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You Have the Right to Remain Silent

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Joanne M. Reinbold

Joanne M. Reinbold is at Messy Business this festive New Year’s Eve. She’s a lovely person with a dark mind. The ending to her novella, Missing, still plays on my stomach and spine, usually when I’m not expecting it.

Hello, Joanne.

A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that (???). What words do you have for such a philistine?

My mom and dad used to say that frequently. Not something their fiction reading and writing kid wanted to hear. This is what I told them: Just because non-fiction is supposedly factual, doesn’t mean someone didn’t make up those facts. Every day, we find out that something we believed to be fact is no more than an individual’s or a group of people’s interpretations of a thing, person, or event, or even completely made up. Our understanding of those things changes when new information comes to light or the misinformation is revealed. Also, non-fiction often keeps readers at a comfortable emotional distance, while fiction can bring life, emotion, feeling, and perspective to people, places, and events in a way that most non-fiction can’t, and that makes some people uncomfortable. It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone now and then, so don’t be a wimp, put on your big kid pants, and give that “fiction” a try.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

For me to keep reading, a protagonist needs to be remarkable or fascinating in some way (preferably many ways) and they need to be involved and engaged in a thought-provoking story—I like to learn new things and I like it when a story can change my opinion, thinking, outlook—that engages me both intellectually and emotionally.

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

No, definitely not. I’m a sucker for the “unlikeable” protagonist when they’re done well. Sherlock Holmes is a good example. He’s quite off-putting in many ways: arrogant, superior, dismissive, rude at times, but he’s also active, brilliant, mysterious, unpredictable, and in some instances, even heroic.

Name a great antagonist, novel or movie, and what they do for you.

I’ll name two, both created by Thomas Harris. Francis Dolarhyde from Red Dragon and Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs. Harris pulls no punches with his antagonists, Dolarhyde and Lecter are completely believable, and as a result, absolutely terrifying. Once they’ve been introduced, the reader doesn’t even need to experience them committing a crime, just the knowledge of their presence infuses those stories with incredible tension. It’s quite amazing.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

A story that has no point, no heart, no authenticity. A story that feels like the author doesn’t care or is copying someone else badly.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

I have done a time or two, but I would say in those cases the novels weren’t so much dodgy as ambitious and difficult. Also, in both cases, I had great respect and admiration for the authors. If it’s just poorly done, no, certainly not. That’s an exercise that leads to pain and frustration, sometimes anger.

What gets you writing? A great novel, maybe. Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

All of the above. I’m a very curious person, and like Sherlock Holmes, I maintain a large compendium of unusual, strange, odd, baffling, and weird things and occurrences which I discover in various ways and catalogue for future reference.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

My first book was a novelette. I was able to keep everything, all the details, organized in my mind. Learning to do that was very helpful, but my second book is a much longer story and I’m finding I need to keep notebooks, make timelines, write chapter synopses, and create “trails” through the chapters in order to keep track of everything. I enjoy it, but it’s a lot of work.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

Investigating a brutal murder, my detectives discover scams targeting the elderly, cybercrime, a rural crime ring, and immigration issues which make sorting out the murder quite difficult.

Where can readers connect with you?

On Facebook at:
– and my website:
– and on Twitter:

You can buy Joanne’s work at Amazons US and UK.

My stuff

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Tom Pitts

I’ve interviewed Tom Pitts before, for the Stuff I Wish I’d Written series I’ve done on this blog. It’s one of the best interviews I’ve ever done, delving into how one book helped Tom get through his darkest times. Generous with his answers, with a light touch, Tom had me glued to his story.

I’m thrilled to have the man back, entertaining with his answers as ever.

A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that (???). What words do you have for such a philistine?

I can dig it. I used to love true crime, mob stuff mostly. Tell him to read The Westies, by TJ English. My favorite. It’s non-fiction, but it reads like a novel. (Changed how I viewed crime fiction, that’s for sure.) After that it was tough sticking with non-fiction. I like it when the lines blur. Soon after I discovered historical fiction, stuff like Billy Bathgate. It was a gateway drug, in a way. I always want my fiction to feel real. The sci-fi horror world never drew me in. So, I guess what’d I say is, I completely understand where he’s coming from. And, what the hell do I know anyway?

