What: Author of the Shamus Award-Winning mystery-thriller WHITE HEAT. His story HOWLING AT THE MOON is short listed for both 2015’s Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Short Story. VORTEX, a noir-thriller, is Paul’s latest release.
Where: Los Angeles
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
I just read your next novel VORTEX. I loved how the action bounced around Southern California, almost as if the region was one of the main characters. Was that your intention when you set out to write it?
Thanks for having me, Steve, and I’m glad you picked up on that. To me the location of my stories or novels are characters in and of themselves. They inform the stories, they mold the characters. Often the people are who they are not only because of their background in terms of upbringing or what they’ve done or not done, but also because of where they live now or grew up.
I have stories set all over the place, from Calexico down on the Mexican border to Morey’s Piers, New Jersey, Death Valley, Reno and even Graceland. But the majority would be in LA and Southern California. I like LA for a lot of reasons. It’s Chandler country, so you might think it’s been overused, but there’s always something new to bring to it. It also has Hollywood and Venice (LA’s #1 tourist attraction) and, of course, Disneyland. Plus I grew up here, born in Hollywood, literally. And I’m just old enough to remember LA as Chandler probably knew it from when I was a kid before the building boom and when City Hall was still the tallest building. I rode the original Angels Flight and explored Bunker Hill before they tore everything down in the name of “progress”.
LA and many parts of SoCal are like a femme fatale who seduces you with dreams and promises, then leaves you washed down some arroyo—forgotten about. That’s also what appealed to me about Venice Beach and the Salton Sea in VORTEX. Venice because at one point it was supposed to be a romantic American version of Venice, Italy; and the Salton Sea because it was billed as some waterfront desert paradise that turned into a wasteland of empty, undeveloped streets and rotting, dead fish along the shoreline. I guess the theme I was going for is showing the decay and wasted dreams and a noir sense of the main character being his own worst enemy. You couldn’t tell the same story in New York City or Boston, nothing against those places—they have their own unique attributes, but they have a different vibe than SoCal/LA.