- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Andrew Hilbert’s latest novella, Bangface And the Gloryhole, starts out as a hard-boiled if absurdist private eye novel. Our detective has just survived being shot in the face over pickled eggs, and goes into sleaze-meets-Vonnegut territory with a case involving holes in public places for anonymous sex. The novella comments on everything from prejudice to consumer culture. Andrew was kind enough to take some questions from us about the book and writing.
MysteryPeople Scott: Which came first: the character of Bangface or the idea with the glory holes?
Andrew Hilbert: Bangface definitely came first. I had an idea for him years and years ago but in his original iteration, he just wasn’t interesting besides the fact that he got shot in the face. The glory hole idea came later and it was only when I figured out that the two ideas should come together did the ideas get interesting.
MPS: The book is set in Austin. How did you want to explore the city through Bangface’s eyes?
AH: Bangface is kind of a doofus who harbors a lot of low level prejudice. I figured he’d be the perfect vehicle to make fun of a lot of Austin’s own goofiness while also making fun of the people who harbor the kind of prejudice Bangface harbors.
MPS: The is the second time fast food franchises play an important role in your work. What makes them a cultural touchstone to you?
AH: Whether you’re a vegan or a local-vore, you know what the golden arches are but I can tell you with certainty that I don’t know what company makes the most ethical tofu. You’re never more than 100 miles away from a Mickey D’s in America. I think fast food restaurants are so much a part of our subconscious view of what America is and a perfect symbol for our hopes of society: consistent, stable, fast. Also, chicken dinner for under $5.
MPS: Even though you veer from it, you do maintain the structure of a hard boiled private eye novel. How did using the genre help you?
AH: The genre is visualized as the action but I think hard boiled private dick type stories are more about the dick than they are about the case. The case is a good frame but the story is really the character. The case Bangface is solving is interesting but it was just a way to learn more about Bangface the man and his history, his relationships, etc.
MPS: What I love about your writing is that you’re an equal opportunity offender. Do you feel that a writer should wade into dangerous territory?
AH: Writers should write whatever the hell it is they want to write. But you really can’t write if you’re afraid of a reaction or perception. If you’re always looking over your shoulder, how the hell can you put your nose down and finish? Writers should feel free especially with the comfort of knowing that the only people that will be offended are the people who already put ten dollars down to read what you wrote.
MPS: I’m afraid to talk about Bangface And the Gloryhole without giving too much away. Do you have any last words on it?
AH: Bangface is a comedy about memory. It can be dark and gross but overall, it’s supposed to make you laugh.
You can find copies of Hilbert’s latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Hilbert joins Peter Spiegelman, C.B. McKenzie and Jesse Sublett at our upcoming Noir at the Bar event, next Monday at 7 PM, hosted by Threadgill’s. Noir at the Bar is free and open to the public.