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

I’m not sure that the protag needs to have anything special, but, for me, it’s more important for them to act as a catalyst for the antagonists. I’ll admit, my own protagonists are often just a vehicle to the story, where the antagonists try to steal the show.

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

I think you need to empathize with them. Relate to their fear, their urgency, their desperation. I think it’s more important that their motivations be believable than if they’re likable.

Name a great antagonist, novel or movie, and what they do for you.

I’ll name both. Same character: Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. His intention is so direct, so one-minded, he’s the perfect sociopath.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

It doesn’t take much. Really, just me not keeping up with it. My attention span is horrible. For me, reading a book is a lot like writing a book. You have to spend a little time with it each day, or the story fades and you lose interest.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

No. It’s easy to say, life’s too short, but it’s true. I know you can learn from things you don’t like, but if it’s dragging, I have to let it go. I can only really read one thing at a time, so if a book ain’t getting’ me to pick it up, it’s getting in the way of other books I need to read.

What gets you writing? A great novel, maybe. Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

Christ, if I knew, I’d bottle it. I know what keeps me from writing, and that’s everything. You know what gets me going? Silence. Silence and a little time. Two things in short supply in my life.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

I learned about the endless monotony of properly trimming weed while I embedded myself with dope growers up in Humboldt in the name of research.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less.

COLDWATER is about a young couple who move to the burbs and find the house across the street has been taken over by who they think are squatters. A conflict with their new neighbors puts them on a violent and terrifying road.
BUT that book is already written, what I really want to tell you about is my work in progress. So I will … It’s about a handful of people whose lives intersect and change when they interact with a homeless man who believes he can see the future.

Where can readers connect with you?

The usual spots. Twitter (@mrtompitts), Instagram (@tompittsauthor), Goodreads or good ol’ Facebook.

You can buy Tom’s work at Amazons US and UK and Down & Out Books.

Thanks, Tom. His website is HERE.

My stuff

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Rob Pierce

If any of you read the Messy Business interview with Mick Rose I’m sure you all added a ton of books to your TBR list as a result. One Mick praised to the hilt is today’s guest, Rob Pierce. His fiction is as dark and piercing as they come, and here he is about what kind of fiction he loves.

Hello, Rob.

A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that. What words do you have for such a philistine?

What are you supposed to do with someone like that, quote Shakespeare? “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy?” I’d say the imagination is a powerful tool that, unused, will die. You don’t have to write fiction, but I’d heartily suggest reading it. Or let your mind stagnate and die.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

Nothing is a necessity. But something has to be there. A real person, if hidden. Maybe with a shady past, maybe with dark secrets, but really, so long as they (and I use the word in the he/she/they sense, not wanting to leave anyone out) are in the middle of something, generally something they are trying to get out of. I think stories tend to be about escaping their beginning. That’s what I would probably look for in a protagonist, but that would be in retrospect, after the book is over.

Do you need a likable protagonist?

Is this a standard question? You’ve read me, right? I don’t know how likable any of my protagonists are. I write crime stories, not detective stories. Detectives are obstacles at most in my writing, rarely even mentioned. Dust was my first protagonist – a bank robber. Then Vern, who was supposed to make mob deals go quietly. After that, Vollmer – he was a total psycho. But I gave them all reasons for the reader to sympathize. Hell, the idea is for the reader to empathize. Tommy Shakes is the latest, and he’s a drunken, ex-junkie criminal. I still want people rooting for him, no matter how awful some of what he does. That’s a major point of my books – the bad guys all are normal guys who had things go wrong.

Name a great antagonist, in a novel or movie, and what they do for you.

