Sunday, March 27, 2011

7 Questions: Ed Lynskey

Interview by David Cranmer

Tell us about your new Appalachian noir, Lake Charles?

Set in the Great Smoky Mountains during the 1970s, Lake Charles is narrated by Brendan Fishback, a pressman in his early 20s. His story is a coming of age one in several ways. He self-detoxes from his pot habit. He is curious to find out about his dad gone since his birth. He scrambles to beat a homicide rap pinned on him for his dead girlfriend Ashleigh. Events turn darker on his bass fishing trip taken up to Lake Charles, a TVA-constructed reservoir. His twin sister Edna and his best pal Cobb accompany Brendan. She and Cobb, their marriage on the rocks, argue before she tears off and vanishes into the boonies. Brendan now has to deal with both Ashleigh's murder and Edna's strange disappearance. Thus the stage is set for the next acts.

At the same time, the introverted Brendan experiences vivid dreams, even during the daytime hours. He's quick to blame them on the symptons to his pot withdrawal. The late Ashleigh speaks to him, striking a deal whereby she'll help him expose her true killer and get him off the hook if he'll do her bidding in the corporeal world. The noirish slant comes in from Ashleigh's spirit manipulating Brendan with her deceit and half-truths. She's a rich girl, and he understands the corrupt, jaded nature of the affluent. He wise to her ways, but he also feels trapped by her until he can win back his good name and get on with his young life.

Is LAKE CHARLES a departure of sorts for you?

Right, LAKE CHARLES is my first standalone novel after the five titles published in the P.I. Frank Johnson mystery series. For some reason. I'm drawn to mountainous settings like the West Virginia ridges in THE BLUE CHEER. Anyway, LAKE CHARLES takes place in the Great Smoky Mountains. Reviewers have said it moves fast and can be read in a single setting. That must be a positive since they rated it five stars. I know it sure went through a long, rigorous process to see print. Eight years and three fried PCs to be exact. The late George W. Scithers, first editor at Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, was the final editor to suggest changes to LAKE CHARLES. I tossed out the various paper drafts (fire hazard), so I don't know how many rounds of edits I knocked out. I can recall once huddled up at our public library to log in some work after a thunder storm zapped a neighborhood transformer. Libraries can be noisy places. (That's not a bad thing. Readers are our life force.) LAKE CHARLES was a deliberate stab to just spin a gritty, pedal-to-the-metal tale like the stylish, literate Gold Medal PBOs, say, written by Charles Williams, Gil Brewer, or John D. MacDonald. One of Ed Lacy's books suggested the dream sequence thread that I used. The nasty pressman's strike (scabs v. union) was based on a real occurrence. So, all told, LAKE CHARLES was like a breath of fresh air for me.

Will Frank Johnson be returning with your next novel or are you planning another standalone?

One book, THE ZINC ZOO, in the series is slated to appear later this year. I turned in next year's title, AFTER THE BIG NOISE. Beyond those two installments, I'm unsure right now if I'll go on with the series. I still like hanging out with Frank, and I believe there are enough studs to nail up the future stories. Other top-notch private eye series like Sue Grafton's alphabet titles and Bill Pronzini's Nameless Detective books have enjoyed long runs, and still appear to be going strong. I know I'm enjoying the recent titles. To go on will hinge on energy and, of course, if there's any reader interest. As far as the stand alones are concerned, I've completed several books needing various levels of editing to complete for presentation. My hope is that Lake Charles does well enough in this down economy to pave the way for the next books to appear.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

Right now, my days outside of my freelance work are spent pretty much spent plugging and pimping my two current books. Quiet Anchorage, a small town cozy mystery, is out in paper and e-book. That title is slanted to appeal to a different readership than the noirish Lake Charles due out in June (but up for pre-sales at 33% off on Amazon and B&N). Why write the soft-boiled and hard-boiled type of products? Short answer: to sell more books to a wider base of customers. For me, it's also a change of pace to stay fresh. I like to test out different things. For instance, I've done a weblog (63 entries) on Goodreads. We'll see where that goes. Something that puzzles me is why other writers out of the blue pitch me their books, say, on Facebook. I must get a half-dozen of those everyday. While I can appreciate their efforts and try to be supportive as I can, it seems to me you should be promoting your books on cold calls to readers, not writers. I mean are you anymore interested in buying my book than I should be in buying yours? Probably not. On balance, though, I enjoy my day.

What was the spark for writing?

I like being a one-man band. For my novels, the delight of spinning a story, whether dark or light, is to entertain readers whom I don't know and never will. The profound satisfaction stems from the validation by others (the readers, critics, peers) that I've turned out a quality product. I've had the good fortune to work with some great pros. Allan Guthrie and the late George H. Scithers were my editors. The late James Crumley blurbed PELHAM FELL HERE's front cover.

How do family and friends support your career?

My wife is always my beta reader. My mom and sisters, the big readers in my family, read my books. My in-laws do the same thing. My old high school friend helped me out on some of the technical stuff in my writing THE BLUE CHEER. My dad likes to buy my books, and his wife reads them. I guess that's enough support because it's working out okay, at least up to this point.

Away from writing, what preoccupies Ed Lynskey’s time?

Writing (my own and paid freelance) and the attendant activities also known as pimping burn most of my time. I do have a life away from the keyboard. Rain or shine, I force myself to take daily 2-mile walks. Otherwise I'll stack on weight and build up vile things in my veins. We're avid National fans and train downtown to catch a few home games during the summer. Reading is fun. I don't use an e-reader. Staring at a screen again after all day at the laptop doesn't appeal to me.


  1. Terrific interview, David and Ed. Interesting to hear about the Gold Medal influence -- that always catches my eye!

  2. Enjoyable interview. I try to get in regular walks but can't do it every day it seems.

  3. When I first began Forgotten Books, Ed was one of the first novelists to offer to write a review or two for me. I will always be grateful that he did so, that he believed in books other than his own.

  4. Interesting interview, guys. It's great to read what goes on in the life of a writer. Great stuff!

  5. Thank you for having me as a guest on your cool weblog, David. I very much appreciate all the good comments, too.

    Ed Lynskey