enough to Sam Spade to make him a good person to interview...

Q: What makes Spar Battersea different from other hardboiled characters?
There's a lot of hardboiled characters who are rogues with a code. But most come from typical backgrounds: ex cop, ex soldier, ex hitman. BORING. 
 Spar's an ex-punk rock jackass who makes barely a living wage as a journalist. What makes him more hard boiled? He hates being a hero, but feels compelled to do it because he carries so much guilt from back in the day when he was drinking, drugging, and causing shit.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
 Honestly? From reading a lot of thrillers and realizing I hated most of them because every guy was the same (see above: ex cop, ex special forces, ex CIA, blah blah blah). What I love about noir is that it's street level high drama. If I was going to write a novel in that vein, I had to start there. Spar is a street level hero, who inherits a lot of my baggage from when I was in a punk band, but is far better in a fight than I am!

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
 There is no revolution. Just a punctuated equilibrium thanks to ebooks. I watched the rise and fall of this talk over the past four years and there's nothing revolutionary here. There now exists great opportunities for hybrid careers in ebooks and other kinds of publishing. All good. But those who want to burn down book stores and yell at major publishers because everyone will be as successful as Amanda Hocking or the creep John Locke? How about writing a great book to start. That would be good. That said, lots of great folks self publish, too . . . LIKE ME!

Q: What's next for you and Spar?
 Spar has three novels you can enjoy, starting with DEATH MATCH, then CON JOB, and DICE ROLL.  There's also a fun novella about the backstory of pro wrestler Keith "The Bullet" Winnick, called ONE BULLET, TWO SHOTS. I have yet to decide if Spar has another adventure in him because, unlike almost all heroes in thriller fiction, Spar gets hurt . . . and stays hurt. He HATES getting hurt and by the time DICE ROLL ends he's collection of broken bones. Honestly? I think one more novel will kill him. Not sure I want that to happen just yet.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Poorly, I guess. Word of mouth. Goodreads. I've tried a bunch of stuff and not much of it works beyond handselling online. What's lovely is so many people on Goodreads seemed to like my books. Check 'em out and see what the Ridler is cooking.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
 Most. Fantasy and horror, literary, some science fiction. I try to keep my mind open, but mostly like the dark stuff.

 Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
It's a staple. That's why I tried to change it with the Bullet in DEATH MATCH and the other Spar novels. He's deadly as hell, but he'd rather be left alone if only Spar wouldn't keep getting throat deep in trouble.

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?
 If I was any good at predictions, I'd win every lottery. I will say that if you want to read some of the best crime fiction out today, check out Cara Hoffman, Elizabeth Hand, Christa Faust, Nick Mamatas, Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Trent Zelazny, Sean Craven and more. Pick up SWILL magazine, too.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?

 There's a strange beauty in crime fiction. It's like you can write with the epic grandeur of Greek tragedy or Shakespeare but shove it in the dark corners of the world where the freaks, geeks and desperate souls live. It allows you to write big about people in hard times. What's not to love?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Free Fiction: The Baby Trade part 4 (A Summer Black Serial)

Here's the 4th chapter of my new free serial of hardboiled fiction, starring Summer Black, the woman the streetwalkers of LA call when they have no one else to turn to...

