THE CZAR OF ACTION NOIR ~ ERIC BEETNER
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— and —with his work since exploding across the hardboiled mystery scene. , , , , and his upcoming are just a few of the tough, noir influenced works Eric has published to critical acclaim...As part of an ongoing series of blog posts, I’ve asked the Eric to give us a personal look into the reading habits of writers...
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 Br. 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, , 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 will be published in April...Also look for the sequel to his great hillbilly noir ...
For more books by Eric Beetner