KICKIN' THE WILLY BOBO WITH ~ JAMES HOPWOOD
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 Mystery—The 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.
DAVID FOSTER/JAMES HOPWOOD’S WEBSITE
DAVID FOSTER/JAMES HOPWOOD’S BOOKS
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.
TO VISIT DERRICK’S WEBSITE