Saturday, 11 February 2012

PUSH-UPS: Pearce Hansen

So, what you pushing right now?
Stagger Bay, my second novel, just came out: it’s an entry in the Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest. I re-released my 2006 novel Street Raised for the Kindle last May. And my first anthology Gun Sex is available for only 0.99 right now.

What’s the hook?
Here’s the product description from it's Amazon page:

“Markus, Stagger Bay’s protagonist, is a man who overcame a horrendous childhood and criminal youth to go straight and raise a family. His violent past makes him an easy fall guy to frame for a gruesome mass murder and he’s sentenced to life without parole, losing his family in the process.

“Exonerated and freed on DNA evidence after seven years, Markus is shortly thrust into a bloody do-or-die fracas during an elementary school hostage situation, becoming an overnight hero. Everyone wants in on the media feeding frenzy; to his dismay, paparazzi and news crews hound him wherever he goes. Unfortunately they’re not the only ones stalking him.

“Can Markus find the path back into his estranged son’s heart? What’s Markus supposed to do, when he discovers fifteen minutes of fame is the worst thing that could ever happen to him? What can he do, now that his town is hunting ground to serial killers and rogue cops working together – and the shadowy force behind them is turning its cold, deadly eye straight at him?

“Stagger Bay is a battle of wills, where every moral choice seems only to increase the body count. It’s in the tradition of Paul Cain’s break-neck-paced Fast One, Ted Lewis' Get Carter, or Geoffrey Household’s feral man-against-the-world Rogue Male. Stagger Bay has been blurbed by Ken Bruen, Jason Starr and Anthony Neil Smith, and should appeal to readers looking for a fast paced, hyper-violent thriller.”

And why’s that floating your boat?
Because I’ve been working on it for five years, and it’s about damn time I got it out. I wrote the first draft in ’96 in a white heat of five 20 hour days (that’s right, 100 hours of writing in less than a week), fueled alternately by alcohol, coffee and cigarettes – breakfast of champions. The strange thing was, I didn’t feel like I was ‘writing’ it per se – it was more like I channeled Markus, like he leapt up from the back of my brain and whispered away in my ear the whole time I was pounding the keyboard.

I spent about two years polishing it to the bone; also, letting the other characters get out from under Markus’ admittedly overwhelming influence and tell their side of the story. I was then fortunate enough to get signed with a very prestigious literary agency, who shall remain nameless for the purpose of this interview – suffice to say they’re real pros, top drawer, and their editorial contribution to Stagger Bay was immeasurable. But after three years, they couldn’t sell it – in my last phone conversation with their head, he affirmed that Stagger Bay was an excellent manuscript, but that the state of the industry combined with the horrid economy makes it an unfriendly environment now for any authors other than the top A-listers. I suspect other writers might just understand what I’m talking about here.

The ABNA contest came up, I’d already been doing okay re-releasing my first novel Street Raised for the Kindle, so me and my agent had an amicable parting of the ways. Broke my heart to do it, they’re aces – but I have other writer friends that had to do the same thing. Anyways, now I’ll see how Stagger Bay does on the Kindle, see if it can earn any props with the ABNA folks, and – who knows? – I may even win the contest.

Here’s the blurbs Stagger Bay has garnered even before its publication:

Ken Bruen (author of Blitz starring Jason Statham; and of London Boulevard, soon to be a major motion picture): “Stagger Bay proves what purists have known for a long time: Pearce Hansen is the new Prince of Noir. For years he’s been turning out stunning nuggets of sheer black gold, and now he finally comes into his ascendancy with this mesmerizing novel.

“Imagine James Ellroy coupled with George R. R. Martin and overseen by Charles Willeford. But PH really needs no comparison to any other writer; he’s created his own compelling dark universe that ratchets up noir to an astonishing level.”

Jason Starr (bestselling author of The Pack and The Follower): "Pearce Hansen is the real deal, the Edward Bunker of our generation. Stagger Bay is a searing, powerful, heartbreaking novel, and an important contribution to contemporary crime fiction literature."

Anthony Neil Smith (Editor of Plots with Guns!, Associate Editor of the Mississippi Review, and author of All the Young Warriors): "Pearce is a wild man, and demands your attention. Hansen is definitely one of the gonzo crowd and deserves a stage with a loud amplifier and some bright lights."

When did you turn to crime?
I didn’t choose crime; crime chose me. (Laughs somewhat sheepishly).