Sounds like a “Name your favorite Jim Thompson character” question, but I haven’t read Thompson in a while. So, not my favorite, but a great one, Doc in The Getaway, a hard-boiled creep who was effective as hell in his schemes. Not the sweetheart portrayed in the films, either. They had Sam Peckinpah direct the movie, and he softened it up. Doc was flat out blood-curdling. I love that guy.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

I guess I’m more genteel than the question intimates; I walk them up to the corner book box. It’s all free to the public and I’ve taken plenty from there as well. These days I try to avoid that kind of book. The last book that really struck me as awful was Less Than Zero; I’d have given the title as my review. There was nothing real in that book. I like reality, however dismal, I like real motivations, and I like characters I can relate to. For instance, I’m not that fond of Fitzgerald but the man could write. Still, he said “the rich are very different from you and me,” which was refuted by the critic Mary Colum: ”The only difference between the rich and other people is that the rich have more money.” (Hemingway was at the table when she said this and took the line for The Snows of Kilimanjaro. He also revised it, because he was a writer.)

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

Maybe if I’m writing one and it’s gotten dodgy. If I’m reading? Fuck that, the book’s at the book box before I’ll waste my time finishing it. The world is filled with great books. Who has time for one that sucks?

What gets you writing? Is it a great novel, maybe? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

Uncle Dust was inspired by a friend telling me about how he’d taken money from his step-dad, a criminal who kept his money in a suitcase in the closet. Vern In The Heat was a nine page short story but I’d introduced the female lead and abandoned her, which I didn’t want to do. That became a novella. With The Right Enemies was the sequel to Uncle Dust, but I’d been told to write one so many times that when a friend who loved Dust told me to do it, I figured out how: write it from another perspective, which made the focus a different character. Although the start of Act 2 was what I wrote first. The new one, Tommy Shakes, was inspired by real life; I was going through hard times in my marriage, I was drinking, my wife didn’t think I should drink at all: that was not going to fly, but I wanted to stay with her. That went as well for me as for Tommy.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

I learned that I really prefer writing about fictional traumas as opposed to my own. I don’t know, Tommy Shakes was a personal story that had nothing to do with me. An early critique said the personal scenes worked a lot better than the crime ones. I think I fixed that before the book was over.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

Dust and Vollmer collide in an East Bay blood bath. The usual fun story with new characters and old. And, of course, double-crosses.

Where can readers connect with you?

I’m on Facebook for now, and Twitter. I go by robpierce2verbs if you’re wondering, and tend to be photographed in my Italian leather jacket (blood falls off it, it’s great).
Uh, and
I could give my phone number and email too, but enough people hate me without me hearing about it.

You can buy Rob’s work from Amazons US and UK, and All Due Respect books.

Thanks, Rob.

My Stuff

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Mick Rose

I cuffed Mick Rose and dragged him into Messy Business. The short story writer and editor for esteemed mags Center Stage and The Flash Fiction Offensive, managed to turn the tables and cuff me to a toilet roll holder. I could have escaped, but he had this to say:

A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that. What words do you have for such a philistine?

Assuming your friend hasn’t been lobotomized? Doesn’t have a severed spinal cord? Or tragically suffered brain damage as the result of violent trauma—and therefore you pity this individual? Then I’m guessing this sod must have some redeeming value, Jason. Though I certainly don’t see the need to insult Philistines by comparing them to this lunkhead.

But seriously. To never have experienced the thrills of reading good fiction? That’s like being a forty-year-old virgin. Thank god you and I don’t live such a pathetic life.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

I don’t view the world in terms of “black and white” the way a lotta folks do. So literary terms like antagonist and protagonist don’t mean anything to me. Especially in our modern age when so-called “anti-heroes” run rampant.

I’m also keen on “situational ethics.” And consider Iago in Shakespeare’s play Othello one of the most intriguing characters I’ve ever encountered. Iago has more lines in this play than any other character. He’s obviously driven by hate, and most would call him a villain. But people tend to consider Othello a “faultless” good guy—and that’s simply not the case.

Iago suspects Othello had sex with his wife … and perhaps that’s paranoia. Who knows? Nevertheless, during the so-called Holy War crusades, Sunbeam white bread Christians sought to reclaim Jerusalem in Israel from Muslim peoples. So Shakespeare’s highly focused on the social attitudes of the Middle Ages and the results of the crusades—as well as the behavioral practices of “royal courts.”

