Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Gary Phillips -- The Pulpster Soul of Angeltown

I should have known Gary Phillips and his work for a lot longer. I really, really should have. After all, I've been a fan of both noir and the Vertigo imprint for years, and Gary blended the two seamlessly in his neo-classic comic book series Angeltown. But alas, I came late to the party. In an effort to keep you from the same fate, here's Gary to introduce his work to you. 

Tell us a bit about your latest work. 

I’m very happy with my latest, a collection of six original short stories featuring Nate Hollis, a modern day, rough and tumble private eye in the big, bad City of Angels, Los Angeles.  He began in comics a few years back for a DC/Vertigo miniseries, Angeltown.  In fact that sequential effort was collected under one volume brought out by Moonstone.

But this new prose anthology from our friends at Pro Se, Hollis, P.I., has two new stories by me, one of them featuring not Nate but his sometimes rival, the bounty hunter Irma Ducett, aka Irma Deuce.  But my buddy, New York Times bestseller Juliet Blackwell (the Witchcraft Mystery series) wrote a Hollis story, as did acclaimed young crime writer Aaron Philip Clark (A Healthy Fear of Man) and new pulp heavyweights Bobby Nash (Domino Lady: Money Shot) and Derrick Ferguson (Four Bullets for Dillon).

What are the themes and subjects you tend to revisit in your work?

I think genre and so-called mainstream writers wrestle with themes of redemption and sacrifice, selfishness and obsessions.  That all of us are capable of both good and bad, that there are days we might engage in both in big or small way and though writing fiction we capture the big acts in our characters.

What would be your dream project?

Writing the short story, novel, graphic novel, radio script and screenplay, each chronicling a part of the overall adventure of one of my characters – one big story arc across those various mediums.

 If you have any former project to do over to make it better, which one would it be, and what would you do? 

If I could do a reboot of my first novel, Violent Spring, which introduced my other private eye character, Ivan Monk, back in the ‘90s, that’s the one I’d like to write over.  Since I wrote that book I think I’ve gotten a better handle on how a mystery should flow, unfold, and sharper dialogue.

What inspires you to write? 

Writing is therapy.  If I can’t write or think about what I want to write, I’d go nuts.  I guess then keeping what passes for my mental health keeps me writing.

What writers have influenced your style and technique? 

The one that always come to mind are Dashiell Hammett, Richard Wright, Ross Macdonald and Jack Kirby – I mean, the King did write but it was his visuals that inspired me to want to write and draw comics that set me on the road to prose.

Where would you rank writing on the "Is it an art or it is a science continuum?" Why?

That’s an interesting question.  I teach in a MFA writing program part-time.  As I’m the genre guy, I get those who either write that stuff or want to try their hand at it from writing the supposed mainstream work.  As Raymond Chandler advised long ago, there are only something like 8 or 9 plots when you boil it all down.  Then you figure the human factor; greed, lust, guilt, and so on.  We know too a mystery or crime novel or pulp demands certain convention yet you also know you have to make it fresh, somehow different enough so the reader comes away entertained and dare I say, possibly even think about the work afterward..  Now with the aforementioned in mind, since I have to take apart my student’s work and explain what works and what doesn’t, it has forced me to be more critical of what I write.

Part of that can be broken down into an equation, x amount of action versus introspection, how much narrative versus dialogue.  But each story is its own thing, so we also know conventions are made to be broken and should be routinely in writing.  The story’s pace and flow emerges and takes us along and that’s the trick, that’s the art; doe sit feel like it works the way you’ve written the tale?

Any other upcoming projects you would like to plug?

I have a short story, “Bulletville” in the, wait for it, 50 Shades of a Gray Fedora anthology out in e-book initially this February from the newly formed Dagger imprint of Riverdale Avenue Books to capitalize of the infamous 50 Shades movie version also debuting in February.  In March, will have out Day of the Destroyers.  This is a linked anthology I edited featuring Jimmie Flint, Secret Agent X-11 as he battles coup plotters out to overthrow FDR.  The Green Lama,. the Phantom Detective and the Black Bat guest star.  In hardback and trade paperback from Moonstone.

And since I’m plugging, for more of my work, folks can check out my website at: www.gdphillips.com.

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