John Wisniewski interviews Bill Baber

Bill Baber, Flash Fiction, Indie, Interviews, John Wisniewski, Poetry, Shotgun Honey, T Fox Dunham

When did you begin writing, Bill?

I took writing classes in high school as well as Journalism. Wrote for the school paper and continued that in college. I wrote for small newspapers for many years before switching to fiction, which is much more enjoyable! The deadlines are much more manageable!

Any favorite crime authors?

How much space do you have? JamesCrumley is the reason I write crime fiction. To me, “The Last Good Kiss” is the best crime novel ever written. James Lee Burke is a close second and I really enjoy Don Winslow and Dennis Lehane.

Then there are all the writers who are part of the online community and that is a long list- Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, S. A Cosby, Brian Panowich, Chris De Wildt, Greg Barth, Bruce Harris, Chris McGinley, Jim Shaffer, and Johnny Shaw (Love the Jimmy Veeder Series.) Lately I have read a couple of books by Andrew Rausch-not for the faint of heart. Then there are the chaps from across the pond, Paul Brazil, Tom Leins, Ken Bruen and on and on-I hope they all know who they are!

Lastly, T. Fox Dunham wrote a book a few years ago called The Street Martyr. It is damn near perfect.

This is a partial list as there are a number of other great writers that deserve mention!

What makes a good crime novel?                                                                                     

Tough question. The reason I like Crumley and James Lee Burke is because they bring a literary side to the genre. Dialogue is important, it has to be believable. And a little humor helps. Lately, I have been drawn to stories featuring characters that are hard core criminals. Tommy Shakes by Rob Pearce and American Trash by Andrew Rausch are great examples. Pearce’s book should come with a warning- “Do Not Read With A Full Stomach!” It is disturbing- and about as real as crime fiction gets. When I wrote a review of American Trash I said I didn’t know if I should be outraged or entertained. I felt a little guilty that I liked it. Both were like reading Edward Bunker- dark and disturbing but real crime fiction.

You write poems as well as crime fiction. Could you tell us what interested you about poetry?

Back in the 70’s I was enamored with the writing of Richard Brautigan. I read all his novels and short stories. All that was left was two volumes of poetry. I was not a fan of poetry-until then. His was very easy to understand as was stuff written by Gary Snyder. I thought I could do similar stuff. I was in my twenties, living in a cabin in the redwoods of northern California. I still have those poems floating around. They weren’t very good. It was thirty years before I started writing poetry again.

The poetry I write is mostly spontaneous prose. Something pops into my head and I write it down. It requires very little in the way of editing. When I was first published, I was living in Central Oregon which is big, wild country. It was “nature” poetry because I was surrounded by raw beauty every day. I just wrote what I saw. Had a book of poems published in 2011.

A few years ago, I discovered a crime poetry site, The Five-Two. I was fortunate enough to have a number of poems appear there, two of which were nominated for “Best of the Net” consideration.

Could you tell us writing “Betrayed “? What inspired you?

 “Betrayed” was an anthology about domestic violence that was put together by Pam Stack, the woman behind “Authors on the Air.” My contribution, “No One Heard” is a story about multi-generational abuse. It might be the darkest thing I have written but it was what the subject called for. The title is still out there, and proceeds go to survivors of domestic violence.

How do you create such gritty characters?

 I am an observer of people. And it helped that I spent fifteen years working as a bartender in a small town. I got to know some real characters who had criminal tendencies. Many of my characters are based on them or guys I knew growing up in San Francisco. Now, I look at people and see if I could imagine them a s a criminal, you know, do they have larceny in their heart? And if you walk around Tucson or Phoenix there seems to be no shortage of people you could imagine as characters in a crime story.

How have you managed to be so prolific a writer, Bill, publishing nearly fifty stories? 

I need to update that; it is well past fifty now. My first crime story was published at “Out of the Gutter” back in 2010. Writing is a hobby for me- and a release. I work long hours for corporate America, so it is difficult to stick to any kind of a schedule. Most of those stories have been flash fiction at sites like OOTG, Shotgun Honey, Close to the Bone and Yellow Mama. Maybe a dozen stories that have been published have been longer, I’m trying to force myself to go more in that direction.

What will your next story be about?

I have a story in the just released “Coming Through in Waves” Crime Fiction based on the songs of Pink Floyd. It is titled Arnold Layne and is named for the bands first single. The story is about a million-dollar jewel heist that is interrupted by Arnold’s strange hobby.  This collection was edited by T. Fox Dunham and has some incredible stories by a bunch of great writers. It was an honor to be included!

I am currently working on a story that starts with an armed robbery and a bunch of meth in Tucson and ends with a triple cross and lots of bodies in Albuquerque.

Could you tell us about writing “Sleepwalk “, an award-winning short story?

For the record, it was nominated for a Derringer award by John Thompson, the editor at Dead Guns Press where it appeared. It was set in Tucson. I walked around the barrio where the late Isaac Kirkman, who was well known and loved in the writing community lived. It was during the monsoon season. A thunderstorm was brewing, and it was easy to picture the city fifty years earlier. Tucson has that timeless feel about it. It’s an easy place for a noir tale to take hold.

A son kills the man who murdered the father he never knew. And the fathers best friend lives with guilt and regret for not doing it himself. It was different than anything I had written before. If I had to pick a favorite story of mine, “Sleepwalk” might be it

John Wisniewski interviews Dan Flanigan

Interviews, John Wisniewski


When did you begin writing, Dan? Do you have any favourite crime/suspense authors? Could you tell us about writing “The Big Tilt”? What inspired this book? You also wrote “Mink Eyes”. Could you tell us about writing this? “Tenebrae” is a poem. Why did you decide to write this? What makes a good crime/suspense novel? Are you working on a new book? Do you have any favourite film noir movies? Please tell us about “Dew Drops”. This is a collection of short stories.


I have wanted to “be a writer” since around my sophomore year in high school. I wrote my first story then and, for a while, a number of other things. But being a writer means “writing,” and I didn’t seem to quite understand that. Instead, I let myself be distracted by a number of things–depression, alcoholism, fear–and also, as I wrongly thought for a long time, “selling out” to semi-bourgeois married life and working as a college professor, then a civil rights lawyer, then a lawyer in private practice–but the first three things were the real reasons I didn’t write.  Once I sobered up in earnest (one day at a time now for 37 years), I started writing in earnest. At that same time I took a break from the law practice and about everything else, and my wife and I founded the now very well known drug and alcohol treatment center Sierra Tucson. I had the right vision and even the right plan and execution for it but not enough capital so had to sell it to keep it alive. But thousands have been through there ( a couple of weeks ago there were 120 or so patients and over 400 staff), and it has surely wonderfully transformed many lives.  It was probably the best thing I ever did though I couldn’t keep hold of it, which seems fitting somehow.

I did not set out to be a crime/suspense writer.  I always wanted to write “literary” fiction, but I wanted to make it interesting, so I put my story Mink Eyes in that format.  However, I am now persuaded that writing serious fiction in the mystery/detective/crime/suspense genre is a great idea if I can pull it off.  My notion is to use the O”Keefe saga to tell the history of our times from the 1980s to as close to the present day as I can get before I run out of ideas or can’t mentally or physically write any longer.

