Thursday, February 27, 2014

Q & A with G.Y. RO

I'm always delighted when writers contact me to showcase their work. G.Y. RO was cool enough to do so. So, here's my interview with the writer of the David Pain series which sounds pretty good.

Q: What makes David Pain different from other hardboiled characters?
David Pain is a fish out of water. He doesn't have a law enforcement background. He wasn't in the military. David is a bit of a geek with an Information Technology background. He lost everything, including his wife and job, during the Great Recession. A middle aged man, all that he has left is the guts to find a new purpose in his life. Those past failings fuel his cynicism and bad attitude. It's crazy, but David is a hardboiled detective who doesn't carry a gun. I've fleshed out a five book story arc for Cases of Pain. As the series progresses, David will make use of an interesting weapon to punish the human monsters in his rundown Ohio town. He doesn't quite realize it yet, but those monsters are transforming him into a full-blown vigilante. David Pain gets to a point where he isn't sure if he's any better than the bad guys. Classic noir for modern times.

Q: How did you come up with the character?
David Pain came to me during a rough period of my life. I lived in a fleabag motel for a time. That's when I started to get the idea for a hardboiled detective fiction series. I found myself living as a dead end character in a real life noir story. And let me tell you. Fiction is a much better place than the reality of starring in your own downward spiral. You can put down that Chandler book and go to sleep in your own comfortable bed. You can turn off the television after you watch Out of the Past for the 18th glorious time. Damn. When you have no hope. When you are at the end of your rope. That's brutal. David Pain was a coping mechanism for me. Fortunately, I prevailed. I got my act together. I tried to bring Cases of Pain to life at various times over the years. And I failed. Yet, that didn't stop me from believing in the character and the series. I sat on the manuscript for Schemes of the Slippery Garlic Fiend for nearly a decade. Last year, I worked like a writing fiend to update the manuscript to make it more contemporary. In Schemes, David Pain is getting his life back together. Like me, he's a survivor. As the old saying goes, write what you know.    

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution?
The eBook revolution is chaotic. Isn't it? Anybody with access to a computer has the means to tell their story. No more gatekeepers. Anything goes. That's beautiful. Let people tell their stories. Ultimately, the market will decide what sticks. Take blogging for example. A lot of people got on the bandwagon when blogging was the next big thing. Eventually, most of those bloggers faded away due to lack of readers, waning interest or lack of time. I think we'll see the same thing with the eBook revolution, particularly with independents like myself. Some independents will flourish. Most will not. Writing is the fun part. As I've come to learn, editing, designing and marketing are grueling chores. It takes some thick skin to make it in the book business.

Q: What's next for you and David?
I'm working on the first draft for book two of the series. In the second installment, David Pain will be pitted against a sadistic serial killer who has a bizarre fetish. This case will take David on another step in his journey towards a dark place. Book one, Schemes of the Slippery Garlic Fiend, introduced some key supporting characters. Anessa, who is much younger than David, is manipulating him into finding out the truth about her missing parents. While she seems innocent on the surface, Anessa is destined to become the femme fatale of the series. Another character, Paddy, is David's cagey old mentor. Both of them will figure into a subplot of the second book. Book two also introduces a love interest named Daemon for Anessa. Yes, Damon with an e. I'm brewing up a hell storm. This is only the beginning. Expect a violent love triangle between Anessa, David and Daemon. The weather forecast calls for jealousy, betrayal, beatings and vengeance. Don't leave home without your body bag.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
There's more to life than working and writing? I don't seem to get enough rest these days! At this moment, I'm doing this interview on a commuter train. I try to get outdoors to enjoy nature, but I haven't been doing enough of that lately. Cycling is another one of my non-writing pursuits. I also like to travel to new places. Last summer, I finally made it to Europe. I'd like to go back. I enjoyed the chance to get in touch with my family roots. I'm also a long-time comic book fan. I know it doesn't sound cool, but I liked DC Comics more than Marvel. I'd like to get back into comics. I just need to find some free time.

