Saturday, May 20, 2017


Over a his Blood and Ink blog, my buddy and Fight Card alum Derrick Ferguson recently interviewed my good friend from down under, Fight Card mainstay David Foster (aka: James Hopwood) about a new anthology in which he appears, Hollywood Murder. Derrick was kind enough to let me reprint their interview here...So, for this post, I’m turning Bish’s Beat over to Derrick to kick the Willy Bobo (don’t ask) around with David Foster/James Hopwood...
DERRICK FERGUSON: Who is James Hopwood?
DAVID FOSTER: James Hopwood is my pen name. I have also been Jack Tunney three times. But in the real world I am David James Foster. I assumed a pen name to separate myself from three successful artists, albeit in different disciplines, who have published under the name David Foster. Firstly there is an excellent award winning Australian author; then a world champion woodchopper; and finally a successful musician and music producer. Then there's David Foster Wallace, of course. Adding another David Foster to the marketplace, would not only detract from their achievements—as well as my own—but would create confusion for the reading public.
Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors, away?
I live in Melbourne, Australia, in a little seaside suburb called Seaford. Near the pier that featured in the original Mad Max with Mel Gibson. Yeah, those bill collectors, can't outrun those guys. I mainly work in graphic design and typesetting—small scale stuff, my illustration skills aren't too crash hot these days. But I get by, no complaints.
Tell us something about your background.
I grew up in rural Australia, about 2.5 hours north of Melbourne on the Murray River. It was a small town called Echuca. They filmed a TV mini—series there in the early 80s called All The Rivers Run, which starred Sigrid Thornton and John Waters. I only mention it, because those who've seen it will have a pretty good idea about my old home town. I got out of there pretty early though, in my late teens, to study art and design. Finally made my way to the big smoke, and have lived here ever since.
How long have you been writing?
I guess I've toyed around with writing since I was in my twenties, but I was one of those guys who kept it all hidden away in a bottom drawer. But the internet changed all that. I corresponded with like—minded people from all around the globe, people who were into the same kind of books and stories as I was, and I thought if they're giving it a go, then I should too. Five years ago, I broke the shackles when I penned a novella for the Fight Card series, called King Of The Outback. The reaction to it was pretty positive, which gave me the confidence to keep going. 
What's your philosophy of writing?
I'm pretty loose with my approach, and I keep changing to suit my circumstances. I write pretty much every day because I enjoy it, but I am not too concerned if I miss a day or even a week. The thing for me is to be at least thinking about my work, and how I will use the time when I do get in front of a computer. I hate sitting in front of a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike. I am also a big believer in research. Like any writer, I hit road—blocks and snags along the way. But I have found the harder I work researching, the more likely I am to find that nugget that will get the story back on course. That's not to say my stories are based on fact, or some kind of concrete truth, but it's from there I find ideas spring forth. 
How did you get involved with Hollywood Mystery? Whose idea was it?
Pro Se Productions put out an open call a couple of years ago for the anthology, and at the time I was tied up with a few other projects, so I reluctantly let it slide. However, when my schedule opened up, I was surprised to find there were still a spot open and decided to pounce. My idea was for a Thin Man type of story, featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
I presented a proposal for a 10,000 word story that featured Myrna Loy being stalked by a taxi driver at the premiere of her latest movie. However, corresponding with Tommy Hancock, Pro Se's Editor-in-chief, I lamented that with such few words, I couldn't really do a traditional 'cozy' ending—you know the type, where all the suspects are gathered in one room, and the detective announces who the killer is. To create that kind of ending, I suggested I'd need more words to define each of the individual suspects. Much to my surprise and delight, Tommy got back to me and said, if I needed more words, take them. So I did, and a new story arose.
The idea for the anthology was Tommy's—he appears to be as much of a fan of classic mystery movies as I am. The other authors on board the project are Mark Squirek, Christofer Nigro, Wayne Carey and Gordon Dymowski. Admittedly, I am biased, but I think we've put together a damn good package.
