I first discovered the talent of Jason Starr when I was belly-laughing, cringing and sweating my way through the absolutely stellar ‘Max and Angela’ Series. Starr and Ken Bruen double-teaming the noir genre with hilarious and pulse-pounding results. BUST. SLIDE. THE MAX. PIMP. If you haven’t made it to that series from Hard Case Crime yet, go and make those the next four books you read. The main protagonist Max is probably my favorite character in crime fiction period. Maybe that doesn’t quite reflect me in the best light as Max is a completely deluded piece of shit who calls himself ‘The M.A.X’ in the third person.
The highly prolific Starr has a wide array of novels and comics to his name. My favorite being Fake ID, the raw story of a psychotic bouncer and bit-time actor, Tommy Russo, in Manhattan who needs big money for the chance to buy in on a race horse. Deciding how exactly to get that cash and the fact Tommy has a serious gambling addiction is really what starts the shit (and blood) hitting the fan. It gets real messy. Another classic Hard Case Crime release – it’s completely different to Starr’s other ‘lighter’ works. Fake ID is a perfect example of pitch black, bleak noir with a hopeless, questionable protagonist doing very questionable things as a means to a blood splattered end.
If you haven’t read Fake ID – go check it out ASAP!
As you can tell I’m a big fan of Starr, so without further ado, here’s the interview with the man himself.
Hi Jason, really appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions for Punk Noir Mag. Kicking off, can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got started in the Literature scene?
In college, I wrote short stories, and after college I wrote plays and screenplays. Later, in my mid 20’s, I started writing novels, specifically crime fiction.
You’re possibly best known for (for me anyway it seems) your Hard Case Crime novel Fake ID. How did that novel come into fruition and what were your inspirations for that bleak as hell story?
Though Fake ID is probably the most “noir” novel I’ve written, it’s definitely not my most known. Cold Caller, Twisted City, The Follower, Panic Attack and Fugitive Red and my graphic novels are probably my most known. Fake I.D. was actually published originally in the U.K., mainly because my agent at the time feared that it was “too dark.” It was published 8 years later by Hard Case Crime. My goal was to write a psychologically honest, relentless story that is purely about a guy who wants something very badly, and the extents he will go to get it. The novel has a horse racing theme and the protagonist, Tommy Russo, is like a horse with blinders.
What advice would you give to up and coming indie authors?
Aside from writing great books, to make sure you’re really good at marketing and are willing to spend the time and energy on marketing. If you’re an indie author writing a great book is only the first step. The real work starts after you type “the end.” Also, publishing short fiction online will help, especially if you don’t already have a platform.
What are your plans for the future?
My thriller graphic novel Casual Fling from AWA is on-sale in October, 2021 at bookstores everywhere. My new novel, The Next Time I Die, will be published in 2022 by Hard Case Crime.
What is an issue you care about deeply?
What novel are you reading now?
Forward by Andrew Yang.
What music are you listening to now?
Donda, Kanye West.
What did you last eat?
I guess I’ll let that last question ‘slide’…
If you could go on a drinking binge with 5 writers alive or dead who would you choose?
Hemingway, Jim Thompson, Albert Camus, Ken Bruen…and William Shakespeare.
What would you like written on your gravestone?
I guess something related to my family. I doubt Fake ID will be mentioned.
Jason Starr was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Growing up, he enjoyed sports such as baseball, tennis, and horse racing, but didn’t have much interest in literature. He began writing plays and fiction in college at Binghamton University. Starr is known for his satirical urban crime novels, set mainly in the New York City area. When asked why (until The Pack) he wrote standalone novels and didn’t rely on a series character he said, “New York City is my series character.”
In the 1990s, Starr had several plays performed at Off-Off Broadway theater companies in New York. In 1997, Starr’s first crime novel, Cold Caller, was published by No Exit Press in the U.K. In 1998, upon its American publication by W.W. Norton, Cold Caller was selected as a Publisher’s Weekly First Fiction pick and was hailed by Kirkus Reviews as “just the thing for fans who miss the acid noir that Jim Thompson dispensed in The Grifters.” The French edition of Cold Caller was selected as the official gift of the prestigious 813 book group. In the critical work Twentieth Century Crime Fiction, (Oxford University Press, 2005), author Lee Horsley selected Cold Caller as one of the basic texts for discussion.
