Favorite Hard-Boiled Noir: Remaining Contingent

9781944520687 Tomorrow, Saturday, August 31st at 2PM on BookPeople’s third floor, we will be holding our Tough Guys and Dangerous Dames: A Discussion of Hard-boiled Fiction panel to celebrate twenty years of Stark House publishing and the release of the book, The Best Of Manhunt. Leading up to it this week, we’ve had all the participants list three or five hard-boiled favorites. We’ve heard from Stark House Press’s Jeff Vorzimmer and Rick Ollerman and from Nacogdoches, Texas’ Tim Bryant and Joe R Lansdale. All that is left is modern hard-boiled master Josh Stallings, author of the Moses McGuire series that follows an ex-biker turned bouncer on a war against sex traffickers, and Young Americans, a coming of Age heist tale. Also chiming in with his opinion, crime fiction coordinator Scott Montgomery who will be serving as moderator on the panel.

FINAL Josh’s Picks:

Dancing Bear by James Crumley

This isn’t country noir, it’s Montanan hard-boiled. It combines flavors of Raymond Chandler and Hunter S. Thompson with a poetry that is Crumley’s own. It also has my favorite last line, “I have learned some things. Modern life is warfare without end: take no prisoners, leave no wounded, eat the dead–that’s environmentally sound.”

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Chandler writes like a drunken angel. I was 16 when this book started my lifelong love of hard-boiled fiction. Detective Philip Marlowe is a deeply flawed man fighting to do the best he can. Corruption, blackmail, dangerous dames, it is both of it’s time, and frighteningly timeless.

Already Dead by Charlie Huston

In the underbelly of New York lives a dark and dangerous world of blood suckers. Joe Pitt is a hard-boiled, vampire detective fighting to keep the world from falling into chaos. It is funny but never crosses into silliness. It is serious as dynamite, violent and brilliant. Huston creates characters worth giving a damn about.

Scott’s Picks:

The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett

Hammett may have not invented the hard-boiled story, but he made it into something worth pursuing for authors. Often considered his most personal book, the story follows the right hand man of a political boss, trying to solve a murder that could ruin his boss while falling for his boss’s woman. Hammett delivers a cynical tale featuring a tarnished hero with a code and a strong male friendship at it’s center. A huge influence on The Coen Brother’s Millers Crossing.

Blue City by Ross Macdonald

Before his sensitive PI Lew Archer, Macdonald wrote this tough as nails postwar tale (originally under his real name Kenneth Millar) about a soldier who returns home to find his father, the town fixer, murdered and few, including the sheriff and his step-mother, giving a damn. He hunts down those responsible with the help of a sex worker and leftist bookstore owner. You know it’s a hard-boiled novel when the hero’s name is Johnny Weather.

The Outfit by Richard Stark (aka Donald Westlake)

I had to include a book about professional robber Parker and this heist novel with about a half dozen heists. To bring things to a head with the organized crime outfit he’s been at war with, Parker goes on a crime spree and tells his peers if they know of an outfit place to rob do it, it will be pinned on him. Westlake wrote the Parker books with a precision that created diamond hard books with no fat.

Unknown Man #89 by Elmore Leonard

One Leonard’s early and grittier Detroit-based novels about a process server with a reputation of tracking down anyone, is hired to locate a man for a sleazy guy who deals in stocks. Others are also on the hunt with deadly aim. Great examples of Leonard’s sense of character and dialogue in a darker story than he was later known for.

Two Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale

Also had to have a Hap and Leonard. This one has the boys going into a racist town to find out what happened to Hap’s ex, a lawyer working on a case.  Funny, with great action and a great male friendship at it’s center, this and the other books in the series show how an author takes his or her influences and makes them his own.

Don’t forget about our hard-boiled mystery fiction panel happening on BookPeople’s third floor this Saturday, August 31st at 2PM featuring a bevy of Crime fiction’s best.

Favorite Hard-Boiled Noirs: Nacogdoches Contingent

9781944520687 For our Tough Guys & Dangerous Dames: A Discussion of Hard Boiled Fiction Panel on Saturday, August 31st, at 2PM, we have two literary stalwarts from behind the pine curtain in Nacogdoches, Texas driving in to join us. Tim Bryant owns The Bosslight, the towns’ independent bookstore and is one of those writers more people need to know about, with a great private eye series featuring postwar Fort Worth detective Alvin “Dutch” Curridge and a western one with John Wilkie Liquorish, a very dubious frontier hero. Joe R. Lansdale is a legend in practically every genre outside Harlequin romance, best known for his Hap and Leonard series that took the hard-boiled crime genre in several weird and wonderful directions. Here are their list of five favorite hard boiled novels.

tim-bryant-official-author-pic-1-219x300 Tim’s Picks:

1. Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze

This is a hell of a ride, one where you never know what’s coming around the next corner. But it has the South in it, including my beloved New Orleans, a beautiful dream/nightmare of a woman along for the trip, and a protagonist named Tim who’s living with hellhounds nipping at his heels and he’s not looking back.

