My good friend, Al Stevens, was kind enough to let me interview him today. I just love this guy and I know you're going to love his book. His new release is now available on Amazon--it is a smart, tightly-written novel with just enough comedy and suspense to keep the pages turning. I honestly laughed out loud while reading some of the parts...and I don't often do that when I read a book, but Al is just so skilled at writing humor. I just fell in love with his main protagonist, Stanley Bentworth. Perhaps I'm biased in saying that (since I was a beta reader for his novel) but even if I wasn't his beta, I would've liked the book anyway! And I'm not even a crime-sleuth fan! I am commanding all of you minions to check out his book! And also, his WEBSITE.
Somebody has taken a shot at Stanley Bentworth in a hit-and-run drive-by, and the soft-boiled detective doesn’t know who wants him dead or why. Then, when a stranger who resembles Stanley is gunned down in broad daylight, Stanley wonders which of them was the intended victim.
The wise-cracking, hard-drinking former homicide detective finds himself drawn into the murder investigation when Georgia, his double’s widow, asks him to take the case. She believes that the killers will be gunning for her next in the most hostile of corporate takeovers.
If Stanley takes the case, he puts himself back in the line of fire. But if he fails to crack it, Georgia could be next on the list.
So now that we know a little about the book, let's get straight to the interview, shall we? *motions for Al to sit in the red chair*
VC: First off, I want to thank you for coming on my blog! It isn't often I get to interview my friends, so I really am excited to have you here with us today. What is your modus operandi? What do you write? WHY do you write?
Al: My writing routine is uncomplicated. After breakfast I go to my studio, turn on the computer, and write until I need a break. I write all kinds of narrative prose from magazine articles to full-length novels. I do it because I enjoy it. Unlike many writers I am not moved by some invisible muse. I do not connect spiritually with my characters, go all ethereal about it and roll my eyes and wave my hands in the air. It is an art and a craft, and I like doing it.
VC: Any particular genre you like the most? Why?
Al: Lately, I’ve been writing mysteries. I have two detective stories self-published, one geezer-lit cozy mystery under contract and due out early next year, and a suspense novel based on the JFK assassination. That book is in the trunk waiting for a timely release. An agent is looking at it, but I don’t have high hopes.
Most of my writing before I retired was technical computer programming titles. I enjoyed that all the years I did it, and the pay was good, but the industry didn’t stop changing just because I retired, and my technical knowledge is rusty. The industry calls it “paradigm shifts.” I call it “shift happens.”
VC: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Al: Personal experiences and people I’ve known whose quirks and quotes contribute to my characters’ personalities. I’ve had a varied life, having worked at several professions in many parts of the world. It sounds more intriguing than it really was. I know accountants who’ve had more fun than I had.
VC: Oh stop, Al. You are one of the most interesting people I've ever met! I really enjoyed all of our email conversations and learning more about you while we were working together. I think your readers will find you just as fascinating as I do. Speaking of which, what do you hope your readers get out of your work?
Al: Entertainment. Release from the concerns and issues of contemporary society. Moments away from their own personal issues. A few laughs.
VC: Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?
Al: Writing. At night I play music. Not as much as before. Things have slowed up a bit thanks to the economy.
I retired from all the office and necktie bullshit a while back. I was a consultant to companies and government agencies who needed computer software analysis and programming. During which I was writing, too. I don’t own a necktie. I guess I’ll have to buy one for the Pulitzer ceremonies.
VC: Hahahaha! See? I think you'd look great in a tie! What are your goals in life? What are you proud of?
Al: To make it enough more years to get all my stories written. I have lots of projects in the bin. My memoirs as a jazz musician is among them. A compilation and analysis of the letters my parents exchanged during WWII is another. I want to write a book titled something like, “Stupid Things I Have Done in Small Airplanes - How the Mile-high Club Can Get You Killed.”
I am proud of the fifteen years I was a columnist for Dr. Dobb’s Journal. http://www.drdobbs.com
VC: How many accountants can say they've worked as a jazz musician? Not many, I'm sure. My dad was an accountant and there wasn't one creative bone in his entire body. If you could describe yourself in three words, which three words would you choose?
Al: These days: prolific, independent, and irascible. Before the onset of years, it would have been: workaholic, unfriendly, and asshole.
VC: Do you have any passions outside of writing? If so, what are they?
Al: I don’t consider writing to be a passion. I reserve passionate feelings for family, friends, animals, and beta-readers. But I do have other interests. Playing jazz music is most prominent among them. I like to draw cartoons, too.