The Baby Trade part 4 (A Summer Black serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen
My hands were shaking and my back was sweaty. I was in my car but had to relax myself before I could drive. I was just too worked up to drive safely.
I’d seen a lot of death and violence in the Army, I had even killed there. That was violence from a distance mostly, though. Guns firing, seeing people drop more or less in the distance as a result. Non-personal. Delivering violence like I had just done to Donny was different. Messy. Eye to eye with blood, fear. I did my share of hand-to-hand combat in the Army, but that was during training, not during actual fights. I wasn’t sure where the darkness came from that made me able to do to another human being like what I did to Donny. Maybe it was the rage still deep inside of me about what the johns and pimps did to me when I was still on the streets. Maybe just anger about what assholes like Donny to women.
I took a few deep breaths. I had to focus on getting Charlene back. I had to get to that lawyer.
I took my cell phone and called the number on the business card, dialing *67 in front of the number so the receiving end wouldn’t see my caller ID.
“Ecclestone,” a deep voice answered.
“Hello? This is June White. I heard you’re specialized in adoption?” I’m afraid I’m not that good at coming up with aliases.
“That’s right. Are you looking to adopt?”
“Yes, yes I am.”
“Good. I might be able to help you. Visit my office tomorrow morning at nine.”
“Great, I’ll be there,” I said and disconnected.
So, that went easy so far. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to handle the visit to Ecclestone. I’d probably end up improvising. I do a lot of improvising when I help out old sisters. I’m not really trained for the stuff I do, but I seem to have a knack for it.
I drove home, made a sandwich, drank some water and took a long shower before turning in.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Background Check on Bad Religion (Nick Kepler) by James Winter

James Winter was one of the first guys to tell me he liked my Noah Milano stories. It's great to see a new novel by him coming out, so I asked him to come over and tell us more about it.

Tell us what to expect from Bad Religion.
Bad Religion has Nick undergoing a lot of changes in his business and his life. It starts out as a simple case of a minister skimming the collection plate. When that turns out to be a dead end, someone gets upset and starts gunning for witnesses. In the meantime, Nick and Elaine's relationship is evolving. Her marriage is crumbling, and they both wonder if their one-night stand wasn't just a fluke.

How long did it take you to write?
The original draft took about four months to write. It's hard to gauge the revisions because my publisher went out of business. So I looked at it sporadically over the next five years before digging it out last year.

Tell us about how you were inspired to write it?
There's a big televangelism angle in the story, and I remembered seeing quite a bit of that freakshow when I grew up. I wanted Nick to start investigating a minister accused of being such a fraud and finding out he's actually the victim of someone else's scheme. At the same time, I had fun creating the character of Calvin Leach.

Will we see Kepler return after Bad Religion?
There's a new short in the can waiting for revisions. Beyond that, I haven't decided. Part of the problem is that I fixed Nick to the calendar, and in 2013, it's a bit hard to write a story set in 2005.

Did writing the book take a lot of research?
Some of it was calls back to Cleveland to see what changed from when I lived up there. I also have an angle that ties into a cult killing that actually took place in the area. I had to walk a balance between exploiting it and making it part of the background.

What scenes did you enjoy writing the most?I loved writing the scene where Nick and Elaine visit the taping of Leach's show. Nick is absolutely miserable there, and he's stuck next to one of those middle-aged true believers I had to deal with when I was a kid. You know the type: Badly dyed hair teased to fright-wig perfection and a gushing enthusiasm for the star of the show. I let Nick voice a little revenge for me, with Elaine pretending to be his wife and keeping him in check.

Who is your favorite among the characters in the book?I like Elaine a lot in this one. She really grows as a character. I also like Teasdale, who's kind of a throwback to Jim Rockford.

Is there anything else you'd like to say about the books?The print version will soon be available if it's not already.

Dead Wood (John Rockne) by Dani Amore

John Rockne is a pleasant PI to follow. He's married, has children and doesn't carry a gun. A regular joe, although with a darker cop past. Hired by the father of a murder victim who used to build custom guitars to find out who really killed her he faces a popular country singer, a dangerous assassin and more. The case turns out to have a connection with his past, making this case a bit more personal than he Rockne thought.
The pacing is great as is the dialogue. I was a bit confused about the scenes with the mysterious killer that suddenly stopped appearing while I thought they would last until the climax of the novel.
Good reading for fans of David Housewright and Jonathan Kellerman.

Q & A with Will Viharo

I am proud to be the first to interview the talented Will Viharo about the Gutterbooks edition of his novel Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me.

