John Wisniewski interviews Dominic Adler

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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Link to website

Link to Facebook dominic.adler.90


John Wisniewski interviews A J Devlin

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

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

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


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

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


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.

c henry.jpg

John Wisniweski interviews Dana King

JW: When did you begin writing, Dana? Did you write short stories? 

DK: I did start with short stories, in 1993. I was in the process of getting divorce and what I had been calling my musical career was coming to a close. There was talk of a recent trumpet audition having been fixed, which is no crime but it meant a lot of people spent time and money flying to the audition not knowing the winner had already been decided. I wrote a short story about a private detective who used to be a trumpet player who is asked to look into it. It’s sort of a parody of Mickey Spillane and used my friends as characters. It was great fun to write and everyone liked it, so I wrote another for my job at the time, then another for the next job until people said I should think of writing a novel. Looking back, I have the same feelings most authors have about their very early works, that I had no idea what I was doing and I’d never show them to anyone now. On the other hand, that first story was the basis for my third Nick Forte novel, The Man in the Window, which did earn me a Shamus nomination, so it couldn’t have been all bad.

JW: Any favorite crime pulp authors?

A: I have a handful who started out in the pulps but made their names as novelists, and it’s the usual suspects: Hammett, Chandler, Cain, John D. Macdonald. I guess strictly speaking Donald Westlake and Evan Hunter (Ed McBain) cut their teeth on the tail end of the pulps but are of a different generation.

JW: Could you tell us Dana, about writing your book The Man in the Window which won the Shamus award?

DK: Actually, it didn’t win, but I like the way you think.

The Man in the Window takes Nick Forte back to his musical roots and also marks the beginning of his descent as the violence and injustice he’s encountered start to wear him down. The original short story was written as a satire and much of the humor remains in the book, but the novel is much darker. The title refers to the final scene, where Forte catches his reflection and starts to wonder what kind of man he is becoming. By the time we get to the next two Forte books (A Dangerous Lesson and Bad Samaritan), as well as his guest appearance in Grind Joint, Forte is more accepting of what he has become and starts to embrace it. I have an idea for a story down the road where he essentially becomes his own psycho sidekick.

JW: What makes a good crime novel? What inspired you to write?

DK: To me a good crime novel allows me to look at situations through the eyes of one or more or the characters and play along. “What would I do here?” or “How would I feel if this happened to me?” I’ll confess that means I don’t “get” everyone. I’m not going to name names but there are great writers out there, whose greatness I readily acknowledge, but their stories don’t reach me because I can’t identify with the characters’ situations.

I was inspired to write after that first Forte story was well received. I was out of work and had large chunks of time to read and a good library nearby. I picked up some Robert B. Parker novels and read of how much he was influenced by Raymond Chandler, so I read some Chandler. I read The Big Sleep and that put the hook in me. Then I watched Double Indemnity because Chandler wrote the screenplay, which led to me reading Cain’s novel. That reeled me in. For those who haven’t read the book, get busy. The ending is quite a bit different from the movie and one of the most powerful I’ve read. I remember finishing and just sitting there holding the book thinking, “Damn.” The people who are that good can meet comfortably in my living room (I would not be there), but reading something like that is the carrot that dangles in front of all writers.

JW: Could you tell us about creating the Nick Forte character, Dana?

DK: Forte was easy: he’s me. He’s the main character of the first story I wrote with thinlydisguised descriptions of my friends playing the supporting characters. He’s my age and size (at the time I created him, that is), a divorced dad who’s painfully aware that no matter how much energy he devotes to being a father it’s not the same as actually living in the house, and has a musical background that’s a couple of careers distant from what he’s doing now.

James Ellroy once said that Chandler wrote the kinds of main characters he wished he was and that Hammett wrote the kinds of main characters he was afraid he might be. Nick Forte is the man I’m afraid I could be if given his circumstances, experiences, and skill set.

JW: Is Penns River a location you created, or a real locale? 

DK: Penns River is real but not under that name. It’s an amalgam of three small cities in Western Pennsylvania where I grew up. I use an many real locations as I can and read the local paper on the Internet to keep current with what’s going on there and grab the occasional story idea. These are towns where the economy dried up in the 70s when the steel and aluminum industries pretty much left the Pittsburgh area. Pittsburgh recovered and is back probably better than ever, but many of the smaller cities up and down river did not. Pens River is one of those cities.

JW: Could we talk about Grind Joint and Wild Bill. What may have inspired you?

DK: Very separate inspirations for those two.

Wild Bill is that rare example of what non-writers think happens all the time: it came to me in a dream. Well, the ending, anyway. I was in that half awake, half asleep state and the germ of a scene came to me. I let my imagination wander and by the time it was done I had the climactic scene and the plot twist set. Took me several years to come up with a story that led to that ending. There was a major mob trial in Chicago that opened up some inside material on the Outfit that picked up about the time Gus Russo’s outstanding book The Outfit left off. I knitted the two together and came up with a book
I’m proud of even though as my only standalone it doesn’t get the attention of the series books.

