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 I must confess that I stole some elements of it from an unpublished half-finished manuscript I had sitting in the proverbial drawer.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.