Saturday, 9 March 2013

GUEST BLOG: Jochem Vandersteen

I’m honored Tony Black invited me over to talk about Noah Milano and his inspirations. Tony was one of the first people to tell me they liked my stuff, shortly after I got my first story published in Thrilling Detective. That site was in fact very important to me, helping me discover many great writers and private eyes.

I first started publishing stories on-line in the horror genre, starring a hardboiled reporter called Harvey Banks (collected here) . They were inspired by the Anita Blake novels, the Hellblazer comics and X-files TV show and of course by that other reporter fighting monster, Carl Kolchak (The Night Stalker). I started out with a third person story but soon discovered I liked first person better. I also found out my mind might be too logical to continue writing his stories. I mean, the stories were really bizarre (like a serpent queen using Banks as a sperm donor or how he used a tattoo to kill a vampire) but the well seemed to dry up after awhile.

I discovered the Spenser novels that I’d enjoyed being translated to my native Dutch were available in English through and picked up a few. I was reminded how much I loved the hardboiled detective’s voice and was shown how big an influence those stories had been on my horror stories.

I decided that it might be a good idea to leave out the horror stuff and focus on the hardboiled mystery part of those stories. The logical investigation into a crime seemed an easier way to tell a story than thinking up all kinds of crazy stuff I had to listen to a lot trippy music for. I wasn’t sure about my protagonist, though. I wanted a character like Spenser or his predecessor Philip Marlowe. I also wanted to introduce a character that felt new and fresh. But how was I going to do that with all these PI’s that came before. How to please their audience and still come out with something original?

Dennis Lehane showed me that with his novel Gone, Baby Gone.  Here was a PI that wasn’t an ex-cop, didn’t listen to jazz and drove a freaking Porsche. That was the spark I’d been looking for. My own detective would be young and listen to metal, just like I did. He wasn’t going to be an ex-cop but something more original. Taking my inspiration from the intriguing Xena, Warrior Princess show of that time I decided like her, my character would be someone with a criminal past trying to make an honest living. Noah Milano was born.

He appeared in numerous short stories online (collected here) and a full novel before starring in regular Kindle novelettes and novellas. With this novelette format I felt I had found the ideal way to publish fast-paced mysteries that would appeal to old an new fans alike.

A lot of people think I got my inspiration from the early pulps. They’re partly wrong. I was especially inspired by the newer detectives I discovered through the Thrilling Detective site  like Milan Jacovich, Tres Navarre, Amos Walker, Matt Scudder and of course Elvis Cole. Those heroes owe a lot to the early stuff, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and all the other Black Mask boys. That’s why I seem to be influenced by the early classics. You just can’t be writing the genre without being inspired by the source material that inspired us all.

I’m in pretty good company these days as a self-publishing PI writer. My blog, Sons of Spade offers a lot of review of (e-)books featuring writers that give their own little spin to the familiar archetype. I really enjoy discovering great PI’s that might have been hugely succesfull in the nineties when the genre seemed to be more popular but now have to self-publish their stories. That’s not because of the quality, mind you! People like MD Grayson, Nathan Gottlieb, Sean Dexter and many others write great mysteries that deserve to be read. I also enjoy paying attention to the characters that followed Jack Reacher, hardboiled investigators who are often soldier than detective, but like Philip Marlowe follow their own rules and bring justice to this world in a knight-errant role.

After more then 10 years Noah Milano is still out there, trying to come to grips with a tragic and dark past. In fact, the newest novella is all about that.

Years ago Noah Milano was the son and bodyguard of gangster boss Robert Milano. He was forced to shoot Lisa Waxman's father, turning her into an orphan, saddling him with a lifetime of guilt.
Now, Noah Milano has broken off all ties to his father and tries to make an honest living as a security specialist. He finds out Lisa's stepfather is accused of being one of the vilest, most sadistic serial killers of California. This is Noah's chance to find redemption. He swears to prove his innocence. It seems not everyone agrees with his quest, though. Soon not only Noah but his dearest friends are in mortal danger...

:: Jochem Vandersteen's Guilt is available now. Visit his blog at: