Friday, November 5, 2010

Jed Ayres Interview: 11/05/10 Hardboiled Wonderland

Jed Ayres is one of the hosts of St. Louis' own Noir@ Bar. His short stories have been published in anthologies, magazines & on the web. He has just finished his first novel,"Peckerwood" and he writes screenplays. Jed acted in, wrote & produced the film "Mosquito Kingdom" which played at the Tivoli at the St.Louis Film Festival. Mr. Ayres also runs the website "HARDBOLIED WONDERLAND". He is a husband, and father of 2 boys and I'm proud to call him my good friend. It's my pleasure to bring you a new interview with Mr. Ayres who is currently in Philadelphia at NoirCon and is the envy of all of us who got left behind!

1)Noir @ Bar just met for the 7th time. Has it lived up to your expectations, is it something you hope to continue indefinitely, and would you like it to grow?

Noir at the Bar has surpassed my original expectations. I didn’t know if we’d register interest from anybody for it. I’ve been to some awfully dull literary events and we didn’t want our baby to resemble those bloodless readings in any way. The enthusiasm the event has garnered in the crime community has been very exciting, and I’m always floored and humbled when a writer I admire will come participate in our tawdry little production.

I would like to see it grow in a few ways. First, I’d love to see St. Louis become a destination for crime writers and hungry young talent to make a mark. Second, I’d love to see the city really embrace the event. Our budget is whatever is in my pocket… ummm, nothing. So, advertising is pretty much nil. The Riverfront Times has run some pieces on us and that’s been much appreciated, but we’re relying on word of mouth to promote it. Third, I’d like for Subterranean Books to prosper and independent bookstores and small publishers especially to get a shot in the arm from what we’re doing. And fourth, I’d like to become disgustingly wealthy from the whole affair.

2) Who first got the ball rolling, you or Scott? Was its origin based on the Philly Noir at the Bar?

When Scott came back from NoirCon in 2008, he mentioned that there was an event in Philadelphia called Noir at the Bar, so named by Peter Rozofsky(SP?), and wouldn’t it be fun to do something like that in St. Louis? Uh, yeah. It would. I have no idea if our events bare any similarity other than the name. I’ve heard that Scott Montgomery and Harry Hunsicker put on a Noir at the Bar Houston style recently and I’d love to have seen that, but again, I have no idea how similar an experience they may be.

3) Who's on your dream list of authors you'd like to see in St. Louis at N@B someday?

Here’s where I’m going to get in trouble for leaving somebody off, but the list truly is infinite. One of the first things that occurred to me when planning it was that it would be great to pair newbies with my heroes – kind of level the playing field and treat everybody equally – let the work speak for itself. So there are a bunch of writers without book deals that I would love to have participate alongside luminaries like…

4) Have you gotten an opportunity to read Scott Phillips's new book "RUT" yet and your thoughts if you have?

I read Rut a couple years ago in manuscript form and loved it. Scott’s got a real strength for creating ensembles of memorable characters to bounce off of each other in hilarious, perverse and tragic ways. He’s also great at seeing things through to their natural conclusions and consequences, for instance, nobody is ever neatly killed off in his books, once dead they pose new problems that have to be dealt with – he may have been a real sack of shit in life, but now he’s a literal sack of shit on the living room floor and we have to hide him - So, the opportunity for him to go a few years into the future and deal with the behavioral trends taken for granted now and play around with the consequences of it all with a fantastic stock of characters was not to be missed.

5) HARDBOILED WONDERLAND,is one of the best, if not the best, crime-mystery related sites on the web. What are some of your favorite websites to peruse?

That’s too much, really, but thanks. I have no idea how you’re supposed to do it. I have no idea what the gadgets and tools that ‘blogger’ offers do or how to install them, I’m totally useless there. I peruse very lightly and am often overwhelmed by a site’s main page – so many flashing lights and videos and advertisements and links – I skip ‘em. I’m an old fart. I get overwhelmed by print magazines that get too creative with their layout too. I check out The Rap Sheet and Spinetingler, Keith Rawson’s video interviews are great and The Nerd of Noir is always entertaining and insightful – I actually read the non-fiction portions of Crimefactory before the fiction too, they’re doing nice things over there. Mulholland Books has come out of the gates with a dizzying display of quality essays from top-notch talents. I don’t know how long they can keep that pace up, they haven’t even published a single title yet, but as long as they’re rolling along at this clip, I’m checking them out. Actually, I’d love to see a print collection of those essays. I’m a Luddite like that.

