Friday, March 21, 2014

Q & A with C.I. Dennis

So many interesting new authors produce PI fiction on Kindle these days. Here's an interview with CI Dennis whose Tanzi series is doing pretty well...

Q: What makes Vince Tanzi different from other hardboiled characters?    
I see Vince more as the soft-boiled type. He has a sense of humor, he likes kids, and he’s not afraid to veer from the tough-guy mold, although he’s tough. The books are as much about his own struggles with his personal and romantic life as they are about the central mysteries, or as one Amazon reviewer put it, he’s often “negotiating with his inner grownup.”

Q: How did you come up with the character?   
My uncle was a deputy sheriff in Vero Beach, Florida where the books are mostly set. I thought that he was about the coolest guy ever—he taught me how to shoot, and ride a horse, and I got to ride around in his police cruiser. He was also a kind and devoted family man, which was the best part. That’s where the Vince character originated from, but my characters have a way of writing their own dialogue after a while and surprising me with what they come up with.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?  
I think it’s wonderful in that virtually anyone can write a book and get it distributed electronically, as that will bring many new authors to readers. The downside of this is that there is a lot on Kindle and Nook that is barely readable—unedited, or poorly-written, so review sites like Goodreads will become all the more important. Personally, I love print books, but then I like vinyl albums and CDs, too! Book publishing is undergoing a similar transition to what music publishing has already been through, and there are benefits and drawbacks.  

Q: What's next for you and Vince Tanzi?  
I actually wrote an entire third Tanzi book and shelved it. It was just too “dark” for the character and the series. So an entirely new one is on the way, and so far I’m enjoying it a lot more. I write quickly, so it might be done in a couple of months.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing? 
I have a six-year-old daughter at home who keeps me running! I advise clients with investments, and I also play in two bands; one plays rock, blues, and soul, and the other plays country and Americana. So, much of my writing is done in the wee hours.

Q: How do you promote your work?  
I use Facebook and other social media, but Amazon has been hugely helpful. The algorithm that associates what people buy with what else they might like has promoted my books better than I ever could, and sales have snowballed in recent months. It’s crazy, but I won’t complain because I’m pretty shy about self-promotion like many authors.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?   
I was born into a family of librarians, so I will read anything. In college I was obsessed with Latin American fiction and the nineteenth-century Russians. When I grow up I want to be Wally Lamb.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike? 
Vince Tanzi’s sidekick is a 14-year-old hacker who he calls his “technology consultant”. That’s what I mean when I describe Tanzi as soft-boiled. I love the idea of a tough-guy sidekick like Pike or Hawk, but unless you write with the finesse of Robert Parker or Robert Crais you run the risk of that kind of character seeming cartoonish. It’s tricky.

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’m going to dodge this question somewhat because while I’ve been writing the Tanzi series I’ve held off from reading PI fiction in favor of non-fiction, such as David Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. I try to get in as much research as possible, and I also find that I need to stay focused on my own writing style—it’s too easy after reading someone else’s work to find their style creeping into my pages. So I’m not very up-to-date on what’s new. That said, David Handler’s new series that begins with Runaway Man is a must-read. It’s a hoot.

Q: Why do you write in this genre? 
I like the genre because it’s fairly easy to create suspense and keep the reader turning pages while you weave in details and ideas that make the reader think as well as be entertained. My favorite books are those that are multi-dimensional and will stray from convention, where you find yourself asking: what’s this doing in a PI (or any genre) novel? If it’s done well it makes the reading experience that much better, and that’s what I’m striving for in my writing, although my primary focus is pure entertainment.

The Payback Game (Frank Boff) by Nathan Gottlieb

This is already the fourth novel in the excellent Frank Boff series. This time the ex-DEA agent is hired by a newspaper columnist to find out who killed a young reporter. Of course Boff is helped by boxer Cullen and his many contacts on both sides of the law. Along for the ride is a young female reporter who butts heads with Boff & Cullen on a regular basis, adding some laughs and chuckles. The bad guys are well represented by bikers, mobsters and crooked cops, so expect Boff & Cullen to get in serious danger.
I noticed a small shift in the writing style, reminding me a bit more of Lee Child instead of the usual John Sanford. As always the dialogue is very entertaining and the descriptions of food made me hungry.
Boff shows what an unique character he is once again as he shows how far he will go for justice without ever having to lift a weapon himself. The thinking man's hardboiled detective struts his stuff once again...

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Background Check on: Providence Rag (Liam Mulligan) by Bruce DeSilva

Bruce DeSilva, reviewer and writer's new novel, Providence Rag comes out this month and I find out what's it all about right here...

