An Interview with Criminal Fantasist Douglas Lumsden

Punk Noir Magazine

I just started reading Doug Lumsden’s Alex Southerland P.I trilogy and I’ve got to say – it has really caught me by surprise. Not usually a fan of P.I. novels, as I find them the most unoriginal of the crime genre. If you’ve read one, hell, you’ve pretty much read them all. What else can be said that hasn’t already been said exceedingly well by Chandler, Spillane et al. Right? Wrong. Lumsden has twisted and woven the noir P.I. genre into the fantasy realms and he does it all while using the hard, bullet sentence structure and punctuations to rival the aforementioned greats. We’ve got trolls brushing shoulders with mob bosses, pimps mixing it up with were-rats, gnomes, elves and mythological monsters of the deep. And its all set in a bastardized, seedy fantasy version of our own downtown areas. If ever there were a trilogy of novels made for Netflix, it’s got to be Lumsden’s. I found his prose a pleasure to read and was envious as hell of his flowing sentence structures and talent for creating bright visuals of the world he creates.

If you want to read a fantasy crime novel, I can’t recommend Lumsden more highly.

I was lucky enough to catch up with the man, so read the interview below and then go and snatch up his wonderful trilogy.

Hi Doug, thank you for joining our interview series of the best established and up and coming new authors. Let’s get cracking with the questions.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got started in the literature scene?

I retired from teaching in 2018, and after a year of trying to catch up on my reading, I decided I wanted to try my hand at writing my own novel. I had thought about writing fiction at various other points in my life, but never got beyond the dabbling stage. With time on my hands, I decided to give it a serious go. At that point, I wasn’t even sure what genre I was going to tackle. My idea was that I would write ten opening lines and see which one inspired me to go further. I wrote my first opening line, which turned out to be rather long. I added a short “punch-line” to wrap up the thought. And then I just kept writing. I never did get around to writing the other nine opening lines. Three months later I had a book: A Troll Walks into a Bar, featuring hardboiled private investigator Alexander Southerland. I figured about twenty people would read it, and I’d be happy. But it leaked out, and I started getting requests to write a sequel. So I did. And now I can’t stop!

Tell us about your recent work.

I’ve finished A Night Owl Slips into a Diner, book four in my Southerland series, and it’s out to my beta readers. Troll is a noir-style mystery with fantasy elements, such as trolls, gnomes, sea nymphs, and an elf. The emphasis was on the mystery and the development of a character who is on his way to becoming hardboiled. My next book took me further into the fantasy elements, with a new emphasis on Mesoamerican and Native American mythology, and I’ve continued to lean on fantasy/horror elements in my subsequent books. Like all of the books in the series, Night Owl has a mystery that needs to be solved—several, actually—but the mysteries are almost secondary to the further development of my main character, who has to overcome both a nagging sense of guilt and a tendency to try to take responsibility for the lives of others.

Describe your writing style in 5 words.

Existentialist with some ironic humor.

What and/or who are your inspirations?

Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, to start with. I’m a huge fan of the solitary hardboiled detective who leads with his chin and takes the punches until he runs into the solution to the mystery. Then there is Roger Zelazny who went out of his way to make his speculative fiction thoughtful and intelligent. Joseph Heller for the ironic humor. Fairy tales. When I was a youngster I got my hands on a book called Giants and Witches and a Dragon or Two, a collection of unadulterated fairy tales. My teacher was horrified when she saw what I was reading and called my parents in for a sit-down. Luckily for me, my parents were just happy that I was reading.

What advice would you give to up and coming indie authors?

Read. Write. Read. Write. If you want to write, then become a student of writing. That means reading critically: Are you liking what you’re reading? Why? Are you not liking it? Why not? And you’ve got to practice your craft. That means you have to write. Write anything. Write nonsense. Just write. And when you’re not writing, think about what you want to write. 

Remember that all of the so-called “rules for writing” you might hear about are merely suggestions. Follow the rules you like and violate the ones you don’t. That includes, but is certainly not limited to, rules regarding spelling and grammar.

Write the book you want to read. Period.

Grow thick skin. Never complain about criticism: take it and live with it! The Great Gatsby has been called the greatest American novel, but a substantial number of people absolutely hate it. It will be the same with you. You won’t be able to write a book that someone doesn’t hate. Deal with it.

What are your plans for the future?

I’m going to keep writing. Next up is going to be a spin-off novella featuring a side character in my Southerland series, and then I will write the fifth and last book of the series. After that? I’m not sure yet, but I’ve got some ideas. At some point I might even try my hand at some noir flash fiction!

What is an issue you care about deeply?

