The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Hector Duarte, Jr.

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Hector Duarte, Jr. to discuss his new short story collection, Desperate Times Call (Shotgun Honey).

Firstly, congratulations on the publication of Desperate Times Call! How hard was it to select the stories – and indeed the running order?

So, this collection was my thesis for grad school and it was a three-year process batting back and forth with my advisor and having her tell me she didn’t like this story because… or, maybe I should revisit this story here… As far as the order, it’s actually almost chronological in the order I wrote each piece.

Do you have a favourite story in the collection? If so, why is it your favourite?

Probably ‘Cabernet’, because it’s the longest short story in the collection and I really feel it’s the best job I did in the whole thing, where I actually created this little world that twists and turns into itself. That’s the fun part of writing, when you can do something like that.

What is the oldest story in the book? How do you think your style has evolved since then?

The oldest story in the collection is ‘Accounts Payable’, which I wrote for a fiction workshop I took in the grad program. That’s from 2009. I’d like to think my writing style has improved since, in that I can write a tighter story and I’m not trying to impress anyone with my words and language, which I think is a huge rookie mistake.

How have your editorial duties at the Flash Fiction Offensive impacted on – or even influenced – your own short fiction?

I am forever grateful to Joe Clifford and Tom Pitts for trusting me enough to pass the FFO editing over to me, which helps me understand the importance of every single sentence, word, and letter. It’s taught me the importance of writing something that does not drag or waste the reader’s time. Get to the point and just raise the stakes from there.

Do you think crime fiction is too safe? Do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

All kinds of crime fiction exists out there, the stuff that is afraid to offend and, on the other side of the spectrum, stuff that tries to be too edgy but doesn’t really have anything to deliver as a proper story. It’s all good to me. Mainstream or independent, as long as I’m entertained and being taken for a ride. Like right now I’m reading The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell, which many might categorize as mainstream, but the way he opens up that novel, man, is fucking brilliant. Can I curse on here? He writes a grisly crime scene to open a near 600-page crime novel that just gets the thing rolling on all cylinders.

Your collection has been published by Shotgun Honey/Down & Out Books – do you have any favourite Shotgun Honey/D&O authors or titles you would like to recommend?

Go on the site and check out the latest by Angel Luis Colon, C.S. Dewildt, Nick Kolakowski, Rusty Barnes. There are a ton of others up there. Can’t go wrong with that crew.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

This is a tough question because it could make me sound like an overconfident douche but the following are writers I started off admiring and emulating, and eventually met and realized they were very down to earth, cool people who I’d like to think I can call friends. M.J. Fievre, the aforementioned Joe Clifford, Beau Johnson, Jose Ignacio Valenzuela. This is just naming a few.

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

I’ll just answer this by saying my main goal with writing is to just keep writing. If the day comes when I can finance my life solely by writing. And, I mean a very simple life, enough to not have to stress over money and just be comfortable (I’m not looking to make “fuck you” money or anything like that), then that would be the best outcome.

Do you crave mainstream success, or is developing cult status satisfying enough?

I think a solid following is better than mainstream success. Like I said before, the type of career that allows me to keep writing, and in different forms. I’d love to try my hand at screenwriting. I listen to a lot of jam bands, Phish and Umphreys McGee being my favourites. If there is anything to learn from those bands, it’s the work ethic: constantly produce and give back to the audience because without them there is no career.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I’m currently working on a first novel and after that I have an idea that I’m going to keep tucked under my sleeve until it’s done.

Bio:

Hector Duarte, Jr. is a writer and teacher out of Miami, Florida. He’s current editor at The Flash Fiction Offensive. His work has appeared, among many others, in Shotgun Honey, Spelk Fiction, HorrorSleazeTrash, and Just to Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction inspired by the songs of Johnny Cash. His first full-length work, the short story collection Desperate Times Call, was published by Shotgun Honey books in 2018. He loves his fiancée Samantha and his cat Felina very much.

Website:

www.facebook.com/hector.d.junior

Twitter:

https://twitter.com/Hexpubs

Buy Desperate Times Call

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The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Chris Rhatigan

Next up in the Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Chris Rhatigan, the man behind All Due Respect — contemporary fiction’s finest purveyors of lowlife literature. 

For those readers unfamiliar with All Due Respect, can you tell us a little bit about the press’s origins and how it has evolved in recent years?

All Due Respect publishes lowlife literature. It began as a website featuring one short story a month. The book publishing side started in 2014 and since then we’ve done around 60 titles. ADR occupies a niche genre: we exclusively publish crime fiction told from the perspectives of criminals.

What was the first book you published, and how was the response?