Othello’s referred to as “The Moor”—because he’s a mixed-race descendent of Berbers and Arabs from northwestern Africa. He’s utterly unprepared for rubbing shoulders with high-fallutin’ white royalty and the chance to marry Sunbeam bread Desdemona. Significantly, Othello and Iago are life-long soldiers: and Iago likely saved Othello’s ass in battle numerous times by “having his back.” While I haven’t read this play since college, I considered the Sunbeam courtly favorite Cassio—who’s awarded the position of Lieutenant over Iago—a dandy or a fop: a man who’s excessively concerned with his clothes and appearance … and who knows nothing about war. Although Othello now wields considerable influence? He doesn’t lobby for Iago who’s been loyal to him in battle. Instead he wishes to “fit in” with this new Sunbeam bread society.

Othello and Desdemona

I don’t condone Iago’s vengeful actions. But I’d be fucking pissed, too. According to traditional literary thinking, Othello’s the protagonist in this play, and Iago’s the antagonist. But protagonists are also often defined as “the primary agent propelling the story forward.” Iago undoubtedly “drives” this drama and recites the most lines. Without the scoundrel? This classic would prove boring. So I don’t give a rat’s ass about such literary terms or debates. Strong characters trump weak characters in terms of sparking and holding interest. While TS. Elliot was penning “poetry” I got no use for “anti-hero” dolts like Alfred J. Prufrock.

Generally I read and enjoy two types of tales—humor that can range from simple-to-absurd; and crime or mystery stories with an edge that tend to reflect aspects of real life, while feeling “reasonably credible.” My wheelhouse sits smaller than a Major League Baseball strikezone. I can’t stand mundane pieces filled with domesticated stuff like taking care of kids, driving them to soccer or dance classes, doing laundry, or rambling on page-after-page about getting engaged or picking up grandma from the airport.

In terms of “household name” authors who’ve written some zany humor books I enjoyed years ago? Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, and the early-to-mid Stone Barrington series only easily spring to mind. On the so-called Indie side? This year I read and recommend Los Angeles writer “Steve” S.W. Lauden’s Crosswise—a deranged who-dunit mystery set in fictional Seatown, Florida.

And anyone who can handle a string of gruesome murders committed by a deluded pack of college girls with over-active libidos and insatiable cravings for girl-on-girl sex that includes orgies may find Satan’s Sorority by Graham Wynd amusing. Despite the title? The book doesn’t contain anything that even remotely resembles hard-core Satanism. But since these girls are young and immature? For me the book carries an undercurrent of so-called Young Adult fiction.

On the more serious real-life crime, mystery and thriller side? Household names are too numerous to mention—though I haven’t read a mainstream book in more than two years. But the style of popularly known books I liked include Donald Westlake’s Parker novels: all of them written under the name Richard Stark. Some of Andrew Vachss’s Burke series—Vachss is pronounced like Vax-rhymes-with tax. And the Pike series written by Robert Crais.

Nowadays I recommend reading novels such as the Indie crime-thriller 101 by San Francisco author Tom Pitts. A page-turner without doubt. A couple of minor scenes didn’t feel credible. Though I suspect they were intended as humorous—and they didn’t detract from my enjoyment in any way. Most of the action unfurls on a hill in rural northern California’s Humboldt County: long known as The Napa Valley of primo marijuana production. The book’s not an expose on the region’s illegal weed trade, but rather a struggle between competing criminals and some dumb-ass kids. Who will survive and get what they want is anybody’s guess.

For those who like violent anti-heroes hell-bent on revenge—usually in a quest for at least a speck of warped Justice? I suggest readers try delving the short story collections A Better Kind of Hate or The Big Machine Eats by Canadian writer Beau Johnson.

The Hardboiled and related crime collections from Dead Guns Press also contain gritty engaging stories from writers like Bill Baber, Bruce Harris, James “Jim” Shaffer, Chris McGinley, Robb White, Donald Glass, and Cindy Rosmus among others.

I ain’t tryin’ to sound like an Infomercial here, Jason. But if that “friend” of yours ever gets a yearning for Salvation? These books and writers strike me as good places to start.

Do you need a likable protagonist?

