Thursday, February 25, 2010

DUANE SWIERCZYNSKI Interview 2/25/19

Duane Swierczynski, is the author of the nonfiction titles "This Here's a Stickup" and "Big Book 'O Beer". His fiction titles include " The Wheelman",
"Blonde",and "Severance Package". He writes for Marvel comics and has a new book coming out in March entitled "Expiration Date". Duane makes his home in Philadelphia.

It was a real thrill to have had the opportunity to do this interview. I want to say thanks to Duane, it was a pleasure! So.. lets get right to it...Mr. Duane Swierczynski.

1) Have you ever done the "Rocky" thing where you sprint the steps to the top of the Art Museum or attend Eagles games and throw batteries or snow balls at opposing players?

No. But my kids have. And they've never seen any of the ROCKY films. Creepy, huh? It's like they're programmed to be Philadelphians at a genetic level.

2)Philly gets a bad rap at times, but its your hometown & obviously you love it. Your books are all set there as well. What should we know about Philly but probably don't?

I have a love/hate thing going with Philly. Love its history and neighborhoods, but hate the dumb asses who ruin everything. By that I mean the thugs and the politicians.

3) Bukowski spent time there, so you got that go in for you... what's the best writer's bar in Philly and where can we get the best Philly cheese steak? My arteries are hardening just thinking about it. Ha

Oh yeah -- I love that Bukowski spent some time here. I keep meaning to dig up the Philadelphia Inquirer article about his Philly haunts. I do know he spent time drinking near Broad and Fairmount, and I used to live nearby. (Not at the same time, obviously.)
The best writer's bar? I'd say McGillin's Ale House on Drury Street.

And best cheese steak? What, are you trying to get me stabbed?

4) How good are Tasty Kakes really? They are legendary, and Marvin Harrison brought them with him to training camp every year. Can you send me some?

I'd send you some, but I believe it is against the law to mail something as sweet and awesome.

5) One million dollars for a comic, are you kidding me? The Superman #1 just sold for that. Did you collect comics as a kid & do you remember your first love?

I didn't collect them -- I bought them and read the living shit out of them. My grandmother would give me a dollar every so often, so I used that to buy one comic and one candy bar. I read a lot of Spider-Man, Iron Man and Moon Knight back then.

6) My mother burnt all my comics in a burn barrel while I was at school one day when I was about 12 or 13. Hundreds of Batman, Superman, Thor, Flash, Spiderman, etc.. from the late 60's and early 70's. She didn't burn my Archies & Richie Rich or Casper though. Do you believe in the death penalty or is that to harsh?

Man. What did you do to your mother?

7) I heard they misspelled your name on one of your early book jackets, how does that happen and how many of those made it out there into collectors hands?

Actually, it was the spine of the actual book, not the jacket. So it's well-hidden. It was the entire first printing of "THE WHEELMAN", so if you own one... it might be worth five cents more on eBay.

8) You published a book entitled, " Big Book O' Beer" ...I assume that required many hours of research, and did it do any permanent damage? Your favorite beer is?

Writing THE BIG BOOK 'O BEER was grueling, man. Every day, I'd come home from work and have to open yet another beer, take some notes, open *another* beer, take more notes...

Okay, it was actually pretty awesome.

Favorite beer? These days it's Shiner Bock. Brewed in Texas. Hard to get here. Which is probably why I like it.

9) I've seen where you signed an exclusive contract with Marvel Comics, is that a long term deal and is it a very lucrative thing?

I make it rule to never discuss business and/or money unless we happen to be sitting around a giant pile of cocaine with guns in our hands.

10) I saw where you were once editor of Men's Health & Details, are you a fitness buff & can you give me any fitness tips I can use while I'm on my computer for hours at a time?

I was the minority hire at both magazines. At Men's Health, I was the tubby one. At Details, I was the un-hip one.

11) You and your brother are both named after members of the Allman Brothers. So, your family must have been big fans. Whats your favorite Allman's tune and have you seen them in concert? Good thing you were named after Duane Allman, & that none of the Allman Bros. were named Sue, or we'd be having a totally different conversation right.

I saw Greg Allman, at Woodstock 2. Duane Allman died before I was born. Catching him would have been a little tricky.
Hell, I'm just glad my parents weren't Sonny & Cher fans. My little brother was picked on enough in school, without him being named "Cher."

12) Your mothers maiden name was Wojciechowski, and Swierczynski translates into "dweller near a fir tree". Is there such a thing as to much information in today's cyber world?

The Internets a wonderful thing, isn't it? You can just lie your ass off and Wikipedia picks it up!

13)On a serious note you named your youngest son Parker, after Peter Parker in Spiderman. What qualities did you admire in Peter Parker or did you just like the name?

Actually, Parker's named for two of my literary heroes: Peter Parker (as you note) and Richard Stark's (a.k.a. Donald Westlake's) Parker, from the long-running crime series. I figure with two role models like Spidey and Parker, my boy will be able to handle anything.

14)Which art form to enjoy working in the most, novels or comics?

I love both, but novels are ultimately more satisfying -- for better or worse, it's just you in the pilot's seat.

15)What writers have mentored you, guided you, or helped you along the way?

Allan Guthrie, a brilliant Scottish crime writer, has been a close friend and mentor to me for geez, six years now. He was my first fiction editor, and his advice and counsel over the years has been invaluable. Plus, he's not utterly shite in bed, either.
And so many other pros have been ridiculously kind to me over the years -- Ken Bruen, Laura Lippman, Michael Connelly, Terrill Lankford, Bill Crider, Ray Banks, Tom Piccirilli, just to name a few. The most talented writers tend to be the most generous.

16)Was being a writer something you always dreamed of from an early age or did it just happen and you went with it?

It wasn't a dream at an early age so much as something I loved to do. Even in college, I never thought I could survive writing fiction for a living -- which is why I became a journalist.

17) Whose books made you want to be a writer?

If we're talking back in high school.... God, so, so many. Stephen King's IT. Joe Lansdale's COLD IN JULY. Clive Barker's BOOKS OF BLOOD. Robert Cormier's FADE. David Schow's LOST ANGELS. Skipp and Spector's THE CLEANUP. An anthology called THE GREAT AMERICAN DETECTIVE.

18) This Here's A Stickup, was a great book but we don't hear as much about it as we do the others. Why is that and what was your inspiration in writing it?

Thanks, sir. My inspiration? An editor I knew wanted a book on bank robbery. He gave me an advance and three months. I got to work.

19) I recently read and followed along on the website for "Level 26". It was a interesting concept, the cyber world working hand in hand with literature at the same time. What kind of feedback have you received and just how much involvement did you have in that project?

I wrote the novel from Anthony Zuiker's detailed notes -- and he wrote and directed the "cyberbridges" (filmed sequences bridging some of the chapters). I think the best way to enjoy it is on something like an iPhone, where you have the pages right there, and you link to the cyberbridges instantly. It's a totally different way to experience a novel.

20) In Level 26, the serial killer is just flat out creepy, who came up with his profile and in the real world could sleep at night knowing someone like him was really out there waiting?

Sqweegel was 100% Zuiker. The man is sick, sick, sick... in all of the right ways. The moment I heard about Sqweegel, I was like, "Sign me up."

21) I was just blown away by "Severance Package", and the word on the street is that Lions Gate Entertainment has picked it up with Brett Simon directing. Also, I hear your co- writing the screenplay which is great news. Is there any news of possible cast members yet and can you tell everyone a little about Brett Simon and the work he's done. This movie has a chance to be a great flick doesn't it?

Everyone should check out Brett's debut, ASSASSINATION OF A HIGH SCHOOL PRESIDENT. It's out on DVD now -- and very much a noir flick set in high school. I loved it. We wrote the script together, and now we're waiting for the next step. Stay tuned.

22) Obviously your a film buff, so can you tell us some of your favorite films, actors or directors who you admire?

I could literally sit here for hours, talking about favorite movies and directors -- I think your readers will have nodded off long before I finished. My all-time favorite movie remains Paul Verheoven's ROBOCOP. If I could ever pull off that blend of action, big ideas and black comedy, I'd be a happy man.

23) I see that Noir Con's in Philadelphia in November of this year. What can you tell us about it for those who've never been to one?

I seem to remember a lot of heavy drinking.

24) Do you ever really know what to expect when your on one of those panels at something like Bouchercon? In Indy, you were on a great panel with Michael Lister and Reed Farrel Coleman and I remember thinking, Duane's the wild and crazy one of this group... and yet you ended up moderating things. A complete role reversal?

Wait, *I'm* the wild and crazy one? When did this rumor start?

25) Whats your back ground musically? Who do you listen to and how much of a role does it play in your writing if any?

I used to play in my father's bar and wedding band -- and some of that experience makes it into my next novel, EXPIRATION DATE (due out March 30th at finer bookstores everywhere!)
When I write, I tend to listen to movie soundtracks. Today, for instance, I've been outlining a new book while listening to the soundtracks of some 80s neo-noir: TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., MANHUNTER and BODY DOUBLE.

26) Are you a sports fan, casual or passionate? If so any of the hometown teams...Eagles,Phillies,Flyers or 76'ers?

Not a sports fan in the least. My father isn't either, and I think that's key. I think you have to grow up with it.

27) I saw on Wikipedia a while back that your considered a member of the ( Ken Bruen posey) along with Jason Starr and Reed Farrel Coleman. Now... that's a group I want to hang out with. Is there a secret handshake or password you could let me in on?

"Hey, guys, can I buy everybody a round?"

28) Whens the next book due in stores, its title and anything you can you can share with us? Set in Philly?

