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Sunday, December 24, 2017

SURVIVING THE STREETS—A CONVERSATION WITH W. HOCK HOCHHEIM

SURVIVING THE STREETS
A CONVERSATION WITH W. HOCK HOCHHEIM

W. Hock Hochheim is a former U.S. Army investigator and 22 year veteran Texas police investigator, patrol officer, former private investigator and bodyguard, and award winning author. He currently owns and operates Force Necessary, an international combatives training company. He conducts more than forty seminars a year in eleven allied countries relating to combat techniques and strategies. The founder of the Scientific Fighting Congress, he is considered a world authority on self-defense techniques. The author of ten non-fiction books, four novels, and countless articles on policing, the military, street survival, close quarter combat, and conflict psychology, he lives in Texas.

In the autobiographical Don’t Even Think About It : Memories and Confessions of a Former Military and Texas Lawman, Private Investigator and Body Guard, Hochheim shared the details of his life investigating crime. Escaping New York City on a motorcycle, he headed west, planning to catch a freighter to Australia. Instead, he found himself in Texas dodging bullets and tracking down criminals—first as a security guard, then in Asia working for Uncle Sam as a military policeman and investigator. 

Hochheim next parlayed his military law enforcement experience into a civilian career as a Texas patrol officer and detective. During his three decades in law enforcement, he investigated more than 1,000 crimes and arrested uncountable suspects—including a killer who carved off his victim’s faces, and the murderer of a local college professor. 

A graduate from numerous, national Assault and Violent Death police schools and street survival courses, Hochheim also studied martial arts and hand, stick, knife and gun combatives, earning numerous black belts in multiple systems. His unique skill set placed him in a clique of elite warriors. After retiring from sworn law enforcement, he applied these skills to become a highly sought after private security expert. Organizing protection and security details for famous authors, politicians, musicians, as well as TV and movie stars, he also produced more than 250 self-defense DVDs. 

As an instructor, he works hard to pass on his knowledge to a new generation of warriors to protect themselves and others on the urban streets and rural byways where debased crime proliferates and death is often only a whisper away. 

I was fortunate to grab some time with Hock to up him under the bright lights of the interrogation room and get him to squeal on his latest writing endeavors...
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If you were to go rogue and Interpol was foolish enough to issue a most wanted BOLO, what pertinent information would be on it? 

Calling all cars! Calling all cars! Be on the look-out for W. Hock Hochheim! Grew up in New Your City area and became an illegal immigrant in Texas in 1972. Finally granted Texican citizenship after an Apache initiation. Be advised. Former Army patrolmen, Former Army investigator. Former Texas patrol office. Former Texas detective. Has several black belts in martial arts. Once described himself as a first and foremost a writer, second a detective, third a martialist. In that order. Since retirement, travels the world (11 countries)—like Cain in Kung Fu—teaching hand, stick, knife and gun combatives, but would prefer being a hermit and writing westerns, with an occasional crime thriller and how-to-fight book.

When did you first consciously begin to develop the skills of a storyteller?

As a kid, as I was fascinated with comics and books—and covers!—both hardcover and paperback. I began to draw and write in the ‘60s, in what is now called graphic novels—a combination of illustrations and words. In my case, while they played off each other, they also took from each other. I noticed that in phases of time, the art was fantastic and the words seemed to suffer, and vice versa. It seemed I had only enough energy for one...I created western stories back then for some unknown reason, as I was interested in all genres. I majored in art and was bound for art college in New York City, but instead, climbed on a motorcycle and took off for points unknown. 

You have written a diverse mix of non-fiction and fiction. Is your approach to each different or the same?

If there is a singular approach, it is to be different. Not follow the mainstream. Say, in terms of a western, the cattle man vs the sheep man formulas. The land grabber vs the settlers. My western character Gunther is set in the early 1900s, which is already different. He is reading HG Wells and Freud. This has not endeared me to classic western readers, but it’s still rather classic—with a twist. In Last of the Gunmen, Gunther is up against a minor league baseball team whose players commit robberies when they are playing away games—taking church money being sent to the Pope. Not exactly a classic saloon showdown. 

In Blood Rust, our hero was an NYPD detective. I love good NYPD detective stories when the style is just right. I wanted to capture that motif, but not in the usual way. Enter Rusty who, after being shot in the head in an ambush, becomes a New Jersey criminal—he’s a psycho, until he finds out he convicted the wrong man for murder. Something goes…BOOM…in his head. Crazy Rusty has become a popular character and, with any luck, I can write the next one in a few years. But the approach is recognizably the same—but different. 

When writing your books specific to tactics and strategies of self-defense, how do you separate yourself from the other books on the subject?

The how-to textbooks are very rote, step by step, unless there is a support essay, in which a bit of personality may appear. Fightin’ Words: The Psychology and Physicality of Fighting book is full of personal, flavorful essays on fighting subjects. In my novels, all this fighting stuff manifests in the action and fight scenes, which I am happy to say readers like. I try to put people in the driver’s seat. In terms of writing, the fighting becomes checkers not chess. The sentences are structured to be quick and personal, matching the speed of the fight whenever possible. Violent poetry.

How is what you teach in seminars different and how did you develop your tactics?