God, I had to look this up. Our first book was you don’t exist, a double feature of novelettes by myself and Pablo D’Stair. (Pablo is a legit genius and everyone needs to read his series about small-time grifter Trevor English.) Our most successful early titles were Rob Pierce’s Uncle Dust and Mike Monson’s Tussinland.

I’m going to hit you with a tough question nice and early: if you have to select one book which best typifies the ethos behind ADR, which one would it be?

I’ll go with The Sin Tax by Preston Lang. It’s about a guy who works at a bodega and gets blackmailed into doing shady shit. Lang writes about lowlife characters in this spare and beautiful prose style and as soon as I saw this manuscript I knew I had to have it.

This year alone, you have published/are publishing a number of books by British authors – including work from England, Scotland and Wales – how do British submissions differ from US submissions?

When I was first becoming interested in crime fiction I was reading plenty of UK authors—Allan Guthrie, Ray Banks, Paul Brazill, Nigel Bird—so this feels like a natural progression for ADR. British writers tend to be funnier and take themselves less seriously than Americans, which I appreciate.

I’ve read and edited plenty of books by British authors but there are still expressions, words, grammatical constructions, and slang that go over my head. Luckily I have Nigel Bird on board to straighten me out!

Looking back at the ADR catalogue, is there a book that you wish more people connected with?

If I had to pick a book that’s superior but hasn’t received enough attention, I’d go with Jake Hinkson’s short story collection, The Deepening Shade. Hinkson is a legend and every story in this book is a well-crafted gem.

And is there a book that you wish there was a sequel to?

I enjoyed the protagonist Joey Hidalgo in Paul Heatley’s Fatboy. But for reasons that are obvious once you read the book, I don’t think we’ll be seeing that character again any time soon!

You have published books about grifters, hitmen, thieves, ex-cons and other undesirables – is there any kind of criminal character that you feel has been under-represented to date?

There’s this Charles Willeford book, Honey Gal (also released as The Black Mass of Brother Springer) which is about an everyday guy in Florida who leaves his secure job and his wife with no direction. He gets a job through this crooked monk in which he takes over as the preacher of an African-American congregation in Jacksonville. I love this premise—the guy’s scam just involves working a mundane job that he isn’t qualified for.

So that’s what I like and will always try to do with ADR—small-time crooks shoplifting and scamming their way to mediocrity. Then, of course, their small crimes snowball and everything comes crashing down.

Publishing activity aside, you have written a number of books yourself over the years. Presumably ADR swallows up a lot of the time that would otherwise be devoted to writing? Is that tough?

Yeah, fuck. I was never someone who wrote every day, but I liked to get into a flow and write at least a few times a week. It’s difficult to just pick it up now and then and get anything going. I haven’t finished anything of my own in a couple of years now. Whenever I have time to work, it’s always editing and publishing these days. I’m hoping to take off a few months at some point and write because I miss it.

Last question: where do you hope All Due Respect will be in five years’ time?

Honestly, still in existence. It’s difficult for independent publishers to survive even for as long as ADR has already, especially because we target a niche audience. Five years from now would be almost a decade, which would be a good run.

BIO: Chris Rhatigan is a freelance fiction editor and the publisher of All Due Respect Books.

The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Sandra Ruttan

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Sandra Ruttan to discuss her new book, The Spying Moon (Down & Out Books).

Congratulations on the publication of your new book! How would you pitch The Spying Moon to potential readers?

Constable Moreau became a cop so that she could investigate her mother’s disappearance. Just miles away from beginning that mission she’s reassigned and sent to a border town where she faces racism and sexism from both suspects and the other cops she’s supposed to be working with. Will her personal mission undermine her ability to solve a teenager’s murder before more teens die? Or will her uncertainty about who to trust put her in mortal danger?

There’s also another thread throughout the story. This is a young woman who lost her mom when she was a child and spent her life in the foster care system. As a person who is part Aboriginal, she’s lost all connection to her cultural heritage. She holds on to the principles her mother taught her, which is why she does the right thing instead of what she wants when she’s reassigned. She’s a strong, respectable character. Her mother also represents a sobering reality – no group of people is at greater threat of violence in Canada than Native women. Moreau is trying to figure out who she is, find answers about her mother, and understand where she belongs. And she won’t have all of those answers at the end of this story. To me, that would be a fairy tale.

What do you hope that readers take away from the book?

Some people have to overcome obstacles every single day just to do their job. In spite of this, I think we all hope for good cops out there like Moreau, who tries to do the right thing, even if it means she doesn’t get what she wants. A reviewer referred to her as admirable, and that was such a great compliment.

Do you think that crime fiction has a duty to draw readers’ attentions to subjects that often slip through the cracks?