As I so ham-handily mentioned a few questions ago, it's called EXPIRATION DATE, and about an out-of-work journalist who moves into his grandfather's apartment and becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. All of my books, it's the most Philly-centric. It was originally slated to be one of the New York Times Magazine's fiction serials, but sadly, they cancelled the feature not long after I started. I finished it anyway and made it my next book.

Final Question: Where would you like to see yourself 20 years down the road?

Answer questions for part two of this interview: SWIERCZYNSKI, TWENTY YEARS LATER.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

TOM RUSSELL Interview: 2/24/10

Tom Russell, is one of the last great singer-songwriters of our time. If you want honesty, blood and tears, and heart and soul, laid out on the line in every song..then you've found your man. Tom is passionate & insightful beyond his years. He is one of my heroes and I am thrilled to share this Q & A with you.

I can't tell you what an honor it is to do this interview. Tom, I appreciate your time & willingness to participate. I know your time is precious so I will get right to it. The questions are as follows:

1) I've heard that your putting that Criminology degree to work by writing your first mystery novel. How is the book coming along, the title, setting, and how long before we might see in bookstores?

Well, book writing isn’t my main job, songwriting is, so who knows when this will see the light of day? We live just across the river from the most dangerous city in the world, Juarez, Mexico, and that’s what I’m writing about. Sort of a Narco-Corriddo song with 20,000 verses.

2) So many of your songs have religous/spiritual references in them, what are your personal beliefs?

I’m a fallen away Catholic altar boy trying to dig deeper. I’m not interested in religion. To me Religions are like the Kiwannis Club or the Boy Scouts. Lots of Rules and a place where a community of people can hang out and hope there’s something better in the afterlife. I’m an isolate loner. I’m more interested in passion and belief on a spiritual plain which defies religion and travels beyond it and speaks of mystery and freedom and poetry. Like the Gnostic Gospels. I saw mystery in the Shrine of Guadalupe in Mexico City. I only hit on it in shattered glimpses in some songs.

3)You spend an incredible amount of time touring, do you ever get tired of the road?

People who don’t like hotels ask that question a lot.

I thrive on the road. I love the stage and all that the stage implies. It’s Shakespearean and ancient. It’s the minstrel trade and one of the few honest jobs left – if you have something to say. The road makes sense. When you get home you have to deal with cesspools and leaking ceilings and mail. On the road I feel like a boxer or a bullfighter going from city to city throwing the jab, swinging the cape and trying to create magic.

4) I've seen some of your art, and it's really incredible work, when do you find time to paint and how did you learn to paint like that?

I never learned. It’s primitive stuff. I just went in one day and drew a cow and then painted it blue and I was off to the moon. I felt Picasso was in the room for a few seconds. There’s no pressure on my art because I’m not trying to contend in any current market. I have galleries in Santa Fe (Rainbo Man) and Austin (Yard Dog) which seem to move the paintings out the door. It’s a blessing. I paint at night. We don’t have a TV. And the nearest bar is in Juarez, and that’s off limits now. When you’re painting, as Picasso said, you leave your mind outside the studio like Arabs take off their shoes before they enter the temple.

5) Have you gotten a chance to see "Crazy Heart" & if so, how realistic is Jeff Bridges "Bad Blake" as a veteran musician's life on the road?

Have not seen it. I might, but I usually find movies about musicians lacking or pimping to a Hollywood mentality. I don’t think actors can play musicians…

Most of these people want to be songwriters but need to be actors to pay their enormous Karmic rent.

6) I found "Hotwalker" to be just really captured the spirit of a vanishing America and icons like Edward Abbey, Charles Bukowski, Dave Van Ronk...real Americans. Are there any voices still out there today, crying from the pulpit & dying to be heard?

Precious few. There aren’t many young writers of merit. But we still have songwriters like Steve Young and Jesse Winchester and Leonard Cohen who can knock you down with a song. I like the new Jenny Shienman album with vocals. It’s simple but hits me. I love what Ken Bruen does in his novels…

7) As a country we've come so far so fast that its hard to even keep up on a daily basis. Some call it progress....what do you call it and where do you see this country headed? Can we even slow the tide?

I’m not an historian or economist or political scientist, thank God. I’m a believer in art, and not politics and history. I think a Van Gogh or a Bob Dylan can arrive any moment and shatter history forever and create something that resonates for centuries.

A great song might be our only hope.

8) It's obvious your a real champion of the people, from your treat people with such dignity that it has to break your heart to see the working class people being exploited & big buisness getting greedier & greedier. Will we ever see a world where those without means arent a pawn for those who do?

Hell no. There’s not going to be any Utopian Dream come true. I don’t think in terms of a class struggle.

I think in terms of Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Willem de Kooning. My songs are about myself or about individuals. Not classes or groups.Topical songs have a shelf life.

That realization is what killed Phil Ochs.

9) You can capture an individuals life in a three or four minute song better than anyone. Where does the inspiration come from to write tribute songs such as "THE KID FROM SPAVINAW" ,MUHAMMAD ALI, RACEHORSE HAYNES, ISAAC LEWIS ?

Those songs were easy because they were about real people. People with real lives and people of huge character. I grew up watching Muhammed Ali and Mickey Mantle and listening to Bob Dylan. Giants walked the earth. Every chapter of their life; every fight and game and concert was grist for a novel or song.

10) How on earth do you come up with such soulful songs such as Ash Wednesday or Guadaloupe?

Trying to escape my Catholic past, shed that layer of skin and ask myself what love or faith or passion is really about.

And it ain’t on CNN or the six o’clock news or the weather channel.

11) Stealing Electricity and Who's Gonna Build The Walls, are just brilliant. How long did it take you to write those 2 songs.

Probably thirty minutes a piece. Those two came quickly because they were driven by a need to say something fast

about the people I love. Mexicans.

12) Your most memorable or meaningful accomplishment in your career?

Arriving at a place where I could write the songs on “Blood and Candle Smoke,” realizing it was a new plateau, but that there is a higher ground and much work to do.

Final Question: What are some of your favorite venues & what would you like people to remember about Tom Russell 50 yrs. from now?

I love em all. Especially Belfast, Reno,Oslo, London,New York, Chicago…anywhere a few hundred people assemble and want to hear songs. I like to see the audience and I like to pull them in with gypsy moves and good writing…the old craft.

I trust some of the songs will be alive in fifty or a hundred years and that’s enough. But I plan to be around long enough to piss on Methusaleh’s grave.

I have a young and beautiful wife who keeps me in good health…like a great boxing trainer. Adios and thank you. TR El Paso

Monday, February 22, 2010

MEGAN ABBOTT Interview: 2/22/10

Megan Abbott is the author of ( The Song is You, Die A Little, Queenpin, and Bury Me Deep). She has been nominated for Edgar, Anthony,and Barry Awards. She lives in New York City with her husband, author Josh Gaylord. "Bury Me Deep" has currently been nominated for an Edgar and Hammett Award.

I first met Megan last summer at a book signing in Oxford,Ms., and it was a wonderful experience. We had mutual friends and had talked via e-mail, but it was our first face to face and everything I'd been told was true. Megan was gracious, charming, kind, funny and a beautiful person. We shared a common interest in Hobo lore & the gangster era of the 1920's. That night we got a chance to see Barbara Stanwyck's 1933 classic, "BABYFACE" in the same theatre William Faulkner had attended. It was a magical evening. I'm truly grateful to Megan for taking the time for this interview with "Signs & Wonders". So lets get to it with the one & only "Queen of Crime Noir", Megan Abbott.

1)I know that your mother is also a writer, and has a wonderful blog herself. What kind of an influence did she have on you becoming a writer?

With both parents writers—my dad, a professor of political theory has written a dozen books—it was a household where reading mattered dearly. Books were everywhere, and were a regular dinner table topic. They were, and are, both passionate about books, and my brother and I both absorbed that. I consider it a great gift.

2)What’s happening with “Die A Little” in regards to it being turned into a film & is Jessica Biel still signed on for it?

It’s looking like a new option is about to begin, with her still attached as well as a new writer/director, but it’s still in process.

3) What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had on a book tour, either with a fan or the venue itself?

One night, Vicki Hendricks, Sara Gran and I did a Noir Night event at the wonderful Poisoned Pen. Afterward, Patrick Millikin, the store’s fantastic noir guru (and editor of Phoenix Noir), took us on a midnight tour of various crime scenes in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, including the famous Winnie Ruth Judd “murder house” and other creepy locales. The night ended with us sitting in the pitch-black parking lot of the former apartment complex where Bob Crane (Hogan’s Heroes) was murdered in his sleep. I started out the evening feeling like Nancy Drew, but by the end, well, going back to our desolate motel afterward was particularly unnerving!

4) Does being nominated or winning awards put more pressure on a writer to constantly raise the bar?

I don’t really think of it that way. I just feel incredibly lucky. You can’t really write thinking about that stuff, or it’ll drive you crazy.

5) Writers lives are filled with periods of solitude while writing & then stretches on the road to promote their books. Now that your husband Josh is also a published author, how has that changed your lives?

He’s been writing his whole life, so we’re used to being a joint-writer household. The thing that’s newer is all the publishing biz talk. It can be really obnoxious, comparing editors and agents. But mostly it’s such a relief because we both have someone who so completely understands the ravages of this crazy business.

6) I know you have a graphic novel in the works, what’s it called, when will it hit the stores and whose work do you admire in that area (graphic novels)?

