John Bruening is from Cleveland and writes a series of pulp fiction for his Flinch press publisher. These are modern books that have that pulp flair.
This episode is also a cross-over episode with my Relentless Geekery podcast. The 3rd voice you hear is Alan Baltis, co-host on that podcast.
Hey John. Hey, John. Okay, you got your
Stephen: mic off?
Alan: How’s that? There we go.
John: There we go. Okay. How’s the look, how’s. Looks fine. I got that sort of shiny thing going on here. That’s
Alan: true. You got the, a little bit of glare from the window, but it casts your face in
John: a heroic, it’s a noir kinda thing there.
Exactly. Yeah, I had a second.
Stephen: All the radiation from his monitor and that’s what makes him,
John: yeah it’s gonna turn me into some kind of a superhero or something. That’s what we would hope. Try these, this boy. Okay, there we go. Exactly. These are for like, far away. And this screen is it’s like my eyes have reached a point where there’s no sweet spot.
You just have to like,
Stephen: to nerd it up there, my glasses so I had Lasix a couple years ago when I had cataract surgery, and so I can see far away. I can see things just fine, but up close I. Can’t see. So I asked them specifically my glasses to tune them for how far away I normally sit to the computer.
So these glasses, I can’t really read with them, but at the computer it makes everything look perfect. So there’s nerding it up. I think
John: I followed that. Yes. I just had an high appointment in December. I had a, I had an appointment in December and I’m in the earl They told me early stage cataracts, which really sucks.
I’ll be 60 at the end of this year and I’m just I’m gonna need eight months. I’m gonna need the eight months between now and December to just get my head around that concept. But yes, yeah, we’ve
Alan: actually talked about that before. I don’t have any diagnosis of cataracts yet, but I’m really not looking forward to it because I’m really flinchy Ah-huh.
We’re gonna bring that in about things going near my eyes. I hate putting in eyedrops. I hate, like, when I get puffed at, when they’re doing the they don’t do that anymore. Test and stuff like that. It’s just
Stephen: they’re modern now, Alan, they don’t do the puff. They have a device. They actually stick on your eye and make everything go watery.
Alan: I do have the new one, but even like that the little thing moving into my field of vision and getting uncomfortably close, I’m, there’s. I know we always jump around in our discussions. There was a great book, great Books by Gene Wolf, the Shadow of the torturer books. Remember those? And one of the things they talked about how one of the most base human instincts is to protect your head.
Like you, you react to stop an arrow sword, whatever might be coming at you before your thinking. Mine could do it, right? And one of the ways in which somebody gets dispatched is he’s got two heads and they, he protects the one but the other one gets killed and that still kills him. So there’s a science fiction fantasy reference that even that incredible base human thing of avoiding falling and keeping your temperature and.
Protecting your head doesn’t work if you’re zab bile bro type where you’ve got two heads anyway,
John: guys, I’m gonna go shut my door and hopefully my dog won’t gimme one second, I’ll be right. Sure.
Stephen: Yeah, we’re gonna talk Pulp Fiction. Hey, we got five minutes left, so let’s mention Pulp Fiction a bit.
Alan: it goes. I really, I actually did, make some notes to try to get, I made notes as to good questions to ask and stuff. Here we go.
Stephen: Here we go. Don’t ruin things now. Good questions. Oh man, John, so
John: we started yet, what are we doing here? Yeah,
Stephen: we kinda roll and we, then we figure out a good place where we started.
John: I wish I’d known that. Okay.
Stephen: Alright. You mentioned December. When’s your birthday? The 19th. Oh, I’m the 16th.
John: And now the whole world knows.
Alan: Yeah, so Oh yeah. Oh, no. Security breach.
John: Okay. Yeah, it’s too late now.
Stephen: Yeah. So we know you John.
John: But had I known we were on the air, I would’ve said 28.
But whatcha are you gonna do? There
Stephen: we go. Yeah. We know you, but for any anyone listening give him a brief who’s this third voice on today?
John: Third voice, but only one head. Let’s see. I am I’m a lot of things actually if we’re talking about the Pulp fiction from a pulp fiction standpoint, I am the author of the Midnight Guardian series, which began in 2016 with a book called hour of Darkness and continued in 2019 with Annihilation Machine.
And the most recent installment, it wa was published in November of this past year, 2022 a book called God and Sinners. I am one half of a very small two. Small press publishing venture called Flinch Books. My partner is Jim Beard in the Toledo area. I’m in beautiful Cleveland, Ohio where it’s about, oh, I don’t know, 35 degrees in Midap.
Just coming off of a couple days in the seventies. That’s, it’s how we roll in northeast Ohio, Indian winter instead of
Alan: Indian summer,
John: kind of something like that. Yeah. What else am I? I am the father of two, the husband of one. What else? What else can I tell you? I I’ll, I’ve been a professional writer for the better part of 40 years.
First as a journalist, and more recently in in marketing. That’s my day job when I’m not hammering out stories. That’s about the short version, unless there’s something more you wanna know that I haven’t mentioned, but that, that sufficient. That sounds great. Ask away and I’ll tell you everything or exactly.
Just about anything.
Alan: The reason that we were happy to have you on the show is because through separate paths Steve and I both discovered you and your works and we’re very happy. I’m a longtime fan of Pulp Fiction, even before the Quentin Tarantino movie I had Yes. Read so many Doc Savages and Shadows and G Eights Yes.
And Operator fights and all of those things back in, back to Tarzan and the early science fiction, early horror and stuff like that. Exactly. I occasionally go to Pulk Cons or the pulp section of Comic-Cons and so forth, and that’s when I first discovered your work and. You loved it. I tend to thank you.
I love small press or independent press is maybe a better way to put that. And I really try to my own little Medici. I love whatever money I’ve made from being a computer guy. I love making sure that it goes back to people that this work deserves to be in the world.
John: That it’s always appreciated.
I can tell you, I speak for a lot of small press publishers and independent authors. When when someone says they, they try to support the indie author or the indie publisher, it’s always appreciated.
Alan: There you go. So we’ve had a chance to talk a couple times after you had done a reading at a Lakewood bookstore after I had met you at Alcon in Westlake, if I remember right.
And Yes. And just that, yeah. Each time, I think probably after your first book had come up, then I’ve tracked you, I always add people to my follow list or just become aware of them Stalk me. Yes. Stalk you exactly that. Yes. It’s fun to have. Just to find out that there’s a human being behind these things.
You know what I mean? Any number of offers, they really are. It’s a remove, and I’ve never been a stalker type guy, but when we had a chance to have a conversation and it was actually pleasant instead of. You’re getting a little close there, sir. I’m gonna be back,
John: stop breathing through your mouth.
Yes, exactly. So la last time El as I recall, Ellen, last time you and I talked it was at Logan Berry Books in near Shaker Square in Cleveland. Yes. And you were wearing a mask. As every responsible citizen does or should. And I didn’t recognize you for the first couple minutes as you walked up to the table and I was embarrassed about that, but don’t worry about that.
That was last November I read on Thanksgiving, I
Alan: think. Yes. Yeah right after the third book in the series came out. Yes. And in fact, as I recall, I by, because Christmas was coming up, I had to get something from my good friend Steven, and there I was going, I think Steven would love these.
And so I actually bought a couple and had you sign them for him. So it all is this wonderful, it all ties together. Sure. Have
John: you heard from Steven? Is he still speaking to you? Is he, yay, nay. Thumbs up, thumbs down. Has he said anything? I
Stephen: was super excited to get all three of ’em cuz I’m like, I know this guy.
I’ve seen him before.
Alan: Especially when, obviously Stephen and I have been doing this for a couple years now and have a whole bunch of these in the cam and we knew we had many shared interests, but even amongst the world of. You name it, movies, comic books, et cetera. They’re still more rarefied atmosphere like whether you really like the older pulps.
Some people they start reading whatever was written since they were born. And in fact that’s one of my common, not a complaint, but it’s an awareness of there really are some people that they won’t watch a black and white movie because somehow Oh yes, life didn’t exist in color Yes. Before they were born.
Whereas I had that joy of finding out when I was growing up in the sixties and seventies. Y you go back to read things from the thirties and forties and it really was a whole different world and not now the world of cell phones and so forth. But I loved that the world was unexplored, that there was new technology that really was like jets were first around, ultraviolet light was first available and yes.
