- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Since Robert Knott took over Robert B. Parker’s Old West town tamers Hitch and Cole, he has added an authenticity to the series as well as a subtle examination of both men dealing with a world that is making them less relevant. This time the two are going after Driggs, a slick psychopath who broke out of prison with the warden’s wife as a hostage, and who has a history with Hitch. I look forward to introducing you all to Bob Friday, February 10th at 7 PM, when he will be at BookPeople with Reed Farrel Coleman. As you will see, even on a Q&A via e-mail, he can be entertaining.
MysteryPeople Scott: Driggs is one of the best bad men Hitch and Cole have come up against. How did he come about?
Robert Knott: I was walking down the Street in Brooklyn NY and came to Driggs Street. I stopped and said: that is him. That is my guy. The name alone rang a bell for me and I loved the idea of a powerful man to go with the name. Driggs is stoic, cunning, charismatic, effortless, a leader with little to no need for followers. Then of course he had to have a background. So I put all the darkest elements of his past and family and mixed them with the most capable of men, and that was him, that’s Driggs. I basically planted him and watched him grow.
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Debt To Pay is Reed Farrel Coleman’s latest novel to feature Paradise Police Chief Jesse Stone, created by Robert B. Parker. It’s a great example of a simple plot that allows for complex characters and emotions, wherein Jesse has to go to Dallas to protect his ex-wife during her wedding when a psychotic hit man returns from Jesse’s past for revenge. We caught up with Reed to talk about the book and continuing Parker’s legacy.
“I think Jesse is no longer drawn to the bright lights and big city. He’s come to understand the charms of small town New England. In Paradise he’s much more than just another cog in the wheel. The department is his department and he takes pride in that.”
MysteryPeople Scott: Debt To Pay is a series-changing book in many ways and you put Jesse in an interesting situation in having to protect his ex-wife at her wedding. What did you want to do with Jesse in it?
Reed Farrel Coleman: When I first took over the series, I was taken aback at readers’ antipathy for Jesse’s ex, Jenn. Fans actually begged me to kill her off. I think part of that was plot fatigue. They were tired of Jesse and Jenn continually playing out their dysfunction. So I had the notion that Jenn and Jesse finally had to come to some parting of the ways that made sense and rehabilitated Jenn. Also, without giving too much away, I needed Jesse to start on the road to making some changes that will serve the series in the future. This book is kind of the beginning of those changes.
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The Highwayman by Craig Johnson
This novella featuring Sheriff Walt Longmire is as much ghost story as mystery. Walt and buddy Henry Standing Bear help out a Highway Patrolman who is receiving “officer needs assistance” calls from a trooper who died over thirty years ago. Johnson takes a unique riff on his entertaining series. The Highwayman comes out May 17th. Pre-order now!
Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn by Ace Atkins
Boston private eye Spenser is back and up against an uncommon enemy. Looking into the fire of a church, he closes on a group of arsonists with a mysterious agenda. Once again, Atkins delivers everything you expect from Robert B Parker’s hero. You can find copies of Slow Burn on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
St. Ernan’s Blues by Paul Charles
Irish Inspector Starrett and his colleagues must solve a murder with the most unusual suspects, priests in an Abbey where they have all been moved to for causing problems with The Church. A fun take on the classic whodunnit. You can meet Paul Charles with the authors who make up Miles Arceneux on May 11th. You can find copies of St. Ernan’s Blues on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Find out more about this event.
– Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
In his latest, Slow Burn, Ace Atkins continues the investigations of Robert B Parker’s Spenser. This time the Boston PI is up against a group of arsonists with an odd agenda. We cought up with Ace to talk about writing Spenser and this particular crime.
MysteryPeople Scott: You based this Spenser mystery on an an actual arson case. Can you talk about adapting the real situation for fiction?
Ace Atkins: I knew I wanted to take Spenser into the world of the Boston Fire Department but it took me a few months to find a worthy case for him to investigate. I had originally intended for the story to be about insurance fraud but I found out that these days property is too damn valuable to burn in the Boston area. (Years ago, the great George V. Higgins wrote a great book about that era called Rat on Fire.)
Once I learned about the arson ring working in the 1980s — and it was supposedly for the good of BFD — I knew I had a worthy case. I could have written an entire nonfiction book about the crew of crazies who came together to burn Boston back then. As they say, stranger than fiction. That’s why I often mine the truth for my novels.
MPS: What was the biggest challenge in dealing with arson as the crime?
AA: By far the hardest part was to make the investigation accurate without bogging down the story in technical details. I learned a lot of about forensics, etc but didn’t put much in the book. No one wants to read a technical Spenser book. I tried to make the investigation more about the people involved, not the evidence.
I had originally intended for the story to be about insurance fraud but I found out that these days property is too damn valuable to burn in the Boston area…Once I learned about the arson ring working in the 1980s — and it was supposedly for the good of BFD — I knew I had a worthy case. I could have written an entire nonfiction book about the crew of crazies who came together to burn Boston back then.