2. The Nothing Man by Jim Thompson

The Nothing Man isn’t usually considered one of Thompson’s best, but I’ll stick up for it. It’s as dark and violent and alcohol-fueled as you would expect, but it will also make you giggle and squirm in spite of yourself. All of Thompson’s protagonists are missing something important, but morality tale of male impotence makes it all too literal.

3. Cockfighter by Charles Willeford

Willeford has that unflinching eye, putting the reader ringside on the cockfghting circuit in the dirty South. You might see a lot of things you don’t really want to see, but Willeford paints it in such a stark and beautiful way, you can’t look away.

Author Photo Joe Lansdale Credit Karen Lansdale (3) Joe’s Picks (descriptions by Scott):

Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliot Chaze

The book that pops up most often on our panelist’s lists. When people use the term fever dream, this is a fine example. All the elements of a hard-boiled noir, a cad narrator, femme fatale, and armored car heist.

Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
Chandler had a huge influence on Joe’s phrasing and use of humor, both of which are in prime example in this, the second of the Phillip Marlowe books. Both authors also share the idea of using regional dialect as part of their literary style.
Double Indemnity by James M Cain
Joe has always described Cain as a clean writer in his narrative approach, which is reflected in this tight no holds bar novel that has a very different ending from the classic film

All Shot Up by Chester Himes
It’s easy to see Joe taking the humor and absurdity, as well as use of place that Himes developed and grafting it to his own work. They also share the ability for social examination through an entertaining genre novel.

Murder is Not an Odd Job by Ralph Dennis

Dennis’ Hardman series featuring unlicensed Atlanta PI Jim Hardman, assisted by his former pro football  back up, Hump, served as one of the influences on his Hap and Leonard series.

Be sure to join us to hear Tim and Joe talk more noir when they stop by the store on August 31st at 2PM for a panel celebrating twenty years of Stark House Press.

“A Constant Process Inside my Head”: Scott Butki Interviews David Lagercrantz


Like many I really loved the Millenium Series both for the plot, but even more so, for the characters of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist. The series was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. Author Stiegg Larsen’s books received great reviews and became best-sellers…but there was a problem: He had died in 2004 and his books were published after his death.

In 2013 author David Lagercrantz was commissioned to continue the series. Resuming a series started by another is a tough challenge. Some, like Ace Atkins, who has done an awesome job continuing the Spenser series after Robert Parker died, have done it well. But it’s not an easy task. Since being commissioned, Lagencrantz continued the series with The Girl in the Spider’s Web in 2015 and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye in 2017.

Which brings us to his new book, the latest entry in the series, The Girl Who Lived Twice. Lagencrantz will be speaking at Book People on Friday, August 30 at 7pm.

Lagencrantz was kind enough to allow me to interview him for this book.

Scott Butki: What inspired your newest novel, The Girl Who Lived Twice? Where did you first get the idea for this story?

David Lagencrantz: I first got the idea when I caught sight of a beggar sitting not far from my home. Suddenly I felt that I really saw him, and started wondering about his life, his story. I began to think of a way to tell the story of his life alongside a story of absolute power in society. I carried an old dream of depicting the whole structure of society in one mystery. I also knew from the beginning that this book would contain the final battle between Lisbeth and her sister.

S.B.: Your books are very complex. Do you write from an outline?

D.L.: No, actually I don’t ever do that. It is a constant process inside my head. I never take notes. I imagine that the best ideas will make themselves clear, and will be refined as I keep writing.

S.B.: Tell us about the moment you learned you were inheriting Stieg Larsson’s infamous series. What did that feel like?

D.L.: That was explosive! Crazy. I was terrified, scared to death and could not wait to get started. All at the same time.

S.B.: Do you worry about straying from Larsson’s tone and style, or at this point, do you feel comfortable making changes and incorporating your own voice?

D.L.: At this point I feel free and confident, comfortable to use my own voice within Larsson’s framework.

S.B.: What do you hope readers will take away from these books?

D.L.: I hope that they will have great fun. And that the books will make readers aware of the horrifying threat that fake news and disinformation is to our society.

S.B.: You have made some incredible donations from the profits of your books to literacy and journalism nonprofits in Sweden. Why are these organizations important to you?

D.L.: Both literacy and journalism are based on freedom of speech and the free word. Free speech is fundamental in a democracy, and we all must do our utmost to protect it. That is why I support Swedish PEN and the Swedish Reading Society.

S.B.: What are you working on next? Another Lisbeth novel, or something else?

D.L.: I am very excited to tell you I recently signed a contract for a crime trilogy! I cannot wait to get back to my writing.

Be sure to come by BookPeople on August 30th at 7PM to hear David in conversation with local author Chandler Baker to discuss all things The Girl Who Lived Twice.

