Wednesday, December 17, 2014

9mm interview with Wiley Cash

It's that time of year where everyone is sharing their 'best of' lists for 2014 - personal thoughts on favourite things, including the best books of the year. It's always fun to reminisce about all that we've read and what really stood out, even months later. And it's nice to highlight great books that might be otherwise overlooked in some cases, in amongst all the big-name bestsellers and cause celebres. In recent years I've contributed several times to such 'best of' lists for some great newspapers and magazines in New Zealand, as well as sharing my own thoughts here on this blog, but this year I'm taking a break, for a number of reasons.

I will say though, that one of my favourite reads of the year was THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY by Wiley Cash. Beforehand, I'd heard terrific things about Cash's much-acclaimed debut, A LAND MORE KIND THAN HOME, which was tabbed by some critics as brilliant southern gothic storytelling, a cross between Harper Lee and Cormac McCarthy. I was intrigued, especially as I've spent a lot of time in the American South (including four summers in Cash's home state of North Carolina), and am a fan of James Lee Burke, John Hart, and other writers of that ilk where the southern setting bleeds into the storytelling.

I really enjoyed THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY - it is one of those tales that could seem deceptively simple, but had a lot more going on beneath the surface. It is atmospheric and thought-provoking. And I wasn't that surprised at all when it went on to win the Gold Dagger from the CWA. It deserves plenty of critical acclaim. I'll have more to say about the book at some point, but for now, please allow me to share my recent interview with Wiley Cash, the 95th instalment in the 9mm series.

9MM: An interview with Wiley Cash

1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective? 
This is a tough question. I don't read a lot of crime series, so it's hard to pick out one hero. But there are a lot of heroes in crime books I've loved. I loved the mysterious lawman in Tom Franklin's story "Poachers," the sheriff in Ron Rash's ONE FOOT IN EDEN, and the social work investigator in Smith Henderson's new novel FOURTH OF JULY CREEK.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
When I was a kid I loved the choose-your-own-adventure books. I read them over and over, astonished by the many ways the story could turn depending on the decisions I made as a reader. But the first novel that made me want to become a writer was Toni Morrison's SONG OF SOLOMON.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles? 
I'd published a few short stories in literary magazines in the states and a dozen or so critical essays on American writers like Ernest Gaines, Langston Hughes, and Thomas Wolfe.

4. Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise? 
My wife and I really enjoy traveling, both domestically and in places like Italy, the UK, and Iceland. We've recently moved back to North Carolina, and I've taken up gardening as a way to relieve stress and lose myself in a process that's more immediate than writing. We're expecting our first child in October, so worrying over the birth and nursery preparation has also become a bit of a hobby.

5. What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider? 
Go to Tony's Ice Cream in Gastonia, North Carolina, and get a hot dog, hamburger, and a milkshake. The place is featured in my second novel, THIS DARK ROAD TO MERCY.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you? 
I don't think my life would be nearly interesting enough for that. I'd pity whoever'd have to shoot those long scenes at the desk, typing, worrying, starting over.

7. Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why? 
Right now, I feel the closest to and most excited about my third novel, which I'm about 25,000 words into. It's about a textile mill strike in my hometown in 1929 and how the murder of the strike's leader affects three generations of women in North Carolina.

8. What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf? 
I celebrated by calling my wife at work and telling her that there was a small chance I could leave my teaching job in West Virginia and move us home to North Carolina. We didn't make the move for another two years, but it was always in our sights. We love West Virginia, but North Carolina will always be home.

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
As soon as we moved back to North Carolina in the fall of 2014, I got a tattoo of the state's outline on the inside of my right arm. I published an essay about the experience that was accompanied by a few photos. Several months later I was at a book signing in Greensboro, North Carolina, and an angry woman pushed herself through the crowd and held a cell phone up to my face. On it was a picture of someone's arm with the same tattoo. "This is my teenage son," she said. "He did this because of you!"

Thank you Wiley. We appreciate you taking the time to chat with Crime Watch. 


You can read more about Wiley Cash and his writing here: 


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