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Richard Aleas (Charles Ardai)

Sunday, November 21, 2004


arain216: Anthony Rainone
calgflames: Jan Long
dpwhite237: Dave White
duaneswier: Duane Swierczynski
g_so: Gerald So
hardcasecrime: Richard Aleas a.k.a. Charles Ardai
jamesrwinter: Jim Winter
mysdawg2003: Aldo Calcagno
srharbin: Steve Harbin

g_so: Go ahead, Duane.

duaneswier: Did you have to do any interesting detective work to track down the rights to any of the Hard Case reprints?

hardcasecrime: Day Keene was incredibly hard to track down.

g_so: Officially, the chat starts in three minutes.

mysdawg2003: How so, Charles?

hardcasecrime: He was dead. His wife was dead. His son was dead. His agent was dead. And no one knew who controlled his rights.

duaneswier: Wow.

hardcasecrime: Since his real name was "Gunnar Hjerstedt," I tracked down the phone number of everyone in America named "Hjerstedt" and called them all.

duaneswier: That's dedication.

mysdawg2003: A Swede?

hardcasecrime: Yes, I believe Day Keene was a Swede. (And the main character in HOME IS THE SAILOR is named "Swede"...)

hardcasecrime: In the end, that wasn't how I found the estate. But it makes for a good story. (And yes, I did finally find the estate. His son's widow controls it.)

duaneswier: Sounds like the opening to a future Richard Aleas novel...

hardcasecrime: I still haven't been able to find some writers: Steve Fisher, for instance.

mysdawg2003: Hard Case Cold Case file....find the dead author's estate.

hardcasecrime: I thought about turning the hunt for Day Keene into a book, but someone mentioned that Loren Estleman had already done a very similar story in THE SMILE ON THE FACE OF THE TIGER. Ah! It's 2PM! Now we can officially start chatting.

mysdawg2003: ?

g_so: Go ahead, Aldo.

mysdawg2003: Charles, how did you and Max go about commissioning the cover art?

hardcasecrime: Art: We hunt through every possible source to turn up artists capable of painting in the old style and then we track down their contact info. Some are old timers, and some are young'uns. Some of the old-timers say no, some say yes

dpwhite237: ?

g_so: Go ahead, Dave.

dpwhite237: What's the appeal of the old time noir stories? What do you find you look for when looking for a reprint?

hardcasecrime: It's got to feel modern enough that a current reader who is not already an aficionado would enjoy it. It's got to get my pulse racing on page one -- literally -- and keep it there till the end. One of my tests is the "treadmill" test: I get on my treadmill in the morning reading a book. I set the treadmill to acclerate slowly. As it goes faster, I find it harder and harder to keep reading, but if a book's really good, I don't want to put it down.

dpwhite237: Cool.

hardcasecrime: A so-so book goes flying to the floor at about 4.5 mph.

duaneswier: So if you're flung backwards into a wall, you're reading a great book.

hardcasecrime: A great book holds on until about 5.5...

hardcasecrime: (Haven't been flung off the thing yet.)

duaneswier: ;)

mysdawg2003: ?

g_so: Go ahead, Aldo.

hardcasecrime: By the way, it's much harder with a typescript. All those big pages...

mysdawg2003: When you started this project did you think you would get this much positive critical response?

hardcasecrime: No. We thought fans would like what we were up to, but I had no idea this many mainstream media outlets would get behind us in such a big way. The day Marilyn Stasio reviewed GRIFTER'S GAME, Larry Block dropped me a an e-mail expressing astonishment that they would review a 43-year-old book. I was pretty surprised myself. The big question now is whether individual readers will get into the series as much as the media has. We're hopeful. One thing that's fun is finding out about new publications we didn't know about before when they write about us. We've met some really passionate crime fiction fans that way.

arain216: Hi everyone.

hardcasecrime: Hi, Anthony! We've also gotten recommendations for reprints from some pretty interesting folks who have sought us out.

arain216: ?

mysdawg2003: Thats what a call a poitive unintenional outcome.

g_so: Go ahead, Anthony.

arain216: Okay. I have to ask, Charles. Did you do personal research in strip clubs? If so, must've been tough.