Sometimes Straight Up Stockholm Syndrome: An Interview with Rob Hart

The Warehouse August’s MysteryPeople Pick Of The Month, Rob Hart’s The Warehouse, has been a much talked about book this summer. A thriller set in near future corporate workplace environment, The Mother Cloud Complex, where the workers live in the factory. It is viewed through three characters Paxton, a security guard new on the job, Zinnia, a corporate spy infiltrating The Cloud as a worker, and Gibson Wells, the CEO and founder of Cloud who mainly speaks to us through his blog. Hart has created a frightening real world of the one percent and those who work for them. We got in touch with Rob to talk about the book and the dystopian future he created. 

1.) How did you decide on your two protagonists, Paxton and Zinnia?

Right from the start I saw it as two driving voices. One would be the slightly naïve company man (Paxton) and the other would be the more skeptical person with an agenda (Zinnia). I think for a story as big as this, in order to examine the different facets—especially in terms of the work environment—it needed multiple points of view. But I really didn’t crack it until I added the third: the CEO, Gibson Wells. Because someone needed to take on the role of defending the company, and litigating the history of it. Because otherwise, it was too black-and-white.

2.) How did you go about building the world of The Mother Cloud Complex?

I had to draw a map! The MotherClouds are essentially small, self-contained cities, so the first thing I did was create a list of everything you need in a city (police, fire, transit, schools, hospitals, etc.). Then I drew a map. I was actually really struggling with the layout of the facility; I needed to see it before I could move forward with the story. I ended up referring back to it constantly, just to get a sense of geography. So in a sense, it was great—I could create whatever I needed to suit my storytelling needs. But at the same time, it was a lot to keep in my head.

3. Was there anything you had to keep in mind while writing in your world?

You hear a lot about show-don’t-tell, and that’s something I thought about a lot with this book. There was so much world-building, and I felt like it was important to reveal that all organically. Stopping the story every ten minutes to explain stuff would have pumped the brakes too much. Rather, I needed to figure out how to reveal the world through the experience of the characters, so you’re sort of seeing what they see, and processing it the way they would. That way I hoped it would feel more natural.

4. I really thought the way you portrayed Gibson Wells was interesting. You are sympathetic to him, since he is dying of cancer and his arguments on his blog make sense in the beginning, so you don’t know through his blog if he is misguided, rationalizing his actions, or he’s masking something evil. How did you approach him so he wouldn’t be the corporate fat cat stereotype?

The villain of the story never thinks they’re the villain. I just kept coming back to that. Gibson believes that might makes right; for as much as he’s accomplished, he obviously must be doing the right thing. How else would he have succeeded? As I mentioned previously, I think giving him that voice, and that opportunity to explain his side, really opened up the story and gave it the balance it needed.

5. You have the Cloud corporate speak of being “a team” down well. In fact, I couldn’t help but think of an Amazon help wanted ad I read. What is the key to doing that authentically?

Lots and lots of reading and research, plus calling on my own experience, working in jobs where there was a lot of groupthink and gaslighting and, frankly, sometimes straight-up Stockholm syndrome, where your employers treat you like shit and you rationalize it, because at least you have a job. The trick was not making it feel too cult-like. I didn’t want to go toward a sense of fantasy with it. For a while I considered having all the employees be forced to run through a group chant or exercise at the start of their shift. Which on one hand, feels completely absurd. But on the other hand, is a thing Wal-mart employees actually do. So it was also recognizing that, sometimes, the reality is so absurd people might not believe it.

6. Can you tell us what you have in store for us next?

I’m working on a book now that isn’t a direct sequel to The Warehouse — it’s more of a spiritual sequel. The Warehouse is about the way corporations treat us like disposable products, and it poses some questions that I hope this new book answers. And it’s about power. That’s all I want to say for now.

You can purchase a copy of Rob Hart’s The Warehouse from BookPeople in-store or online now.

Five Favorite Noir & Hard-Boiled Novels – The Stark House Contingent

9781944520687This Saturday, August 31st at 2PM we will be holding a discussion on BookPeople’s third floor to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Stark House Press and their release of The Best Of Manhunt, the premiere crime magazine of the fifties and sixties. Authors Tim  Bryant, Josh Stallings, and Joe R. Lansdale will being joining. We also have two representatives from Stark House in on the discussion. Rick Ollerman is both an author at Stark House with books like Mad Dog Barked and Turnabout/ Shallow Secrets and well as their expert, contributing the historical and critical introductions to many of their reprints. Most can be found in the collection Hard Boiled, Noir, and Gold Medals, along with new essays. Jeff Vorzimmer is an author and editor, with The Best Of Manhunt being his latest project. We asked both of them to list five titles from their favorite noir and hard-boileds.

jeff Jeff’s Picks:

The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

This was the book that got me hooked on Highsmith. Previously I’d only read Strangers on a Train, which, like Ripley himself, also features a psychopath. In Ripley, though we get an uncomfortably close view of a psychopath in a novel set on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, one of my favorite places in the world. It’s also been made into—not just one—but two great movies, one French and one American.