I’ve always been a little ambivalent about capitalizing on my upbringing. I mean, is it exploitative to toot my own horn about growing up on the wild side when so many of my friends died during my little ‘adventures?’ Or is it necessary to tell tales out of school in order to stand out from the pack, to let the reader know my writing might have a little more authenticity than some crime writers? Others in my circle have gone through much worse than I ever did. In the end, I’m not ashamed of my past – take me as I am. Still, it feels a little schizophrenic sometimes, trying to reconcile the disparate realities of the so-called ‘Citizen’ I am now, and the criminal I used to be.

I started writing as a fluke, and at first it was all straight autobiographical stuff, catharsis as it were, addressing bad dreams I used to have nightly. You’ll laugh I’m sure, but I used to think I was ‘normal,’ and that there’d been nothing out of the ordinary about my life – I mean, a fish won’t be able to describe water, will he?

I know what it feels like to be cut by a knife, or rat packed, or to OD on drugs. I’ve seen friends shot and had people try to kill me. I’ve hung out with crooked cops; drug dealers all the way up to the forklift class (‘there’s two kinds of dealers: those who need a forklift to move their product around, and those that don’t’); at least one hit man and at least two serial killers that I KNOW of; snitches, pimps, burglars, hookers, carnies, addicts and transvestite whores. I’ve bounced, drove cab, sold door-to-door and at flea markets, and have been a fortune teller and a phone psychic.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
Well, it depends. For one thing, it seems simplistic for me to categorize, or to state a preference. My tastes are eclectic and varied. Hardboiled novels like Paul Cain’s Fast One or Richard Stark’s Parker books, the noir of James M Cain and Jim Thompson? Apples and oranges, you can’t really compare them – it depends on what mood you’re in which you’ll prefer at any given time.

I love the classics, both in their own right, and because they ground whatever writing we attempt. But I’m also always on the lookout for contemporary stuff, when I can find a real ‘grabber.’

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Actually, I’ve been reading a lot of horror of late – there’s some exciting stuff coming out that I hadn’t been aware of due to my own reclusiveness. Laird Barron writes a sort of two-fisted hardboiled noir style that has to be seen to be believed, the man’s writing ability is both flawless and stellar. Joe S. Pulver is a psychedelic dark poet dedicated to bringing Robert W. Chambers’ ‘King in Yellow’ cycle from under Lovecraft’s overshadowing Cthulhu Mythos. And Cody Goodfellow? If you haven’t read ‘Radiant Dawn,’ do yourself a favor and read it immediately. It’s like Tom Clancy went nihilist, dropped a lot of good acid, and wrote a not-ready-for-primetime X-Files/Lovecraft mashup – fun stuff.

As far as crime fiction goes, I’m finally attacking my ‘to read’ pile. Josh Stallings’ Beautiful Naked & Dead is magnificent, and I said as much when I posted a review for it on Amazon; Chuck Wendig’s Shotgun Gravy was YA fun, with a young heroine you can really root for; Anthony Neil Smith’s All the Young Warriors is a scalding book, beautifully written and structured – sort of reminded me of Elmore Leonard at his best, without being at all derivative, it’s Neil Smith all the way.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
Well . . . Stagger Bay , actually. After it was done, I envisioned Danny Bonaduce playing Markus – he wouldn’t be the first old school actor that had their careers rejuvenated by an offbeat casting opportunity, look at Mickey Rourke or John Travolta. Danny is an actor, and I believe he’d inhabit the role of Markus better than anyone else I can think of.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
I’m indie because I have no choice. Stagger Bay is digital because as I say, my ex-agent couldn’t find a traditional publisher for it. I'd be more than willing to accept that the lack was in me or the caliber of my writing, but too many qualified folks assure me otherwise -- it's just the current state of the industry, and something we have to live with as best we can.

Shout us a website worth visiting … & Aeron Alfrey is an incredible artist, very important. These sites may be a little off topic to Pulp Pusher, but what can I say? I like them.

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Well, I was born in San Francisco . My aunt worked at the Old Spaghetti Factory and was in with the Beats, so I grew up around some pretty famous avant-garde types. My brothers and I were among the first kids that took the SAT and were told we were geniuses – I wasted that opportunity, dropping out of school twice (once for a year) and winding up in special ed for a time due to the belief that I was mentally subnormal – the ‘short bus’ interlude was a hilarious one, as you might imagine. Due to less than fortunate family circumstances I came up pretty rough and unsupervised, and would up heavily involved in crime, drugs & violence: outlaw bikers & black radicals, gang bangers & Italians, a lot of craziness. Wound up homeless a couple of times and have been briefly incarcerated here and abroad, though never in prison. I’m self educated due to omnivorous reading.