6) I know that you and Scott have been to L.A. recently pitching some screenplays and a TV series. Have you gotten any feedback or movement in that area since your return?

Scott and I have some scripts and concepts that are pretty kick ass, but I haven’t quit my day jobs yet.

7) You've been working†on your first novel for a while now, are you in the editing process now & how close are you to having a finished product, and shopping it around? Have started looking for an agent yet?

The novel’s working title is "Peckerwood" and it’s looking for a home now. I’m currently gathering dirt on various agents and publishers whom I hope to intimidate and coerce into making me wealthy.

8) You've written a novel, directed a film, acted in a film, written screenplays, had several short stories published,run a terrific website, and write a column for Barnes and Noble. Oh, I forgot you also help run St. Louis's own, N@Bar.’re a husband & a father of two wonderful boys. How do you do it or do you just change in a phone booth somewhere?

I have an amazing wife.

9) Otto Penzler recently commented on Cornell Woolrich, Jim Thompson, and David Goodis’ stature as legends of the crime noir, by saying that there are three current writers who may well be held in the same esteem some day. They were Stuart Neville, Ken Bruen, and Tom Franklin. Would you agree with that and is there anyone else you would add to that list? Also, I gotta note here that I've interviewed 2 of those here at S & W's, (Stuart & Ken), you think you can help me get one with Tom?

I don’t think there’s any arguing that those are three great contemporary writers, but there’s no way to say, with any kind of objectivity, what’s going to be carried on a generation or two down the road. In the case of Thompson, when he died he was out of print. I don’t think many people were banking on him having a resurgence or the legacy he does now. And he’s certainly not the first writer, (or artist of any field), to die in obscurity only to be greatly influential and appreciated a few decades down the road. So who’s to say who that could be now? But if you want to point out some folks creating exciting prose styles that are already being imitated and innovating the way we experience the written word, you’d have to throw in names like James Ellroy, Daniel Woodrell, Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh, plus a bunch more.

10) Tell me about Mosquito Kingdom, what did you enjoy about the experience and what did you dislike about it?

How long have you got? I enjoyed writing it. My second son was just born and I would literally be up in the middle of the night, rocking him to silence with my foot while typing away. In retrospect, I’m glad that I was such an integral part of the process of getting the film made. There were four of us that really got it done – Brad Hodge was the fearless visionary who had the sack to do it in the first place, Derek Elz is the only one who was present for every single second of production and post production, our workhorse and also responsible for the cool look and editing of the film, our star Chad Bockholdt kept showing up no matter what happened the last time we shot. I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know how many times I thought we’d lost him for sure, but Chad’s a dedicated actor and apparently has no standards or sense of shame. And I wrote it and rewrote it everyday into post-production just to make it coherent. It’s not a great movie. But it’s a movie. A finished and watchable movie. One that I’m proud of. I know more people with half-finished films that will never see completion and ideas for scripts that they’ll never get made. I didn’t want to be another one of those guys. I’ve got a finished film, dammit. Now I can try to make a better one. Anyone who has ever made a film can testify that even making a bad movie is very difficult.

11) I thought you did a very nice job acting in that one. Is that something you would be interested in doing more of in the future?

Thanks. I’m not opposed to it, but it’s not something I’m seeking out.

12) You and Scott Phillips are pretty good buddies, how did your friendship develop and tell us something about Scott that we might not know.

I was a bookseller when The Ice Harvest film came out. I’d never heard of the book, but when it came in with the movie cover on it, I picked it up to check it out. The movie credits shocked me. Richard Russo wrote the screenplay? Get the hell out. I figured that if it was worth Russo’s time it was worth mine. And it was.