I started doing Ed Parker Kenpo Karate in 1972—I was not a kid, which will tell you how old I am—right before I joined the Army. I have never stopped studying various martial arts since. I messed with them from a police and military perspective, so, I realized arts and their dogmas were not perfect fits. I studied many different arts, always looking for the next best thing. I discovered there was no next best thing. Soooo, I decided to create the next best thing—The essence of hand, stick, knife and gun. 

What are the most common self-defense misconceptions you run up against?

That size doesn’t matter—It does matter...it’s why God made weight levels in combat sports. That being alert is the key to safety. You can be as alert as a skittish fawn, but then you may well have to fight. How much gas (endurance) and how much dynamite (explosive power) and savvy (fighting time and grade) do you have. It’s great you were alert to a bad guy approaching, but how long will you remain alert when he is mashing your face in? Another misconception is a knife or gun solves everything. People have to draw these weapon under stress—with almost no practiced—and often it is morally, ethically, and illegal to shoot or stab some based on the situation. That’s just three. It’s a lengthy list.

What prompted you to turn your hand to fiction and the slam-bang action tales of adventurer Johann Gunther?

Serial characters make the world go round, whether you are a child reading Dick, Jane and Spot, a teen reading Harry Potter, or adults reading and watching Harry Bosch or Batman. People fall in love with serial characters. We like to stick with good characters, especially when they age. I wanted to take a shot at that concept. Gunther exists in a time gap between the western gun fighter of the 1890s, and the Sam Spades of 1920s. He is a mix of both.

Did you have a specific real life of fictional character who provided the inspiration for Johann Gunther? 

Looks-wise, since Gunther is an immigrant German, I imagine him to look like the actor Rutger Hauer, when he was in his ‘30s and ‘40s. Gunther is a highly realistic, fully-fleshed out version of the old Paladin, from the 1950s TV show Have Gun, Will Travel, which was a sophisticated show in its day, but not by modern complex standards. We learn how Gunther wound up in the US, the Army, the stint as a deputy in Paris, Texas, his appointment to West Point, etc. So, he is a mix of various fiction models, but different. My first fictional character was Jumpin’ Jack Kellog, a Houston area police detective, who is a mix of several real Texas detectives I worked with and knew. Ol’ Rusty, of Blood Rust, is not anyone really—just a red-headed, crazy guy, who can’t think straight and solves his problems and the crime with half psychopathic measures.

Have you found anything in the psychology or practice of martial arts that has application to the writing process?

In the arts end of martial arts, they try to develop various qualities of perseverance and—if you think about it—the good qualities of a bring a better person. For me, sitting down to write is a torturous process with rare flashes of rewards. I guess these martial arts qualities help keep me in the chair through the torture.

Your new book, Dead Right There: More Memories and Confessions of a Former Military and Texas Lawman, Private Investigator, and Bodyguard, is a sequel to your first collection of real life cases in which you were involved—Don't Even Think About It. What prompted you to share more of your experiences?

In the 1980s, while I was a police detective, my father-in-law was visiting. He was reading a non-fiction, book written by an insurance investigator. He loved it., claiming, “These stories are great. Interesting.” 

I looked the book over. Jeez, it was the most boring cases. People like this?  I mean, a few days before I cleared a murder and we were shot at trying to arrest the guy, but people were mesmerized by the simple fraud stories in the book. Really? 

I thought about this. People like true action. They also like true procedurals. Everyone loved the stories I told them. I was very lucky to have been a detective in the Army and in Texas for about 18 years. It was a very interesting time and place in Texas and law enforcement history. A lot of things happened, killings, robberies, rapes, and it was the era of lone-wolf-detective. You got your cases, or went to the crime scene when on call, and you worked them hard—by yourself. Occasionally, you could ask your close-friend detectives for help. It wasn’t just detective stories, people also liked to hear patrol stories.

I always felt the urge to write, and had been doing it on the side. I was the editor of the international Close Quarter Combat Magazine, and had many articles published, as well as a history book on Pancho Villa, and a police novel, Be Bad Now. However, it was about 2002, when I began writing down these true police stories. It’s a long, back story. 

I collected the stories and composed quite a hefty book called, Don’t Even Think About It, a line I used a lot when arresting people and predicting they were going to resist arrest in some way. I think I heard Randolph Scott say it in a western once, and it stuck with me. The book was bought. Then, publishers bought out publishers and the book was in the development hell of a hidden file cabinet somewhere. I pretty much forgot about it. 

Then in 2009, someone called and said they now owned the book and were going to publish it and others they had acquired. Next, they told me the book was too big and needed to be cut in half. 

I cut it in half, still trying to keep some chronology of the stories. Thus, Don’t Even Think About It—half of it anyway—made it into print. A promise of a two-book deal contract was forthcoming, to cover the second half of the original manuscript. The contract never came—and like all other vanishing distressed book publishers, these people caved too. 

There I sat with a whole other complete book. So, I owned the rights to Dead Right There, which was what I had titled the sequel (or the second half of the first manuscript). Over the years, thousands of copies of Don’t Even Think About It have sold. People liked my blogs, and they liked the book. So I hope they will also like Dead Right There. “Dead right there,” was another phrase we used back in the day—“Do that and your dead right there.” There are a lot more action stories in this new one. 

Will there be a third Texas Detective book?

