Please welcome Tom Pitts to the blog! He stopped by to chat about his brand new novella, Knuckleball, and more.
Will you tell us a bit about Knuckleball, and what inspired you to write it?
The idea first came to me during the Bryan Stow fiasco a few years back. If you don’t recall, Bryan was a Giants fan who was beaten down at Dodger Stadium after a game. He suffered a lot of irreparable brain damage. A tragic case all the way ‘round. Anyway, during the hunt for his assailants, the media was given a sketch and description of a Latino male, 5’10” medium build. I thought, that’s it? Such a vague description. Jesus Murphy, that must describe half of Los Angeles. It occurred to me, in my warped and devious criminal mind that’s always calculating and cultivating, if you wanted to fuck with someone, really hang ‘em up, you could report them, give them up as the bad guy. That’s what kicked it off. You have to start somewhere.
Why do you think readers will identify with young Oscar Flores?
We all have a bit of Oscar in us. He’s a good kid, but he’s bullied. In this case, bullied by his big brother. I think we can all relate to being picked on, even if it’s not to the extent of what Oscar endures.
The short answer would be because I love it. San Francisco is a great baseball town and its citizens rally around the Giants. It seemed like a natural. Also, the book I’d read right before writing this was Don DeLillo’s Pafko at the Wall—arguably the best baseball book ever—and there’s no denying that played a part in my decision to pay homage to the great American pastime.
Did you do any specific research for the book?
Honestly, no. This was the first longer work I’d penned and I was just stretching my wings, enjoying the experience.
What do you enjoy most about reading, and writing, crime fiction? Have you always wanted to be a writer?
The plausibility and working to see how far you can take it. That’s what I dig. I started off reading a lot of true crime stuff, mafia history mostly, and I like a tale that’s rooted in reality. I’ve always been fascinated with the way crime really works, as opposed to how it’s interpreted in movies and on TV.
Have I always wanted to be a writer? Yeah, definitely. But did I do the dirty work, the heavy lifting? No. The real life discipline that it takes to be a writer didn’t set in till my forties. I’ll call everything before that “research.”
What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
Elmore Leonard for his lean and straightforward plots, Cormac McCarthy for his literary prowess. It’s a tough question to answer because these things are always shifting. You take little bits from one guy and little bits from another. The thing that impresses me most about writers I think is a steady work ethic.
If you had to recommend one book right now (other than your own), which one would it be?
I have to pick only one? Benjamin Whitmer’s Cry Father. But, fuck it, I can’t hold it down to just one, so I’m going to add Henderson Smith’s Fourth of July Creek. Both these writers have a style and scope that amazes, astonishes, and thoroughly entertains me.
What’s next for you?
I’ve got my agent working hard at selling my full-length novel, California Libertine. I’ve just completed another novel that’s due for the next tier of wrenching and pounding out the dents—the joys of the second draft. Then I’m onto the next novel. I’d like to complete another before the year is over. We’ll see. One a year—is that too much to ask of the muse?
Hugh Patterson is an old-school cop and die-hard Giants fan rooted in the San Francisco Mission District. When he’s struck down in the line of duty, the whole city is aghast. But Oscar Flores, a 15-year old Latino boy obsessed with baseball, witnesses the gruesome crime and has a plan to assuage the city s grief and satisfy his own vision of justice. Against the backdrop of a weekend long series with the Dodgers, the gripping crime story plays out against the city s brightest monuments and darkest alleys.