Monday, 17 November 2014

Win a signed copy #free

For my newsletter subscribers only, I’m running a free competition. The prize is a signed copy of number five in the D.I. Paolo Storey series – No Easy Sacrifice. This title will only be released in August 2015 and the draw will take place on launch day.

This means, to be in with a chance of winning the signed paperback, all you need to do is fill in the box below and become a subscriber to the free newsletter.

If you haven’t yet read any of the D.I. Paolo Storey series, the first book, BAD MOON RISING, is available as an e-book for just 99c/77p.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Ten facts about … Harper J. Dimmerman @harperdimmerman

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I think I’ve always secretly wanted to be a writer. It was something I knew all the way back in grade school. My problem though has always been my confidence. For some reason I had a lot of negative reinforcement from various teachers and so I think I questioned whether I could even do it. As an adult, I went through a traumatic experience about ten years ago and that’s when I couldn’t get around the inescapable truth: I am a writer because I have no other choice.

How long does it take you to write a book?
About a year but I’m pretty slow these days. Sometimes a year doesn’t do it either. Last year I struggled through what amounted to little more than a stillborn effort. I actually wound up abandoning the project. It was just time to move on. I intend on going back to it but I guess you might say it took a year to write a negative book, as in minus one book.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I teach a college class and have my own law practice during the week. So my schedule is pretty tight. I write what I can at night, when I’m not reading. These days, I’m on a bit of a roll and getting in close to 1k words a night. I’m not complaining right now but there may be others who are (or at least should be).

How many crime novels have you written?
I guess 4 if you consider a spy thriller with a diabolical villain a crime novel. To be safe though, I’ll just say 3 – these represent the Hunter Gray legal thrillers. One was published and the other 2 are done, just awaiting a little TLC before sicking them on the public.

Which is your favourite and why?
I would have to say Justice Hunter because it’s my first published book. It was a struggle to get it done and I suppose I’ll always feel a little tug of pride when I reflect on that process. The one I’m doing now isn’t bad though. It’s a supernatural thriller and I think it’s my most intentional writing to date. What I’m trying to say is I think I’m finally in a place where my current stuff is my strongest because it is my most refined and deliberate product. Reading it doesn’t make me nauseous, which I think is a pretty good litmus.

Where do you get your ideas?
I pull them out of my -- . In all seriousness, I’m inspired by the fallibility of mankind and the city where I was raised – Philadelphia. Law also plays a part because I’m a lawyer and so I like to weave this sort of existence into interesting situations. The last part would have to be writing who and what I don’t really know. If an idea comes too easily I try to resist.

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
Right now I would have to say either Detective Phelps or Jack, one of the protagonists in my current one. Phelps is a washed-up f-up but he’s a lot smarter than he lets on. I sort of like that contradiction. Jack isn’t half-bad either. He’s a guy who came from nothing and finds himself living a privileged yet far less stable existence than he wants to believe.

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
Good question. I would say just about anyone created by Amis or Murakami. They’re 2 of my favourite writers: they don’t make too many mistakes in my eyes. As for Amis, it would be Nicola Six from London Fields, maybe Keith Talent … For Murakami, I’m intrigued by the aspiring novelist in IQ84. Novelists just intrigue me. What can I say?

If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
I have no idea. Maybe the guy who should’ve saved Kennedy…

What are you working on now?
Like I said, it’s this supernatural thriller, also set in my hometown – Philly. It’s been getting my blood flowing for the past few months and I’m really excited about the prospect of having what I’m pretty sure will be a very solid first draft. I had that feeling last night, the one that reminds me of why I do this masochistic thing to myself. I know you know what I’m talking about. I immediately emailed my writing coach and I’m pretty sure he thought I was high on something. Well, he would’ve been right. I was high on the process, knowing my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain and that the words on the page weren’t too bad . . .  

Harper J. Dimmerman is a novelist, lawyer and professor living in Philadelphia. He is the author of JUSTICE HUNTER
Twitter: @harperdimmerman

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

NOIRCON 2014 by @MarshallStein1

Marshall Stein at NoirCon 2014. Photo by Helene Stein.