The pulps really were some of those that wonderfully popularized and threw those wonders out into the world for other people to learn about. And that’s so much what you have in your series is. I’ll return to those wonderful days. Union City is a great not only sense of place, but a sense of time for those kinds of things.
John: Funny thing about Union City I don’t know I was trying a couple different names for a sort of a fictional town that was part New York, a little bit Chicago and a little bit Cleveland. And I didn’t realize till after I published the first book that there is at least one or two actual Union cities.
I think there’s one in New Jersey and I think there’s one out west somewhere. And I had, I known that I might have gone in a different direction with a different name, no mayors have contacted me yet to file lawsuits. So I think I saved, but yeah, no, it just I was looking for something that’s like you.
Every town usa like Metropolis or Gotham, but exactly
Alan: like Springfield from the Simpsons, I think they called it that. This is the most common town name and they figured everyone to know somebody from Springfield.
John: Like Bedford Falls. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But to your point about history though, that, that’s I’m right there with you.
I have said many times to many people, including my own kids who are in their ear they’ll this soon, they’ll soon be 22 and 20. But I try to impress upon them that the world did not start on the day they were born. And because it feels like I encounter so many people so often who just, they can’t fathom that oh, there was a whole period of history that existed before I was born and important things happened and important decisions were made and circumstances took place that sort of shaped where we are right now.
Exactly. And it always surprises me that people don’t really take stock in that and recognize that, The world didn’t just appear as we see it now. It’s a, it’s been a gravel gradual evolution of a lot of different decisions and influences and decision makers and circumstances.
And it all, it all comes to a point of here and now, but there’s a lot that went on decades ago, century centuries ago and beyond.
Stephen: John, I got a question. Yes. Why? Or do you have any favorite pulps from the past? Any heroes? Any books?
John: Wow. There the more I read pulps and I don’t read pulps exclusively, but the more I do read, the more I, the more no, the more I dig, the more I discover.
I, I would say that the first, for me I don’t know if, I don’t know if I’d call, I wouldn’t have, I’m not sure I’d call it a favorite, but the first for me was John Carter. The the Ed Royce Burrows books. That was my doorway. I was reading those in my twenties. No, I, let me think. No, I was reading Tarzan in my teens.
I read a few of the Tarzan stories. I didn’t read all of them. And then I started digging into John Carter in my, I wanna say my late twenties. As far as favorite characters gosh, I know Doc Savage is the go-to. A lot of people say that, but I have to say it’s Doc Savage.
It just it really is for me
John: It’s funny because Doc Savage keeps showing up to this day in popular culture in different iterations. I remember when the first Indiana Jones movie came out in, I think it was 1981, if I’m not mistaken. Okay. Yeah. And my dad, who, my father who grew up in the 1930s and forties, he, you know he got one look at this guy.
And he said, hell, that’s just Doc Savage with a hat and a with a hat. And at the time, when he said that 1981, I’m 17 years old, I barely knew who Doc Savage was, but then I’m gonna say a decade, 15 years later when I started reading Doc Savage, I realized he had Dad was right. Certainly we see Doc Savage in, in Indiana Jones, we see him in a lot of comics.
It, it just it just it’s a he’s an idea that keeps popping up. And he was a distillation of a lot of, a lot of ideas that predated him. But in the 40 plus years since, He keeps popping up in different iterations. Exactly.
Alan: The self-made man, the doc. Yeah.
The pardon the super, the self-made man, the superhuman man. You know what I mean? We actually, we had a session recently, maybe even just last one or two ago where we talked about that, that the appeal of it to me was how much he Batman follows from him in terms of Yes. He really learned all the martial arts and all the science and tried to make it so that there was nothing in the world that would surprise him, and that he could use all these tools and technologies for him, surrounded himself with a band of assistance that also were specialists in various different places.
And one of the cool things about the book is it’s not just doc wandering the world, it’s the camaraderie of it. And yes, the, like a group of friends do, they kinda like rank on each other and, have their own little personal conflicts and personal achievements and stuff like that. And that was.
What’s your, when you’re a teenager, you’re like, that’s my, I wanna be in a gang like that. I want to be in the g I wanna be another thing.
John: You definitely see Doc Savage in the Fantastic four, I think especially in the early days of the Fantastic four, the Jack Kirby Stan Lee era. I think you see him like in a team from, television in the 1970s.
So yeah, it just it’s that the idea of a team led by a really smart, really savvy guy that, and there’s in fighting and there’s, there’s snark, but yet when push comes to shove, they get the job done. So That’s right. It’s they would
Alan: die for each other.
It’s not that they really sure. Each other. It’s that little bit of, kinda like I had used to have a weekly poker game, a monthly poker game, and so much part of the game wasn’t just playing cards, it was the little, I played back and forth, the little insult, boy your money is warming my pocket from last week.
You know that guy? Sure.
John: Yeah. Anyways, Are you guys familiar with James Rollins? The the the thriller author? Yes. Yes. He, he was in town several years ago and doing a book signing, and I can’t remember which book it was. I, it’s on a shelf over there that I can’t see because I it’s demon Crown.
Demon Crown. Anyways I had read Be before he did that, this is 19, dude, this is 2017. And before he came to town, I had read an interview that he did where he, when he was a kid, he read all the Doc Savage books, and I asked him about that in, in the during this, the presentation he did before the signing.
He said, yeah, I read ’em all. And yes, they are a big influence on what I do. His whole Sigma series, I think it’s called. Yes. And he even has a character named Monk in his books which is a nod to, Lester Dent. Very cool. And this is a modern day thriller writer who’s been a bestseller for the better gosh, at least 20 years.
He’s been, pretty much every book he publishes, winds up on the bestsellers. Doc doesn’t go away. Alan, that
Stephen: needs to be your next talk. The influence of Pulp Fiction. Doc Savage on modern literature and movies and everything.
Alan: That’s right. It’s also worth acknowledging like when he says he read every one of them I have too, but that’s not like most people think, Hey, I read a couple dozen books.
There’s 181. It’s one of the, an amazing maybe Per Rodan outdoes him. I think there’s hardly any series and it like, and also I think the Shadow has more, but I think it wasn’t all Maxwell Grant that is Walter Gibson. Walter Gibson, yeah. So that it’s another cool thing that I’ve always, I don’t know why this is, but I’ve always liked series fiction and if you’re looking to read something, it’s sometimes great.
I read the whole dozen books of this, but there’s almost a sadness when it’s over. And Docx said, which was for years and years, wow. They’re getting republished. They’re putting out the omnibus editions now. You know what I mean? I was like, so happy to have a chance to get. This tap into this wonderful kind of fiction for a long time.
John: It was very sad. It’s gonna, it’s gonna take me a long time to get through all the doc books if I ever do because Yeah. That those are just one of many books I read in many genres. I’d say if I had to guess right now, I’d say I’ve read maybe three dozen, maybe 30 or 40 of them.
But, Okay. That’s, that’s just a fraction of what, of the output from the original series from street and Smith. And of course Will Miller is writing his stuff. I’m reading some of his and he writes very much in the Lester dense style. Exactly. But it’s, it will probably take me the rest of my life to read all the doc stories.
That’s, I even
Alan: back when I was reading ’em, I didn’t read them serially. Haha. I always had a sprinkling of, I liked the the Tarzan books as you were saying. I read, other, not just Pope things, but the mo more Modern James Bonds. I read all kinds of men’s adventure, the destroyers and stuff like that.
And so sure. It was. It was cool to compare and contrast between, the more modern ones that were a lot more death, a lot more gritty, maybe more swearing, more sexual escapades where his doc was pretty much a boy scout, quite mobile, quite, he hardly ever killed someone, but he let people, the villains get themselves in trouble.
The Avenger was even more about that, rob Henry Benson. Richard Henry Benson, yes. Almost all of his victories were not, he plotted against the villain. He let the villain be hoisted on their own batard in various different ways. That was a
John: particular thing. To your question Steven, to, to your earlier question another favorite not necessarily character, but another favorite writer is Raymond Chandler author of the the Philip Marlow books.
Certainly he was a favorite. I and I have to, this is, I hesitate to even say this because it’s almost embarrassing, but on, on more than one occasion, I’d say twice. Two people who have read my books have said, there’s a little bit of Raymond Chandler and you’re writing, and I’ll take it.