Grind Joint is the result of driving through my old home town in Western Pennsylvania and seeing an abandoned strip mall. Two formerly major department stores (Ward’s and Penney’s) connected by some local businesses and restaurants. All the business moved out at least ten years earlier and the building looked it. I lived in Maryland then and the state was pushing casino gambling as a way to solve the state’s economic issues. I pointed to the abandoned mall and said to The Beloved Spouse, “They should put a casino in there. Everyone in Penns River gets well.” After that it was a matter of thinking how such a casino would affect the exiting power structure in town.



John Wisnieski interviews Jason Beech

When did you begin writing, Jason? Did you begin by writing short stories? 

I started writing in the late 1990s, but only to see if I could. I didn’t write anything that a
publisher would touch but the two books did teach me to finish something and to recognise what did and didn’t work.

I’d never thought of writing short stories until I became serious about writing in the early 2010s when I discovered the classic sites of Flash Fiction Offensive, who were the first to publish something I wrote, Shotgun Honey, Pulp Metal Magazine, and more.

Any favorite crime authors?

My favourite crime author is James Ellroy, and that’s just for The Black Dahlia and American Tabloid. I’m into Walter Mosley, Paul D. Brazill, Keith Nixon, Tom Leins, Kate Laity, Ian Rankin, Ray Banks, and lately, Matt Phillips, Paul Heatley, Jake Hinkson, Tess Makovesky, and Thomas Pluck.

I need to read more Aidan Thorn and get involved in Nikki Dolson, Beau Johnson, and Angel Luis Colón.

Could you tell us about writing your novel City of Forts? It is a coming-of-age story as well as a crime novel?

City of Forts is both coming of age story and crime novel. Four kids discover a body in the basement of an abandoned house in an uninhabited development on the edge of a disused, decaying factory. This place is their escape from the town they live in and they don’t want anybody finding out about a body that will bring the outside world into their oasis.

They all have their problems. Ricky’s mum works two jobs to make ends meet because his dad has gone west and seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth. So Ricky has to look after his younger brother, and he hates it – does his best to hide the kid in their home while his mom works so he can go out and live his life.

Bixby is homeless. He’s escaped foster care and has no intention of going back, but it means living in the abandoned houses as social services narrow their search for him 

Lizzie has to contend with a useless dad in mourning for a dead son, with a vicious girlfriend and a drug habit. Lizzie’s looking beyond the town and her teenage years to a life with broader horizons. Tanais just wants friends after being dragged round the country by her parents. She makes a friend in Bixby, but he turns on her when he finds out what Tanais’ dad does. The body they found is not some nobody. A gangster Ricky calls Tarantula Man searches for him, and he’ll kill whoever’s in his way to find his whereabouts. The kids need an ally. Maybe rich man, Mr Vale, will help them out. Maybe Floyd, the greasy wanderer who seems to know everything they’re doing. It all barrels along to a bloody end.

So yes, it’s coming of age, but there’s violence, death, betrayal, and sweaty palms that go along with it.  

Are there any crime films that you like? Any film noir?

I’m behind on a lot of films. I want to see the old Cagney gangster films. I need to see The Kill List. Tons to catch up on. There’s the obvious I like: The Godfather parts 1 and 2, Goodfellas, Casino, Mean Streets, Heat, and so on. My favourite film noir is The Last Seduction, starring Linda Fiorentino. What a twisted bit of work that is. Fiorentino should have been huge on the back of this. Where did she go? I enjoyed Blue Ruin.
And, I know Ellroy dropped some abuse on it recently, but LA Confidential is a great piece of film noir, and Russel Crowe’s best performance in any movie

What makes a good crime novel?

  A great crime novel induces a feeling of dread. The best ones are those which, when you’ve got your head on a pillow and you’re half-knackered, make you sit right up and lose your breath for a second or ten. It doesn’t always need a mystery. Matt Phillips’ Know Me from Smoke and Countdown both let you sense what’s going to happen, but he builds a fear for the characters he’s drawn so well that your palms become clammy and you want to look away – but you can’t.

Same with Jake Hinkson’s The Posthumous Man. Starts off innocuous, but by the end you’re in full-on “Noooooooo” mode.

What will your next book be about, Jason?

Barlow Vine just killed a man – his lover’s lover. Now he’s heading from Spain back to his
hometown to escape his actions in the vain hope they won’t catch up with him. Never Go Back is a wild ride featuring nurses, strange kids in Edwardian garb, one blinding headache, and dead-eyed killers who want to use him for their own ends. It’s a cold, murderous homecoming – and he’ll need the luck of every bastard to survive it all.
The book is out in November, published by Close to the Bone

Could you tell us about the short story collection, Bullets, Teeth, & Fists. How is writing a short crime story different than writing a full length novel?

