Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Chris Orlet to discuss his new book, A Taste of Shotgun (All Due Respect).
Congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you pitch A Taste of Shotgun to potential readers?
I hope A Taste of Shotgun appeals to readers who like their fiction pulpy, dark and with a dash of absurdist humor. A few readers have compared the book favourably to the works of Jim Thompson and Jason Starr. I hope they’re right.
What do you hope readers take away from the book?
I hope it makes them think, as well as entertains. If the book has a theme it is about survival and how close to the edge so many of us are living, and what we have to do these days to stay afloat. How one little thing, an illness or an accident or an arrest for speeding, can lead to disastrous consequences. How the game is rigged for the few, against the many and no one seems to notice or care. In other words, it’s a goddamn laugh riot.
The blurb on the front cover namechecks the 1970s – do you have a favourite decade for crime fiction?
There will never be another time like the era of the great pulps masters, the 40s and the 50s. Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Charles Williams, Harry Whittington, Charles Willeford, Gil Brewer. They are the giants on whose shoulders we stand. Or would stand on if they weren’t falling down drunk all the time.
If you could recommend one crime novel that people are unlikely to have heard of, what would it be?
Peckerwood by Jedidiah Ayres. Okay, so people reading this blog have probably heard of it, but people who read this blog have heard of everything. So yeah, Peckerwood. The story explodes off the page with an unforgettable cast of shitbirds, corrupt lawmen, ex-bikers, backwoods babes, Memphis drug dons and a dogged states attorney out to make a name for himself by bringing down a crooked lawman. I might also mention that it is laugh out loud funny.
This book was published by All Due Respect; do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?
Both, but I do try to keep up with most of the new books that Down & Out & company is putting out because they are just an awesome publisher. Without them we’d all be reading David Foster Wallace and Italo Calvino and William Gaddis and Julio Cortázar. I’ve read them, and trust me, it’s not fun. So buy Down & Out’s books while you still can, dammit.
Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?
I don’t think they’d want to be associated with me, whoever they are. But they are probably the writers who publish with All Due Respect and Down & Out Books. Maybe Broken River. Those weirdos.
If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?
Career trajectory? To quote Sam Shepard: “I’m not interested in a career. I don’t want to have a career. I want to do the work that fascinates me.” To me that means the continuing struggle to find something new and interesting to say in a new and interesting way. So I would choose Sam because he didn’t give a damn.
Finally, what are your future publishing plans?
I am working on the third or fourth draft (I lost count) of two more crime novels. One, called Love and Other Dead Things, is a straight-forward noir. Maybe too straight forward for the Me Too Generation. Might have to tweak that some more. The other, Leadwood, a twisty crime novel, involves the klan, a St. Louis billionaire philanthropist, and a couple of snoopy reporters and is set in the Mark Twain National Forest. (Go look it up.) I hope to finish both by the end of the year.
Chris Orlet is the author of A Taste of Shotgun (All Due Respect) and In The Pines (New Pulp Press). He lives in Saint Louis, Missouri with his wife and daughter.