Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Q&A with Allan Guthrie

Here's another short interview with an author whose work I've had pleasure getting to print inside the paperback covers of Arktinen Banaani's new crime series. Allan Guthrie is the writer of Viimeinen suudelma (Kiss Her Goodbye, Hard Case Crime 2005; translated in Finnish by Mika Tiirinen), a hard-hitting tale of Joe Hope, bad guy whose main tool is a baseball bat and whose daughter commits a suicide and whose ex-wife gets killed. (I'll be posting the interview also in Finnish, as soon as I get it translated.)

Q: Kiss Her Goodbye doesn't tell about a sympathetic character. None of your novels features a sympathetic character. Why do you like sociopaths and violent behaviour, while you're yourself such a nice man?

A: Why, thank you. I think! I write about the kind of people who interest me, and I'm fascinated by abnormal personalities. I can't think of anything more boring than writing about somebody 'nice'. Joe Hope in Kiss Her Goodbye is certainly not nice. He's an enforcer for a loan shark, and beats people up for a living. When I decided to write about him, it was in part as a reaction against a few novels I'd read around that time where the gangster was a good guy at heart. I wanted to write about someone who wasn't even remotely a good guy, because I felt that was far more realistic. I hoped I'd be able to create the kind of empathy that would enable the reader to feel something for the character nonetheless. I think it's possible, because despite the fact that Joe Hope's not a nice guy, his emotions are fairly raw, and he exposes a lot of weaknesses to the reader.

Q: There's also lots of black humour in your books. How can you find humour in all those beatings and killings?

A: I'd find it hard to read something that was consistently dark and bleak and humourless, and I find it just as hard to write. Sometimes I try, but what usually happens is that a character will get into an absurd situation and there's a bit of comedy as a result. But that's fine with me. I think absurdity and noir are very closely connected. Almost the same thing. Absurdity is about the ultimate meaninglessness of life. Noir is about the fact that we're all doomed. Put them together and you can have some dark fun.

Q: Your books are also very short. What attracts you in the short form now when the crime novels and thriller are almost always 500 pages?

A: My books range from 62,000 to 75,000 words. I think they probably feel shorter than they are. That's possibly because I tend to write quite sparsely and aim to keep the plot moving as quickly as possible. Most thrillers have significant downtime for the character to recover from the ordeal he's facing, but I don't give the poor guy much peace at all. I'd struggle to fill 500 pages, I think. I've done that with early drafts, but there's so much rubbish and padding and unnecessary scenes in those that they soon slim down a more athletic size once I start revising.

Q: We may have more of your books in Finnish in the near future. What can you tell us about your latest novel, Slammer, that has been getting lots of good publicity?

A: Yes, Slammer's had one or two nice reviews, which is most pleasing. It's a prison novel about an inexperienced prison officer whose life is rapidly turning into an almighty mess. It's about his attempts to extricate himself from that mess and the consequences of the choices he makes to do so. It'd be great to see it published in Finland. Arktinen Banaani's book covers are superb, and I'd love to see what the artist comes up with. Here's hoping...

No comments: