Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Play on Words

Mending your ways — If you had to stop your life of crime (writing) what other types of books would you like to write?

by Dietrich

I’ve written crime novels set in modern times, and I’ve written others as historical novels, but by the time I was done, blood had been shed between the pages and they were still labeled as crime novels. I’ve been in book stores and libraries and seen my books shelved under thrillers, the kind of stories where there’s usually the dread of some future crime or disaster. And other times they’ve been filed under mysteries, the kind of stories where the hero is working backwards to solve a crime. 

The thing with thrillers and mysteries is they each offer seemingly countless sub-genres running the gamut from hardboiled to soft-boiled with everything in between. And although it adds some confusion to the mix, I do love reading a good one, no matter how it’s branded.

There are fiction genres I probably won’t ever write: fantasy, horror, erotica, romance, science fiction — although there may be the odd glimpse of some or all in my writing. And I won’t likely ever try a combination of them — no space opera, paranormal romance, or a cozy political thriller in the wings.

There are some novels that defy absolute genre labels, like Already Dead by Charlie Huston. It reads like a hardboiled mystery, but it’s got vampires. What shelf does that go on? And there’s Gun, with Occasional Music by Johnathan Lethem, which serves up a hardboiled mystery set in a sci-fi world. Or how about Stephen King’s 11 22 63, which is a kind of supernatural, alternate history, science fiction, love story. And what of the great classic Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Originally interpreted as a comic novel, it was later seen as a social commentary, and even later as a tragedy.

So, outside of the crime/historical/mystery/suspense genre, what else would I write? Well, I do love the music scene, and I’ve thought about writing another story like Zero Avenue, a crime novel set during the punk music scene of the seventies, that’s right, a punk crime novel.

And I love a good bare-all biography of rock stars and enjoy reading about the countless tales of debauchery and madness from the world of sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll. There are countless tales of Keith Moon thoroughly trashing so many hotel suites that Holiday Inn banned him worldwide; James Brown aiming a shotgun at someone for using his toilet; Black Sabbath’s Tony Ionni lighting drummer Bill Ward on fire; and front man Ozzy getting arrested for peeing on a famous landmark, while wearing Sharon’s dress. Slash from Guns N’ Roses ran naked through a country club, smashing through a window and grabbing a waitress as a shield, sure the alien from the movie Predator was chasing after him. And don’t get me started on the antics of the Ramones or the Sex Pistols. I don’t know what it is exactly, but there is something about that kind of craziness that appeals to my writing side.

Another genre that interests me is the western. I read many novels by Zane Grey and Louis L’ Amour when I was growing up, and it’s hard to forget stories like Riders of the Purple Sage, Hondo, or how about Jack Schaefer’s Shane. Writing a western presents a common-man story with a background of remoteness, rawness and extremes. I touched on the genre when I wrote House of Blazes, set in 1906. I’ve alway loved the western stories Elmore Leonard wrote early in his career, as well as other classics like True Grit by Charles Portis, Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurty, and Cormac McCarthy’s border trilogy. Even McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men reads like a modern-day western.

I’ve written a lot of short stories early on, and I might return to that someday. And I also wrote a few screenplays, and I liked writing in present time and allowing dialogue to move the scenes. And it would be fun to take one of my novels and turn it into a screenplay.

The way of art is to let it evolve by continually experimenting with new approaches. It’s what keeps it interesting and new. So far, I’ve been writing mainly crime and historical crime fiction, but down the road, who knows …


Susan C Shea said...

I couldn't get past the rock and roll maniacs without laughing so hard I choked on a sip of water! Not sure how anyone could write fiction about it that wouldn't pale by comparison with the real thing. But maybe *you* could. It would be a fun read if you did, Dietrich.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks, Susan. I might give it a try. Sorry about making you choke on your water.