Judging by the story you wrote for Hollywood MysteryThe Poison Pen—You're quite the fan of William Powell and Myrna Loy and the work they did in the classic Thin Man series. What was the first Thin Man movie you saw and how old were you when he saw it?
I was in my early 20s (about 25+ years ago) when I first caught The Thin Man on late night television, and I loved it. I don't think it was ever released on VHS or DVD in Australia (but am happy to be proven wrong). It was many years later once online shopping became available that I was able to pick up the series from England, and they have remained a regular part of my movie diet ever since (along with the Michael Shayne movies, with Lloyd Nolan).
What's your favorite Thin Man movie and why?
Undoubtedly the first one. While all the movies are good, as the series progressed a little bit of what we'd now call 'political correctness' seeped in. When Nick and Nora Charles had a son, the boozy comedic antics were toned back, and they were gently transformed into more respectable role models—albeit with their flaws and nuances. 
I was impressed by how you captured the style and elegance that was the hallmark of both William Powell and Myrna Loy. How much research into the background of their relationship did you do?
Thanks, Derrick. Of course, I watched all the films in the series repeatedly—and a documentary or two, about Powell and Loy. But I did stay away from Dashiell Hammett's original story. I wanted The Poison Pen to reflect the breezy style of the movies, rather than the source material.
You planning on writing any more stories about Powell & Loy?
I have no plans at the moment, but if there's demand for more, I'd be happy to oblige. 
Do you have any dreams of writing a Thin Man story and/or novel for Pro Se?
That would be fantastic, but I am sure the estate of Dashiell Hammett would have a thing or two to say. Into that mix throw whoever holds the rights to the film series, and I'm guessing it would be a potential minefield. But it is a nice dream. Hey, if a deal can be arranged, sign me up!
You and Paul Bishop collaborated on creating a character: Mace Bullard of the Foreign Legion. How did that work out? How'd you guys come up with the character?
Paul Bishop actually came up with the idea for Mace Bullard for a project he was putting together with Tommy Hancock, called Bishop & Hancock's Pulse Fiction. Pulse Fiction featured a whole swag of new characters, and when I first heard about the project I was interested in an American Indian character who'd washed up on a shore in Africa. But Paul pulled me aside, and said that he wanted me to take a look at Bullard. I hadn't really read any Foreign Legion pulps at that time, but he hooked me up with some Robert Carse Legion tales, which I devoured, and realized it was a genre I could sink my teeth into. Paul had Bullard's backstory all mapped out. All I had to do was plonk him in the middle of an adventure. Paul loved what I came up with, and basically said, Kid, the character's all yours now. Do with him what you will. Of course, I run all my Bullard stories past Paul for approval. So far, it's been a blast.
Where has he appeared so far and what future plans do you have for him?
As hinted at above, he first appeared in Bishop& Hancock's Pulse Fiction: Volume 1, in a tale called Honor of the Legion. He returned in The Pirate King for Airship 27's mammoth Legends of New Pulp Fiction. Hopefully Bullard will re-appear before the end of the year in Sahara Six, a novella length tale, which sees our intrepid hero transferred to the most remote outpost in Morocco. Then, ssshhhh, this is a little secret, I have plans for a novel length story, called Dead Man's Key. It's a little way off at the moment, but it's coming.
What's a typical Day In The Life of James Hopwood like?
Ah, I'm an early riser, so I'll usually have the computer on around 6:00am, and start working on a few projects before breakfast. Then I head to the beach for a spot of snorkling, then return home for my first martini of the day. Sorry, that last sentence is a bare-faced lie—just pretending to live out an Ian Fleming fantasy life. After breakfast I squeeze whatever tasks the day has in store for me, the usual working—stiff drudgery. But it gets me out of the house. However, I carry multiple notepads around with me at all times, and I'm always scribbling notes. At night, if I'm not drawn to the 'idiot box', I'll try to convert some of those scrawled notes into something cohesive. 
These days, I hate to admit I don't read as much as I used to. My work consists of sitting in front of computers for most of the day, and it can strain my eyes. The sad offshoot is I read less. However, I have really taken to audio books, and find they are a great way to close the day. I have been listening to some of the Robert Stark (Donald Westlake) Parker novels lately, and they are fantastic. Currently I am on The Rare Coin Score.