I don’t know. I don’t think so, but my wife keeps reminding me of strange stories I have told her, which I have forgotten! So, maybe there is another one in the future. 

Clearly your schedule is packed with seminars and writing. Do you still find time to read for pleasure, and if so, which authors do you reach for on your bookshelf?

I am gone so much, I write a lot on planes and in hotels. But I write obsessively at home, too. It is not healthy. I work out quite a bit, and listen to a lot of audio books. I usually have one book going on audio and one paper book going at the same time. 

I recently went through a lot of Matt Helm books and revisited Mike Hammer. Also some Ian Fleming. I have read several Longmire books lately. Like I dissect a boxing match, I dissect these books for plot, pacing, style. Why do they work? When did they work? I think fiction is the poetry of non-fiction. The emotional connection that, most times, non-fiction can’t seem to touch. Let’s face it, more people know about the Civil War from the movie Gone with the Wind, than any history class they attended as kids and teens. Such emotional fiction is very powerful. The writer’s challenge is to make the uninteresting, interesting—you know those in-between scenes needed to knit a story together. Write it and skin it like Hemingway. What’s left is the poetry, if you’re good—If you’re very good.

I am currently reading a history book on Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and listening to The Memory Illusion, which covers the very latest neurology research on memory. If I pick a new author of a fiction series, it’s like I investigate them. But, most of book series leaves me scratching my head. 

What are you looking for in the year ahead in your writing and in your seminars?

I have to write a textbook on gun combatives. I do not teach marksmanship. I only cover interactive shooting with safe ammunition. I have amassed quite a bit of knowledge on how people shoot each together in common and some uncommon situations. You are not really learning to gunfight unless moving and believing people are shooting back at you. I use safe to painful, but not real ammo to organize this. And, I am pitching a book about a terrific female action character and Japanese terrorists. And my German publishers/distributors have accepted my third Gunther plot, Rio Grande Black Magic. I am really excited about it—as all writers say. It’s a lot for 2019.

As far as seminars go, I am 65 years old and the stopwatch is ticking on how long I can zip around teaching hand, stick, knife and gun combatives. I tell people every weekend that I only play touch football and everyone else plays tackle. But when you’re older, even touch takes its toll. Then, there’s that flicker of macho, a flash of youth I shouldn’t have, then there's mistakes or missteps I shouldn't have taken. Wrong place. Wrong time. Wham. I just survived my most recent surgery from being hit with a stick at the wrong place, wrong time. But I will go on until I can’t or shouldn’t—or I get a big book deal that makes even Clive Cussler and the ghost of Clancy jealous!
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Thx Hock for sharing and for all you do for law enforcement across the country and around the world. You are a true warrior...

TO FIND HOCK ON THE WEB CLICK HERE

DEAD RIGHT THERE:
MORE MEMORIES AND CONFESSIONS
OF A FORMER MILITARY AND TEXAS LAWMAN,
PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR, AND BODYGUARD

In the sequel to Don't Even Think About It, Hock Hochheim brings the readers even more stories based on his many years fighting crime as an MP in the military in Korea and then as a law enforcement officer and detective in Texas. Hock's case load involved about 20 cases a month for 17 years and included theft, burglary, rape, homicide, mass murder, serial murder and more in one of the largest, busiest counties in Texas. In his clear, articulate and no-nonsense, sometimes dark and humorous fashion he shares the drama and the irony law enforcement officers faced then and continue to face today. A world recognized expert on self-defense when Hock isn't writing fiction and non-fiction, he tours the world teaching tactics and strategies of self-defense based on his years of practice and training.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER—THE UNSINKABLE KATHRYN BRAUND

AGE IS JUST A NUMBER
THE UNSINKABLE KATHRYN BRAUND

One of the most amazing women in my life is my aunt-in-law, Kathryn Kitty Braund—world renown dog breeder and trainer, author of five highly regarded non-fiction dog related books, editor of a long-running must read newsletter for dog aficionados, and never less than a force to be reckoned with. Several weeks ago, she celebrated her 97th birthday with the publication of her 5th novel, Melinda Mahoney Powers

Did you get that? She’s 97 years-old and still putting words on paper, finishing what she writes, and manages all the switches and horns associated with modern publishing. At 97, she actively engages in social media, works on marketing and promotion, and is already working on her next novel. I can only hope to be half as sharp as Kitty if I get to the point of reaching my century mark.

Melinda Mahoney Powers is a fictional biography—the saga of life shaping events, the overcoming of crushing experiences, and the spectacular rise and unravelling of a glamorous 1940s stage and film star to rival Nora Desmond in Sunset Boulevard

Taking a break from her active schedule, Kitty sat down with me to answer some of my many questions...
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Can you share some of the highlights of your 97 years hanging around on the planet earth?

One of the most devastating changes in my young life occurred when I was about five and living in San Francisco. I was in the back yard of our nice house playing with our dog when I heard loud noises from inside the house. It was my father beating my mother, not an uncommon occurrence. There was great commotion. My mother was crying as she and my oldest brother, Louis who was 11, were being thrown out of the house. Lou had confronted my alcoholic father to stop him beating my mother. My father literally kicked him out and banished him from the house. Afterward, my mother filed for divorce. We were then very poor and mother was ostracized by all the women she knew. In those days, women did not ever divorce husbands. They were supposed to suffer any indignity.

