John Wisniewski interviews Maxim Jakubowski

Anthology, David Goodis, Films, International Noir, Interviews, Jim Thompson, John Wisniewski, Maxim Jakubowski, Mike Hodges, Pulp, Punk Noir Magazine, True Brit Grit, Writing

JW: When did you begin your career as a writer /editor of pulp writing,  Maxim?

MJ: I never meant to specifically be involved in what you term ‘pulp’. From early childhood I was an avid reader and quickly found out that I actually wanted to write stories and all followed from there. My early tastes (and career) were for science fiction and fantasy, although I also read a lot of crime and I began publishing my first stories in magazines in France, where I was then living, from the age of 16. But because I was bilingual I read and was aware of what was being written in English and one day convinced a Paris publishing house to allow me to edit a volume of the latest in British SF, and that became my first anthology.

JW: Any favourite pulp writers?

MJ: Cornell Woolrich, Dashiell Hammett, Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Fritz Leiber, many of which I Iater had the opportunity to publish when I began work in publishing per se 

JW: What makes a good crime/suspense novel?

MJ: If I knew, I would have written it. As it is I keep trying again and again and as soon as a new novel of mine is published, I realise I can do better and start another! It’s very much in the eye of the beholder, the right alchemical blend of locale, characters, plot and feelings.

JW: What did you think of the film version of Get Carter? Do crime novels tend to make good films, when adapted? 

MJ: I’m a great fan of it (and actually director Mike Hodges is a good friend of mine; and I published his first novel a few years back). Although it differs greatly from the book which is equally good. Generally I prefer original scripts to book adaptations, but a few do stand out like Carter or Falling Angel or turn out even better in the case of The Godfather, which maybe points to the fact that mediocre books can make great movies while important ones do not, as they already occupy a level which even film at its best can’t reach.

JW: Are there any writers that you could tell would become a huge successes through their early writing? 

MJ. Lots of new writers have impressed me immensely; even more so as for past 6 years I’ve been a judge for the Crime Writers’ Association First Novel Dagger so seen a lot of debuts, but as to predict who is going to be ‘big’, so much depends on marketing spend and promo publishers allow it and the unpredictable quirks of the book trade. Have spent most of my life in book publishing and all too aware that quality is not always the issue. Right now my two tips for the future are Chris Whitaker and Lou Berney but who knows if they will make it big. 

JW: Do you have a new collection of stories that you are editing, Maxim? 

MJ: Am currently editing the 3rd volume in what I hope will become a regular series of anthologies, each on a different mystery theme, for US publishers Mango. First one, Historical, has just been published. Next, Amateur Sleuths and Private Eyes is delivered and out in autumn and now working on 3rd, Impossible Crimes and Puzzling Deaths, for 2020. And my fairly major general crime anthology Invisible Blood appears in UK and USA next month, with stories from many of the biggest names in the genre, including a new Jack Reacher tale by Lee Child. 

I had taken 4 years off editing anthologies as I was busy on a series of books outside the genre, eleven in all, most of which made the Sunday Times bestseller lists, albeit under a pseudonym.

MAXIM JAKOWSKI’S WIKIPEDIA PAGE IS HERE.

Maxim

Existentialism in Noir by K. A. Laity

David Goodis, Existentialism, Graham Wynd, International Noir, K A Laity, Noir, Non-fiction, Patricia Highsmith, Punk Noir Magazine, Writing


shoot

A few years back I was on an existentialism panel at NoirCon that went a bit off the rails (those who were there may recall why) so we never really got deeply into the topic. It’s hung around in the back of my brain pan for a while and two recent reads pinged a few sparks around that got me thinking about different ways of embodying existentialism.

The first book had been one of those gaps in my noir reading: Down There AKA Shoot the Piano Player by David Goodis. You probably know the Truffaut film even if you haven’t read the book. I sort of thought I had, but I hadn’t. If you know Goodis at all, you know not to read his books when you’re feeling low. The most painful sort of existentialism that might be summed up as the “just put one foot in front of the other because that’s all there is” school. Edward Lynn is the titular player and he’s playing hot music when his brother Turley staggers into the bar and upends his life.

But we find that’s not the real beginning of the story. We backtrack eventually to find out how this prodigy went from concert halls to an ex-wrestler’s dive bar. And we meet Lena, the first bright ray of sunshine and an all-right dame who makes Eddie remember what it’s like to want to live.

Things don’t stay that way: this is bleak stuff with some great jazzy prose in between. The last line, “He saw his fingers caressing the keyboard” epitomises the alienation Goodis makes you feel. There is no hope. All you can do is just soldier on.

tremor

In some ways, the existentialism of Patricia Highsmith’s The Tremor of Forgery is even more disturbing. Howard Ingham goes to Tunisia to work with a director on a screenplay only to find out the director has committed suicide back in New York—in Ingham’s own apartment no less. He decides to hang around anyway and work on his book about an unrepentant con man, feeling superior to both the locals and to the other American resident, Francis J. Adams, the purveyor of All-American propaganda behind the Iron Curtain (it’s 1969) arranged by a private donor.

Without all his normal social interactions, Ingham goes to pieces. His moods swing, he loses interest in then fanatically loves his lukewarm girl friend. His writing goes great. His writing stops. He enjoys Tunisia. He hates it. In short he has no moral centre. And things get weirder. The director may have committed suicide because of Ingham’s gal. Adams is maybe CIA or something or maybe it’s all his imagination.

Maybe Ingham kills someone. But if he does, no one seems to care.

He travels. He moves out of the hotel. His girlfriend visits. He’s not going back. He’s going back. It gets to the point you don’t know what’s real. Ingham certainly doesn’t. How much of this is Highsmith’s own xenophobia, racism and misanthropy? It’s all subsumed in the noise. Even Ingham’s final words are obscured, “unheard in the shuffle of sandals, the din of transistors, the blare of the unintelligible flight announcements” and the possible and ever so apt murder weapon, “the typewriter in his hand weighed nothing at all now.” It’s all messed up. As Denise Mina warns in the introduction, “Her books will make you reckless.”

Think I might be up for a trip to Tunisia. It’s not like anything means anything, right?

K. A. Laityis an award-winning author, scholar, critic and arcane artist. Her books include How to Be Dull,White RabbitDream Book, A Cut-Throat BusinessLush Situation, Owl Stretching, Unquiet DreamsChastity Flame, and Pelzmantel. She has edited My Wandering UterusRespectable HorrorWeird Noir, Noir Carnival and Drag Noir, plus written many short stories, scholarly essays, songs, and more. Follow her on TwitterInstagram or Facebook.

She also writes crime as Graham Wynd and historical fiction as Kit Marlowe.