Cheers, Derrick, thanks for your time, and continued support for your fellow writers in the New Pulp community.
Derrick Ferguson is the creator of the pulptastic adventures of the high adventure hero, Dillon as well as The Adventures of Fortune McCall, among many others. He is also the author of the Fight Card novel, Brooklyn Beatdown.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


This is a little out of context, but a friend sent me this clip today from a show I starred in a couple of summers ago on ABC called Take The Money And Run from Jerry Bruckheimer and the folks who put together The Amazing Race (I'm looking at you Eric Beetner). It was an interrogation based reality game show.
My partner on the show was Mary Hanlon Stone, truly my sister from another mother. We worked together in the real world for over twenty-five years. Mary is a nationally recognized prosecutor who, as part of vertical prosecution, worked with me on hundreds of cases from initial investigation through conviction.
My now friend Ron Stoczynski is the suspect in the cell who I am grilling. Beau Champ is the other suspect walking around in our portable interrogation room. Again, this was an artificial set up, but the real deal when it came to the pressure of interrogation. We are not acting, but playing a very intense game.
This show made me very aware of the power interrogators have when it comes to our art. When I watch these clips and see how 'innocent' contestants crack without me having my big levers of guilt and (real) prison time, I makes me constantly aware of the first great edit I install in my detectives: We will never do or say anything to cause an innocent person to admit to something they didnt do.
I believe full episodes of the six shows are available to watch on Amazon...


I’ve long been a fan of heist and caper novels. Is there a difference? For me the dividing line is all about tone. Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder novels are clever and often amusing capers. Dortmunder and his crew are not caricatures played for laughs, but they are ordinary guys working hard to make a buck—albeit on the wrong side of the law—while faced with the same battle against Murphy’s law as the rest of us. However, when Westlake is writing the Parker novels under his Richard Stark pseudonym, it’s all about the heist—hardcore, nasty, and with betrayal at every turn. Dortmunder and Parker might recognize the larceny in each other, but they are completely different animals—a teddy bear versus a feral, fanged, predator of the night.
There is a recognized unholy quartet of hardcore heist artists—and make no mistake, every heist is a work of art—Parker (Richard Stark/Donald Westlake), Wyatt (Gary Disher), Nolan (Max Allan Collins), and arguably the toughest of them all, Earl Drake (Dan J. Marlowe). All of them survive on their wits and their sociopathic unsentimentality. There is no give in any of them, and woe be to you if you cross them.
Patrick McLean enters the world of the heist in his new novel, The Soak. Lean, harsh, and cynical, The Soak is a worthy attempt to steal some glory from the established unholy quartet, and is a must read for hardcore crime fans. The Soak is proof the harsh adage—the heist always goes wrong—still functions as an immutable fact of the universe. Nobody knows this better than McLean’s protagonist, Hobbs, a professional heavy-heister past his sell by date, but going for one last score. When the biggest armored car heist in U.S. history goes tits up, Hobbs emerges from the debacle, broken, angry, and with mortality chasing him as hard as the rouge FBI agent on his trail. Hobbs may be on his last legs, but he is hell-bent on revenge. What his enemies don’t know is Hobbs isn’t just a master of the big score—he’s also a stone killer.
With his character Hobbs facing some tough life decisions at the end of The Soak, Patrick McLean faces the heat by stepping into the bright lights of the interrogation room himself.

What background information about you would a law enforcement All Points Bulletin (APB) contain?
“Suspect is hatless, repeat, hatless.” Chief Wiggum. Which is another way of saying, I dunno. Father of two, husband of one. Prone to collecting books.
There is a line in your bio which needs clarification. You stated in 1999, you went to Los Angeles, got shot and then got a really good job working on Red Bull Energy Drink Account at an Agency called Lunch. Tell us about the getting shot part.