As to favorite writers in this genre, no surprise, Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald. While I would not call him a “favorite,” I greatly admire the skill of Elmore Leonard.  Not sure it is technically this genre (it won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1974), but I am a huge fan of Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers. I am sure I would enjoy many others, but I just don’t read much in the genre, one of the cardinal sins of an aspiring writer in a genre, I know, but that’s the way it is.  I don’t want to be influenced or imitative. Nevertheless, I am basking in delight (WARNING! SELF-PROMOTION ITEM COMING!) that a recent reviewer of The Big Tilt wrote: “Flanigan manages to conjure deft, hard-boiled, but literary prose that’s reminiscent of Raymond Chandler’s best work.” Ouch!

I wrote the original version of Mink Eyes in the late 1980s in a burst of creative activity in my early sobriety.

This burst started with plays—first, one that has never been performed or even read by anyone “important” and needs more work, but is a project I have a lot of love for—is called Secrets, about the life and death of Eleanor Marx, Karl Marx’s youngest daughter, who was in her own right a major figure (Socialist agitator, actress, author, translator of  Madam Bovary) in late Victorian England. 

I have also written a play that many have liked called Moondog’s Progress whose main character is much like Alan Freed, the disc jockey who “discovered” rock n’ roll.

The next play was Dewdrops, a tragedy set in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center. This play very quickly received a staged reading at the Theatre of the Open Eye in NYC, which went well, but what was there to do with it next? I didn’t know.

I also wrote a couple of short stories. 

And Mink Eyes. I got an agent and even a publisher.  The publisher promptly went bankrupt and the next publisher wanted changes in the book without promising to publish it. That whole experience–the staged reading, the agent, the publisher–was like catching fire only to be quickly and rudely doused with a bucket of ice water. 

I gave it up and did not return to it for about 15 years when I pulled Mink Eyes out of the box, said “damn it, this is pretty good, it has promise,” and very substantially revised and expanded it. 

I then moved on tothe book Dewdrops.  Dewdrops includes three pieces. The centerpiece is Dewdrops itself, which I adapted from a play into a very dialogue-heavy novella. The novella is bracketed by two longish short stories not in the mystery/detective genre–“Some Cold War Blues” about a boy named Jack growing up in the 1950s who gets into quite a snowball fight and “On The Last Frontier” about Katie who is old and broke in Juneau with winter coming on. 

My wife Candy died in 2011.  We had been married for 41 years and together for 45.  We indulged in much sturm and drang, many adventures and transformations, loved a lot and fought a lot, and managed to stay together somehow.  I wanted to write about her last illness and death, and that required dealing with the whole relationship. I started by trying to embody it in a traditional prose narrative, but it didn’t work.  It needed to be expressed in fiercely concentrated emotion, and, after flopping around some, I saw that poetry was the only way to do that.  The Tenebrae “story” (it is a “narrative” poem) proper is a group of 15 poems (some of which are “prose” poems but poems all the same).  The book includes a few other poems on other subjects. 

I published the three books more or less all at once in the spring of 2019 (though, obviously, I had been working on all of them except Tenebrae, on and off, mostly off, for decades.

Now to The Big Tilt.  I wrote that in two sessions of several months each, the first session in the summer of 2019, but I discovered to my dismay that I had written myself into a couple of plot cul de sacs that I didn’t know how to escape from (the problem with choosing to write in the detective/mystery genre is that one must father forth not just interesting characters, sharp dialogue, good writing, but interesting, even suspenseful, even exciting plotting—all (separately and together) very hard to pull off, especially hard when the author wants the action to be realistic, something that could really happen in the real world. But in March 2020 the Virus took hold and somehow, not sure exactly how, it helped me focus, and I completed the book in October 2020.

Each of my books is available in both eBook and paperback format. Each is available from the various digital publishers and can be ordered from your favorite bookstore or from my website,

I really don’t know what makes a good crime/suspense novel.  I don’t read enough of them to know.  I do know that many of the very popular ones do not appeal to me because they are so far from real life and even from not only Newtonian but even Quantum physics.  I have no interest in writing in this genre for those who want pure escapism.  I do want to write for those who want a good story, with serious themes that grapple with the human condition, about interesting characters who are sometimes exasperating but appealing all the same, certainly not main characters who are “breaking bad,” though maybe they have already broken bad and are now trying to figure out how to “break good.”

I am working on a new book of shorter pieces that have been tapping on my shoulder for a long time, a book something like Dewdrops, i.e. of shorter fiction not in the mystery/detective genre. At the same time I am constantly alert to what my O’Keefe characters are up to.  Things are happening, but I have to let the characters work things along before I am ready to join them in the adventure. 

I am not sure what “noir” really is. I thought I did until I experienced many people calling Mink Eyes noir or “noirish,” which surprised me somewhat.  I think of noir as basically about “bad” people. While I have my villains, I regard most of my characters as not-bad, actually often basically good, but who, nevertheless, often make some terrible mistakes and end up in tragic situations. 

The noir movies that stand out in my mind as I answer this question are, no surprise here, Double Indemnity, the touchstone and archetype. Also the Robert Altman/Eliot Gould version of The Long Goodbye and the film version of Dog Soldiers with Nick Nolte and Tuesday Weld (foolishly renamed Who’ll Stop The Rain after the Credence Clearwater Revival song!). While I hesitate to admit it, something about Against All Odds with Rachel Ward and Jeff Bridges really grabbed me the first time I saw it (it was probably Rachel). And one must, of course, say Chinatown. But one “must say” that is definitely not on my list is Vertigo, in my view maybe the most overrated movie of all time.

Each of my books is available in both eBook and print formats. Each is available from the various digital retailers and can be ordered from your favourite bookstore or from my website,

John Wisniewski interviews Nick Kolakowski

Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Interviews, John Wisniewski, Nick Kolakowski, Shotgun Honey
  1. When did you begin writing, Nick?

I’ve always written. Like so many others, I had one of those cliché writer childhoods where I wrote and drew my own little books. I also had an intense interest in crime fiction from a young age, as well — when I was nine or ten, my dad gave me an old paperback copy of “Trouble Is My Business,” which kicked off a lifelong addiction to all things noir. But I didn’t start writing crime fiction in a serious way until my late 30s, after veering through everything else — journalism, nonfiction book-writing, copywriting, etc. Plunging into crime fiction, and finding the community that came with it, felt like coming home.

2. Any favorite crime authors?

Among contemporary authors, some of my most hardcore favorites include Steph Cha (whose “Your House Will Pay” was my favorite book last year; it’s an excellent, searing mystery), Sarah Jilek (who just published “Saint Catastrophe,” a wonderfully weird and sexy book about cults, biker gangs, MFAs, and violence), Sean Cosby (whose ” Blacktop Wasteland” is a hell of a masterpiece), and David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s “Winter Counts” (an incredible mystery set on a Native American reservation). All of them are pushing the boundaries of what crime fiction can be, especially as a lens for viewing some of the biggest issues hitting society at the moment.

