- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Gabe Traylin, the hero of Lance Hawvermale’s thriller Face Blind, suffers from a condition where one cannot distinguish the characteristics that make up someone’s face – not a great thing when he witnesses a murder from his NASA observatory in Chile. He ends up with a motley crew of characters, on the run, trying to find the killer he can only distinguish as “The Rifleman.”
We talked to Lance about the book, his characters, the setting, and his influences. Joined by Jonathan Woods and Ben Rehder, Lance Hawvermale comes to BookPeople to speak and sign his latest on Sunday, November 20th, at 5 PM.
MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to a protagonist with face blindness?
Lance Hawvermale: I wasn’t so much drawn to Gabe Traylin as haunted by him. Ever since I first learned of face-blindness, years ago, Traylin’s story has been growing behind my eyelids whenever I try to sleep. I can only imagine that sense of isolation, of not even recognizing your own mother. How could you ever really trust anyone? A protagonist like that certainly deserved to have his story told.
MPS: What was the biggest challenge it presented to you as a writer and how did you deal with it?
LH: A face-blind character changed everything. When you’re writing from your protagonist’s point of view and he meets a new person, your habit as a writer is to describe that person’s eyes, the dimple in her chin, or the mystery of her smile. I couldn’t fall back on any of that, so I had to be more creative in my description of people. A face-blind hero made me a more agile writer.
MPS: The plot is connected with Chilean history. What did you want to get across to the reader about that country?
LH: Even as I type this, our own government is doing things that we assume only other countries do. Bad things. In the 1970s, it was the CIA enabling a madman to take control of Chile, and many innocent people died because of it. But the Chilean people responded in a way that should inspire us all – they learned from the past.
MPS: A group of great people help Traylin out. Was one particularly fun to write?
LH: My favorite character is a washed-up novelist named Ben Cable. The events in the story help him to revive his career and give him what we all need when we’re at the end of our rope – a lifeline. Oh, and Ben happens to be bulletproof, so that alone is a fine reason to read the book.
MPS: You referenced William Goldman in a essay you did for us. Is there any particular work of his that stands out to you?
LH: Ray Bradbury may have inspired me to be a writer, but William Goldman is the one who made me good at it. When people talk about Goldman, they usually discuss either Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or The Princess Bride, but it’s inside his thrillers where all the secrets hide. I could wax poetic about Marathon Man and Magic, but let me give you just one thing about Heat, a crime novel set in Las Vegas. In Heat, there is a chapter titled “18 Seconds.” All of the action in that chapter – and there’s a lot of it! – unfolds in exactly 18 seconds. I learned more as a writer from that single chapter than from all of the “How to Write a Novel” books I ever read.
MPS: What do you hope the reader gets out of Face Blind?
LH: We are at our best as human beings when we face disaster together. When our city is flooding, or our building is burning, or our neighborhood is beset by crime, that’s when we forget our politics and take a stand. My favorite story is always a form of this: strangers join hands and form a human wall to protect the rest of us from danger.
You can find copies of Face Blind on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.