I Could Fit Five Bodies in the Trunk of My Sedan: MysteryPeople Q&A with Patrick Millikin

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The Highway Kind is a collection of short crime fiction, dealing with cars, driving, and the road. It features crime and general fiction and even a singer/songwriter. Authors include the likes of Joe Lansdale, Ace Atkins, and Michael Connelly. We talked to to the editor Patrick Millikan about cars and crime.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea of The Highway Kind come about?

Patrick Millikan: My original thought was that it would be cool to have an anthology of crime stories in which each author chose a particular car and wrote a story about it. The cars would be prominently featured. I was surprised that there hadn’t been (at least to my knowledge) a collection like it. Over time the idea morphed into something, at least in my opinion, much more interesting. As I mention in the preface, when I commissioned the stories I left the guidelines pretty open – the pieces would simply be about “cars, driving and the road.” As the stories started to come in I was surprised and intrigued by how personal, almost confessional, many of them were.

MPS: How did you go about choosing the authors?

PM: I wanted a mixture of different styles and approaches, and I didn’t want all of the pieces to be “noir” (the term has been so co-opted as to become almost meaningless). I put together a kind of dream list of writers and just went for it. The early commitment from Gary Phillips, Michael Connelly and Diana Gabaldon gave me the confidence to put together an official proposal. I started with a core list of about twenty five writers, realizing that they all wouldn’t be able to come through. I couldn’t be happier with the final roster. It was a real honor to work with them.

MPS: You have a few authors who never wrote crime fiction before. How did you know they were up for the task?

PM: Ha, good question. There are several such writers in the book. Willy Vlautin was way up high on my list of potential contributors. Although he doesn’t write crime fiction per se, his work really captures the atmosphere I was looking for, and I must say, I think his story is one of the finest in the collection. Willy actually put me in touch with Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. I admire Patterson’s songwriting and was eager to see what he’d come up with story-wise. I was really impressed…! He’s a damn good writer and I think we’ll be seeing a novel from him one of these days. I was hoping to get a story from Jay Farrar from Son Volt, another writer whose work I admire, but I couldn’t get in touch with him.

MPS: Which author surprised you the most?

PM: Probably Patterson Hood and Kelly Braffet. I hit up Kelly because I loved the voice of her novel, Save Yourself, and knew she would write something interesting, but I had no idea if she was up for a crime story. Boy did she deliver…

MPS: Outside of this book, what is your favorite story involving a car?

Tough, tough question. I can’t pick a favorite but I love Donald Hamilton’s Death of a Citizen (which I think very underrated), Theodore Weesner’s The Car Thief, Bezzerides’s Thieves’ Market, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and more recently, Duane Swierczynski’s The Wheelman and James Sallis’s Drive and Death Will Have Your Eyes. There are loads more that I’m forgetting. One of the weirdest I’ve come across is Harry Crews’s Car.

MPS: For you, what would be the best automobile to commit a crime with?

Probably the most innocuous car that nobody would remember, like a tan Ford Taurus.
Then again, I could probably fit five bodies in the trunk of my 1960 Cadillac Sedan Deville…

You can find copies of The Highway Kind on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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