3. What makes a good crime novel? How do you create suspense?

If you want to build great suspense, you have to delay gratification. All the common tools of suspense — the cliffhanger, etc. — stem from that simple principle. You delay and delay and delay, in a way that leaves the audience wanting more. When I’m reading a crime novel or short story, I know it’s failing when they’re relying too much on spectacle — when they overstuff it with events because they think those will hold the reader’s attention. That doesn’t do anything but wear the reader down. Teasing them along, though… that’s the magic.

4.Could you tell us about writing “Rattlesnake Rodeo“, one of your latest?

“Rattlesnake Rodeo” is the sequel to “Boise Longpig Hunting Club.” I never intended to write a sequel to “Boise,” but the characters kept speaking to me after I finished the book. Plus, if you’ve read “Boise,” you know that it ends with a lot of plot threads still unresolved. With “Rattlesnake Rodeo,” I wanted to raise the stakes by an insane degree, to put the characters in pretty much the worst type of situation you can imagine any noir characters being plunged into.

5.How did you create the Jake Halligan character?

Jake’s history as a bounty hunter and a former soldier comes from a few people in my life who were former bounty hunters and soldiers. I like the idea of a roughneck who cuffs people by day but comes home and reads a ton of books—there’s a dichotomy there that breaks a bunch of clichés.

Many characters in noir and hardboiled fiction are fundamentally immoral, because that’s how you drive the plot—they’re fighting their dark places. With Jake, I wanted to create a character who was fundamentally good but grappling with some broken pieces (many of those the result of his experiences during the Iraq War). Jake’s sister, Frankie, is the opposite—she’d be a complete psychopath except for whatever wiring in her brain allows her to love her friends and family intensely.

6. Tell us about the Love & Bullets series? How were those characters created?

With the Love & Bullets novellas (“A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps,” “Slaughterhouse Blues,” and “Main Bad Guy”), I wanted to create something that was action-heavy, funny, and extremely hyperactive. Bill and Fiona, the two main characters, aren’t quite as smart as they think they are, although they’re more than capable of surviving when they rip off their gangster bosses and try to escape to the Caribbean.

The novellas were originally published via Shotgun Honey, which specializes in noir novellas. Then a large German publisher bought and translated the novellas in one volume for the German and Swiss markets, which meant I needed to rewrite the books slightly, in order to ensure the narrative read smoothly as one giant novel as opposed to three shorter ones. Now Shotgun Honey is going to publish the novellas as a complete book in English, which gave me the opportunity to rewrite yet again—and add to it. It’s a rare gift to be able to rewrite and adjust your book repeatedly as times go on; I’ve used the opportunity to tweak issues, improve the plot, etc. So that’s been fun!

7. In another of your most recent novels “Boise Longpig Hunting Club”, Jake Halligan faces many dangers, in a novel full of action. Does this help to draw the reader in, to keep the reader guessing?

With “Boise Longpig Hunting Club,” I was inspired by “The Most Dangerous Game” and other novels and movies over the past hundred years that have featured people hunting other people for sport. Given the political and cultural polarization in America, I thought it’d be interesting to revamp that story with a lot of contemporary subtext.

At the same time, I also wanted “Boise” to be something of a mystery, because that would keep the reader engaged until it was time for the big hunt to kick off. I was borrowing a little bit from the Lee Child playbook with that one—if you’ve read the Reacher novels, you know that Child is very good at weaving together mystery and action to keep you glued throughout the entire book.

8. What will your next book be about?

I’m actually working on *two* novels right now. One is an Agatha Christie-style locked-room mystery that takes place in a highly unusual time and location; the other is a ticking-clock mystery/action novel that goes in a really odd direction for its final act. I’ve been increasingly interested in what happens when you mix genres together—comedy and horror, mystery and horror, and so on. These two manuscripts are experiments in that vein, and we’ll just have to see how I do.

John Wisniewski interviews Dominic Adler

Brit Grit, Dominic Adler, Euro Noir, Interviews, John Wisniewski, London, London Noir, Punk Noir Magazine

41+WWTnmZPL._SY346_How did your career of being a law enforcement officer aid you in your writing, Dominic?

We all have a hinterland, and mine was 25 years in the Metropolitan Police. London’s a genuine metropolis and I rubbed shoulders with some incredible characters, a gift for any writer. For example, my first novel, ‘The Ninth Circle’ was partly-inspired by a stint working on the Alexander Litvinenko murder investigation. One of the lines in the book comes from a Russian I came across (“where’s the only place you find free cheese? In a mousetrap”). As a thriller writer, it’s not a bad primer; the police taught me how to handle firearms, drive fast cars, follow someone without them knowing – sexy stuff which I wasn’t remotely gifted at. I was happier talking to people, which I like to think is a more important skill for a detective.

I think my old job had a technical impact on how I approach my writing too – I would prepare intelligence reports, statements and requests for stuff like surveillance or financial investigations or forensic support. It helped develop an eye for detail, structure and working to deadlines. And the UK police five-part statement model is a solid way of presenting a story. I’ve used it to clarify scenes, writing the same incident from different points-of-view. As a writing exercise, it’s solid.

Lastly, after a quarter of a century in that world I developed a decent contacts book. It’s full of weird and wonderful people to ask questions if I need to.

When did you begin writing? 

When I was nine or ten. I’d hammer out adventures for role-playing games on my dad’s typewriter (Gary Gygax, co-author of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ was my earliest literary influence). As a teenager I started my own twisted humour magazine called ‘Swamp’ (circulation – about six of my friends). At college I was a student journalist, writing a scabrous gossip column and movie reviews. Eventually the itch to write my own novel really, really needed to be scratched. I started one on an A4 pad, scribbling in biro, when I was a young patrol officer. I remember trying to describe what it was like to work night-shifts, about what a special place London became after dark. Of course, it was awful, but you have to start somewhere.

Any favourite suspense/crime authors?

I’ll give you two of my favourite crime writers. The first is Philip Kerr (for his Bernie Gunther detective thrillers, set in Nazi Germany). Bernie is probably my favourite character in fiction – a decent man in a fucked-up world, someone who can’t help but end up with blood on his hands, but prepared to pay the price for his sins. The second is Mark Timlin, whose late 80s / early 90s Nick Sharman books are hard-boiled gems set in south London: Cocaine. Threesomes with strippers. Sharp suits. Gun porn. Car chases in souped-up Sierra Cosworths. Rock stars. And did I mention LONDON! Read them now, especially if you like a walk on the wild side – Timlin was a roadie for rock bands before he became a writer. I’ll admit to being heavily influenced by Timlin when writing the Cal Winter thrillers. If he ever reads this, I hope he gets in touch and I’ll buy him a disgracefully boozy lunch (you choose where, Mark). Maybe with bang-bang chicken, one of Sharman’s favourites.

How does your interest in military history and technology in warfare affect your writing?

I did a History degree and was an army reservist. I think my obsession with military history helps when writing military characters – you quickly realise soldiers are very tribal. Cal Winter’s an ex-army officer and even though he’s cashiered in disgrace, he needs the balm of camaraderie as much as the buzz of action. To give another example of how real-world history inspires me, my latest book (Timberwolf), is a crazy science-fantasy set in a world analogous to the 1940s. One of the key scenes is based on the German airborne assault on Eben-Emael. If I wasn’t a history geek, I would never have heard of it.