However, even though it was rough, we did just fine—my mother, with three sons and me, the lone daughter. As we grew up, the boys and I all worked, doing everything from paper routes to cleaning houses to taking care of children the same age as me, etc. Mother did send me to the YMCA in the Mission district because I was easily led into trouble. I became a child actress at the YMCA, and was sought after for plays with the city’s professional groups—even plays at Berkeley, and every year at Mt. Tamaulipas. 

I loved learning and wanted to grow up to be an English teacher. Sadly, during school, I was left out of social groups because I had grown to be very tall. I suffered from the related bullying, even though nobody could deny I was the school’s best actress.

When it came time for college, we could not afford for me to go. Instead, I went to a six month business school and learned keyboards. I did all kinds of jobs to help with family expenses, even working at the World’s Fair in the Shakespearean exhibit. Then I received an offer to go to Connecticut to perform in summer stock.

I was leading lady in all the show in Connecticut in which I appeared. This prompted me to move to New York City, thinking I would become a star. I had $5 for a week’s rent, and $1 for food. Undaunted, I quickly got a job with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Later, I got a job working for two men starting a printing business. I realized I had to give up my show business aspirations because I had to do other work to live. I returned to Calif to after my mother was hit by a car on her way to work. Once there, I found work as a waitress to support both of us and take care of her while she recuperated.

My employers in New York wanted me back. They even offered to send money for my travelling expenses. When my mother was able to take care of herself again, I took up the their offer, returning to NY to help them build up their business. 

I still harbored dreams of being an actress and began working as a straight girl for two vaudevillians. I also tried out for other shows, but I was just too tall for the leading men then on Broadway. I did get hired to be part of a road show with Hollywood comedienne Zasu Pitts, with whom I toured Canada and U.S. This led to my going to Europe with the USO—and what a plus that was. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis were part of the tour. When I returned to the United States, I found out Martin and Lewis had stolen all the gifts I bought in Switzerland, which they said I could store in their locker—ha!

I then met my first husband. I had my son Pat while we were in New York. Later I had my son Gary when we were back home in California. I kept working and became the manager for two top aerospace companies working on top secret projects for the military. I had 18 people working for me at one time. The job was taken away from me when I was replaced by a male manager. In those days women weren’t considered capable of holding down those types of jobs—ha! The switch resulted in the small division, which I had grown into becoming a part of one of the big companies, failing after they let me go. The same thing happened again when I worked for Boeing. However, that time, an Air Force commander threatened to take away projects and money from Boeing unless they gave me back my job. Boeing did not comply, thinking the commander was bluffing, but he followed through on his threats.

My first marriage went very sour, as my once nice husband had become an awful alcoholic, leading to divorce. I met Buzz, my second husband, in California. My boys were then nine and eleven. I was still working for military contractors, as Buzz did, but I had also begun to establish a reputation as a dog trainer. Buzz worked with me to turn our dogs into champions of their breed and obedience stars in dog shows. 

I began writing while Buzz and I were station at the various military field bases where the civilian companies we worked for were assigned. After several years as a contributing editor to a big dog magazine, I was asked to write a book on Portuguese Water Dogs. I was thrilled and began researching everything I could about the breed. Writing a succession of similar dog books taught me great lessons.

I wrote my first novel, Rosa and the Prince, after my Buzz began being taken by Alzheimer’s. It took four years to write because I researched for two years before beginning to put words on paper. I loved doing research. A dear wealthy friend gave me money to buy a house in southern California. Without that help, I would not have been able to do much. 

Buzz was becoming significantly more difficult to care for. When we were station in Montana, we’d had a wonderful doctor who was fresh out of medical school. His father had been our previous doctor, and the son is still my doctor today. I spoke with him, and he said he could help me deal with Buzz’s challenges with Alzheimer’s. As a result, we moved back to Montana, where I still live today.

I can’t remember it all anymore, but those are the basics.

As a child, you had a somewhat hardscrabble upbringing. How did this shape you as a writer?

I was always vitally interested in everything I did and everything happening around me. My experiences after being abused by my father and another man, made me both promiscuous and cold. Those experiences shaped my behaviors in life. 

My experiences as a young actress helped me later realize understanding the structure of the plays in which I had appeared were an advantage for a writer. Scenes have to build in order to make audiences want more. I think all hopeful writers should spend as much time going to plays and observing how the scenes are constructed to keep audience interest high. One does the same thing within chapters when writing books. You must end chapters and scenes with audiences wanting more. Plays and how they are put together were wonderful teaching sessions for me.

I was highly affected as a child and young adult by the horrific sex slave trade, which was barely recognized as such back then. I met girls whose lives were wasted in sexual slavery. Not that they could have escaped from what they were doing. With one exception, every book I have written has included a chapter or two examining a true story of how dangerous it can be for poorer children—boys as well as girls—who mistakenly think running away from home will make things better for them. 

Unfortunately, most are immediately caught up by pimps or evil men who ruin their lives. Sex trafficking is now worse than it has ever been in the world—and there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it. Look at the slave auctions that are now the rage in certain parts of the world. It’s awful. I interviewed a couple of these girls back when I lived in New York. Horrendous.

