Saturday, April 16, 2011

10 Quick Questions with David Rachels

Remember the other day when I mentioned Verse Noir by David Rachels?  I sent him a list of questions and he graciously answered them.  Without further ado...

1. Verse Noir reads like a labor of love from someone with deep appreciation for noir and poetry. What made you put pen to paper?
My day job is English professor at a military college, and part of my combat duty is attending a fair number of poetry readings.  I’m generally suspicious of free verse, and when I hear someone read a free-verse poem, it often sounds to me like the opening paragraph of a short story masquerading as poetry.  This got me to thinking about poetry from the opposite direction:  As I was reading noir novels, I started looking for bits of text that seemed poetic enough to stand alone as poems.  I started posting these at my blog Pulp Poem of the Week (which later morphed into my blog Noirboiled Notes).  After doing this for a while, I decided that I could write better pulp poems myself from scratch, and over the course of a year I wrote about 400 of them.  I put my favorites in Verse Noir.

2. Which noir writer would you say had the most poetic writing style?
Looking for “pulp poems” to put on my blog, I’ve had the easiest time finding them in Raymond Chandler.

3. What was the first noir novel you read?
My introduction to the noirboiled world came somewhere around the 8th grade when I saw Mickey Spillane on Tomorrow with Tom Snyder.  Spillane described his novel Vengeance Is Mine in such a way that made me want to read it as much as I’ve ever wanted to read anything in my life.

4. Favorite noir novel?
Today, it’s Out by Natsuo Kirino.

5. Favorite Lawrence Block novel?
I imagine I’ll read the Matthew Scudder novels eventually, but I’m partial to stand-alones.  Of the Block stand-alones I’ve read, the one that comes to mind is Grifter’s Game, the first novel put out by Hard Case Crime.  It’s a good one.

6. Favorite Donald Westlake novel?
I supposed that Parker is the exception proving the rule of my preference for stand-alones.  I’m working my way through the series in order, but I’m trying not to do it too quickly.  It makes me sad just thinking about reading the last one.  I’ve read the first eleven thus far, and my favorite of these is the fifth, The Score.

7. Spenser or Elvis Cole?
My reading skews heavily to pre-1960, so Spenser wins this one by default.  Twenty years ago, I listened to a bunch of Spenser novels on tape during long car trips (and enjoyed them fairly consistently), but I have never read an Elvis Cole novel.

8. Favorite novel in the Hard Case Crime series?
No contest here:  A Touch of Death by Charles Williams.  I love it, my mother loves it, my wife loves it, my sons love it, my students love it. . . .

9. What good books have you read in the past six months?
Two books come first to mind:  I liked Dave Zeltersman’s new one, Outsourced, quite a lot, and I got to read an advance copy of a (not noir) short story collection by Kurt Jose Ayau called The Brick Murder: A Tragedy and Other Stories, which was pretty great.

10. What’s next for David Rachels?
I just spent a week in Wyoming doing research for a book I’m editing.  It’s title (at the moment) is Gulf Coast Noir: Selected Stories of Gil Brewer, 1951-1959.  I hope to have it in the hands of a publisher by the end of this summer.

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