The first Bullets, Teeth, & Fists is where I really learned to write. I published all the stories as a way to get my newly minted blog on the road and showcase what I could do. The first one is a mix of crime, thriller, paranormal, and slice of life. My favourite story in there is Bring it on Down, about a shy kid who finds his personality but goes off the rails along with his new-found confidence. A short story is a sugar rush. I often write them when a spark hits. I get it down there and then, if I can. If I’m in the middle of something I’ll take a note so I don’t forget. But it can take a day, sometimes more, and you’re done. You leave it alone for a week, come back, iron out the typos and plot/character missteps, and you can move on. They scratch an itch and explode a
satisfying “Aaaagghh.”

However, there’s nothing more satisfying than writing a full-length novel, knowing you can do it, getting into the weeds and coming out the other side with a full length beard, shattered, and in need of a wild act to celebrate the achievement.

Then I go back to writing a few short stories to make sure I can still write – because I wonder, after I’ve done longer work, if I still have it in me.  Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 2 is a little darker and bigger, and includes a couple of novelettes. Bullets, Teeth, & Fists 3 is out in early 2020, with one of my favourite shorts I’ve ever done.

jason beech


John Wisniewski interviews Albert Tucher

When did you begin writing, Albert? Did you write short stories?

In the mid-1980s I became fascinated with medieval Roman history, especially the tenth century and the story of Marozia. She ruled the city of Rome for several years until her own son overthrew her in 932. (In fairness, she was conspiring to kill him.) I wrote about fifty pages of a novel (on paper with a manual typewriter). I’m afraid now to go back and look at it.

In the summer of 2000 I was suddenly single and looking to make changes. I signed up on a whim for a fiction writing class at the Union County College in Cranford NJ. Tom Cantillon was the teacher. I thought I would work on Marozia, but I took a detour. See below.

I wrote three Diana Andrews novels before deciding that a publishing resume might help me sell them. I got into short stories and have published almost 100 of them. I guess I like them!

Any favorite crime authors?

Ross Macdonald converted me from science fiction to crime. These days Michael Connelly, the Abbotts, Patricia and Megan, Jen Conley, Todd Robinson, Kevin Catalano, just for starters. I’m leaving out more than I can include, or we’d be here all day.

How did you create the Diana Andrews character?

One of Tom Cantillon’s weekly assignments was an action story. From somewhere came a mental picture of a man and a woman standing by a car parked on the shoulder of a deserted highway. I decided she was a prostitute and he a cop, and just to make it interesting I made him the bad guy. He wanted to kill Diana (I knew her name immediately), and she had to stop him.

But I couldn’t think of a motive that would play in 1500-2000 words until I made the cop a woman also, and the motive became sexual jealousy. A man is paying Diana and ignoring the cop.

Yes, I failed the Bechdel test before I even knew it had a name. I hope I have made up for it since, though.

That story because the first chapter in my Diana novel DO OVERS, still unpublished.

How do you add a gritty realism to your writing? 

It turns out I picked a good theme for that, because prostitution is inherently gritty. It’s just a matter of finding the telling detail.

In 2006 I met a young woman in the business. (I found her online. The internet has completely remade the business of prostitution, but that’s a topic in itself.) I planned to interview her for an hour or so, but I ended up meeting with her about a dozen times until she left the business in 2008. She gave me such great material that I’m still living off it. Quite a few of my short stories come straight from her casebook.

She told me, for instance, about a realtor client who always had her meet him at whatever property he was showing that day. The idea was to come as close as possible to getting caught. Of course I had to use that, and of course Diana and her client had to get caught. (The story is “The Full Hour,” in the anthology Black Coffee.)

She also read my stories and commented on them—on her own time. I doubt many women would have done that, and it shows how lucky I was to meet her. Above all, I learned that within fairly wide limits I couldn’t get it wrong. If something sounds plausible, it is plausible, and someone in the business does it or would do it if the situation arose, whether it’s a sexual practice, a business practice, or a way of relating to a client.

In my Hawaii stories I get a lot of mileage from inserting Hawaiian Pidgin phrases into my dialog. Which is more evocative—“They have good food,” or “They get da ono kine grinds?” I use Pidgin sparingly, largely because I am not an expert in it, but I think it zeroes the reader into the setting.

What will your next book be about?

The next book in my Big Island of Hawaii/Detective Errol Coutinho series is tentatively titled Blood Like Rain. I’m starting to enjoy the ensemble cast of these books as much as Diana herself, and that’s saying a lot. They give me two more tough chicks to write about, criminal defense attorney Agnes Rodrigues and Officer Jenny Freitas, and that’s what I live for.

Any favorite crime/pulp authors?

’ll name a few and undoubtedly feel like crap when I leave someone out: Jen Conley, Patti Abbott, Anonymous-9, Paul Brazill, Todd Robinson, Kevin Catalano, Kristen Lepionka, for starters.