Matthew McBride’s Frank Sinatra In A Blender has been a book we’ve been raving about. Hell, we’d adopt it if we could. It centers on the violent misadventures of St. Louis PI Nick Valentine and his terrier Frank Sinatra. Both hard boiled and funny, with it’s own kind of heart, it’s a debut that announces a great new talent. Our new favorite author was kind enough to answer a few questions.
MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did the character of Nick Valentine come about?
MATTHEW MCBRIDE: I wanted to write something different. But at the same time, I wanted to write something with a familiar theme. So I ended up writing a PI novel. What appealed to me about the genre was that I could make my PI as good or as bad as I wanted, without having to worry about the sort of constraints a cop working for the police department would be subjected to. I wanted my private eye to play by his own rules. And he pretty much does.
MP: Does he have any kinship to characters you’ve read or watched in movies?
MM: Honestly, I’ve always thought of Nick Valentine as a cross between Hunter S. Thompson and Sterling Archer. So, there’s that. But I’ve never actually read a PI novel, so I have no idea how closely Nick Valentine would compare to a character like Phillip Marlowe. But I’m pretty sure he could out drink him.
MP: Was Frank Sinatra always with him?
MM: I came up with the title before I ever wrote a word of the story, which is never how it works for me. But in this case, that’s how it worked, though I did know I wanted to write about a dog from the beginning. Because dogs are cool, and I felt like Frank could be a great character as long as I wrote him right. We have two cantankerous little dogs at home and neither one of them really likes me—despite my best efforts at trying to force my love upon them. They bite me and pee on my stuff. So the inspiration for Frank was right in front of me the whole time.
MP: Other than John Lutz and Robert Randisi, you’re one of the few authors who uses St. Louis as a setting. What makes it different from some of the usual settings like LA, New York, or Chicago?
MM: I was born in St. Louis and I worked there for many years, so I know the area well. But St. Louis is one of the most violent cities in America. Though FSIAB is funny, I wrote a dark book. So I needed a background that reflected that darkness. There are a lot of stories set in places like New York or LA, but that’s not what I wanted. I wanted this book to feel different and St. Louis seems largely unexplored.
MP: What I loved about the book was that it had such a wild, over the top tone that you usually only find in short stories. Was it difficult to sustain that for the entire novel?
MM: (Long pause) I’ve never really thought about that. I just wrote what felt natural. It is wild and over the top. When I wrote it, I knew they would never name a library after me. And I’m OK with that. Because I never set out to do anything other than write the kind of book I’d love to read. I wanted to write a fun book, and reading about characters that come alive on the page is fun. Scott Phillips said that once and its always stuck with me.
MP: I know you’re at work on a rural hardboiled right now, but do you have any future plans for Valentine?
MM: I don’t think so. Then again, maybe.
If you have your own questions for Matthew McBride, come out to our Hard Word Book Club discussion of Frank Sinatra In A Blender on January 30th at 7PM here on BookPeople’s third floor (603 N. Lamar Blvd). McBride will be calling in to chat with us. The meeting’s totally free, no RSVP required. Just show up and talk some crime fiction with us.