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What books/authors have influenced your writing?
As far as other authors are concerned, Dan Pollock, author of Orinoco and The Running Boy, has been of great assistance to me. I published my first book too early as it was poorly edited and hence not ready for primetime. He chided me on Twitter for not self-promoting, and I did not because I was embarrassed by the poor quality of the editing. He got me to realize that I needed to take a more active role in developing my writing career. I took the book down and re-edited it and put it back out for sale. Dan has reviewed some of my work and interviewed me on his blog. He’s a great guy and an excellent writer.
My favorite author is the late Elmore Leonard. He truly inspired me to try and write the way people actually talk. His Rules for Writing are meant to be somewhat tongue in cheek, but they are still good guidance for aspiring writers. Leonard’s work translates well to film, and his dialog is some of the best I’ve ever read. One of my favorite books is Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance. The movie is actually very close to the book as I believe Mailer wrote the script. The book takes place in Provincetown, MA, a place I’ve visited on occasion as Cape Cod is close to where I grew up. The plot is littered with depraved characters doing heinous things to each other, but it actually has a happy ending. Mailer writing a thriller is like Tom Brady playing against the 49ers. You know he’s going to be living in the end zone. Another truly great book is Deliverance. I’m reading it now, and Dickey’s talent is his ability to write a thought evoking turn of phrase, but I really didn’t care for the love scene. (*Cue drummer for rim-shot).
Tell us something you hate doing.
I hate working for a living. Writing is a lot more fun and doesn’t seem like work—most of the time. I also dislike certain aspects of writing a book, but they are necessary if you don’t want to publish inferior work. I hate editing because it’s tedious, but it’s a necessary part of writing. Copy editing my work is a pain, and I sometimes outsource that, but I’ve learned through painful experience to be very selective in trusting just anyone to do it. Right now, I use a program called Grammarly, to check spelling and grammar and while pretty good, it’s far from perfect.
What's your pet peeve?
Well, my pet won’t behave, so that is specifically a pet peeve, but that’s probably not what you meant. Relative to my experience as an author, it would have to be the fact that the population in general reads less and watches television and movies more. Additionally, they read literature that is more cartoonish and less serious in nature. Either the hero or heroine has special powers or most of the action occurs below the waistline. It reminds me of Mike Judge, one of the creators of the movie Idiocrasy, lamenting: ‘It wasn’t meant to be a documentary!’ I’m not saying the novels I write rank anywhere near great tomes of literature, but some of the stuff out there is meant solely to appeal to the reader’s baser instincts, and that’s disappointing. 50 Shades of Gray? Sure, it sold a lot of copies, but you have to ask yourself, why? Apparently, there is a lot of sexual frustration out there. My fan base appears to consist largely of beer-drinking and hence, heavy-set men in their fifties. They seem to be fans of similar protagonists—like the twin Jacks of different mothers: Reacher and Ryan. But, my heroes are a bit different as they are good guys who are a little bad.
Who was your favorite hero/heroine?
Hoke Moseley, a cop in Miami Blues, is one of my favorite characters because he is a simple down to earth guy—a regular mensch, who still gets his man. He served as partial inspiration for my cop character, Eidetic Eddie Doyle. My favorite anti-hero is Walter White in Breaking Bad. He’s a seemingly nice guy who reveals his true dark nature over time. He seems like a civilized man, but he engages in uncivilized behavior—that of cooking methamphetamine, but he still has a thin veneer of civility about him. He cares about his son and his wife, is doting on the new baby and upon occasion has a glass of Scotch and a low-key family-centric good time. But there is always an inkling that his dark side is bubbling just below the surface. He commits violent acts in a very logical and methodical manner. Yet, slowly, his true self is revealed as his selfish acts result in widespread chaos and mayhem. Walter is truly a great villain. In the end, all his friends and family have discovered his true nature and he is left with no one. Another hero worth honorable mention is Ray Donovan, from the Showtime series of the same name. He’s realistically drawn in that he’s a hard living guy who isn’t above taking the law into his own hands—in fact, that’s pretty much all he does.
Have you ever had one character you wanted to go one way with but after the book was done the character was totally different?
The funny thing is that my tagline as an author is that “I write about good guys, who are a little bad” in that they do bad thinks, but they are redeemable. I started out writing about a good guy, Char Blackfox, who decides to do a bad thing and rob a casino boat on the high seas. One of the reviewers commented that she didn’t like books where the bad guy gets away with it and although that’s not exactly the truth, I did agree that there was a certain moral ambiguity about the lead characters and that might strike some readers that way. I designed the plot in such a way as to make the heroes less evil than the true villain, in this case, a disgraced Mafia Capo, who masterminded the robbery. I took the point that my protagonists might be confused for villains and therefore, they needed to be reformed. I followed that path in the second book of the series, Starfish Prime—Michael, one of the protagonists, gets conscripted into Marine Corps Special Ops and he and his father are offered redemption should the military operation succeed.