Q: What makes Vic Valentine different from other hardboiled characters?
He's not really hardboiled! He only projects that image in order to navigate dangerous terrain at times. But it's merely self-delusion. He's really a soft-hearted, soft-headed sap. The only thing hard about Vic is his dick. He's only a private eye because he's otherwise unemployable. His skill set is limited to luck and determination. He's sort of a hybrid of Holden Caulfield and Philip Marlowe - a introspective outsider.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
At the time (circa 1993), I was working as a delivery driver for a blood bank - another in a long series of odd jobs I took to survive while I pursued my literary career. Naturally, I hated it, and sublimated my frustration into my art. Also around this time I was being actively courted by big shot New York editor Judith Regan, who was very interested in publishing something by me. I'd already sent her some of my previous manuscripts - including my Runyonesque fable Chumpy Walnut, my sexy-violent satirical crime novel Down a Dark Alley, and my stylistically experimental psycho-noir Lavender Blonde - but wanted to come up with something fresh. During a phone conversation with my father about my latest romantic catastrophe, I just threw out the line "Love stories are too violent for me," and when he laughed, I knew I had the title. The name "Vic Valentine" popped in my head, since i love alliteration, and then the first line: "People tell me I live in the past. We all live int he past, I tell them. We just don't know it yet." I also knew the last line of the book would be the title. From there I borrowed elements of my personal life and embellished them, much like Charles Bukowski did with Henry Chinaski, or John Fante with Arturo Bandini. Vic was sort of my doppelgänger, but I embed him qualities that were diametrically opposed to some of my own personal traits, just so it wouldn't be thinly veiled autobiography, but a revisionist pulp saga geared for general public consumption that was secretly informed by private events. He's not so much my doppelgänger as he is my undercover man in the field, taking orders only from me, doing my dirty work and taking all the blame, while I get all the credit.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
It's convenient and expedient for those who want to publish quickly and reach their audience directly, circumventing the usual drama and politics associated with traditional publishing, which ironically has contributed to its sudden downward spiral. As someone whose knuckles are bloody from banging on doors nobody would answer for so many years, it's nice to see the major publishers losing their elitist stranglehold on the marketplace. Their professional editorial services should still set the industry standard, but beyond that, they've made their own beds by being such snobs for so many years (with notable exceptions, mostly among the small presses). As for the actual format, I personally prefer print, but the fact is I don't care what format readers choose, as long as they keep reading.

Q: What's next for you and Vic Valentine ? Will he return?
Definitely. The sixth novel in the series, "Hard-Boiled Heart," is in progress - sort of. It's being serialized in the annual all-nude Nightcap editions of Bachelor Pad Magazine. So far there have been two installments - "Private Dick, Public Enemy" and "Space Needle Fix." As you know the previous sequels are self-published as two "double features" - Fate Is My Pimp/Romance Takes a Rain Check and I Lost My Heart in Hollywood/Diary of a Dick. Hopefully if the reissue of Love Stories does well enough, Gutter will pick up the entire series. I'd love to develop that relationship with them. My editor, Joe Clifford, a rising pulp titan in his own right, has been fantastic to work with. They're all very respectful and cool with authors. I'm very happy to be a part of their team.