It’s called Normandy Gold, a bad-ass 70s revenge tale, hopefully gritty in the spirit of Hardcore, the old Paul Schrader movie. My writing partner is the immensely talented and wickedly funny Alison Gaylin, and if we keep on track it’ll come out late in 2011. It’s been a great adventure. Jason Starr gave us a lot of encouragement, and we’ve been so lucky to get to meet folks like Brian Azzarello (100 Bullets). And we were lucky enough to get a tour of DC a few months ago, which was a big thrill. I grew up on Archie comics, which I keep trying to explain is ripe for a great noir re-rendering. The underbelly of Riverdale. Think about it.

7)What sort of music did you listen to growing up and who do you listen to now?

The usual suburban kid stuff—classic rock you’d listen to at the 7-Eleven. First the Beatles, then the Stones. In high school and college, lots of indie music—REM, the Replacements, the Pixies, Sonic Youth. And I always also loved music that evoked my favorite eras, so lots of Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, the old torch singers, but most of all, Sinatra. And I always try to find new music, though. That’s the stuff that keeps you feeling alive.

8) Do you have any artistic abilities, arts?

I grew up drawing every day, almost obsessively. For a long time, I thought I would be an artist. Eventually, in high school, I started to leave it behind for writing. Mostly, I drew Golden Age movie stars, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Marilyn Monroe. I think that love of old Hollywood glamour ended up appearing in a lot of my writing.

9) Your books have outstanding book jackets. I believe the cover art is done by Richie Fahey, who has also done the new soft covers of Ian Flemings, “James Bond” novels. How much say do you have in the layouts & designs of your covers ?

I don’t have any role in it. I just got terrifically lucky that my editor for those books, Denise Roy, found Richie and that Richie is just so brilliant. I always just want to walk straight into the worlds he creates. And he takes it very seriously, reads the books first and really understands the different time periods. I visited him when he was working on Bury Me Deep and he’d found an old steamer trunk and just the right kind of gun for the cover. And he was casting models and looking for just the right type of soft-shouldered girls.

10) What did you want to be growing up & how did that work out for you?

I wanted to be an artist mostly, or a writer. But I changed my mind a lot. Sometimes I still don’t know exactly what I’m doing. It just sort of happened.

11) What was the worst job you ever had growing up?

All the jobs I had that sound like they’d be bad—slinging pizza dough at Little Caesars, washing dishes in the dorm cafeteria—I liked. But I was never good at the cash register and never could make change.

12) If you could go back in time to any place or time period, where and what era do you go to?

1947 Los Angeles.

13) What’s the coolest place you’ve gone or the best opportunity that has presented itself to you because of your writing?

Oxford, Mississippi. Rod, you know how much I love that town because we hung out together there. Some of my favorite writers and kindest people in the world there: Jack Pendarvis, Ace Atkins, Tom Franklin and, my god, Barry Hannah. Of course, I’m crazy about Los Angeles, and writing about it so much has enabled me to visit a lot. It’s my favorite place to visit in the world and, because several of my books are set there, I’ve got to meet people who show me all these wonderful places—old Tiki bars, tucked away nightspots that seem untouched by time.

14) Have you ever taught a film class before, and I have to ask you...can you share with us those films & perhaps some of the actors or directors whose work holds a special place in your heart.

I’ve never taught a film class, but I used film regularly in my lit classes. I think the one I’ve used the most is Double Indemnity, which always feels like it was just shot last week. It always feels so modern, so vital to me. It just snaps and pulses. Billy Wilder is a big favorite for me, Nicholas Ray, Sam Fuller. And, later, Robert Altman and, most of all, Scorsese. Seeing Raging Bull for the first time, at a revival in college, had a tremendous impact on me.

15) Can you name an author living today who you haven’t met but would love to?

Philip Roth. But it seems unlikely.

16) Among your peers, when you do have time to pick up a book, whose books are a must read for you?

Too many to name, and I’d be afraid to leave out someone important! I do love it when I get to read one of my favorites early. Sometimes Reed Farrel Coleman’s given me a sneak peaks—like with Soul Patch—and it was such a thrill. And I tell you, I just had the lucky experience of reading Sara Gran’s latest, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, which comes out next year, and it just tore a hole through my heart. It’s so beautiful, and it’s the start of a series, so I can’t wait to see where she takes us next.

17) Ken Bruen called you one of the sexiest mystery writers of today. What do you think of us putting together a “Sexy Mystery Writers Calendar” for Christmas? Do you think we could find 12 sexy writers to fill the months? Ha

Oh my, Ken could charm the skin off a snake. And speaking of Ken, I could easily find 12 writers to fill those months. But since I’m an old married lady, I’ll keep my trap shut.

18) Lately we’ve seen Reed Farrel Coleman & Ken Bruen and Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson do successful collaborations. Could you see yourself doing something like that & if so, who might be fun to work with? How about you & your husband, have you guys given that any consideration?

Well, I’m already working on the graphic novel with Alison Gaylin and the collaborative process has been really fun. Writing’s so solitary so partnering with her is a joy. I’m also working on a project with Sara Gran that’s taking shape. As for writing with Josh, he’s said he feels certain that if we collaborated, it’d lead to great marital discord and he’s probably right. Two (neurotic) writers in one household is a balancing act enough!

19) For those times that you get writer’s block, what has seemed to work for you?

I get so terrified by even reading the phrase “writer’s block” that I can’t even think of an answer now. One thing I try to do is get away from the computer and write by hand. It’s a looser kind of writing for me, and feels less pressureful but more intense. It can sometimes help me find my way back. Or I’ll read a favorite author—especially Daniel Woodrell seems to do the trick.

20) Right now there seems to be a bevy of wonderful women mystery writers such as (Sara Gran, Vicki Hendricks, Theresa Schwegel, Chelsea Cain, Tess Geritssen, Karin Slaughter and Sophie Littlefield.) Are there some others out there that we might not be as familiar with but should or will be?

One of the main reasons I wanted to edit A Hell of a Woman: An Anthology of Female Noir, and why David Thompson at Busted Flush Press was so eager to publish it, was to get the chance to highlight so many superb female writers, like Christa Faust, Cornelia Read, Naomi Hirahara, Donna Moore, Charlotte Carter, the list goes on and on. And that anthology barely scratched the surface.

21) Winnie Ruth Judd...guilty or innocent?

The more you read about the case, the more you realize we’ll never know. It was a town run by some very powerful men and there’s some basic facts of the case—what kind of gun was used, for instance, and what was lost at the crime scene when the police permitted hundreds of curiosity seekers to tramp through the house—that we’re just never going to know the answer to. Which is one of the case’s fascinations.

22) What can you tell us about a non-fiction study you published back in 2002 entitled “The Street Was Mine: White Masculinity in Hardboiled Fiction & Film Noir.” It sounds pretty interesting. Where can we find a copy?

It’s published by Palgrave Macmillan and any indie bookstore will order it for you, or of course the obvious online booksellers (you know who they are), it’s just expensive! It’s an academic press and priced for research universities libraries. And it’s really a version of my dissertation so I’m not sure how eager you should be for that!

23) What’s next for you, and when can we expect to see the next book?

My next book, The End of Everything, comes out in 2011. It’s my first book with the incredible Reagan Arthur, who’s edited some of my favorite writers—George Pelecanos, Denise Mina, Kate Atkinson. It’s her new imprint and Little, Brown and it’s very exciting.

24) You seem very comfortable so far setting your books in the 1920-50’s time frame,...any plans to write something set in the present time?

The End of Everything is my first present-day book and the one I’m working on now is also present-day. It’s been an interesting switch, and has brought out different features in my writing and forced me to break some bad habits and get out of comfortable grooves. But I don’t think I could ever say goodbye to the past. I just read Ace Atkins’s terrific upcoming novel, Infamous, which tells the story of Machine Gun Kelly and his wife. It made me long to write something set in the early 1930s again.

25) Which of your books did you enjoy the most while writing it and your favorite beverage?

I have to say, I never enjoy my books while I’m writing them. Or after. It’s like hearing your own voice on tape. It’s embarrassing. (As you can see, I’m a great salesman.). My favorite beverage? If I’m honest….beer. Blame it on my Midwestern roots. Gin’s okay too, of course.

Guest Question from Ken Bruen? Who would you choose to play you in a film of your life’s story?

Of my life story? Any diminutive actress who is very convincing staring helplessly at a blank computer screen for hours on end.

Final Question a Cardinal baseball fan, can you & Reed please make plans to catch another Cards-Mets game this year, since you brought us luck last year?

Tell Reed I’m just waiting for my invite.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Josh Gaylord, is the author of the debut novel, "HUMMINGBIRDS" and lives with his wife, author Megan Abbott in New York City. His next novel,"THE REAPERS ARE THE ANGELS" will be out in August under the pseudonym Alden Bell.

I met Josh for the first time this summer at Square Books in Oxford,Ms. for Megan's book signing of "Bury Me Deep". I found Josh to be a very intelligent and gracious, and I was thrilled several months later to hear that "Hummingbirds" was going to be published. I know Josh will be a writer to keep an eye on in the future and I thank him for this opportunity to interview him at this point in his career. So, with no further adieu, I give you Mr. Josh Gaylord.

1) You just recently published your debut novel, Hummingbirds. Did having a wife who was a writer make it easier or harder to get published?

During those years that she was published and I wasn’t (five, by the way—five long years), I always hoped that her being a writer would help me in some way. It didn’t. In fact, it just made me more psychologically brittle. It’s one thing to be rejected by some anonymous agent. It’s another thing to be rejected by your wife’s agent.

2) How do you go from Hummingbirds to a zombie novel?

