What: A participant of the great Los Angeles Music Scare of the 1980s. After his burgeoning career in rock and roll stopped burgeoning, Les found a job writing screenplays about rock and roll musicians whose careers had stopped burgeoning. He’s written some movies and television including the miniseries, Taken, for which he won an Emmy. His novella, FLIGHT 505, was just published by UpperRubberBoot, and his new album, Moved to Duarte, will be up and out any minute. He is currently producing his series, Shut Eye, for Hulu.
Where: Los Angeles
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited. Leslie Bohem guitar photo by Bonnie Perkinson.
I finished FLIGHT 505 in one sitting. How did you come up with this dark, funny and heartbreaking story? Why was 2015 the right time to tell it?
Well, first thanks. A lot. I’d had a first chapter for a while—not the Chapter as it is now; a scene of Al, fixing bar games in a bar where he used to play. And the story just sort of took off.
Why now? Honestly, I just finally got around to telling it. I think I had to get enough distance from my own days in music—and then, a few years ago, I began writing songs again, and that sort of brought me full circle.
What: “Incident on the 405” (from Criminal Element’s Malfeasance Occasional “Girl Trouble”) was nominated for both the Anthony and Macavity short story awards this year. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in several online zines and anthologies. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime LA newsletter, reviews Chekhov shorts and sometimes shoots a short movie. His latest novella is KEEPING THE RECORD.
This interview was conducted by email. Some answers have been edited.
If you had to explain your writing to somebody who has never read your work before, how would you describe it?
I call myself a crime writer. It’s the most consistent thing I write. I often dabble in noir and sometimes I write humorous or action-adventure tales, but I rarely write a straight up “who done it” mystery. I try to push my characters to extremes and have them react. Sometimes it’s funny and other times it’s tragic. Although I usually start stories with an idea in mind, once the characters start interacting, I just try to keep up on the keyboard.
Is crime what you originally set out to write, or did your focus and style change over time?
I originally wanted to write literary short stories as well as screenplays. While my literary shorts were sincere, not much happened except that somebody was unhappy and didn’t do much of anything. Eventually I began to burn out on reading New Yorker stories about wealthy, unhappy people with first world problems. In a writing class in Berkeley, we were assigned the Best American Short Stories of the previous year and the first story was “Puppy” by Richard Ford. I wrote an essay about how I was tired of reading the same down tempo stagnant stories. This isn’t to bag on the Pulitzer Prize winning author, if anything I’m grateful for the epiphany his story (after many others) provided. It broke me from the monotonous literary rut I had been stuck in for years. Around that time I also finished writing the first part of a coming of age novel based on my Grandfather living in depression era Arkansas. The next part was going to require me to learn several musical instruments and reconfigure a carefully constructed family after a tragedy. I wanted to try something new, so I began a manuscript called The Prodigal Detective. After completing it, I discovered a wonderful community of crime writers through Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America…. and I don’t look back much.