Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Oklahama Vietnamese and St Louis cockroaches: an interview with Lou Berney

Kia ora and haere mai, welcome to the 32nd instalment of 9mm for 2018, and the 204th overall edition of our long-running author interview series.

Thanks for reading over the years. I've had tonnes of fun chatting to some amazing  writers and bringing their thoughts and stories to you.

You can check out the full list of of past interviewees here. If you've got a favourite writer who hasn't yet been featured yet, let me know in the comments or by message, and I'll look to make that happen for you.

Today I'm very pleased to welcome award-winning American crime writer Lou Berney to Crime Watch. I met Lou at Bouchercon in Toronto last year. He is one of those writers who I hadn't yet met or interviewed but had heard amazing things about. His novel THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE had achieved the extremely rare feat of sweeping the prestigious Edgar, Anthony, Barry, and Macavity Awards in the United States. He's a stylish writer that other top crime writers rave about.

That praise has ratcheted up even further notches ahead of the upcoming release of NOVEMBER ROAD. Set against the assassination of President John F Kennedy, it's described as a "poignant and evocative crime tale that centres on a desperate chase across 1960s America - a story of unexpected connections, daring possibilities and the hope of second chances".

Early reviews are glowing, and some crime writers who I've met and hold in the absolute highest regard are really raving about how special this book is. Given the high bar Lou set with THE LONG AND FARAWAY GONE, that's some praise. The great Don Winslow has called it "a staggeringly brilliant book", while Laura Lippman says Lou has become one of the genres stand-outs.

NOVEMBER ROAD is a must-add to your TBR pile if you love really terrific crime writing. I've been saving it for after Bloody Scotland and other recent judging and features commitments, and am really, really looking forward to the read. When he's not putting out sublime crime tales, Lou teaches in the MFA program at Oklahoma City University.

But for now, Lou Berney becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


1. Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
That’s a tough question, but if forced to pick I’d probably go with Kate Atkinson’s detective, Jackson Brodie. I also love Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley, though I understand I’m stretching the definition of hero a bit.

2. What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
My two older sisters were very influential when it came to my early reading – ie, they told me what to read or else. I remember being fascinated by The Happy Hollisters series, novels about a crime-solving family of kids who went to a different exotic location each book. I think my love of crime-writing and travel both started there.

3. Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I wrote and published several short stories when I was in graduate school, but discovered I’m too long-winded for that form. Before I turned to novels, I worked as a professional screenwriter. That was challenging but rewarding. I learned a lot of stuff about plot and structure that comes in handy with my novels.

4. Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
My wife and I love to travel. I’ve become something of an expert with airline miles and credit card points, so that allows us to visit places we wouldn’t normally be able to: Egypt, Cambodia, Australia, etc. (We’re dying to go to New Zealand, but since we can usually only travel in the US summer, that’s a problem.)

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?
My hometown, Oklahoma City, has some of the best Vietnamese food in the country, believe it or not.

6. If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
My life would make a pretty dull movie, thank goodness, and I have no idea who would play me. Someone told me once that I kind of look like Guy Pierce, which is not true but I’m going with it.

7. Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
The one I just finished is always my favorite. The one I’m just starting is always my least favorite.

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 bookseller’s shelf?

9. What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
At Bouchercon in St. Louis, I was on a panel with my friend (and superb thriller novelist) Chris Holm. He was talking about his fear of bugs when, suddenly, a GIGANTIC cockroach fell from the ceiling and landed on the table right in front of me. I reacted calmly by freaking out and slapping the cockroach away from me and into the audience. I still feel bad about that. I should have fallen on the grenade.

Thank you Lou, we appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch

You can read more about Lou Berney and his books at his website, and follow him on Twitter

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