I, I just I’m, again, I’m almost it’s almost embarrassing to, to say my own name in the same sentence with Raymond Chandler. But if somebody sees that when they read that I’ll take it. That’s very complimentary. Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I’ll take it. Yeah.
Stephen: all the talk about Doc Savage which I didn’t really read any until I was adult later.
I didn’t discover ’em as early, but there was also Tom Swift, which is almost the kid version of
Alan: Doc Savage. That’s right. Ya, doc Savage. Exactly.
John: Yes. Doc Junior.
Alan: When I first saw the cover of your first book, and I saw the goggles, I thought, oh, this is like ga in his battle laces cuz they look like aviator goggles.
Sure. And of course when I read it discovered, no, actually it’s the gimmick, if you will, the instrument that allows him to have enhanced senses and capabilities and so forth. And so it was a pleasant surprise, if you will, because G eight was not one of my favorites in terms of, I don’t know I don’t have a feel for adventures in the air.
It helps you get around the planet, to be sure. Kinda travel and stuff like that, but, so it’s a very distinctive look. Is that something that you had from the moment you started this series? Or did you try out various different things in your head as to how will I give this guy a leg up?
How will I give him
John: special? I’m glad you asked that question, Alan, because if I can switch over to a slightly different genre, but still very much in the pulp. Vibe cereals. The the cliff pairing hangar cereals from 1940s thirties and forties. One of my favorites, if not my favorite, my all time favorite was called Spice Smasher.
Okay. And I’ve seen it a number of times and there’s something about that look that really appeals to me. It’s it’s not quite World War ii, post World War I, it’s that World War I aviator look. And he’s got that motorcycle. And the stunt work is fantastic and I’ve watched it a number of times and I think it’s fair to say that was a pretty big influence on the development of the character and the development of the story and the development of the whole sort of tone of the of the story and the.
So when I went to Tom Gianni the artist who did the illustration, I said I sent him some pictures of Kane Richmond, the actor in that getup saying, this is what I’m looking for. And he really understood. He really got the, he understood the tone that I was going for. He understood the style and he just nailed it.
The sad end to that story is Tom has since passed away. He was struggling with cancer when he was painting that illustration. And and I went to him for the second book a couple years later, and he initially said, yeah, I’ll do it. Then he got involved in some cancer treatment that was really knocking him out, and he got back to me.
He said, I just don’t think I can pull this off. I’m gonna hand it off to my friend Doug Klaa, also in Chicago, who did a great job and who is now my go-to for the covers. Okay. But but Tom really he is the artist who really helped me bring the character to life in a very visual way.
He completely captured. The tone and the style. I was looking for that sort of CIA tone to that cover illustration. Yeah. I dedicated the third book to Tom and I just it just, it as parting gifts go, it was a, it was an incredible gift and I’m, it’s just unfortunate.
Not only were we collaborators and partners in a publishing venture, we became friends in the process. And I really I miss the fact that he, I can’t work with him again. But yeah, he he really helped me bring that the character to life and the tone and style and the vibe.
Yeah. And it was, but very much influenced by Spice Smasher the serial.
Alan: Okay. Thank you for sharing that. I, the color covers are similar enough and I hadn’t really looked at it. One of the things we also talked about was what attracted me to the doc sandwich paper Max was the James Obama covers incredibly photorealistic and very cool.
And yours really captured the spirit of the pulps in terms of the figure in the foreground, whatever, whatever villain is going on. Oh no. Someone’s strapped to an operating table. Those kinds of things. Yeah. And there’s almost tropes in that, but if they’re done well, it really is what I gotta, I need to find out what’s going on in here, another reason that I really like that is that there’s people that, I don’t know, they don’t seem to have either their own vision of what they’d like it to look like, or they don’t get what the genre is about in some ways. To be able to not pay homage, to, not slavishly follow it, but definitely get enough of those elements so that people who are attracted to that are gonna go, huh.
What’s this I’m curious already, because it looks like a book like this should look
John: you hit it. You hit an interesting point when you say paying homage but not slavishly. I think, and I have to tread lightly here when I say this. I think there are those who want their modern day pulp fiction to.
Read and feel just like the stuff they, that was being published 80 or 90 years ago. And I think that the
Alan: criticism is where you’re not true enough to it. And it’s
John: and I think to adhere that closely to that style is a disservice to the 21st century reader.
I think. I think if you really want to tell a good story, you have to bring a level of sophistication to the storytelling that may not have been there back in the twenties and thirties. And I don’t want to, and I don’t wanna disparage any of those writers. They were, they, in their own way, in their own time, they were doing great work.
But I think we’re at a point in terms of, the audience sophistication where I think they, they want and expect a little bit more in terms of character development, a little bit more in terms of depth. Yes. There has to be a reason why the hero does heroic things as opposed to just I’m just the hero.
That’s what I’m supposed to do. I think, I think there has to be some degree of motivation that, that the reader has to understand, why does this person do this? What motivates him? What what compels him to keep going back into the room where the bullets are flying, as opposed to just here comes the hero to save the day because this is what he does in every issue.
So here he is again. It just, I think readers want more than that. I think writers want to do more than that. I think to tell the same story the same way that people were reading in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, I think is just it is, it would make for a very stale experience, I think.
Alan: I think you’re right.
Yeah. In fact, one of the things that we had talked about was a lot of those were done like, what’s the cost per word? They were churned out on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Oh yeah. That’s crazy formulaic. But it was also just, they had to get it done i, when I read your book, it was like, wow, there’s a lot going on in here compared to the relatively slender paperbacks, various different things. And yeah. I each said of it being that it didn’t have the spirit of, and it was more there’s a lot more going on here. I love books where it’s not just the plot line and enough other things. Certain authors are regularly criticized for their characters cardboard and they too.
They too much get to the point. I don’t mind a little ps I don’t mind a little backstory and motivation and all that kind of stuff. So I’d say you’re like if we’re gonna grate on the Rodney Dangerfield system of, oh, that weighs about an A, your book was nice and thick and there was a lot going on. It wasn’t filler, it wasn’t, I love Charles Stross books because it’s not only the main plot line of the thing.
He has so many other cool ideas going on, each of which could probably be its own book. And I saw that a lot in yours as well, that you had a lot of interesting things. And maybe if you’re thinking about, hey, this could be a series, you wanna lay those little treasures out there that this could get answered in a successor and stuff like that.
John: So thank you for saying that because I took some heat after the first and second books from a a couple, one in particular a couple people, but one in particular who just insisted that the books were too long. I I take issue with that. I stand by my story literally and figuratively.
I, I just I don’t, I, if my feeling is if you have a problem with a book that’s any more than 200 pages long maybe the problem is not so much with my book, but the problem is with your attention span. And all the time, I just I just and that’s and there are some great writers who can tell a very good story in a very short time.
But I, I don’t know that it just, I don’t know. I just feel I could go on and on, but okay. It just, I just feel if you have a good story to tell and you need three or 400 pages to. As long as you’re keeping things as tight and streamlined and well-paced then you should have the luxury to do that.
If you’re just meandering around for four or 500 pages and not getting anywhere and not getting anything done, yeah, you need to dial it back. But if you need that space to tell a good, rich, dense story then you should take that space. Yeah. Steven,
Alan: you’ve talked about how in some of the authors that you’ve spoken with your Undiscovered Workspace podcast, you can tell, hey, some people need an editor.
They really are, they have a good story to tell, but they really don’t seem to have that filter, that focus. So what would what do you think about that, Steven? How did you know?
Stephen: What John said is absolutely true. And the funny thing is, I interview a lot of new authors. Some of these people three months ago wrote their first book and now they’re talking to me on the podcast.
And it’s funny because I can’t say I’m anywhere near as experience as John, but I’ve gotten enough experience and talk to enough people now that I can start to us like, yeah, you’re really new. Because you don’t understand the story is the story. The story needs to be as long as it needs to be.
You don’t understand that until you’ve written some and gotten that out of the way is the past ones. Cuz then you can see the difference in your writing coming up. And again, I’m not speaking from decades of experience or anything, but the little bit I’ve done, I know that now from back, a couple years ago what I was thinking now I was thinking of it.
