Saturday, 28 January 2012

PUSH-UPS: Mike Dennis

So, what are you pushing right now?
My latest novel is called The Ghosts Of Havana. It's the second installment in my Key West Nocturnes series, in which I intend to lift the veil off Key West, revealing it as a true noir city, on a par with Los Angeles, New Orleans, or Miami (or even Manchester). The first novel in that series is Setup On Front Street, and it's done quite well. The Ghosts Of Havana, however, is just out. It's different in that it starts out as noir, but veers into thriller territory, so I call it a noir thriller.

What’s the hook?
It's a tale of old vendettas that will not die. I have a quote from David Goodis in the front that says, "Every man has an ax to grind, whether he knows it or not." That pretty well sums up the book.

And why’s that floating your boat?
There's a blow-'em-out twist toward the end which I had wanted to write about for years. I actually started a novel years ago which had this twist in it, but I couldn't get past the first 100 pages. I set it aside.

Then, when I was writing The Ghosts Of Havana, I remembered that dusty effort, so I modified it and it fit perfectly in the new book.

When did you turn to crime?
Crime fiction (thank God we're moving away from calling them "mysteries") was a natural for me, almost from the very beginning. It allows me to write about the human condition as I see it. That is, ordinary people, minor players in society, sometimes make bad choices and inevitably get caught up in the backwater of those choices. They find themselves in over their heads and occasionally cross the line. Who among us wouldn't do the same, given the same desperate circumstances?

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
I prefer noir, because of my answer to the previous question, but hardboiled is probably a close second. Classic and contemporary. Jim Thompson, David Goodis, James M Cain, and Gil Brewer are just a few of the great classic noir authors. Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett are some of the top-caliber hardboiled writers. Nowadays in noir, you have Vicki Hendricks, Elmore Leonard, and James Sallis. Jonathan Woods is another one. And of course, Lawrence Block spans both noir and hardboiled, as well as classic and contemporary. He'll be around forever.

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Every Shallow Cut by Tom Piccirilli is the best thing I've read in a long time. It's a noir novella that is a standout work. I've also just reread Street 8, a superb, yet little-known, Miami noir from 1977 by Douglas Fairbairn. Every Florida crime fiction author has been influenced by this book in one way or another.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
I would like to think White Shadow by Ace Atkins has a shot at becoming a movie. It would be terrific if they could re-create Tampa in the 1950s on the screen as vividly as Ace did on the page.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Indie. I toiled for years trying to get the attention of can't-be-bothered agents and editors. I had no insider contacts and I resented the fact that many of the agents, especially those who insisted on exclusive submissions, never took the time to reply. My first novel was traditionally published, but the four books since then are all self-pubbed. Each of them has sold more than my trad-pubbed novel.

Paper or digital? I prefer paper, but the fact is digital is taking over, and it cannot be stopped. Print isn't going away, though. It'll still be used extensively for books that don't translate well to digital, such as coffee table books, almanacs, atlases, and the like. If anyone has any doubts, just look at Amazon's sales of the Kindle in the months leading up to Christmas: one million a week.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
Of course, that would be

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
For most of my adult life, I was a professional musician. I played piano and sang (rock & roll, rhythm & blues, country) for decades, during which time, I never held another job. Not many musicians can make that claim.

But when my musical career wound down, I backed away from it to become respectable. I turned to professional poker.

I played poker at the professional level for six years, doing quite well, even moving to Las Vegas to pursue it. One day, however, I came home from the Bellagio poker room to find an email in my computer informing me that a publisher was offering me a book deal on my first novel. From that moment forward, I never returned to the poker room. I had to develop a website, an Internet presence, and a promotional mechanism, all of which consumed my every waking moment.

About a year ago, though, I returned to my beloved Key West, where I enjoy year-round island life.