I’m sure there’s a report still in the LA system. Rampart division. Happened May 20th 1999, at about 8:00. Intersection of  Vermont and Venice. I was headed north on Vermont. The detectives thought it was a gang initiation thing. Eight months later, the same suspects shot and killed the mayor’s daughter. The mayor’s daughter made the news—my shooting did not make the news. 
You’ve been involved in martial arts for many years. What can you tell us what role martial arts has played in your life, the discipline you follow, and what, if any, effect martial arts has had on your writing?

Wow, this could take a while. I did Japanese martial arts for 10+ years. When I discovered Systema, I abandoned them very quickly without much thought. Systema is the smartest, most intelligent, most practical, most creative thing I’ve ever done. All this training has made me approach action, fight scenes, and violence very differently than other writers. I think most writers are lazy. I don’t mean you have to be an expert marksman to write about a sniper, but you do need to fire a rifle and talk to someone who is a really good shot. A conflict, any conflict is its own story. I don’t feel it can be thrown in like a car chase in a 70’s cop movie. Especially in books like The Soak, danger should be as real as possible.
Martial arts has also moved me waaay out of my bubble. I’ve travelled extensively and met all kinds of wonderful people who aren’t like me at all. Right now, I have a number of law enforcement personnel who train with me. But training in the martial arts, beyond a rugged first six months, is more about learning to learn and learning to discipline yourself. I continue to train and learn, after all this time, not because it makes me tougher—my wit is still my sharpest instrument—but because it makes me a better dad and a better husband.
A good tribe—which is what any good dojo or training group is—is a source of deep resilience for its members. In my training—and now teaching—I’ve help vets come back from conflict, cops deal with the pressures of the job, and people who have been assaulted rediscover a physical ease and confidence. Ultimately, that’s far, far more important than being able to nutshot somebody in a dark alley, or take a knife away from somebody after getting cut a few times instead of twenty times?
‘Cause, honestly, I was training long before I got shot, and I’ve trained long after. Statistically, what happened to me was less likely than getting hit by lightning. One of the doctors I saw said, “I drive through that intersection all the time.” To which I replied, “Not last Saturday night you didn’t!”
The most practical self-defense I can teach somebody is  first, learn to fall—because statistically, that’s what’s going to get you. Especially when you get older, if you fall wrong, you’re going to break a hip. Second, if you don’t feel safe where you are, move! Either with your feet, your car, or by calling a moving company.
Were you a fan of heist novels before starting The Soak?
I’ve always liked heist stories, but as far as novels, it took the Parker books to hook me. I wanted more. I wanted to know how Parker met his end. That’s really what I set out to write. I failed at writing a Parker—which is okay, because I wound up writing something else good. And it’s turning out not to be the end—but when a person has tried to suppress his humanity his whole life, it’s bound to take its toll and eventually catch up to him. That and, of course, stealing things. But doing justice to that internal story is what makes the heist mean something, and the book not suck. 
I’m a fan of the Parker novels for so many reasons. They’re a master class in plotting. I love twists and turns. But I like the uncompromisingly tough characters. I feel like fiction has gotten a bit wishy-washy. As some stories are ruined when you think, “Why doesn’t she just pick up her cellphone and call the guy?” a lot of things are ruined for me when I think, “Why doesn’t he just hit ‘em?”
What came first, the idea for the heist or the decision to write a crime novel?
What came first was the feeling. A feeling of grit and real places. Of trying to loosen a bolt on a cold day, having the wrench slip and barking your knuckles on the engine block. The cold hurt of it sinking deep into the bone and aching. And knowing you have to fix the engine, or you’re not going be able to drive to work tomorrow. 
So much of what we get fed now are fantasy stories. Superhuman characters averting the end of the world against absurd backdrops. What I wanted was to have the stakes be as real and personal and grounded as possible. Simenon and Maigret. Arthur Conan Doyle and Holmes. As weird and fun as the Sherlock Holmes stories can be, they are grounded in that particular London. Hyper-detailed.
I kept writing stories about crime and heists and Hobbs and lots of other characters—and a lot of it was great—but I could never find the right heist, the full story. I could never get a firm hold on the book, you know? When I finally had the idea for the armored car heist in The Soak, it was in the context of something Hobbs had done. And instantly it was, yeah, that’s the story—right there. The creative process, man, it’s a lot more like wrestling than anybody on the outside suspects.
Do you see a difference between heist novels and caper novels and, if so, where do you draw the line?
For me, a caper is fun. Both versions of Oceans 11 (which I love equally) are fun— even madcap in places. A heist has grit to it. It goes wrong, somebody is getting hurt. Somebody is going to jail. And it always goes wrong. 
Do you have a favorite heist or caper film?
For capers, I love the second Ocean’s 11. I think it’s a tremendous caper film and Soderberg is one of my favorite directors. And it’s all pulled off without anyone pointing a gun at another character. 
As far as heist films, I can cite the usual suspects, but what I really like right now is that mid-70’s grit. Like The Limey (which wasn’t made in the 70’s but is very New Wave). The tension and the violence in The Limey is incredible, completely minimal, and completely terrifying. Most people can eat dinner while watching a movie where a room full of people get mowed down with a machine gun, and not think twice about it. But in real life, you watch a guy accidentally slice his hand with a box cutter and you want to throw up. 
Why do you think there is a fascination with heist and caper stories?
I think all fiction grants a kind of release. A kind of antidote for the anxieties of the time, or a wish/fantasy fulfillment. Reading The Odyssey the first time, I didn’t understand why so much time and effort was spend explaining what they ate and drank. Then I realized, the story was for people who really didn’t have food security. Maybe dinner was uncertain for them and a feast and riches were unthinkable. 
As for the appeal,  H.L. Mencken said, “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.” Look, I don’t know anybody who doesn’t sometime feel powerless against the complexity and speed of the modern world. One antidote is the thriller—it’s the genre of our time. But another antidote is the heist and the caper. They are fundamentally anti-authoritarian. The system is broken, but I can make my own crack in it and protect the one’s I love/get what I need. 
I wrote the book, and I consume stories like it, so I can be happy. It’s interesting. When I was unhappy, I wrote funny books. Now, I’m much happier, and I write darker, more violent books. Maybe it’s all a matter of venting the spleen J.
How much research did you do into armored cars and robberies for The Soak?
A lot of googling and a lot more thinking. I picked the idea up from an account of an armored car accident that actually happened in South Florida—Miami, I think. The bit about the fire is an actual story as well. I totally made up the term flipped armadillo.
The theme of professionalism runs through The Soak. Why do you feel this is important in today’s world?
Wow, in today’s world? That’s deep. Initially, it was because sloppy work pisses me off. But, upon reflection, it has more to do with a world devoid of religious faith and deep traditions (nobody’s grandfather was a project manager or a compliance professional). I believe the idea you do your job and do it well—as a professional—is one of the only things holding people together. This theme of professionalism makes up at least a third of all Westerns—the Lawman does his job because it’s his job. 
Alan, a  pivotal character in The Soak, is a newbie entering the world of hardcore heists. Alan reaches a turning point in this sequence: ...After a while Alan broke the silence. "It’s the waiting, isn’t it? The waiting is what makes or breaks you.” And that’s when Hobbs knew he [Alan] finally understood…What do you see as the mindset change when a character like Alan morphs from straight to criminal?
It’s really the change from amateur to pro in anything. You get the secret knowledge that comes from experience. All the things you were originally worried about or excited about don’t really matter anymore. In that moment, Alan realizes, it’s not how you deal with the excitement of it, but how you deal with the boredom that makes the different. 
Stephen King said every interviewer asked him about where he got his ideas, but he’d never had an interviewer ask him about where he lived. How he used the language itself and what it meant to him. Nobody wants to know about the boring part of writing and rewriting, but honestly, you spend a lot of time fixing sentences and paragraphs. A dilettante is excited to have written something they think is great. The pro, on the other hand, says, “Okay, what’s for dinner,” and maybe, “Well, that felt good. I hope I don’t hate it when I read it again.”
In creating Alan did you feel the character had the seeds of criminality dormant in his DNA, or is the step into hardcore crime any straight could take?