Starr’s second novel, Nothing Personal, about a compulsive gambler who hatches a sick kidnapping plot to pay off debts, was hailed as the best novel of the year by Bookends. Starr’s third novel, Fake I.D., concerns a bouncer’s desperate attempts to join a horse-owning syndicate. His fourth novel, Hard Feelings, about a computer networking salesman, trying to do deal with a horror from his past, was a “Penzler Pick” and the first ever original novel published by the prestigious American publisher, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard.
Tough Luck, Starr’s fifth novel, about a young guy in Brooklyn who gets in deep with a mob figure, was an Anthony Award finalist and won the Barry Award for best paperback. Starr’s sixth novel, Twisted City, about the devastating consequences a financial journalist faces when he attempts to recover a stolen wallet, was a Barry Award finalist and an Anthony Award winner. In 2006, Starr’s novel Lights Out, a tale of jealousy and murder set in Brooklyn, was first published by St. Martin’s Press in the U.S. and Orion in the U.K. It was hailed as one of the best crime novels of the year by Barnes and Noble.com and Bookreporter.com. Also in 2006, the heralded American pulp publisher Hard Case Crime, published Bust, a crime novel that Starr wrote with Irish novelist Ken Bruen (BUST was an IMBA bestseller). That same year, Vintage Books published a collection of stories and essays on horse racing called Bloodlines: A Horse Racing Anthology, which Starr co-edited with Maggie Estep.
In 2007, Starr’s thriller The Follower, called “this generation’s Looking for Mr. Goodbar” by the New York Post, was first published by St. Martin’s Press and Orion Books. TV/Film rights for The Follower were purchased by Lionsgate with Bret Easton Ells attached as writer/creator. Also in 2007, Hard Case Crime publishedSlide, a second novel co-authored by Starr and Ken Bruen. In 2008, Starr and Bruen’s third novel, The Max was published in what became known as “The Bust Trilogy.”
Panic Attack, Starr’s thriller about the aftermath of a shooting in suburban New York City, was published in 2009 by St. Martin’s Press. The German/ Diogenes Verlag edition (Panik) was a major bestseller in Austria. It was optioned by David Fincher‘s production company Panic Pictures with Ocean’s Eleven scribe Ted Griffin adapting.
In 2010, Starr’s first graphic novel, The Chill, was published by Vertigo Crime, with art by Mick Bertilorenzi. Starr also wrote many comics for DC Comics (Justice, Inc.). In 2011, The Chill won the Anthony Award for Best Graphic Novel, making Starr one of only nine writers who have won multiple Anthony Awards.
In 2011, Penguin/Ace published Starr’s The Pack, the first book in a new modern day werewolf series set mainly in the New York City area. The second book in the series, The Craving, was published by Penguin in June 2012.
Starr’s prose novel Ant-Man: Natural Enemy was published by Marvel in July 2015, to coincide with the blockbuster Ant-Man feature film. In October 2015, Starr’s novel Savage Lane was published by Polis Books. Polis has also re-issued many of Starr’s novels in new editions.
Starr has also become a prolific writers of comics and graphic novels, writing original works such as The Chill, as well as working on iconic characters such as Batman, Doc Savage, The Avenger, The Sandman for DC Comics and The Punisher and Wolverine Marvel Comics. The Chill won the 2011 Anthony Award for Best Graphic Novel. In October, 2012 Marvel launched its new ongoing series Wolverine Max, written by Starr with art by Roland Boschi. Starr’s original comic The Returning launches from BOOM Studios! in March, 2014, with art by Andrea Mutti (The Executor, Star Wars, Noir).
Starr’s work has been published in nine languages, including in Germany by Diogenes Verlag. Top Job (the German edition of Cold Caller) was adapted as an hour-long radio drama by Deutschland Radio, and was recently chosen as one of the top 50 novels of the past 60 years by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. As a result, in 2006 a new hardcover edition of Top Job was published as part of a popular series of crime novels (SZ Krimibibliothek) by Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Stephen J. Golds
Stephen J. Golds was born in North London, U.K, but has lived in Japan for most of his adult life.
He writes primarily in the noir and dirty realism genres and is the co-editor of Punk Noir Magazine.
He enjoys spending time with his daughters, reading books, traveling the world, boxing and listening to old Soul LPs. His books are Say Goodbye When I’m Gone, I’ll Pray When I’m Dying, Always the Dead, Poems for Ghosts in Empty Tenement Windows I Thought I Saw Once, Cut-throat & Tongue-tied, Bullet Riddled & Gun Shy and the story and poetry collection Love Like Bleeding Out With an Empty Gun in Your Hand.