And that also, I wanted to ask John, so in modern times, why did you choose to write books that were basically pulp fiction books? Because and we talked about the kids and stuff, there’s people that have no idea what we mean when we say pulp fiction other than the movie. So why choose to write that style modernly?
John: You mean that style or that period? Or both?
Stephen: Cause more the style, but the period too
John: would be good. Okay. Okay. Okay. The style, certainly okay. I will say, I would say that, I tried a few other things in a few other genres.
I tried some science fiction. I tried, some de I tried some detect. I just I w I was, I couldn’t find my way in wh where do I fit in the overall scheme of, if I can use the word. Loosely literature, what kind of story do I want to tell?
And I tried to tell a, a science fiction time travel story and times travel stories just make my head hurt. Because it’s just, every time you tell a time travel story, you always hit the, the same paradox that you just, you know, the world we live in exists in cause and effect.
And when you start tampering with that, it gets very I get a migraine. But anyways, it, so my point is when I started reading stuff like John Carter or Doc Savage, I real, I thought, okay, this is a way in this is a doorway. This is a place where I can land as a writer.
So if I can get more familiar with this type of popular fiction, maybe this is the kind of story I could tell. So there’s that. And there’s also the issue of, the period because all the great classic pulp fiction. Was prevalent in the twenties, thirties, forties.
And that’s a real sweet spot in history for me. Not just because, oh, it’s, it’s glamorous. Speaking of the clothes, the style, it’s just, it’s, if you think about what was going on from say, 1929 to 1950, the world was changing dramatically, in, in ways that were just comprehensive and everything was up for grabs.
Whether it was, the economic depression of the 1930s and then the run up to World War ii, no one knew what the future, none of us know what the future looks like. But the world was a very uncertain place. Where’s my next meal coming from? Is my brother gonna come home from the war?
Is my dad gonna come home from the war? We haven’t heard from him in months because he’s on, on sun, some secret mission, whatever, it’s just, that’s when people like, have to make really hard decisions when they’re faced when they’re confronted by circumstances like that.
In times like that. And that’s when I think the great stories really emerge when people are like, backed up against the wall by their circumstances or, how do I feed my family? What’s gonna happen? Are we gonna be overrun by Nazis? At what point did they start coming up the Atlantic Coast?
You know what’s, it’s easy for us to say, oh yeah, we won that war. In 19 42, 43, that was, we didn’t thing. That’s right. We did not. And things were looking pretty rough. And nobody knew what the future looked like. And I think when you’re confronted with circumstances like that, that’s when the really, the people do, they, they take extreme measures and that’s when the really.
They’re really great stories. E emerge when people are confronted with really make or break do or si do or die circumstances,
Alan: right? When I’ve had people talk to me about like, why this really strikes a chord with me while I really love them. It’s and they’ll often say that’s just escapist literature.
And it’s it, there was really tough times to try to escape from, but it was also not at all escapism. It was what you were just saying, confronting, we’re really in a tough place. We really don’t know where our next meet was coming from. We didn’t know what’s gonna happen during the war. We don’t know what’s happening with this new technology.
And that ability to project yourself into those things and say, what would I do in those circumstances? Would I stand up? Would I be a man, be a hero, or would I right, kinda be a bystander? Would I be a spectator in my own life? Am I gonna do the right thing if I have. Some risk, real risk right at stake here and stuff.
And those are the kinds of things that I get often out of those books is that it isn’t just, I don’t like my life and so I’m trying to go to the past or to another planet or whatever else it might be. It’s that there’s always things to be found. Therefore, if I project myself into those heroes, I hope that I would be as heroic as they are and that it kinda, whatever that muscle is of nobility and making hard choices and being proud of who you are.
It absolutely those. They get you, you work that muscle, you get where then in the real world, you can actually say, I did indeed not let a bad boss make me do something wrong. I did indeed not abuse someone when they were drunk or anything like that. You
John: know what I mean? I think, I think a lot of times people are, not just readers, but people in general, they’re looking for, they’re looking for hope.
They’re looking for something to be hopeful about. Yes. And it sounds very lofty and abstract, but I think you know it’s, why do what, what do, what are we looking for entertainment? We’re looking for some, something to hang on to and be hopeful about. And I’m finding that that’s a, it’s a through line that’s running through the Midnight Guardian series and I’m not sure if that was my intent when I started out.
That’s where it’s going. I think that very much, it was a theme of this third book. It takes place at a time of the year when people are really trying to ha hold onto to hope. And we’re, at this point we’re like, we’re what? We’re eight. It’s, it takes place at the end of 1938.
We’re at Christmas time, we’re still rocked by depression. And we know that something scary is starting to happen on the other side of the ocean up in Europe. And what does it all mean? And and suddenly this young kid is kidnapped in my own town. What’s gonna happen to this kid?
Christmas is coming. Is he gonna be reunited with his family? What happens when you put different people from different circumstances, different walks of life in a, into a situation and say, okay, we gotta find this kid. How do we do this? We have people who are destitute, we have wealthy people, we have Christians, we have Jews.
Maybe that’s a lot to throw into a pulp fiction story, but. I don’t know. It’s how I roll. I don’t know how else to do it. I just, yes, I want to tell a fun, exciting story, but I just, I can’t do it without just bringing something more resonant to it. I just feel like I have, I have to bring some resonance and some depth to it.
Alan: that’s I really have enjoyed that in, in other words, instead of it just being, oh, a couple battles of fisticuffs and maybe trying to fight clue clues and stuff like that, it’s actually nice to see here’s what society was like back then and they were working out how to work together in those kinds of circumstances.
It was very easy in 1938 to say, wow, anybody of German ancestry, are we getting worried that they’re all saboteurs? And sure. Yeah. You know what I mean? And whatever aspersions were being cast on the Jewish people by those people. There were a number of people that were buying into that, that are they the secret, controllers the bankers and stuff.
To get people to put aside their prejudices. And boy, a lot of what you said earlier of there’s The world has always had elements like this. It’s not that we just learned about prejudice, it’s not that we just learned about, there, there’s all through history and not just going back into the twenties and the forties, but you named a period of history.
Sure. There’s always been rabble rousers or hate mongers. There’s always been Yes. Diasporas and people coming into new cultures and how are they going to be accepted or carve their own way into, a place in that society and so forth. And that’s Many of those kinds of things, like when you’re meeting a whole new civilization and you don’t know anything about their religion, their technology, their, you hope that they’re not head hunters and human sacrifices and stuff like that.
But there’s no guarantee about that either. You don’t know if you’re gonna make a gesture or say the wrong word and find out you just insulted the king without meaning to, it’s, there were really those interesting things, the clash of cultures and the exploring of the world.
Maybe we were opening the world up in a way that we had never done before of just like the us being the melting pot and having that there were different, what would you call ’em, colonies of, Hey, here’s where the Swedish are and here’s where the the South Africans are and whatever.
There’s all the different waves of immigration that came into the United States, and each of those was. Adding to the melting pot. But it wasn’t always easy. It was trying to decide, are the Irish really okay? Are the Italians really okay? And fill in whatever minority you want, to have us, when will it get to assimilation instead of suspicion?
John: And I try, it’s funny cuz I tried to make Union City sort of a microcosm of America, just all the things you’re saying, just, we have a lot of, I, if you notice, I try to throw as many ethnic names into my stories as possible. Exactly. Some are po Polish, some are German, some are Italian, and just and I try to make it a city that’s, of people who generally follow the better angels within themselves. There’s a bit of a soliloquy that goes on in the second book about halfway through the district attorney ed Gallagher, he’s talking about.
How he’s referring to this Nazi element that has taken root in the city, and he just, he basically says, I’m paraphrasing here. How the hell did this happen? This is h how did this happen in a city so fair as this, that we, how did this sneak in when we weren’t paying attention?
Now all I’m gonna say about that is I was writing that book in 2017 or 18. I’m just gonna leave it at that. When we were
Alan: confronted with that same question, we thought that was a settled issue and
John: no and so it just, I’m telling these stories in a specific period of history, but stuff sneaks in that even I’m not aware of, it’s happening until it happens.
There are things that ha, I have frequently said, especially with this most recent book, it just. Writing any kind of, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, whatever. But writing fiction is a mysterious process. You, on one hand you are consciously controlling what’s happening, but on another hand, there are things happening, subconsciously that they’re on a track of their own, that you don’t necessarily, you’re not necessarily, your hands aren’t necessarily on the wheel.
