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.