The Interrogation Room – Dead-End Jobs Special – Tyson Blue and Nikki Dolson

Continuing my series of interviews to celebrate the release of the brand new All Due Respect anthology Dead-End Jobs: A Hitman Anthology, here are Tyson Blue (‘Killer In A Cage’) and Nikki Dolson (‘Good Samaritan’) discussing their respective contributions!

Firstly, how would you pitch your story to potential readers?

TB: Ray Vincent, a professional contract killer, walks into an FBI office in a small city in Georgia and turns himself in. Mayhem ensues.

ND: A killer, bruised from her last job, under the influence of oxycontin, and on her way back home, interferes in a kidnapping and finds a kindred spirit.

Themed anthologies offer a unique challenge. Did your story turn out how you expected?

TB: Yes, it did. This story had been percolating in my mind for a very long time, and when I heard about this anthology, I knew immediately that it would fit perfectly. I wrote it in about three hours. It had been a story looking for a home for over forty years.

This is the third story I have sold to one of Andy’s anthologies to be set in Larey County, Georgia, the fictionalized version of a place I lived for eighteen years about thirty years ago.

In an interesting aside, almost everything in this story actually happened. I’ll leave you to figure out which is which.

ND: Once I had the first line it flowed pretty easily. Laura has always been a little impulsive. in this story she’s high and becomes the queen of poor decisions. Laura always keeps her word though so once she’s in, she’s all the way in. For better or worse.

Laura is the main character from my first book All Things Violent and this story is only the second time I’ve written about her since that book. It was great fun to write it and now I want to write a sequel to that first book.

Who is your favourite fictional hitman, and why?

TB: Right now, it would have to be Billy Summers, the protagonist and title character of Stephen King’s forthcoming novel. He kills people for a living, having figured out a way to apply the skills he learned as a sniper in Iraq to make a living in the real world. And at the same time, he has a soft side for some of the people he encounters along his way.

ND: There’s so many great ones to pick from! I admit to loving John Wick (the universe created in that series is so detailed!) and Lawrence Block’s Keller was a big influence on me but honestly, my absolute favorite hitman is Sorter from Guy Ritchie’s movie Revolver. Mark Strong played him wonderfully.

If you could put together an anthology focused on a different criminal archetype, which one would you choose?

TB: I don’t know… a terrorist, maybe? It would be quite a challenge to humanize someone like that, don’t you think?

ND: The lovers of criminals. All these people who knowingly choose to be with criminals, to be their emotional support, are terribly interesting to me. Are they in the life or are they pretending? Are they ride or die?  Do they turn tail and run at the first sign of trouble? Or do they turn in their criminal significant other to keep themselves safe and out of prison? That’s the anthology I’d put together if I had the time and connections.

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The Interrogation Room – Dead-End Jobs Special – Andy Rausch, Daniel Vlasaty and Matt Phillips

Continuing my series of interviews to celebrate the release of the brand new All Due Respect anthology Dead-End Jobs: A Hitman Anthology, here are editor Andy Rausch (‘The Silver Lining’), Daniel Vlasaty (‘Cookie’) and Matt Phillips (‘Trade For The Working Man’) discussing their respective contributions!

Firstly, how would you pitch your story to potential readers?

AR: This is a very personal story about a troubled hitman going to confession for the first time to confess his sins. This is a character (Orlando Williams) that I’ve already written about in two novels, The Suicide Game and Layla’s Score.

DV: A powerful drug dealer enlists a kid named Cookie to do a shooting on Chicago’s far north side.

MP: A man needs a job, right? Well, being a hitman pays pretty damn well. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. And sometimes… what you gotta do is use a shotgun.

Themed anthologies offer a unique challenge. Did your story turn out how you expected?

AR: I was the anthology editor, so I knew I had to bring something qualitative to the table. You look at the line-up of writers in this – it’s a damn murderer’s row – so you have to bring your “A” game. When you’re the editor, people are looking to see if you can hold your own. I had originally written a different story for the collection (an idea I still like), but the idea for ‘The Silver Lining’ came to me all at once, mentally, and I liked it. So, I pretty much knew what it would be right away. I must confess that I stole some elements of it from an unpublished half-finished manuscript I had sitting in the proverbial drawer.

DV: Cookie was a story I was already thinking about when Andy asked me to write something for the book. I had been wanting to do it as a novel for a few years now but could never get it to work. I think it works great as a short story and am very happy with how it turned out.