Prefer? Yes. Need? No.

I gravitate towards first-person narratives. For me? If such stories or books are well-written they create a dynamic between the writer and the reader that feels personal. Third person narratives are more like movies. Both these latter forms are voyeuristic: you’re not an active participant. You’re an outside observer rather than a confidante.

I always feel weird watching a sex or nude scene in a movie—especially if someone’s wife or girlfriend is present. I’ve got a buddy who moved to Miami. Known him most my life. He married a gal from the mid-west. I’d only met his wife twice. Went to visit them in Miami and he wanted to watch The Wrestler. Suddenly Marissa Tomei was topless. And man, I wanted to crawl under the couch.

I read but enjoyed two particular Indie crime books this year that are filled with bad, twisted, or deranged people. The first—Last Year’s Man is also zany—and is described as “screwball noir” by the Brit Grit author Paul D. Brazill.

This often dark, yet witty tale revolves around aging hitman Tommy Bennett and the horde of scoundrels that he knows or unwittingly meets. For me, the most likeable character in this book is Tommy’s daughter—who’s a truly minor character. She’s got just cause for bitterness … but she doesn’t cling to such. Too bad that gal is fictional. I’d welcome the chance to meet her.

The second, With The Right Enemies by Oakland author Rob Pierce, doesn’t contain a shred of humor. Pierce has filled this book with merciless male criminals—ranging from true psychopath to cold-blooded sociopaths and pure violent scum. The women aren’t guileless … so at times it’s tough to feel sympathy for them as well. I respect Theresa’s actions as her perilous life unfolds—although I don’t like her.

But Pierce’s dangerous world proves intriguing, engaging, fast-paced, and realistic. For anyone who can handle a dark, violent book where women get murdered, smacked and tortured? Where bad guys don’t get caught and innocent people suffer? I highly recommend Enemies.

Name a great novel or movie, and what they do for you.

At the risk of sounding like a jackass, Jason … the word “great” makes me wanna puke. Nowadays the word “great” gets tossed around quicker and more commonly than “fast food” gets inhaled all across America. I equate “great” to mean exceptional, extraordinary, or rare. But opinions as they say are like rectums—everybody has one. So what a twisted soul like me with deep southern redneck roots considers exceptional? I doubt the World cares!

A lotta people consider Brad Pitt a pretty boy who can’t act. And some of the roles he’s taken in his career certainly make him look like a buffoon. But the 2004 movie Troy, directed by Wolfgang Peterson, moved me greatly—ha-ha—in a multitude of ways. Pitt plays the fabled Greek Achilles. And Eric Bana portrays the Trojan warrior Hector—whose brother Paris steals Helen away from her husband Menelaus—and together they return to Troy. An epic saga like this one literally presents an army of different characters: and a host of motives.

At the end of the day? The movie’s simply a version of how the director Wolfgang Peterson decided to present this classic story to a modern audience. Like any artist? I’m sure he considered and discarded any number of plot devices and character motivations along the way.

But I think this flick’s a wonderful example of how terms like antagonist, protagonist, and “hero” often fall short or prove meaningless. Peterson portrays Achilles as a jaded egotist. Does killing Hector—who’s caught in this mess because of Paris, Helen and his father Priam—make the warrior Achilles a hero? As for Hector? The dude sure as hell doesn’t honor the warrior’s code when he intervenes in the fight between his brother Paris and Menelaus. For sure this movie stirs a lot of emotions and certainly makes me think.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

Since I live in America, a country where people can sue anyone for just about anything? I don’t advocate throwing anything out a window, Jason. I’m an avowed Murphyist: Anything that can happen will happen. And with my kinda luck? Anything I tossed out a window would land me in a shit storm straight out of a Matt Phillips crime noir! For anyone who doesn’t know what that means? I recommend reading Mr. Phillips. He’s got plenty of books to choose from.

I gotta admit though. I’ve been tempted to burn a few—rather than risk anyone wasting a single second on the dodgy buggers.