Yeah. There, I made a revelation about a character in the third book that I didn’t see coming until the second book. And I realized that this character, oh wait there’s an aspect to this character’s background that I wasn’t aware of until the, I, the second book was taking shape and I realized, oh, this guy has a whole backstory that I wasn’t aware of, but it’s revealing itself to me in the writing of the second book.
So I presented that to the. In the third book, and if you’ve read it, you probably know what I’m talking about. I do it, but
Alan: I really, it’s kinda, your characters are real enough that they’re talking to you, they’re letting you know what kinds of, that’s very cool.
John: Like I say it’s a mysterious process, but it’s fascinating and I’m, I enjoy it when it happens because it’s just okay, I must be doing something right.
If these characters are taking on a life of their. And they’re steering me a little bit. Hopefully that’s a good sign. I’m learning as I go guys. I really am. And I just, I, and I’m, but I’m doing it in front of an audience, full of people, and that’s a little scary, it just, it’s I hope to God I’m doing it right, because I gotta, I, I wouldn’t say I have millions of people watching, maybe a couple hundred if I’m lucky.
I don’t know. But I’m learning in front of an audience, so I’m just doing the best I can with this.
Stephen: Your numbers are gonna jump after being on our podcast.
Alan: Oh, absolutely. Influencers, taste
Stephen: makers. Hello. We’ll have to get you a T-shirt. We actually do have t-shirts.
Alan: Okay. But you said
Stephen: something, John, from the author’s perspective, that I love that you tried different things and you fell into this.
And I think that’s a big thing with authors is discovering exactly what you write well, what stories you write. Yes, because yes, we, Alan and I talk about plots and stories a lot and all the books we like, and you can do the same type of plot, but with, serial fiction or steampunk or science fiction or whatever.
And you gotta get the stories that are you. And I think that’s what you discovered with that.
John: Yeah. It took a while. It did. I dabbled a little bit in detective fiction. I like that more. And I’m gonna go back to that but. I tried science fiction, and it just I just, I don’t know, for whatever reason it was close to the sort of adventure kind of story I wanted to tell, but it wasn’t quite there.
So it’s kind so I, you’re right. I just I had to feel my way until I found the place where I could land and feel like I had landed safely and I was in the movie in the right direction.
Alan: I, one of the things that I’ve noticed is sometimes people work in multiple genres, and it’s a very cool thing to be able to put on a different hat to say, no, I’m writing westerns.
I don’t know. Robert P. Parker wrote very successful, detective fiction. Yes. And then did some westerns and did things from a female detective perspective and from the alcoholic police chief perspective. And I almost thought it was very interesting that he was able to create enough distinction between them that it wasn’t like, oh, we had a couple spare Spencer Plots, but he had already saturated the market.
And so he went over here. He really seemed to have created not distinct enough things and enduringly. Created them and fleshed them out enough that now even with his passage, other people could step in and say, this is in the style of Raymond Chandler. This isn’t the style of rubber b Parker, whatever else it might be.
John: I’ve read all 40 Spencer novels. I think it’s 40. I’ve read ’em all. Me too. I have to say he’s a huge influence on what I do. There are moments where I I write a piece of dialogue and I step back and I look at it and I really like it, and I think I can thank Parker for that because I, I just if you’re read enough of anybody, they work their way into your d n a and he was one of those writers.
He just really just even when he wasn’t completely on his game I’d say the second, this maybe the second half or the last third of his career, I think he was not quite on his game the way he was earlier. And there were moments, there were times when like the stories themselves weren’t compelling me a whole lot, but God, the dialogue was so good and I just, I would read it just for the damn dialogue cuz it was just so punchy and snappy and funny.
That I just, I kept reading until his very last book. So that’s, yeah.
Alan: Yeah. I mentioned it in specific because I to flatter you, it really was, your dialogue is very well crafted, it really is. Some people, they really only know how to write ex expository. They really don’t know how to talk.
Like people really talk with they don’t speak in complete sentences. There’s cutting each other off and they’re, you know what I mean? There’s all kinds of more, much more human element to Sure. Especially the wisecracking. It really can’t be, people don’t speak in full jokes. They, they kinda speak with each other. And especially when someone to be able to have multiple people in a dialogue that you can tell what kind of person they are just from. How they do it, what their word choice is, whether they’re simmering, anger, whether there’s, carefree. Yes. He was really good at that.
And I think I see some of that with you too. You don’t to be saying at this point the hero is, really gets it in the neck. It, it’s much more There’s real dislike between these two, but they’re having to deal with a common enemy, so they’re gonna put submerge that Yes. But there’s enough still little digging on each other because they just can’t they can’t conceal that.
They just aren’t, don’t, aren’t the best of
John: friends. That kind thing. And I, first of all, thank you for the comment. I appreciate that. I just I’ve, I have enjoyed the relationship that has developed between Jack Hunter and the the police Detective Mike Duggan.
Okay. It seems like I, for whatever reason the repartee, the banter between those two gets really lively. And it just I remember I’m not a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino but I remember an interview that I saw with him talking about screenwriting, and he said, it’s different for, it’s a different process for different writers, but for me, I put two characters in a room and I just start writing down what they say and I remember I saw that interview many years ago and I didn’t quite understand what that meant.
But then after writing three books and several short stories I get it. It’s just if you understand these characters well enough, you just you know what they’re gonna say to each other before you even type the words. Exactly. Don’t, Stanford
Alan: is great with that as well.
The guy who writes the Lucas Davenport Yes. Books. The praise book. Yes. They, his characters sound like they should sound like Yes. And they’ve grown over time. They’ve gotten a little bit older. They get a little, when they’re under pressure, they’re different than when they’re cool, calm, and collected.
He’s also ave a master gist, if that’s a word. Yes.
John: I’ve read the first, I wanna say the first like 10 or 12 Lucas Davenport books by John Sanford. What is he, what is Lucas has gotta be. 80 years old now. Is that, that’s yeah
Alan: they operate on comic book time where they are in suspended animation for the sake of the series.
Yeah. And actually he did a good offshoot of those called Virgil Flowers, other character that is like a hippie cowboy, but really is smart as hell and people always underestimate him. And the way that he’s a, also able to have multiple series that embrace different kinds of characters.
His latest one is Lucas adopted a daughter, Lenny, if I remember correctly. And now she’s following in the father’s footsteps, but she’s of course her own woman. And in this world of still determining whether we think women are actually human, that they actually are smart and tough and stuff like that, they’re very good to have.
Show those things without having to be like a screed about it. You know what I mean?
John: It just, yeah. So if Lucas Davenport has an adult daughter now, it’s been a long time since I’ve read those books. There you go. It, I think there was a little girl involved at some point, but I, and she is
Alan: now either just outta college and is now her own, I think she’s either doing her own private detective stuff or she’s doing it for friends and then is finding out, I this anyway.
I don’t mean to distract to someone else’s work, but those are good examples of, that’s the kind of thing that I seek out and that I’ve seen in
John: yours. So thank you. Appreciate it. The microphone is on. It’s good to know. There
Alan: we’re going, the show is loaded with poll quotes, yeah, exactly. Gotta write all these down. Arkins to Raymond Chandler. Yes. Wow. John,
Stephen: let, lemme ask you one of the things we love to talk about is all the things we do. Alan and I are quite busy usually. Yeah, we compare notes. So what’d you do this weekend? Okay. We got this list. Every year coming up is Pulp Fest, and I know you Yes.
And Jim, go to that. Tell everybody a little bit about what Pulp Fest is for anyone interested.
John: Pulp Fest is is a, is an annual convention. Originally was in, in Columbus, but it has since moved to Pittsburgh several years ago. It is a collection it’s a convention of pulp buyers and sellers and dealers of original pulp magazines and also writers of modern day pulp like myself and like Jim.
You’ll find anything from Pulp Magazines to paperbacks to you’ll find you’ll f I think there’s some video vendors there. It’s just a it is just a mixed bag of people who just really love that whole genre of, Fiction from, I’m gonna say anywhere from the early 19 hundreds all the way up to maybe, the 1950s or sixties.