I don’t think I’m a writer who has a particular style. It’s true, I do have certain preoccupations (an affinity for grand gestures, epic reveries, people getting along when they should be fighting), but stylistically and thematically I’m all over the place. I like the idea of starting every book from scratch—coming up not just with character and plot but also genre and style. I suppose it’s a little dilettantish, but I also find myself influenced by so many varied kinds of books (from Muriel Spark to Cormac McCarthy, from Carson McCullers to Neal Stephenson) it’s not surprising that those vastly different influences show up in my writing. The zombie novel is the result of years of watching George Romero movies and wanting to get my hands into that rich mythology. Actually, the zombie novel has as its main character a fifteen-year-old girl named Temple. So perhaps it’s not such a departure from the girls’ prep school novel after all. Except instead of spending her time painting her fingernails and listening to lectures about Ernest Hemingway, Temple slaughters the undead with a Gurkha knife and tries hard not to get eaten.

3) I assume you’re still teaching. Do you look for there to be a time you can give that up and write full time? Or would you even want that?

I love teaching. Love it. Ever since I was in high school, I wanted to be two things: a writer and a teacher. I feel like now I’ve managed to do both, and I’m going to hold on to both as long as I can. I am taking on fewer responsibilities at school, it’s true—but I still teach full time, and I would never want to quit teaching altogether. I think it would be very difficult for me to write full time, and I don’t know how other writers do it. All that time alone, stuck in your own head. It seems like it would be hard not to lose perspective in a situation like that. I like it that I have some place to be five days a week.

4) How much of Hummingbirds can be directly related to your experiences as a teacher?

None of the plot points are autobiographical at all. Not even a little. And the characters may be composites, of course, but they are not based upon any real people at all. Mostly, the book is derived from a certain old-fashioned, more cartoonish version of girls’ prep schools. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was just as much an influence on Hummingbirds as my own experience. On the other hand, all the atmospheric stuff about high school life is definitely related to both my ten years as a teacher and also my lifetime as a student. And the central conflict in the book, the rivalry between two male teachers for the students’ affection—that’s something that was actually born out of my experience. When I first started teaching, I was completely envious of this other teacher who always managed to evoke undying loyalty and adoration from his students. But he was so dynamic that I understood where that adoration came from. I was torn. I didn’t know whether to destroy him or to be his best friend. As it happens, I split the difference: I’ve become his friend, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to destroy him every now and then.

5) Have your students read your book, and, if so, what were their reactions to it? Also, did your school administration have a reaction to it?

The administration, of course, trembled a little at the idea of a teacher publishing a book containing illicit relations between a teacher and student. But because the book is a fiction rather than some kind of scandalous expose, they were more supportive than not. Many of my students have read it. They’ve said they enjoyed it—but, really, what else can they say? I’m their teacher.

6) Can you tell us the name of the school you teach at and give us a little insight to it and how long you’ve been there?

This is my tenth year teaching at the Ramaz Upper School on the upper east side of Manhattan. It’s a modern orthodox Jewish prep school—which means that it’s a co-ed school, but that the boys have to wear kippahs, the girls can’t wear pants, and everybody prays twice a day. The student population tends to be very nice, very wealthy (for the most part), and very studious. It’s certainly not the trenches of high school teaching as you frequently hear about it. I feel lucky to have landed there among these students who work so hard and say “thank you” at the end of every class. “Thank you,” can you imagine? Of course, teaching English is always easier than teaching other subjects—because it’s everybody’s favorite, isn’t it? Or, at least, there’s no other class that invites and explores such high drama.

7) Can you tell us about the zombie novel: the title and when can we expect it to come out?

The zombie novel is called The Reapers Are the Angels. It’s being published in paperback original by Holt in August of this year. It won’t actually be under my own name, but will carry the pseudonym Alden Bell. The reason for this is that we’re concerned that the readership for a girls’ school novel may be very different from the readership for a violent, post-apocalyptic, southern gothic zombie novel: so, even though the pen name will be “open,” we want to make it clear that the books are very different.

8) How did your first book signing go? Was it enjoyable, or was their a lot of anxiety?

Since I spend much of my life speaking in front of audiences (and there’s no tougher audience than one composed of high school students), I wasn’t terribly nervous about it. Instead, it really felt like the culmination of many years of effort—like I had accomplished something that I hadn’t been entirely convinced I ever really would. I remember getting the first finished copy of the book in my hands. I just kept pointing at my name at the cover—showing it to everyone I knew, saying, “Look, that’s me! That’s me!” Throughout the entire process, I think I reverted to a distinctly childish kind of fantasy wish fulfillment. But I don’t mind that: I’d rather have that wide-eyed appreciation than the anxious misery of a lot of writers I know who only ever think about publishing in terms of advances and marketing and sales figures.

9) Was writing your first novel easier or harder than you expected, and were you satisfied with the final outcome?

Actually, I wrote my first novel years ago. Hummingbirds was my tenth or eleventh. I have them all stowed away in the proverbial drawer—each distinctly unpublishable in its own way. At a certain point, I had made a conscious decision not to worry so much about publishing and just write what intrigued me, even if I couldn’t get it published. (Thus, a rewrite of an eighteenth-century picaresque novel, a long philosophical novel whose sections are organized by the humors of the body, etc.) Hummingbirds was the first one I wrote that actually seemed like it had a wider appeal, so that’s why I made the effort to get it published. And I have to say that I am rather proud of it. Stylistically it’s not the typical first book: it’s long, it’s got a shifting, vaguely omniscient third person narrative perspective, it’s about teenage girls but not the kind on Gossip Girl. It had a lot going against it as a first novel—but I had a huge amount of support from my editor at Harper Collins, and I’m thrilled that this is my first offering.

10) Do you write short stories or any poetry as well?

I wrote poetry in junior high school, when I was fascinated by scansion. I could do a mean anapestic tetrameter. And every now and then I’ll write a short story, but not very frequently. I’ve always favored the long form—both in reading and writing. I think I like a piece of literature that you have to endure. For me, there’s a value in going on a journey with many stages. It makes the destination all the more satisfying.

11) Any aspirations to write a crime/mystery novel at some point?

I’ll leave that up to Megan. She always tells me that a good crime novel has to constantly be upping the stakes, has to be constantly advancing the plot. But I tend to prefer the slow-burn and the anti-climax. I like a plot that stumbles over itself the entire way through the novel, and then, at the climax, just when you think it’s going to jump into the air, it falls over flat on its face; and then, at the very end, it gets up, wipes itself off and smiles. That’s my kind of plot. I think I would be a terrible writer of crime or mystery.

12) All right we gotta ask. Where did you and Megan first meet? Where was your first date, and was it love at first sight?

Megan and I started graduate school at NYU in the same year. We were both student workers in the English Department, and we met on orientation day. I remember she said something about William Faulkner when everyone was introducing themselves and sharing their favorite writers. So I went up to her afterward, and my opening line was: “So you like Faulkner, huh?” It’s the kind of pick-up line that only works with very particular women. Of course, I immediately adored her, wee and ferocious as she was, but it took me a year to convince her to go out with me. All of our friends thought it was a bad idea—but I knew. I told them, “If I can get her to go out with me, I’ll end up marrying her.”

13) A stiff drink or a cup of coffee to relax?

Neither. I don’t drink alcohol or coffee. Mostly I drink Welch’s Grape Soda. But to relax, I like to go to fast food restaurants and read a book while I’m eating. I find the white noise comforting—and a fast food restaurants are the one place where I’m never worried about whether I’m classy enough to be there.

14) Could you see you and Megan writing something together some day?

Not unless it was part of some fiendish plot that ends in our own double murder. We’re both impossibly obstinate when it comes to our own writing. We have very clear ideas about what we like and what we don’t. Plus, everything I write is written for Megan’s final approval. It would be hard for me to see her as a collaborator rather than as the ultimate perfect reader.

15) Who do you enjoy reading, and what are some of your favorite authors and books?

I don’t read as much contemporary literature as I should. Most of my writing is inspired by writers long dead. I think William Faulkner is at the top of any list I could make, just above James Joyce. Those are writers who make it seem like anything is possible in literature—writers who have the gall not to put a reader’s comfort and ease as their top priority. And they were not ashamed to feel like they were doing something important. I admire that tremendously. In terms of more recent writers, I have been reading a lot of southern gothic fiction: Cormac McCarthy, Tom Franklin, Daniel Woodrell, William Gay. I guess I like them because they’re all acolytes of Faulkner in their own way. But another side of me sometimes likes to dip into more genre-oriented stuff: the cyberpunk of William Gibson and Richard K. Morgan, the graphic novels of Chris Ware and Charles Burns.

16) What were your favorite books you read as a kid?

As a young child, my favorite book was The Phantom Tollbooth. I had a precociously logical mind, and I liked the way everything in that alternative world made sense. Unlike Alice in Wonderland, which has always felt disappointingly random to me, The Phantom Tollbooth feels like a precision allegory—as though every episode and character has a distinct reason for being there. I was also a big fan of a series of books called Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. The premise was that these three young boys solved crimes with the help of their famous friend Mr. Hitchcock. I particularly liked these because the leader of the triad, Jupiter Jones, was immensely logical and liked to invent things. I think I was very fond of reason as a child, for some reason. From these YA books, I leapt straight into Stephen King, which I read through most of my adolescence.

17) Where did you grow up, and did you always want to be a writer?

I grew up in Anaheim Hills, California, just about fifteen minutes from Disneyland. Yes, for some reason I always wanted to be a writer. I was never much of an oral storyteller—I never liked that kind of performative attention. But I loved reading books from the time I was very young, and I always dreamed of producing them myself. I liked the idea of leading people through a maze (or a funhouse, to use John Barth’s metaphor) of my own creating.

18) Are you a music or film buff, and can you share some of your favorites of both genres?

