Interrogation—Marietta Miles

Who: Marietta Miles

What: Her short stories and flash can be found in Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive, Yellow Mama, Hardboiled Wonderland and Revolt Daily. Her stories have been in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing, Out of the Gutter, and Horrified Press. She is rotating host for Noir on the Radio, Dames in the Dark. Her first book, ROUTE 12, was released February of 2016. Her latest book, MAY, was released on January 8 with Down and Out Books.

Where: Virginia

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the release of your new novella, MAY. How did the story in this one come about?

After ROUTE 12 came out Sandra Ruttan and I began communicating quite a bit. She helped me focus my writing process and outline the steps needed to, hopefully, continue to get published. She would send me publishers and zines that she thought worked for my style. When Down and Out opened their submission window she encouraged me to submit.

The character of May had been cooking for some time and I found my chance to shine her up and send her out into the world.

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Interrogation—Jo Perry

Who: Jo Perry

What: She earned a Ph.D. in English, taught college literature and writing, produced and wrote episodic television,  published articles, book reviews, and poetry. Her Charlie & Rose series includes DEAD IS BETTER, DEAD IS BEST and DEAD IS GOOD.

Where: Los Angeles

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just read DEAD IS BETTER. What inspired such an original concept?

Looking back, I think a couple of things inspired me: I’m in my 60s and the fact that I have an expiration date has become impossible to ignore. So I guess I found myself contemplating death in a serious, curious, voyeuristic and prolonged way.

Taking home a dusty, confused and thirsty dog that had been dumped in a Home Depot parking lot on a very hot day in 2008 is what led, I see now, to writing the book. This dog that someone felt could be discarded like trash—we named her Lucy—changed my world and changed me. I’d always had cats and had no instinct for the canine temperament, but Lucy was a very patient teacher. Lucy is one of the smartest, kindest and most interesting beings I know. She and our other dog, Lola (she was dumped in an alley behind our house) will be 10 in February.  They’ve led me to new experiences, new friends, and often allow me to see the world from a canine point of view.

And once a dog was part of my life, I was in a position to see the everyday, casual cruelties inflicted upon them. Gross acts of neglect and cruelty make the news, but in parks, backyards and on the street, I witnessed unkindness—too-long periods of confinement; chains; choke collars; prong collars; electronic shock collars, and so many violent yanks of the leash—which made me feel helpless, sick and angry. I once asked a man to stop and he choked his dog again right in front of me. I learned to shut up.

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Interrogation—Matthew Fitzsimmons

Who: Matthew Fitzsimmons

What: An American boy from Illinois who grew up in London in the 1970s under the baleful eye of the Kings Road punks. He now lives in Washington, D.C., where he taught English literature and theater at a private high school for over a decade. He cohabitates with a pair of old boots, collects bourbon and classic soul LPs, and wonders if he will ever write anything half as good as the first sentence of James Crumley’s THE LAST GOOD KISS. He is the author of the Gibson Vaughn Series.

Where: Washington, D.C.

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just finished your excellent first book, THE SHORT DROP. How long was Gibson Vaughn rattling around your head before you got him down on paper?

Not very long to be honest, a few months. He grew out of the story, and as the story changed so did he. Pretty drastically in some ways—in an early draft, the book begins with him learning from a doctor that he’s dying. It is embarrassing to admit how long it took me to realize that was a bad idea.

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Interrogation—Mark Rapacz

Who: Mark Rapacz

What: His stories have appeared in Plots with Guns, Revolver, Thuglit, Pulp Modern, Water-Stone Review, East Bay Review, Hawai’i Review, Martian Lit and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. His latest crime novel, A BURDIZZO FOR A PRINCE, is available now from Fahrenheit Press.

Where: Minneapolis

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the release of your latest novel, A BURDIZZO FOR A PRINCE. What was the inspiration for this one?

Thanks, man.  The inspiration actually had a lot to do with stupid BuzzFeed headlines.  Back when I ran a writer blog (my third attempt), I posted this thing about how dumb BuzzFeed was and how dumb their dumb headlines were and then I was like, “somebody should write a book about some dumb BuzzFeed employee who blogs about his life using dumb BuzzFeed headlines as chapter titles.”  Initially, I only made it as far as the headlines.  That first attempt can be found here.