NoirCon is a five day celebration of all things noir, books, films, authors, etc. It is held every two years in Philadelphia under the inspired guidance of Lou Boxer and Deen Kogan. From October 29th through November 2nd there were panels on the Politics of Noir, Jewish Noir and Existential Noir, presentations by the leading biographers of Patricia Highsmith and Flannery O’Connor, a panel of four of the contributors to a collection of short stories based on songs of Bruce Springsteen, readings including a marathon of three minute readings, Three Minutes of Terror, given on Halloween, and then an Awards Dinner. 

The three awards were given in the category of novels [Thief by Fuminori Nakamura], publishers [Bronwen Hruska of SOHO Press], and film [Eddie Muller of The Film Noir Foundation]. This is a partial listing.

Participants and attendees came from around the world. Fuminori Nakamura flew in from Tokyo, and his interview was conducted through a translator. At one point he was shown a full page story from the L.A. Times with his photo. While he could not read the piece, the photograph produced an ear to ear grin. On Three Minutes of Terror the readers were from England, Ireland and ten states in the U.S.

I was on the Jewish Noir panel. Because I dream of having my noir crime thriller RAGE BEGETS MURDER turned into a movie, I chose a related topic. I spoke on the impact of European Jewish Émigré Directors on American film noir. It was well received. I have been asked by several folks, including Frances di Plino, to share it.

Fritz Lang has been called the father of film noir. While working in Germany he produced two masterpieces, M and Metropolis. M starred a young Peter Lorre as a child murderer. It is brilliant. When the killings bring out a massive police presence, shutting down crime, the underworld begins a parallel hunt, captures Lorre, and tries him. The concept of the criminal world providing due process is one of the many fascinations in M. If anyone reading this has not seen it, go out and rent it NOW. Lang, and the other directors named below, were trained in the world of German moviemaking where they learned to dramatically use light and dark.

They brought this to the U.S., one of their gifts to American film noir. They were a jump ahead of the murderous Nazi pursuit of Jews, and that produced the template of the protagonist pitted against a vast and often insane world out to destroy him. In Hollywood Lang directed such noir films as Fury, You Only Live Once, The Woman in the Window, and many others. Other Jewish European directors who brought their training and talent to Hollywood were Robert Siodmark (Phantom Lady, Cry of the City, The Spiral Staircase), Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Double Indemnity – co-authored with Raymond Chandler, directed by Wilder), Otto Preminger (Laura, Whirlpool), Edgar Ulmer (The Strange Woman, Ruthless), and Anatole Litvak (Sorry, Wrong Number). All of these directors were strongly affected by the Holocaust, but all of them escaped and found safety in America.

This was not the case for Roman Polanski. As a young child he was trapped in the Krakow Ghetto. He watched his father being marched off to Mauthausen; his mother to Auschwitz; both died in these camps of slaughter. Polanski’s Chinatown is one of the masterpieces of noir cinema. Faye Dunaway’s character, Evelyn Mulwray, had been sexually abused by her father, played by John Huston, and bore a daughter that she describes as both “my sister and my daughter.” Evelyn Mulwray tries to hide and protect her now grown daughter from her father. The film ends with a police bullet killing Evelyn Mulwray, her father clutching the daughter and leading her away, as dark an ending as in any film I’ve seen.  According to Polanski’s biographer, Christopher Sandford, “Polanski . . . use[d] the memory of his mother, her dress and makeup style, as a physical model for Faye Dunaway’s character in . . . Chinatown.”

In his masterpiece, The Tin Roof Blowdown, James Lee Burke wrote that for Faulkner the past is always with us, but the protagonist, Dave Robicheaux, said there is only the past. For the Jewish émigré directors that escaped the Holocaust it was always with them, but for Roman Polanski there is nothing but the past.

