The Platonic Ideal of the Criminal Antihero: MysteryPeople Q&A with Chris Holm

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

 Last year’s The Killing Kind put Chris Holm on the map, telling everyone else what a small-yet-loyal band of us knew about his talent. The Killing Kind just took home a much-deserved Anthony Award, and we’re proud to bring you an interview with Chris about the next in the series.  

His second book with Michael Hendricks, a hit man who kills other hitmen, Red Right Hand, has Hendricks on the run due to events in The Killing Kind. Despite his precarious freedom, Michael Hendricks must protect a man who’s put away many of the top men in the criminal organization Hendricks is fighting. All of this happens in San Francisco after a terrorist attack has rocked the city. We caught up with Chris to talk about the book and his hero.

MysteryPeople Scott: Michael has gone from hit man to avenger, as well as being a survivor all the time. Has it changed him in a fundamental way as you write him?

Chris Holm: Oh, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Hendricks hitting hitmen. That said, I think he’s changed significantly since the beginning of The Killing Kind, and he’ll continue to do so over the course of the series. Plenty of writers are capable of sustaining a series in which their protagonist remains essentially unchanged. Robert B. Parker and Lee Child come to mind. While I love reading stories like that, I’m lousy at writing them. I need an arc to sink my teeth into. A destination in mind. In Hendricks’ case, it’s either going to be redemption or a tragic end.

MPS: You deal with the War on Terror in Red Right Hand. What did you want to explore in that issue?

CH: I’m fascinated by the fog of misinformation that descends after a terrorist attack, and the countless acts of heroism and venality it obscures. By the way special interests swoop in to bend the narrative to their cause. By the privatization of global security, which turns public safety into a for-profit business. Red Right Hand afforded me the opportunity to explore all three.

MPS: How did San Francisco end up as the main setting?

CH: The story began as a single scene running through my head. A family of tourists, trying to make a cell phone video with the Golden Gate Bridge as the backdrop, who inadvertently capture what proves to be the definitive recording of a major terrorist attack. Everything else in the book stemmed from that scene.

MPS:  You’re incredibly well read. Are there any specific influences in this series?

CH: That’s kind of you to say. Richard Stark’s Parker comes to mind. He’s my Platonic ideal of a criminal antihero. Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter was something of an inspiration, because he too is a killer with a code who hunts his own kind. Carrie Kelley from Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns informed Hendricks’ new sidekick, Cameron. And while he’s not a literary character, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention 24’s Jack Bauer. In many ways, Hendricks is the guy that Bauer might become if his moral certitude abandoned him.

MPS: What’s the biggest challenge Michael Hendricks gives you as a writer?

CH: I feel as though I should say “keeping him likeable” or something, but the fact is, I never worry about that. I find him interesting, so I assume readers will, too. The biggest challenge is logistical. He’s not James Bond; he’s a fugitive. If he wants to get from point A to point B, he’s got to figure out how to do so without getting arrested. If he needs a weapon, he’s got to procure it himself. If he storms a building, he goes in solo—no backup, no air support, nada. In a way, though, that’s fun. It forces me to improvise, to play MacGyver.

MPS: What is the greatest pleasure he provides?

CH: The thing I love most about Hendricks is that I’m not always certain what he’s going to do. Sometimes, he’s a better man than I give him credit for. Sometimes, he’s a little worse. That unpredictability is what keeps me going. I write to find out what he’ll do next.

You can find copies of Red Right Hand on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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