LANDSCAPE AND CLASS STRUCTURE: AN INTERVIEW WITH KRIS LACKEY

Greasy Bend is the second novel to feature Chickasaw Lighthorse Police Sergeant Bill Maytubby and Johnson County Deputy Hannah Bond. Each track a personal case when Bill’s childhood friend is killed in a Casino robbery, and an elderly girlfriend of Hannah’s is murdered. The hunt for both killers entwines, involving a criminal scheme that takes them out of their jurisdiction to Louisiana with a lot of bullets fired along the way. Kris will be joining MysteryPeople favorite, Billy Kring, to discuss their books. Kris was kind enough to go one-on-one before hand for this interview.

The plot of Greasy Bend has several different crimes from several different places intersecting. How did the idea for it come about?

In this book I wanted to fashion personal motives for both Maytubby and Bond, so the victims are their friends. I also wanted to link the murders so that the investigations dovetailed. To do that, I needed a large criminal enterprise.

This one had more action sequences than Nail’s Crossing. What did it feel like, using that writing muscle more?

Oh I love to write action. It’s exciting, and the pages come much more quickly than dialogue pages. Writing exciting dialogue is, by comparison, drudgery.

Like the characters in Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire series, your characters, particularly the law enforcement ones, have a good sense of humor. How essential do you see it in writing these kinds of stories?

Menace and humor are both trusty accelerants. A blend makes good villains. Humor in sympathetic characters enlarges their power as thinkers, lovers, and antagonists. In literature it’s a mark of charisma. I’m not naturally funny, so writing unforced comic exchanges gives me the howling fantods.

Hannah Bond has gotten to be a favorite character in the series. What do you enjoy about her as a writer?

She is blunt, she is droll, and she is smarter than everyone else. Her brutal childhood stripped away any sympathy for cruel people, so she packs vengeance everywhere. She foils off Maytubby, who is cooler and more measured in his reactions. She is elemental. And her lack of experience outside rural Oklahoma opens up comic interplay with Maytubby’s wider history in academia and the world.

What does the Oklahoma setting give you besides familiarity?

What it gives me arises from familiarity. Its cultural and climatic collisions play out wildly and perpetually. The southern plains spawn drought and floods, twisters and wildfires. Also rich bounties of peaches and wheat; soybeans, corn, and sand plums.  Plains tribes that were removed to the western part of the state and tribes removed from the east to Indian Territory are building sturdy national economies with solid social services.  Previously erased swaths of Oklahoma history—like the Tulsa genocide of African Americans in 1921 and the mass murder of oil-rich Osage citizens by greedy white people—are upsetting the state’s narrative of valiant European pioneers. More recently, the booms and busts of the gas patch have caused economic havoc, and fracking disposal wells briefly made the state the earthquake capital of the world.

What makes Bill Maytubby a good detective?

He wields preternatural recall, he knows the landscape and class structure of south-central Oklahoma by heart, he listens, and he is intuitive.  He enjoys disguise and play.  He came of age in the country, so he knows fences, livestock, hunting, and botany. He got a classical education at St. John’s in Santa Fe, and his grandmother taught him the Bible.  The former lets him step outside his immediate duties, and the latter connects him to Oklahoma evangelicals. His Chickasaw education—from his grandmother, father, books, and friends—is uneven, but it often finds its way into his investigations.

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