What: Danny Gardner enjoys careers as a comedian (HBO’s Def Comedy Jam), actor, director, and screenwriter. His debut novel, A NEGRO AND AN OFAY, is published by Down & Out Books. He is a proud member of the Mystery Writers of America and the International Thriller Writers and is a regular blogger at 7 Criminal Minds.
Where: Los Angeles (by way of Chicago)
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Congrats on the rebirth of your excellent debut novel, A NEGRO AND AN OFAY. For readers who are new to Elliot Caprice, tell us about the book.
In 1952, we find disgraced Chicago police officer Elliot Caprice in the St. Louis County jail after being on the run from his old employers and the Chicago Outfit. He wants to remain on the move, for obvious reasons, but also because he doesn’t want to return to the small town where he was raised by his uncle. Circumstances obligate him to go home, take a gig as a process server and try to save the family farm from foreclosure. That puts him on a path where murder, mystery and social change confront him at every turn. Eventually, his past catches up with him, but he’s not the same man when it does. Oh yeah, and the effect of race, class, and politics on a mixed-race guy from the Midwest sort of play a part in there, too.
I first interviewed you about A NEGRO AND AN OFAY in 2015. How has the changed since the first, short-lived release?
Since then, I’ve gotten far more comfortable with my own storytelling voice, and I’ve had a few more hands on it, including my agent Liz Kracht of Kimberly Cameron and Associates, and Eric Campbell and Lance Wright of Down & Out Books. With their guidance, I refined the prose, giving it more punch and payoff. This also made room for me to add two new chapters and expand a few others. Now the reader has the background on Elliot to really experience the full circle his life takes. It’s the book I really wanted to write all along.
How has your relationship with Elliot Caprice evolved?
I know where his life is going. Maybe because I feel more comfortable with where my life is going. I know his heart. Readers usually ask if he is me. I think, at some point, as long as I keep writing him, our stories are going to come closer and closer to intersecting. Or even merging. Without the murders and missing persons and whatnot.
The path to publication for this book has been unique. What have you learned about yourself as an author during the process of releasing A NEGRO AND AN OFAY with Down & Out Books?
I thought my initial work was like catching lightning in a bottle. Since then, more opportunities have come, with short stories in anthologies and non-fiction work in magazines. The second book in The Tales of Elliot Caprice is almost done. In 2015, I thought I would have to find my voice each time. I now know I can write, man. And I know what my writing feels like. I was a bit worried in the beginning, but now I can find the pocket and just groove, man. I trust myself.
I’m almost done with the second book in the series, titled ACE BOON COON. I have Elliot’s life plotted through the third book. I’m sure he’ll let me know if he’s continuing beyond then.
What are you doing to promote A NEGRO AND AN OFAY? Where can readers find you?
I’ll be dipping in and out of readings and events all year. Bigger milestones are Nolan Knight’s get down at Gatsby’s Books in Long Beach, CA on May 27. From there, I’m headed to NYC for the Book Expo of America and BookCon, where I’m participating in the New Title Showcase. After that, it’s Noir at the Bar in Toronto, then back to NYC in July for ThrillerFest. A few more events dot the calendar until Bouchercon Toronto. Afterward, I’m at Newberry College in South Carolina on October 18th and Murder and Mayhem Milwaukee in November. It’s going to be a busy year, and my schedule expands all the time. It’s a lot of fun.
What other publishing plans do you have for 2017 and beyond?
I have a short story I’m very proud of in Gutter Books’ Johnny Cash-inspired crime anthology, JUST TO WATCH THEM DIE. I am also excited about a longer dystopian sci-fi piece I have in THE OBAMA INHERITANCE: FIFTEEN STORIES OF CONSPIRACY NOIR, edited by the great Gary Phillips and headlined by none other than Walter Moseley. And, of course, as long folks keep reading Elliot, I’ll keep writing him
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S.W. Lauden is up for two Silver Falchion Reader’s Choice Awards! Voting is open to everybody and no registration is required. Please cast a vote for GRIZZLY SEASON (Best Action/Adventure) and CROSSWISE (Best Mystery). Thank you!