Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Origins: Sam Millar

Being the latest in what will probably be yet another short-lived series, in which yours truly reclines on a hammock by the pool with a jeroboam of Elf-Wonking Juice™ and lets a proper writer talk about the origins of his or her characters and stories. This week: Sam Millar (right), author of THE DARK PLACE. To wit:
“Write what you know, some old sage once wrote, many centuries ago. So mostly, that’s what I do: write what I know.
  “Karl Kane, my Belfast PI, always up to his neck in debt, shit and blood, is not unlike me – especially the debt bit. Although I would love to say he’s my alter ego, unfortunately – or fortunately, depending how you look upon him – he’s a hybrid of two other men, one fictional and the other real. I don’t even make it into the equation.
  “One part of Kane is based on James Scott Rockford, usually called Jim, sometimes Jimmy, or if you’re feeling really courageous, Jimbo. Mostly people will recognise Jim from the Rockford Files.
  “Still, despite not being me, there are some uncanny familiarities between myself and Jim Rockford.
  “Rockford served time in San Quentin Prison, not the most hospital of places at the best of times.
  “I served time in quite a few American prisons, even less hospitable, at any given time.
  “Rockford received five years for armed robbery. Later he received a pardon.
  “I received five years for an armed robbery. Later I received a pardon from President Bill Clinton.
  “He lives in a dilapidated home on the beach, 29 Cove Road, Paradise Cove.
  “I live in a dilapidated home, minus the beach, and I sure as hell ain’t giving my home address!
  “Just like Rockford, Karl Kane would sooner duck a fight than swing his fists, and rarely carries a gun, unless his life – or the life of those he loves –is in danger.
  “Kane also has the same dress sense as Rockford, which is pretty depressing, to say the least. He’ll wear anything provided it’s always within easy reach. He wore a pink bathrobe, for fuck sake, in the opening page of his latest adventure!
  “Now, that’s the fictional part of Kane.
  “The other man who gets the dubious honour of influencing my take on Kane was my father, one of the true ‘tough guys’ with a heart bigger than his punch. Big Sam, as he was affectionately known throughout Belfast, was a gentleman to a fault. Always a lover of the underdog, he was a socialist when it wasn’t fashionable to be one, a pugilist and a writer of millions of unpublished stories (a bit like Kane). He loved women, good brandy and gambling. A trinity that probably sent him to an early grave, but at least a happy one. I remember one day as a kid telling him I was going to be a writer, just like him. He smiled proudly (I think. I hope.) and patted me on the head. Years later, in the penitentiary, I decided to immortalise Big Sam, in a way he would love. And so the genesis of Karl Kane came eventually about.
  “Sadly, Big Sam never got to see Kane, or the way I saw him in Kane. I think he’d be very happy with the depiction. Just one thing, though: Big Sam would never wear a pink bathrobe. Me? Well, that’s telling, and writers never tell. They only show ...” - Sam Millar
  THE DARK PLACE is published by Brandon Books. Sam Millar is a judge of the Aeon Awards.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam, Declan,

Nice blog, I'm going to add it to my bookmarks.

I love everything about Karl Kane, hemorrhoids and all! I hope there's more to come.

All your books are great. I love the plotting, pace, dialog, humor, characters, graphic descriptions, and the intense suspense.

Thank you.