I am PISSED OFF about what’s happening in America. A white supremacist minority backed by self-serving billionaires is threatening to put an end to the growing cultural diversity and inclusion supported by an overwhelming majority of American citizens. Look, this country has been dominated by male white supremacists since its founding, and white American men have assumed an entitled privileged status since 1776. But the demographics of America have changed since the eighteenth century. Non-white people, women, and people of non-traditional sexuality started making a few minor gains, and inclusion became a legitimized goal. White supremacists never learned or desired to share their privileged status, and now they perceive themselves as victims, crying like babies because women are doing sports play-by-play and black people won’t step aside for them on the sidewalks. And then came Trump. That motherfucking clinically insane narcissistic con man proved to be the perfect puppet for the billionaires who profit on white male dominance, and during the Trump regime white supremacy was allowed to crawl out of the basement and reclaim their right to be entitled. Make America White Again. Fuck them all to hell! Does that make me a hypocrite? Yeah, I’m a white male, but I’m a human being first.

End of rant.

What novel are you reading now?

Master Assassins, by Robert Reddick. I’m about halfway through and loving it!

What music are you listening to?

Depends on the day and hour. My musical tastes are eclectic. I love southern rock, progressive bluegrass, 60s and 70s rock, rhythm and blues, and that bluesy jazz you hear in those old-time noir crime movies (or over the opening credits of Bosch). Oh, and Cab Calloway! I’m a huge Cab Calloway fan.

What did you last eat?

Tri-tip tacos at a place called Stonies Taproom. I washed it down with some locally produced beer. Excellent!

If you could go on a drinking binge with 5 writers alive or dead who would you choose?

Is that an invitation? Let’s go! 

Hmm. I’d definitely want to listen to Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler discuss their versions of the hardboiled detective. Joseph Heller is my favorite author ever, so I’d include him for sure. Jack Kerouac would have to be there. And Mary Shelley, just so I could hear what she had to say to and about the rest of us. Sounds like a blast!

If you could travel to a place in time and history what would it be?

Wow, that’s a tough question to ask a historian. I have so many questions for so many historical figures. But fuck that—I’m going with The Cotton Club in Harlem in the early 1930s on a Saturday night during a performance by Cab Calloway!

What would you like written on your gravestone?

This space reserved for Douglas Wayne Lumsden.

My parents raised me right. Any mistakes I made were my own. Hopefully, I learned from them.

I earned a doctorate in medieval European history at the University of California Santa Barbara. Go Gauchos! I taught world history at a couple of colleges before settling into a private college prep high school in Monterey. After I retired, I began to write an urban fantasy series featuring hardboiled private eye Alexander Southerland as he cruises through the mean streets of Yerba City and interacts with trolls, femme fatales, shape-shifters, witches, and corrupt city officials.

I am happily married to my wife, Rita. The two of us can be found most days pounding the pavement in our running shoes. Rita listens to all of my ideas and reads all of my work. Her advice is beyond value. In return, I make her coffee. It’s a pretty sweet deal. We have a cat named Cinderella who is happy to stay indoors. She demands that we tell her how pretty she is.

When a troll speaks–listen up!
Hardboiled P.I. Alexander Southerland just wants to enjoy a quiet drink when a 500-pound troll walks into the bar. Next thing he knows, Southerland is navigating his way through rogue cops, a gang war, beautiful nymphs from the ocean depths, a were-rat, the mayor’s corrupt fixer, the sleaziest (and cleverest) gnome in Yerba City, and creatures right out of legend. At the center of it all is a mysterious locked box. Can Southerland discover its explosive secret–and survive long enough to pay his rent on time?

She killed him with a curse–but he hasn’t died yet!
Alex Southerland is back, along with Smokey, Badass, and Crawford the were-rat! In his most harrowing case yet, the hardboiled. P.I. must stop the most powerful witch in Yerba City from casting deadly curses against her will. Southerland plunges into the dark world of witchcraft and find himself pitted against forces beyond his imagination, including a hummingbird-headed god who wants to eat his heart and a giant shadowy dog who drags him to the borders of the land of the dead! The stakes couldn’t be higher: failure to find the mysterious puppet-master controlling his client could result in the end of all life on earth!

The Stuff that Nightmares Are Made of!

Years ago, while serving in the Borderland, Alexander Southerland watched helplessly as his friend was terrorized and murdered by the Sihuanaba, a mysterious avenging spirit known as the Woman in White. Now an established private investigator in the teeming metropolis of Yerba City, Southerland finds himself on a collision course with this specter from his past. As the detective tries to solve the riddle of a beautiful nightclub singer’s death, Southerland finds himself battling corruption, temptation, betrayal—and deadly horrors from his own nightmares!