Q: How do you promote your work?
Social media, mainly, and via press connections i made made while a full time film programmer. I have a rather popular, pre-existing public platform left over my cult movie cabaret show, called "Thrillville," which hasn't really translated into a massive readership so far. I'm known more as a "movie guy." I'm really just a pulp fiction guy, though movies - particularly of the outré, exploitative variety - greatly influence my work.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
Horror definitely, and some sci-fi, as long as it's grounded in reality. I'm not a big Star Wars of Lord of the Rings kinda cat, though I respect their cultural impact and enormous fan bases. I'm just not a big fan of epic storytelling in general, with those massive casts of characters, grand settings, invented languages, etc. I prefer smaller, darker, more intimate fantasies, set in familiar surroundings that have been slightly tweaked to resemble a waking nightmare, a la The Twilight Zone. One of my favorite horror authors is H.P. Lovecraft, and one of my favorite sci-fi writers is the late Richard Matheson. But my own horror works - A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge (my personal favorite of my own books) and the bizarro novella Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room - are influenced much more by cinema than literature, particularly the films of David Lynch and to a much lesser extent, George Romero. My one sci-fi novel, It Came From Hangar 18, co-written by the guy who commissioned me to write it, Scott Fulks, so he could inject his real scientific formulas into my excessively exploitative, explicit text, actually is an epic that begins quietly in Alameda, CA and ultimately extends across the world and the galaxy. But tonally it's closer to the satires of Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams than the more serious, visionary works of Philip K. Dick or Ray Bradbury, two other writers I greatly admire, but do not even try to emulate. Hangar 18 is basically the ultimate B movie in literary form. I'm very proud of it, and all of my published books, though as I said, Mermaid is my personal favorite, because it blends all of my obsessions - noir, horror, pornography, retro pop culture - in just the right doses.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Haven't given 'em much thought, though I love Robert B. Parker's witty repartee. I prefer to work alone. I hate people, generally speaking, though I love humanity, if that make any sense. My cats are my sidekicks, and my wife is my muse. That's all I need, and my characters share my solitary personality and individualistic perspective.

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?
Probably the writers who have most influenced me - James Lee Burke, Carl Hiaasen, James Ellroy, Walter Mosley, and Barry Gifford, to name a few. They're older but all still very active. I haven't really kept up with my own contemporaries, though Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts are definitely names to watch.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
Ironically, not for the same reasons most fans list. I'm not really a fan of conventional mysteries and straight-up adventure stories per se. I could care less about the stories being told. I'm more into the experiences being related. For me it's all about the Voice. I'm never been a big plot guy. All the stories of mankind's many foibles and follies, quests and quirks have already been told, over and over. Only the fashions and language changes. For me, it's how they're being told. I have trouble following most plot lines anyway, since I'm concentrating too much on style, syntax and sentence structure, more so than things like character development. My favorite writers growing up were Damon Runyon, Raymond Chandler, and J.D. Salinger. They're still my top three, probably, but after devouring samples from every literary genre I could, reading all the classics by the likes of Hemingway and Fitzgerald on up through contemporary giants like Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon, John Irving, Richard Price, etc., I realized the writers whose voices resonated most passionately with my own heart and world view were the "lower tier" pulp guys like Jim Thompson, David Goodis, and Charles Willeford. I related to their tortured souls. Their work transcended the typical perimeters of the form and genre, delving deeply into the human condition and revealing often ugly stuff other writers barely hinted at, since the best selling guys were often constrained not by their creativity but by their mainstream publishers pandering to a safe, cookie cutter mentality. Socially acceptability is often artistically restrictive. It's like why I mostly prefer sleazy grindhouse cinema over big time "respectable" blockbusters. I just dig the honesty.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Free Fiction: The Baby Trade part 3 (A Summer Black Serial)

Here's the third chapter of my new free serial of hardboiled fiction, starring Summer Black, the woman the streetwalkers of LA call when they have no one else to turn to...