As for technology, I love gadgets and toys. Oh, and tanks. I love tanks. Personally I blame watching too many Bond movies as a kid (except for tanks, unless we’re talking about Pierce Brosnan driving a T-55 in Goldeneye). Then, towards the end of my career, I became an online investigator. I was exposed to social engineering methodologies and what the military would call ‘information warfare’. I got completely hooked on how the Internet was becoming a battlefield domain. That led to me writing ‘The Saint Jude Rules’, which I didn’t realise was actually me, oracle-like, partially shadowing the world of shit that is 2020. See? I was an information warfare hipster, back before it was cool.

41TnZ5v0saL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Could you tell us about writing “The Devil’s Work“? What inspired this novel?

‘The Devil’s Work’ is the second Cal Winter novel. I wanted to write an over-the-top action thriller based on movies like ‘The Wild Geese’ and ‘Where Eagles Dare’, but set in the 21st Century. A story with impossible commando raids and double-crosses. I’d also read about how China was buying up vast chunks of Africa, which I thought made for an interesting back-story.

I spoke to a couple of friends who know Africa well about world-building, then spoke with an ex-SBS guy over a pint about how you’d drop a RIB from a helicopter… and the rest fell into place from there. The scene where Cal meets a journalist in a flyblown African bar was more or less pilfered from a bloke I know who was a warzone news cameraman. Then I needed to create a bunch of gnarly mercenaries to join Cal and his sidekick Oz. They were inspired by tough-guy movies like ‘The Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Con Air’ (you’ve got no heart if you don’t love that movie) – I ended up with a dread-locked Scottish ex-paratrooper, gangster twins from East London who served in the Foreign Legion and a Russian-American sniper who comes along for the ride.

Funny story: I was working in a Criminal Intelligence unit when I wrote the book, so was required to submit the script for vetting. As the book features a troubled SIS (MI6) team, my bosses decided to send it over to Vauxhall Cross for the spooks to take a look. As it happens, SIS wanted me to change one tiny thing – and this is the most British thing ever – they just asked politelyThere was no suggestion of an order, just a “would you mind awfully, old chap?” Who was I to disobey Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service? I’m not allowed to say what it was, so I won’t, except it had nothing to do with their reputation. I thought, all things being equal, they were cool about it.

What will your next novel be about?

I wear two writing hats (I’m such a rebel) – Thrillers and Speculative Fiction. On the thriller front I’m toying with a fourth Cal Winter story and I’ve also got 40,000 words down on a story about police corruption. It’s set on the Thames Estuary where London meets Kent – smuggling country. An ex-anti-corruption cop joins forces with a gangster’s widow to take down a criminal gang, who themselves are in the shit with the Albanian mafia (the Amazon-meets-Uber of European organised crime). Think ‘The Departed’ meets ‘The Long Good Friday’, with counter-espionage and the Isle of Sheppey. I do love glamorous locations. On the speculative fiction front, I’m also writing a sequel to ‘Timberwolf’. It’s got some good reviews and I really enjoyed writing it.

Any suspense/foreign intrigue movies that you like?

Okay you asked… Heat, Ronin, The Dirty Dozen, LA Confidential, Hanna, all of the ‘Bourne’ movies (even the dodgy one with Jeremy Renner), John Wick 1-400, Man on Fire (of course Chris Walken gets the best line: a man can be an artist… in anything, food, whatever. It depends on how good he is at it. Creasy’s art is death. He’s about to paint his masterpiece), Nikita, Reservoir Dogs, Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, Way of the Gun, Snatch, In Bruges, Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Layer Cake, No Country for Old Men, virtually any Bond movie, Leon, The Long Kiss Goodnight. I could go on, I devour this stuff whenever I can. And some great TV? Altered Carbon (first series), The Man in the High Castle, Babylon Berlin, The Boys, The Punisher, Fauda and The Bureau.

How do you create your characters?

They pop into my head semi-formed, then I start writing detailed profiles in my trusty notebook. Eventually, if I’m lucky, a character emerges. For others I open my mental rolodex of people I met at work, there are thousands of ‘em. Obviously, they’re heavily disguised, or composites. I think writing is a privilege and I hate bullying or betraying confidences – even for people I don’t like.

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John Wisniewski interviews A J Devlin

A J Devlin, Crime Fiction, Interviews, John Wisniewski, Punk Noir Magazine

rollling thunder

Q: When did you begin writing, A.J.?

A: Oh geez, I mean, I guess I began writing very young. In elementary school my best friend and I were in Grade 3 or 4 and in an enrichment program. It was lots of fun and we did a lot of creative projects. I remember we had a fairy tale assignment so we wrote and illustrated a mash-up book about Snow White and The Three Little Pigs where the pigs were all karate masters and kicked the heck out of the evil queen, her minions, and the seven dwarves. But reading and writing was always a big part of my life, so after hanging up my sneakers at nineteen after trying to follow in my father’s footsteps as a basketball player for the Canadian Men’s National Team, I very quickly zeroed in on the Screenwriting program at Chapman University where I earned my B.F.A. followed by a M.F.A. at The American Film Institute and haven’t looked back.

Q: Any favourite crime and mystery authors?

A: I have many favourite crime and mystery authors! Since becoming published in 2018 I’ve pretty much exclusively read Canadian crime fiction. My current favourites include Sam Wiebe, Amber Cowie, Dave Butler, Niall Howell, Seamus Heffernan, and D.B. Carew to name a few and there are so many more I could list. And there are more great Canadian crime writers on the horizon — like J.T. Siemens — who recently signed with my publisher NeWest Press and his forthcoming novel TO THOSE WHO KILLED ME is a wicked read. However, when I was in university and living in Los Angeles, I read almost exclusively American authors. Michael Connelly, Robert Crais, and Joe R. Lansdale were the writers who inspired and influenced me the most.

Q: Your debut novel was Cobra Clutch. How did you create the “Hammerhead” Jed character?

A: I came up with the “Hammerhead” Jed character after spending a lot of time reading mystery novels from what I’ve dubbed the “athlete / detective” sub-genre. I’ve read crime fiction about boxer detectives, surfer detectives, hockey player detectives, sports agent detectives — you name the sport and there is probably a sleuth that comes from that background. However, as far as I could tell, no one had ever created a pro wrestler detective. That combined with the fact I was a huge professional wrestling fan growing up and later became fascinated with pro wrestling biographies and documentaries — plus the contrast between the in-ring theatrics and many outside of the ring tragedies — seemed like a great angle for creating a pro wrestler detective.

Q: You combine elements of humour into your storylines, A.J. What do you think is the overall effect on the reader?

A: I think humour is intrinsic to the “Hammerhead” Jed series, which is why it’s marketed as a mystery-comedy. I also believe because professional wrestling can be so over-the-top, to not include humour in stories about a pro wrestler detective would almost be doing the squared circle a disservice. I hope the overall effect on readers is that the humour adds to the escapist entertainment I strive to create in the books and makes them more fun. I grew up on movies like Back To The Future, The Last Boy Scout, and Die Hard — all adventures in which humour plays a big role — so I’m definitely attempting to capture some of that whimsy in the books.

