Times Are Changing All Around: MysteryPeople Q&A with Robert Knott

  • 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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Feb Fatales: a Full Crime Fiction Schedule this February

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Glancing at our list of upcoming events, our newsletter, or BookPeople’s February events schedule, you may have noticed we’ve booked quite a few visitors to please the crime fiction crowd. Here’s the low-down on what’s happening when, all in one place.

On Friday, February 10th, at 7 PM, we welcome two MysteryPeople favorites! Fresh from his Edgar nomination for Where it Hurts, Reed Farrel Coleman joins us with his second Gus Murphy book, What It Breaksanother lyrical tale of Long Island misery, while Robert Knott, two volumes in to his transition from actor to Rennaissance Man, joins us with his fourth continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Hitch & Cole seriesRevelation

Wednesday, February 15th brings a 7 PM visit from K. J. Howe, director of Thrillerfest, and here to speak and sign her debut, The Freedom Brokera tale of kidnapping, privilege and intrigue. On Thursday, February 16th, at 7 PM (the very next evening) come by the store for a return visit from Scottish superstar Ian Rankin, here with his new Inspector Remus novelRather Be The DevilThen that same week, on Saturday, Feburary 18th, at 3 PM come by the store for Sarah Pinborough, presenting her latest work, Behind Her Eyes. We can’t tell you much about this one – we don’t want to ruin the insanely mind-blowing ending.

Then Tuesday, February 21st, at 7 PM, MysteryPeople welcomes a visit from Alexandra Burt, here with her latest crime novel and our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month, The Good Daughterset in Aurora, Texas. Burt’s previous crime novel, Remember Miahas been a national bestseller and we’re happy to say that The Good Daughter is just as compelling a tale! Two days later, on Thursday, February 23rd, at 7 PM, we welcome legendary Texas writer Joe R. Lansdale in conversation with rising Texas star Kathleen Kent. Lansdale joins us to speak and sign his new Hap & Leonard novel, Rusty Puppy, while Kent joins us with her latest work, The Dimefollowing a tough city cop’s trials and tribulations after she moves down to Dallas from the Big Apple.

The fun doesn’t end in February – on March 5th, come by the store to meet the King of Florida Capers, Tim Dorsey, here to speak and sign his latest, Clownfish Blues.  In April, we’re joined by MysteryPeople favorite Phillip Kerr, here to speak and sign his latest Bernie Gunther novel, Prussian BlueWe’ll announce plenty more March and April events coming up, so keep an eye on BookPeople’s events calendar, MysteryPeople’s upcoming events page, or sign up for our MysteryPeople newsletter to be the first to know!

Trenchcoats & Ten-Gallon Hats- The Creative Relationship Between The Western And Crime Novel

 

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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MysteryPeople Q&A with Robert Knott

  • 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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2016 Preview: Back to Back Events!

  • Post by Molly Odintz

As we wait patiently for the wild mood swings of a Texas winter to die down, we’ve got plenty of events coming up to strike a mystery lover’s fancy – no matter the weather outside. Jeff Abbott ushered in our 2016 events this past Tuesday, speaking and signing his latest thriller, The First Order.

Coming up at the end of the month, Reed Farrel Coleman, a long-time favorite, comes to visit with two new books: Robert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins,  a Jesse Stone novel, and Where It Hurtsthe first in a new series and our Pick of the Month for January. He’ll be here to speak and sign his latest on Saturday, January 30th, at 5 PM.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Robert Knott

 


 

Robert Knott’s life as a screenwriter and actor led him to adapting Robert B Parker’s Appaloosa into a script with the film’s star and director Ed Harris. When Robert B. Parker passed, his estate asked Mr. Knott to continue the adventures of Southwest gunfighters Hitch & Cole. His third continuation of the series, The Bridge, has our heroes going up against some vicious killers trying to sabotage the construction of a bridge. They must also deal with a group of traveling performers who have stopped in Appaloosa.

We caught up with Bob before he joins us Wednesday, January 14th, at 7 pm, with Mike Blakely, for a discussion of writing about the west. We asked him a few questions about writing the new book and taking over Parker’s characters.


MysteryPeople: The Bridge is aptly titled because much of it deals with the construction and destruction of a bridge. What drew you to making that the central plot point?

