What: An ex-con who spent two years and change in prison on a plea-bargained down 2-5 sentence for burglary, armed- and strong-arm robbery, and possession with intent to sell, at Pendleton Reformatory in Indiana. Since his release, he’s earned a B.A. from I.U. and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College and had 18 books published. His career for many years as a criminal and outlaw lend an air of rare verisimilitude to his crime novels.
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
I just read your most recent novel, THE GENUINE, IMITATION, PLASTIC KIDNAPPING and loved it. Very dark and very funny. How did you come up with the character of Pete Halliday? Why New Orleans?
The novel stemmed from a short story that was published in The South Carolina Review and was about a guy who embodied many of the same elements that make up my own life. He went to the Big Sleazy because that was where I was from and knew the milieu well—especially the criminal areas.
You have published some fiction and some non-fiction—with baseball straddling the line. When did you first develop a love baseball? If you had to explain the game to a space alien, what would you say?
Interesting question! I’ve always loved baseball. Played it as a kid and in high school and had an uncle who was a year older than me who played for five different major league teams back in the sixties. Had a son who was extremely good. If I had to describe it to Yars from Mars, I’d tell him it was chess for athletes. Then, I guess, I’d have to explain chess to him… And then what athletes were… Seems like a lot of work. Best thing would be just to take him to a game in San Francisco and watch the Giants beat the Dodgers. He’d quickly get it…