Q: What makes a good crime / mystery novel?

A: I think there are several elements that make for a good crime / mystery novel. There are also two kinds — series books and standalones. I prefer series mysteries as I enjoy reading and writing characters over multiple books so I’ll focus on those kinds of mysteries for my answer. I believe a distinctive protagonist goes a long way. My professor and mentor used to say that the true appeal of books in a mystery novel series isn’t actually the mystery but the lead character, and that the narrative was simply a vehicle for readers to spend time with an old friend. With regards to the mystery itself, I think twists, turns, misdirection, and red herrings are pretty important as it keeps the reader engaged and allows them to try and figure out the whodunnit. Finally, I would say pacing is crucial as the best crime fiction comes from the books that are page turners.

Q: Are there any crime / mystery movies that you like?

A: Definitely! Just to name a handful I would go with Harrison Ford’s THE FUGITIVE, as I think it’s a great pulse-pounding mystery-thriller that holds up. Many of Alfred Hitchcock’s innovative films would have to be on my list, with STRANGERS ON A TRAIN probably being my favourite. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is very dark but riveting and I vividly remember reading the book as a teenager. THE USUAL SUSPECTS is a terrific, twisty flick. CHINATOWN is of course a masterpiece. And for lighter and more humorous fare I would say Shane Black’s KISS KISS BANG BANG and THE LAST BOY SCOUT round out my list as they are very much tonally similar to what I aspired to emulate with the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedy series. 

Q: Could you tell us about writing ROLLING THUNDER?

A: Writing ROLLING THUNDER was a blast! When I wrote the first book in the “Hammerhead” Jed series — COBRA CLUTCH — I was trying to channel Raymond Chandler and Mickey Spillane style pulp fiction with wrestlers and detectives in Vancouver. The book turned out more comedic than I expected, but it also felt like it had developed organically. I realized with a pro wrestler detective protagonist that humour was essential and intrinsic to the series. So going into ROLLING THUNDER, I set out from the start to write a comedic mystery, which is why I think of the two books it’s the more humorous and entertaining.

Q: Any future plans or projects, maybe a new book?

A: I’m currently hard at work on book 3 in the “Hammerhead” Jed mystery-comedy series. This time around Jed catches a case that pulls him into the world of Mixed Martial Arts. The idea for the series was always to have him perpetually drawn into different fringe sports or unique subcultures while working as a private investigator, and given Jed’s pro wrestling background combined with growing up as the son of a legendary Vancouver Police Department officer, I believe he is uniquely suited for such work.



John Wisniewski interviews Paul Heatley

All Due Respect, Close To The Bone, Down and Out Books., Interviews, John Wisniewski, Paul Heatley, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing

paul heatley

When did you begin writing, Paul?

I’ve been writing stories since I was very young – any scrap of paper I could find I’d scribble a story on, usually about existing characters In was aware of, like the X-Men or whatever other cartoon I’d been watching. In high school I wrote a lot of horror, then after that I tried to write what I guess you would describe as ‘literature’. Nothing really seemed to click until I tried my hand at crime fiction, about eight or nine years ago, and I’ve been getting steadily published since then, starting with my short story ‘Red Eyed Richard’ in issue three of Thuglit.

Any favourite crime authors?

My top three are Jim Thompson, Chester Himes, and James Ellroy, probably on the basis that these are the three crime writers I read first. I’ve imitated the style of Jim Thompson most of all, I think, and Chester Himes‘ influence is most apparent in my Eye For An Eye books. I haven’t tried to ape Ellroy yet, but I’ve got plans… Others include Richard Stark, James M Cain, Alan Parks, Matt Wesolowski, Attica Locke, Joe Lansdale, Marietta Miles, Nikki Dolson, Tom Leins, Shawn Cosby, Hector Acosta, Will Viharo, Daniel Vlasaty, Rob Pierce, Beau Johnson, and Gabino Iglesias, among many others.

What is the scene like in the U.K. with crime/noir writing?

I think it’s healthy. There are people like Tom Leins, Aidan Thorn, Paul D Brazill, and Tess Makovesky, to name a few, who are all flying the flag and making a name for themselves. I’m not sure whereabouts I fit in it, personally. Sure I’m British and I’ve set some stuff here in the north east where I live, but I made the decision to set a lot of my stuff in America. When I come to write a story I always think about first which setting will suit it best, and the US tends to win out, and that’s based on my interests and influences. I read and watch (television and movies) mostly American, and so I think that’s the voice that flows strongest through my writing. The two I have coming out this June, however, are both England-set. Cutthroat takes place in Newcastle, in the 70s, with a little bit of Northumberland and Scotland in it too, and Just Like Jesus is set in Northumberland, predominantly in Amble, the town I grew up in. One thing I always enjoy writing, and switching up between the two settings, is dialogue. It’s fun to write the snappy, one-liner style of Americans, and it’s just as fun to write the colloquialisms of Geordies in the north east of England.

What makes a good crime/suspense story?

For me, I like them to be dark. I’m not averse to some humour – Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen spring to mind – but I like my crime to be of the noir variety and to be exactly as described: pitch black. That’s one of the reasons most of the authors I listed above work primarily in the indies, as that’s where the darkest, most brutal stuff is. Of course, I also want them to have some great characters and some real stakes that they’re working towards. This is what I try to inject into my own writing, and what I’m looking for in other people’s.

Are there any crime/noir film’s that you like?

Drive instantly springs to mind. Blue Velvet, Scorsese gangster movies, Killing Them Softly, Touch Of Evil, Niagara, In A Lonely Place, The Big Sleep, Kiss Me Deadly, Chinatown, Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, Nightcrawler, Get Carter, The Long Good Friday, Hell Or High Water, Stoker, Stormy Monday, Payroll, A Prophet, Killer Joe, City Of God, A Bittersweet Life, Sin Nombre, Heat, Wild At Heart, Fresh, Brick, Dead Presidents, Reservoir Dogs, Blood Simple – there’s a lot, I could probably go on. Also, like a lot of people, I really enjoyed Uncut Gems recently.

Paul, could you tell us about writing “Guillotine”? It is full of twist and turns, and often surprises the reader. How do you handle dialogue and pacing?

Guillotine started life as a short story a few years before I actually decided to take the characters I had and insert them into a novella. I felt like I had too much content for a short story, it needed to be something longer, so I basically fleshed out and added background to the scenes I’d already written, then extended the ending. All the stuff with Lou-Lou, especially the second half of the story, was brand new. The pacing for it came as I wrote it, as if usually the case. I’ll start writing something and get a feel for how fast it’s going to move – whether it’s going to be a little more paced and thoughtful, or if it’s going to be breakneck, like Guillotine is.

Dialogue is one of my favourite parts of writing – it not THE favourite. It keeps the story moving, it reveals the characters, their drives, how they act and react. I’m a big fan of George V Higgins and how he tells the bulk of his stories in dialogue. I started using this approach (though maybe not to the same extreme) when I came to write Fatboy, or rather the second draft of Fatboy. When I read through the first draft I found the dialogue was good, but I disliked the exposition. So I focussed more on my strengths.