g_so: :)

hardcasecrime: I have a good friend who has worked (on and off) as a stripper.he's also a writer: Elissa Wald, who wrote MEETING THE MASTER and HOLDING FIRE. An excellent literary stylist. Among other things. She took me to visit Scores, the trendy Manhattan strip club. Very different experience when you visit with a woman. Other than that, though...not really much in the way of research. Strip clubs had a mystique for me when I was 16 or 17, not so much any more. I've met too many strippers who've led sad, weary lives.

duaneswier: Funny; Al Guthrie was a stripper, too. I sense a theme...

hardcasecrime: Al as a stripper. An interesting image.

g_so: :)

duaneswier: It's always the quiet ones.

g_so: What type of books [does Wald write?]

hardcasecrime: Elissa's books are literary stories, typically with an S&M theme.

arain216: ?

g_so: Go ahead, Anthony.

arain216: Was the character Susan a composite based on your association, plus what you saw in the clubs. Or, did you formulate her character prior to LITTLE GIRL LOST?

hardcasecrime: Susan is not much like the real strippers I've met, actually. For one thing, none of the real strippers would be particularly effective detectives. But there are some elements that derived from real conversations.its about her experience traveling around the country on a strip-club circuit, for instance. Some of her big speech about why she works in bad clubs. There aren't a lot of good clubs out there, and you've got to work *somewhere* every night. Especially if you're trying to pay a New York rent.

dpwhite237: She should come to the Dr. Cave in Paterson.

hardcasecrime: Is that a particularly good one?

arain216: You seemed to have nice bits of real terminolgy. What was it -- high mileage?

dpwhite237: No, not really. Older women, just trying to get by... kind of dirty.

hardcasecrime: Oh, yeah. That's real.

duaneswier: The top-shelf club in Philly is Delilah's Den. Not that I've been there or anything...

g_so: I would get carded.

hardcasecrime: "High mileage" is a term strippers use to refer to clubs where the patrons touch you a lot. Sometimes used euphemistically to refer to clubs that allow sex in the back rooms.

duaneswier: "High mileage"... that's a great bit of lingo.

arain216: I'm especially tuned in for those kinds of things, and I though you did an excellent job. Though -- I'm not owning up as to how I recognized this term.

hardcasecrime: There were other terms I wanted to work in, but there just wasn't a good opportunity. "Tune in Tokyo," for instance.

g_so: Meaning?

hardcasecrime: A reference to men whose approach to touching a stripper's breasts during a lap dance resembles the act of tuning in a station on an old knob radio.

duaneswier: :)

g_so: Gee.

hardcasecrime: A bit clockwise, a bit counterclockwise...

duaneswier: I love this stuff. I mean, insider lingo.

g_so: :) @ Duane.

arain216: Oh, man.

hardcasecrime: There are other things that were fun to discover, too. For instance, the pecking order in NYC strip clubs. You'll see Charlie Sheen and Howard Stern at Scores. But go to the other end of the range, and you'll see the worst skells. It's a strip-club version of "the Great Chain of Being."

jamesrwinter: Was the research... expensive?

hardcasecrime: I remember one visit to a club on the east side, where there was a truly ominous bouncer...Expensive: Not horribly. It would have been worse if I'd bought lots of lapdances, but since that wasn't what I was there for, I eschewed them. Better chance to talk to the women in private, during the day, after being introduced by mutual friends.

mysdawg2003: IS that akin to reading Playboy just for the articles, lol?

arain216: Being from New York, I appreciated the depictions of not just Manhattan, but the outer boros, too.

dpwhite237: Man, I'd love to ask a real question but all I can really think to ask is "Is there sex in the champaigne room." Sorry Charles. :-)

hardcasecrime: Answer: Yes, there is sex in Champagne Rooms.You may have read the story, though, of the diplomat's husband who is now suing Scores after getting a $200,000 bill one night!

arain216: Yes, I read that. She was recalled by her country.

dpwhite237: hahahahahaa

g_so: ?

hardcasecrime: Right, and she wasn't the one who spent the night at Scores. Most good clubs discourage sex on the premises, but behind closed doors, it's up to each girl. Similar to massage parlors, I imagine. (Which is likely to be the topic of the sequel to LITTLE GIRL LOST.)

arain216: ?

g_so: Q: What went into creating your PI? He seemed very real.

hardcasecrime: Thanks -- I appreciate that. He has a lot of me in him, of course -- What first novelist ever makes characters up without putting a little of himself in? I studied British Romantic Poetry in college, for one thing. The story about the bird is true.

