Saturday, December 08, 2012

Fred Zackel

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Ed here: This then is my final blog post. At least for now. But I want to make something clear. When I said I was giving up my blog I was in the throes of bone exhaustion. I didn't mean to imply that I was dying or near death just that all the bumps on the health road were starting to wear me down. I want to emphasize that given some of the horrible conditions some of my fellow suffers from multiple myeloma have to endure I have been, as usual in my life, a lightweight and tourist. I'm sorry if I made things sounds worse than they are. I appreciate all your thoughtful and concerned responses. 


Fred Zackel is a writer of fiction and non-fiction. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, he spent many years in California.

Zackel was discovered by the award winning novelist Ross MacDonald at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference in 1975. MacDonald became a mentor and was influential in the direction of Zackel's fiction writing.

Zackel published his first novel, COCAINE AND BLUE EYES in 1978 and it was followed by CINDERELLA AFTER MIDNIGHT. Both novels feature his San Francisco private detective, Michael Brennen. In 1983 the TV movie Cocaine&Blue Eyes was aired on NBC.

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“Angel Noir” is horror / crime / suspense from the author of THE BLONDE IN THE RED CORVETTE, CREEPIER THAN A WHOREHOUSE KISS, and TIGHT FIT IN A LONG COLD BOX. "You can't kill an angel, fallen or otherwise." What if Angels had free will? What if they had vengeance in their heart? They met one night at the Rowdy Yates Cantina near the California-Nevada stateline. She drank mezcal tequila and played lead guitar in an all-girl hard rock band. He was a serial killer with a baker's dozen under his belt. She could have been just a ditsy, sickly blonde in dreadlocks living alone in a rusty trailer in the Mohave Desert. He prowled the Interstates west of the Rockies giving into his urges and rage. Face to face, eye to eye and belly to belly, they were both dead wrong about each other. "Wrestling with your angel might be another form of foreplay." Intense themes. Intense situations. Language and violence. Not for the squeamish. 


1. Tell us about your current novel or project.
I have this big fat multigenerational novel THE KELLY VENDETTA that my agent's been shopping since February. Mulholland said it was too noirish for them, while Grove/Atlantic said it wasn't "quite literary enough for us to publish well." It's also too long and deals with the race issue in 1960s Cleveland.

After 38 years, a man returns home to solve his brother’s murder.

Bobbie Kelly is a successful Phoenix ad agency exec. After a massive heart attack puts him in the ICU, the first chance Bobbie gets, he sneaks out and catches a plane to Cleveland, the hometown he never before had gone back to. San Francisco Homicide Detective Max Kelly is the son drafted to go after him. "Grandpa Kelly ran away from the hospital," his son tells Max. "He went to Cleveland and he didn’t take his meds or his cell phone. Grandma’s Glock is gone, too. She wants you to go get Pops." So Max goes after his father. What he doesn’t know is that the killings have started up again.

2. Can you give us a sense of what you’re working on now?
Twenty-three year old Charlie Dixon is feeling the Big Squeeze in Las Vegas. He is shackled to the Mob. He has a special talent that should get him killed. He would be okay with that if they would leave his wife and five year old son alone. But it’s not just the Mob that’s squeezing the juice out of him. There’s the Feds, the local cops, and the dirty cops. His in-laws, too. And then there are the Bad Guys new to town. They have already killed his father. Now they’re going after Charlie and his family. They plan to squeeze the entire city of Las Vegas. It’s the biggest jackpot of them all, and nobody believes Charlie.

I knew a kid just like Charlie D. in high school. But in Cleveland nobody ruthless enough, evil enough was interested in his extraordinary talent, his incredible gift, his special skills. I always wondered what happened to him. Did he find himself in life? Was going from a boy to a man somehow easier with that special skill? Did other people -- bad people -- take advantage of him? Did he ever find true love and happiness, success and a special kind of fame? I kept thinking, what if …
3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
The joy when the writing and the universe flies by …
4. The greatest displeasure?

When you finish writing, knowing that everything is now out of your hands.

5. Advice to the publishing world?
At every chance you get, kiss your kids, no matter how old they are.
6. Are there any forgotten writers you’d like to see in print again?

I love Robert Van Gulik’s "Sexual Life in Ancient China: A Preliminary Survey of Chinese Sex and Society from ca. 1500 B.C. till 1644 A.D." Mystery fans know that Van Gulik wrote the Judge Dee mysteries. But he was also a Dutch diplomat and a brilliant scholar.

This text is more sociological and cultural than scatological, and boy is it fascinating. One of my favorite stories is about Lady Wu Zetian of the T’ang Dynasty, a "pretty" concubine who used sex and murder to make herself into the only Empress in Chinese history. You want ruthless ambition? She murdered her own daughter to frame the Emperor’s wife and her mother to help her ascension to the throne. She had both of them murdered and mutilated, by the way. You want vicious governance? "Wu's method of making an example out of a rival was blinding her, cutting out her tongue, amputating her arms and legs, and keeping her alive by feeding her slops and letting her wallow in her own excrement, like a pig." She ruled for more than fifty years. Oh, and murdered two of her sons along the way for political reasons. As she neared the end of her life, she tried installing her 27 year old lover, a Buddhist monk, as the next emperor, and the real historical figure behind Judge Dee stories helped talk her out of it. But even her fiercest critics at the time admitted how well she governed. She also reformed the bureaucracy and always promoted the best candidate for any office. This astonishing woman left it to future generations to decide her place in Chinese history, and to this day her tombstone bears no epitaph. (Fourteen centuries of historians can't decide.) Wikipedia gives her 32 pages of bibliography.

It is an astonishing book in other ways, too. I understand the more explicit sexual positions that Van Gulik wrote in Latin have been translated into English for modern scholars. I know that, with my two years of Catholic high school Latin, I had a difficult time.
7. Tell us about selling your first novel.

I was driving taxicab at nights in San Francisco and reconciled that this was my future. Expecting only a mini-vacation, I went to a writer’s conference. I had written a poem about the nasty streets and Ross Macdonald heard me read it. He came up to me in the bar and introduced himself, we started having long talks together, and then he decided to mentor me. When he read "Cocaine & Blue Eyes," he passed it to his agent, who still reps me.

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