Who: Gary Phillips
What: Author of more than a dozen novels, a couple of short story collections, graphic novels, edited or co-edited several anthologies, and has various short stories in numerous anthologies. He is the former president of the So Cal chapter of the Mystery Writers of America, this year’s chair of the Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color grant awarded by Sisters in Crime, and current president of the Private Eye Writers of America.
Where: Los Angeles
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
Your most recent release is 3 THE HARD WAY, a collection of three novellas from Down & Out Books. What is it about novellas that you like as a writer? Do you also enjoy them as a reader?
Interesting that the famed (or is that fabled?) James Patterson is getting into the novella effort in a big way. Not sure this means all boats rise, but it is the case that various writers across various genres have been on the grind pumping out novellas – 20,000 to 40,000 words – for some time. This echoes the heyday of the original pulps in the ‘30s when you could buy for a dime then twenty-five cents a pulp magazine, so-called for the cheap paper it was printed on but now refers to a certain rat-a-tat style of writing, with superhero-type characters such as Doc Savage, the Golden Amazon, Captain Future, the Shadow and so on. Each would have a lead feature said to be a novel-length tale, usually 40,000-50,000 words, plus several short stories.
3 THE HARD WAY then is in that vein. Two of the stories are more pulpy, action-adventure oriented, and the third is crime fiction. As a reader to me a novella gives you just enough story to dig in for a while but the demands of the form mean less extraneous matter and more charging ahead. Though that is not to slight characterization. I like novellas too as that might mean for a series character you can put out three or four of them in a year. Or if the finances lined up, why not once a month like back in the day? No one has done that quite yet, but I would think that’s coming.