The Far Cry by Fredric Brown

Like most readers of pulp fiction, my introduction to Brown was through his science fiction, but I soon discovered his fantastic crime fiction. The Far Cry is a great crime novel set in Taos, New Mexico, in which Brown made use of his background as a skip-tracer. A man looking to get away from the city for a few weeks learns that a woman who stayed in the cabin he rents had disappeared eight years before and he quickly becomes obsessed with the case.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey

The great New York City heist novel that’s been filmed twice. What an ingenious story line—hijacking a subway car! Whether you’ve seen either film, the book is well-plotted and well worth reading.

Swamp Sister by Robert Edmond Alter

I first came to Swamp Sister through Barry Gifford’s Black Lizard line of books in the 80s and I was instantly hooked, not just on Alter, but also the “swamp” subgenre of the 1950s and 60s crime fiction. Other great “swamp” books are Harry Whittington’s A Moment to Prey (Backwoods Tramp)—also published by Black Lizard—and Gil Brewer’s Hell’s Our Destination.

The Hot Spot (aka Hell Hath No Fury) by Charles Williams

Having read all of Charles Williams, I’m hard-pressed to pick one, but this one is a good example of his crime fiction. Williams was a Texan and, like many of his early books, this one is set in Texas. It features a heist and two love triangles and was made into a film shot in central Texas with Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen and the beautiful Jennifer Connelly in an unforgettable scene at Hamilton Pool.

obj692geo677pg2p22 Rick’s Picks:

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

This is James M. Cain’s seminal noir work and when I apply my definition of noir (I know you’ve heard ad nauseum; you start out screwed and end up screwed-er) this is the book that I tell people to read when they ask, “So, what is this noir thing?”

Black Wings Has My Angel by Elliott Chaze 

I’m not as much on the bandwagon with this book as some people, and Chaze’s surviving family feels he wrote better books than this, but it’s certainly a compelling example of the ups and downs in a well-told noir story that trend in a disastrous direction up until its inevitable sort of ending.

One for Hell by Jada M. Davis

Davis published only two books in his lifetime, opting instead to follow the corporate path and take the safer money and look out for his family. But this book is what you’d get if you sparkled some fertilizer on Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me and allowed it to grow inside a summer greenhouse for a season. When it comes out it would swallow the Thompson book whole. Interestingly, the other book Davis published (The Outraged Sect) is almost a mirror image of One for Hell and because of it offers a fascinating analysis of why noir works as a form of literature. Stark House has also published the excellent coming of age story The Midnight Road and–when I catch up even more–a very tasty Gold Medal-esque home run called So Curse the Day as the centerpiece of an upcoming anthology. Assuming Jeff doesn’t use up all the good stories in his collections….

The Name of the Game is Death by Dan J. Marlowe

It offers another terrific trip through the noir landscape. In this case, the protagonist picks a name that’s as good as any other, Earl Drake, as he plans and commits his string of crimes. Being noir, of course things get more and more away from him, all the way through the grisly climax. Almost by definition, a truly noir book defies a sequel and though the ending of this book seems to adhere to the rule, Marlowe actually makes an exception and follows this book with One Endless Hour. Rather than having burned to death as we had believed after Name of the Game, Drake not only survives but plastic surgery gives him a new face. The first third of this book is a recap of Name of the Game and actually serves to transition into the character not only becoming the owner of the “Earl Drake” name, but Marlowe also making him a full-fledged government agent in a series of men’s adventure books. As a sequence, it’s fascinating, as is Marlowe’s personal story (amnesiac, slowly regains his memory, works with a convict/ex-con on future books) but aside from all that, The Name of the Game is Death deserves its position on the noir shelf, especially as a single book. Stark House did an omnibus edition with both The Name of the Game is Death and One Endless Hour.

The Eye of the Beholder by Marc Behm

It’s the story of a private investigator with a missing daughter who is surveilling a female serial killer and how this becomes a tragic obsession with him. Behm is in the top rank of French noir writers and this book was made into a movie (very different from the book, in a nowhere-near-as-good way with Ethan Hawke) and more recently a number of Behm’s novels have been made into graphic novels as well as found their way into new reprint editions.

As a bonus from left field, I’ll give you a complete unknown and dark horse. It’s more contemporary than classic, being published in 2002, and it’s by Hugo Wilcken, called The Execution. The simplified plot is about a man losing his girlfriend but as the story goes on, you see that what’s going on is the main character’s slow descent into insanity. It is a disturbing read.

You can order (most of) these titles from BookPeople online and hear more from Jeff and Rick when we host them on August 31st at 2PM for our panel celebrating the 20th anniversary of Stark House Press. 

