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