No. Crime is a pretty wide genre with lots of different sub-genres, and it isn’t always going to perform that function. That said, I’m drawn to crime books that do. I write about issues because I’m often thinking about big issues. If I was a trust fund baby I’d live my life on a picket line, I’m sure.

Your book has been published by Down & Out Books – do you have any favourite D&O authors or titles you would like to recommend?

I really enjoyed Dana King’s Bad Samaritan. Dana does a great job of balancing the challenges a male PI faces in the #metoo era. Marietta Miles delves into stories about very unexpected protagonists, and I am inspired by that. You know I have to stop, because the list would go on and on and on…

If you could recommend one crime novel that people are unlikely to have heard of, what would it be?

One? Literature by Guillermo Stitch. It’s a dystopian sci-fi crime thriller that is amazing. Now, if I could sneak a recommendation for Brian Cohn’s The Last Detective in as well and mention I’m looking forward to reading Shawn Cosby’s debut novel…

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

This is the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. For me, the worlds that opened up to me through books were my escape. I was a very serious kid. I’ve never fit in. There’s a whole popularity/hierarchy thing in the publishing world, too. I don’t belong in that. I talk about books I’ve read and promote what I love and say what I think, even if it’s unpopular. That’s what I’ve been doing online since 2005. Sometimes, for a brief second, you can put someone on a reader’s radar or make a difference to a writer who’s struggling and needs some encouragement, and that’s nice, but I’m nobody in the book business. I’m just in my own corner doing my own thing. I don’t go to conventions or readings or anything so I don’t hang out with anyone. My husband should do that. He’s likeable. There are a few people I’d like to see again before I die, but at least one of them seems to have quit writing…

If your career trajectory could follow that of any well-known writer, who would you choose, and why?

Well, it’s too late to be Gordon Korman, which sucks. But once I hit grade 8 and hadn’t written a publishable manuscript that was the case. Really. He wrote This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall when he was in grade 7 and it was published when he was 14. I’m not even sure you can say you grew up in Ontario if you didn’t read that book when you were a kid. That’s why it gets mentioned on Letterkenny.

I honestly can’t think of anyone I know of that’s taken the path I’m hoping for now.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

In an ideal scenario I’ll be able to get Toe Six to the next level, publish the manuscript we’re half a centimetre away from signing and put out some great cross-genre novels by up-and-coming writers.

I don’t know if I’ll have another novel out. Always depends on how well the current one does. I do have a short story called ‘The Graves by the Juniper Tree’ out next month, though.

Bio:

Sandra Ruttan has been hit by a car, had her foot partially severed, survived a crash in the Sahara Desert and almost drowned. Who—or what—ever wants her dead will have to try harder. Ruttan’s books include The Spying Moon and Harvest of Ruins.

Website:

https://sruttan.wordpress.com/

Buy The Spying Moon

Book Review: Violent By Design by Paul Heatley

VIOLENT BY DESIGN

Author: Paul Heatley

Publisher: Near To The Knuckle

Release Date: September 2018

Set one year after the brutal events of An Eye For An Eye, Violent By Design opens with a raid on one of Newcastle mobster Neil Doyle’s drug houses. His new right-hand-man, Jimmy Finlay – fresh out of HMP Durham and keen to make a name for himself within Doyle’s firm – opts to keep the news from his ill-tempered boss and deal with things himself, only for the situation to go from bad to badly fucked. The culprit is a near-mythical ‘taxman’, whose past exploits sound so far-fetched that they are dismissed as junkie horror stories. The only problem is, he isn’t finished yet, and an all-out war erupts, splattering Newcastle red with blood. By the time the dust settles, it is clear that no one’s lives will ever be the same again…

Heatley’s recent novella The Runner was a nifty little companion piece, but this is definitely the book that fans of An Eye For An Eye were waiting for! Still coming to terms with the events of the earlier book, world-weary fixer Graeme Taylor has retreated from the city, and now lives at the very caravan park where the previous book ground to a halt – within spitting distance of his personal demons. Meanwhile, ‘Tracksuit’ Tony Gordon has traded his leisurewear for a proper suit, and climbed the muscle-bound ranks of the Doyle empire. And as for Doyle himself, he is vowing to go straight(-ish) with a bold new nightclub venture.

Last month I described The Runner as hardcore, dog-eat-dog Geordie noir. If that book’s antagonist, Davey Hoy, offered a canine-level threat, then I can’t even begin to work out where these savage motherfuckers come on the food-chain! The canvas is broader this time around, and the narrative scope more expansive, as Heatley serves up a ferocious rampage across the Newcastle underworld. Suffice to say, the various plot strands congeal in a glorious blood-slick mess.

Violent By Design is a shotgun-toting, tooth-ripping, skull-crushing treat, which cements Heatley’s burgeoning reputation. Cracking stuff.

Review by Tom Leins

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