But ya know … degenerate-miscreant that I am … I’m trying to be a better person. Kind souls like my Dragon Nikki and Madilyn DeLeon are largely responsible for that. Writers come from all walks of life, while having different educational experiences. I doubt any passionate writer purposely intends to pen a bad story let alone a novel.

I had the good fortune to earn—and I mean earned—a B.A. in Writing Communications. My instructors lovingly beat the shit out of me. And I’ve spent two decades as a professional writer and editor. But I’ve yet to complete a novel. Never mind seen one published. So cheers to those who have—regardless of what anyone thinks about the finished labor. To constantly grow and get better at our passion is all we can hope for really.

Most of us poor art-loving sods will never be rich and famous. Even if we excel. Freelance editor and All Due Respect books publisher Chris Rhatigan made some excellent comments about that in an interview with Damien Seaman.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

Funny you should ask that question. I recently read a column by Delaware crime writer and Independent Book Reviewer David Nemeth at the decade-young website Do Some Damage called … drum roll, please: The Joy of Quitting.

The more time and energy I invest in anything? A book, a love interest, a friendship: The harder it is to quit when the endeavor’s not going well … and hasn’t for some time.

Before I became a professional writer I had a tendency to fight my way through to the bitter end even if I wasn’t enjoying a book. None of us are perfect. Perfection is a concept: not an Absolute that can be achieved. Give the writer a fair chance I kept telling myself.

Maybe one out of fifty times a book would prove worthwhile if I stuck with the bugger. But the more job deadlines and time constraints I faced? I didn’t see the point anymore. I read fiction for enjoyment. No need to waste my time and feel miserable as well. The money spent didn’t bother me: I believe in supporting writers.

Prior to the advent of Kindle, once I adopted that philosophy? I’d walk into a bookstore, grab books off the shelves. I’d give the writer five pages tops to convince me their book was worth my time and energy. If not? Back on the shelf that tome went. End of story far as I was concerned.

Since I tossed my hat into the fiction writing ring and joined Facebook, I’m routinely reading free stories online and learning whose work I enjoy. I also lean heavily on book recommendations from my Facebook friends who write—and that’s why I’ve mentioned so many writers and books during this here chat. Maybe your readers at Messy Business will enjoy them, too.

What gives you the writing itch? Does watching a great film, or TV show, or something you saw on the streets make you reach for the pen?

I spend so much time writing non-fiction I often feel burned out. I push through because I have to; that’s’ my job. When I get that fried? Nothing inspires me to sit down and pen fiction.

Just as I don’t like to read mundane stories? I try not to write them either. So I don’t force creativity. Typically my inspirations for stories rise from a single comment I’ve overheard or which someone may have made to me. Whether or not I actually say anything on such occasions, my smart-ass brain usually formulates a quip or two. These moments stick with me—and from them I do my best to conjure good stories. I can usually envision an opening. And I may figure the ending either roughly or exactly in advance. I often have a few lines for the middle, too. Those scenes tend to get written quickly. But connecting all the dots? Bloody hell. That’s tough stuff.

What did you learn from your last writing project?

I concluded that if I’m going to write novellas I need to write them as short story installments first—then stitch them together in a cohesive fashion. Wish me luck with that!

What are you writing now, Mick?

I’m finishing a follow-up story to “Fast Freddie & The West Texas Wives,” which kindly appeared at Punk Noir Magazine in January 2019—and got some awesome comments from readers—including crime lover Kevin Lear, who’s got an army of books on his Nook. Both tales feature talented computer hacker Colby Del Ray. Colby’s bored out of his skull after tangling with Freddie and the crazy women in his first adventure—and buys a strip club on a whim. So this story’s called “The West Texas Tittie Committee.”

But nothing in Colby’s life is what you first see on the surface. This fun-loving criminal keeps cards close to his vest. After buying the strip club Colby’s confronted by a powerful manipulator who could send our vulnerable hacker to prison if he finds the right evidence. And we don’t want that to happen.

Trying to give readers insights about the first tale—while advancing Colby’s newest conundrum—yet making sure I don’t write any spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read Fast Freddie has certainly proven challenging. And not all conflicts will resolve since I’ll need to pen installments 3 and 4 for the anticipated novella. It’s a helluva tightrope walk for sure. But the first two tales combined are nearly short novella length.