In terms of movies, I love everything from the long and momentous (Antonioni, Paul Thomas Anderson) to the indulgent and crowd-pleasing (George Romero, anything with a high corpse count and/or full frontal nudity). I think my favorite movie of all time must be Paris, Texas by Wim Wenders. Though I am also a huge fan of Wes Anderson’s movies. I have a fierce loyalty to him, and I’ll commit to liking everything he does no matter what. In terms of music, I was raised with a tremendous appreciation of prog rock legends like Genesis, Yes, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Pink Floyd—anything that offers extremely long songs with a healthy dose of orchestral movement and pretension. More recently, I’ve been discovering some great new bands. My favorite bands at the moment are Okkervil River and Wolf Parade (or, in fact, any band that Spencer Krug happens to be in—the man is a maestro).

19) Who has most influenced you as a writer or a teacher?

I owe my career as a teacher and a writer to two people, both teachers I had in high school: Carol Mooney, who taught me how beautiful literature was in the ninth grade, and Richard McCoun, who made me understand the cult of personality of teaching in my senior year. Without them, I would have been a corporate lawyer or something wretched like that.

20) Zombies and vampires, in what lies our fascination with them today?

I think all monsters are fascinating because they represent expressions of the Freudian id that most of us feel so bitterly obligated to keep in check. Monsters are doing things that we would like to be doing but can’t because of some arbitrary distinction that separates right from wrong. Vampires are all about unchecked sexual desire (thus the seductiveness of them). Werewolves are all about animalistic freedom (not having to go to work, earn a living, come home to your family, fulfill your obligations). Zombies are about absolute indulgence and sloth—not that we secretly want to be dead, but zombies are all stomach, all craving, and they do whatever it takes to eat what they want to eat. Being on a diet at the moment, I can tell you that that sounds pretty good to me.

21) I assume your a fan of sci-fi or horror novels (yes, I know what assume stands for) so correct me if I’m wrong, but if so whose work in those areas attracts you or might have influenced your writing?

Actually, I haven’t read that many sci-fi or horror novels since I left Stephen King behind in high school. Every now and then I’ll read a good one, though. Right now I’m reading Demon Theory by Stephen Graham Jones. And I very much liked House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. And, as I mentioned above, every now and then I’ll dip into cyberpunk. But I’m not a connoisseur of either genre. That’s why my own zombie novel is less of a zombie novel per se and more of a southern gothic novel.

22) Are you a sports fan? If so who are your teams?

The only thing I know about sports is what I can figure out about the game of football from watching Friday Night Lights. I’m the classic unathletic geek and you would find me watching the Food Network rather than ESPN every time.

23) The person you would most like to meet?

Related to the question about music above. I would love to meet both Spencer Krug (Wolf Parade) and Will Sheff (Okkervil River). I have a kind of fanboy admiration of both of them and the music they make. I have often thought of writing to them, but I’m quite sure they couldn’t care less about some doofusy school teacher from New York.

24) Favorite cities to visit?

I love going back to LA and rediscovering the place that I was too young to appreciate when I was growing up in its suburbs. But I think one of my favorite places to visit is Oxford, Mississippi. Yes, Faulkner’s hometown, but every time I go I discover something amazing about humanity. The people there are just incredible. Not to mention the food. The best chicken and dumplings I ever had.

25) What was your worst job?

I worked in public relations for about seven months. It was soul crushing. Probably because I had very little interest in what I was doing. I just couldn’t muster enthusiasm about figuring out ways to market breakfast cereal to various demographics. It all seemed like a big joke that no one was laughing at.

Final Question: If you could trade places with anyone for one day, who would it be?

I would love to be Miley Cyrus for a day. It seems like she’s having a good time. And a day would be good. I don’t think I could handle much more than that.


When I got up this morning I thought I was headed to Louisville,Ky. to see Ramblin Jack Elliott perform at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church. Ah, but it pays to check ahead and remain flexible. I called to Louisville to check on things and found the concert had been cancelled. So..I just shifted gears & found a new plan. As it turns out it was to be an amazing day. We (my wife & I) left town early and made a little detour on our way to Springfield to a little town called Virden,Il. I found 2 wonderful bookstores there. The first was called, "THE SLY FOX" and it was closed but I knocked on the door and the owner came out and 2 hours later I'd bought a couple books and made a new friend. The shop specializes in mystery books including many hardback firsts dating back to 1998 when the shop first opened. The shop is charming and also has a ample children's section. After we left there we stopped on the square & Judy headed to a pretty cool coffee shop while I headed a couple doors down to the towns other bookstore,"BOOKS ON THE SQUARE". It specializes in used quality books & the selection was outstanding. One of the owners, Jeannie Alexander gave me personal attention as she led me through the 3 buildings that house their books. The store is very organized and the selection is quite varied. The store even has a couple of congenial Labrador's instead of the usual cat. Jeannie gave me 10% off on my first visit and I found some treasures I couldn't live without. Virden,Il.'s square is worth your time & effort if your you love books and have an afternoon to kill. Both of the stores owners were the type of people you always hope to meet but seldom do.

Then we were on our way to our new destination, the Sangamon Auditorium in Springfield,Il. to see the BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA and blues legend JOHN HAMMOND. John Hammond is a 1985 Grammy winner & has 33 albums to his credit. He plays the harmonica & 12 string & 6 string guitars. He's performed or recorded with Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Tom Waits, and Duane Allman amongst others. John opened the show with a 10 song solo act, performing songs of his own, along with songs of Howlin' Wolf's,Big Joe Williams, and my favorite Jimmie Rodgers. He really tore it up and I could easily have heard some more. If your a Blues fan and your not familiar with John, look into him. The Blind Boys of Alabama were up next, and have been performing for over 60 years & have 5 Grammy Wins ! They are well known for taking traditional gospel tunes and making them more contemporary. They also will take a popular song & keep the music & add gospel lyrics as they did with the nights encore, an old Stevie Wonder tune. Their version of Amazing Grace, with cover music from a Metallica tune was unbelievable. For me, the highlight of the evening was lead singer, Jimmy Carter's song "Down in the Hole". For all of "THE WIRE" TV fans, you'll recognize that song as the intro in season 5. Following the show, 3 of the 4 Blind Boys, (minus Jimmy Carter who was feeling under the weather) came out and signed CD's & T-Shirts. They were all gracious and kind and I look forward to seeing them again in the future. From Louisville to Springfield, stay flexible because, it's all good !

Friday, February 19, 2010

LEONARD COHEN, elected into Songwriters HOF & Stunning! Debut Novel by Robert Jackson Bennett

Congratulations, to Leonard Cohen, one of the finest living songwriters of our time on his induction into the "Songwriters Hall of Fame". The 41st induction ceremony & the awards dinner will be held on June 17th in New York. Mr.Cohen was already a previous inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I was fortunate enough this fall to catch his latest tour at The Fox Theatre in St. Louis. It was a terrific show and one I won't soon forget, especially his live version of my favorite tune, "My Secret Life".

I just finished reading Robert Jackson Bennett's stunning debut novel, "Mr. Shivers". I found it intriguing & gripping on many levels and at times I was reminded of the classic, "The Grapes of Wrath" and the non-fiction title "Worst Hard Time". It's a tale of murder, good versus evil,and with a touch of the supernatural set in the The Great Depression. A time when thousands of men roamed road the rails in search of work and garnered the name of "Hobo's". It was obvious to me that Bennett had done his research into the Hobo world. He got it right in his descriptions & details of the those times. I had a dear friend, named Ramblin Rudy Phillips, now deceased, who was a deprssion era Hobo who rode the rails from (1925-32) and loved to regail stories of those days to me. Bennett's voice rings true here. The tale does have religous undertones and will make you ask yourself, to what extremes would you go to preserve and protect your own family or way of life? Would you literally sell your soul ? It's a real page turner & will stay with you after your done. If it ever gets made into a film, Tom Waits would make an ideal Mr. Shivers.

"Preservation Hall" in New Orleans,La.......real jazz.

A new CD that deserves your attention is called "PRESERVATION", and it contains 19 songs (25 on the deluxe edition) recorded by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, along with a host of accomplished musicians as varied as Tom Waits, Pete Seeger and the Blind Boys of Alabama. The proceeds from the album will go to help the struggling New Orlens icon survive. Located a couple doors down from Pat O'Brien's in the French Quarter, Preservation Hall is limping along on it's last leg. I've spent a couple of wonderful nights inside that tiny venue, cramped but happy, sweating profusely, and listening to some ageless New Orleans classics such as "The SAINTS GO MARCHING IN" . This isnt some pre-fabricated Disneyland, Preservation Hall is about history & keeping its storied past alive. The venue was first opened in 1961 and only has room for a couple rows of wood benches and does not contain AC. It is music at it's most primitive and it is a must see when your in the Big Easy. yourself & Preservation Hall a big favor, run out & by the CD and then head to New Orleans and catch the PHJB in person and help preserve an American icon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

DICK FRANCIS, passes away at 89.

Former jockey & British author Dick Francis passed away today at the age of 89, due to old age at his home on Grand Caymen. He's survived by 2 sons, 5 grand kids, and one great grand son. His wife Mary had passed away after 53 years of marriage. Francis won 345 races as a jockey, before becoming an author and published his 1st novel in 1962. He published 42 novels, most of them featuring the horse racing industry. His final novel "CROSSFIRE", co- written with his son Felix is due out in August. Mr. Francis always the gentlemen, will be missed.

