Conversations with the Bookless: Robert Crisman

You can read the full introduction to the series here. In short The Conversations with the Bookless series is designed to raise the profile of and increase the exposure of some of the emerging writers we knew were out there.

In this installment we talk to Robert Crisman

After the jump check out the full interview.

Why do you write?

I have a bunch of reasons, some of them longwinded:

1. I want to put people in a new world the way The Wizard of Oz put me in one when I was five.

2. I want people to see the world through my eyes.

3. I enjoy making words dance, sing, and fly off the page.

4. I also enjoy solving problems that come with writing fiction. The most important thing I have to do in a story is make things clear to the reader. The purpose in telling a story is to communicate, and without clarity there can be no communication. All problems that arise have in fact to do in some manner with the question of clarity, without which there is nothing.

A story, like a world, is composed of a welter of elements: trees, mountains, oceans, flora, fauna, ozone, etc. It’s my job to discern the interrelations among these elements and to render them exactly on the page. Otherwise the reader can’t know where in the world he or she is. Again, this all has to do with making things clear.

A story recounts something that occurred in time and space which has significance for the writer and, by extension, the reader. Something of significance has impact that changes the way one sees and relates to the world. Significance is at the outset buried under rubble; clarity is the means of bringing it into the light.

I need to ensure that each element of a story is placed and rendered in a way that best serves the whole. I’ve often fallen in love with words, phrases, or passages I’ve written that call attention to themselves and thereby take away from that whole. I’ve had to learn to reshape or excise those words, phrases, and passages.

5. I want fame and fortune.

6. I want revenge on all those who told me early in life that I’d never amount to a flyspeck on somebody’s windshield.

What is the value and purpose of short fiction in Mystery/Crime fiction for you? For you personally and overall for the form and genre?

For me short stories have the same value as novels. It’s all storytelling.

What do you most value in the fiction you love?

Whatever it is that shines light on the world I live in.

What’s your favorite story written by someone else?

“Flypaper” by Dashiell Hammett, which first brought home the beauty of the American language as rendered on paper.

Who are your influences and what is your unlikeliest influence?

My main influence is George V. Higgins, the dialogue master of all time who wrote The Friends of Eddie Coyle. My unlikeliest influence was the gay French writer Jean Genet who first showed me the degree to which gender roles are social and political constructs.

What issues or ideas about fiction have been foremost in your mind of late?

I haven’t thought about issues of fiction per se in awhile. I do think a lot about the way American publishers and agents filter what gets presented to the reading public. More and more, they seem to want only to deal with stuff that they think will replicate the impact of last year’s big hit. That leaves the more, uh, unformulaic among us pretty much out in the cold.

Who is the best short story writer that people haven’t gotten hip to yet?


What do you like most about short fiction?

The same things I like most in all fiction, the things that shine light on the world, especially those corners our culture would rather ignore.

Where are you, right now, as you’re writing these answers?

I’m at home drinking coffee.

When did you start writing short fiction and what prompted you to do so?

I started around 10 years ago. I’d written a novel entitled Red Christmas, about three men who engineer the robbery of a dopehouse, and it seemed to me that there were a lot of stories rolled up in the larger one which, with a little reshaping, would stand quite well on their own.

Of all of your stories, which is your favorite; the one that showcases best your abilities?

There’s no one story that’s my favorite. I write stories that are funny and stories that aren’t. The comedic one I like best is called Hard Knocks, which, by the time this question-and-answer session sees the light of day, will have been posted on the A Twist Of Noir blogsite. There’s no one of the other sort that I like best, though a thing I did called The Last Nasty, also at A Twist Of Noir, would serve if I had to choose.

Do you have any short story publications forthcoming?

Not yet.

How do you plan to rectify your booklessness?

I’ve got sort of a three-pronged game plan. First is to keep bugging publishers and agents. Second, is to plaster the internet with my stuff and get my name out there. Third is to finish post-prod on a movie, Chasing the Dopeman, that was made from one of my short stories. The plan here is to enter the movie in festivals and get it out on the internet and thereby bolster name recognition and maybe even make some money, which, hopefully, will heighten the interest of the sundry middlemen who stand guard at the gate of the publishing world. The prospect of money always brings them running.

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Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former newspaper reporter and author of five crime novels from Down and Out Books. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP, A TWIST OF NOIR and THE BIG ADIOS.

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About Jack Getze

Spinetingler's Fiction Editor is a former newspaper reporter and author of five crime novels from Down and Out Books. His short fiction has been published on the web at BEAT TO A PULP, A TWIST OF NOIR and THE BIG ADIOS.

3 Replies to “Conversations with the Bookless: Robert Crisman”

  1. Robert Crisman is the first writer to spark my interest in noir, and despite reading others I’m still partial to his unique style, flow, and bull’s-eye perspective. His clarity and facility with language eases us down unfamiliar roads, can transform a dark ghetto into an emerald Oz or Wonderland. He’s a street poet, raw and brilliant, one of the rare “fabulous yellow roman candles” Jack Kerouac wrote about.

  2. Robert’s stories are cutting edge and real, he lives in the guts of the world and drags forth the naked lunch on the end of our forks. He is incisive, funny, dark, iconoclastic and never dull.