And then you’ll have, like I say, you’ll have the more modern day writers like myself. But they’re very much dialed into that pulp aesthetic. Yeah. And when I say pulp aesthetic, because there are plenty of characters who aren’t really technically from the pulp genre. There’s, the Green Hornet came out of radio the Lone Ranger came out of radio and television.
But I, it’s, I think it’s safe to call them pulp figures as well, if you use the general term pulp in terms of the pulp aesthetic as opposed to pulp with a capital P, so yeah it’s it’s a fun experience. I’ve gone almost every year since 2000.
There was, let’s see. They did not have a convention in 2020 because of Covid. The following year, 21, I did not go because I had a family conflict. My daughter was moving into her dormitory at Ohio State that same weekend. But other than that, I’ve been to every show first as an attendee in more in the last 10, or in the last eight years I’ve gone as a vendor.
But yeah it’s a fun time. It’s I recommend it, if any, anyone who’s even remotely interested in Pulp Fiction, that is one of two shows that you really wanna be at in the course of the year. And it’s not
Stephen: just the vendors. They have all sorts of celebrations Oh, yeah. Of different authors.
Yes. And they have talks and
John: yes, you’re right. There’s the whole pro programming aspect as well. You’ve got great presentations about artists, about writers, about. Specific periods about certain publishers who specialized in in, in certain kinds of genres. They have in the past had guests of honor, but they haven’t had really good luck with that in the last couple years.
People backing out pe a lot of the guests of honors are getting up there in years and they sometimes they they commit to coming, but then they can’t because of an illness or something. I think they’ve. For the time being. They’ve done away with the whole guest of honor concept.
But yeah, there’s a lot of great presentations in the late afternoon and evenings that just in addition to the dealer room where we actually go and buy cool stuff. Yeah,
Alan: exactly. One of the things I love about going to those conventions is we are, none of us are getting younger and Yeah, just like they had a big project like from the Smithsonian or something like that, where they were determined to talk to as many makers of Appalachian music.
Because they were dying, they were leaving us. And if we don’t capture so much of that is oral history and especially oral performance we’re gonna lose it. And that’s one of the joys of going to pulp conventions, comic book, science fiction conventions that you really get to meet the Ray Bradbury’s of the world before we lose them.
The that we’ve already, yeah. Any number of help. People are already gone, but there, there’s. Like you said, maybe it’s unfortunate that the guest of honor you really would like to meet, I don’t know, Hugo Greens back. Is he still around? No, I don’t think so. No. No. There’s all kinds of No, he fantasy figures that I would just love to have one more conversation with.
So at least there is this wonderful venue. I’m not sure the organizers are, but labor of love to say, all the people that were into this, we’re going to have a way that we’re all gonna gather for three, four days and we’ll just revel, revel in the fact that this is still going strong.
That there’s, we get to meet each other and I love that those things are still going on, even if it really is. Wow. 80, 80 years at least since it was lively. But that’s the whole point, is that some of those. Change people’s lives. They really want to continue to have a chance to talk about ’em, to celebrate them and meet the people who did them and kinda show off.
Yeah. I got every one of the omnibus or whatever else it might be.
John: I think, the writers from the original the original the heyday of Pulp Fiction, that they’re, I think they’re all gone at this point there. There’s a guy who who has been he he’s written a lot of like adult westerns.
His name is Robert Rani. He’s still alive. He’s in his early seventies, I think. And the plan was for him to be the guest of honor at last year’s show. And the plan was for me to interview him on stage just do a evening present guest of honor presentation. I would sit down with him and do q and a.
Yeah he it, the plan fell through. He couldn’t make it. So he opted not to come. And so that never happened. But and he has been called the last of the great pulp writers and he’s in his seventies at this point. I think we’re running out of. Pulp writers from the original era, whatever the original era is, anywhere from, I guess 1940 to 19, 19 70, I don’t know. Yeah. There, there, there aren’t many left and the ones who are, maybe may not be able to make it to, to events like that. But but yeah, to your point, it’s just, it’s it’s a great opportunity to dial into, when and where you can just to dial into that, the, that those folks who really like, slay the groundwork for the stuff that we read today. Yeah.
Alan: So one of the things I always hope in this era of, there’s way too much television to watch, books to read, movies, to watch, but that also means that every single genre king, its time in the sun. It. I just finished watching the Night Agent and it was, like a serialized maybe 10 or 12 episodes.
Very much the government intrigue, you don’t know who to trust, kinda like Jean Lak. There’s any number of people that are really good at those kinds of things. And it the fact that we have Indiana Jones five is about to come out and every time one of those comes out, I really think this could be the time when they really do say there’s more in this.
We could try to bring the buckets up of cool things that have this same, we’re gonna go treasure hunting, archeologically, we’re going to fight the Nazis, we’re, whatever else it might be. So any, anything that might work that way for you? Do you have the the movie options, people coming to visit you occasionally and saying you’ve got a fully blown character you could do?
You know what I mean? It, I would love for that thunderbolt to happen for you. I want you to be shamed by how much money they shower back the money up. Alan
John: and Alan. If that call comes in, I’ll take it in a heartbeat. But I don’t think that’s coming anytime soon. Yeah, I mean, I, trust me I have a whole lineup of actors I would like to see in my who, midnight guardian
That’s a constant discussion on all the boards.
John: Dreamcast. Exactly. I said that because I wanted you to ask that question, Steve. I think I like Chris Pine. Okay. Yeah. As Hunter after he shaves that beard back off just beard’s gotta come off. And I like Emma Stone as Betty Carlisle.
Okay. Yeah. I like, I cannot figure out, I cannot figure out who’s gonna play Buzz because Buzz is a very special character. He is, that’s Buzz is a character I hear about a lot. A lot of people say, I really like Buzz. He’s like the conscience. He’s he’s not just Jack’s conscience, he’s like the conscience of the city.
He’s that sort of, Boyish, good-hearted, innocent, but crazy smart guy who pretty much knows how to build and fix anything. He’s inspired by a couple characters I’ve seen in film and read in books but I can’t figure out who would play him in, in, what modern day actor would play Buzz.
I’d like Kevin Costner for Ed Gallagher. The the District attorney, Mr. Attorney. I’d like Paul Rudd. As Bart Maxwell. The reporter. The columnist. Okay. I think from the first book Nikki Diamond or Nikki Dynamite would be let’s see. Paul Muni’s dead, but that’s who I picture for that character.
Alan: tough kind of crazy Don’t know what He’s little crazy.
John: Yeah, exactly that. Yeah. Who’s got the Yeah. Kinda yeah. Eric
Alan: Roberts Will Defoe, I’m trying to think of yeah. Okay. Yeah, sure. Okay. There’s something in the eyes. Michael Keaton playing a villain. He was respectable, but then he goes in.
John: I, I want that, I want the actor who you put him in front of a camera and you don’t know what’s gonna happen. Like Exactly. Even when you’re the director, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. That’s who I want for Nicky Diamond. Diamond Nicholson, 40 years
Alan: ago a thing.
John: Sure. Yeah. Or maybe or maybe Vincent Donofrio 70 pounds ago. Just okay. Yeah. Cause he’s got the
Alan: kingpin thing conquered now. Sure. Archetype when he was leaner, like you’re saying. Exactly.
John: Okay. But I lo, I love Donofrio because like I say, you put it in front of the camera, you don’t know what’s gonna happen.
You don’t know what’s gonna happen. Yeah. And so yeah and then I’ve even picked out like actors from the 1930s, from that period in history, who would be good actors in
Stephen: that. They can do that now with all the deep fake stuff. See exactly
John: where. Sure. Jackie oh my God.
Oh my God. Lou Gehrig. Why am I 19? The actor? Yeah. James Stewart. No. Prior to the Jesus, I can’t believe I’m yeah. Prior to the Yankees, prior to the Yankees played Lou Gehrig he played. Oh my God, I can’t believe really. He’s like the, one of the most iconic actors in in, in the history of Hollywood.
Gary Cooper, Jesus, Gary. Okay. Gary Cooper. Yes. That’s why I wanna say Jackie Cooper. But that’s just different guy. Yeah. Yeah. So anyways, yeah. I like him as a 1930s version. Jack, hunter. There we go.
Alan: That, when the casting people come to you, you’ll be able to say, here’s the kind of person that I had in my, while I was writing it, or that it occurred to me that while I was writing it, they started to inhabit your, those icons.
