Andrew Hilbert is a gonzo god of Austin publishing. A publisher and editor as well as writer, he’s drawn to society’s less pretty side. His dark satire punctures holes in consumer culture and looks at the loser as a work of art (even if it is sometimes absurdist art). His novella, Death Thing, looks at booby trapped cars, vigilantism, and the politics of ordering at McDonald’s. We caught up with the man to talk about it.
MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea of Death Thing come about?
Andrew Hilbert: Someone hit me from behind when I lived in San Antonio. I waved it off because it looked like no big deal but the next day, when I opened the trunk, it wouldn’t shut. I had to jerryrig it to lock knowing full well that if I opened it again, I’d have to spend half an hour shutting it again. Then it struck me. If someone really wanted to ruin my day, they’d stuff a dead body in there and when I finally had the means to fix the damn trunk, I’d be thrown in jail. So that’s where it all started; The paranoid delusions of a man in San Antonio.
MPS: How did segmenting the story into three different points of view help you tell it?
AH: It originally was supposed to be three different stories taking place in the same universe. I wrote the second chapter first, but halfway through Gilbert’s story I realized I could connect everything on a continuous story line. Breaking everything up from there was just an exciting way to get multiple perspectives on some of the horrendous events of Death Thing but it was also fun to know that characters are dropping into other people’s story-lines with no knowledge of each other.
MPS: The story takes place in LaPalma, California. What made that the right setting?
AH: I grew up there and I know it as well as my reflection. It’s the typical suburb. It’s one square mile, relatively peaceful, and the cops spent their surplus on totally unnecessary assault rifles. Death Thing is just an illogical extreme of when these kinds of small town politics get out of hand.
MPS: You’re also an editor and publisher. How does that affect your writing?
AH: I don’t know that it does too much. I can spot the goofy stuff writers do much more easily when someone else does it than when I do it. But I’m trying to train myself.
MPS: You quote Bukowski at the begining. What about his writing do you hope to incorporate in yours?
AH: There’s a realism and conversational tone that Bukowski is a master at capturing. I hope that I can be a tenth as true as his writing is. But that poem is about how all the little things add up to make a person crazy. It’s never a big thing. It’s always a shoelace. Tiny, seemingly insignificant truths make the story.
MPS: You’ll be attending our July 22nd Noir At The Bar. How much should an author drink before a reading?
AH: As many free drinks they’re allotted by the host. So how many is that, Scott?
Come by Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s on Wednesday, July 22nd at 7 PM for readings from CJ Howell, Brad Parks, Jesse Sublett, and Andrew Hilbert. Copies of each author’s latest will be on sale at Opal Divine’s for signing purposes after the speaking portion finishes up.