The Interrogation Room – An Interview With Morgan Boyd

Next up in the Interrogation Room… Tom Leins catches up with Morgan Boyd to discuss his new short story collection, More Devils Than Hell Can Hold.

Firstly, congratulations on the publication of More Devils Than Hell Can Hold! How would you pitch the collection to potential readers?

A junkie punk rocker’s revenge unfolds during a pot dispensary robbery. A surf rivalry in Santa Cruz escalates to arson and murder. An escaped convict hides out on a rural farm that turns out to be worse than prison. An incarcerated mixed martial artist enters a ‘fight to the death’ tournament for a chance at freedom. A hitman on the run finds love in a small New England town, just as his past catches up with him. A rockabilly couple hides from the mob in the wrong town. These dark and humorous stories, brimming with moral turpitude, and many more of the same ilk lie in wait within the pages of More Devils Than Hell Can Hold.

How hard was it to select the stories – and indeed the running order?

I chose these tales because they were accepted by various crime fiction websites in the past. I figured if they could pass muster with those outlets, they could hold their own in this collection. When it came to selecting the running order, I fumbled about in the dark, praying for a sign that never came.

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

‘A Hell of a Hideout’ is the oldest story in the collection. It was inspired by an event that occurred near me during my childhood. In 1988, in downtown Sacramento, the police caught a serial killer. Her name was Dorothy Puente. She murdered her boarders to cash their social security checks, and buried their bodies in her backyard. When I wrote ‘A Hell of a Hideout’ I was trying to imitate Jim Thompson. These days, I don’t try to imitate other writers. Through lots of practice and life experience, I’ve been working on developing my own writing voice.

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

I don’t have a favorite, but there is a line I really like. In the story ‘Charlie Knuckles’ the protagonist says, “He’s just a scared little cow, and I’m the big bad hamburger factory.” I don’t tend to laugh at my own writing, but this line made me chuckle.

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

I hope that readers take away a bit of entertainment from these stories, and that it makes readers want to further explore the genre, and discover some of the amazing contemporary crime fiction out there in the scene.

Do you read mainstream crime fiction, or are your tastes firmly rooted in the independent scene? Which authors are on your must-read list?

I mostly just read indie when it comes to crime. I definitely consider Tom Leins a must read! Your writing is very descriptive, action driven, and laconic. How do you fit these big stories into such brief tales? There are many must-read independent authors out there. Presently, the I’m about to delve into books by Chris McGinley, Tom Pitts, Rob Pierce, Alec Cizak, Patrick Whitehurst, and Preston Lang.

Which contemporary writers do you consider to be your peers?

I still feel very nascent in the independent crime scene, so it is hard to think of others as my peers. I’m amazed at how many writers that I look up to have taken the time to talk to me, to give me encouragement, to point out my mistakes, and to read my work. I consider most of these writers more as mentors than peers. Guys and gals like Tom Pitts, Patrick Whitehurst, Paul D. Brazill, Travis Richardson, Bill Baber, Rob Pierce, Jesse “Heels” Rawlins, Jim Shaffer, Kimmy Dee, Robert Ragan, Mick Rose, Jason Beech, and Beau Johnson are just a few.

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

Fuck, that’s tough. If I had a say in the matter, I’d reach for the stars, and go with William Shakespeare. His writing is miles ahead of anything else I have ever read. Not only does every educational institution around the world worship Shakes, but you can buy his image on socks four hundred years after his death. You know you’ve made it when they steal your skull from your grave.

Finally, what are your future publishing plans?

I’m excited to have a short story coming out soon in the Octopi From The Sky anthology from Dumpster Fire Press. Beyond that, I’m hoping to pull off a comedic crime fiction novella, but, well, it’s a fine line between funny and shitty.

Bio: Morgan Boyd is an educator, living on the Monterey Peninsula with his wife and daughter. He has an MA in Television, Film, Radio, and Theatre from San Jose State University. Morgan has had his stories published in Out of the Gutter, Switchblade Magazine, Near to the Knuckle, Yellow Mama, Tough, Punk Noir Magazine, Shotgun Honey, and various other crime fiction websites.

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The Interrogation Room – Dead-End Jobs Special – Michael A. Gonzales and Mark Slade

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 Michael A. Gonzales (‘City of Lead’) and Mark Slade (‘Get Born Again’) discussing their respective contributions!

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

MAG: I might be the only writer in the book that has ever been targeted by a hitman. Actually, my next-door neighbour’s ex-girlfriend put a hit on him, but the hired gun shot me instead. That was why I decided to write ‘City of Lead’ from the point of view of the person who knows he has a contract on him. Beside the wonderful 1976 movie Mikey & Nicky, I don’t personally know another tale that spends so much time with the soon to be deceased.  In my story the main character is named Blue. He seems like a nice guy, but he actually isn’t, especially in the eyes of the women he’s dated. The killer in ‘City of Lead’ teases the lead character Blue, who knows that something bad is going to happen to him. He just doesn’t know what or when it will happen.  Blue’s paranoid and afraid, but all he can do is wait for the pain.

MS: My hitman is overweight, not very smart and not really very good at his job. But he’s always lucky! What might make him unique in the genre is he’s a family man.

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

MAG: It did. I’ve thought about this story for years before actually writing it. Also, in hitman books and films, they’re usually told from in the voice of the hitter; I wanted to do that was the opposite of that while still making the killer important. When I was in high-school I often got in trouble for writing papers that weren’t exactly what was asked for; with ‘City of Lead’, I’m thankful (editor) Andy Rausch let me slide.

MS: It went exactly as planned – and I can’t say that for all my stories. I kinda had the plot in my head for a few years, but I didn’t have the character – until Andy [Rausch] asked me to write a story for his hitman anthology. I recalled an episode of The Rockford Files where actor Michael Lerner played a professional snitch. I think I wrote it in a week. Maybe a few days. The ending was the hardest part to write.

Who is your favourite fictional hitman, and why?

MAG: Though I write all types of stories, my crime pieces are usually centered in Harlem and other urban environments. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), which takes place in Brooklyn, is one of my favourite films and the hitman, played by Forest Whitaker, was just so cool. Director Jim Jarmusch is one of my favourite American directors and he made an arty Blaxploitation flick with a great soundtrack by RZA. I wanted ‘City of Lead’ to be just that. Like, what would happen if Chester Himes collaborated with Jean-Patrick Manchette on a screenplay produced by Luc Besson, but directed by Park Chan-wook.

MS: It’s hard to say which one is my favorite. I really like Lawrence Block’s Keller series. He collects stamps – how bizarre for a killer. But I really like Lee Marvin in the early ‘60s version of The Killers. I also like Alan Ladd as the professional hitman in This Gun for Hire. To be honest, there are so many to choose from. Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner in Prizzi’s Honor also get an honorable mention.

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

MAG: I grew-up in New York City in the 1970s, when many slum lords were burning down their properties to collect the insurance. Many people know about the Bronx, but the truth is, it was happening all over the city. That said, the criminal archetype I choose are arsonists.  Who are these people that the landlords hired to burn down apartment building, stores and factories? I would read that anthology in a heartbeat. 

MS: I’m actually putting one together. It’s called Born Under a Bad Sign: 13 Tales of Bad Luck. Unlucky criminals. Jim Thompson-type stories. Some are mixed with horror, others are SF/noir tales. I think it will turn out really good. Screaming Eye Press will put it out. It’s a publisher I started with Chauncey Haworth, Lothar Tuppan and artist Cameron Hampton.

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