The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Rob Pierce

Next up in The Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Rob Pierce to discuss his new book, Tommy Shakes (All Due Respect).

Hi Rob, congratulations on the publication of your new book. How would you pitch Tommy Shakes to potential readers?

Tommy is a career criminal, but not real good at it. He has major drinking and health problems and, in an effort to salvage his crumbling marriage, tries to pull one big job. They pull the robbery but one member of Tommy’s crew gets gun happy and it turns into a bloodbath. Among the dead: a prized employee of a local gangster. Now they’re wanted for murder, and the law is the least of their problems.

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

I’ve never thought about that. I want people to go through some of Tommy’s emotional struggles. This was written while my own marriage was falling apart, which is why it took so long to finish. I don’t think I’ve written a good book unless I’m emotionally drained by the time it’s complete.

What would be your recommended drink of choice for people to enjoy while reading the book?

Knob Creek bourbon is a prominent drink of choice for the characters (and for me, although to nowhere the extent of these men). But you’ll probably get through the book faster if you hold it down to beer for the most part. Of course, not every shot in this book is alcohol.

You have published a number of books through All Due Respect in recent years. Do you have a favourite, and which one would you recommend to someone who is unfamiliar with your work?

With the Right Enemies is my favorite to date, but it’s the sequel to Uncle Dust, so I’d recommend starting there. Also, Dust probably has the most crossover appeal to non-noir readers, despite its being a noir novel. Not that any of my books are for the squeamish.

Of all your protagonists to date, who do you have a soft spot for, and why?

I love every protagonist as a character or I couldn’t write the books. You know, after he accepted Uncle Dust for All Due Respect, Mike Monson asked me how I wrote that character. And I found Dust an easy character to write, an extension of me without the suppression of violence (although Dust tries).

The creation of Vollmer in With the Right Enemies, on the other hand, impresses me most, because he has so little to do with me. Or most of humanity.

This book was published by All Due Respect; do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene?

These days I read primarily independents, although I read a lot of older books as well. As to reading mainstream, I don’t think I read mainstream writers, although some of my favorites (Don Winslow, James Ellroy, Cormac McCarthy), are published by mainstream houses. I’m currently reading Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird, which is published by Mulholland Books, so you tell me.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

I don’t write like them, but I feel an affinity with Mike Monson and Tom Pitts, two terrific writers who really push the pace. There are a lot of good current writers, but I write primarily about criminals. I definitely enjoy books with good guys, but I don’t relate to them.

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

Tequila Blue by Rolo Diez. It’s about a corrupt Mexican cop investigating a gringo’s murder. As the back cover says, “a labyrinth of gang wars, assassinated prostitutes, and corrupt politicians.” Touch of Evil, indeed.

It’s the only Diez novel translated into English. If I had the money, I’d pay someone to translate the rest of them.

Who are your prime influences?

Hammett, David Goodis, George V. Higgins. Chester Himes and Richard Stark for action scenes. Eastern European post-Holocaust writers for a lot of the overall darkness, I’m sure. I mean, how dark is a crime novel when you’ve grown up with pogroms?

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

Career? I write books, I don’t have a career. Not in this. This is far more an addiction than a career. My idea of fame would be a large cult following. A lot of great writers haven’t gotten even that.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

The book after Tommy Shakes will be the conclusion of the Uncle Dust/With the Right Enemies trilogy. It’s called Blood By Choice and I’ve recently sent it to All Due Respect; no word on a publication date yet, but 2020 sometime is the goal. Like all my books, it pulls in characters from the other books and adds a few new ones who I’m likely to write more about in the future. Hell, Tommy Shakes is a standalone but it includes one character from my previous work and another is mentioned. And a major character in Tommy returns in Blood. It’s one thing to kill off a character, another to end an entire world.

Bio: Rob Pierce wrote the novels Tommy Shakes, Uncle Dust, and With the Right Enemies, the novella Vern In The Heat, and the short story collection The Things I Love Will Kill Me Yet. Rob has also edited dozens of novels for All Due Respect and freelance, and has had stories published in numerous ugly magazines. He lives and will probably die in Oakland, California.

Website: https://allduerespectbooks.com/authors/rob-pierce

Buy Tommy Shakes!

Book Review: East of England by Eamonn Griffin

EAST OF ENGLAND

Author: Eamonn Griffin

Publisher: Unbound Digital

Release Date: January 2019

Debt collector Dan Matlock is out of prison, but not quite out of options. He can leave town – and his demons – and start from scratch elsewhere. Or he can go back to where it all went wrong, and pick through the wreckage he left behind. Two years jail time gave him time to plan, not brood. He knows exactly what he wants to do – and who he wants to do it to. However, the extended family of the man whose blood Matlock has on his hands have been plotting their own revenge, and when it comes it won’t be pretty.

After two years behind bars, Matlock is in no rush to enact his grand plan and the narrative unfolds at an unhurried pace. Violence is always around the corner, but in Matlock’s world there is always time for a cup of tea and a slice of cake first! The pace may be a touch slow for some vengeance-hungry readers, but Griffin’s hardnosed, meticulous prose kept me hooked throughout.

Another key strength is the author’s use of location, which feels authentic and unusual: transport cafes, static caravans and cattle markets all feature prominently. The backdrop for the climactic showdown is particularly well-judged, and provides the perfect setting for the long-brewing clash between Matlock and his enemies.

All in all, a gripping slab of Lincolnshire noir peppered with memorably grisly interludes. Impressive stuff.

Review by Tom Leins

Book Review: The Birdwatcher by William Shaw

THE BIRDWATCHER

Author: William Shaw

Publisher: RiverRun

Release Date: May 2016

Sergeant William South is a quiet, unassuming man. A solid local policeman and a committed birdwatcher, he appreciates routine and has no interest in working on headline-grabbing cases, such as murders. However, when a neighbour – one of his few friends – is found dead, he is paired with ambitious outsider DS Alexandra Cupidi, who leans on South’s local knowledge. As the case unfolds, and an unexpected lead sucks him deeper into the mystery, South finds himself increasingly unable to outrun his troubled past. Can he track down the killer before the body-count rises, or will his demons swallow him whole?

The Birdwatcher is a fascinating police procedural set on the rain-lashed Kent coast. Reluctant protagonist William South is an unusual central figure, and his grim investigation forces him into a similarly grim personal reckoning – which is teased out via regular flashbacks.

The striking spectre of Dungeness Nuclear Power Station looms over the proceedings in much the same way as South’s murky past continues to cast a long shadow over his life. The blistered-looking otherness of the area is extremely well-rendered, and I particularly enjoyed the depiction of a decrepit caravan park now ruled by an overweight local drug dealer and her vicious dogs.

Interestingly, despite being billed as a standalone, The Birdwatcher has spawned a spin-off series focusing on supporting player DS Cupidi (Salt Lane, Deadland). I look forward to reading more!

Review by Tom Leins