REED FARREL COLEMAN: Interview 2/17/10

From the moment I met Reed a couple years ago, I immediately liked him. Like most New York natives, Reed is a straight shooter and he's got a Heart of Gold. It's with much gratitude that I present this interview. Reed Farrel Coleman, is the author of the ever popular Moe Prager mystery series which includes,(WALKING THE PERFECT SQUARE,SOUL PATCH,THE JAMES DEANS,EMPTY EVER AFTER and REDEMPTION STREET).Reed recently co-wrote "TOWER", with author Ken Bruen. He has also won Shamus, Barry,and Anthony Awards and garnered a Edgar nomination.So lets get to it with Mr. Reed Farrel Coleman.

1) It had to be quite intimidating, to be handed half a book and being told to finish it. Craig McDonald's said he can't see doing that. But you did it and you pulled it off in a big way with"TOWER". Did you ever have the feeling that you were taking a really big chance here? RFC: Tower was an enormous undertaking, one, I suspect, that I might not have tried had I known just how difficult it would turn out to be in the end. However, it ranks up there as the best work I’ve ever done. It was certainly the most difficult. And yes, I was taking risks on several levels, not the least of which was risking my friendship with Ken. Believe me, this book tested both of us in ways we never anticipated. Still, the book turned out very well and Ken and I are still close. In some ways, we’re bound closer together because of the trials we went through with the book. I’ll stop now because I could give a whole interview based solely on the writing of Tower.

2) Most people think of an authors life on the road as a cool and exciting thing. Whats life on the road for you really like? RFC:It’s like business travel, only lonelier. Christ, I sound like a Roy Orbison song. It’s also more exhausting. Let me give you the itinerary for the first day of The James Deans tour I did about five years ago. NY-LAX. LAX to a TV studio to do a cable network book show. Back to LAX. LAX to Phoenix. Rented a car, drove to Poisoned Pen to do a signing. After the signing, drove to Tuscon for a signing the following day. That was one day! Luckily, I’ve made many friends along the way and during the Tower Tour, I stayed with some friends and had meals with other friends in almost every city. Still, there’s nothing sexy or exciting about it. Never mind the guilt you feel for leaving your family behind to do the hard work.

3) Lets change gears, I know your a huge Mets fan, so my question to you is this, a Mets World Series championship or a NY Times Best Seller, your choice? RFC: NY Times Bestseller, no contest. A retired NYPD detective friend of mine, Tom McDonald said something to me many years ago that I’ve never forgotten. “When the Mets or Jets lose, you eat your heart out. You think when you get fired or get sick that they lose any sleep over you?” So as much as I love my teams, I always keep Tom’s advice in mind.

4) What was it like being a Haz Mat driver? I've been told they have permission to just run over anyone who gets in their way, as its better to avoid a potentially worse situation. Any horror stories? RFC:Basically, I drove #2 home heating oil. It isn’t very dangerous, but the possibility of rolling the truck over—very easily done—and spilling the load was always a danger. You have no idea what a mess a ten gallon spill makes, never mind a 3000 gallon spill. I once did a 360 spin on ice in a full Mack truck. Scared the shit out of me.

5) Do you collect anything yourself, books, autographs, perhaps? RFC: I collect debt. Seriously, no, I’m not much of a collector. It’s not in my nature. For me, value is in people, not in things. That is not to say I don’t admire collections or collectors. Just not me.

6) Whose got better game Reed Farrel Coleman or ESPN's Fran Frachella? RFC: Sometimes I forget that we played on a schoolyard bball team together. We were so into bball that we got together and created our own Saturday morning league at PS 209 on Coney Island Ave and Ave Z in Brooklyn. We had refs, even a monthly newsletter(written by yours truly). Fran was on my team one year. I have pictures to prove it. He played point guard and you could see then he understood the game on a very deep level. He was the better player, but I could out write him.

7) I gotta get this in here, whats your favorite Jr. High T-shirt to play ball in? RFC: Effingham Mustangs.Go 'Stangs!

8) For those who don't know, at Bouchercon, there's an annual basketball game that you play in. Harlan Coben told me its crazy and he was afraid he'd get hurt. How physical are those games & would you recommend leaving your feet in the lane? RFC:Let me put it this way,it wouldn't be Bouchercon without,as I call it, "The SJ Rozan Memorial Basketball Game." The first one I played in, SJ broke her finger. The most physical one was in Vegas. Gary Phillips and Jeff Tindall went head to head in that one. I don't blame Harlan. Besides, there's only room for one bald Jewish detective novelist on the court at one time. As you know, it's always dangerous to mix people of widely various skill levels on the court. My favorite teammate is Steve Hamilton. My favorite opponent is Tom Schreck.

9) Whats a perfect day for you? RFC: I feel like making a Lou Reed joke here, but I won't. That could be the hardest question I've ever been asked. When I have one, I'll let you know.

10) Can you remember the first picture show you ever went to see or your first concert? Who & Where? RFC: First concert was Sly and the Family Stone at the Wolman Skating Rink in Central Park in 1972. First movie I remember going to see was Village of the Damned with my brother David. I didn't sleep for a year.

11) If you could go back in time for one day to NY in the 1920's, Coney Island or Ebbets Field? RFC:That's a tough choice, but I would pick Coney Island in its heyday. Ebbets Field was demolished by the time I was conscious of the Dodgers having moved. But in Brooklyn, one grows up hearing stories of what Coney Island used to be. In its meager remnants you can see what it once was. I would really like to see that.

12) You went Lincoln HS in N.Y., and you played a little football , but it was there that you also decided you wanted to be a writer. Is that correct? RFC: Correct. I played JV and was the starting weak side tackle and long snapper. During the practice for my moving to varsity, I realized I didn't have the dedication for football, but had it for poetry. Oddly enough, I sometimes use long-snapping as an example in the writing classes I teach. To this day, I can snap a ball fifteen yards right into a punter's hands. It's a talent I was born with. It's actually not dissimilar to being born with writing talent. A lot of people try it, but only some people can actually be good at it.

13)Whats been the biggest thrill or most satisfying for you personally as a writer ? RFC:There's a tie at the top here. The day I saw my first poem published in the high school literary magazine. The day I found out my first novel was actually going to get published. My first, and only, review in the NY Times. My first Edgar nomination. But if I had to choose, I'd say it was winning my second Shamus Award for Soul Patch. It was the first time my wife was there to see me win and as I walked off the stage, Lawrence Block gave me the thumbs up and smiled at me. It was Block's Scudder series that helped shape Moe Prager.

14) If you had a chance to sit down over drinks with anyone to pick their brain, ( alive or deceased) Who & Why? RFC: Probably Jesus Christ.

15) How important is music to you, who do you like, and does it have any role in your writing process? RFC: I'm ashamed to say it plays less of a role in my life than it used to. It was never a critical part in my writing process. However, I love to listen to music when I'm cooking. I do all the cooking in my house.

16) Do you think mystery writing is better today than 25 years ago & whats changed? RFC: I stay away from those judgements because I don't see the point. It's kind of like those sports arguments. Could Oscar Robertson compete with Kobe or LeBron? It's not an answerable question. I can say that some of the best mystery writers ever are alive and working today.

17) Do you read much yourself & if so, who do enjoy reading & who's influenced you? RFC: I read all the time, but not as widely as I used to. Influences: Hammett, Chandler, TS Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, David Lehman, Lawrence Block, Philip Kerr. But I always find this a static question. The fact is I am influenced by everything I read. I hope to never stop being influenced. Favorites: Daniel Woodrell, Philip Kerr, Ken Bruen, SJ Rozan, Megan Abbott, Peter Blauner, Peter Spiegelman.

18) What are some of your favorite films that have stayed with you over the years. RFC: Dr. Strangelove, Annie Hall, The Outlaw Josey Wales, The Third Man, Touch of Evil, Clockwork Orange, The French Connection, The Seven-Ups, Diva, Duck Soup, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, King Rat... I have a long list. My favorite bad movie is the original Casino Royale.

19) Who's got the better drivers NY or NJ? RFC: New York, hands down.

20) Jets over the Giants why? RFC: Jets. The Giants are the team of fat cats, lawyers, accountants, and suits. The Jets are the team of truck drivers, garbage men, and mystery writers.

21) If the Moe Prager novels get made into films at some point, who could you see playing Moe? RFC: Ah, I never answer that question, though I have an actor in mind. I want the reader to see Moe as he or she sees him, not as I see him.

The CACTUS CAFE in Austin,Tx. ...Closing?

