Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Christopher Goffard

Christopher Goffard, whose Snitch Jacket is nominated for a 2008 Edgar for Best First Novel by an American Author, is no stranger to the CftAR blogs:

Now John Kenyon of Things I'd Rather Be Doing has interviewed Goffard.

Here is part of the introduction, followed by the opening question:
Read this book and prepare to be impressed....

Oh, and the story? Well, I don't want to suggest that it is superficial, because it is a clever yarn, but it really is best seen as a vehicle for Goffard's characters. At the heart of the book are Benny Bunt, a smallish ex-meth addict snitch who uses his underwhelming nature to help him blend in and learn about the nefarious doings of his acquaintances at the Greasy Tuesday, a bar frequented by some of life's lower beings. He becomes fast friends with Gus "Mad Dog" Miller, a Vietnam vet with multiple tattoos and even more stories of his exploits. These two colorful characters put me in mind of Ratso Rizzo and Joe Buck from "Midnight Cowboy," though it's an imperfect analogy at best. There are crimes, a mystery of sorts and plenty of action, but don't come to this expecting a typical whodunit. The book is a rich character study that will leave you laughing, marveling and waiting impatiently for Goffard's next feat of prose.

TIRBD: Benny and Gus are very visceral characters. Did they emerge fully formed for you, or were they the accretion of traits, tics and details as you wrote?

CG: They morphed many times over the course of multiple drafts, and I was deep into one of the many rewrites before I even began to understand the nature of their relationship. The germ for Gus -- the would-be hit man who lives in the closet of a bar -- was a career criminal I met in jail in Santa Ana in the late 1990s, as a cop reporter. His glasses were missing a nose-guard on one side, which made them sag, and I gave the detail to my character. Years later, I met a charismatic homeless man under a bridge in Tampa who was holding forth to a bunch of other homeless guys, and I made a sketch of him -- right down to the way his sweat discolored his baseball cap -- and studied it as I wrote. And for the St. Petersburg Times I did some investigative stories on a VA shrink who, it turned out, was inventing these grisly stories about his experiences in Vietnam, and I gave my character that habit, too. So Gus Miller grew out of all these sources and probably a hundred more than I can't remember. Same for Benny Bunt: a piece here, a piece there, until finally he coalesced into a full and contradiction-riddled person. The crucial thing was getting his name right. It had to be something small and kind of sleazy.
Read the full interview.

The Page 99 Test: Snitch Jacket

Author Interviews: Christopher Goffard

--Marshal Zeringue