g_so: Wow.

hardcasecrime: Or more or less true, anyway. But the character drifted: He became more of a mama's boy than I am. There are some interesting parental issues in this book.John and his mother, Little Murco and his father. Yu've got these characters who in a normal book would stand alone, and they have these strong ties to their parents. Didn't plan that, it just sort of happened.

g_so: And Jocelyn and her parents.

hardcasecrime: That's right. And you wonder (even if you're the author) just where that comes from and what it means.

g_so: :)

hardcasecrime: The book is, to a large extent, about letting go of the things of your youth, or at least coming to terms with them. The characters who don't manage that don't end up very happy. Nothing bad happens to Little Murco, for instance, but he's clearly a seriously unhappy man.

g_so: Yes. Go ahead, Anthony.

arain216: Can you explain your plotting process -- did you work through things on a daily basis, or did you have particular points decided on beforehand? Did you return to the beginning and tie-in to things later on? There was a nice continuity and connection between the various points of your plot. Very nicely done.

hardcasecrime: Plotting: Normally I just sit down and write, with minimal planning. But for a detective story like this one, that builds to a big twist at the end, you can't do that. Or anyway, I can't. So in this case, I plotted it all out in advance. Max Phillips helped me. We always help each other plot. We go out to a steakhouse (The Palm, for instance) and whichever of us is working on a book at the time explains where the plot is stuck, while the other one eats his steak. Then the eater has to fix the plot, while the first one eats.

g_so: Neat.

hardcasecrime: I helped on FADE TO BLONDE and the Forrest DeVoe books; he helped (invaluably) on LITTLE GIRL LOST. The use of the bird story at the start, midpoint, and end was deliberate and planned in advance. In fact, I did something very compulsive: I measured the manuscript spatially, and made sure certain things happened at certain points. For instance, Miranda shows up (either a photo or a dream or something) at exactly the one-third and two-thirds marks. Other things happen at exactly one-quarter, one-half, and three-quarters.

duaneswier: Very cool.

hardcasecrime: Not that things like that matter. They're just fun for someone compulsive like me.

arain216: That's intriguing.

duaneswier: Al Guthrie once pointed out how David Goodis did something similar with colors.

hardcasecrime: Actually, Domenic Stansberry does it, too. Look for the use of the color blue in THE LAST DAYS OF IL DUCE.

duaneswier: I will, Charles. Thanks.

g_so: Next question, anyone?

arain216: ?

g_so: Go, Anthony.

arain216: I'm probably wrong -- but was the bird a nod to the MALTESE FALCON?

hardcasecrime: Yes -- but only in a small way. It was a bigger nod to a different bird, the nightingale in Keats' poem "Ode to a Nightingale." "Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird."

arain216: You're blowing my mind, man.

g_so: I see that, yes.

hardcasecrime: John Blake's name is a reference to John Keats and William Blake...

srharbin: ?

hardcasecrime: Who, of course, wrote the poem "Little Girl Lost."

g_so: Wow. (click) Go ahead, Steve.

hardcasecrime: But I have to admit that a lot of these little touches are just so much gamesmanship. Like using an anagrammatic pseudonym. The book has to work or not work on the basic level of character and story...

srharbin: you're starting to get into territory I was interested in, to whit, who are your favorite authors, literary influences, etc.?

hardcasecrime: Crime authors: Lawrence Block, Lawrence Block, and, oh yes, Lawrence Block. By far my favorite. LGL also owes a lot to Ross MacDonald: The slow unveiling of a sad family tragedy, the sad story of a young girl with a bad end.

srharbin: Do you prefer any of Block's series characters above others?

hardcasecrime: In the broader world of writing, I'm fond of Bernard Malamud, Phillip Roth...also the great game players in literature: Nabokov, Paul Auster, Calvino, Borges. I love the early Scudder novels, when he was still drinking. EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE just blew me away. I was crying when I finished it. I also love the Bernie Rhodenbarr and Evan Tanner books, but those are lighter fare. (Though actually the Tanner books get surprisingly vicious in spots.) I really love everything Block has written.

g_so: I've got that Eight MIllion Ways near the top of the TBR pile.

hardcasecrime:Who else? Chandler's THE BIG SLEEP. Joel Townsley Rogers' THE RED RIGHT HAND. And, of course, the books we're publishing.