Nah, Alan was searching for a rite of passage. And because the modern world didn’t provide one for him, and there was no strong father figure in his life, he broke bad. 
As far as the question in general, most of the people I know with criminal tendencies find ways to exercise them without getting in trouble. I have a friend who’s a police officer—super nice guy, but a really tough guy. He flat out told me he took the job in the worst part of town because part of him really likes roughing people up and this was a constructive way to do it.
It’s one of the things that makes good writing tough, nobody thinks of themselves as a villain. So you can’t write characters that way with any dimension to them. For example, the kid who shot me? He wasn’t a villain. Getting into a gang was the best thing he knew how to do. It might have been stupid, or a failure of imagination, or many other things—and he might have known it was wrong—but he didn’t see himself as evil. 
Hobbs, the main protagonist of The Soak, is never going to be a CPA or a Walmart greeter. He has chosen large scale heists as a way of life, which he equates with freedom in this sequence: Hobbs hadn’t been born with wealth, but he didn’t want to live his life knuckling under for anyone. If it took courage and discipline and violence to tear a life for himself out of society, well, fine. He’d paid the cost, and he’d go on paying— as long and as much as it took to stay free...Can you tell us how you developed Hobbs’ character and thought process? 
That’s me coming through. I’m pretty fiercely independent. I’ve worked for myself since 2002. Sometimes, I’ve felt like an idiot doing so. And it can be scary providing for a family that way, but there’s no way I could be the drone in Sector 7G.
In another sequence, Hobbs lays out the difficulties of committing crime in the modern world...Over the years Hobbs had seen a lot of guys leave the straight world behind. It wasn’t an easy transition. With most of them, you could tell right away they wouldn’t make it . The heavy heist was a rough trade, and perhaps a dying game as well. It was harder and harder to get away with anything...cameras and...computers dragging the world closer and closer together. Cops dressed like storm troopers now and were armed to the teeth. Hobbs was a bad man, sure, but even he saw something wrong with this. The balance had tipped too far in favor of authority, and it was harder and harder for a red-blooded man to make any move on his own...How does this reality make it difficult for you as a writer and how does it affect Hobbs’ future?
It’s hard to write an original heist novel. But I’ve gotten to the point where it makes it easier. New challenges to overcome. I’ve got a few outlined anyway. 
The Lucky Dime is a short-story prequel to The Soak. Did you write it before or after you finished The Soak and what was your goal in having it published?
After. It was a flashback in a larger novel that didn’t quite work. We gave it away to everybody on a few email lists to make them more likely to try The Soak. At ninety-nine cents, it’s also a good gateway drug. Having said that, I love the story. Plus, it frees me up to write period prequels, I guess. 
Do you prefer to write/read series books or standalones?
I’ve had a really hard time figuring out how to write series, but I think I’ve got it now. Lee and Joel at Brash Books really helped me. They were almost gentle about it, too.
Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
Recommending a book is like giving someone a prescription. I recommend the Richard Stark novels a lot, of course, or those written under the author’s real name, Donald Westlake. Otherwise, it depends on who I’m giving the recommendation. For a friend who is struggling, I recommend The War of Art  and Epictetus. That kind of thing. I spend a lot of time coming up with ways to get people to read the classics, or to read outside their favorite genres. 
Is there a book you’ve returned to again and again?
Mostly the classics. In the genre and outside of it. I love Red Harvest by Hammett.
What fictional characters would you like to have a beer with?
Falstaff. Fletch. Certainly not Parker. A guy could get dead quick drinking with Parker. However, I’d drink with Grofield any day of the week. Odysseus, but I’m not taking a boat trip with him.
Thx to Patrick for sitting down under the bright lights of the interrogation room and getting a feel for his characters and the dark side of crime and why the heist always goes wrong. 
A searing crime novel that introduces an exhilarating new voice in noir fiction that’s as sharp, cruel, and relentless as the story’s unforgettable hero. Hobbs is an aging, professional thief who chases one last, big score into the eye of a Florida hurricane. He emerges a broken man, hell-bent on revenge while out-running his own mortality and a ruthless FBI agent gone rogue.