SOURCES: DRIVEN TO DARKNESS, Jewish Émigré Directors and the Rise of Film Noir, Vincent Brook, Rutgers University Press, 2009; Roman Polanski, Wikipedia citing to, among others, Christopher Sandford

RAGE BEGETS MURDER is set in Bandstand era Philadelphia in the early 1950s. It has been called an “author’s tour de force”. RBM can be purchased at Amazon UK and Amazon in the United States.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Ten facts about … JJ Toner @JJToner_ya

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?
I was 13. I remember it was a wet Tuesday in November. I had just read a book of short SF stories and several ideas for similar stories popped into my head. I wrote 5 stories in a copybook. I still have those stories somewhere.

How long does it take you to write a book?
The Black Orchestra, my first WW2 spy story, took six years from start to publication. The final version is the 27th full rewrite. In those early days I was querying agents, and one London agent took a fancy to the book, but asked me to rewrite it – twice – before giving up on it. My (wonderful) editor, Lucille Redmond had a lot to do with the subsequent revisions.

Each of the others has taken about a year: 3-6 months for the first draft. Lucille generally pretty much tears these to pieces and I then have to put them back together again. I don’t mind, really. She is an inspiration and her corrections and suggested plot changes are always invaluable.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
That varies. Sometimes the words flow and I can write 3,000 words in a day, but other times it’s like pulling teeth. At the moment I’m working on the third in The Black Orchestra series and trying to keep my daily word count up to 1,000 words per day. I like to write in the mornings; I’m like a walking zombie after lunch.

How many crime novels have you written?
I’ve written two novels that would fall easily into the crime novel genre: St Patrick’s Day Special and Find Emily. Both of these feature an Irish detective called DI Ben Jordan. My other two books are World War 2 spy stories. I suppose they could be classified as crime fiction if you include the atrocities of the Third Reich within the definition of crimes.

Which is your favourite and why?
Of the crime genre books: St Patrick’s Day Special. This book was the ‘birthing pool’ for DI Ben Jordan. He and I struggled together for months to get his story on paper, and now it feels like he’s a real-life, breathing friend.

Where do you get your ideas?
From the news and from my own life experiences, I guess. I am constantly amazed at what happens in real life, events that confound the mind and that no fiction writer could ever have dreamt up, or if he did everyone would say it was too fantastical and nobody would read it.

Who is your favourite character from your own work and why?
In The Black Orchestra books, Kurt Müller, my hero. In the detective books, I’m tempted to choose Emily Carter the feisty 11-year-old abductee in Find Emily, but I’d have to choose DI Ben Jordan who has all sorts of heavy personal issues, but is morally as straight as they come. I wouldn’t last 24 hours as a police detective; the daily grind of dealing with human carnage and the criminal mind would be too much to bear. And boy am I glad they sorted out WW2 before I was born!

Which character from the work of others do you wish you’d invented and why?
John Buchan’s Richard Hannay, Declan Burke’s Harry Rigby, Douglas Adams’ Arthur Dent, Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, Colin Bateman’s nameless bookshop owner in Mystery Man, Inspector Maigret… 

Oh, sorry, you wanted just one. I’d have to go for John le Carré’s Leamas in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, a brilliant portrait of a complete spy playing the part of a disillusioned drunken washout, while secretly maintaining all of his humanity right to the end.

If you could have been someone from history involved in crime (good or bad) who would that be and why?
I would have to say a desperado highwayman like Dick Turpin. Was Robin Hood real? If he was, I’d like to be the Sheriff of Nottingham. My wife suggested Charles Ponzi, but I think I’d have to go for Ned Kelly, because he managed to get an Australian resident visa.
What are you working on now?
I’m in the throes of book 3 in the Black Orchestra series. As of today, I have been writing for 42 days and I have 42,000 words on the computer, so I’m on target for 99,000 words first draft by January 1 next. The first book in the series, The Black Orchestra was Historical fiction with a capital “H”, the second, The Wings of the Eagle, is historical Fiction with a small “h” and a big “F”. I’m hoping the third one will have two capital letters – a good strong story firmly embedded in actual historical events.

JJ Toner has been writing more or less full time since 2007. He self-published his first book in 2011. He has 4 novels on Amazon: St Patrick’s Day Special, Find Emily, The Black Orchestra and The Wings of the Eagle. He lives in Ireland, although a significant proportion of his family lives in Australia.
Twitter: @JJToner_ya