g_so: Next q, anyone?

hardcasecrime: One of the nice things about editing a line is that everyone gets to read your favorite books...

arain216: ?

g_so: :) Go ahead, Anthony.

arain216: This is broadish -- but did Block influence you to write PI ficiton? Obviously, noir doesn't have to be PI. Why did you chose that particular format?

hardcasecrime: Yes. I didn't much like PI stories until I started reading the Scudders. Those books are just so wonderfully written, so irresistibly which I mean that each page leads you inexorably into the next...that I couldn't put them down. I am still not much of a fan of Hammett, and many PI novels strike me as boring and repetitive, but Block is a master, and wins me over every time. In general, I prefer crime novels to detective novels. I like Cain, Woolrich, Goodis, people like that. But once in a while, you find a PI novel that works.

arain216: ?

hardcasecrime: The new book I have plotted out (90%) is a crime novel. There's a police detective in it, but he's not the centerpiece.

g_so: Go, Anthony.

hardcasecrime: Oh, by the way, if anyone hasn't read them yet, you should definitely read Block's non-detective books: SUCH MEN ARE DANGEROUS, AFTER THE FIRST DEATH...just amazing.

g_so: Block to me is a writer first, genre second.

hardcasecrime: Agreed. He's just a gifted wordsmith, who happens to write about crime.

duaneswier: I'm with you, Charles. I even liked THE SPECIALISTS. (Even though I heard others dis it.)

hardcasecrime: Any book that opens with a blowjob at gunpoint (as THE SPECIALISTS does) has something to recommend it.

duaneswier: :)

hardcasecrime: That sentence just wrecked my chances at a Supreme Court nomination.

arain216: One of my favorite Block books -- WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES. My question: are you committed to a follow up to LITTLE GIRL LOST and perhaps using Susan Feuer as a main character?

hardcasecrime: Sequel to LGL: "Committed" is a bit strong, but yes, I'm planning one, and yes, it will a case Susan is working on. Things go badly (surprise, surprise) and she goes to John for help. It's set in the world of massage parlors.

duaneswier: Titled: TUNE IN TOKYO?

hardcasecrime: I'm slowly working my way down the scale of degeneracy.

g_so: :)

hardcasecrime: That would actually be a fun title. Not a bad thought.

g_so: Next q?

hardcasecrime: I'm torn between LITTLE GIRL FOUND (another Blake poem) and LITTLE BOY BLUE. But maybe TUNE IN TOKYO will win me over...

duaneswier: I'll buy it either way.

hardcasecrime: Thanks! I have three other books in various stages of planning, though. Hard to know which will get done first.

duaneswier: Just include more lingo--or a stripper/massage glossary, for degenerates like me and Dave White.

dpwhite237: Bingo.

g_so: Zowie.

hardcasecrime: Jeez. You guys want a glossary, you can find plenty of 'em on the Net...

duaneswier: But it sounds so much better coming from you.

hardcasecrime: My favorite euphemism in the massage world is "reasons" for dollars.

duaneswier: Yeah?

dpwhite237: AKA the happy ending?

hardcasecrime: As in, "I have 300 reasons for a blonde with large breasts to come over to my apartment at 11PM tonight..."

dpwhite237: Ahhhhhh nevermind then.

hardcasecrime: Right: "happy ending." One of those great phrases.

g_so: Q: What went into creating Leo?

arain216: You read my mind, Gerald.

duaneswier: Again, a great noir title. HAPPY ENDING.

g_so: Yes, Duane.

hardcasecrime: Come to think of it (no pun intended), HAPPY ENDING might not be a bad title.

duaneswier: Hah!

dpwhite237: ha ha

hardcasecrime: Leo: I needed a character who would counterbalance John. John was just too young to be operating entirely on his own.

g_so: Right.

hardcasecrime: I figured a guy that age would be apprenticed to an older pro, and most older detectives started out as cops. So it wasn't hard to figure out a bit about Leo. But then you get another parental thing going on, since John's father left when he was kid, and Leo is playing a very obviously paternal role. In retrospect, he's one of the things I'd like to have developed a bit more in the book.

mysdawg2003: Guys, I have to leave for my son's last game of the season. See you all soon.

hardcasecrime: Great to have you here! Thanks for stopping by! And good luck to your son...

g_so: See you, Aldo. Check for the transcript.