Q: Tell us what to expect from your new book, PROVIDENCE RAG.
A: Providence Rag is the third novel in my Edgar Award-winning hardboiled crime series featuring Liam Mulligan, an investigative reporter for a dying newspaper in Providence, R.I. The book was inspired by a true story – one I covered as a journalist many years ago. I’ve long been fascinated by the case of Craig Price, The Warwick Slasher, a teenager who stabbed two young women and two female children to death in his suburban Rhode Island neighborhood before he was old enough to drive. Price was just thirteen when his murder spree began and fifteen when he was caught, making him one of the youngest serial killers in U.S. history. But that’s not the interesting part.
When he was arrested in 1989, Rhode Island’s juvenile justice statutes had not been updated for decades. When they were written, no one had ever envisioned a child like him, so the law required that all minors, regardless of their crimes, be released at age 21 and given a fresh start. Nevertheless, he remains behind bars to this day, convicted of committing a series of jailhouse offenses.
I have long suspected that some of these charges were fabricated, but in the very least, Price has been absurdly over-sentenced. For example, he was given an astounding 30 years for contempt for declining to submit to a court-ordered psychiatric examination. Have the authorities abused their power to prevent his release? I think so. Should he ever be let out to kill again? Absolutely not. The ethical dilemma this poses fascinates me. No matter which side of it you come down on, you are condoning something that is reprehensible.
In the novel, the murders are committed and the killer caught in the first seventy-five pages. The rest of the book follows Mulligan, his fellow reporters, his editors, and the entire community, as they struggle to decide which is worse: condoning the abuse of power that is keeping the killer behind bars or exposing it and allowing him to be released to kill again. With powerful forces on both sides of the question, the suspense mounts as it becomes increasingly likely that the psychopath will be set free.

Q: What scenes did you enjoy writing the most?
The narrative is broken by thirteen italicized passages that allow readers peers directly into the mind of the psychotic killer from early childhood to middle age. I loved writing them because the rest of the book is heavy on dialogue, and these scenes gave me the opportunity to write in a more lyrical voice. They are important because when the killer speaks elsewhere in the novel, he mostly lies. They’re pretty creepy, though. I wonder what it says about me that I found it easy to imagine how the monster thinks.

Q: Who is your favorite among the characters in the book?
I have a fondness for Fiona McNerney, a close childhood friend of my protagonist and former a Little Sisters of the Poor nun, who is now serving as the state’s embattled governor.
Because of her take-no-prisoners approach to politics, headline writers have dubbed her Attila the Nun.

Q: How long did it take you to write it?
When I’m working on a novel, my goal is to write at least a thousand good words a day. If I accomplish that in a couple of hours, I can give myself the rest of the day off. But if I don’t have a thousand good words after eight hours, I have to keep my butt in the chair until I reach my goal. By doing that, I should be able to turn out an eighty-thousand-word novel in eighty days. Of course, it never quite works out like that. Some days, when life intrudes, I don’t write at all. There are household chores to be done, ballgames and blues concerts to attend, vacations to take, family obligations to be met. Including such interruptions, Providence Rag, my most complex book to date, was completed in six months.

Q: Did writing the book take a lot of research?
Yes and no. When I covered the real-life story for Rhode Island Monthy magazine years ago, I did a lot of research about the state’s juvenile justice laws and the state prison system. I interviewed the police detectives and forensics experts who worked the case. I read a lot of research about the minds of serial murderers and interviewed experts including Robert K. Ressler, the retired FBI agent credited with coining the term “serial killer.” So all I had to do for the book was brush up on the most recent research on the subject. Thanks to Google, that took less than a day.

Q: Will we see Liam return after PROVIDENCE RAG?
Absolutely. I just finished the fourth Mulligan novel, tentatively titled Providence Vipers, which explores the world of legal and illegal sports gambling. It will be published in hardcover and e-book formats by Forge about a year from now. Once I return from a month-long, coast-to-coast book tour in early April, I’ll dive into three new projects. One will be the fifth Mulligan novel. Another will be a stand-alone, or perhaps the beginning of a new series, featuring a young man who is trying to decide which side of the law to live his life on. And the third will be a collaboration with my wife, the poet Patricia Smith, on a novel set in her native Chicago. I’ve made small starts on all three, but I’m not sure which one I’ll finish first.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say about the book?
Although the characters and plots of my first two crime novels, Rogue Island and Cliff Walk, sprang entirely from my imagination, this has not prevented some readers that suspecting each was a Roman à clef. No, I tell them, the mayor in my books is not a thinly-veiled depiction of former Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci. No, the attorney general is not my take on former Rhode Island Attorney General Arlene Violet. Despite my protests, readers continue to speculate. In fact, two of my old journalism colleagues are convinced that my protagonist is based on them. He’s not. Because of this, I initially resisted the urge to fictionalize the Price case.
In the novel, I invent an early childhood for the killer. I give him a love of reading, allow him to display a clever but chilling sense of humor, and provide him with a prison jargon-laced style of speaking. But I have never met Craig Price. I know nothing of his childhood. I don't know how he talks. I don’t know what drove him to murder. So the character in my novel is most emphatically not Craig Price. None of the other characters in the book represent real people either. Of course, every novelist draws material from life and fashions it into something new.
Still, I can’t help but worry that some readers will view the book as disguised contemporary history. That made Providence Rag a difficult, nerve-wracking book to write.