Q: How do you promote your work? 
I'm knocking on virtual doors. I've been pitching Schemes of the Slippery Garlic Fiend to book review blogs. The reality is that most book reviewers have a huge backlog of books to review. Interviews and guest posts seem like a more viable option to get the word out. I'm probably going to test some online advertising campaigns as well. I also have a Tumblr blog. It's an interesting social media platform.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?
I'm a big fan of the kind of gritty realism of writers like Hubert Selby, Jr. Selby managed to distill the essence of human suffering. It's like he had a pipeline into the misery of the human condition. His writing is provocative, shocking, sickening, powerful and sad. Add to the list stuff like Affliction by Thomas Banks and Crazy Heart by Thomas Cobb. That kind of writing really moves me on an emotional level. Obviously, I gravitate towards stories about doomed individuals. The genre isn't important. It explains why I write a series called Cases of Pain.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?
Why should those guys have all of the fun? David Pain works alone. He is the moral compass in the Cases of Pain universe. Yet, he will get plenty of opportunities to get his hands dirty. In Schemes of the Slippery Garlic Fiend, David has a prescient encounter with a violent mercenary named Augustine Struthers. Struthers is a vulture-like bad ass who does dirty jobs for the highest bidder. Period. His ethics went by the wayside a long time ago. As he tells David after a beat down, every last man who got into the detective racket had the noblest of intentions. Every one of those men thought he was one of the good guys. And look at the outcome. Struthers has become totally corrupted. That's how it should be. Pure noir. I think it's more interesting to have my protagonist take on some of the bad ass elements of those sidekicks, and wrestle with his actions on a moral level.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will?influence the coming generation?
Definitely writers like Reed Farrel Coleman and Ken Bruen. In coming years, I think we'll see the emergence of new talent from gutsy publishers such as New Pulp Press.

Q: Why do you write in this genre? 
The hardboiled genre gets my blood pumping. Part of it goes back to my childhood. I'm a middle aged American. Well, that's assuming that I'll live to be around hundred. Anyway, I was brought up in a household where old time radio shows, film noir and mystery books were the norm. I loved comic books. My older relatives immigrated to the states from Eastern Europe. I'm talking some hard-scrabble, no-nonsense, ethnic miscreants right out of hardboiled central casting. As a grown man, I've gone through my share of rough life experiences. I view life as a long struggle. Happy moments are rare treasures. The sum of my childhood influences and life experiences make the hardboiled genre a perfect fit for me. I like how I can take a character like David Pain and pit him against some of the most vile and obscene monsters out there. This average man relies on his attitude, smarts and guts make a go of it as a private detective. David has flaws. He works alone. He will make mistakes. He will get beaten down. Yet, there is no quit in this man. He is a good man who is sometimes forced to take actions against his own moral code for the greater good. That's what it's all about. That's why I love this genre.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Chasing Charlie Chan (Jimmy Pigeon / Jake Diamond) by JL Abramo

This is the story of JL Abramo's regular protagonist's mentor, Jimmy Pigeon. He tells Jake Diamond the story of the murder of his former partner and we see how he takes on Jake as his partner in his PI firm. Yep, it's a prequel to the excellent Jake Diamond series.
The murder of Pigeon's partner, Lenny Archer (nice  homage) is linked to the actor who played Charlie Chan it seems. In fact, there seem to be some connections to Bugsy Siegel, giving this one a Max Allan Collins / Nathan Heller / historical mystery vibe. Wait a minute... Lenny's brother is called Nathan... Another homage?
Anyway, we follow an assortment of cops, crooks and private eyes move like chesspieces across the board that is Hollywood. They investigate, cheat, and murder as one stupid move leads to another. I really enjoyed seeing these diverse stories intertwine even though I usually like first-person better. And I'm sure you won't guess the surprise ending... I sure didn't see it coming!
It's nice to see Mr. Abramo isn't afraid to experiment a bit. You might want to pick this one up soon because there's a special bonus edition on sale right now.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Q & A with Charles Salzberg

I discovered Charles Salzberg work via Facebook and figured I would like his work and so would you.
To get an idea about his stuff, here's an interview.

Q: What makes Henry Swann different from other hardboiled characters?  
Although Henry Swann purposely shares a number of traits of the classic American PI—a loner, living on the margins of society, perpetually broke, cynical and a little self-destructive—he also differs somewhat.  For one thing, he’s not particularly brave—he doesn’t go out of his way to engage in conflict, in fact, he’ll do practically anything he can to avoid it.  Also, he’s very well-educated, not that the classic detective isn’t intelligent, he or she most certainly is.  But Swann was educated to be something else, anything else.  He’s literate, can quote poetry and prose, and he likes putting together puzzles.  And yet he will do practically anything for money and he isn’t above occasionally stretching the truth, shall we say, to get what he wants.  For another thing, he isn’t strictly speaking a detective or a private investigator.  He’s a skip tracer, someone who looks for folks who’ve skipped on their obligations, financial or otherwise.  He’s good at finding things.  I like to think of him as a journalist who happens to get involved in all things criminal.

