Quick Hit Q&A: Gary Phillips

To round out our Quick Hit series this week, Down & Out tapped Gary Phillips—editor of the just-released Scoundrels and author of numerous comics and novels, including the Ivan Monk and Martha Chainey Series—to answer some of our most burning Friday afternoon questions.

Down & Out: Why are readers so drawn to crime?

Phillips: Assuming you mean crime fiction, ahem, I think two reasons. One main reason is vicarious sense of being the tough guy or gal character. The one who is able to take the semi-auto shotgun from the trunk of the ’68 Nova, walk into the vitamin store that’s a front for the fake designer jeans operation in the back, and smack that bad boy upside the head of the fool who tried to short you on the last job. Direct and to the point. Not worried about the light bill or matching the paint when redoing the hallway.

D&O: How do you see the short story as different from the novel? How are they different to write? To read?

Phillips: The short story is so much about the set up and payoff happening in a relatively short length of time. Pacing is important. Not saying it has to be bang, bang, bang but the structure is spare and there’s little time for diversions, yet it can’t be so stripped down that the characters and situation isn’t engaging the reader. Even more than in the novel, can your short story have that twist, that sudden quick turn at the end that the reader didn’t see coming? Or at least does the story play out in a way that’s different, fresh.

D&O: How has the housing market collapse and subsequent recession effected you as a writer? Did it impact your contribution to this collection?

Phillips: How do you not reflect on an event that precipitated the Great Recession we’re in now? Hearing stories of hard-working people who, as Clinton remarked, played by the rules and got the short end, not because of some hoodoo vagaries of the invisible hand of Adam Smith but in too many instances because there’s some smoothie in a $3,000 suit who, aided by a computer algorithm, traded away your life savings playing at the margin to get their two percent bump.

Jon Corzine, the former governor of New Jersey testified to Congress late last year about MF Global — and who can make up that name? — an investment entity he ran. He simply didn’t know where the $1.2 billion they had fiduciary responsibility for from their investors — not all of them high rollers many regular folks — went. Or just recently we’ve had the revelation from an insider that the sharpies at Goldman Sachs referred to clients as Muppets — chumps and sucker in other words.

Yeah, those sensibilities did shape my story, “Eight Ballers,” in Scoundrels.

You can visit Gary Phillips online here.

The Scoundrels ebook is currently available for the KINDLE, and will be released in other ebook formats in coming weeks.

You can also buy this as a trade paperback from AMAZON OR you can ask for it from your favorite Indie Bookstore…they can get it for you.