I do not really think of my childhood as hardscrabble. My mother was an absolutely wonderful woman, and I surely wanted to be much like her in attitude and spirit. She somehow managed everything for us without ever a complaint. As I grew up, she sewed my dresses and made great clothes out of old ones for me. Can you imagine, I was sixteen and working for Lane Bryant before I had my first store bought dress. Boy, that was a celebration (nothing against my mother’s sewing)!

I still don’t know how she did everything she did for all of us—always with love and a smile. I took care of her before she passed away, and it was amazing how many people she knew who swarmed to see her. They had all been helped by her wisdom, even though she was naive in many ways. 

Were you a reader when you were a youth, and if so, what authors inspired you?

One of my high school teachers, a professor, dealt with Roman and Greek history. I played Cassandra in plays he wrote or adapted for his wife and friends. I have always been enamored by ancient history. I thrill to Roman, Greek, Anatolian and Mesopotamia history. I spent many hours at our local San Francisco library, about five blocks from home. I gobbled up the many romantic stories about men who saved poor young women and then married them. I had no favorite writer as I adored everything I read.

For many years you wrote and published a regular newsletter/magazine for the canine community. What did the experience teach you about being a writer?

I edited three newsletters including designing the magazines, handling the layout, and gathering and designing the ads. I built one newsletter up from twelve pages to a hundred-and eight-four page color magazine with high quality ads. Those experiences taught me to work hard, to put out the best for the readers and advertisers. I learned a lot about creativity. I believe working hard at everything I did—going back and examining everything to make it the best I could produce—helped give me recognition as a top editor and newsletter publisher in my field. Again, I always went back to my acting days, working not only for smoothness, but also for uniqueness in what I did—whether it be an ad or copy. 

What made you switch from non-fiction to novel writing?

As a young girl, I wrote many stories—actually, I started many stories, but had little confidence anything I did was good enough, so I never finished any. Part of this lack of confidence was because of my height. I always suffered from lack of confidence, except in acting—because I was not me when I was acting. I seldom thought what I wrote was any good, so I put those half stories away. Whenever I find remnants of some, I am amazed at how good they could have been. I switch to fiction after many years of newsletter and magazine writing, because I wanted to express myself better. 

What compels you to keep writing?

I love writing. It does what acting did for me. It takes me away from myself. I love looking up a word and seeing where it came from, or looking up unusual facts I could possibly use in a story. Writing satisfies my workaholic need. There are so many things I learned about life through writing. I wish I had more time on earth to find ways to express myself better and effectively say the things I am really trying to say. 

What is your writing process. Do you outline or fly by the seat of your pants and follow where your story takes you?

As a girl, I made outlines as I was told to do. I’ve found, however, I don’t fare well using outlines. I do think about stories I want to write for a long time—perhaps six months—before I put any words down. I research things I think about as it helps me bring a story to life. I then know if I want to move ahead. I do follow where the story takes me, which I think is sometimes eerie.

What was the inspiration for your latest novel, Melinda Mahoney Powers?

I had been reading stories about people in jail for life, who had not committed the crime of which they were convicted. I felt compelled to develop a story about one of them. I started out thinking of a serial killer story and what happened in his earlier life to make him follow through because of his twists of mind. The story was supposed to be about Leroy Mahoney. However, his sister Melinda, the little girl in the Studebaker (as I first saw her in my mind) and her forever memory at seeing her brother as she did, took over. I simply had to follow the two young children and see how they lived with the horrific abuse both had seen or experienced.

Melinda began to worry my mind because I kept feeling she could not put aside, forgive, or forget what she had seen, and it would eventually prove to be the total downfall of her life. There are lots of people like her. Leroy was always trapped by the horrors of what was done to him, but his retreat into gentleness was different than Melinda’s anger fueled response. 

I loved both of characters and the people they met and lived with. Frankly, while writing, I kept asking God to keep me here in this life until I finished the story. Somehow, many of the words simply flowed out. I puzzled over some of them as I had no idea where they came from. Others parts of the story came from parts of me or scenes I had personally endured, But through it all, it was the love I felt for Melinda and Leroy swelling out of me and onto the page.

Do you have a favorite among your novels, and if so, why?

No favorite. I feel each had a different reason to write them, even though the genres were different. Hopefully, each also served a different need for the people who read them.  Of course, I wrote Rosa and the Prince for my mother, who had always wanted me to tell her story. I’m sure Rosa is not quite as she would have told it, but it is the way it came to me. I let my imagination take over.

I love Rosa and the Prince because I spent so much time with the research. Life in the time period in which Rosa is set was very difficult for those who had to work for royalty. I wanted my mother’s strong will and pleasing personality to come through even though tragedy was ever present.

Shattered Innocence allowed me to vent my feelings pertaining to the horrendous sex trafficking spinning the world around and destroying so many lives. I wanted people to pay attention to the situation. It was my way of doing something about it, no matter how small or insignificant my shout might be.

Prisoners In Paradise, I believe, is an excellent book with climaxes in all the right places. I’m not much swayed by marketing, so it is not a story everyone is enamored to read. However, you have to be true to yourself and write what drives you.

Now I have fallen in love with Melinda Mahoney Powers. She certainly isn’t perfect by any means, but we find a lot of people in the world like her, and I wanted readers to see how and why she destroyed herself. It’s a cautionary tale.

