Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mark Coggins

Back in 2000, an interview with Mark Coggins appeared in the online noir magazine Plots with Guns.

Here is the opening part of the interview:

PWG: You've taken the PI form, as developed by Hammett and Chandler, and decorated it with the stuff of our own modern times—S&M bars, computers, virtual reality, etc. This works nicely, since most contemporary detectives have nutzo sidekicks and a guilty streak. What draws you to the hard-boiled tradition, and tell us about how you came to write The Immortal Game.

Mark Coggins: I came to writing mysteries because of my admiration for the work of Raymond Chandler. I was introduced to Chandler in my first creative writing class at Stanford—a class that was taught by Tobias Wolff.

Wolff was making the point that certain writers have a very unique style and he was reading from various works to back up his assertion. One of the things he read was the first chapter from The Big Sleep. I didn't know anything about Chandler before that reading, but I very much liked what I heard.

Later that week I went to the college bookstore and bought a copy of The High Window. I can't tell you now why I picked that instead of The Big Sleep but I did. I devoured the book and quickly ran through the rest of Chandler and all of Hammett too.

The next creative writing class I took was from Ron Hansen. In it, I wrote a short story in the hard-boiled tradition titled "There's No Such Thing as Private Eyes." I shopped the story around and a number of years later it was published in The New Black Mask, volume 4. The New Black Mask was a revival of the famous pulp detective magazine that gave Chandler and Hammett their start. It was edited by Richard Layman (one of Hammett's biographers) and published in trade paperback format by HBJ. As you might expect, I was very pleased that my first published story appeared in the same magazine that first published Chandler and Hammett.

The private eye in the short story—August Riordan—is the same character in The Immortal Game. In fact, The Immortal Game started out as a follow-on story for New Black Mask, but the magazine folded before the story was published.

Obviously, I expanded and revised the story considerably in the process of converting it to the novel form, but the link with "There's No Such Thing as Private Eyes" is still there: in the first chapter of the The Immortal Game, Riordan and his client discuss an event that happened in the short story.
Read the entire interview.

--Marshal Zeringue