There were so many wonderful debut authors in 2012 in the suspense/noir categories, and luckily, I convinced one of them, Matthew McBride, author of Frank Sinatra In a Blender, to answer a few of my questions, so please welcome him to the blog!
**Also, Matthew has graciously offered up a signed copy of his book to one lucky winner, so be sure to check out the details at the bottom of the post!
Matthew, will you tell us a bit about your new crime novel, Frank Sinatra in a Blender?
Frank Sinatra in a Blender is, I guess you would say, something very different. Though it is a detective novel, and this detective does drink—a lot—I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that it’s completely original in every way you can imagine. Nick Valentine, my protagonist, might be the most extreme alcoholic in the history of the written word. But he knows it, and he’s good with that. He embraces it with open arms. He also carries a shotgun and a chainsaw—and he snorts oxycontin. And a little coke. But he’s a damn good detective who’d do anything for his dog. Even kill for him, if he has to.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? Will you tell us a bit about your background?
I don’t know that I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but even as a kid, from some of my earliest memories, I knew I wanted to do something different. I knew I didn’t want to work at a bank or a grocery store or a factory. Because that was the only future our small town had to offer. Though, despite my best efforts, I went to work at a factory anyway, building minivans, and I worked there for thirteen years. I never took a writing class or got a degree, but I did read a lot of books. And I thought a lot. About plots and stories and characters. We worked ten hours a day, six days a week, those bastards tried to kill us. And I had to drive back and forth almost two hours each way. I hated the job. Wanted to quit but couldn’t. Then Chrysler closed its doors and made my decision easy.
What are some of your biggest influences (literary or otherwise)?
Hunter S. Thompson was huge for me. So was Hemingway. But, for most of my life, the author I read most consistently was Stephen King—though for some reason I always forget to mention him when I’m asked this.
But, as I’ve grown as a writer and discovered new writers, my influences have begun to change. Powerful storytelling makes me want to write. If I try to read Daniel Woodrell or William Gay, it’s hard to even finish the book because I’m so inspired to write myself—their words and their style provoke deep emotion in me. And still, the list of writers who influence me continues to grow. Donald Ray Pollock writes with such natural prose that it feels like he’s sitting right beside me, telling a story; Tom Piccirilli writes with his guts more than any writer I’ve ever read. He writes with his heart; his voice brutally honest.
Writers like this just get it, and it shows in their work. I think that is the end result every writer should strive for.
What do you enjoy most about writing suspense?
I don’t know if I’d describe my writing as suspense as much as I would hardboiled, or possibly noir. But to write anything other than crime fiction would be boring. I’ve tried, but no matter what I write, at some point I end up wanting to exploit the failure in my characters and write about that.
If you could read one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
I might pick Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which I read when I was young, and it may or may not have warped me—just reading that book I felt like I was doing something wrong. But there’s also Winter’s Bone or Child of God. Or I might choose Animal Farm, a book I really loved as a kid. But now I can’t remember shit about it. If I picked up that book right now it would be like reading it for the first time all over again with just the slightest hint of deja vu. So maybe I’ll try that.
What are you reading now?
GHOSTING, by Kirby Gann. Though quite often, almost daily, I’ll read a passage from McCarthy—on my kindle or my phone or in my office—his books surround me. He’s on my Mount Rushmore of writers—as my pal, Peter Farris, author of Last Call for the Living—has been known to say.
When you manage to find some free time, how do you like to spend it?
Since drinking probably doesn’t count, I’d say writing. That’s just it for me. Though sometimes I have to remember not to neglect the loved ones in my life, there is no place I’d rather be than in my office. Reading books or pounding keys. I used to ride motorcycles and dirt bikes, but now I just want to write. If I catch myself having fun doing anything else I feel guilty.
What’s next for you?
Keep writing. And try to be patient, because I’m really not in a huge hurry to have anything new published. Though I was at first, I now feel like I just want to take my time. I finished a manuscript last year and I haven’t really even talked with my agent about sending it out yet. I’m still working on edits and rewrites, and I’m taking my time with them. Because I don’t want to rush the story and fuck something up.
Keep up with Matthew: Website | Twitter
About FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER:
Sometimes solving a crime takes a hard guy who’s not afraid to work outside the law, and PI Nick Valentine swerves through the underbelly of St. Louis looking for answers. With every law he breaks, every drink he takes, and every Oxycontin he snorts, Valentine lurches closer to finding the truth. Or floating facedown in the Missouri River.
Brutally funny, wild, this no-holds- barred crime novel reads like Elmore Leonard on meth. Crazy and addictive, you’ll want more.
From Publishers Weekly:
Ken Bruen provides an introduction to McBride’s debut romp, which features Nick Valentine, a St. Louis PI who downs weird combinations of alcohol and pills; loves his Yorkshire terrier, Frank Sinatra; and helps cops and crooks with equal, if spaced out, panache. A well-planned, poorly executed credit union robbery leaves a fortune missing and in the hands of a tweaker (meth user) called Telly. After robbery mastermind Joe Parker charges his vicious henchmen, Sid Godwin and Johnny No Nuts, with retrieving the loot, Valentine throws in with thieves Big Tony Sparrow and Doyle to get there first. At the same time, Valentine has also promised to help ace police detective Ron Beachy solve a related crime. High-octane, casually brutal action keeps the story slipping and sliding through the icy winter streets with touches of macabre humor providing laughter even amid the carnage. Fans of offbeat characters and grisly noir are in for a treat.
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