Murder might not be light-hearted, but many seniors are. Featuring senior characters an writing about their fascinating lives always keeps my fingers flying on the keyboard.

I cannot pick a favorite from my list of books. But if I add them together, I find I like many things about each one. As I write each book, I am trying to be honest and say what is truly in my heart—which can be different things at different times.

From your experience, what advice would you have for senior writers?

I say no one should write about something they do not know. Write about experiences that have happened in your life. I do not believe there is anyone on earth who hasn’t had a wonderful life, despite all the tragedies we all must suffer—they are what hones us. They make us better.

Make up stories about instances in your life that change your thinking or helped someone else. Write about you, about your friends—but with different names and places. Just keep writing. If you enjoy working on a page of writing, good, put yourself right into the page. Readers gain interest because they can feel your emotion.
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Wow! Thx to my wonderful Aunt (in-law) Kitty for her candor and willingness to share so much. I can’t wait to read what she writes next...

 
 

Friday, December 15, 2017

STANDING TALL—A TRIBUTE TO BILL CRIDER

STANDING TALL—A TRIBUTE TO BILL CRIDER
AN ENTRY IN BILL CRIDER DAY HOSTED BY PATRICIA ABBOTT
 
Bill Crider is arguably my oldest friend connected to the mystery genre and the writing world. There are a few other friends—Cap’n Bob Napier, Steve Mertz, James Reasoner—who come in as a photo finish for that dubious honor, but as I remember it, Bill pipped them all. I cherish each one of those friendships, as like with Bill, I’ve never heard a harsh word or an unsupportive comment from any of them directed toward any other writer, wanna-be writer, or fan/reader of mysteries and Westerns.

My friendship with Bill Crider became a touchstone of sorts for me. As James Reasoner mentioned in his tribute to Bill today, anytime I met Bill it was as the cliché of no time appearing to have passed since we were last in each other’s company. Conversations were picked up from the exact point where they last left off, and there was always excitement and a willingness to share all of the experiences and knowledge related to our mutual interests in books, movies, writing, and much more.

Back when the West was wild and the East was still the mysterious Orient, mystery fandom wasn’t a simple matter of keeping abreast of daily blogs, publisher’s e-blasts, and Facebook group posts…it had to be earned.

I’m not kidding...In 1973, DAPA-EM (which stood for Elementary, My Dear APA—don’t ask, because I don’t know the origin of the name) became the first and only APA (Amateur Press Association) devoted to the mystery genre.

APAs were limited membership groups whose members produce copies of their amateur magazines, which were then sent to an Official Editor. The Official Editor then collated  and bound the magazines together, mailed the bulk result to the APA members across the country (and sometimes internationally), kept track of the APA’s finances (dues to cover mailing expenses), maintained a waiting list of contributors, and made sure current contributors met the requirements for minimum activity—which in the case of DAPA-EM was four pages of mystery related information or research (three of which had to be original material) every four months. Since issues were gathered and sent out every two months, a contributor could miss only one issue before facing an inactivity deadline.

DAPA-EM was originally founded with six contributors. By the time I joined in the late 70’s, DAPA-EM was up to its limit of thirty-five members with a half-a-dozen names on the waiting list. This was hardcore, chisel and stone, tape and paste, mimeograph machine, surreptitious Xeroxing at work, seat of the pants publishing…and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in the mystery genre.

I established cherished friendships, acquaintances, and contacts, which have continued across the decades and are still viable today. Bill, of course, was among those ranks. Outside of DAPA-EM, Bill and I both got our professional publishing start in the pseudonymous pages of the men’s adventure paperback series, which were hugely popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s—Bill writing a Nick Carter Killmaster tale, and I galloping out with the Western series Diamondback. From there however, Bill’s output of consistently excellent novels in many genres exploded. His Sheriff Dan Rhodes books became a staple of readers/fans' end of year Ten Best Novels lists. And his Texas Vigilante Westerns are, IMHO, among the best in the revenge genre ever written.

A small selection from Bill's massive library...
 
As a collector, I stand in awe of Bill’s epic accumulation of first editions, rare paperbacks, and close to every oddball related mystery or Western title ever published. An amazing accomplishment that will never be matched.

Bill and his VBks (very bad kitties)--who became an Internet staple after Bill rescued them...

Gentleman, scholar, teacher, erudite writer, and bon vivant,
Bill Crider embodies everything good used to define friendship. His support has been a constant in my career. As he currently fights his deadly battle with cancer, I see him in the role of the many staunch, fast thinking, hardmen heroes he wrote about. You know the ones I’m talking about—the heroes who can never be counted out no matter what the odds...

 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

RAFFERTY DOWN UNDER PART 2

 
RAFFERTY DOWN UNDER
PART 2
INTERVIEW WITH BILL DUNCAN

In Part 1 of Rafferty Down Under the illusive authorial fugitive W. Glenn Duncan was finally tracked down and brought in for questioning about his cult favorite private eye, Rafferty. Along the way we learned W. Glenn Duncan’s son, Bill Duncan, is not only republishing the original series of Rafferty novels, but has been writing Rafferty novels of his own, which are set to appear in 2018. Now it’s Bill’s turn under the bright lights of the interrogation room…
********
Can you give us a brief biographical sketch of Bill Duncan?

