Robert J. Randisi is the author of more than 400 novels—some 300 are in the western genre. He is the creator and writer of The Gunsmith series, which is published under his J.R. Roberts pseudonym, as well as numerous westerns under his own name and others. He is the co-founder of, with Ed Gorman, Mystery Scene magazine, and he is the founder of the Private Eye Writer’s of America (PWA). He also created the PWA’s Shamus awards, as well as the “Eye”—which is the PWA’s Life Achievement Award.
Mr. Randisi is a versatile writer who has written in the mystery, thriller, horror, adventure, and western genres. He received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly for his excellent mystery novel Alone with the Dead, and he has been called the “next Louis L’Amour” by author Jake Foster. He is prolific; he has published one novel a month since 1982, and if that isn’t enough, he has also edited numerous anthologies, including the First Cases series of crime anthologies.
Robert J. Randisi
1 Tell us about your current novel.
The Current book is HEY THERE, YOU WITH THE GUN IN YOUR HAND, the third in my Rat Pack series. This one features Sammy Davis Jr. in search of a photo he's being blackmailed with. Frank Sinatra asks pit boss Eddie G. to help Sammy get it back.
2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?
Just finished the screenplay for the first Rat Pack book, EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOME TIME. Shooting is planned for Jan. 2010. Also just finished the fourth Rat Pack book, YOU'RE NOBODY TIL SOMEBODY KILLS YOU. in which Dean asks Eddie G. to help Marilyn Monroe. There's more about Eddie G., though, as he must go back to Brooklyn for a family funeral.
3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
Seeing a project like these Rat Pack books come to fruition. I've wanted to do these books for a long time. Finally, they're here. And then seeing the reviews--the best of my career--and making the movie deal. It's all pure pleasure.
4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?
Seeing what's happening to publishing these days, on both sides. To go into what I mean by this would take a whole column. Let's just say that people without talent are showing up on both sides of the book. The inmates are running the asylum.
5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Get a grip.
6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in
If I named personal favorites they'd be writers lots of people may not have heard of: Ralph Dennis, Jeff Jacks, Marvin Albert. If I were to name three authors whose names would be more recognized I'd say: Thomas B. Dewey, Howard Browne and William Campbell Gault.
7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that
I sold it over time, starting with tending bar at MWA parties and meeting authors and editors. I met my first editor that way, over time sold him on the idea of a 4 book P.I. series, but when he was suddenly told not to do any multi-book contracts for a while he bought the first book. he said by the time he'd bought all 4 that way, the publisher wouldn't know they'd published a new series. But nothing happened after the first book. That was what was supposed to be the "Henry Po" series.
8. What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far?
These Rat Pack books. As I said above, they've garnered the best reviews of my career. And the first Joe Keough book, ALONE WITH THE DEAD, which was the first time I ever really used my 8 years of experience with the NYPD.
9. How about the low point?
Lots of low points. Every rejection, every book that failed to sell, every time I was let go by a publisher, every time I was told that private eye books don't sell, anthologies don't sell, westerns don't sell . . . I could go on.
10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?
I'll name one of each. Book: ALONE WITH THE DEAD (1995), the first Joe Keough book, which received a starred review from PW. Shory story: "Upon My Soul" from the anthology GREATEST HITS (2005) which, to that point, I believe to be my finest story. I'm not a very good short story writer, so this one was a turning point for me.
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Thanks Ed for an informative interview with one of the great writers of our time.
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