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Interrogation—Warren Moore

Who: Warren Moore

What: His short fiction has been published in venues ranging from Spinetingler to The American Culture, and Out of the Gutter, as well as in three print anthologies edited by Lawrence Block. His 2013 novel, BROKEN GLASS WALTZES, has just been republished by Down & Out Books. Moore lives in Newberry with his wife and daughter.

Where: South Carolina

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the (re)release of BROKEN GLASS WALTZES. What was the inspiration for this story?

One rainy night in November of 1990, I was driving around Lexington, KY, listening to the Misfits. Suddenly, a scene popped into my head—it would become the first four pages of Chapter 10 of BGW. I knew I could build a book around it, and saved the scene under the title “Die, Die My Darling,” which was the song I was listening to when inspiration hit. The next day, I went to the University of KY library and found that the Misfits had lifted the title from a 1965 Tallulah Bankhead movie.

I put the title on hold, and started reverse-engineering my way from that scene. “Who are these people? How did they get there?” So I got hold of Kenny (the narrator)’s voice, and mainly tried to get out of the way. After a while, the new title showed up and resonated in my head, because it felt both literary and pulpy. I finished it a couple of years later, as I was working as a magazine editor in Cincinnati; I lived over the river in Kentucky, not far from Jean’s apartment in the book.

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Interrogation—Peter Rozovsky

Who: Peter Rozovsky

What: An editor, photographer, and reviewer/critic/essayist. He has written the Detectives Beyond Borders international crime fiction blog since 2006, created Noir at the Bar in 2008, and has written essays and introductions to books including SUNSHINE NOIR; Barry Forshaw’s NORDIC NOIR; FOLLOWING THE DETECTIVES: REAL LOCATIONS IN CRIME FICTION; and THE CULTURAL DETECTIVE: REFLECTIONS ON THE WRITING LIFE IN THAILAND. He has shot the covers for novels and story collections by Reed Farrel Coleman, Domenic Stansberry, Charlie Stella, Ed Gorman, Linda L. Richards, and Tony Knighton.

Where: Philadelphia

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

How has crime fiction evolved in the 11 years since you started your blog?

The demise of the P.I. novel has happened about eleven times since 2006. Irish crime writing, particularly that from Northern Ireland, shows signs of gaining the attention it deserves (or at least Adrian McKinty has started to win awards). And I’m not sure whether this is a trend or just my evolving of tastes, but I’ve been paying more attention to newish publishers: the lamented 280 Steps, Down & Out, and writers who fit that mold, people like Johnny Shaw and Jay Stringer.

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Interrogation—Christopher Irvin

 Who: Christopher Irvin

What: His debut collection, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, was a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection. He is also the author of FEDERALES and BURN CARDS.

Where: Massachusetts

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

You’re about to release, RAGGED, your first novel-length work of fiction. What was it about this story that made you go the distance?

Since the publication of SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, I’ve been focused on writing novels. The typical “mainstream” length of 90k words has always seemed impossible for me to reach. I have friends who will write 100k-150k and cut down, but I’ve been much more of an “under” writer during past novel attempts—coming in around 40-50k and trying to push the count up when I go back and edit, filling in details, etc. BURN CARDS was supposed to be a novel, but the novella length felt right and I cut it down. Two other novels landed in a similar no-man’s land, though they had other issues as well.

90k is so arbitrary, right? I’m sure the big publishers have run the numbers and somewhere around 90k is the sweet spot giving them the most bang for their buck. But, part of what I enjoyed so much in working with Cutlass Press is the trust they put in me. I’m not a 90k writer, at least for now. I’ve talked a lot in interviews on RAGGED how everything lined up over the past year timing-wise. When I pitched the outline I set a goal of 60k words—a gut feeling of where the book might clock out. It ended up around 65k after edits, and I’m very happy with the length. I want to challenge myself to write a longer book (the rough outline in my head seems to be headed that way), but we’ll see. I’m happy to take a crack at it and see where I end up.