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Robert Knott, the author chosen to continue Robert B. Parker’s Western-detective mash-up series starring sheriffs Hitch and Cole, comes to visit to BookPeople tonight, Friday February 5th, at 7 PM. He’ll be speaking and signing his latest extension of the series, Robert B. Parker’s Blackjack.
Why post about an upcoming visit from the author of a Western novel on a mystery blog, you might ask? Well, as Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, a fan of all tough-guy fiction, explains below, the two genres may have more in common than you might think….
- Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, all quotes taken from interviews via email
G enres have always have conversations with one another. They find reinvention in themselves or each other from borrowing from one another. Few do it as much as the crime novel and the western.
“The historian Richard Slotkin is most famous for making the argument (and I believe he’s right) that the detective hero of hardboiled fiction is a literary descent of the Western or frontier hero,” says crime fiction author and expert Megan Abbott. “The dangerous frontier becomes the dangerous city, and the “savage” Native Americans are replaced by various “others” in hardboiled novels. Further, the Western or frontier hero is often a loner, someone who can mix in “both worlds” and who resists the “civilizing” influence of women–something else you can see in the detective hero.”
An argument can be made that the cross pollination came from first pulp and later paperback markets where both forms were highly popular. The markets fueled a populist readership from both urban and rural communities, demanding both escapism and something they could relate to. Authors like Max Brand, Zane Grey, Fredrick Nebel, and Raoul Whitfield usually worked in more than one genre. This lead to experimentation.
“I think when you’re talking about genre you’re talking about a contextual relationship with the reader, a line of commonality that’s something of an insider language,” says Craig Johnson, author of the lauded Sheriff Walt Longmire series. “That means it works on different levels and allows you to use as much or as little as you like.”
“The dangerous frontier becomes the dangerous city, and the “savage” Native Americans are replaced by various “others” in hardboiled novels. Further, the Western or frontier hero is often a loner, someone who can mix in “both worlds” and who resists the “civilizing” influence of women–something else you can see in the detective hero.”
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- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Author and actor Robert Knott has just released Blackjack, his latest continuation of Robert B. Parker’s novels featuring Territorial Marshals Hitch and Cole. The book is a western whodunit – a Denver lawman’s wife has been murdered, and the chief suspect is Boston Bill Black, a gunman and gambler opening up a new gambling hall in Apaloosa.
Throw in a bounty hunter with ties to Cole’s past and a new love interest for Hitch and you have a novel that continues the fun you expect out of the series. Robert Knott will be speaking and signing his latest here at BookPeople on Friday, February 5th, beginning at 7 PM. He was kind enough to take some early questions about the novel and writing in the west.
MysteryPeople Scott: Blackjack has a different flavor than most of the Hitch and Cole novels. What did you want to accomplish with it?
Robert Knott: Well, hum, I did not set out to bring about a different flavor but I suppose this book is – to some degree – more human, more sensitive? There is also some “whodunit” happening with Blackjack. I also feel – as I move through this journey of life with Hitch and Cole that they need to learn, grow and change. I know, I know, I know, it is one thing to make sure your serial protagonist does what is expected but then there is also – for me – a need for an evolution to go with what is expected. Evolution of character interests me. Basically relationships and characters need to change otherwise, like in life, without change we become stagnant, stale. In regard to accomplishment – and I can say, this is by design – I like the idea of not setting up an antagonist that we know in the end is going to get what is coming to him. I like that flavor, don’t get me wrong but I also like not knowing, and that is what is happening here with Blackjack. Another character element I always think about – and that is: characters are not good or bad but rather they are simply victims of circumstances.
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Our January Pick Of The Month, Where It Hurts, is another exquisite detective novel from Reed Farrel Coleman, delivering a detective as compelling as his plot with Coleman’s latest creation, Gus Murphy. Gus is a former cop hanging by a thread after the death of his son. When the son of a criminal Gus had previously arrested is murdered, the situation sucks Murphy back into the maelstrom of a cop’s life and causes him to reevaluate his life. Reed was kind enough to talk about characters new and old, and writing in general. He joins us Saturday, January 30th, at 5 PM to speak and sign his lates.t
MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to create a character like Gus Murphy for a series?
Reed Farrel Coleman: Gus is one of those rare characters that appeared in my head at the same moment as the plot and setting. I don’t think I could separate Gus from the narrative from the setting. That is always an encouraging sign for me as a writer. When I feel the protagonist is of the place and of the story, it gives me a big advantage when setting out on a new project. I am always suspect of novels when I don’t feel the protagonist is of the setting. Sure, it’s interesting to put your protagonist in an unfamiliar setting to see how he or she reacts, but I never want to feel like you could plug protagonist A into setting X, Y or Z and have it work together. The rare exception, a character like Reacher, sort of brings his own personal setting along with him.
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