duaneswier: Take care, El Jefe.

dpwhite237: CHIEF!

arain216: I'd like to know more about Leo's history.

hardcasecrime: I'd like to know more myself. Maybe it can come out in the sequel.

g_so: :)

hardcasecrime: First, though, I need to figure out just what Susan's background is.

arain216: Exactly.

hardcasecrime: Hell, we don't even know where she lives. We barely even find out her real name.

g_so: Yes, she almost didn't tell.

hardcasecrime: To some extent, I'm still at the stage (as a writer) where the plot is dominating. As writers get more comfortable with their craft, they tend to spend more time on the characters, and let the plot slide.

g_so: Ahem-Parker-Ahem.

dpwhite237: Oh, don't get me started, Gerald.

srharbin: ?

hardcasecrime: Block wrote in an essay about the balance between constructing a fun puzzle and telling a realistic story about believable characters. It's a fine line.

arain216: I liked your usage of the Lower East Side for Miranda's apartment. I could see Susan living in Washington Heights.

g_so: Go, Steve.

hardcasecrime: I actually suspect that Susan lives somewhere outside the city -- perhaps Jersey City. Washington Heights is getting pricey these days.

dpwhite237: Up on Kennedy Boulevard?

hardcasecrime: But who knows? Maybe you're right. I'll have to ask her.

g_so: Your question, Steve?

srharbin: About Leo's character, I was reminded a little of the mentor in Don Winslow's Neal Carey novels, or Am in Fred Brown's Ed and Am Hunter series, did you ever read any of those? Sorry, I'm always looking for influences.

hardcasecrime: I read some of the Brown novels, although it's long enough ago now that I don't remember them well. May have influenced me, though.

srharbin: Also wondered if Fred Brown might be in the mix of future books.

hardcasecrime: (Brown is one of those writers I prefer in short form.) I am pretty sure I never read Winslow. Though now, of course, I will.

srharbin: Less realistic than your novel, lighter.

g_so: Do you envision doing story collections with Hard Case, Charles?

hardcasecrime: One more tidbit about geography: One of the things I enjoyed doing was setting a scene in Flushing, where my 92 year old grandmother lives. Fun to know there are a batch of 92-year-old women handing my book around. Story collections: Alas, no. I love short stories, and I love editing collections (I've done many), but publishers don't love them, because readers don't love them. One of the first things Dorchester said when we started the line was "No short story collections."

arain216: I used to hang in Flushing, when I lived in Queens. Go Flushing.

g_so: But not the Mets, Anthony.

hardcasecrime: Just today, I was exchanging e-mail with Ed Gorman about an idea for a story collection. It was a great idea. But I don't think we'll get to do it in this line...

g_so: Ah, I see. Welcome, Jan.

hardcasecrime: One of the best things in Flushing is the streetcorner vendor who sells "flavrous cakes," little pillows of dough made on a waffle iron. You also find them in Chinatown in Manhattan. God, how I love those things.

arain216: And in Little Italy. Fried dough -- how can you go wrong?

g_so: I attended Queens College for grad school.

hardcasecrime: Right. I love zeppoles, too. My wife discovered fried oreos this year. Loved 'em.

arain216: In the city? Where?

duaneswier: "Flavrous cakes"--you sure that isn't more stripper lingo?

hardcasecrime: On street fairs in the summer. Same guys who sell the zeppoles.

duaneswier: (Sorry.)

arain216: ?

dpwhite237: St. Ann's in Hoboken has all that stuff... good stuff... heart attack stuff.

g_so: Go, Anthony.

hardcasecrime: It might be fun to do a crime writers cookbook. Went to dinner w/ Charlie Stella a few weeks back. Great Italian food. Went to lunch w/ Jason Starr -- great Hungarian food.

arain216: I'm interested in whatever you can tell us about the creation of the Khachadurians.

g_so: Dave is dining with Charlie soon.

dpwhite237: Yeah, couple of weeks, him and Lambe.

hardcasecrime: Now I'm getting hungry... The Khachadurians: I needed a villain, and ended up with two of them for a reason I can no longer remember. Just seemed more interesting, I guess.

g_so: hmm.

hardcasecrime: I know a man named Murco, a name I love, so I stole it for the villain.

g_so: 3 minutes official chat time left.

hardcasecrime: And then I needed a last name good enough to hold up to "Murco," and stole "Khachadurian" from one of my wife's high school friends.

