Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Peter Spiegelman

Jochem Van Der Steen, at Sons of Spade, interviewed Peter Spiegelman, author of (so far) three John March novels.

The opening exchanges from the interview:

Q: What makes John March different from other fictional private eyes?

March is the black-sheep son of a prominent New York banking family. He walked away from the family business to become a small-town cop in upstate New York, and eventually a private investigator back in NYC. March’s cases are set in the world of finance (or have that world as a backdrop in some way), and March’s background makes him a sort of outside insider to that world. He knows his way around Wall Street, but he’s got a healthy skepticism about what goes on there—a vital critical distance.

Another thing I’ve tried to create in March is a character who is in retreat from life. Rather than taking refuge in drink, drugs, etc., March has made his life very small, very spare. He’s stripped it down to things he can control. His life consists of his work and his running. It’s somewhat monk-like—simple, disciplined, and with little in the way of emotional entanglements. He’s much more comfortable examining other people’s lives than his own. Needless to say, his retreat from life is imperfect, and his control over things is mostly illusory.

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?

I have no particular problem with sidekicks per se, as long as they’re fully-realized characters—people I care about, and who are important to the story. The cartoonish, two-dimensional variety that exist only to do the heavy-lifting the PI is too squeamish for don’t thrill me.
Read the full Q & A.

From from my 2007 review of Spiegelman's Red Cat:
No fan of the private detective novel should miss the “John March mysteries.” Author Peter Spiegelman just keeps getting better with each outing.

Spiegelman introduced John March, a Manhattan-based private eye, in Black Maps. In that book, March’s client was a wealthy investment banker threatened by blackmail. March survived that case and reappeared in Death's Little Helpers for a more challenging assignment - and with a new girlfriend. Now March is back in Red Cat, this time with his unbeloved brother David as the client in what sets up as another extortion scheme. The girlfriend is gone, replaced with a part-time lover whose needs are more compatible with March’s.

The melancholy March fits right in with his noirish New York. “Everyone was in a bad mood,” opens Black Maps. “It was a palpable thing in midtown, pungent as the bus exhaust on the cold evening air and as loud as the traffic.” The air in the first sentence of Death’s Little Helpers is just as toxic: “'As a husband, he was a lying, selfish prick,' Nina Sachs said, and lit yet another cigarette.” No carcinogens pollute the atmosphere in the first lines of Red Cat, and it’s just as well: the tension in the air between John and David March is enough to cause cancer.
Read the entire review.

The Page 99 Test: Red Cat.

--Marshal Zeringue