Saturday, April 4, 2015

Tim Hallinan

Bruce DeSilva's new novel is A Scourge of Vipers.

From his interview with fellow novelist Tim Hallinan:

[Your] two series are startlingly different in voice and tone. The Rafferty novels [featuring an American journalist living in Bangkok] are dark and literary. The Bender novels [featuring a Los Angeles burglar with tormentors on both sides of the law] verge on slapstick-noir. They are so different that I would never guess the same person had written them if your name wasn’t on the covers. While this isn’t unique (Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder and Bernie Rhodenbarr novels spring to mind), it is a rare display of virtuosity. How can you be two different writers at the same time?

First, thanks for the huge compliment. I love Block, and I also love Donald Westlake, who wrote both the noir Richard Stark novels and, under his own name, the hilarious Dortmunder books.

The root of the difference in my books is the voice. I can’t think of any single aspect of writing that changes the way a story is presented more than the voice in which it’s told. The Poke Rafferty books are written in a sort of close third person, with the camera often trailing a few feet behind Poke but occasionally flying off to show us something else, something Poke doesn’t know about. I try to make this voice neutral, to keep the narrative transparent so that we’re more aware of the characters and their feelings than we are of the writer who’s between us and them. Ideally, the third-person narrative works like a clear window through which we see the story and which rarely calls attention to itself.

The Juniors, on the other hand, are in first person, and it’s Junior’s first person, which means it’s devious, it’s skeptical, it’s got a very wide frame of reference and—most important—it’s fundamentally crooked. There are people he always deals honestly with (two, to be precise, and it’s going to widen to three if I can ever finish King Maybe), but for everyone else, the truth is just one more conversational gambit. Once I write an opening sentence in Junior’s voice, eighty percent of the book’s characteristics are set in stone. It’s going to be irreverent. It’s going to be deceptive. It’s going to be smart, because Junior is very smart, and sometimes he’s smarter than he needs to be, just to keep himself from getting bored.

The voice changes the way we read the story. There’s as much injustice, as much violence, as much exploitation, as much killing, in a Junior Bender book as there is in a Poke Rafferty story. There are even...[read on]
Visit Timothy Hallinan's website and blog.

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My Book, The Movie: The Fourth Watcher.

The Page 69 Test: Breathing Water.

The Page 69 Test: Crashed.

My Book, The Movie: Crashed.

--Marshal Zeringue