g_so: Armenian name?

hardcasecrime: (Yes, Armenian.) My favorite scene in the book, I think, is the one where Little Murco spills the dice cup full of teeth across the bar. Grim and awful and also sort of pathetic at the same time.

arain216: Really loved that scene.

hardcasecrime: Summed up the character for me.

g_so: And yet memorable.

srharbin: Quite.

hardcasecrime: Thanks...You know, when you're writing, and a scene like that emerges from your (figurative) pen, it just feels so good.

arain216: And I know I've said this already to you... awesome cover.

duaneswier: It's always cool to shock yourself.

g_so: Q: do you write on a computer or longhand or both? The obligatory process question.

duaneswier: You've got to wonder what's happening in your unconscious mind...

hardcasecrime: Mostly on a computer these days. I used to write longhand, though. Developed a big bump on my middle finger as a result. "Writer's bump."

g_so: I've got one, too.

hardcasecrime: Young writers these days, no bumps.

duaneswier: ?

g_so: Go, Duane.

duaneswier: Do you have any "trunk" or "drawer" novels? Or was LGL the first? First novel, I mean.

hardcasecrime: I think I may be the last writer ever to turn a manuscript in to an editor written in longhand and actually get it published. LGL was the first novel I completed.

g_so: Congrats.

hardcasecrime: I wrote the first 100 pages or so of a mawkish coming-of-age novel when I was a teenager...the less said about which, the better. And I've got other books in various stages of completion. But this was the first I actually finished.

duaneswier: Cool.

g_so: Official chat time is up. We can be here as long as Charles can stay.

hardcasecrime: If anyone wants to keep chatting, I can stick around about 20 mins. or so...

g_so: Sound good, everyone?

duaneswier: Great

dpwhite237: Yay!

arain216: Yes. Thank you.

srharbin: I can stay a little longer.

g_so: Thanks, Charles.

arain216: ?

g_so: Go, Anthony.

arain216: Did you feel any internal conflict regarding Miranda's fate at the end of the novel?

hardcasecrime: None whatsoever. Killing characters is one of the things I like best.

g_so: :)

hardcasecrime: My wife, who is a fantasy novelist, created a wonderful character in her first book. My contribution was to tell her she should kill him.

arain216: I mean, what John Blake had to do.

hardcasecrime: Yeah, the book really couldn't have ended any other way.(Or at least I wouldn't have liked it if it had.) I remember seeing Stephen King at an event a few years back, and he talked about some reader complaining about the boy's death at the end of CUJO. And he said to the woman, "I didn't mean to kill him. I was writing the book and got to that scene, and he just died."

duaneswier: Right on!

g_so: Next q?

duaneswier: With my second novel, the characters truly called the shots. To a scary degree.

hardcasecrime: Which one was your second?

duaneswier: Smell the Roses.

hardcasecrime: Ah, yes -- one hell of an amazing book. Can't wait to see it in print.

dpwhite237: I think characters are extremely important... more so than plot.

duaneswier: I'm with you, Dave. Character and voice.

duaneswier: Thanks, Charles!

calgflames: I think I disagree with you there, Dave.

hardcasecrime: I think they're both important. You can have beautifully delineated characters who stand around and do nothing and that's not much of a book, though books like that get published every day.

dpwhite237: You care what happens to characters... "What's going to happen to Tony?" More than Ithink you care about "What's the next plot twist?" Of course the characters have to do interesting things... and that's where the plot lies.

hardcasecrime: If you don't have a good plot, I don't think you can have a good crime novel.

srharbin: I know as I reader I prefer character driven, but the best books do seem to have both, and like Dave I come to care about them.

g_so: If a character is doing nothing interesting ( = plot), potential goes unfulfilled.

hardcasecrime: On the other hand, most crime novels are nothing but plot, and that's probably worse.

dpwhite237: Yeah, but what I mean by good plot is tightly wound conspiracy vs. this guy is trying to kill another guy. Agatha Christie vs. Elmore Leonard.

g_so: Q, anyone?

hardcasecrime: Leonard often lets characters shine at the expense of plot, but he's just such a compulsively readable writer, you let him get away with it...And his very best books, I think, are the ones where the plot is interesting, too.