Robert Knott: Changes in culture, evolution, innovation I find interesting…Transportation, communication, commerce in the West – the new frontier – is fascinating.

MP: There’s a group of traveling performers in the story… I know your parents were traveling musicians. Did you draw from any of their experiences?

RK: Sure, I had very colorful characters in my family, and knowing that world makes it easy to conceptualize…I’ve written screenplays and theater pieces that deal with this way of life, so I felt this approach would be fun and entertaining.

MP: One thing you bring to this series is a richer flavor of authenticity. How do you go about research when starting a new book?

RK: I love research! I know a lot of writers don’t, but I really like to get into the moment to moment reality…What characters have to deal with, and how they do it, puts us int he moment as well.

MP: One of the the things the series is known for is the laconic back and forth dialogue between Cole and Hitch. How much work does it take to get that cadence right?

RK: Not much – I grew up in Oklahoma and worked in the oilfields for many years, and, well, this laconic communication is pretty much second nature there.

MP: What have you learned about Hitch and Cole in writing the three books that you didn’t know about them when writing the script to Appaloosa?

RK: Well, like all of us, I think the more we travel, the more encounters we have, the more we have seen and experienced, the more we are affected. And so Hitch and Cole gain wisdom along the way.


Copies of  The Bridge are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Robert Knott and Mike Blakely will be speaking and signing their latest Western-themed novels on Wednesday, January 14, at 7 pm on BookPeople’s second floor. The speaking portion of the event is free and open to the public. You must purchase a copy of the authors’ latest to get it signed. Can’t make it to the event, but still want a signed copy? You can buy a copy of the event book ahead of time and get it signed by the author! 

MysteryPeople Q&A with Mike Blakely

Mike Blakely is an accomplished traditional western singer/songwriter as well as an award winning novelist. His latest, A Song To Die For, uses the Austin music scene of the Seventies as its backdrop. Vietnam vet guitar picker Creed Mason is in the midst of building a band for the comeback of  country legend Luster Burnett when he gets in between a Texas Ranger and a mob hitman as they prepare for a showdown. It’s a fun, rollicking tale that oozes with the twang, humidity, and barbecue of its place and time.


MysteryPeople: This is your second book dealing with the Texas outlaw music scene of the Seventies. What drew you to that era?

Mike Blakely: I began performing professionally in a garage band in 1976 at the age of 18, so I experienced the real deal firsthand.   I was able to use quite a few of my own experiences in A Song To Die For.

MP: Are Creed and Luster based on any particular performers of that period?

MB: Both are composite characters based on some famous legends and some lesser-known artists I have worked with over the years.

MP:This is also the fourth book you’ve written with a musician as the central character. What do you want to get across to readers about those folks?

MB: The musically-inclined characters I create are all “lifers.”  They know they can never completely give up making music.  I hope my readers understand through these characters that it’s a tough life and a hard way to make a living but also an endeavor full of occasional rewards and moments of deep satisfaction.

MP: What do most writers get wrong about the music life?

MB: I’m not sure there’s a way to get it wrong in a business where anything can happen.  There are so many paths a musician can take. Some get lucky breaks early on and ride the wave of success for decades.  Others who are just as talented may work for years without much notice.  The music scene can be just as wholesome or as seedy as an individual wants to make it.  It can be a wild romp or a methodical climb to success.  It can be all about the money or all about the music or anywhere in between.

MP: How do you prepare to write a story set in the past?

MB: It starts with historical research, of course.  I read about the era. I read things written during that era.  I seek out objects from the time period so I know how they look and feel.  Every time I sit down to write, I time travel in my mind to the era I’ve chosen.  When writing, I try to assume nothing.  I strive to verify that every detail I insert into the story is authentic.

MP: Do you think the musician influences the novelist side of you and vice versa?

MB: The two disciplines are very different, but they do influence each other.  I’ve written songs about some of my characters in my novels. I have also had characters from my songs find their way into my books. There’s no reason to keep the two creative endeavors completely separated though they are very different in many ways.  When I finish a novel, it may take a couple of years to start getting feedback from the public.  But I can write a song in the morning and play it for an audience that night.


Mike will be joining author Robert Knott on January 14th to talk about writing western fiction and their latest novels (Mike will also be performing a couple of his songs), but we got a head discussing the book and the music life.