Stories About Writers & Writing

Here you’ll find links to my work about authors, books and the publishing industry. Here are a few recent stories of interest to get started.

UNDISPUTED TYSON (Kirkus Reviews)
My talk with the larger-than-life former heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson.

REAL-LIFE THRILLER (Kirkus Reviews)In which I track down real-life international spy Valerie Plame Wilson for a chat about CIA tradecraft, nuclear non-proliferation and gunplay.

NOIR,  NOT JUST IN DARK ALLEYS ANYMORE (Kirkus Reviews)
Publisher, editor and rock star Johnny Temple  talks about urban noir, winning the Edgar Award, and the most infamous children’s book in history.

REMEMBERING THE ASSASSINATION FIFTY YEARS LATER (Kirkus Reviews)In which I interview the last surviving supervisory staff member of the Warren Commission about the assasination of John  F. Kennedy.

CHARLES ARDAI AND HARD CASE CRIME (Kirkus Reviews)If you’ve heard of Hard Case Crime at all, it’s probably from their publication of Stephen King’s novel The Colorado Kid, which was written exclusively for their line of pulp originals. Here, founder Charles Ardai and I talk about King’s contributions, the late Michael Crichton, and infamously disappeared novels from the likes of John D. MacDonald.

ERIC SCHLOSSER AND COMMAND & CONTROL (Kirkus Reviews)
Let’s talk to Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) about the terrifyingly many “Broken Arrow” incidents that involved nukes being out in the open and in danger of exploding. Sleep tight.

THE GREAT DETECTIVE (Kirkus Reviews)
In which I interview an author who’s half a world away, only to find that the subject of his book—a long-dead Pinkerton detective—is buried less than a half-hour away from my house.

TICKING TIME BOMBS (Kirkus Reviews)

I was thrilled to interview Martin Cruz Smith. I lost track of him a little bit in my later years but he was hugely influential on my own writing and certainly sparked the interest in crime fiction and espionage novels that drove me to write a crime column for a full five years over at Bookslut. I was far less thrilled this morning to find that he revealed just days ago to the New York Times that he has been living with Parkinson’s Disease since 1995, but I thought he handled the revelation in an incredibly graceful way. My personal experience speaking with him was terrific, as he offered sharp insights and humor about his beloved and much put-upon hero, Arkady Renko.

A LITTLE PRYOR LOVE (Kirkus Reviews)

What more can I say about this one? You get to interview a terrific screenwriter and a music legend about the world’s greatest comedian? You can read more in the post about this particular feature, but this was a great book and a really fun pair of interviews.

IN THE BEGINNING (Kirkus Reviews)

Jeffrey Deaver’s new stand-alone is a trip. The October List runs backwards, running from the very last chapter of the book all the way to the title page. A story of deception, perception, and the greatest set of MacGuffins and reversals I’ve seen in a thriller in a while. Plus, I got to grill him about what it’s like to write James Bond, so that was a bonus.

BASED ON A MYTH (Kirkus Reviews)

For his latest Kindle County novel, Identical, novelist Scott Turow largely abandons the legal machinations that have underpinned many of his greatest successes, such as Presumed Innocent, to focus on an ancient Greek myth that he has transposed to his mythical analog for Chicago. I was also pleased by how candid Scott was about the visceral reaction to his New York Times op-ed, “The Slow Death of the American Author.”

A WAR NOVEL THAT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE ONE (Kirkus Reviews)

A subtle and insightful conversation with Dennis McFarland, whose new novel Nostalgia meditates on war, family, honor and the debts we owe our nation’s soldiers.

LIFE AS MAILER’s BOSWELL

I wasn’t sure what to expect from interviewing Norman Mailer’s official biographer, Mike Lennon. Mike had actually inherited the project after Mailer’s official biographer died. He has been studying the man since grad school in the early 1970s, and sometimes academics can be a little dry. Not Mike Lennon. He told hilarious stories of card games, closing the bar, epic arguments and gave a little insight into that bizarre showdown with Dick Cavett in 2971.

A LEXICON YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO READ (Kirkus Reviews)

In June, I had the pleasure of interviewing Australian novelist Max Barry, the author of Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company and his explosive new thriller, Lexicon. It’s about the elemental art of persuasion, with words wielded as weapons of mass destruction. It’s a remarkable novel and a real stride forward for the curious, unique writer.

WE MAKE OUR OWN MONSTERS (Kirkus Reviews)

I have been going around and around with crime writer Andrew Vachss for over a decade now. For our latest bout, we talked about his new series, which begins with the novel Aftershock. When his publicist asked how it went, this was my response, which pretty much made into the introduction of the article verbatim. “Andrew is always a challenging interview because he won’t spoon-feed anybody, let alone someone he respects, and the guy has not the slightest glimmer of the concept of self-promotion for its own sake. So we talked about my work – he knows I have experience with investigative journalism, which I think gives me a leg up. And we talk about Donald Westlake and Walter Mosley and Shaolin Cowboy and Japan and Ireland and blues musicians and Emmett Till and Protect.org.  And at the end of all that, maybe, if I’m very good and lucky, I get enough material to put together an article that’s actually about his book.”

TRUTH IS AS STRANGE AS FICTION (Kirkus Reviews)

Once more, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from period novelist Monte Schulz, who is sometimes overshadowed by the legacy of his famous father, cartoonist Charles Schulz. He turned out to be a really interesting guy in his own right, having conquered a trilogy of novels set in the 1920s, and unearthing the pulpy and frightening story of the murders committed by Ralph and Iva Kroeger in California circa 1963 in his book Naughty. I look forward to hearing more of Monte’s music as well, as he has an enormous and creatively diverse album coming out soon.

MAKING GOOD USE OF PARANOIA (Kirkus Reviews)

Alan Glynn was only my second Skype interview so far, but it’s been an interesting experience to get to communicate directly with a novelist, instead of just transcribing a tinny phone interview later. Alan is the author of a tremendously taut trilogy of thrillers, ending with his latest, Graveland, in which some of the series’ devils finally get their due. This was an enormously fun interview, as Alan is also the author of The Dark Fields, which was famously adapted for the screen as Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper. So we got to talk about film and paranoia and 1970s thrillers and all sorts of things that gentlemen of our ilk find fascinating.

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