I found out that Scott lived in town and approached him through his website to do an appearance in my store. He came in to sign some books and I slipped him a copy of a short story I’d written and he very graciously read it and offered to give me some notes on it. He’s been very supportive and I don’t think the fact that I possess some incriminating photos of him from his Paris days even factors into it. He’s the best.

13) The best 3 films I've seen this year were Winter's Bone, Mesrine & Animal Kingdom. How about you, can you give us your fav's and something we might have missed?

My theater going has slowed down to a pretty pathetic rate these days. What I’ve seen is hardly representative of what I’d like to. For instance, I missed Mesrine, Red Riding and The Square during their theatrical runs. I probably wont even get to see The Town or Jackass on the big screen and Valhalla Rising never even came around. I did see and enjoy Winter’s Bone, Animal Kingdom and The Killer Inside Me over the summer, and I thought Brooklyn’s Finest was worthwhile, but far and away my favorite film of the year is A Prophet. It’s out on DVD now. You have no excuse.

14) Do you think you'll look back someday & go "OMG" I helped host Frank Bill & Matthew McBride's first public readings? What do you think the future holds for these 2 youngsters?

I already do. I accept full responsibility for all of their success and apologize profusely to the world. I wouldn’t rule out jail for either of them.

15) Give me 5 living writers that you couldn't live without?

The dude who wrote “may be harmful if swallowed” on the cans of paint. That guy saved my life more than once, but I don’t know if he’s still around.

My bosses (2) who write my name and theirs on paychecks.

The lawmakers who crafted government support for my economically vulnerable family.

Nicholas Sparks. Without him reminding the world that books exist no one would buy them any more. Ever. As someone who’d like to make a living selling books some day I’ve got to say thanks for that, Sparks.

16)What are some books you have read lately that everyone should seek out immediately?

Pike by Benjamin Whitmer, Wolves of Fairmount Park by Dennis Tafoya, The Cold Kiss by John Rector, Savages by Don Winslow, Misadventure by Millard Kaufman, Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith, Nobody’s Angel by Jack Clark, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Florida Gothic Stories by Vicki Hendricks, Late Rain by Lynn Kostoff… are all 2010 books that I really enjoyed… I know I’m leaving off a bunch too… dammit.

17) I know that you and Scott wrote a screenplay for William Gay's first novel, "The Long Home.” Any movement or word on the chances of something happening there?

Haven’t heard anything new on that front for a while. I think people are waiting to see how the other Gay adaptations perform. We’ve had some nice attention from it. People say they like it, but I haven’t quit my day jobs.

18) Off the top of your head, are there a couple of books that you would love †to have a chance to†write a screenplay for?

The Ones You Do by Daniel Woodrell. That’s the one of his that just screams “movie” to me, though I hear the rights have recently been snatched up on that one. I’d love to write an adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s short story The Hardened Criminals. That is one of the most horrifying stories I’ve ever read and I think it could make a hell of a potent, scary movie. Duane Swierczynski’s The Blonde would make a great movie and it’s more or less structured like one already. I’d love to swoop in and take the credit for “writing” that kick ass film. Easy A.

19) You are a terrific interviewer, is there a dream interview still out there waiting to happen?


20) St. Louis will be hosting Bouchercon in 2011, are you planning any big events for N@B in connection with the mystery conference? It seems like a great chance to gather some very special writers for a night out on the town after hours at the Delmar Lounge.

I’m really torn about it. B’Con sounds like “play time” to me and I want to enjoy it. Noir at the Bar, especially on an epic level, sounds pretty stressful to carry. What I’m thinking at the moment is maybe an event the night before B’Con with the real nuts who are in town a night early. Could be a marathon event too. You comin?

Final Question: Where would you like to see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years?

Between Abbott and Bardsley on the bookshelves.


  1. The prophet speaks. Great interview, nice to see Ayres get some much deserved attention. Of course he left out the plunger story, dammit.

  2. Plunger story - unseemly for me to brag like that, but feel free to spread the legend for me, sir.

  3. Nice interview. And Jed does, indeed, have an amazing wife.