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Interrogation—Dietrich Kalteis

Who: Dietrich Kalteis

What: The award-winning author of RIDE THE LIGHTNING, THE DEADBEAT CLUB, TRIGGERFISH, HOUSE OF BLAZES and ZERO AVENUE. Nearly fifty of his short stories have been published internationally.

Where: Vancouver

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the release of your fifth novel, ZERO AVENUE. What inspired you to write about the late 70s punk scene in Vancouver?

Thank you, Steve. I guess when I started writing the story I was thinking of forgotten times and a music scene left behind. I liked punk’s edge and the way it threw a middle finger at the establishment. And Vancouver was this backwater place back then, a sharp contrast to what it is now. And the late seventies were also a time before Google Earth, Google Maps and satellite imagery, back when pot fields were a lot easier to hide. All of that seemed a perfect fit for the story I wanted to write.

You depict the denizens of that scene as destitute and a bit desperate. Do you think the history of punk rock has been sanitized? 

I think when punk came along, there was a certain shock that came with it. Outside of its small fan base, it wasn’t well received in the mainstream. Major labels were reluctant to sign punk bands, most radio stations wouldn’t play it, and clubs wouldn’t book punk acts. When I first heard it, I liked its edgy sound, but I thought of it as a kind of music experiment, a fad that would burn out as fast as it came, but it sure was a welcome change from disco.

Has it been sanitized over the years? Maybe it has, or maybe the shock has worn off from when it started over forty years ago. It’s interesting to note that stars like Johnny Rotten, Iggy Pop, Joey Shithead, Jello Biafra, Patti Smith and Mick Jones are still standing and involved in making music.

The drug trade plays a big role in this book. What came first for this story—the drugs or the music? How did one lead to the other?

The idea was for the heart of story to revolve around the indie music scene. The drugs came in as a way for Frankie del Rey to make ends meet and to scratch up enough cash to cut a record and get her band Waves of Nausea out on the road.

I couldn’t see someone like Frankie having a nine-to-five job. Running dope shows us something about her character, like she’s willing to take some risks. After she starts seeing Johnny Falco and he goes and rips off Marty Sayle’s pot field, the risks get stepped up.

Is the marijuana catapult real, or a figment of your imagination?!

A bit of both really. Back in the day, I did know a couple guys who found out about a pot field growing out in the country, and they couldn’t resist. Armed with plenty of big green garbage bags, they drove off to fill up the back of a pick-up and ended up having rock salt shot at them. Coming back with only a really good story to tell. And I guess that story stayed with me over the years. As a lot of story elements I use, this one just spun from something that really happened to what ended up in the book.  

Which was more fun—creating characters like Frankie Del Rey and Johnny Falco, or the names of the fictional punk bands in ZERO AVENUE?

It was a fun coming up with both. While I love dreaming up my characters, I wasn’t sure I could pull off a female main character like Frankie at first, but once I started writing her character it all came together and worked out. She’s just so punk and obsessed with her music, and I like how she never let anything get in the way of her dreams in spite of everything that comes at her. She’s definitely not someone to mess with, and that makes for a pretty good protagonist.

I loved dropping my imaginary characters among the real life ones like Wimpy Roy and Joey Shithead. And it was fun coming up with band names like Middle Finger and Waves of Nausea and dropping them among the real bands of the time, bands like the Subhumans, Pointed Sticks and the Braineaters.

Speaking of Joey “Shithead” Keithley (of legendary hardcore band, D.O.A.), why did you choose to feature him among the fictional punks in ZERO AVENUE?

Joey Shithead’s a punk legend around Vancouver, and he was right at the heart of the punk scene back then, and he’s still standing and going strong. In fact, he’s even run for public office, and his band D.O.A is still pumping out music. How could I not include him, even in a small way?

Why do crime fiction and punk rock go together?

Crime novels are fast-paced and packed with action, violence and desperation, and the punk scene was so edgy, raw and angry and had this us-against-them outlook. It just made a great backdrop and a perfect fit for a crime story.

What’s next for you?

