The Philadelphia City Paper drops by – not in person, y’understand – to ask if we’d be interested in hosting some of its recent interview with Gorgeous George Pelecanos (right, pic taken by the inimitable Jon Jordan), on the occasion of the publication of his latest tome, THE TURNAROUND. Which was very nice of them, although it’ll be even nicer still if they agree to interview yours truly when I’m passing through Philly on my most excellent adventure road-trip in the company of one John McFetridge on the way to the Baltimore Bouchercon. But we’ll worry about that anon. In the spirit of brotherly love, herewith be an excerpt from said interview, the full version of which can be found here. To wit:
CP: What makes a character resonate for you? Is there a moment when you know you’ve hit upon something?
GP: “I don’t outline or anything, I just write my books. It can be kind of scary but sometimes you don’t find the character until late in the book. Historically, I’ve always hit it somewhere in the book but while you’re writing it you’re saying to yourself, ‘I don’t know who this is yet, this person is not complete.’ I’m just going to write my way through it and find the character. Eventually you do, and you go back and rewrite and change little things. That’s how it works. It can be something as little as a piece of dialogue that just comes to you and you say, ‘Wait a minute, now I know who this is.’”
CP: One of the things I’ve always been so impressed by is your ability to use space and render D.C. almost like a character. In reading the work of some of your peers, I’m struck by how important place is to the success of a book. How much of your D.C. is real and founded in the streets and how much is created in your mind?
GP: “Of course the characters are fictional and they’re sort of walking through this fictional world, but as far as the grid goes, it’s all pretty much real. I go out and check stupid things like, Is there a T in that alley behind Otis Place NW? I have to go to the alley and make sure that there is. In the historical books like Hard Revolution, if a character is walking down the street in April ‘68 in a particular week of that month, and the movie theater marquee says Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner or something, it was playing in that movie theater on that day. I can guarantee you that. I don’t make shit like that up. Even where it’s crippling. In other words, [in THE TURNAROUND] when Alex walks into the diner for the first time when he’s a kid and the James Brown song is playing, and it’s June in the book — if that song was released not until September of that year, I don’t put it in there. It wouldn’t have been coming through the radio. It’s a long-winded way of saying I’m trying to leave a record.”
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.