Where can readers connect with you?

Speaking of connecting, thanks for the chance to chat, Jason. I dig your interviews—especially the “Stuff I Wish I’d Written” series. Folks can catch me on Facebook or my website as well as on Goodreads.

Thanks, Mick.

Free for a few days.

You Have the Right to Remain Silent … Matt Phillips

Matt Phillips is banging out work like tomorrow has been designated as the official last day in history, and all of it is of the highest quality. His Know Me from Smoke was one of my favourite of last year, and Countdown just piles on the admiration. His new one, You Must Have a Death Wish is locked, loaded, and ready on my Kindle.

Hello, Matt.

A friend of mine doesn’t read fiction, paraphrasing Frank Skinner about it all being made-up and he has no time for any of that (???). What words do you have for such a philistine?

Oh, man! I’ve heard this one before. Look, the best way for a human being to understand a reality outside his/her own perception is to dive into another’s psyche. This is what the best fiction always is—a foray into a reality outside and independent of the self. Reading fiction is about exploring. It’s about seeing/feeling/understanding somebody else. You don’t have time to explore alternate perceptions than your own? That’s on you—I simply can’t help you.

What must a protagonist have to make you read on?

You know, there’s a lot of things I love in a great protagonist. I think some charm goes a long way—even for crooks—and I love a good sense of humor. I like serious characters too, but if you can combine noir or crime with a comedic element…I’ll read through to the end. That’s for damn sure.

Do you need a likeable protagonist?

Well, a protagonist doesn’t have to be like-able to be enthralling or captivating or amazing. Like I said before, the point is to escape part of my own reality. Reading about people I ‘like’ is rarely going to do that for me. Instead, I ‘like’ conflicted characters, people grappling with moral and ethical questions. Let’s explore the human animal—do that with a character and you’re making art.

Name a great antagonist, novel or movie, and what they do for you.

Well, I just read Alec Cizak’s phenomenal noir novel, Breaking Glass. His protagonist is really—in the end—a kind of antagonist. That role reversal, I think, is one of the most fascinating tropes in noir. Chelsea Farmer is someone you root for from the beginning, but even as she makes good decisions the world decides to chew her up. And that moment when she becomes the chief evil in the story is at once brilliant, horrifying, and understandable. Make no mistake, Breaking Glass is one of the great noir novels of the past decade. I have no doubt of this.

What makes you throw a book out the window?

Lack of distinct voice. That’s always number one for me. If I feel like anybody could have written the book with a ghostwriter, I’m not going to read. I just don’t give a shit about it. I used to help select films for a major film festival and here’s the deal: I can watch the first three minutes of a film and know immediately whether I’m in good hands, whether the director has a distinct vision. Same thing with books. Only takes a few paragraphs. I’m quick to stop reading—life’s too short, man.

Do you grit your teeth all the way to the end of a dodgy novel?

Nope. See above. Life’s too short to slog through a book. There’s too much great shit out there.

What gets you writing? A great novel, maybe? Something you saw on the street or on TV? Something else?

Yeah—I’m definitely inspired by reading a great book. I try to write five days a week no matter what, but reading something great always helps. I’m fueled by great music and film as well. I’m always searching for the next incredible piece of art or storytelling. I have to say, hanging with other writers or storytellers will do it too. Got a great bit of inspiration from attending Bouchercon. I’ll be at Left Coast Crime this year—hoping for the same fix.

What did you learn about writing from the last book you wrote?

This shit just DOES NOT get any easier. It’ll always be a hill to climb—that’s what being a writer is, never giving up.

What’s your next book, in 30 words or less?

Well, here’s a brief primer: A rural American noir, part murder ballad and part coming-of-age story. Follows two buddies from a small town—one went to war, and the other didn’t. Now they’re back together.

Where can readers connect with you?

On Twitter, @MRPhill25 and at my website: Or just drop me an email at Happy to chat!

You can buy Matt Phillips’ work at Amazons US and UK, Fahrenheit Press, and All Due Respect Books.

Thanks, Matt.

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