A WRITER OF CIRCUMSTANCE: AN INTERVIEW WITH BUCKSKIN’S ROBERT KNOTT

Robert B. Parker's Buckskin (A Cole and Hitch Novel #10) Cover ImageBuckskin is Robert Knott’s latest continuation continuation of the saga of Appaloosa Arizona lawmen Hitch and Cole created by Robert B. Parker. As a blizzard blows in, they have to deal with a war between mining interests, a mysterious killer picking off citizens, and a mysterious one, The Kid, riding into town. Humor is added to the story with the women in Hitch and Cole’s life. Bob will be here May 8th at 7PM on BookPeople’s second floor to discuss and sign Buckskin. He was kind enough to take some early questions from us about the west, western genre, and writing women.

  1. One of the reasons this became one of my favorite in the series is because the plot deals with Appaloosa’s politics and commerce, which was at the root of many known gunfights and western wars. What made the politics different in a growing western town like Appaloosa from a city on the east coast at the time?

Keep in mind the edge of the universe in 1847 was basically Saint Louis, Missouri. So westward expansion comprised of easterners. Expats or deserters from the east. Not until later, after the Civil War were people actually born in the west.  Kit Carson was from Saint Louis; Jesse James from Missouri, his family from Kentucky; William Clark Quantrill was from Ohio; Custer was from Ohio; Hickok from Illinois; Billy the Kid was from New York City.  Many westerners were foreigners, like the Irishman and the Frenchman in Buckskin. So these influences are alive and well in the west, and I like to keep them alive in my books. But the difference is, they were gamblers who ventured onto the western frontier seizing opportunity void or and distancing themselves for the Victorian constraints, taxes, and general government rule.

  1. The women in Hitch and Cole’s lives prove to be just as formidable as the gunmen they go up against. How do you approach writing the women characters, particularly of this period?

I grew up with strong women in my family. I have always been attracted to strong female characters. Characters with a strong point of view but characters whose thoughts, feelings, and choices are as active and important, and in many cases more important, than their male counterparts.

  1. You have a mysterious killer, The Kid, coming into town to bring even more trouble. How did you come up with him?

Identity, love, and circumstances have always been a theme I like to work with. For the Kid, his life was void of identity and love, and it was circumstances that made him do the things he did, and it was circumstances that made him who he was. I think that telling, is universal. Most trouble and conflict, comes from these basic circumstances.

  1. One of the things this series gets praised for is the dialogue between Hitch and Cole. Is there anything you try to keep in mind when writing for them?

What they are saying and what they aren’t saying at the same time gives them a richness. They are not just helping tell the story.  Their dialogue is not just expositional. Don’t get me wrong, these are men who say what they mean and mean what they say. But there is also their code within their conversations.  They own the ground they walk on. They do not back up or apologize, only because they—not like politicians or game show hosts—have nothing to apologize for. Hitch and Cole’s circumstances in life dealt them cards that embolden nobility.

  1. The two do more detective work on this one. What did you enjoy about that aspect of the book?

I think with all my books they have been more detectives than straight up lawmen. Mainly because it is not always convenient who the antagonists are in these books. It is for H&C to figure that out. Most westerns identify the bad guy, and in the end the bad guy will most often fall. But with these books, Buckskin included, the bad guys are generally good guys gone bad and many times, like with Buckskin we don’t know who they are. Which is really what bad guys truly are. Again circumstances. Circumstances are what fills the prisons or the free streets across the globe.

  1. One thing about this series is that you always feel like you’ve read a traditional western yet it doesn’t feel like the same thing. Are there any western cliches you try to avoid?

Thanks Scott, I’m glad you see that, feel that way after, and while you are reading. I try to approach everything I do with the intention that what I am doing is not derivative.  That is of course impossible, but I try. I want the books, Buckskin included, to have an unexpected quality. Like with this one, you mentioned the women. The true central characters in the western are women. Each with their own important story and none of them are whores or farmers daughters, or homemaking homesteaders.  They all have a unique voice and point of view and history and well . . . that is not traditional for the western genre.

Murder in the Afternoon Book Club’s May pick

The May meeting for The Murder In The Afternoon Book Club will be have a special guest. We will be discussing David C. Taylor’s Night Work, the second novel  featuring, postwar N.Y.P.D. detective Michael Cassidy. David will be joining us, live and person at our discussion.