Tell a Great Story: An Interview with Greg Shepard

gregWe’re celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Stark House Press this month with a discussion of hard boiled fiction with Joe Lansdale, Tim Bryant, Josh Stallings, and Stark House editors, experts, and writers Rick Ollerman and John Vorzimmer. One person who can’t make it is Greg Shepard (pictured), Stark House’s founder and publisher, who has been bringing back great genre fiction gems from the past back in print. We took some time to talk to the man about his twenty years of his great work.

1. How did Stark House Press get started?

My dad, Bill Shepard, was a magazine and newspaper editor and writer for many years. In 1998, he had the idea to start a family publishing venture. Several of my family members joined in as artists and editors. Our first book was the hardback collection, The Oracle Lips by Storm Constantine. Unfortunately, it didn’t sell as well as we had hoped. One by one, family members drifted away, leaving me with the basis for Stark House Press. My brother, Mark, still serves as our graphic designer, and my wife Cindy runs our website. I also have several friends and associates who help with writing, proofing and occasionally suggesting authors.

2. What do you see as the mission of the press?

The main goal of Stark House Press is to act as a reprint publisher, bringing back genre fiction of the past, and specializing in mysteries and noir fiction. We will occasionally promote new authors, but roughly 80% of our business will continue to focus on reprinting gems from the past.

3. Much of the crime fiction you publish are from the fifties and sixties. What do you think was quintessential about that era?

The 1950s and 60s were the golden age of the paperback, a time when all those pulp veterans and fledgling crime writers had an opportunity to expand their ideas from magazine short stories into the novel format. Fostered by the generous advances of Gold Medal Books, many of the classic mystery authors we celebrate today—John D. MacDonald, Charles Williams, Gil Brewer, Peter Rabe, Vin Packer—could make a living doing what they did best: tell a great story. The post-war, boom climate of the 50s also generated a lot of angst, giving rise to some very dark fiction via authors like Jim Thompson, David Goodis and David Karp. It was just a very fertile time for crime fiction.

4. While you have some of the bigger names like Gil Brewer and David Goodis, you have also brought back some lesser known authors. Who are some that you wish more readers would know of?

Douglas Sanderson, who also wrote as Malcolm Douglas and Martin Brett, is a favorite of mine. I love his lean, mean prose. I’ve been hyping Elisabeth Sanxay Holding to the point where we’ve reprinting all but two of her mysteries, but I still feel she could be better well known. And I would love to see more sales of James McKimmey, Bill S. Ballinger, Richard Wormser and John Flagg to justify more reprints of their forgotten treasures. This year we have also added a lot more women mystery authors, like Jean Potts, Bernice Carey and Dolores Hitchens, with more to come. The list of “lesser knowns” could go on and on.

5. Who is an author or book you’d like to get back into print, but haven’t yet for whatever reason?

I’d love to get David Karp back into print but have yet to track down his heirs. Same goes for Don Tracy and Robert Edmond Alter. And then there are authors like Edward S. Aarons and Marvin Albert, whose heirs doesn’t seem interested. And authors like Cornell Woolrich and Geoffrey Homes, whose agents are just charging too much for the rights.

6. Where would you like to see Stark House in the next twenty years?   

I should live so long. Seriously, if Stark House is still in business in 20 years, I hope it’s still bringing back more great authors of the past. I’d love to see a wider range of genres by then—more science-fiction, horror, fantasy, westerns—and a lot better balance of both men and women authors on our list. More anthologies as well. But other than that, I hope Stark House continues to be known for reprinting the authors who deserve another shot in print. And I hope we continue to have the resources to keep books in print, as well as making them available as e-books. But in 20 years, who knows what new changes in the publishing business will have occurred.

To hear more about Stark House Press and from the contributors and editors of their latest publication, The Best of Manhunt, join us on BookPeople’s third floor on August 31st at 2PM for a paneled discussion headed by Crime Fiction coordinator Scott Montgomery. The talk will feature Jeff Vorzimmer, Rick Ollerman, Josh Stallings, Tim Bryant and Joe Lansdale. 

An Interview with The Best of Manhunt editor John Vorzimmer

9781944520687The Best Of Manhunt is a collection of 47 stories from the famed crime fiction magazine of the fifties and sixties. Editor John Vorzimmer put it together, giving us stories by big names like Mickey Spillane and David Goodis, newcomers at the time, Lawrence Block and Donald Westlake, as well as many forgotten authors that will be remembered. For a celebration of his publisher Stark House’s twentieth year and the book itself John will be part of our Tough Guys & Dangerous Dames: A Discussion Of Hard Boiled Crime on Saturday, August 31st with Rick Ollerman, Josh Stallings, Tim Bryant, and Joe Lansdale. Here we got him on his own.



  1. How did this project come about?

I’ve always been an admirer of Otto Penzler’s anthologies, especially his Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories. I always hoped he would do a similar anthology of Manhunt stories. I have always thought of Manhunt as the worthy successor to Black Mask, appearing as it did the year following that venerable magazine’s demise. After six years with no Manhunt anthology coming from anybody, I asked myself a question I often do, If I don’t do it, who will?

