MysteryPeople Q&A with Screenwriter and Author Scott Frank

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Scott Frank is a screenwriter and director of exquisite talent. He has adapted Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, and Minority Report. As both writer and director, he has given us two of the best crime films in past decade, A Walk Among The Tombstones (from the Lawrence Block novel) and The Lookout.

Frank has now added “novelist” to his already impressive resume with his debut, Shaker, a crime satire that takes a New York hitman to L.A. just in time for one of California’s worst earthquakes. The book looks at gangs, the media culture, and politics, all in a style that allows for human depth and darkness as well as laughs. Mr. Frank took a few questions about the book and the switch from screen to prose. He joins us Monday, February 1st, at 7 PM, appearing alongside authors Terry Shames and Josh Stallings. 


MysteryPeople Scott: You mainly are known for your work in film. What made Shaker more suitable to tell as a novel?

Scott Frank: It was a story that depended so much on understanding the history of several characters. You couldn’t really go forward without knowing what had come before. So it just seemed more of a novel to me for that reason.

MPS: What did you enjoy doing in prose that you couldn’t do in a screenplay?

SF: When you write a film, “show not tell” is always your mantra. You don’t ever get a chance to go deep. You want to define scene and character as quickly as you can. And if you do go backwards, it can’t play as digression. It will feel like a mistake. We just don’t watch movies in the same way we read books. In a book, a digression can be the most satisfying part. It was so much fun writing about what happened before the book began, and then making it pay off.

MPS: The book has an interesting interplay between plot and backstory. On the surface, it plays like a Carl Hiassen crime satire, yet you slowly get introduced to everybody’s dark history. Was this planned going in or just happen since you were dealing with some pretty unsavory characters?

SF: It just sort of evolved. I realized that if I wanted a reader to actually care about these people, I couldn’t always write them as jokes. I thought it might be interesting for introduce someone, make an impression, then subvert that with their backstory, so that you cared about them, no matter how unsavory they turned out to be. The tone in those past sections, then, had to be more serious, but still had to somehow dovetail with the rest of the book. Was the hardest part for me. But I just heard those parts differently in my head.

Read More »

Ten Books To Look Forward To in 2015

With great noteworthy novels like Mette Ivie Harrison’s The Bishop’s Wife and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl On The Train already coming out, 2015 could bring a plethora of crime fiction treasure. From new additions to old series, to new editions of old series, and debuts from many promising novelists, here are some books to look out for during this new year.


1. Canary by Duane Swierczynski

Swierczynski always knows how to spin a great yarn. This one, about a college girl forced to be an informant for an ambitious Philly narcotics detective, is one of his finest. A bit more realistic than his previous work, he gives us his humor, pace, and sharply defined characters at a more streetwise level. Canary hits the shelves February 24th. Pre-order now.

2. Hush, Hush by Laura Lippman

Tess Monaghan returns. After three years, and now a mother with a new partner (Sandy Sanchez, the protagonist of Lippman’s excellent 2014 book, After I’m Gone), the Baltimore PI is thrown into a case dealing with parenthood, the insanity defense, and reality TV. Lippman’s work has proved she is one of the best writers in the field and it will be great to have a fully formed PI heroine like Tess back. Hush, Hush hits the shelves February 24th. Pre-order now.

3. Where All The Light Tends To Go by David Joy

Already the front runner for best debut of 2015. A young North Carolina man is caught between his love for a girl and his quest to get out of their small town and the dark shadow of his father’s criminal business. Poetic and poignant with sudden bursts of cold violence, Joy uses voice and character to speak directly and emotionally to his readers. Where All The Light Tends To Go hits the shelves March 3rd. Pre-order now.

4. GHB by Ted Lewis

Syndicate Books will be reprinting this hard-to-find British crime novel about a smut kingpin rooting out those responsible for bringing down his empire. Syndicate’s reissues of Lewis’ tough and terse Jack Carter trilogy have me primed for GBH, his final and often considered finest work. GBH hits the shelves March 3rd. Pre-order now.

5.Lady From Zagreb by Phillip Kerr

Kerr brings back Bernie Gunther. This time the German wartime private eye is forced to do a favor for Joseph Goebbels that deals with the Nazi film industry and Croatia. Few weave plot, period, character, and thematics together as well as Kerr. Lady From Zagreb hits the shelves April 7th. Pre-order now.

6. A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge by Terry Shames

The latest Samuel Craddock mystery has the widowed small town chief of police trying to help his neighbor, Jenny Sandstone when she is threatened. In order to help, he must delve into a past she wants kept private. Shames has hinted at the possibility of these to developing a deeper relationship, so this could be a game changer in one hell of a well written series. A Deadly Affair at Bobtail Ridge hits the shelves April 15th. Pre-order now.

7. Robert B. Parker’s Kickback by Ace Atkins

Spenser and Hawk are hired to look into a questionable reform camp it’s connection to a questionable judge. Atkins has taken on the Spenser character without missing a beat; bringing him back to full glory. Robert B. Parker’s Kickback hits the shelves May 19th. Pre-order now.

6. The Reluctant Matador by Mark Pryor

Hugo Marston leaves Paris for Spain, with CIA buddy Tom Green, to track down a friend’s missing daughter. I’m sure this book will turn into something else with plenty of surprise, action, and banter between Marston and Green. Kickback hits the shelves June 2nd. Pre-order now.

9. Shaker by Scott Frank

The premise of Shaker immediately intrigued me. A hitman’s life is thrown into violent chaos when he’s mistaken for a hero. What really has me anticipating it, is that it will be the debut novel of Scott Frank, the screenwriter who adapted Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, and A Walk Among The Tombstones and whose directing debut The Lookout was one of the best crime movies in the last ten years. This could be the debut of a great new author in the genre. August. Shaker hits the shelves in August 2015. Pre-order now.

10. Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Last year, Reed Farrel Coleman wrapped up one of the best mystery series with his Moe Prager character. This fall he will introduce us to his new creation, Gus Murphy, a retired Suffolk County cop turned private detective. Coleman always delivers, with an engaging plot and character as well as a poetic look at human emotion. Where It Hurts hits the shelves in autumn. We’ll bring you more details as it gets closer to the date.


History of Mystery Looks at Elmore Leonard & OUT OF SIGHT

https://i1.wp.com/static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/BOOKS/Pix/pictures/2013/8/6/1375798260568/Elmore-Leonard-010.jpg

The next meeting of our free History Of Mystery Class focuses on the most influential crime fiction author of the last fifty years: Elmore Leonard. His influence reached beyond the genre, touching screenwriters as well as authors. After Leonard made a name for himself, characters and dialogue were never the same.

Out Of Sihttp://contrappassomag.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/185156-1020-a.jpgght is, arguably, the quintessential Elmore Leonard novel. This story of a US Marshall chasing down a fugitive she’s falling for takes place in the two cities he was associated with: Miami and Detroit. It demonstrates his ability to deliver absurdest humor that can turn to sudden violence. Believable characters and fun dialogue populate the novel.

We will be meeting on BookPeople’s third floor (603 N. Lamar Blvd.) onSunday, December 1st at 6PM to discuss Leonard. Join us beforehand at 4pm when we’ll screen Steven Soderbergh’s film version of Out Of Sight starring George Clooney. We’ll be joined in the discussion by author Ace Atkins, who will call in. You can see Leonard’s influence in Ace’s work, particularly his novel Infamous.

Copies of Out Of Sight are 10% off to those who attend. Join us!