Could you tell us about the trilogy “The Motel whore”, “The vampire” and “The Boy”? They feature recurring characters and a dark, gloomy atmosphere is created. How do you create this dark world for the reader?

The Motel Whore series was something I wrote very early on. I think it was an effort to get a lot of dark ideas out of my system, and it grew to include The Vampire and The Boy when I started getting the ideas on how to incorporate them into the world of the original story and utilise pre-existing characters. The three tales are quite possibly some of my darkest stuff, not necessarily in terms of violence, but certainly in the way that these characters suffer and the kind of lives they lead. They all in some way rotate around the town’s motel, and the eponymous prostitute that lives there. The printed collection of these tales also includes two new short stories, The Painter and The Shoot.

Could you tell us about writing your latest “Bad Bastards”? What inspired you to write this one?

I’m always looking to write a concise piece of noir, stuff like what Jim Thompson and James M Cain did, with distraught lovers and jealous men and a hitman, so sometimes I’ll write an opening and create some characters without any real idea of where things are going. I did that with the first few chapters of Bad Bastards. It starts almost as a kind of exercise, just to see what I can come up with and where I can go with it. So I had this opening, and I thought it was pretty strong, but then I had to take a seat back and decide what came next – which is when I created the Bad Bastards Motorcycle Club. The original working title of it was Trailer Park Hitman, obviously based round the character of Harvey and his young girlfriend Cherry, but that was literally just a working title. Once I had the motorcycle club’s name I knew that had to become the title. The motorcycle club themselves are kind of background, save for a few characters, but I have plans to make them more central going forward, so let’s hope that comes to fruition.

What will your next book be about?

I’ve got two books coming out this year, both in June. First is Cutthroat, which will be released by All Due Respect. It’s set in Newcastle in 1978 and the best way I can describe it is Get Carter as written by a Geordie Richard Stark. Rob Pierce has edited it and he seemed to like it.

A week after that comes Just Like Jesus, coming out with Close To The Bone (who released my Eye For An Eye books) and this tells the story of two young drug dealers on the Northumbrian coast. They spend their summer days driving round, selling drugs, and hooking up with girls, but petty jealousies and a dangerous boss threaten to destroy everything in their idyllic existence. The front cover is done and I’ve posted it on all my social media if people want to check it out, and the pre-order will probably be available soon (maybe by the time this interview is published) so keep an eye out for that.



John Wisniewski interviews Daniel Vlasty

All Due Respect, Daniel Vlasty, Down and Out Books., Interviews, John Wisniewski, Non-fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

stay ugly

When did you begin writing, Daniel?

I remember writing a few really terrible stories when I was younger, probably in high school, and some embarrassing poetry too. But I didn’t start to really write until I was a sophomore in college. I took a creative writing class to fill some credit hours I needed and I’ve been writing ever since.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Off the top of my head — Kurt Vonnegut, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanoes, Sam Pink, Justin Grimbol, Carlton Mellick III, J David Osborne, Stephen Graham Jones, Jonathan Lethem, Ken Bruen, Ed Brubaker, Jason Aaron, Rick Remender, Matt Fraction.

Could you tell us about writing “Stay Ugly“? What inspired you to write?

STAY UGLY is actually like two or three others stories I was failing at writing mashed together. It’s not that complicated of a story but writing it kicked my ass. Probably took me a year to write the first draft and I finished that back in 2018. Just for reference of where this stacks up with my other first drafts: The Church of TV as God took me three days to write, Amphetamine Psychosis took about four, Only Bones was about a week, and A New and Different Kind of Pain took a week and some change. But with Stay Ugly I just felt like I could never get it right and I just kept working at it. I rewrote it in third-person and then back to first person (even tried like half a draft in second person), added characters, removed characters, changed major and minor details, and generally just fucked around with it non-stop until Chris at All Due Respect picked it up and we were able to find some focus on the story.

I’m really glad the book’s out now so I can just move the fuck on. And I love it. I think it’s a great story. But I was also starting to hate it toward the end there.

I really just like Ugly as a character. I like flawed characters. I like bad people. I like to see some shit get dirty and messy and grimy. I like the idea of trying to do better and be better but just fucking up everything and making it all worse.

I think that is human.

Can we speak about “A New and Different Kind of Pain”, Daniel? What inspired this book?

I didn’t think about this at the time I was writing it, but it was definitely because my wife was pregnant with our daughter. I guess I put my fears about not being able to protect/provide for my family in there.

Writing A New and Different Kind of Pain was kind of weird. I had just taken a new job as a counselor on the night shift at a psych ward. But there was some kind of bureaucratic/political whatever bullshit going around and we never ended up getting any patients. So for about 5-6 months I “worked” alone on an empty psych ward over nights. In that time I wrote a New and Different Kind of Pain and most of the first draft of another book that will probably never get finished or touched again or see the light of day.

It was a good experience, gave me a ton of time to write. But when they finally closed the unit it took me some time to adjust to “normal” life again. I’d spent six months alone — pretty much — and basically forgot how to talk to people or function in everyday life. (And I’m still not convinced that I wasn’t unknowingly involved in some kind of isolation experiment — that shit, and all the amphetamines I was taking at the time really fucked with my head).

What makes a good crime novel?

For me, in my opinion, I like my crime fiction to be based in reality. I want to see “real” people reacting to fucked up shit. I want to see characters making the worst possible decisions — decisions so bad that me as the reader (or writer, I guess, too) I can’t do anything but shake my head and maybe cringe.

I was reading a book review a while ago (can’t remember which book it was, not one of mine though) and the reviewer spent most of the review talking shit about how all the characters kept making bad decisions, and how it was so unrealistic because no one ever made a single good decision. But that review was bullshit because people, in the real world, are constantly making bad decisions. That’s basically all people do. If people didn’t make such bad decisions my day job wouldn’t exist (I work at a methadone clinic).

It was also a bullshit review because if all your characters make good and smart and rational decisions then you don’t have a story.    

Can we talk about The Church of TV as God? What inspired this book?

I don’t know that anything really “inspired” The Church of TV as God. I wrote it because back when I was in like my mid-20s I was super into Bizarro Fiction. (If you’re not familiar with Bizarro Fiction the simplest way I can think to describe it as a Troma movie in book form — just weird and crazy and fun and messy, sometimes sexy, often violent).

Every year Eraserhead Press puts out a series of books called the New Bizarro Author Series. It’s for (obviously) new authors and it used to be more of a competition, where the author who sold the most copies would get a contract with Eraserhead. They’d dropped the competition aspect of it before my time in the NBAS — but basically we had a year to prove ourselves, build up an audience and it was a way for Eraserhead to test out new and “unproven” authors, give us little people a shot.

Carlton Mellick III (who is generally known as the Godfather of Bizarro) was once telling me how he writes all of his books in marathon sessions. Where you basically lock yourself in a room, away from the distractions of everyday life, for a few days or a week or however long it takes, and you don’t come out until you have a finished book.