  1. Was there any criteria of picking the stories?

There was a previous anthology of Manhunt stories, The Best From Manhunt, in the late 50s, edited by Scott & Sidney Meredith, which I used as a starting point. All the stories included in that collection are included in mine. For the rest I turned to veteran anthologist Bill Pronzini, who, not only has edited over a hundred anthologies himself, but is a big fan of Manhunt. I also relied on other experts on certain authors who appeared regularly in Manhunt and solicited them for their favorites.

  1. Why do you think Manhunt was such a quality crime fiction magazine?

Manhunt was the brainchild of publisher Archer St. John and agent Scott Meredith. Both were experts who knew the right people to make Manhunt a great publication. St. John supplied the artists and layout people to create a great looking publication while Meredith and his brother, Sydney, provided editing duties and a steady flow of great fiction from their stable of writers.

  1. Who comes the closest to being the quintessential Manhunt author?

Tough question. I think there are several. I would have to say Evan Hunter, otherwise known as Ed McBain, who contributed 48 stories over the life of the magazine. In addition I would have to include Gil Brewer and Fletcher Flora.

  1. Is there a lesser known writer in this collection you hope writers will discover?

Oh, yes. Frank E. Smith, who wrote as Jonathan Craig, comes immediately to mind, along with Robert Turner and Clark Howard. Other than a couple of books by small, independent publishers, I don’t think these writers currently have much in print.

  1. What does crime fiction from this era have over it’s contemporaries?

A question loaded with potential pitfalls. I could say these authors worked at a time in which writers weren’t constrained by the fear of offending someone or some group. What they wrote actually reflected, for better or worse, how people behaved in the 1950s.

Don’t forget to join us on August 31st at 2PM on BookPeople’s third floor for a discussion with Vorzimmer and The Best of Manhunt contributors Rick Ollerman, Josh Stallings, Tim Bryant and Joe Lansdale. And while you’re at it, order a copy of The Best of Manhunt here.

“Writing a Book Should Never Be Easy”: Scott Butki Interviews Karin Slaughter

9780062858085_d69dfWith her 19th novel Karin Slaughter continues writing fast-paced action stories with excellent plots and fascinating characters. After writing some books about Will Trent and some about Sara Linton in recent years she’s combined them, meaning both characters are in the same books. Sara is a medical examiner and Will, her boyfriend, is an investigator with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

In this one Karin starts the book with a great twist, Will and Sara try to help strangers at a crime scene and he gets hurt and she gets kidnapped, becoming part of a crew that has already kidnapped another woman. Great plots and character insights follow.

I first read and interviewed Karin about 9 years ago and I was struck by the amount of violence in her books. So I asked a possibly sexist question, namely, Why so much violence? It’s a question she gets asked a lot and she has a perfectly reasonable response: If women are more often the victims of violence why shouldn’t female writers be addressing that.

Karin was kind enough to let me interview her again, by email, for her excellent new book, The Last Widow.

Scott Butki: How did you come up with this story, which starts with the big twist of Sara Linton being kidnapped?

Karin Slaughter:  When I began working on this book I knew I wanted this story to put Will and Sara in the most scary and vulnerable situation imaginable. I’ve spent so much time bringing them together that I thought it would be interesting to see what happens to them when they are forced apart. That was the seed and the rest grew from there.

S: Do you want readers to start at the beginning of your series or can they start with this book?

K: Absolutely they can start with The Last Widow. I purposely write my books in a way that readers can start with any book and be able to easily fall into the story. But if they are OCD, like me, they probably will want to begin at the beginning, anyway. My hope is that new readers will start with The Last Widow, and if they like it they’ll go back and read the other books in the series.

S: As the press release for this book notes, you often have “strong themes of female empowerment” and have an “incredible skill for holding a mirror up to society to explain what is going on in the world.”  How do you go about putting those themes in? Is that something that goes in as you write the early drafts?

K: I think it is much more organic, and really just about my life experience. I know the challenges that I and my female friends face, and I write from that experience. There are just some things that men don’t have to deal with—I’m not talking about the “known” issues like misogyny and harassment (though men can be harassed, too). There’s so much more to being a woman, and as writers, we are very good at knowing what scares other women. We know what a struggle it is to just be a woman in the world.

S: What do you hope readers will take away from this and your other books?

K: I always hope readers just have a great time reading, and find something that thrills them. I read for fun, and I know how transporting a great book can be. I try to deliver that experience every time.

S:  I see that one of your standalone novels, Pieces of Her, is going to be an 8-part Netflix adaptation? What is that like to imagine your book becoming a TV production?

K: It’s a bit surreal. I don’t really have ideas about what the characters look like and sound like as I’m writing them—they’re just there in my head. But thinking that something I created in my pajamas alone in my cabin being interpreted for the screen is bizarre. In a good way, though! The team at Made Up Stories is tops and the writer is amazing. I know that their vision for this is really well-thought out and designed to honor what I’ve put on the page. I feel like the story is in very capable hands.