I have never been to the Cactus Cafe in Austin,Tx., but I wish I had. All I had to do is look at the list of musicians who've played there. I mean any place in Texas thats had Lucinda Williams, Guy Clark, Tom Russell, Slaid Cleaves, Dave Van Ronk, Ramblin Jack Elliot, Jesse Winchester, Arlo Guthrie, T-Bone Burnett, Bob Dylan and my daugters favorite Ani DiFranco, all on the same stage, is my kinda place. So, I was saddened to recieve Tom Russells e-mail this morning bemoaning its being closed down due the fact it's losing a little money. The place has been open since 1979 and is a staple on the Austin, Tx. music scene. These type places are the soul of America and the corperate world is sucking us dry. This is just another example of the iconic staples of this land going under. This country was once great, but so many of things that once made us great are going to the wayside. Our country was once dotted with carnival sideshows, Rt. #66 , Drive-Inn theatres, dime stores, Coney Island, juke boxes, diners, and the list goes on & on. We dont even know our neighbors any more, more less talk to them. We are becoming a society of seclusion and walled off communities. But we do have Wal-Mart, lots of Wal-Marts. So, every time I see another of our icons going under I can only think.. do we really believe this is progress? It reminds me of Tom Russell's soulful album, "Hotwalker", a tribute to a vanashing America. Give it a listen.. when Tom speaks, I listen. Tom states.. "the University system has failed us". "Colleges are turning out robotic accountants, morally warped bank CEO's and parasite scientists sucking on the fat teat of the grant system". "Campuses are strangely remote places where people walk like zombies through the fear vaccum and occasionally slaughter other people, because the vibe is deathly cold, isolate and fearful". It's like Bob Dylan said, "the times are a changin", you can feel it the air. Charles Bukowski where are you when we need you most? FINAL NOTE: I got on the club's website right after reading my "Notes from Tom Russell", and was thrilled to see a student lead organization was being formed, to save the "CACTUS CAFE". I encourage you all to let your voice be heard before its to late. Support your small town businesses, ma & pa diners and theatres, independent bookstores, and anything else that matters to you before they can take it away.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines from St. Louis 2010

Judy & I spent most of our Valentines Day driving in a snow storm, to and from St. Louis. Now that we're back home safely I can tell you it was worth it. The days activities really began several years ago when I first viewed the movie "Adaptation" starring Chris Cooper, and based upon the novel "The Orchid Thief" by Susan Orlean. I loved the book & the movie, although they are quite different from each other. I was immediately intrigued by the world of orchid smuggling. These rare plants often found in the most inhospitable of places, are some of the most beautiful and unique plants known to man. I once gave $75 for a single orchid plant only to kill it within the week. Just so you know, in case you get any ideas yourself, orchids are very hard to raise in your home. I have been fascinated by orchids ever since those previous days mentioned. There is something mysterious & exotic about them. So...yesterday I surprised my wife with a trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens to see their 2010 Orchid Show. There were over 800 different plants of various colors, sizes & shapes. Oh, and the smells can be intoxicating. We shot over 100+ photos between my wife and I, and wandered the exhibit for around 2 hours. The orchids were exhibited within a setting of Parisian sidewalks, complete with a cafe. It was a wonderful experience and one I'd highly recommend to you. The exhibit runs through March 28th. It will run you $13 per person...a steal in my book. Of course we couldn't leave town without having dinner first at Bill Edwards "Blueberry Hill" in U. City and a trip through Vintage Vinyl. And yes, as anyone who knows me knows, we did hit a couple bookstores on the way out of town. Once home, it was time to get warm, pop some popcorn, grab a beverage, and pop in "Adaptation" was time to go full circle and return to where it all started.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

CRAIG MCDONALD Interview 2/13/10

A few years back I came across Craig McDonald's "Head Games", the first Hector Lassiter novel and immediately fell in love with it. Toros & Torsos, his 2nd novel was even better. Then I got to talking to Craig on Crimepace and was right away overcome by his generosity and willingness to answer my questions. Then I came across Craig's books "ART IN THE BLOOD" & "ROGUE MALES", a series of interviews with today's top mystery writers. This was great stuff ! I believe Craig to be as good it gets when it comes to the art of the interview today. Eventually, I was able to meet Craig & his lovely wife Debbie at this years Bouchercon in Indianapolis. It was there that I found out what I already knew, Craig is a wonderful guy on top of being a great writer. He took me under his wing and I am eternally grateful. The following is a recent interview that Craig was gracious enough to grant someone far below his expertise. So, we begin with Mr. Craig McDonald.

Would you rather gain a reputation as a great writer or a great interviewer?

(A) Great writer, definitely. The author interviewing is behind me, now. I did a few interviews last year, but they were last, special cases. There are such demands on my time, there’s simply no room or desire to do that, anymore. You can burn yourself out interviewing authors if you really throw yourself into the task, and I did just that, for many years.

2) What was your most memorable concert experience and your favorite concert?

(A) Most memorable? Probably a Tom Russell concert last year. He did an on-stage riff about me, about HEAD GAMES and Pancho Villa, about ROGUE MALES…then he dedicated his song “Stealing Electricity” to me. Favorite concert? I saw Kris Kristofferson perform an amazing couple of sets in the mid-1980s in a roadhouse in a remote part of Ohio. Perfect set selections…all those classic songs he wrote in Nashville as an unknown… A perfect night.

3) If you could sit down to dinner with one person (living or deceased) to pick their brain. Who & Why?

(A) Joseph Campbell, I think. I was heavily influenced by his work, even before the Bill Moyer’s interviews made him a public guru. I feel I could still learn much from him about narrative form and symbolism…about the stuff the unconscious part of your brain somehow invests in a work of fiction.

4) When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer & what writers have had the most influence on your writing?

(A) I was trying to write fiction at the age of nine. I tried to write a crime novel while riding in the back of a car for a weekend trip to Lake Erie. As to fiction influences, I think the ones that matter most come earliest. So Lester Dent, Ian Fleming, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury and Ernest Hemingway. The only living, contemporary novelist I can say deeply influenced me as a mature fiction writer is James Sallis. Without the inspiration of his Lew Griffin series, there would be no Hector Lassiter series.

5) I know you’re a huge music fan & that you listen to music while your writing. Who do you listen to & do you use it to set scenery, feel or place in time?

(A) I tend to pick a singer or songwriter to set a sustained tone or mood for a book and then stay with that artist through a particular project. HEAD GAMES was written to Tom Russell. TOROS & TORSOS was written to a lot of old torch songs and period music, but mostly to Bryan Ferry’s cover of “Where or When,” which I listened to some insane number of times while writing that book.

6) In the Hector Lassiter novels, Hector is close friends with Hemingway, Orson Welles & Marlene Dietrich. Were these 3 favorites of yours while growing up?

(A) Hemingway very much so. Orson Welles tends to fascinate me more than being a favorite. In some ways, Welles seems to have been a fairly deplorable human being. As it often is, in his case, it’s the “trust the art not the artist” conundrum. Marlene worked her way into the series only because of my desire to incorporate the filming of TOUCH OF EVIL into HEAD GAMES. I listened to a CD of her singing while writing those slivers of HEAD GAMES in which she appears. Other than TOUCH OF EVIL, I don’t think I’ve made it through another Dietrich film in its entirety.

7) Head Games will soon be published as a graphic novel. Are you a fan of that genre & if so whose work has caught your eye?

(A) I admire the form very much. As to the ones I most admire, and these are fairly obvious masterworks, Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS and Alan Moore’s WATCHMAN are both sublime. FROM HELL also impressed me very much.

8) How much of you is in Hector or how much of Hector is in you?

(A) I guess all of Hector is in me because I wrote him…or perhaps “channeled him” would be more accurate. Having said that, if it’s not a paradox, maybe about half of me is in Hector. He started out as a composite of some other people.

9) What are some TV series that you'd highly recommend?

(A) Not much on currently really works for me other than SUPERNATURAL and MAD MEN. The ones that got away would include THE ROCKFORD FILES; MAVERICK (the ones with James Garner); REILLY, ACE OF SPIES; DEADWOOD and the Jeremy Brett SHERLOCK HOLMES TV series.

10) No Country for Old Men or There Will Be Blood?

(A) No question, NO COUNTRY. I was an early and enthusiastic reviewer of the original novel. The book’s better than the movie, but the movie was very strong.

11) I know you’re a big Tom Russell fan, Tom’s a singer, songwriter, writer & painter. Do you dabble in any other art forms yourself?

(A) I took a lot of art classes in my youth and thought I might actually go that way. Tried my hand at songwriting during college. I’m much more effective, I think, as a novelist. That said, I did dabble in painting for some reason while writing HEAD GAMES. I’ve got some canvases around of some characters and pieces tied to that book.

12) What films do you think did justice to, or exceeded the book?

(A) Hitchcock’s PSYCHO is definitely better than Bloch’s original. I think NIGHT OF THE HUNTER did a very striking job of catching Davis Grubb’s novel. I have to say I far prefer Huston’s FALCON to Hammett’s original.

13) Directors to me are similar to authors and songwriters in that they all tell stories in their own way & own format. Are there any directors whose work you follow on a regular basis?

(A) I agree with you up to a point. Film is a collaborative medium and I think collaboration tends to have an inherent bias toward missing the artistic mark more often than not. I don’t understand how novelists can collaborate on books in that sense. I don’t fathom why one novelist would try to write with another. But there are some cinematic auteur's like Welles who come about as close as one person can to stamping a collaborative work with what seems like a monolithic vision. So, Welles is in that weight class…I loved Alan Rudolph’s 1980s works, particularly THE MODERNS and TROUBLE IN MIND…the little seen SONGWRITER. Film has kind of fallen away for me in recent years and I’m not really inspired by cinema. I think I’ve seen maybe only a dozen films in a theater in the last five years. On the other hand, my next novel is very much tied to German expressionist cinema and its influence over film noir. That novel is called ROLL THE CREDITS and will be out about a year from now.

14) The life of a writer can be a pretty solitary one, do you enjoy those quiet times the most or do you prefer getting out on the book tours and author events?

(A) Writing is soulful; promotion is anything but. It’s great to trade emails or letters with readers, and to meet them one-on-one, but I’m no natural or happy public speaker. It’s strange to ask a writer — someone who pretty much lives in their head — to be an orator or entertainer.

15) What musicians could you not live without & can you give us one that we not have heard of but should?

(A) Tom Russell, Kris Kristofferson and Mickey Newbury are crucial songwriters for me. All three are very novelistic and Kristofferson, in the early days, was writing music influenced by Blake and Yeats and their poetic structures. Someone you may not know? I loved Melissa McClelland’s THUMBELINA’S ONE NIGHT STAND and played it over and over while writing a not-yet-published Hector Lassiter novel about Paris in 1924.

16) Are there any new authors out there who we may have missed but should seek out?

