Please welcome April author of the month, Victor Gischler, Edgar Award nominee!
Suicide Squeeze by Victor Gischler
Published by Delacorte Press ISBN 0-385-33725-6
Review and interview from Jamie Engle for New Mystery Reader
“Conner Samson bounced a check for a dollar draft in Salty’s Saloon and decided it was time to get serious about looking for work.”
There were many things you could call Conner Samson, but lucky, rich and disciplined weren’t any of them. With rent due and bookies looking to collect their money, Conner took the only job he could find: repossessing a boat. Finding the boat proves to be the easy part. Staying alive long enough to get paid is the hard part. Unbeknownst to Conner, on board is perhaps the most collectible baseball card ever – a Joe DiMaggio baseball card signed by Joe, Marilyn Monroe and director Billy Wilder on the set of The Seven Year Itch. It’s a card people are willing to kill for – literally. The boat owner wants it so he can sell it, run away to an island and live the good life. The boat owner’s ex-wife wants it as the alimony she never received. The insurance claim agent wants to use it as bait for bigger fish. Two mercenary Japanese collectors want it to one-up each other. Caught between them all – and his bookie’s collectors - Conner’s life goes from bad to worse as the body count rises. Can Conner pull himself together long enough to outwit them and get paid?
Suicide Squeeze is a hard-boiled, wild ride that doesn’t let up. Unexpected twists and turns are fast and numerous; you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next. Gischler doesn’t waste a word. His terse style enhances and adds depth to the story and characters – and what a cast of characters there is! Each one is quirky, vivid, almost a caricature in itself, including the anti-hero, Conner Samson. With few redeeming qualities, yet very self-aware, Conner’s the bad boy underdog you root for despite yourself. You can’t help but hope to see more of Conner’s exploits in more novels to come. With each page you’re pulled deeper into the story and the characters; you actually hate to see them go as some of them inevitably bite the dust. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and bought Gischler’s first two novels to read as well –discovering a new-to-me author with a backlist is always a bonus.
Gischler’s first novel, Gun Monkeys, was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel in 2002. His second novel, Pistol Poets, is now available in paperback.
Interview with Victor Gischler, author of Suicide Squeeze:
(Jamie Engle) Your new book is Suicide Squeeze. What is a suicide squeeze?
(Victor Gischler) In baseball, the suicide squeeze is when the batter lays down a bunt, and the runner on third base steals home. The thing is, it's sort of an act of faith. The runner has to start running before the bunt is down. He just has to trust the batter will do his job. The faith is one of the subtle (not-so-subtle?) themes in the novel.
(JE) What draws you to hardboiled fiction?
(VG) I'll give you a really silly (but true) answer. It's just so COOL! I like it when characters are put through the mill, and hardboiled fiction seems like the perfect medium for that.
(JE) Conner Samson is very much the anti-hero. Every time he seems to be coming into the light, he gets shoved even further into the dark. I must be twisted, because I enjoyed seeing him go back and forth. What's it like to develop a character like Conner?
(VG) Anti-hero? Sure, that's probably true. Or maybe just UN-hero. He really wants to do the right thing ... but he wants to look out for himself first. Yet nothing ever seems to work out for him. I don't know what it is about the human psyche, but we seem to want to root for the loveable loser. In many ways, Conner does get some bad breaks, but in many more important ways, Conner causes many of his own problems. I think many of us can identify with that, or maybe we know some people like that. We think, "Man, if that guy would just get his act together..." Conner sort of evolved. Once I knew I wanted the novel to be a playful poke at pop-culture icons and heroes, I knew Conner had to be the opposite of these heroes.
(JE) Un-hero is a great description of Conner.
(VG) Ha. Yeah, I saw the character heading that way and didn't try to fight it. He was just more appealing (and least to me) that way.
One of the themes in the book is expectations: what we expect of
(VG) Not to be evasive, but a bit of both. Once I see a theme developing (hopefully in the early chapters) I decide if I want to go with it or not. My subconscious mind is always trying to tell me something, so often I'm 50 or 60 or 75 pages into a book when I slap my forehead and say, "OH! That's what the novel is about!"
(JE) The book is based on a murderous race to possess a very collectible baseball card. Are you a collector? What type of collections do you have?
(VG) I'm not really a card collector. But when I was younger, I had a fairly decent comic book collection, and I loved science fiction/ fantasy novels, so I'm reasonably familiar with that world. I LOVED the Frank Miller Daredevil comic books. I see now that Sin City is a film, and I'm very eager to see it.
(JE) In your blog (http://victorgischler.com/_wsn/page3.html), you list films you can watch over and over. How have films influenced your writing?
(VG) Well, I do consider that there is a slight difference between "writing" and "story-telling." Nothing takes the place of reading some really good novels. But I've seen many films which show me what can be done with characters and plot, etc. ... and of course many of those films are based on novels.
(JE) In Suicide Squeeze, there were some characters I really hated to see go. Do you ever like a character so much that you have a hard time killing them off?
(VG) I think we have to love these characters for their deaths to mean anything. It's easy to kill an unpopular character. But it takes some guts to kill of the popular ones, and I always hope I'm writing with guts. Sometimes I do wonder if I did the wrong thing, but mostly I never look back.
(JE) Your first book, Gun Monkeys, was nominated for an Edgar Award. After being nominated, did you feel more pressure when writing the next novels?
(VG) Yes. I went to a bigger publisher and got more money and I thought, "Holy crap, this is SERIOUS." But sooner or later you have to put that out of your mind and just write the book you think is best. Otherwise you'll go nuts.
(JE) How different is it working with a large publisher instead of a small press?
(VG) Well, honestly, in some ways -- important ways -- it's very much the same. You all work together to produce the best book possible. With a large publisher, you do sometimes get the feeling you're part of this gigantic publishing machine, and that can be a little intimidating. I mean all of these people -- editors, copy editors, publicists, layout folks, cover design people, maketing people -- have all been set into motion just because little old me decided to write a book. Of course, they're all working on a 100 books at once. It's not like they're all just there for me. Still, it's something to think about.
(JE) I read you wrote short stories before novels. Do you still write short stories? Where are they published?
(VG) A google search will take you to many of my short stories on the web. I'm reasonably proud of a short story called "Misty's World" which can be found at www.ShredOfEvidence.com I don't write as many shorts as I used to because I'm always hard at work on a novel, but I try to make a point to write at least one or two each year.
(JE) What's in your To Be Read pile right now?
(VG) KILL WHITEY ... another cool novel from the folks at UglyTown. Also Kent Harrington's RED JUNGLE and the new Kem Nunn novel.
(JE) Will we see more of Conner Samson?
(VG) I'll need to discuss that with my editor. I'm open to it. But the one I'm working on now is something different ... which takes us to your next question...
(JE) What are you writing now?
(VG) A real shoot-em-up called SHOTGUN OPERA. Almost all the characters are hired guns ... sort of what happens when they're hired to take each other out.
(JE) Any book-to-movie deals in the works for you?
(VG) The Pistol Poets was optioned by a producer in Hollywood. But going from an option to actually getting the film made is tough. Fingers crossed. I've had about 500 people tell me GUN MONKEYS would make a great action film. Hey, sounds good to me. Maybe a producer out there will snatch it up.
(JE) Thank you for your time!
(VG) No thank you. Lots of fun.
Victor Gischler’s web site is http://victorgischler.com/index.html