Well, I was born at a very early age. Okay, that’s my one joke out of the way, and I promise to not to make any more. Maybe. Our family moved to Australia from the States when I was seven and I just did the usual kid things on both sides of the Pacific. Once here, we bounced around every couple of years—Mum and Dad always said they were gypsies at heart—even living on a farm for a few years.

After school I went to University and graduated with degrees in Architecture. Spent the next 20 odd years working my way through various roles in the construction industry, and believe me, some of them were odd. I never really felt like I fit in anywhere. Maybe it was the writer bubbling away underneath trying to tell me something, maybe the gypsy genes, maybe a combination of both. Got married early, though the marriage didn’t last, and have two wonderful adult kids now.

Three truths and a lie about me:
At six months old, I had travelled more miles by air than by car.
Member of Mensa.
Have never fired a gun.
Once crashed a car into the top story of a two story house.

Were you a reader growing up? If so, what books did you enjoy?

Yeah, definitely. I read very early and Mum and Dad still love telling the story about me throwing my kindergarten teacher for a loop, resulting in them being called down to the school to be admonished, “You didn’t tell us he was a reader.”

I wish I had a great story about devouring The Collected Works of Tolkien by the time I was eight, and it being my springboard into the heady realms of writerdom but the truth is my tastes weren’t that exotic. As a young boy, I was drawn to true-life adventure—explorers, early pilots crossing oceans and undiscovered lands—that kind of thing. The first fiction I remember reading was a Hardy Boys book, and it lit a fire inside me. I devoured the series and loved every one of them.

Later on my reading spanned a few genres, mostly led by Dad’s reading tastes. Memorable reads from those times were Brian Lecomber’s work, Tales of the Black Widowers by Asimov, and Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky. There’s definitely a thread of adventure there, but what impacted me most was the humanity of the characters. What would they do? Why are they doing it? How far will a person go when pushed?

When did you realize your dad had written this series of cool detective books?

I was in high school when Dad retired from being a commercial pilot and turned his hand to writing. I remember the early days of him pounding away at the typewriter, but mainly I was trying to work out how I felt about being the only kid I knew whose father had a commercial photocopier at home. This is the eighties, remember.

I read a couple of the short stories he had published in AHMM and Mike Shayne and the first novel (non-Rafferty and unpublished) he wrote, and I remember the day when he told me Ballantine picked up Rafferty’s Rules. I was away at University when it was released so, though I knew what he was doing, I wasn’t close to it at the time. I was always proud to be able to tell my friends about my father, the published author, but I didn’t really understand the reach or the impact of the books until much later.

Did you read them immediately or did you rediscover them again later?

I read each book as they were released and have come back to them time and time again—as I tend to do with books I enjoy. Which probably explains why my TBR pile is still too tall for me to jump over.

How did your dad feel about the Rafferty books?

I know he really enjoyed writing them—both the process and the result—but felt badly let down by the movie adaptation of Rafferty’s Rules. Having seen it, I have to agree with him. Dad has always been the kind of guy who would decide he was going to do something, and then just go get it done. I’m not sure if he realizes how big a deal it was to pick up writing as a new career and see the success his books had, but it’s been a huge inspiration to me as I look to follow a similar path.

When and why did you decide to revitalize the Rafferty books?

That decision was made in late 2016, after I’d already completed the first draft and a major rewrite of False Gods, and went hand in hand with my decision to indie publish. My original intention was to head down the traditional publishing route, and to target Dad’s old agent with my first query when the MS was ready.

In the end, what pushed me down the indie path was finding the online reactions to Rafferty, from people like you, Kevin Burton Smith, Bill Crider and Cliff Fausset. I knew from the words, and the obvious passion for the books, there was a market out there. I also realised it was unlikely a publishing house would be able to stop looking for the next ’69 Shades of the Girl with the Salamander Tattoo Gone on the Train’ blockbuster long enough to resurrect a few old PI books languishing on their backlist.

I figured, too, if there were fans from 30(!) years ago, then there were likely new fans who hadn’t caught up with Rafferty the first time around. So, Dad and I discussed the idea of revitalizing his books and he gave me the go ahead.

To test my theory about the publishing house, I floated a trial balloon past Ballantine, and Dad’s old agency, by approaching them for a rights reversion of Dad’s books, and telling them what I was planning to do. Neither of them blinked, they issued the reversion, and it saved me the hassle of writing a query letter.

When did you make the decision to write a new Rafferty adventure?

In 2014, I suffered a deep bout of depression with the end result being I had to walk away from my previous career and business. As I was starting to come out the other side of the black cloud, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could reinvent myself in a more sustainable way. I’d always been drawn to writing and dabbled with it from time to time—starting a novel and never carrying on with it, writing non-fiction pieces for business, and similar things—and long dreamed of writing full-time, but had never followed through.

At the same time, and probably because of where I was mentally, I thought a lot about legacy. In particular, what happens to the intangibles when we’re no longer here. Like Dad’s Rafferty books. It seemed a helluva shame all the work he’d done and the magic of his creation might just disappear with his passing. It didn’t seem fair and I decided to do what I could to make sure it didn’t happen.

In 2015, with those two things in mind, I knew this was my chance to see if I could do the work necessary to become a writer and I needed get my ass in gear and give it my best. Six months later I had completed first drafts of two 100,000 word novels. The second of those was False Gods.