After ZERO AVENUE comes POUGHKEEPSIE SHUFFLE which will be released by my publisher ECW Press next June. The story takes place in Toronto in the mid-eighties and centers on Jeff Nichols, a guy just released from the infamous Don Jail. When he lands himself a job at a used-car lot, he finds himself mixed up in a smuggling ring bringing guns in from Upstate New York. Jeff’s a guy who’s willing to break a few rules on the road to riches, living by the motto ‘why let the mistakes of the past get in the way of a good score in the future.’

I also have a short story that will be included in the upcoming VANCOUVER NOIR, part of Akashic Books’ Noir Series, edited by Sam Wiebe.

Find Dietrich Kalteis: Facebook, Twitter, Blog

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S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna Crime Caper novellas include CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION and GRIZZLY SEASON (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

Interrogation—Paul Heatley

Who: Paul Heatley

What: The author of THE MOTEL WHORE & OTHER STORIES, GUNS, DRUGS, AND DOGS, AN EYE FOR AN EYE, and FATBOY, as well as almost fifty short stories published online and in print at the likes of Thuglit, Spelk, Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Horror Sleaze Trash, and Crime Factory.

Where: England

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

I just read FATBOY and thought it was great. Where did the idea for this dark tale come from?

Thank you! FATBOY stop-started a few times as a short story, but I either couldn’t settle on what it was supposed to be about, or else it kept growing beyond the confines of being a short story. The earliest iteration had the main character and his girlfriend working together to take down his boss at the garage where he worked in order to provide medical care for their son. I thought this sounded a bit too Breaking Bad, though. I read soon after starting of a serial killer called David Parker Ray who had created a torture chamber inside his trailer home. I thought to myself, okay, they’ll do something similar, they’ll create this room inside their home where they can hold the boss to ransom, prove to him they’re not fucking around. Ideas kept coming, things were spiralling. Eventually I just sat myself down, decided it wasn’t going to work as a short story, and wrote the first draft of what would eventually become FATBOY late at night over the course of a fortnight while listening to Ministry’s In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up. Elements from each round of attempts at making it a short made their way into the end product—the girlfriend and young son, the trailer park etc.so they weren’t completely wasted efforts.

The book starts with a bartender, Joey Hidalgo, on a several day bender. Why set this story in bars? Have you worked in bars yourself?

I’ve done minimal bar work, and I wasn’t very good at it! I don’t drink, never really have, so even the simple things like which drink goes in which glass were lost on me. Still, I think there’s a lot of life in bars, a lot of character, particularly dive bars. Maybe not the kind of life you want to live yourself, or characters you want to know, but it’s there. Brian Azzarello, writer of 100 Bullets, once said he would go to bars and just listen to the people there talk, for both inspiration and to shape the crafting of his own dialogue.

Having Joey in bars, on a bender, it was a way of showing his self-destructive personality. I think from the off you know that this guy, while he may have good intentions, is not afraid to do some bad things.

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Interrogation—Tom Leins

Who: Tom Leins

What: A disgraced ex-film critic whose short stories have been published by the likes of Akashic Books, Shotgun Honey, Near to the Knuckle, Flash Fiction Offensive, Horror Sleaze Trash and Spelk Fiction. A novelette, SKULL MEAT, is available via Amazon, and a collection, MEAT BUBBLES (& OTHER STORIES), will be out later this year.

Where: Paignton, UK

Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.

Congrats on the release of SKULL MEAT. How did this one come about?

Thanks, Steve. Weirdly enough, despite the low page-count it took me eight years to put together! The first chunk of the story was published online way back in 2009, and another slab of text languished on my hard-drive for almost a decade. Embarrassingly, assembling the finished version took less than a week!

The novelette length was a bit of a head-scratcher, so I decided to release it myself via Amazon—to satisfy my own curiosity about self-publishing more than anything. I had no idea how a novelette would be received, but I’m happy to say that SKULL MEAT has picked up some nice feedback from reviewers and crime writers alike so far, so it seems like people aren’t too put off by the awkward length.

(Quick quiz question: free copy of SKULL MEAT for the first person who can flag up where the title originated? Hit me up on Facebook or in the comments!)

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