Wednesday, 22 August 2012

PUSH-UPS: John Kenyon

So, what you pushing right now?

The First Cut, my first collection of short stories.

What’s the hook?

These are stories that I have written over the past five years or so and published with a number of fine publications like Beat to a Pulp, Shotgun Honey, Thrillers, Killers & Chillers. They mix traditional noir with plenty of humor. I called in a few favors for blurbs, and came back with some nice comments that Scott Phillips says the stories are “filtered through a wicked talent and a massive sense of very black humor,” while Ken Bruen called the book “noir writ large with a wondrous skewed humour.”

And why’s that floating your boat?

It is life affirming to have all of this work in one place, and to have the seal of approval from a class act like Snubnose Press. When I sit at my computer typing away furiously while the rest of the family is asleep, I motivate myself in part by thinking of that ideal reader enjoying the heck out of my work. To find that my perception of my own work isn’t too far off base, that people like Snubnose want to publish it and that Phillips and Bruen appreciate it is incredibly energizing.

When did you turn to crime?

In truth, it was probably The Hardy Boys as a kid. It hit hard in college when I grabbed Ellroy’s L.A. Confidential in a search for something that would move me. Lawrence Block saved my life during a year in exile in a small Iowa town in my first job, his Scudders and Rhodenbarrs offering a short course in storytelling. From there, it was an obsession.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?


All of the above if it is done well. I lean toward the hardboiled/noir end of the spectrum, but if you have strong characters in a well-plotted tale conveyed with powerful writing, I don’t care what you call it. I’ll read it.

In my own writing, I definitely fall in the hardboiled/noir category, but I do so without a lot of blood and guts. Consider Hitchcock more an influence than Peckinpah; I want to make you worry about what you don’t see rather than overwhelm you with what you do.

And, what’s blown you away lately?

Nairobi Heat by Mukoma Wa Ngugi opened my eyes. A crime tale that bridges the wide gap between the U.S. and Africa, it showed how alike our cultures are at their most desperate despite the obvious differences. Peter Farris’ Last Call for the Living was a brutal tale of the South that shows there’s plenty of material left to mine in that rich vein, and my continuing effort to close the gap in my reading of Derek Raymond was rewarded by the bleak The Devil's Home on Leave.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?

I’d love to see Nairobi Heat on the big screen, as well as Craig McDonald’s Hector Lassiter series. And the novel in my head – not the one I just finished or the half-finished one on the hard drive, but the one after that – deserves to be filmed… if I do justice to the image in my mind.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?

The First Cut is indie digital, thanks to the ebook efforts of Snubnose. I’ll bring it out myself in print for anyone (besides me) who wants to see it on their bookshelf. As for the broader world, I don’t think it matters much anymore. Words are words, and if they’re strung in the right order, it doesn’t matter what publisher’s name is on the spine… or if there’s a spine at all.

Shout us a website worth visiting …

That would be www.griftmagazine.com, home to my own Grift magazine. Crime fiction news, reviews, interviews and flash fiction on the web, and a print version with essays, reviews and a lot of great fiction. The first issue is out (Bruen, Block, Phillips, McDonald, Funk, Rawson, etc.) and the second is under way.

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …

I’m an obsessive music fan who tends to gravitate to bands with staggeringly large catalogs that must, of course, be collected in their entirety (much to my wife’s dismay).

:: THE FIRST CUT is available in print and ebook