Art in the Blood: Crime Novelists Discuss Their Craft by Craig McDonald – review

Art in the Blood: Crime Novelists Discuss Their Craft craig mcdonaldI originally reviewed Art in the Blood by Craig McDonald on January 18th 2007

Craig McDonald is widely considered to be the best interviewer in crime fiction. He goes into each interview so well equipped with research and thought provoking questions that he possesses the singular ability to put the interviewee at ease. It’s this ease that lets real answers finally emerge, real answers that go beyond those that are summarized on the hype sheets and press packets. Art in the Blood collects interviews with 20 major crime fiction writers. Some of the interviews included are with James Ellroy, Ken Bruen, Michael Connelly, George Pelecanos, Walter Mosley, Dennis Lehane, Ian Rankin, and Peter Straub.

Part of his legendary preparation for conducting an interview is re-reading the authors work, and also reading every interview that was ever conducted. This last idea is an interesting one because it allows him to ask questions that haven’t been asked yet and to also follow up on answers previously given.

Some fine moments from Art in the Blood include:

-Ellroy renouncing “crime fiction” and instead wanting to be called a historical novelist.

-Bruen taking exception to Elleroy’s renouncement of the genre

-Pelecanos’ childhood accident that shaped part of his worldview

-Lehane mentioning his still as of yet unpublished/unnamed historical novel (This was back in 2003)

-McDonald’s research turning up that Walter Mosley had appeared on national television as a child on the show Kids Say the Darndest Things and that Bruen had once done a brief turn as an actor in Roger Corman’s movies (both were not only surprised but impressed at that level of research.

-After 9/11, the government solicited the help of crime writers to create scenarios in which the country could be attacked in the future so that precautionary steps could be taken

There is a wealth of information here and all of it is interesting.

This is a fantastic book that will appeal to a wide audience and not only those who read or write mystery/crime fiction. It successfully operates on a lot of levels and there are many reasons to read it, if not down right study it at times. If you have an interest in one or more of the included authors. If you are an aspiring author. If, like myself, you want to see how an interview SHOULD be conducted. If your curious to get an insiders glimpse into the state of the genre today. Then this is the book for you. This is a book that belongs on every book shelf.

As the subtitle Crime Novelists Discuss Their Craft suggests this book also offers invaluable insights into the behind the scene aspects of writing and on the business end also. There will be common stories shared of book tours, both self financed and corporate financed. Of the diverging opinion as to the best way to get started: in Hardback or Paperback. And the thoroughly modern question of increased availability of contact with the readers via the internet: Good or Bad?

I think that the dichotomy of the creative end vs. the business end is best summed up by the author whose interview closes this book, Charlie Stella.

Upon being congratulated by his publisher that one of his books had received a starred review from Kirkus his response was “Who the fuck is Kirkus?”

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

One Reply to “Art in the Blood: Crime Novelists Discuss Their Craft by Craig McDonald – review”

  1. I agree, The McDonald was the best interviewer. I say was because he says he hasn’t time to do those kind of in-depth interviews any more. A shame, yes, but I’d rather have another Hector Lassiter novel from him.