Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pro-File: Gary Phillips ONLY THE WICKED

Pro-File: Gary Phillips

Tell us about Only The Wicked

1)  Only the Wicked begins when Old Man Spears drops dead in the Abyssinia Barber Shop & Shine Parlor in South Central while my PI Ivan Monk and the other patrons trash talk. Turns out Spears played in the Negro Baseball Leagues with Monk’s cousin, Kennesaw Riles, a man whose questionable testimony put civil rights leader, Damon Creel behind bars on a trumped up murder charge back in the ’60s. But when Riles mysteriously dies, Monk knows that something is happening besides coincidence. Then his mother Nona is attacked -- it becomes personal.

This sets Monk down a trail that leads from baseball to blues to the new south of Mississippi, where the ghosts of the past are restless…all the while, the haunting refrain of Delta bluesman Charlie Patton’s purported lost recording of the “Killin’ Blues” provides the prophetic soundtrack to the deadly goings on.

What are you working on currently?

2) I’m happy to say I recently participated with four other writers, me being the only male, writing a round robin novel, Beat, Slay, Love: One Chef’s Hunger for Delicious Revenge under the pen name Thalia Filbert.  It’s a darkly comic send-up of foodie thrillers and Chick Lit.  Currently, I’m going to be working on my Vietnam era graphic novel that I won’t elaborate on just yet, but I think it’s a ‘Nam story not done so far.  Will also be putting the finishing touches on the anthology I’m co-editing with the prolific Bob Randisi, Forty-Four Caliber Funk, including stories by Elaine Viets, Michael Gonzales and Bill Crider. 

What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

3) I guess at this stage of the game, still being in the game given all the changes and such in the publishing world.

What is the greatest DISPLEASURE?

4) To sound like a cranky old timer, all this social media tweeting, pintering, facebooking and what not one is supposed to do these days to get the word out about your book or other effort.  Bah, humbug.  But I’m a storyteller and as long as people want to read them be it on a tablet, your iPhone or scrolling through on your wired-in glasses, I’m wiling to adapt.

What advice would you give publishers?

5) Aw jeez, don’t us writers always have more than two cents to burn the ears of editors and publishers to mix my metaphors?  Give bigger advances or at least put money back into promotional budgets (and hire those young people to do all that creative social media outreach)…just sell the hell out of each book you publish.

Any writers you'd like to see brought back?

6) Gardner Fox wrote every damn DC Comics character ever.  Okay, maybe not all of them but during the Golden and Silver Age of comics he wrote Batman, Speed Saunders, the Flash, Hawkman, Hawkgirl, the Justice Society of America, the Justice League of America and on and on. He even worked for Marvel writing Tomb of Dracula, Red Wolf and Dr. Strange.  He also created a barbarian character Kolthar in paperback and wrote crime, mystery, sci-fi and spy novels too.

Because I’ve recently done a piece on him, Roosevelt Mallory also comes to mind.  As far as I can tell, he only wrote four novels, all of them about a Vietnam vet turned freelance hitman for the mob, a cat called Joe Radcliff.  Mind you, Radcliff was always double-crossed by his employers and Mallory wrote these books for the L.A.-based Holloway House, where the godfathers of Street Lit, Iceberg Slim and Donald Goines, were also published.  The Radcliff books are a bloody good romp.

Everybody remembers the thrill selling visor her first novel. What was your experience? 

7)   As I've noted several years ago on this blog when answering this question, selling my first novel was a rather circuitous route.  My then agent couldn’t sell my manuscript.  Simultaneously me and that fine mystery writer John Shannon (the Jack Liffey series, Palos Verdes Blue, On the Nickel, etc.), entered into a partnership with some folks up in Portland in what became West Coast Crime, a small press publisher of mysteries with a political edge.  And so Violent Sprint, my first published Ivan Monk novel came out under that banner, along with two other books, Elvis in Aspic by the late Gordon DeMarco and Served Cold by Ed Goldberg, which went on to win a Shamus.  And VS, the book that several publishers passed on, was optioned by HBO – it’s set in the aftermath of the ’92 riots in L.A., and me, John and Ed were picked up (and eventually dropped) by Berkley Prime Crime.

Black Gat #5: 

Only the Wicked by Gary Phillips
978-1-933586-93-9  *  $9.99  *  mass market paperback

The fifth Black Gat book from Stark House Press reprints a fairly recent book, but one that has never appeared in paperback before: the fourth Ivan Monk mystery by Gary Phillips called Only the Wicked.

Ivan Monk is a Los Angeles private detective who premiered in Violent Spring in 1994, garnering much praise for Phillips from his fellow authors as well as from critics at Publishers Weekly and Booklist. In fact, referring to the second Monk novel, Perdition U.S.A., PW called it a “hard-boiled detective adventure with plenty of raw energy.”

In Only the Wicked, Phillips utilizes multiple story lines to tie together a tale that includes negro baseball, an old blues artist, racial discrimination, the Deep South and a decades-old murder in a mystery that jumps from Los Angeles to Mississippi and back again.

Author Sara Paretsky calls Phillips “my kind of crime writer and Ivan Monk is my kind of detective.” Walter Mosley, creator of the Easy Rawlins series, had this to say: "Ivan Monk takes on a corrupt world ... He makes us feel that the war he’s wagering is for our own salvation.” 

Originally published in 2000 by Write Way, Only the Wicked is currently only available as an ebook. We’re excited to be able to offer this fine Gary Phillips novel to a paperback audience at last.

1 comment:

Bill Crider said...

I read this one recently. Highly recommended.