I’d been writing Bizarro short stories for a while and when Eraserhead put out the call for that year’s NBAS I decided to try my hand at something longer. During my time in the NBAS the word count max for the books was either 20,000 or 30,000. So I took CMIII’s advice and locked myself away and just went to work on the craziest fucking thing I could think of. I took me three days to finish writing The Church of TV as God.

It’s about a dude with a TV for a head and his talking dog. They get kidnapped by this cult that calls themselves The Church of TV as God because they believe that he is their savior and that he will help them to fulfill their prophecy, which is written about in their good book, a TV Guide or some shit.

I don’t even know. It’s wacky and violent and bloody as hell. It was a lot of fun to write. I love Bizarro Fiction, still read it often and have plans to hopefully write in the genre again, but right now my interests have shifted to crime fiction.

What will your next book be about?

Man, that’s kind of a BIG question. But right now I’m “working” on three books. I guess, maybe, kind of. They’re all in pretty early outline stages and I’m just waiting for one of them to jump out take up all my attention. This is what I’ve got so far.

Please Come Back to Us is the sequel to Stay Ugly. It’s set two years after the events of Stay Ugly and not to spoil anything but our boy Ugly’s back and shit’s obviously going to get bloody.

Them Animals is my return to the very specific sub-genre of Chicago bike messenger crime fiction. This one doesn’t have anything to do with my other Chicago bike messenger crime fiction book, Only Bones — I guess other than being about some dudes riding bikes in Chicago, drugs, crime, violence, blah blah blah.

The Death of Everything is me venturing outside of crime fiction into… horror maybe, I don’t know yet. I actually just started fucking around with it today. I think it’s going to be about a father and a daughter trying to survive in a post-pandemic world.

This is kind of part of my process I guess. I always fuck around with a few stories until one of them takes over my every thought and it will become my next book.

But also I’m sure if you asked me this same question yesterday or tomorrow I would have a completely different answer for you.

Are there any crime films that you like?

I like a lot of crime films. So many this is an impossible question to answer. So I’ll just list off a few of the last crime films I watched and enjoyed.

Knives Out, Skin, The Fighter, Uncut Gems (I loved this and if you haven’t seen it, you should), The Long Kiss Goodnight, Good Time (This is the movie that in a few ways inspired Stay Ugly), Premium Rush, Brick, Pulp Fiction.

My takeaway/advice: get down with the Safdie Brothers, my favorite current filmmakers.

John Wisniewski interviews Mark Slade

Close To The Bone, Crime Fiction, Interviews, John Wisniewski, Mark Slade, Punk Noir Magazine


When did you begin writing, Mark?

I was about 10 years old. It was after seeing the Twilight Zone for the first time.

Any favorite authors?

Ray Bradbury stands out as my fav. I’m also a huge Ross Macdonald, Ed Mcbain, Rod Serling, Robert E. Howard.

Could you tell us about writing “Mr. Zero“, Mark? What inspired you to write?

Its book 1 of my Barry London series. London is a fixer for the mob.  He’s sent to his hometown to help out a crooked cop and find out who torched a nightclub.

I’d been reading a lot of crime books.  Especially the Parker series by Donald E Westlake. And a lot of old 70s film and tv shows. Initially London is the mafia’s private detective.

How did you create the Barry London character?

Barry London is the name of someone who was a security person at a job I had. I joked with a co worker that he really worked for the mob.

What makes a good suspense/crime novel?

Boy that’s a question im not educated enough to answer. I just fashion my stories on what my idols wrote.

What drew you to suspense/crime writing?

The writers I mentioned. A lot of culture from the past inspires me. Sometimes news items. Sometimes conversations with people.

A lot of movies and TV drew me to the genre. Rockford Files def had an impact. Plus my mom was really into mysteries. My brother got me into Ross Macdonald and Ed McBain. I loved the Lovejoy series from the British. And when I started writing again, Paul D Brazill and T Fox Dunham had a big impact on me as well.

Could you tell us about writing “Mean Business“? How did you see this story?

I wanted to do a series of short stories about Barry London. Flesh out his world. Have Mr. Choaladi send London to diff places. In the story Mean Business I knew I wanted London to meet hillbillies and tangle with snakes. Luckily those stories appeared in an anthology a time for violence. Switchblade mag, Punk Noir, nd a few other places. 

Are there any film noir/crime film’s that you like?

Oh there’s so many! L.A. Confidential, Angel Heart, Marlowe, too many to list. I love all the old Black and white films. Paul Thomas Anderson has a few, but I really like Inherent Vice. Coen Brothers, David Lynch.

Can we talk about “Witch for Hire” which has an occult theme? Is this a subject that interested you?

Well, I’ve written more horror than crime. So writing about a witch who is a detective seems natural. Its the first real novel I attempted and it took a year and a half to write. I love the cover Cameron Hampton painted for me. Funny, I thought that book would have more purchases because it has a female protagonist. And occult story. Evelina Giles and her Reporter friend and her assistant Mungo solve a string of murders tied to a town in Virginia that disappeared during a flood.  A lot of plot twists I cant give away.

mark slade

John Wisniewski interviews Joe Clifford

Crime Fiction, Down and Out Books., Interviews, Joe Clifford, John Wisniewski, Noir, Punk Noir Magazine

skunk train

When did you begin writing, Joe?

I’ve been writing since I couldn’t make any art really. The mediums change but the emotion and expression behind it stay the same. I’ve dabbled in painting. Play in a rock band. I write. They’re all artistic forms. Some more satisfying than others. I mean given my choice I would have been a rockstar. Unfortunately as singer I turned out to be a pretty good novelist.

Any favorite crime fiction authors?

Favor crime writers? Too many to mention. I love the classics, Cain and Chandler, Thompson. Now? All women. Mary Kubica is always the top of my list. Wendy Walker. Gillian Flynn. Paula Hawkins. I read almost exclusively domestic psychological thrillers written by women. My favorite books of the past 10 years are almost all written by women. My contemporaries I admire most—Jennifer Hillier, Cate Holahan, Emily Carpenter, Shannon Kirk, Heather Harper Ellett—all women. I keep hammering this point home but for me? Women are writing a particular brand of thriller and mystery that is of the highest order, and my goal to someday write something as evocative as these authors have.

What makes a good crime fiction novel?

The same things that make any novel good: bad shit happens. Every book is one of discovery. It’s just with crime, the requisite conflict your protagonist must overcome is easier to identify. Literary fiction novels have conflict too. Romance, sci-fi, cozies, all of them do. Every book is conflict, and then the journey to fight, rise above, or get destroyed by it. The reason I chose crime fiction is it forces the author to keep things moving. No one is reading a crime novel where nothing happens. Narrative moves, readers maintain interest, and I still get to explore the themes and ideas that interest me—the outlier, the marginalized, the downtrodden, the fuck-ups and put-upon. These are the folks who interest me; and if I can’t tell their story, I’m not sure I want to tell any story.

You have struggled with addiction, Joe. How do you work this theme into your stories? 