S: What do you like about writing a story in this series versus standalone novels? What do you like about doing the standalones?

K: Standalone and series novels each have their own challenges; it seems like it would be easier to write a Will Trent book because I’ve known him and I’ve written about Sara from the very beginning. But the challenge is to say new things about them that aren’t surprising, like suddenly Will loves to collect civil war memorabilia, and you never knew that. I have to figure out ways to make them interesting to people. But when I’m doing a standalone the big challenge is, for example, when I did The Good Daughter, I go back and read it from the beginning and say, “O.K. is the Charlie you see at the end of this novel believable as a Charlie in the beginning?” Whatever they go through has to make sense for their personality. I don’t want someone who is very timid to be kicking butt at the end; I want her journey, for lack of a better word, to make sense. That’s sometimes more challenging in a novel because as you’re writing this character you are getting to know them as well.

S: I interviewed you once before, way back in 2010. It is great to be able to touch base with you again. In between that and this interview you wrote many more best-sellers. Is it getting easier or harder to write new books?

K: Oh yeah, I remember that! Isn’t that one of the great things about this business, you get to be a part of a kind of community, right? But writing a book should never be easy. If anything, the more I write, the harder and more challenging it gets because I learn something new with each book. If there’s an easy part, it’s that I have a lot more resources now. If I need to talk to a cop about how to commit the perfect murder, she’s not going to put me on a watch list. I hope.

S:  I read a piece where you interviewed Will Trent. Was that fun to write?

K: It was a lot of fun to write. My audio publisher is actually turning this into an audio piece which I’ll post on my website and social media. The interviewer will be my regular audio book narrator, Kathleen Early. I really hope people like the narrator they chose for Will Trent. It will be a good little test run.

S: Can you tell me about your Save the Libraries? What is it and how can people help?

K: Save the Libraries Foundation was started in 2008 when the economy went to the toilet. I am someone who has always toured libraries and I noticed that some of my favorite librarians were no longer there. They’d been asked to retire or their hours had been cut back. I noticed just in my own community that the hours were cut at the local branch and we had a lot of kids on the street that would normally be in the library. And, I thought, this is something I feel very strongly about because as a child the library was my haven. I will say part of that is because it was the only air conditioned building in town, but they had a lot of books too. I just thought, we have to do something about this; I talked to a bunch of friends of mine who are authors and we all feel this way. You can talk to Lee Child, Mike Connelly, Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman, just a cast of any authors and they’ll tell you the libraries were probably the most important thing they had when they were growing up. We all decided, well, we need to give back. I did a fundraiser in my library system in Dekalb county and we had Kathryn Stockett and Mary Kay Andrews come in. I also partnered with the Indigo Girls to do a concert in Atlanta to raise funds. We did block grants to libraries around the country, actually around the world, because we did some in Europe and some in England. We said if you have a need, here’s some money, you know what you need, buy what you need and so far we have given away over $300,000.

S: What are you working on next?

K: I’m working on a new Sara and Will book for 2020!

You can order your copy of Karin Slaughter’s latest, The Last Widow, now.

The More You Write the More You Understand Them: An Interview with Lisa Lutz

9781984818232_b9eeb Lisa Lutz’s new thriller, The Swallows, opens like a satire on academia with Alex Witt starting work at a second tier private school receiving classes she doesn’t want. When a creative writing assignment brings attention to something known as “The Dark Room” that the boys like and the girls don’t, she teams up with a streetwise student, Gemma, to overthrow a school tradition. Lisa is able to weave her sense of humor with sense of dread and the use of multiple points of view allows her to delve into a topical subject from several angles. Lisa Lutz will be at BookPeople to discuss The Swallows August 20th at 7PM and was kind enough to take some advance questions.


  1. How did the idea for The Swallows come about?

I had the idea to write about a gender war, and a private school setting made the most sense. I can’t say where the germ of the idea came from (my ideas are rarely sparked by an article or real-life event). After I had the idea, I did read up on private school scandals, mostly to confirm my theory that what happens in The Swallows was entirely plausible.

I think it’s important to mention that I didn’t write it as a #MeToo book—I’d started writing it before all that gained momentum. That said, I did have to contend with my own Trump rage throughout the writing of the book. You’d think it would help, but it really didn’t.

  1. Gemma is such a great complex character. How did you go about constructing her?

Thank you. I wanted a character who was an outsider—who saw things from a slightly different perspective than the other students. Beyond that, I don’t know that I can articulate how I conceived of her—or any character, really. I just start writing and see what happens. The more you write, the more you understand them.

  1. What about this story made you go with switching the point of view with each chapter?

I think the whole subject matter is about different points of view. I wanted a balance between adults, students, males and females. I also liked being able to layer the story so that you see some situations from different POVs.