You know what I mean? This is they, there are modern equivalents of the, I don’t know, going back to the thirties, who looks like Peter Laurie who looks like or acts like, and Sidney Green Street and the whole Sam Spade that is Humphrey Bogart. Sure. You know what I mean?
That, that inhabit adapters. There’s things that, do we have modern equivalence of some of those? I think so. Who’s oil detective? Who’s the who’s the wisecracking. Brilliant guy. Is that, so Simon who did let’s see, who’s Scotty in the latest Star Trek movies? Simon Peg. Peg Simon
Stephen: Peg, yeah.
Yeah. But not, see, he’s
Alan: already, it’s funny, some people age out of the program, while they were trying to get one flow over the Cuckoo’s Nest made. Kirk Douglas couldn’t play Randall p Mc Murphy anymore, even though he owned the rights to it for a long time.
So anyway, I’m just,
John: yeah, no, there, there’s whole, there’s a whole generation of younger actors that I’m just not familiar with. There, there are probably some great, there are some great actors who would play the parts that I can’t come up with, but Yeah. But they’re like something like between say 25 and 35, and I’m just not dialed into that generation of actors yeah, I know.
Alan: who’s got a little wear on em? Who’s got the perfect chin, exactly. Yeah.
Stephen: And with all the streaming and all the content being made nowadays, you got a good chance. I could see a station Tuby is doing serial shows now, and they’re free tv, but what’s his name that did wool back in the day?
His show’s now getting, or his book’s getting made into a show. So I would love to see a good. Pulp fiction ish noir feel show, we don’t really have that.
John: Now. Again, if the call comes in, I’ll take it in a minute. I’ll, I just, I’m happy to talk to anybody who wants to talk to me, but yes I’m not holding my breath, but yeah,
Alan: you know this Peace, Steven, I’m sorry.
No, go ahead, Alan. Go. No I’m gonna be the stereotype for a moment. Everybody else says hey, where do you get your ideas? Steve and I often talk about, wow, I have so many ideas that it’s more a matter of choosing amongst and quieting the chorus of all the things. It could be. How do you work?
Do you have already ideas for a fourth and fifth and sixth book, or are you waiting for inspiration because there is something in the modern world that you’d like to be able to, one of the joy. Past fiction or science fiction is, you can really comment on what’s going on now, but if it’s the Borg doing it, then you’re not getting in trouble for being too Right.
Sharply focused on something like that. Do you have certain subjects you’d like to visit or do you have certain locales, certain mees? What’s next for your main character that you want him to go through this kind of trial by fire or
John: there’s a couple different ways to answer that question.
There’s certainly, there are plans in the works for Jack Hunter, the Midnight Guardian. We’re, it should be fairly clear by now to anyone who has read all three books that we are, we’re careening towards World War ii. And, and here’s this guy in this city.
This sort of cosmo if cosmopolitan is a word that you can use in the context of the 1930s, here’s this guy who, with this, with this, these abilities, these enhanced abilities that are almost like a secret weapon. And the question becomes at what point do you know do people in positions of power and authority recognize this guy could be an asset?
And that’s all I’m gonna say, but okay. We’re heading in a direction where we’re heading towards international conflict. And, and here’s somebody who can do things that most people can’t. Okay. And at what point does that become, a secret weapon of some kind?
Alan: Is it gonna be by request or is it gonna be dragooned into doing
John: it? Because, Hey, that’s a very good question and I have an answer to that, but I’m not gonna tell you. Okay. But then another way to answer that question, Alan, is, there are others, there are other. Periods of history that I would like to explore.
And there’s the whole Cold War thing. And all I’m gonna say about that is I have introduced, I have already introduced a character who you will likely see again in a different series. Taking place in a slightly different period of history. Interesting. And
Alan: the making of the generational saga.
John: Yeah. Yeah. So there’s that. It, it, what my, my problem and I is that I’m interested in too many things. Yeah. Recently I’m familiar, recently I’ve developed this fascinat I’ve always had I I’ve always enjoyed delving into the various aspects of, the history of World War ii, the causes the various battles, the various campaigns, the individuals involved in shaping the war, and how it turned out the technology that was developed to, to take us from.
40 to 1945. Lately I’ve developed a real fascination with the French resistance in the early part of the war. There have gotta be a million stories in in, in that whole aspect of is underground
Alan: and the
John: Okay. Yes, ma’am. Exactly. I mean that you I feel like you could build an entire series around that.
I probably shouldn’t say too much that no one steals any ideas, but okay. And, and then there’s in the last couple months I’ve been working on a couple of short stories, westerns actually. One is for a flinch book that’s flinch anthology that’s coming out in mid-year.
And another one is for an anthology being published by Storm Gate Press. I’m not, if not sure you’re familiar with them or not. So I’m immersed in like the whole western genre right now. I’m like eating, sleeping, and breathing. I’m reading a lot of westerns is to immerse myself in the genre.
I’m finishing up two stories. I’m looking forward to getting those behind me so I can get back to reading and doing and writing some other things. But I don’t know that I ever would pursue writing Western novels on a regular basis, although I wouldn’t rule it out. It’s a genre that’s very foreign to me.
There’s something in there about scale, the sheer physical size of the of the unexplored Western United States that just, I can’t get my head around. It’s if you tell an urban noir story, your stage is maybe a couple blocks of a, of an urban city and no one can see much farther than the wall of that office building that’s maybe a hundred yards away.
When you’re out there on the planes, you look out and you can see that Indian scout sitting on a horse on the top of the ridge, literally a mile away. I, I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland. I can’t imagine being able to look out that far and see, a rider on a horse.
I just, it just it’s a, it’s sense. It’s a sense of scale that I really struggle with. It’s just you look out and all you can see is open land and mountains and sky. I just, yeah. I just, it’s
Alan: a very cool observation, and I have been, yeah, we’ve been all over the United States traveling, and that’s one of the things, once you get out, the mountains are bigger, the valleys are bigger.
You really can get we’re at the top of one mountain. You look down the valley to the other one, and it’s that looks like. We’re gonna be, we’re gonna be at the mountains, soon, and then you drive a whole day and you’re adopted that next set of mountains. You know what I mean?
John: And for a writer who’s not familiar with that kind of landscape, because he’s never lived in a landscape like that, I think that’s a big leap to just to try and write stories that take place on a stage that is that large and that wide open and that sparsely populated.
It’s just like the whole style of storytelling I think becomes different because, your sense of space is different. And that’s not to say I never would do it or never would wanna do it, but it would be a big shift in gears to try to write about, write stories in that kind of a setting on a regular.
Alan: There are others, as we’ve talked about Steve and I, about Louie Le Moore wrote any number of great westerns and yes, Elmore Leonard actually started off doing westerns and turned more to a hard boil detective. And so there are people, yes, that multiple links, but there, there almost certainly is a change in mindset where it really matters that where your next watering hole is as compared to I walked into the other room and turned on the top.
John: know what I mean? Or I drove to the gas station or I just, yeah I went into the diner to get a cup of coffee. It just, it’s a whole different, and that diner’s a block away, maybe you’re walking like 150 yards, whereas, like you say in or you’re riding a horse for four days to get to the next mountain range.
It’s just a whole different experience that’s sense of scale. That’s very cool. Okay. Yeah, I’m just, I’m not sure I have it in me to do that. I, I’m open to trying, but I don’t know. It’s, it’d be a challenge to do it on a regular basis. So do you have
Alan: a writing environment? Is there a certain room where you have certain music, certain, like how do you have a dog, you have family.
How do you get, do you need focus? Do you like having a little bit of distraction? Steve has talked about this a little bit that, Steven has how he works best and I have never taken on any big works, but I’m often at the computer and I’m writing my little essays, but I don’t need to isolate myself necessarily to do that.
I do it more with coding cause I’m a computer guy. So back to you. Do you have a happy place, time, et cetera? Do you outlast everybody and do it at two in the morning? What do you do?
John: It’s funny because I will tell you right now that the, this laptop and the camera that is embedded in this laptop is carefully positioned so that you don’t.