Probably by weaving a drug and/or alcohol subplot into every book! It’s funny, I’m working on a book now (The Shadow People), and I was, like, “This time, no drugs!” And so I wrote out the synopsis and sent it to my agent, and he was, like, “Yeah, this is great. But you know what it’s missing? Drugs!” It’s Christopher Walken and more cowbell, I guess. My aim is to move more toward domestic psychologicalthrillers. That’s my life now (not that my wife is faking her death to avenge my infidelity. I’m too old to screw around. Frankly, the mere thought sounds exhausting). It’s been a LONG time since I was a junkie living on the streets. Still, it’s pretty ingrained. Those were deeply formative years. A form of trauma, really. Not to equate my stupid decisions with people suffering cruel hands of fate. But I think anytime you outlast your demons, whether they were sought out or foisted upon, you carry the scars. If we write what we know, I am probably more intimately acquainted with pain and sorrow, loss and heartache than any other emotions or sensations. Which, yeah, makes me a blast at parties. But most people I know, the ones I am friends with at least, tend to share some fucked-up simpatico sensibility. And I try to add levity and humor to my work, albeit dark, twisted, and fucked up.

rag and bone

Could you tell us about writing your most recent novel Rag and Bone?

Technically, my latest novel is Skunk Train, which came about 2 weeks ago (December 2019). It’s a rock-and-roll love story about two teenagers on the run with stolen drug money. It’s the 2nd book in a 3-book deal with Down & Out. Rag and Bone is the last in the Porter series, which is put out by a bigger publisher so it gets a little more airplay. Rag and Bone dropped over the summer and wraps up the 5-book arc for Jay Porter, my handyman protagonist in the series. Each book can be read alone, but I think this series, perhaps more than most, benefits from reading all five. It’s really one long story. In RnB we have Jay at the end of the line, tying together threads from the first four books. This involves a prominent family in town, prisons for profit, contaminated soil, corrupt construction company owners, and ruthless politicians. But really? The story is about Jay, a broken man trying to do the right thing with the limited resources he has. He lives on a cold mountain, with few friends, he drinks too much, and he’s poor. But he’s got heart.

How did you create the Jay Porter character?

Jay Porter is an amalgamation of my two real-life brothers, Jason and Josh. Jason is a hardworking guy who can’t seem to catch a break. My brother Josh died a couple years ago from alcoholism. (Jason is still thankfully plugging away.) Certainly the logistics come from my brothers. The line of work, the hard drinking, hardscrabble existence, etc. But the center of the character owes as much to Rocky Balboa. Like Rocky, he’s gonna take a beating. Unlike Rocky, won’t be watched on the big screen, most will never know his name, and it’ll cost him far more than he wins.

Any favorite crime noir film’s, Joe?

Too many to choose from! But if I have to pick? Detour.

Nab Joe Clifford’s book here.

John Wisniewski Interviews Henry Roi

Close To The Bone, Henry Roi, Interviews, John Wisniewski, Punk Noir Magazine


John Wisniewski: Could you tell us about writing your latest book “With Her Fists”? What inspired you to write? 

Henry Roi: It began as a character driven story. I wanted a protagonist with the same abilities I possess, though enhanced, far more talented but not so over the top that they aren’t believable. What’s more impressive than a guy that can box, do tattoos and mechanic work? A girl that can. And do it better than any guy.

As the other characters were fleshed out it became more plot driven. After a year of work, hand writing this on 700 pages, multiple drafts, it was typed up and ready to go. I was looking for some hit-me-between-the-eyes feedback, so I asked a few well-read, tough critics to give their opinions and was told it’s a winner.

During this time I was studying the craft and couldn’t shut off the flow of story ideas. The only way to disconnect my thoughts was to jot them down. Man, I had notes everywhere, scraps of forms, manilla folders – whatever was nearby when the madness struck was vandalized by my illegible scrawl.

John: Any favorite noir authors? 

Henry: Definitely. I’ve worked for Crime Wave Press since 2015. We have some top shelf works of noir there, several of which I had the pleasure of proofreading. “Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties” by Andy Rausch is the most entertaining collection of noir I’ve read.

John: What makes a good crime/noir novel, Henry?

Henry: For me, a good crime thriller has an anti-hero with a conscience. A criminal that is possibly an asshole and unlikable and yet relatable – and then he/she does something heroic and selfless and the excitement is worth cheering.

Noir novels? I prefer those to be tales of really horrific things happening to ordinary, good people. Slippery psychopaths, unlikely villains. Grandmas or children committing murder that makes me curse with a smile.

John: Are there any film noir classics that you like?

Henry: I’m 38. I’ve never been into classic noir films. The only black and white films I like are the first Bruce Lee movies.

John: Was it difficult to write your first novel?

Henry: My first book was a collection of short crime stories. By then, about 12 years ago, I had read hundreds of novels and dog-eared a Webster’s, so I was arrogant enough to say, Hey, I can write a book. And did. And the writing was complete shit. But the stories were entertaining enough for the few that read them to enjoy them. Made me keep going, made me want to know what was tumbling around in the minds of pros when they wrote best-sellers. I went through several years of studying fiction for dummies-type books, discovered how ignorant I was, and then worked almost daily for another year on With Her Fists. Most days I sat down to write, I had no idea what I would do. When the pen hits the paper, somewhere in my head a little neuronal middle finger sticks up, then grabs its pen and throws down.

I put my characters in very difficult situations. Then worse ones. Then deadly, impossible ones, without knowing how they would get out until they had to. Their difficulties were fun puzzles to solve.

The only thing that was difficult for me that I recall was a sore middle knuckle. Not from overuse of sign language. From writing for hours every day. The tendon would work over the knuckle, inflamed, but I couldn’t stop, had to get the ideas out, into the story.

John: Was is the experience like being the PR Manager of Close to the Bone?

Henry: The Close to the Bone team works for Pop Tarts and produces some very brilliant books, clean edited flash and shorts, and love it. No one is interested in the cold side of the business – the money – and everyone goes out of their way to help authors get their works out there, pro quality, no drama. Problems are rare. We point and laugh at each other and get cool shit done.

Most of the work I do is finding reviewers. I meet talented people, give advice on marketing or PR basics, find them interviews on blogs or podcasts, the occasional guest article slot, and circulate the content we create on social media – a lovely place where more people point and laugh and get cool shit done.

John: Do you identify with your main character?

Clarice “Shocker” Ares was a law abiding professional that was wrongfully imprisoned, forced to be a criminal so she could get justice and reunite her family. I wasn’t forced to be a criminal. I love speeding without wearing a seatbelt. I download pirated movies. Those things would make Clarice look down her nose at me. While we share the same skill sets, we are very different people.

John: What will your next book be about? 

Possibly a memoir about how I became a PR Manger, about the conditions I live in, the business I’m growing and the guys I’m hiring to work with me. The last few years have been intense.


About the Author

Henry Roi was born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and still finds his inspiration in its places and people.

As a GED tutor and fitness instructor, working both face to face and online, he is an advocate of adult education in all its forms. His many campaigning and personal interests include tattoo art, prison reform and automotive mechanics.

He currently works in publishing, as an editor and publicist. He particularly focuses on promoting talented indie writers – arranging reviews, delivering media campaigns, and running blog tours.

If you’re not lucky enough to catch him fishing round the Biloxi Lighthouse or teaching boxing in your local gym, he can usually be found on Twitter or Facebook @HenryRoiPR.

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