Q: How did you come up with the character?  
The character really grew out of an idea.  I realized that as one critic said, detective fiction is very theological in nature.  If you follow all the clues you’ll wind up with a solution.  In religion, that’s God.  But what, I thought, if the world isn’t so rational and is, instead, messy and chaotic?  And so I created a character, Henry Swann, who at first does think the world is rational but soon learns otherwise.  I made him a skip tracer simply to set him off from both amateur sleuths and the classic detective.  He’s just a working class stiff who happens to find people.  He’s actually based on a fellow I interviewed, a real skip tracer, when I was first starting out as a magazine journalist.

Q: What are your thoughts on the whole eBook revolution? 
I love physical books.  I love to touch them, hold them, read them.  But I think is a real place for eBooks.  For one thing, they’re cheaper, which means more access to readers.  For another, they’re much more portable than physical books.  When I’m traveling I can take my Ipad or my Kindle or my phone, and with them have access to scores of books, which means I don’t have to make choices and worry about carrying more than one or two books in my bag, or in my case, knapsack, since I travel almost anywhere and for anytime with just that to hold all my things.

Q: What's next for you and Henry Swann? 
I just finished a non-Henry Swann novella for a company called Stark Raaving Group.  It’s a wonderful idea.  The fellow who came up with the concept has rounded up a whole bunch of crime writers and we’re all writing novellas that he’s going to offer by subscription to readers.  I believe for the first year, he’ll issue one a month, and then after that, two or three a month.  It’s a great opportunity for readers to be exposed to a number of wonderful crime writers and an even better opportunity for writers to reach a new audience.  The name of the novella is “Twist of Fate,” and the protagonist is a female TV reporter.
I’ll also have a third in the Henry Swann series out in October, first as a hardcover.  It’s called, Swann’s Lake of Despair,” and it takes place in the world of professional photography, as well as adding an historical angle—trying to solve a real life crime of a woman named Starr Faithfull, who died in the ‘30s under suspicious circumstances—and also a romantic subplot of a man who’s girlfriend disappears.  While I’m waiting for that to be published, I’m working on the fourth Swann, Swann’s Way Out.  I guess I’ll keep writing them till I run out of catchy titles.

Q: What do you do when you're not writing?
Which is way too often. I love going to the movies.  I’ll see one or two a week.  Having lunch with friends is also crucial to a writer, since we’re isolated much of the time.  I have a weekly lunch with my good friend, novelist and screenwriter Ross Klavan (author of Schmuck) who also happens to have two brothers who are crime writers: Andrew Klavan and Laurence Klavan.  I actually use Ross as one of the characters in the Swann series.  He appears in the second book, Swann Dives In, and he was so much fun to write that he’s in all my others. He’s also the voice of Henry Swann on the videos another friend of mine produced, which can be found on the website. I also use my friend, Mark Goldblatt, as a character.  It’s not really them, just the names, though certainly parts of them are incorporated in the characters. There’s also plenty of time to watch TV, read, and I teach three writing classes a week, which keeps me pretty busy reading students’ submissions.

Q: How do you promote your work?   
It’s the part I hate most, but we have to do it.  Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and I do as many readings and bookstore appearances as I can.  I used to get very nervous before readings.  I still do, but not nearly as much.  And I love meeting people who like to read and like authors.  I also do a lot of blog posts for others and write essays, which also helps promote the work, as do interviews like these.

Q: What other genres besides crime do you like?  
My first love is literary novels.  I’m a big fan of Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, Bernard Malamud, Norman Mailer and others.  I also read a lot of non-fiction.  Lately, true crime, espionage and biographies of people like Arnold Rothstein, Billy the Kid and Jesse James.  And I’m hooked on the New Yorker and several other magazines, which is probably why I drifted into becoming a magazine journalist.

Q: What's your idea about the psychotic sidekick in PI novels like Hawk and Joe Pike?  
I love sidekicks, psychotic or not.  Some of the best parts of reading these novels are the characters created to populate the world of the detective.  That’s what keeps these books interesting, at least to me.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation? 
That’s really tough to answer, especially since I now know a bunch of crime writers personally, having met them through Mystery Writers of America and from being on various library panels.  It’s tough to beat the names of those you’ve mentioned, but there are so many good crime writers out now.  But as far as influencing us, gee, it’s tough to be more influenced than our generation has been by the people you mention.