calgflames: I disagree. Nowadays, in the name of "character development," we wind up with books that go on ad nauseum about a character's personal life. That's not why I read crime fiction.

arain216: ?

g_so: I agree, Jan. Go, Anthony.

dpwhite237: I don't, but we can save that for the list, I suppose.

hardcasecrime: It will be interesting to see what you guys think of DUTCH UNCLE when it comes out.

g_so: Well, you've already discussed it here, too, Dave. Both sides are equal.

dpwhite237: Meant that as I have more to say about it, yeah.

arain216: Did you pay attention to page count? I agree that many crime fiction novels today are bloated. HCC is publishing great books at a reduced number of pages. Did you keep that in mind when writing LITTLE GIRL LOST?

hardcasecrime: There's plot, but it's much more Leonard-ean, in the sense that it's all about the characters, and the voice. Page count: I paid attention in the sense that I wanted to keep the count down.

duaneswier: DUTCH UNCLE sounds like my kind of book...

hardcasecrime: We do this in all our books. When DUTCH UNCLE came in, it was about 90,000 words long. The version you're going to read is 72,000 words. And the other 18,000 words were beautiful words. It hurt like hell to cut them. But the book's a stronger book this way. Most books could benefit from a bit of judicious editing.

g_so: I agree.

duaneswier: I do believe that second draft = first draft minus 10-15%

hardcasecrime: I'm not saying there are no crime novels that deserve to be 350 pages long, but most of my favorites are 186. For LITTLE GIRL LOST, since I planned it out in advance with a protractor and t-square, I knew exactly how long it was going to be. But even when I'm writing more loosely, I try to go short rather than long. Just look at POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. You can't get much shorter. Or much better.

duaneswier: Or Ken Bruen's novels. Terse, yet rich.

hardcasecrime: (I think it's different, incidentally, for other genres. For fantasy, I like being immersed for hundreds and hundreds of pages. Tolkien wouldn't be Tolkien if he wrote like Cain.) Actually, that's a fun thought.

arain216: POSTMAN: An under-recognized MASTERPIECE. Writing THE LORD OF THE RINGS as though written by Cain. Perhaps there's a good magazine piece in that.

srharbin: ?

g_so: Go, Steve.

duaneswier: Funny you mention other genres, Charles--I read that Dean Koontz intended his novel THE VISION to be horror as written by James M. Cain.

hardcasecrime: I haven't read Koontz, but he's on my TBR list.

srharbin: Future publishing plans of HCC? Noir?

hardcasecrime: I have read a lot of horror. King is a favorite writer of mine.

duaneswier: Oddly enough, much of his later books are bloated.

hardcasecrime: HCC will definitely publish noir. For instance, HOME IS THE SAILOR is the best James M. Cain novel James M. Cain never wrote. We'll also do Leonard-style comic crime novels (DUTCH UNCLE)

srharbin: Glad to hear it, Woolrich and Cain are faves, as is Horace McCoy.

g_so: who's the author of SAILOR, again?

hardcasecrime: And plot-driven suspense stories (BRANDED WOMAN is a model of this type, with a killer triple-twist ending) SAILOR is by Day Keene.

g_so: Oh, yes, thanks.

hardcasecrime: It's funny, a lot of current readers don't like Woolrich, they find his style too "purple," too ornate...but I love his work. Even at it's worst, it's got a sort of demented poetry to it.

srharbin: I'm also a fan of Leonard style and Westlake style comic caper going back to Wodehouse.

hardcasecrime: The Westlake book we're doing -- 361 -- is a hardboiled one (a la Parker), not a comic one. But I could see doing a comic one down the line, assuming the line continues.

duaneswier: I'm drooling at the thought of reading 361, finally.

g_so: Time now: 3:17.

duaneswier: I've been trying to track down a copy forever.

hardcasecrime: And then there's Al's book, KISS HER GOODBYE, which combines comedy and some really grim stuff. It's a terrific book.

arain216: Charles, thanks so much for doing this. Gerald, thanks for setting this up. I had a great time.

hardcasecrime: (You'll be able to get a copy of 361 next May. Only 6 months away...) Thanks -- I was delighted to do it, and greatly appreciate the chance.

duaneswier: Thanks, Charles. This was a blast.

srharbin: Me too, thank you.

dpwhite237: Thanks Charles.

hardcasecrime: Any time!

g_so: Sure, Anthony. Great having you, Charles.


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