“I poisoned your drink.”
Thus began the opening of Duane Swierczynski’s latest noir crime thriller, THE BLONDE, and the ride Swierczynski took the reader on was fueled by an edgy explosion of hare-lean prose and rapid-fire dialogue. By the time I finished THE BLONDE I felt like I’d been in a NASCAR race without a seatbelt. And all done in 220 pages, slim by genre fiction standards. After I closed the page, I had the inexplicable craving for a cold beer and a cigarette, and I don’t like either.
That’s a compliment to Swierczynski’s keen sense of place (Philly’s mean streets) and time (about two years into the future from whenever you read the book). His genius is to evoke the hardboiled crime novels of the ’40’s and ’50’s, but to keep the story firmly grounded in the 21st century.
We are pleased to bring you the first of a two part interview with Writer Unboxed.
Q: Tell us about your road to publication
DS: It was the usual road: in dire need of resurfacing, full of confusing signage, and populated by violent highwaymen who’d just as soon carve out your liver as siphon your gasoline.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad. But it was a long road. This December will mark 20 years since I started writing fiction for real. I remember the exact date: December 27, 1987. That was the night before my best friend’s birthday. I was 15 years old, and broke, so I wrote him a horror novella as a gift. It had a shock ending, and when he read it, he let out this great yell. That’s when it clicked for me. I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life trying to do that again, for as many readers as possible.
Hundreds of stories and novel fragments and half-baked ideas later, I wrote THE WHEELMAN as a lark, to see if I could write a stripped-down, fast-moving heist novel. I honestly thought it had no chance of selling–I mostly wrote it to entertain myself. It sold in two weeks. Nobody was more stunned than me.
Q: Did you think that it was never going to happen? How do you keep the drive to write alive, especially after a 20-year wait?
DS: I don’t really think I had a choice. [Read more…]