MP: Writing for an anthology is a challenge, but it’s also fun to look at your own ‘piece of the puzzle’ and try to make it not only fit the theme, but also be unique enough to stand out. Of course, that’s the challenge with writing crime/noir anyway, no matter the sub-genre. None of my stories turn out how I expect…Instead, they become – I hope – what they’re meant to be. I’m just super-thankful to have a story included in this fantastic book. Crazy to have a story in a book with Max Allan Collins and Joe Lansdale and Tom Pitts and Rob Pierce… Just so honored.

Who is your favourite fictional hitman, and why?

AR: Keller, the protagonist from Lawrence Block’s Hit Man series is pretty fascinating to me. He’s a hitman out there clipping people, but all the while, he’s more interested in the next stamp he’s going to obtain for his stamp collection than he is the job itself. Having said that, Jules Winnfield, the character Samuel L. Jackson plays in Pulp Fiction, is pretty great too. Just imagine looking up the barrel of his gun while listening to him screaming and incorrectly reciting Bible verses. He’s a scary motherfucker.

DV:I don’t know. Maybe John Wick. It’s probably not the most sophisticated answer but those movies are my go-to if I just want to chill out on the couch and be dumb. I love excessive violence and almost nonsensical plots.

MP: No question, my favorite fictional hitman is Charlie ‘Little’ Bigger from Jim Thompson’s noir masterpiece, Savage Night. The book, to me, is perfect in its construction, craft, and nuance… It’s also an analysis of mental fracturing, an indictment of capitalism, and a moody examination of terrible motivations and fleeting rewards. Pure brilliance. If you haven’t read this one – READ IT ASAP. After reading Dead-End Jobs, of course.

If you could put together an anthology focused on a different criminal archetype, which one would you choose?

AR: I have an idea about this, but I’d rather not say at the moment. 😉

DV: The more straightforward one would be drug dealers/junkies, but that’s maybe too easy, kind of boring, been done already. A more abstract idea would be stories about “idiot” criminals. You know what I mean. These are dumbasses who are bad at crime, in over their heads. Not the sophisticates that have every detail of a job planned out fully, more like the person who robs the same liquor store twice in as many weeks… something like that.

MP: I thought I’d answer this one easily, but I’m having trouble… How about a Femme Fatale anthology? Has that been done? A male shouldn’t edit that one though… Maybe one focused on ‘accomplices’ or how about ‘perpetrators of passion’? God, I could come up with so many – but guess what? Putting these anthologies together is a whole hell of a lot of work. Many thanks to the writer Andy Rausch for doing this one, and to All Due Respect Books for publishing the thing. All I did was write a story – they did the real work.

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The Interrogation Room – Dead-End Jobs Special – Paul Heatley, Tom Pitts and Rob Pierce

Kicking off a series of interviews to celebrate the release of the brand new All Due Respect anthology Dead-End Jobs: A Hitman Anthology, here are Paul Heatley (‘Killer’), Tom Pitts (‘Company Man’) and Rob Pierce (‘Nothing More Than Death’) discussing their respective contributions!

Firstly, how would you pitch your story to potential readers?

PH: ‘Killer’ tells the story of a down and out ex-hitman who’s given in to his demons. He’s offered a chance to reconnect with his young daughter when approached by her mother to take vengeance on a dog-fighting neo-Nazi.

TP: For those still on unemployment, a primer for an alternative to the gig economy ‘til you land that dream job.

RP: There will be readers? Oh shit. Mine is about a hitman who reluctantly takes a job killing a guy he likes.

Themed anthologies offer a unique challenge. Did your story turn out how you expected?

PH: I’d actually been working on ‘Killer’ in various drafts and guises for about seven years or so, so when [editor] Andy Rausch reached out, I knew exactly which story to send him!

TP: You have to be outside the traditional box. But not too far, like not beat poetry far. Something about the shape of the story or the point of view should be unique. So, here’s hoping.

RP: I got no expectations. That’s a song.

Who is your favourite fictional hitman, and why?

PH: Probably Blackbird from Elmore Leonard’s Killshot.

TP: Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men. He’s a sociopath to the very end.

RP: Anyone but that incompetent boob from The Godfather. Oh wait, there is one. The Jackal, from Day of the Jackal. Favorite real hitman was the one on Tom Snyder who, when Tom asked what he’d do if Tom pulled his mask off, said in a menacing growl, “I’d cut your heart out.”

If you could put together an anthology focused on a different criminal archetype, which one would you choose?

PH: If you’d asked me before this book came out, I would’ve said hitman, but it’s been done now!

TP: Hobos. Criminal hobos. The shoplifting, get off my bench, steal your cans, and stab-you-for-a-bottle-of-Popov kind.

RP: Failed gamblers. They’re always guys on the run, right? Or they stick around and get punished.

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