The Baby Trade part 3 (A Summer Black serial)
by Jochem Vandersteen
Back home in my apartment I traded my waitress uniform for a short leather skirt, red tank top and stiletto-heeled fuck-me shoes. I filled a sock with a roll of change that I put into a clutch. I applied way too much make-up to complete the look I’d sported for years, plying my trade on the Hollywood streets.
With that look I walked into the sleazy Hollywood bar Tina told me Donnie Brooks had turned into his office of sorts.
I spotted him at the bar, nursing a whiskey. He was easily identified by his expensive leather jacket and the amount of jewelry around his neck and fingers. He dressed the part of his job.
I sat down next to him. He glanced at me. I saw him go over my face, his eyes travelling down to my breasts. He smiled a dirty grin, gold teeth showing.
“Hi sugar, you want a drink?” he asked.
“Sure, Rusty Nail.”
“Coming up.” Brooks ordered my drink.
I took a sip after it was handed to me and told him in a breathy voice, “I hear you’re always looking for talent. You’re Donnie Brooks, right?”
“In the flesh, baby. You’re right. And you sure as hell look mighty talented, sugar.”” He put a hand on my knee. Part of me shuddered, another part of me wanted to break his fingers. The part of me that was buried deeper, the part that I used on all my johns, prevented me from screwing up my plan and just made me smile at him.
“Can I audition?”
I brought my lips close to his ear and whispered, “Do you want me to suck your dick so I can show you what I can do?”
He almost choked on his drink. “Yeah, yeah sure. Sure baby. Whoo-hoo. You’re one hell of a girl, ain’t ya.”
“Oh yeah, I sure as hell am. Let’s go the john. I will take you all the way to heaven over there.”
I slid down the barstool. Brooks got down so fast you’d think his barstool was on fire. I exaggerated the way my hips moved, making him think I was just the sexiest, horniest woman alive. He was going to be mightily disappointed.
We entered the men’s room. His hands were on my ass as soon as we entered.
“Let’s get in here,” I said and opened a stall’s door. The asshole was already breathing heavily out of anticipation.
Inside the cramped stall I told him to drop his pants. Hurriedly he did. The moment his pants hit his shoes I had a hand on his balls. He smiled. A second later he screamed as I twisted his testicles around. To shut him up I hit him in the head with the coin-filled sock. Dazed he sat down on the dirty toilet floor.
“Huh? What the fuck?” He was barely conscious and trying to make sense of what had just happened.
I swung the sock around in front of his face. “I want to know where Charlene is.”
“Tina’s baby. Where is she?”
“Fuck that, I don’t know what you’re talking about, bitch.”
I hit him again with the sock. I heard his nose break. Blood trickled down his chin. He whimpered like a wounded animal.
I took off my shoe, bringing the stiletto heel close to his left eye. “I already broke your nose. Do you also want me to take out your eye?”
“Who the fuck are you?”
“That doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the answer to my question.”
“Relax, relax. Fuck. Man my fucking nose hurts. Okay. I can’t tell you where the kid is. I don’t know.”
I brought the heel closer to his eye. “What do you mean? I know you took the baby.”
“Yeah, yeah. I did. But I sold her to this lawyer guy.”
“What? Which lawyer guy?”
“Let me think,” he said. It turned to be his idea of a distraction. His hand went inside his jacket pocket and came out with a knife.
I slapped the knife out of his hand with my shoe. I kneed him against the chin to punish him. I think he bit his tongue, blood started to seep out of his mouth.
“Don’t try anything cute like that anymore. Just tell me which lawyer.”
He had trouble speaking with his tongue and nose both hurt. I managed to understand he wanted to get a business card from his jacket and hoped I wasn’t going to hurt him before he got that out.
“If it’s not another knife coming out of your jacket you have nothing to worry about.”
Slowly his hand went inside his jacket. I was ready to pounce on him some more, but he was really holding a card in his hand when it came out of his jacket.
I took the card. Marcus Ecclestone, attorney at law, it said. “So let me get this straight. You fucking SOLD that kid to this guy?”
“He doth iwwegaw ado’tiuns. I needeth the munnie.”
“Illegal adoptions, huh? Well, I will have to visit this asshole then. You just stay away from Tina or I will really fuck you up, understand?”
Donny nodded. I told him goodnight and whacked him in the head with the sock again, hard enough for his lights to go out.
I walked out of the toilet stall, into the bar. The barkeeper saw me walk in and seemed to wait for Donny to follow. When he didn’t he just shrugged and decided to focus his attention on my legs all the way until they walked me out the door.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Q & A with Sam Hawken

After a few standalones Sam Hawken decided to write a hardboiled series, in novella form even (my favorite format). Of course that meant I had to ask him a few questions...