The freaking mess that is in this office. Chaos. Okay. Yeah. Yes. I turn this maybe like an inch and a half and you’d see a very different picture, but
Alan: the reason I use backdrops is so that you can’t see, oh lord, that’s, I’m up in sky in the attic. Who’s a lot of stuff. This guy, he’s a collector.
You could tell. Okay.
John: I’ve got a, I
Alan: see Uhoh. Uhoh. We’re frozen a little bit. We, oh, here’s, hoping it’s just a matter of lag as in cared. Do we’ve lost him? Oh no. John, if you can still hear us, you are frozen on our, we, oh, we dropped. Okay.
Stephen: We’ll just hang here cuz. Yeah, maybe he just, he’s coming back.
Alan: Alright. Yeah.
John: There we go. I got timed out. I’m not sure what happened there, but sorry guys. You just told me you have timed out. I what are we have? We’re like, I guess we’re
Alan: wise or something. Okay.
John: Okay. Anyway, I’m sorry. So anyways, so yes I have a lot of, certainly a lot of books in here and a lot of clutter.
It’s not the ideal but it’s, it is my space. We have, we, we live in a modest post-World War II bungalow. It’s pretty much myself and my wife now because my, our kids are in college and they’re home for part of the year. So there’s more room and there’s more time than there was before.
So that’s good. But it’s also a matter of getting my head in the right space internally as opposed to what’s going on around me. I have to get focused and I have to, I have a day job. I work at home, which is a whole story unto itself. I work for a company, but I work at home.
Thank you Covid. So the eight hours of my day is still focused on that, my wife is very good about,
Alan: yeah. Big pardon? You have to handle the transition between their time and your time. Yes. Cause my wife has a lot of problems with that. She also works at home and she is regularly given more to do than she should have.
But then how much of your life do you keep giving over instead of grabbing some back for yourself?
John: Yeah, and you have to, when you work at home, you just have to like, you have to say, okay, it is time to stop doing this job and go back to my life outside of work. And then you have to negotiate, what does that look like?
I wanna make sure I’m spending time with my wife. Yes, we have a dog to your question. And, he requires a certain amount of attentions. But my wife is very good about giving me time and space to do this. She’s always been extremely supportive, so that’s good. So I would say I have more time now to write than I did say a few years ago when my kids were in grade school, in high school when they needed more of my time and my attention.
I wish I had the wherewithal to clean up this space and make it feel more inviting and conducive to being creative. This room has become like the storage area for stuff that I don’t wanna think about right now. So I’ll just put it from there. But I cleared off this desk for the sake of this conversation so we could do it here.
So it was a good first
Alan: step. We appreciate you not peering out from between stacks and stuff like that.
John: It wouldn’t take much, let me tell you. Yes. Yeah. So hopefully that answers your question. I don’t know.
Stephen: Yeah. So John, we’ve mentioned that Jim a couple times and you mentioned Flinch. Tell everybody what Flinch books is and what you guys do.
John: Flinch books is we we’ve been publishing now for, let’s see, we are this is, we are in our eighth year, I think, or it was, no, it was eight years in January. So I guess technically we are starting our ninth. We emphasize quality over quantity. We don’t publish a lot of titles in a given year.
We average about two, maybe three some years. We’re just a two person operation. It’s the two of us. And we have a, an a very excellent graphic designer who helps us with our covers and our internal page formatting. She’s fantastic. But it’s just the two of us. And we publish books mostly anthologies, but also long fiction, novels in the spirit of, and that’s an important phrase in the spirit of pulp Fiction, classic pulp fiction of the twenties, thirties, forties.
And I say in the spirit of, because to get back to a point we were talking about earlier we certainly wanna we wanna latch onto that aesthetic, but we also want to do it in a way that’s a little bit more progressive, a little bit more interesting, a little bit more We put our own spin on it.
But very much with a nod to that period. We’ve done everything from science fiction to adventure to detective. Jim has his his a cult fiction his a cult detective series called Sergeant Janice. There’s three books in that series. I think he may be working on a fourth eventually.
I’m not sure what the plan is there. As I say, we’re working on a western anthology right now. We’ve done sword and sorcery. We’re open to anything that’s gonna work. We’re open to anything that’s gonna just tap into an audience, but yet give them something that’s maybe a little bit different from what they might be getting from other small price publishers like us.
The phrase new pulp gets thrown around a lot. I’m not fond of it for a lot of reasons, but I just like to think of what we do as being in the spirit of pulp fiction from back in the day right now.
Alan: Straight jacketed by it, if you will. Okay. Correct. Yes. I’ll tell you, I, I am, much a fan of your stuff.
I haven’t explored the anthologies, I haven’t explored that the Detective Janice series. My wife will be happy to hear hoki, I need to go buy some more books. Our best is
John: coming, but really we’re, we are working on a website, hopefully, I don’t know when it’s gonna happen because it’s a costly endeavor, but we need to have a centralized place on the internet where people can go and just see all of our books.
We’ll be up to 13 or 14 by the end of this year. Excellent. Again not as many as some publishers who are cranking ’em out, like eight or 10 titles in the course of a year, but I’d like to think that we deliver a level of quality that you might not see elsewhere. Nice.
Stephen: Excellent. You got anything
I, we’ve done our, or plus I, that’s what we were hoping for. Yeah. I’m can’t thank you enough, John for taking time. It’s been really great time to
John: talk. Thank you. I appreciate it. I
Alan: appreciate it. Getting insight into, who you are, what you do why we are fascinated with these kinds of things and just it’s it really so much appreciated.
You know what I mean? The point of relentless geeky is because it’s got many faceted diamond. And this is one of those things that it it’s not only a joy to read the works, but to meet a little bit to people behind them and then find out that they’re actually pretty cool too. You know what I mean?
There’s all manner of creators that are, you name it, a little prickly or a little, I dunno, full of themself. And I you are wonderfully down to earth and wonderfully aware of. Why you love it and why you love sharing these kinds of things. And so it just, it’s builds my enthusiasm as opposed to, can’t separate the art from the artist where you’re gonna have to, cuz this guy’s kind of a jerk and you’re not a jerk.
You know what
John: I mean? Oh, thank you. I just, I’m just a guy trying to tell good stories, and I just, and I’m happy to talk to anybody about the process, about the end product. You guys have both, individually and together have been very supportive and it’s very much appreciated, I think people don’t realize that, a lot of times a writer needs to hear again if, is the mic even on?
Are people even listening? Are people reading to this? Are they reading this stuff? Are they aware of what I’m doing? Am I just doing this in isolation? Is anybody out there? I have often said, I write my books, I publish my books, I send them out into the world. They’re like a message in a bottle and you just, I put ’em out there and just wait to see what comes back.
And the, when I have opportunities to have conversations like this one, it’s it’s it’s encouraging to know that there are people out there who are not only reading this stuff but actually kinda like enjoying it. And they’re waiting for more. It’s good to know. Exactly.
Alan: Thank you. Breath. There we go. Yes. Okay. Thanks very much. Thanks. Thanks.
John: Thanks guys. Alright. Appreciate it. See you
Stephen: again. Take care. Maybe at Pulp Fest. I’m gonna try and
John: go. We’ll be there. We’ll be there. Yes, absolutely. When’s the next one? August, maybe? No. August. I think it’s, oh shoot, I think it’s like 4, 5, 6, 7 Or is it about first weekend in August?
3, 4, 5 six’s. That’s Thursday through Sunday. So it’s, Whatever that first Thursday through Sunday is. It’s given that
Alan: we were sharing birthdays, mine is right around there. So maybe that’ll be my treat for myself is that I go wallow and pulps, Colleen and explore Pittsburgh and et cetera, et cetera.
So you’ve got me
Stephen: John’s trilogy. I’ll have to get Jim’s Sergeant Janus, cuz you said you don’t have ’em. I’ve read
Alan: the first one. If you’re saying that I might need a very good books.
John: Very good books, very good at cult detective stories are fantastic.
Stephen: Also, if you ever read Kakkis some more pish type fiction time.
Exactly. Is that
Alan: Simon Green? I love his stuff. The Cari Institute, that kind of, okay. Yeah. Alright. Yeah
John: it’s right in that, it’s that right in that wheelhouse. Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
Stephen: Perfect. Cool. All Alright gentlemen. Thank you very much. Good evening. Good evening everybody.
John: Thanks. Take care.
Thanks guys. Bye-Bye. Bye.