You can learn more about me on my website:

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Q & A with Alex Segura

Alex Segura came out with a wonderul debut novel, Silent City featuring Pete Fernandez, which reminded me strongly of early George Pelecanos... Now that sounded like someone I would need to inteview...

Q: What makes Pete Fernandez different from other hardboiled characters?  
That's a great question. I think the big difference is where Pete is at in his evolution. He's not really defined as a detective or hero when you meet him in SILENT CITY. He's aimless - drinking himself to death, feeling sorry for himself and hating his job. All things I think everyone's felt at one point, to some degree. I do think there are some familiar hardboiled elements to him, like the drinking. But I really wanted to show what would happen when a "normal" person was thrust into a dangerous situation. How would he respond? Would he survive?

Q: How did you come up with the character?  
I wish I could say I woke up and he was in my head, fully-formed, but that wasn't the case. Pete grew out of a lot of other, non-crime stories I was writing that will hopefully never see the light of day. I wanted to have a protagonist from my hometown, Miami, who was Cuban-American and still relatively young. That idea was formed pretty early. But after I shelved those early writing attempts, including a few short stories and parts of a novel, the idea for Pete was also shelved. When I realized I wanted to take a stab at writing crime fiction, my first attempts were more epic in scale - family sagas spanning the entire history of time. But that, too, went away and I was left with a desire to tell a quick, engaging and "Miami" crime story that also spoke to the state of journalism, the city and its people. So, that's when proto-Pete and crime fiction met and that eventually became SILENT CITY.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
I'm fine with anything that gets people reading and widens the audience for authors and their work. I love a printed book as much as the next guy, but I also see the value of an ereader and understand why some people swear by them. I own one and use it pretty frequently. That being said, very little tops the thrill of coming home with a bag full of new books!

Q: What's next for you and Pete? 
Next up is the second Pete Fernandez book, DOWN THE DARKEST STREET, which I hope will be out relatively soon. It's - believe it or not - a much darker story, and shows what I hope is a natural evolution for Pete, considering where we left him.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Well, I have a day job in publicity which takes up a lot of time, but is very fulfilling and fun - I head up the PR department at Archie Comics and edit some of their upcoming superhero titles. I also play in a band, Faulkner Detectives. We've been a little dormant of late - we had a lineup change and lots of life stuff happening, but we're kicking things up this year and should be playing some shows in the NY area soon. I spend time with my wonderful wife and our friends and family, read a lot, try to stay fit, watch some TV and movies as time permits.

 Q: How do you promote your work?   
I think platform is important. I try to message news out via my channels, like Twitter, my website, Facebook, etc. I take opportunities - like this one! - when presented to me and when they make sense. I try to also engage in a way that isn't just about me. I like Twitter because I can talk to people about what I'm reading, listening to or experiencing. I like Facebook because it keeps me connected with people I know. If, in the process of that, I can sneak in a mention or two about my work, that's great. But I think people get turned off by too much of that, so I try to be fairly judicious about it. My publisher, Codorus Press, has been really great about getting the word out on the book, too - it's gotten some wonderful review attention considering it's coming out from a small publisher.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?  
I love sci-fi. In fact, I'm co-writing a short story with my good friend Justin Aclin for an upcoming anthology titled APOLLO'S DAUGHTERS, which should be a lot of fun. It'll hopefully lead into more set in that universe. I'm a bit of a Star Trek nerd and I love comics and graphic novels, not surprisingly. I've written a few, too - including ARCHIE MEETS KISS and "Occupy Riverdale," to name a few.

Swann's Last Song (Henry Swann) by Charles Salzberg

This one starts standard enough... A skip tracer is hired by a good-looking woman with a lot of cash to track down her missing husbands. The twist comes when said husband is found dead pretty early in the narrative. What follows is more of an investigation in who this man was than a murder investigation. It takes the skip tracer (Swann) from New York to LA to Berlin.
Swann isn't the toughest or most heroic of hardboiled eyes, but the sticks with the job and his first-person voice is pretty much what we all expect and like of the genre.
With each chapter you get the feeling this isn't as standard a mystery as you at first think. It borders the more literary genre and the end is so very surprising a lot of people will not like it. In fact, the author added an alternative ending and an explanation of the history behind it.
Well-writing and surprising... BUT I can imagine the ending might not be to your liking. I found it a refreshing change...
And no, I don't do spoilers here so you will need to read the book to find out what I'm talking about!