  1. I bought all the voices of the teenagers. Did you have to keep anything in mind when writing for them?

I think of it like writing character-specific dialogue for film or TV, just with more sentences. Everyone has their own rhythm, words they use more than others. Gemma’s language was pretty loose, and swearing was second nature. But Norman, for instance, was more locked down. I tend to talk when I write so I can hear the rhythm. (If I’m writing in public, this has the additional benefit of discouraging strangers from talking to me.)

      5. This is the first book since you’ve written since working in the writers room of The Deuce. Did that experience have any impact on your writing?

Not really. Writing novels and working in a writer’s room feel like entirely different jobs. I’m not a control freak in most of my life, but I really like writing my own stuff. It’s hard to cede control. It always feels good to go back to my own stuff. Also, I’m pretty uncivilized, and when you work in a room you have to at least try to be human. Some days that’s just beyond me.

      6. I recently had dinner with some of your peers and we were talking about how well you use humor in your books. What does it allow for you to do besides getting a laugh?

I always love when humor breaks the tension. I also think it makes some subjects more palatable. Also, there’s a way the girls in the book talk about things and “own the joke.” That always feels like the most powerful position. Granted, I care about jokes more than most people. “More than most people do,” I should say. I’m not a monster.

You can order a copy of The Swallows now.

The Worst Situation Possible: An Interview with Steve Cavanagh


In Steve Cavanagh’s Thirteen, his series character, con man turned lawyer Eddie Flynn, takes on a celebrity murder case. However the true murderer, a serial killer, has gotten himself into the jury pool. Steve will be at BookPeople on August 15th at 7PM to discuss and sign Thirteen, but was kind enough to take this early examination.


1. Can you remember how the idea for Thirteen came about?
I had the idea when I was writing my first novel. Writers get ideas all the time, it’s figuring out which ones would make a good book, which is the tricky part. My ideas usually come from day dreaming about what would be the worst situation possible – and Thirteen, with a serial killer manipulating his way onto a jury, seemed pretty nightmarish. When I first had the idea I remember thinking I really liked it, but I knew I wasn’t good enough to write that book. Not then. I saved it, and now that I’ve written it I’m glad I waited. I needed more experience before I tackled this book.
2. Kane is a creepy and formidable antagonist. How did you go about constructing him?
Like a lot of thriller writers I spend a good deal of time finding out about bad people. Killers – what makes them tick? Why do they do these terrible things? I knew from the premise of the novel I needed a serial killer character, so I researched a lot of serial killers and decided that Kane’s psychology would come from a more unusual place. He has a rare genetic condition called congenital analgesia, which means he feels no pain. I wondered what that condition would do to someone with a troubled mind? The result is Joshua Kane.
3. This is one of those stories where the antagonist has as many if not more hurdles than the protagonist. Did that change any way you approached the novel?
This is more a two-hander than previous books. I wanted to create a well-rounded character for Kane, so I had the idea of treating him like he’s the hero in his own story. Some readers have even told me they were rooting for Kane at some points of the book. He can be very charming, after all. Ultimately, it meant balancing the book with Eddie Flynn’s perspective. Most people are behind Eddie Flynn, the con-man turned lawyer in the trial. The book then develops as a cat-and-mouse game, where only one character knows he’s even playing a game.
4. How did New York become Eddie’s stomping ground?
I love American crime fiction, so it seemed natural to set my novels there. When I came up with the character of Eddie Flynn I knew he would be a fast-talking, hard man lawyer with a big heart. He kind of is New York City. So it seemed natural to me at least to set the books in what would be Eddie’s natural habitat.
5. I enjoyed the friendship between Eddie and Harry. What makes up their bond?
Harry is Eddie’s mentor. He’s the reason Eddie quit the grift, and became a lawyer. They have a special relationship because each of them have their flaws, and they are both very aware of them and they try to help one another. Everyone needs that someone in their life who will go to hell and back for you at the drop of a hat. Eddie and Harry have that kind of relationship – and there’s no rivalry between them. Harry is an older man, and he’s trying to keep Eddie on the right path. Harry is set in his ways, and has a healthy disrespect for authority so Eddie has to keep him in check. Together, they kind of function.
6. As someone originally from Ireland who writes about the American legal system, what are the main differences that stand out?
In Ireland and the UK we have a legal aid system for criminal cases. This means if you are charged with a crime and you can’t afford a lawyer, you can apply for legal aid. If it’s granted, and it nearly always is, you can have any lawyer, from any firm, and they can’t charge you a penny. The lawyers get paid from the legal aid system. So a defendant who is broke can have the same quality of representation as a multi-millionaire. The system is constantly under attack from the government, but it really works. Also, we no longer have capital punishment. Those would be some of the big differences. 
Grab a copy of Thirteen today and be sure to join us on August 15th at 7PM to hear Steve Cavanagh chat with Chandler Baker about his latest!