Q: What makes Camaro different from other hardboiled characters?
I didn't conceptualize Camaro as an attempt to reinvent the wheel.  Hardboiled characters have certain characteristics about them that are repeatedly employed because they're attractive and effective.  I think what makes Camaro different is the way a well-developed sense of self-preservation has been baked into her.  A lot of hardboiled characters are noble — and to a certain extent she is, too — but there are things she does during the course of Camaro Run that might not be considered selfless, but rather selfish.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
I actually did a whole blog post about this that people might be interested to read (How she came to be.), but the short version is that I wanted a character who had the same internal balance and consistency as a male character in a similar type of story.  Way, way too often female characters are conveyed as either Madonna or whore and I wanted a woman who demonstrated the kind of shades male characters routinely display.  This will become more and more obvious as the series of novellas goes on, as she engages with family and friends, but you can already see in Camaro Run how she disconnects from the oft-used feminine tropes that are so limiting.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
I see it both good and bad lights.  On the good side, excellent writing by authors ignored by the traditional system are getting their words out there.  We're also seeing a resurgence in forms like the novella and in genres long neglected.  On the negative side, there's an absolute avalanche of garbage pouring out of the ebook maw and it's drowning the good stuff.  Many (most) readers don't have the time, money or patience to sift through the chaff and find the elusive wheat, which can lead to frustration and the eventual abandonment of ebook reader altogether.  Similarly, those aforementioned good authors can grow disillusioned with tiny or nonexistent sales and simply quit publishing completely, which is a loss.

Q: What's next for you and Camaro? Will she return?
There are four Camaro novellas releasing over the summer and into the fall.  The July, August and September release dates are already set (the 21st of each month), so readers who enjoy Camaro Run should keep an eye out.  After that I have a full-length Camaro novel, One-Night Charter, that's making the rounds with traditional publishers.  If it fails to find a home, it will appear on e-readers and as POD in June of 2014.

Q: How do you promote your work?
I do the usual things: blog, Twitter, Facebook.  When I have something new coming out and I have the opportunity (not always the case with my traditionally published work), I make a concerted effort to get pre-release copies into the hands of different folks in the hope that they'll like what I've written and pass the word to their friends and followers.  Results are deeply mixed, and I definitely don't have the kind of media presence that moves thousands of copies, but the hope is that I'll get there eventually.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I have an unhealthy fondness for men's adventure fiction.  These days that's limited almost exclusively to the Mack Bolan novels from Gold Eagle, but back in the '80s I used to have a lot of options.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
I don't have such a character in my Camaro novellas, or in any of my published works, but I can see the appeal.  Usually these supporting cast members are attached to straight-laced, stalwart types, so they represent an opportunity for a writer to cut loose a little bit.  It's hard to stay serious all of the time, and there's a fair amount of humor, even if it's gallows humor, embodied by loose-cannon sidekicks.

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?
That's a good question.  What I'm seeing a lot of are crime writers borrowing stylistically from non-crime writers, specifically Chuck Palahniuk and his imitators.  I actually don't think this is a good thing, because everyone's drinking from the same well and consequently their writing all reads the same.  There's a lot of repetition thematically and even in terms of plot and characterization and I don't think that's healthy.

Q: Why do you write in this genre?
I've never come up with an adequate answer to this question.  I came into crime writing completely by accident with The Dead Women of Juárez, and because people seemed to think I had some talent in the genre, I simply kept on writing works in that vein.  Lately I've been branching out into other genres just to keep my work fresh — Camaro Run is crime-flavored, but actually an action story — but I have no doubt I'll return to crime eventually.  I probably still won't know exactly why.

Yesterday's Echo (Rick Cahill) by Matt Coyle

This one has all the things a PI novel should have, in a timeless way. The premise is not original: a cop with a dark past (his wife was murdered and he was accused of this) retires and hides in a smaller city where a beautiful woman gets him involved with murder and blackmail, coming into conflict with the local cops. Matt Coyle is such a great writer this story is still one to remember. His pacing is excellent, the story never gets dull. He writes crisp prose, never writing a word too many. His discriptions are spot on, fight scenes move like lightning.
Rick Cahill, the protagonist starts out working in a restaurant and ends up a PI in the last chapter, so he will be sure to return. I already look forward to meeting him again and to learn more about who / why his wife was murdered.