How did your discussion with your dad go when you said you wanted to continue his Rafferty series with the new novel False Gods?

He was really supportive, but tempered his enthusiasm with cautionary tales of the author as income-producing business. As far as the opportunity for Rafferty to hit the streets once again, he gave me carte blanche to do anything I wanted with the settings and the characters—move Rafferty to Australia, bring him into the 2000s, or anything I wanted to do.

I think he saw this as a way to make the new stories easier to write. However, one of the appeals of Rafferty has always been the voice of the time and place. I’m also an unabashed child of the 80s, so Rafferty remains—and will remain—a Dallas P.I. firmly rooted in the late 20th century.

Did your dad have any notes, partial manuscripts, or other story fragments for other Rafferty books?

There are no unpublished works. Mum and Dad moved several times since the nineties, so there weren’t even notes or compendiums for the published books. I rebuilt each one by scanning the actual mass-market paperbacks and compiling them from scratch. This process allowed me to get into the timelines of all the stories, confirm Rafferty’s rules (and their somewhat random numerical basis), the weapons he owns, and a bunch of other details. It was a great way for me to really inhabit Rafferty’s world, which I hope gives depth to the new books.

Have you written other fiction before Rafferty: False Gods?

I’ve written bits and pieces over the years, but the only fiction I’d ever finished was the first of those two novels I mentioned. It’s a book called Finding Karol and the archetypal first novel: highly cathartic, strived-for literary fiction, and self-compared to Jodi Picoult and Paul Theroux. It got some traction with Australian agents, but didn’t get across the line to a deal, and is currently in hiding on my hard drive.

How did you learn the process to republish the Rafferty books?

Standing on the shoulders of giants was, and remains, the key. When I first started looking into the idea of indie publishing, I stumbled upon the writer/marketing site of Joanna Penn, which led me to the similar sites of Nick Stephenson and Mark Dawson. The three of them, and their generosity in sharing the lessons they’ve learned over years of trial-and-error, gave me the confidence I could make this work, and a lot of the blueprints to follow.

Your marketing plan is an example of doing things right. Do you have a background in marketing or learn on the fly?

Thanks for saying so. Obviously, I’ve got you fooled. It’s still very early days, but I feel like I’m on the right track. I’ve no formal background in marketing, so it really is learning on the fly. There’s a huge wealth of experience and opinions out there, with easier access than ever before. Not everything will work for everyone, so it’s important to assess with a critical eye and implement what seems to be the right thing for you and what you want to get out of your marketing. And if it doesn’t work the way you hoped, change until it does.

If you are flying by the seat of your pants in the publishing world (like many of us) what lessons have you learned from your experiences?

There’s a few...

Trust your gut—I knew that there was a new life for Rafferty and that the stories would resonate with, and entertain, both existing and new fans. The feedback I’ve already had has proven this was the right call.

Stick to your values—I’m pretty pedantic. Bill’s Rule #1: Any job worth doing is worth overdoing. Levity aside, making your work the best it can be is the writer’s side of the contract with readers. Great covers, professional editing, and thorough research is every bit as important as good storytelling.

It’s not life or death—Notwithstanding the above, it’s easy to get bound up in trying to make everything perfect. It never will be. Neither will any minor error be a catastrophic disaster that stops you dead. Do the best you can with what you have to hand at the time, move on, and try to do a little better tomorrow.

This is the best time in history to be a writer—We have access to unprecedented technology allowing us, as individuals, to run global businesses with a laptop and an internet connection. The barriers to entry have never been lower, so grab the opportunity with both hands and run like hell.

What’s the next case for Rafferty?

False Gods will be out in 2018. I’ve already drafted book #8, with the working title of Blood Angels—however, I’m a little concerned about the repetitive religious language so the title may change. I’m currently working through the manuscript edits. At this point, I’m aiming to also release it in 2018. 

Down the track, I’ll also being playing with different versions of all the books—paperbacks, audiobooks, boxsets, and who knows what else. Beyond that point, I’ve got nearly a dozen written what ifs ready to be explored, and I’m sure many more will emerge out of the ether. Whether they all grow in to full Rafferty books is yet to be seen, but I won’t know until I pitch myself into their rabbit-holes. February 2018 is my due date to pull one out of the pile and get started on a new exploration and see where it takes me.

What I do know is that I’ve had an absolute ball on the journey so far. It’s been a great thing for Dad too, to finally get to see the impact of his books on readers, something that wasn’t available to him during his run with the traditional publishing industry. So, I’m up for continuing the ride, if you are. Jump in and ride shotgun with me in this rusted, duct-taped, ’67 Mustang and let’s hit the streets.
*****
Thanks to W. Glenn Duncan and Bill Duncan for making the effort and taking the time to answer some long held questions about the Rafferty series and to fill us in on plans for Rafferty’s future...

TO VISIT THE
RAFFERTY P. I. WEBSITE
CLICK HERE

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT
THE RAFFERTY SERIES ON THE
THRILLING DETECTIVE WEBSITE

THE RAFFERTY SERIES
Rafferty's Rules (1987)
Last Seen Alive (1987)
Poor Dead Cricket (1988)
Wrong Place, Wrong Time (1989)
Cannon's Mouth (1990)
Fatal Sisters (1990)
COMING SOON
False Gods (2018)