Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Los Angeles vs San Francisco?

Today is Stephen Jay Schwart's second day as GrandMaster.

From Rebecca: You did such an amazing job of setting the stage in your previous novel, BOULEVARD, in Los Angeles. After working so hard to set up the city, why did you move your next novel, BEAT, to San Francisco?

Stephen: I wanted Los Angeles to be one of the characters in BOULEVARD. In the same way, I wanted San Francisco to be a character in BEAT. And, if I get the opportunity to write a third Hayden book, then Amsterdam will be a character in that book. Yes, I know, Amsterdam. Where do I go from there? I might have to establish a sex colony on Mars.

Wherever Hayden Glass goes, he brings his baggage along. I like to see his mindset juxtaposed to different environments. Los Angeles is a cool, dark setting, one he knows well from having cruised all the major boulevards. He feels comfortable in its creepy, dusty corners. While there are many beautiful things in LA, Hayden sees only the grime. Much of that has to do with being a homicide detective. But a lot of it comes from his addiction and where it takes him. In some ways the City is a co-conspirator. It knows the real Hayden, it has shared his many dark secrets. In one section I write about how Hayden arrives at a murder scene and he recognizes the hotel from having spent time there with a prostitute years before. I describe it as such: “The two-story motel sat like a dirty old heroin addict nodding slowly, as if recognizing Hayden from a hazy night they’d shared long ago. The second-story windows had yellowing shades pulled half-mast like drugged-out eyes squinting at the streetlamps.”

I took Hayden to San Francisco because I wanted the city to befriend and torture him, to lure him into her secret, private places then slap him down for trusting her. San Francisco is such a vibrant city, filled with sexual triggers. It is a city that challenges his morals. It has a completely different attitude towards sex, too. The residents almost voted to legalize prostitution recently, so a lot of them don’t understand what the big deal is. It’s just sex, right? How can you be addicted to sex? But Hayden can’t even enter a strip club without falling into a binge cycle. He’s always on the edge, and the city tempts and challenges him every step of the way. Plus, I like him out of his element, a fish out of water. There’s a lot of inherent humor that comes from his LAPD attitude juxtaposed to the freewheeling attitude of the San Francisco cops. I think the characters in BEAT are richer and more vibrant, too, since I leaned on real SFPD officers as models.

11 comments:

Rebecca Cantrell said...

Thanks for stopping by, Stephen!

I can't wait to see San Francisco through Hayden's eyes, even if it means I will be driving around on edge forever after. Hayden defintely sees things I don't see and goes places I don't go.

A launch at the Beat Museum? How inspired! I hope I can make it!

Hope you enjoy your week here and good luck again with the paperback Boulevard and the hardcover Beat!

Signing off from Milwaukee!

Jen Forbus said...

Yay Stephen!

You are making me think of James Lee Burke...battling addiction, setting as character. Is he an influence on you or is this purely coincidental?

Stephen Jay Schwartz said...

Thanks for checking in from Milwaukee, Becky! Keep chugging along on that tour.

Jen - I am absolutely going to have to start reading James Lee Burke. Unfortunately, I read few books in the mystery/thriller genre before tackling Boulevard. I did read a lot of Jim Thompson, but after that it was Kerouac and Bukowski and Steinbeck and Updike. A strange, mixed bag. I've been introduced to so much good work now and I wish I had time to read everything from every writer I now know. I'm still trying to read a novel a week, but it's tough. Thanks for being another vote in favor of Burke. What book of his would you recommend I read first?

Shane Gericke said...

Wow! Rebecca typed that first comment right across the table from me ... how cool is that? We're at a table at a Barnes & Noble in the Milwaukee suburbs, between her TV appearance this morning and our joint signing in Mequon tonight. Technology rules!

Stephen, you'll like James Lee Burke. Helluva atmospheric writer, interesting plots.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Love the idea of the LAPD mindset in SF. I can imagine the humor.

I hesitated to post today, thinking maybe you weren't kidding yesterday. Maybe my photo is bothersome. I can probably change it if you like.

Meredith Cole said...

2 criminal minds in one coffee shop? Watch out! Hope your event is lots of fun, Rebecca & Shane. Wish I could be there and cheer.

I will definitely have to read your second book before going back to San Francisco for B'con, Stephen. Sounds intriguing.

Stephen Jay Schwartz said...

Terry, don't you dare change that photo! Thanks for your concern, though.

Shane - man, I wish I was out there with you and Becky on the tour. Sounds great. We didn't really get to spend time togetehr at T-fest, Shane! Let's do it at Bouchercon.

Looking forward to seeing you at B-con, too, Meredith.

Shane Gericke said...

Stephen, we'll do that for sure at Bouchercon. It'll be great.

Terry, if you change your photo I will cry. Manfully, of course, but still. You wouldn't want that, would you?

Now me and Rebecca are sipping Italian sodas at another Borders in the Milwaukee suburbs. Signing at 7, just a few miles down the street. Been a fun, though looooong, day, totting around to all the stores.

Kelli Stanley said...

Stephen, I can't wait to read BEAT and see how you make contemporary SF come alive for Hayden! :)

And if you need a lead on a local "massage" place, there's one right down the street ...

Becky and Shane, have fun and sell lots and lots!!!

xoxo

Kelli

Terry Stonecrop said...

Stephen, Thanks. I did feel rather bad about being so glib. Dawn comes late in some countries -- especially in mine:)

Shane, No I wouldn't. But as long as your crying is manful, it's OK:)

Jen Forbus said...

Stephen, I'd probably say start at the beginning of the Robicheux series: THE NEON RAIN. So much of the remainder of the series is dependent on knowing what happens in that book, but my favorite so far is LAST CAR TO ELYSIAN FIELDS. I'm excited to start the new one, THE GLASS RAINBOW. The title alone is magnificent. Enjoy JLB!

And I definitely hear you about so much good stuff out there! I need reading to be my full-time job.