"Richard Stark fans will relish heistmeister Hobbs in this well-plotted tale of robbery, murder and revenge." Publishers Weekly
"A dark, funny, pitch-perfect take on the heist novel and worthy of comparison to Richard Stark and Garry Disher." Scott Phillips, author of The Ice Harvest
"The Soak is tense, fast moving, intricately plotted and layered with the moral ambiguity of the best crime fiction." Garry Disher, multiple Ned Kelly Award winning author of the Wyatt novels
"Fast and brutal, gripping and ingenious, this tale of an analogue thief in a digital age had me locked in from page one." Stephen Gallagher, author of The Bedlam Detective
"An extraordinarily dark, twisting noir novel with crackling dialogue and action, featuring an aging anti-hero who should be checking out the Early Bird specials at a local restaurant, but instead is on a blood-soaked mission of revenge. Highly recommended… and you’ll never look at an AARP card the same way again." Brendan DuBois, Edgar award-winning author of the Lewis Cole mystery series
"A thoroughly engaging anatomy-of-a-heist style crime novel. Hobbs is wonderfully gritty and irascible, an old school pro, and yet charming in his own hard-boiled way." Victor Gischler, Edgar Award-nominated and Anthony Award-winning author of Gun Monkeys

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


If you want pistol-whipping, boot-stomping, nasty noir, then Eric Beetner is the guy for you—or his books anyway. Eric himself is wonderful blend of kind and cool. He’s the quick-fisted presence behind two of the best Fight Card novels—Split Decision and A Mouthful Of Blood—with his work since exploding across the hardboiled mystery scene. Rumrunners, Leadfoot, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, When The Devil Comes To Call, and the upcoming The Devil At Your Door are just a few of the tough, noir influenced works Eric has published to critical acclaim...
Do you mark or write in your books as you read, or does the idea horrify you?
In novels, yes the idea horrifies me. What monster would do that? Now, in reference books it’s another story. Specifically I have several film books where I check off films I’ve seen in genres like Film Noir and Our Gang shorts. I’m sure if you ever investigated my office those books would seem like the obsessive ticks of a madman.
How do you keep your place in a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Laying the book flat open?
I’m a bookmark guy and the great thing about them is that you can make anything into a bookmark. An old receipt. A scrap of paper. A dollar bill. A gum wrapper. A losing lottery ticket. An old photo. Seriously, I’m an artist at repurposing things into bookmarks.
Do you have a favorite snack to eat while you read? 
I do 90% of my reading while at my lunch break at work so I’m usually covered for eating and reading. The two really do go hand in hand for me. The mark of a good book is if it has multiple stains in it from curry or ketchup or soup.
What book did you love as a child?
One I really remember is called The Great Cheese Conspiracy. It’s about a gang of mice who live in an old movie house watching old gangster films and get inspired to rob the cheese shop next door. I think it inspired my love of crime fiction at a young age.
What book you would read to your kids?
Another favorite from childhood I had the pleasure to read to my girls is The Phantom Tollbooth. My girls are reading on their own now so this is close to the last book they let me read to them, but it is such an important book to me. I had to share it with them
What book made you want to be a writer?
I think the one that turned the tide and made me want to commit to crime fiction was A Simple Plan by Scott Smith. Before that I was more omnivorous as a reader, but that solidified the types of stories I like best.
Do you read mostly fiction or nonfiction or an even mix?
Mostly fiction, but I listen to audiobooks during my commute and I like a good nonfiction listen. Entertainment biographies or histories like Lost In Shangri-La or Frozen In Time, two I can highly recommend.
Do you always read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere?
Always to the end. I write like that too. I need to finish a thought before I leave off from the night. Not sure what that says about me.
Do you stop reading to look up unfamiliar words?
I will, but luckily I don’t encounter that too often. I guess I need to read more challenging books.
How do you organize your books—by genre, title, author’s last name, random stacks?
By author for the new stuff. I have a huge rack of vintage paperbacks arranged by title since so many are by a single author and I usually know them by the cover and title so if I go searching for something I’m more likely to find it by title.