Night Work: A Michael Cassidy Novel Cover ImageNight Work takes place in the late late fifties, dealing with Cuba. First Cassidy brings multiple murder to Havana right before Castro and his rebels strike. He learns that Dylan, the KGB agent he fell for in Night Life, has been imprisoned by Batista’s men and hatches a plan to get her out. Months after he is pulled off a homicide case to protect Castro during his visit to New York, putting himself in the cross hairs of the mob, CIA, and others interested in seeing the leader killed. David masterfully weaves time, place, and plot together.

He’ll tell us how he does it among other things. He’s a great guy with a long writing history that includes the Rockford Files, Kojak, and the cult movie Get Crazy. Join us on BookPeople’s third floor Monday May 20th, at 1pm. The Book is at 10% off to those who attend.

You can also meet David the day before on May 19th at 2PM as he signs  and discusses the follow up to Night Work, Night Watch.

3 Picks for May

Each of this month’s three picks are written by authors who will be at BookPeople. Stop by, hear how they approached their novel, and get a copy signed.

Black Mountain (An Isaiah Coleridge Novel #2) Cover ImageBlack Mountain by Laird Barron—The second Isiah Coleridge novel has the ex-mod enforcer hanging out a private investigator shingle. He’s hired by his old bosses to track down a brutal killer who has taken out some of their men. The search leads to a secret mountain research facility and a government cover up. Laird creates one of the strongest hard boileds out there with a touch of the serial killer and horror tale as well. Laird Barron will be at BookPeople May 9th at 7PM.

 

 

Robert B. Parker's Buckskin (A Cole and Hitch Novel #10) Cover ImageRobert B. Parker’s Buckskin by Robert Knott—Appaloosa lawmen Hitch and Cole have to contend with a war between two mines and their hired guns, a mysterious killer in town, and one riding into town, all with a blizzard blowing in. Neither of the women in their lives make it any easier either. Knott brings a little more detective work to this latest entry to the series as well the swift action and laconic banter delivered by it’s two heroes that make it one of the best. Bob will be here May 8th at 7PM.

 

 

An Accidental Cuban Cover ImageAn Accidental Cuban by Joan Moran—Harry Cisneros, a young Cuban, works at every hustle to get his family to the states. when he thinks he has found a way to his dreams with a shady businessman with a money exchange scheme, it soon becomes a nightmare with Russian mobsters. An entertaining crime novel that gives a vivid look at Cuba in transition. Joan Moran will be joining David C. Taylor (Night Watch) for a discussion and signing on May 19 at 2PM.

Pick of the Month: Night Watch by David C. Taylor

David C. Taylor is fast becoming a go-to author—along side Max Allan Collins and James Ellroy—for crime fiction set in the post-war era. His Michael Cassidy, an NYPD  detective in the the fifties whose back ground allows him to be familiar with high society as well as the street, proves to be a complex hero who finds himself caught up in his country’s shadow history. Both author and character have solidified their standing in the latest novel, Night Watch.

This third story takes place between the first and second, Night Life and Night WorkCassidy catches a double homicide that has a precise and unusual M.O. Before he gets any chance to work it, a mysterious assassin is out to get him. His search for both killers involves the CIA and a real government program linked to the days after World War Two.

Night Watch Cover ImageTaylor has created Cassidy as a cross between, Sam Spade, The 87th Precinct’s Steve Carella, and James Bond. He’s a smart, capable cop, who is a bit of a wise-ass (only for those who deserve it), who works well with his fellow detectives. His good looks, charm, and elegance that come from being born into wealth (His father is an immigrant who made his fortune as a Broadway producer.) allow him to move in circles your average street cop can’t and bed many a beautiful women. However the war seems to have affected him. He has an attitude with authority, particularly at the national level, and seems to be in search of a purpose.

Another character that stands out in the series is the New York of that era, and Taylor goes deeper with this story. He gives us the gritty barrios and ghettos that have echoes of early Sydney Lumet films like The Pawnbroker as well as penthouse parties where Gershwin plays. That and everything in between gives off the feeling of the crowd and noise, depicting New York as the center and provider for its country’s culture for that period. If Cassidy believes in anything outside his family, it is protecting his town.

With Night Watch, David C. Taylor has proven the reliability of of the Michael Cassidy series. There is a confidence and clean voice to the writing with a hero who can go in several intriguing directions in plot, history, and his own character journey. Taylor balances both sides of Cassidy and his world, resulting in one hard boiled cop tale with a touch of class.