(A) I can now admit that I served on this year’s Hammett Awards Committee, so my 2009 into early 2010 reading was pretty much dominated by that task. I read maybe five books I wanted to read for my own reasons last year and they were tough to squeeze in…I had to turn down several requests for blurbs because I simply couldn’t spare the time. It was a huge task vetting all these awards submissions. I read or sampled something like 300 crime and mystery novels as a committee member and a number of those were 2009 debuts. The first novel of 2009 that most impressed me, and which made the final cut for the Hammett nominations, was Jedediah Berry’s THE MANUAL OF DETECTION. It’s unlike anything else written last year…it’s quirky, fresh and very true to its own strange vision. I love that in a crime novel.

17) Jazz or folk....Werner Herzog or Coen Bros?

(A) Folk, for certain. Me and Jazz aren’t happy together… I’d have to go with the C. Brothers over Herzog, though it runs pretty hot and cold, movie to movie, so far as the brothers go.

18) I just finished Robert Jackson Bennett's debut novel "Mr. Shivers" ( I LOVED IT), & I thought of you due to its subject matter " the great depression & hobo's". Do you think you'll ever write something yourself that involves the Hobo world ?

(A) I don’t think so, but never say never. Outside of Hector’s world, my other historical stuff in the trunk tends to predate the Depression era… Well, now that I think more on it, the first (and still unpublished) novel I ever wrote is based on the Cleveland Torso Slayings, which had a definite hobo element, but I came at the crimes through a late-1980s’ prism (which was when I wrote the book).

19) Obviously you did a lot of research for "Toros & Torsos" into the surrealist art movement. Are you a fan of surrealist art or any of Man Rays pieces?

(A) Quite the opposite. Even as a young art student, I found surrealism to be a pretty disturbing genre for self-expression. I tend to loathe the surrealists and find, as is stated by various characters in TOROS, that the surrealists were a very misogynistic, messed up bunch. I think a couple of them were potentially—or actually—homicidal. One lesser aim in TOROS was not to glorify the surrealists, but to indict them.

FINAL QUESTION: There are 2 types of people in the world (givers & takers)...I’ve found the mystery book world to be filled with givers, just incredibly helpful & nice people. Has this been your experience as well?

(A) I agree with you a hundred percent. It’s a world and a scene that’s very inclusive, very collegial at all levels. As always, there are those exceptions, but they are, thank God, very rare exceptions. You can’t ask for better companions, friends or mentors than those you find in our segment of the literary world.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Criterion Films .....getting soft on us?

I'm an avid film buff, and I have over 7,000 films in my basement. The top of the line has always been Criterion DVD's. "THE BEST" print available of those chosen are on Criterion. They are known for pristine images, wonderful sound & lots of extras such as director commentary and deleted scenes. You can expect to pay $40 to $50 per film. There are over 300 films that have received the royal treatment over the years. Up until now you could expect to find the big guys like Woo, Ford, Bergman, Hitchcock, W. Herzog, Ozu, Kurosawa, Renoir and Truffaut there. Recently though that's changed with newer titles like "A Christmas Tale", "Gomorrah", "Che" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" being added. I just read a NEWSWEEK article on this very issue and explanations are given. My question is have they sold out on what made them so unique in the first place. They are supposed to be preserving the important films! For something to be prestigious it has to matter. Criterion Films have always mattered that's why I own 30+ of them despite the cost. Personally I'm a little disappointed by their recent selections. I can think of a number of films more deserving than these. I'd love to hear from you readers what films you think are important enough to be preserved for years to come. I nominate our own Scott Phillips "Ice Harvest", and Tony Scott's "True Romance". I'll have to go to Criterion's website and check an updated list and get back to you all.

JIM WHITE April 28th, 2007

I really believe that every once in a while we just get lucky, or we stumble into something that changes our lives. In 2007 my wife & I attended The Roger Ebert Film Festival in Champaign, Il. We've been going for about 10 years now, but that year holds a special place in my heart. We had just seen a 7 p.m. showing of "STROSZEK" a Werner Herzog film (one of my all-time favorite directors) and it was getting late but the 10:30 p.m. show intrigued me. The show was called "SEARCHING FOR THE WRONG EYED JESUS" directed by Andrew Douglas & stared a little known folk singer named Jim White. The movie is like something straight out of a Flannery O'Conner novel. If you've ever read WISEBLOOD, then you will love this film. The film is about religion in the South but it's no documentary. We follow Jim as he drives through the South & it works. The cameo by Harry Crews was worth watching it alone. It's a strange film but a good one. After the show ended Jim White came on stage there at The Virginia Theatre & performed two songs "The Wound that Never Heals" (a tribute to Aileen Wuornos) and "A Bar is Just A Church That Sells Beer" and I was blown away. I was able to talk to Jim afterwards and was drawn in by his simple & genuine kindness. If you want to write a crime novel & need to set a tone, sit down with "Jailbird","Static on The Radio", or "Still Waters" and let your mind drift. It's truly great stuff and has a sound you'll be hard pressed to duplicate. I've been waiting for 3 years now to catch Jim again. I missed my one chance in Chicago a few years back due to a conflict. However, I am forever on the lookout for that next opportunity. Jim's from Florida, so if you live in the South you have a better chance of catching him. Do, I'm tellin you he's that good. I own 4 of his CD"s (Transnormal Skiperoo, Drill A Hole in That Substrate & Tell Me What You See, Wrong Eyed Jesus, and the Soundtrack from "Searching for the Wrong Eyed Jesus"). He also has a great website, so google him and check it out. Jim has a brand new CD out entitled "A Funny Little Cross To Bear", that hit record stores on Feb. 3rd. Let the Downloads Begin !!!!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I have to begin by saying that Ken Bruen is one of the good guys in this world. He's actually one of the nicest guys I've come across. But, for anyone who's ever read Ken's books you would think he's gotta be a madman. If you've never read his stuff, well what are you waiting for. Ken is the king of gritty crime noir, and he hails from Galway, Ireland. He is the author of 20+ novels including the Jack Taylor series which begins with "THE GUARDS". He also has another series with Inspector Brant. He has 2 recent stand alone's set in the U.S., "AMERICAN SKIN" and "ONCE WERE COPS" and recently combined with Reed Farrel Coleman to pen "TOWER". Ken was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to sit down and answer some questions for an interview series to begin here on "Signs & Wonders". To Ken I am eternally grateful. Gra Mor ! So here we go with Mr. Ken Bruen.

S&W: Which do you look for, great music or great songwriting? KB: Great songwriting first and if you can find both, alleluia.

S&W: Can you name a songwriter who you think would make a great novelist? KB: Tom Russell and he's currently writing a novel, Jim Sallis is a terrific musician.

S&W: Does music have an influence or a role in your writing process? KB: Hugely, I sometimes describe a character solely by the music he listens to.

S&W: Do you ever hear a song or see a film & that's my life or been there done that? KB: Ash Wednesday by Tom Russell and Paris Texas, I think,... that's my life.

S&W: You're an artist, you paint with words, but if you had to tell your story in another art form, what would it be? KB: I have a Diploma in Art and did a lot of paintings, all crap. I'd love to be a singer songwriter.

S&W: Musicians you can't live without? KB: Gretchen Peters, Tom Waits, Tom Russell, Johnny Duhan, Leonard Cohen.

S&W: In the movie, Crazy Heart, Jeff Bridges character "Bad" Blake is asked, where do all the songs come from? He responds "life". Don't you think that's true of most artists, writers included? KB: Absolutely, certainly its true for me.

S&W: It seems to me that the best writers, musicians, and artists have all learned to channel or tame, the "pains" of life. They do it or their destroyed by it. Do you think a person can be an effective artist without the "pain" or getting out there and really living? KB: Yes I do, but the artists and writers I love best have all been wounded.

S&W: If you could sit down to dinner with any one person (living or deceased)to pick their brain. Who and why? KB: Cormac McCarthy, to ask him about his influences, who he reads and what drives him. I love how he has no interest in celebrity. He is one of the truest writers I've ever read and a pure poet.

S&W: Is it every writers dream or nightmare to have his or her book made into a film? KB: Dream, I would think, but after the movie comes out, they are so frequently disappointed.

S&W: 99% of books are better than the film, can you think of some off the top of your head that lived up to the greatness of the book? KB: 4...To Kill A Mockingbird, L.A. Confidential, Paris Trout, The Reader.

S&W: If you can choose anyone to play you in a film, who would it be? KB: Tommy Lee Jones or James Woods.

S&W: Are their any particular actors or directors work who you follow closely? KB: Todd Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Steve Soderbergh, Luc Besson actors Sean Penn and Benicio Del Toro.

S&W: What films have stayed with you through the years like an old friend? KB:Thanks to Craig McDonald, Touch of Evil, Double Indemnity, Witness for the Prosecution.

S&W: Who's cooler and sexier writers or musicians? KB: No contest but Musicians, apart from Megan Abbott.

S&W: Final Question...Cormac McCarthy has been able to to achieve mainstream success with "No Country" & "The Road", a Pulitzer & Oprah appearance, but has been able to maintain his pre-breakthrough lifestyle. Daniel Woodrell's film, Winters Bone just won a Grand Jury Award at Sundance & the film could lead to a breakout for Daniel Woodrell. Right now you have 2 films based on your novels ( London Boulevard & Blitz) coming out. You also have the Jack Taylor TV series. You are already a much loved and highly acclaimed writer. After finally achieving mainstream success, do you worry about the changes it can bring to your life or do you embrace it? KB: Oh God, I just embrace it and have to pinch myself. I'm just delighted. What it mainly does is it makes me try to up my game. The new Jack Taylor, headstone, I'm taking huge chances and still not sure if I can pull it off.