Q: Why do you write in this genre? 
I fell into it accidentally, but I’ve found that crime is so universal that I can write about any theme I want.  In fact, with the Swann books, ever since the first one, I’ve shunned murder.  There is no murder in Swann Dives In, nor is there one in Swann’s Lake of Despair, or in any the three Swann short stories I’ve written (“A Starr Burns Bright,” in Long Island Noir, Train to Nowhere, in Grand Central Noir, and “The Duke Steps Out,” in How Not To Greet Famous People.  That’s purposeful because I think murder is too easy.  I’m more interested in the non-lethal crimes, crimes that can be almost as serious, especially crimes of the heart.  You watch TV and the movies and we seem to be a nation of twenty, thirty murders a day.  But most of us bump up against the non-murderous kinds of crime, and those are the crimes I’m most interested in.

Bourbon & Blood (Bill Conlin) by Garrard Hayes

This isn't a PI story, even not in the unofficial sense, really. It's more of an action / crime story and would make a pretty good action flick.
Ex-war hero Bill Conlin returns from the war to live in New York. His cousin Jimmy asks him to join the mob and after some refusals ends up doing their bidding. He saves some sex-slaves, kills some gangsters and is set up in a fancy appartment, complete with loads of guns and a good-looking woman. Stuff gets more dangerous, bloody and violent by the second and Bill is soon hip-deep in blood.
There's a lot of tough guy conversations and a lot of violent encounters in this book. There's also a lot of bourbon being drunk. So yeah, the title sums up the story pretty well.
If you think there's not enough action in a Lee Child novel and an Andrew Vachss novel isn't dark enough this one might be for you. Personally, I like a little bit more mystery in a crime novel and a little less action.

Monday, February 10, 2014



Noah Milano used to work for his mobster father but now tries to find redemption for his dark past working as a security specialist. Minnie is his best friend and works at the Medical Examiner's office. When an old friend of Minnie (a gossip columnist) is found dead at a club's toilet stall the cops think it was an overdose. Minnie is not so sure however and asks Noah to investigate. The investigation soon endangers Noah and Minnie's lives as they try to uncover Hollywood's dirtiest secrets.

"Noah Milano is all too human, which makes him more appealing." Les Roberts, author of the Milan Jacovich series.

''Noah Milano walks in the footsteps of the great P.I.'s, but leaves his own tracks.'' Robert J. Randisi, founder of PWA and The Shamus Award.

Jochem's deep and abiding love for classic pulp fiction comes through on every page, and his stories continue the time-honored tradition of the hardboiled American PI." Sean Chercover, author of Trigger City.

''The writing is fresh and vivid and lively, paying homage to the past while standing squarely in the present." James W. Hall, author of Silencer.

''Great pop sensibility with a nod to the classic L.A. PIs.'' David Levien, author 13 Million Dollar Pop.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Killpoint (Mark Tanner) by Michael Beck

I was expecting a story that was more amateur sleuth than PI... What I got was a story so action-packed it would make Lee Child blush.
Mark Tanner is a wise-cracking ex-Army veteran now making a living as a personal trainer and sometime-bounty hunter. His best friend is Bear, who wears a prosthetic arm filled with gadgets. There's another man with prosthetics, Mole, who uses his extra fingers to hunt down the information on the digital highway Tanner needs. Tanner agrees to train a young and attractive tennisplayer but when she disappears is forced to track her down and face some enemies from his dark past.
The incredible toughness of Tanner, the many fights and the gadgets The Mole and Bear carry takes this story a bit too much into pulp / Doc Savage territory sometimes, but basically the story is very entertaining.
Tanner's backstory is very large and an important part of this story. Sometimes it feels like the author put a bit too much story into one novel but will have to admit I stayed glued to the pages during the entire narrative.

Going Dark (Thorn) by James W. Hall

Last adventure we learned Thorn has a son. In this one he has to help him survive his involvement with a group of eco-terrorists called ELF. Meanwhile, FBI buddy Frank Sheffield is preparing to prevent a plot against a nuclear plant.
Every time I open up one of his books I'm reminded about how cool James' writing style is. It is unique but still hard to pinpoint why, in a way John Sandford's style is. It flows very naturally and is a joy to read.
Thorn is cool as always, putting in a few good oneliners but never becoming a pastiche of the hardboiled hero.
Frank Sheffield steals the show here, though. He's a unique character with an original voice and a number of flaws (like his weakness for women). I hope we will see him around in the future.