What is your favorite classic?
Oh, man, making me choose! I do my best to read the classics of crime. I know I have a long way to go, but my favorite for now might be The Hot Spot by Charles Williams. It was originally titled Hell Hath No Fury when it came but the movie title is how it is republished today. But ask me again in 5 minutes and I’ll switch to something else like The Kiss Off or The Big Steal or Rendezvous In Black or Double Indemnity or…or…or…
What classic have you never been able to read?
Maybe Crime and Punishment? But to be honest I haven’t tried that hard. I know better than to try some classic detective fiction like Agatha Christie because I know it’s just not my thing.
What classic have you pretended to read?
I never pretend. I’ll cop to not reading something every time. Talented Mr. Ripley is one I’ve never read but probably should. I own it. Just never read it.
What is the last book you read?
Justice by Larry Watson. It’s a prequel to his novel Montana, 1948 and it was great. Watson is a bit of a departure for me in that they aren’t really crime novels (though some dark things happen in them) but I absolutely love his writing.
What is the last book you bought?
I bought The House Husband by Duane Swierczynski and some guy named James Patterson. It’s part of the Bookshots novella series and it’s great. Also a novel, The Neon Lights Are Veins by Nolan Knight, a local LA writer who we’ve had read at Noir at The Bar. It’s his debut novel and I’m excited to dive in.
Do you read one book from start to finish, or do you have several on the go?
I usually have an at-work book, an at-home book and an in-the-car audiobook. I’m between audiobooks right now waiting for the next one come free at the library. In that case I listen to podcasts.
Do you have a favorite time/place to read?
Midday at whatever restaurant I’m in. I’m good to go almost anywhere though, except a moving car. I’ll barf in two minutes flat.
Do you prefer series books or standalones?
Generally I like standalones, but I’ve come around to more series. Most of my favorite books when I look back at it are standalone, though. 
What book to movie adaptation have you loved?
Back to A Simple Plan. They really nailed it.
What book would you like to see as a movie?
Well, any of mine, of course. I’d like to see Gun Monkeys by Victor Gischler. With the right cast, it could be a lot of fun.

What imaginary place would you like to live?
It’s far away enough to be imaginary and mythical in my mind, but I’d love to have lived and worked in Hollywood in the 1940s. A great time for film.
What genre would you read if you were limited to one?
Hardboiled crime fiction
What book have you returned to again and again?
I don’t re-read very much, but when I even think of it I always want to start with Wild At Heart by Barry Gifford.
Is there a specific book or author you find yourself recommending over and over?
I think people must be getting sick of me pushing Jake Hinkson on them. His novels are amazing noir done right. Hell On Church St. and No Tomorrow are modern classics in my eyes. I keep a small stack of novels that are doubles of titles I already own and love. If I see one in a Goodwill or a dollar bookstore I’ll grab it just to have it to give away to someone. In that stack now are Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman, Twisted City by Jason Starr, A Very Simple Crime by Grant Jerkins, The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain. I just sent a copy of The Terror Of Living by Urban Waite to a friend in Chicago. I love sharing a good book!
What was the last novel to make you laugh and the last to make you cry?
Martin Short’s autobiography I Must Say was fantastic. Do the audiobook to get the full effect. In a way it had the funniest and some of the saddest parts of a book so you get both in one volume. 
What fictional character would you like to have a beer with? 
Oh, man, I’ll say the Amlingmeyer brothers from Steve Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range series. Or Hap and Leonard from Joe Lansdale’s series. Both pairs get into a lot of trouble though, so you’d have to watch your back.
Eric’s latest book, When The Devil Comes To Call, continues the adventures of aging hitman Lars and Shaine, the high spirited daughter of one of Lar’s targets who has more mayhem in one fist than most men in their entire bodies. The final book in the trilogy, The Devil At Your Door, is coming soon. Also look for Leadfoot, the sequel to his great hillbilly noir, Rumrunners...

*Note: At the time of this interview some of Eric's books are temporarily unavailable as he transitions to a new publisher. Titles mentioned here will soon be available from Down And Out Books...