Enjoy an Excerpt:
Jesus Juan Carlo Rodriguez Mendelevich or Chewy for short was scared. The portly man sweated profusely in the noonday sun. His body generated rivulets of sweat that cascaded down his corpulent frame in continuous flows. Part of the cause was Torreon’s climate; the other was his nervousness. Chewy had scheduled the meeting at Casa Portofino, a restaurant in one of the more upscale and tranquil areas of the city. The neighborhood was a series of walled compounds, behind which sat multi-story villas protected by shotgun-toting security guards. Chewy waited under the blue canopy of the Mediterranean style white stucco building, hoping to see whether the man he was scheduled to meet arrived alone as was agreed. He was expecting a Gringo named Eddie Doyle, an emissary sent by the owner of the clothing company Chewy supplied.
Torreon was a dangerous place—there were over a thousand murders the previous year. Most were drug related as the Zeta cartel called it their territory and home—while other gangs disagreed. It was also the industrial heart of Mexico with much of the manufacturing scattered around the city in a series of walled and guarded industrial parks.
Chewy was the product of a May-September romance between a Jewish immigrant and a Mexican seamstress. His father, Isaac, a talented and well-connected tailor, had fled the Soviet Union in the early fifties. He had served many senior officials within the Communist Party ¬¬—a connection that would save his life. In the aftermath of Stalin’s death, a plot had been discovered to seize power by assassinating select high party officials. A group of Jewish doctors was implicated and vilified. Some were executed, others imprisoned—Isaac had been a non-practicing Jew, but nonetheless was swept up in the purge that followed. He escaped via a connection he had with a Mexican diplomat.
Over the remainder of his life, Isaac Mendelevich had grown a one tailor shop into a lucrative cut & sewn operation that employed over sixty seamstresses. Chewy had neither his father’s patience nor his virtue, but he did have higher aspirations.
For the past eleven years, Chewy’s company, Estrella de David S.A., had served as a foreign contractor of an American apparel manufacturer. The cloth was cut in El Paso and shipped to his Estrella Fabrica Una in Torreon—he only had one factory, but he could still dream big. His seamstresses rapidly turned the fabric into shirts and pants, he paid them poorly and reaped the reward. He had developed a pretty lucrative gig—the work was good, and Chewy prospered. He lived in a three level walled home outside of town, drove a late model Range Rover, and vacationed in a rented villa in Tuscany.
The Range Rover handled Torreon’s rough streets better than the Ferraris or Lamborghinis he saw in Italy—still, the Rover was not as stylish. He was originally pissed when he found out the Chinese had copied the storied vehicle and sold the counterfeit version, called the Landwind X7 for half the price of the original. But that anger gave way to grudging admiration after he involved himself in a similar pursuit.
Chewy dated the better-looking members of his staff—oblivious to the warning about fishing from the company pier—apparently, there is no similar expression in Spanish. The work was lucrative but limited. He often finished the entire consignment that the North American manufacturer shipped him in record time, which left him with an idle factory. He had plans for an early retirement to his own villa in Italy or along the Spanish Coast, and that took serious money.
Before his current girlfriend, Angelina, came to work for him—she had been employed for a short time in a factory stitching counterfeit shirts. The shirts were such good quality that they were often sold in the same retail shops that sold originals. She liked the work—the factory was in an old warehouse close to her home, the pay was in dollars, and they fed her lunch. Sure the work was hard—twelve hour days using old sewing machines, learning the strange stitching design and getting yelled at when she screwed something up, but they let her bring home the leftover tamales, and they paid her each day in currency.
On her one month anniversary a team from the Prosecutor’s Office arrived—all dressed in black military-style uniforms and carrying automatic weapons. The two Mexican Americans running the factory were summarily arrested—cuffed and stuffed as the gringos say, and carted off in a detention vehicle, not doubt to the infamous Gómez Palacio prison.
The gringos’ arrests left a vacuum in the market and after some subtle inquiries, Chewy filled it with a vigor. He now produced a regular run of clothing, in this case, a trademark known as Mountain Man (MM) and then produced a second line of high-quality fakes. The clothing line had a distinctive trademark—an inch high double M with crossed legs. The patterns were the same, and much of the output was repurposed seconds or new jeans made with locally bought denim. The quality of his counterfeits was high enough to fool the trademark inspectors and even some of the manufacturer’s investigators.
They filled a container of legitimate product for which Mountain Man’s in-country manager paid in cash a sum that was both gratifying and underwhelming. His shop floor otherwise idle, he would put his seamstresses to work with remnants and leftover sundries, to turn out another line of high-quality counterfeits. He knew others were doing the same. The fake jeans went straight into a shipping container that arrived on a regular basis—he assumed they were exported as he never saw them in the ‘Tianguis’ or local flea markets.
Chewy was initially happy. That together with what he was earning in regular work meant he was garnering over one-half million dollars a year. Still, it was not enough. The villa in Italy that he wanted costs over two and one-half million dollars and his prolific use of cocaine, 100% agave aged Tequila and high-class prostitutes, limited his ability to save. He needed, as the computer geeks say, a killer app—something lucrative enough to put him over the top. Two million dollars would get him there, and he figured that the information he had to share was well worth that price.
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