VC: Aww, shucks! I'm glad you included "beta readers" in that list! Now I have a stupid grin on my face. What is one interesting fact about you that few people know?
Al: I play with dolls. And make them, too. It’s called ventriloquism. But my father was worried. About the wrong son, as it turned out.
VC: Our parents are often wrong about the "wrong son," aren't they? My brother also loved to play with dolls...but I was the one who refused to wear make-up, put on a dress, or make out with boys until my high school prom. And which one of us do you think turned out gay? What is your favorite fairy tale?
Al: Is this a trick question? I want to say Liberace: an Autobiography, but I’m not sure that’s what you are asking. In the classic sense it would have to be Peter Pan. I fell in love at first sight with Disney’s Tinker Bell.
VC: Tinker Bell. *sigh* Hell yes. I fell in love with her too. My parents really should've caught on to that when I asked for a poster for my room. Are you afraid of cannibals? Why or why not? .
Al: Only that it is illegal and can get me tossed in the clink. Oh, wait, you didn’t say cannabis...
I’ve never met a cannibal. I met a zombie once, a very nice fellow. He liked me for my brains instead of my looks. A cannibal was heard saying, “I’m having a ball,” so I’ve avoided them. I guess that’s a kind of fear. Cannibaphobia?
VC: Who are the authors that influence you the most? Who do you idolize, if anybody?
Al: I am influenced by old dead authors of literary fiction. Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Hammett, Haley, Fitzgerald, Baldwin, Rawlings, Lewis, Ferber, Hemmingway, and their contemporaries. And one extant, Larry McMurtry.
I had three main influences as a young person other than my father. They were Paul Winchell, Art Tatum, and Bill Mauldin. Go figure. Many of your readers will not have heard of them. Google will satisfy their curiosities. What might not make sense is why these three men, whose worlds were far removed from one another, might converge to influence a boy growing up in rural Virginia.
Winchell was a renaissance man. Entertainer, writer, scientist. He had a troubled youth and was apparently not an admirable human being. But I liked the puppets. He self-published his autobiography. A really scary story about a man on the brink of insanity. He made a puppet of his mother and shot it. He died on my birthday.
I idolize Tatum. He is God. He stands so far above any others in his art, including all the truly greats, that no one else has reached the pinnacle he occupied. He overcame blindness and racial prejudice to achieve legendary status, not only among his contemporaries but with the public, too. Most pianists agree with that assessment. The ones that do not ought to have their fingers cut off and their brains eaten. I know a zombie who will be happy to do it.
Mauldin’s writings and editorial cartoons changed my life. He is mostly forgotten today, but he won two Pulitzers.
VC: I may be only 23 but I knew most of the authors you described! If you could shag any fictitious character, who would it be and why?
Al: What does “shag” mean? Make a rug out of her? Or in the sexual context? Or both? I think it would be Pussy Galore, if only for the name.
VC: See, this is why I love you, Al. Pussy Galore? Only YOU would throw out a name like that and keep a straight face! Hahaha! Since we're on that topic, what is the dumbest thing you've ever done for love?
Al: That’s another book I want to write. But I have to wait for my kids and grandkids to die before I write it.
For love or for sex? Two different books. Is this an interview or a confession?
VC: Hahaha! Nooooooo! You don't have to answer if you don't want to!
Al: The dumbest thing was to divorce my wife. The smartest thing was to remarry her two years later. I tell her that just when I was starting to have fun, she came back.
VC: This has been my favorite interview so far. Thank you, sir. It's been great having you on my blog. I'll let you have the final word. Please tell us a little bit about your newest release and where we might buy it.
Al: “A Dead Ringer” is the second in a three-book series about Stanley Bentworth. I started the series because I had read novels by Robert B. Parker, Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, and such. I know a couple of private investigators, and neither fits the fictional mold of those stories. They drink and smoke, but they don’t get into gun fights, don’t get laid every other page by gorgeous women (one of them is a cross-dressing hermaphrodite, if you can figure out how that works, and even if you can’t), and don’t solve high-profile crimes. I decided to write about them. It didn’t work out that way, but my intentions were pure. Stanley gets laid a couple of times, is a dirt-bag chauvinist, drinks his brains out (to the chagrin of the neighborhood zombies), and takes on a murder case. My good intentions morphed into a stereotype. And I am happy with the result.
It is available on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007Q3E4PG/
There you have it folks! Please give a round of applause for Al Stevens! And please check out his book the next time you're on Amazon! You won't be disappointed! :)