Marc Lecard is a serious writer. No, really. Honest.
Don't be fooled by the fact that his debut crime novel, VINNIE'S HEAD (St.
Martin’s Minotaur, March 2007) centers around a nobody, nowhere,
bumbling crook who accidentally fishes his best friend's severed head from
Long Island’s Great South Bay and stashes it in a garbage bag in
Or by the fact that best-selling authors such as Duane Swierczynski call
him "savagely funny" while Steve Hockensmith compares VINNIE'S
HEAD to "The Sopranos on acid, Elmore Leonard on crack, Pulp Fiction
on poppers, Carl Hiaasen on magic mushrooms chased down with a fifth of
Forget about it. Marc Lecard is a serious writer. In his day jobs he has
written about forest conservation, endangered species, edible insects,
and composting. He has even published poetry.
Of course, all that was before he began to have visions of a floating head
snagged by a fish hook, dangling on a line. And before he began to hear
the voice of a friendly but clueless and morally challenged guy named Johnnie….
So what exactly went oh-so-wrong? Here's what Lecard has to say about writing
C.J.: what was the inspiration for VINNIE'S HEAD?
Lecard: The image of a severed head on the end of a fishing line kept surfacing
where it wasn’t wanted, that is, in another novel I was working on
that should have been a serious, even grim account of corruption, betrayal,
death and redemption.
The image was crazy, over the top. It belonged in a comic novel, not a
tragic noir epic.
I tossed the head out.
But it kept coming back. So I gave in and took that severed head on the
end of a fishing line, and wrote an opening scene around it
One problem immediately presented itself. Any sane and most moderately
insane people would get rid of the head as soon as they could. They’d
call the cops, toss it back, or in some way create a lot of personal separation
What kind of person, I asked myself, would keep it? And why?
As I tried to write my way through these questions, Johnnie LoDuco emerged
and began to talk. As soon as I heard that voice, I knew I had a book.
C.J.: Tell us about Johnnie. Is he really a hero?
Lecard: Johnnie is morally numb. But I like him anyway. He's not vicious
or predatory, and even his criminality is almost accidental.
Also, while perfectly willing to perform criminal acts, he is not very
good at them.
Johnnie’s good qualities, such as they are, are those you’d
look for in a good golden retriever—he’s affectionate, and
loyal. Plus he can cook—something few golden retrievers are much
Johnnie is that character that every essay on how to write warns you against—he’s
passive, events occur to him. A lot of events. Really unpleasant events.
Finding Vinnie's head dumps Johnnie out of his numb routine and into the
Wash and Rinse cycles of life.
C.J.: So he's kind of an anti-hero, the product of his environment.
Lecard: He’s a victim of his own passivity and cluelessness. I think
Johnnie would screw up in any environment.
Writers often admit that their detective hero is a stand-in for themselves,
as they'd like to be, if they were stronger, tougher, smarter, braver.
Johnnie the anti-hero is the antithesis of this.
He's myself in my deepest fears, with all my failings exaggerated, the
person I was always afraid I'd turn out to be. And then some.
C.J.: Long Island itself becomes an important character in the book. Was
it difficult to write about the place where you grew up?
Lecard: Long Island is hard to satirize. Things happen there that are hard
to exaggerate. I was telling a friend, like me a Long Island native, about
the book, the main character, and the head-snagging incident.
"Oh yeah," he said, "a severed head washed up on a beach
in Shirley last January."
Then he looked embarrassed—he thought he had ruined everything for
me by revealing that reality had preempted my satire. But if you write
about Long Island you get used to that.
C.J.: Before VINNIE your writing spanned many genres and mediums, what
made you turn to crime fiction?
Lecard: I’ve always written crime fiction. I just never finished
I made many attempts at writing a detective novel, but always was forced
to the conclusion that I had nothing new to bring to the genre. I produced
a number of bad, half-written Raymond Chandler imitations, and one not-bad
but never completed Elmore Leonard knock-off.
C.J.: You’ve published a number of ghost stories. Why crime novels
and supernatural short stories? Why not the reverse?
Lecard: For some reason all of my ideas for crime stories seem to demand
to be worked out at novel length. Perhaps that’s because what interests
me most is not the crime itself but the criminal. Who would do such a thing?
Is the question that seems to generate stories for me.
My short stories, on the other hand, tend to be built around single incidents,
and those incidents tend to be supernatural. I don’t know why.
That being said, I have written a crime short story about Johnnie LoDuco. I’ve
submitted it to the Killer Year anthology that St. Martin’s will be bringing
out in 2008. I hope it makes the cut.
In both crime and supernatural stories, I try to pay attention to the prose rhythms
and word choices that establish a tone, a mood that supports the action of the
story. This is essential in my ghost stories. You could write an effective ghost
story, I think, that would be all mood and almost no event.
Crime novels are necessarily more anchored in action and event. But even so,
creating the right atmosphere is essential to making the reader want to follow
the action. With Vinnie the mood is manic, about to veer out of control at any
moment, and I tried to create a jumpy, fast-moving prose to match this.
C.J.: What surprised you most about writing VINNIE'S HEAD?
Lecard: That I could write a comic novel. I had always wanted to, but wasn’t
sure I could be funny consistently and at novel length. I’m still not sure.
C.J.: Hmm…People like Ken Bruen and New York Times bestseller Christopher
Moore seem pretty sure. Bruen says "debuts don't come any better than this" while
Moore says VINNIE'S HEAD has "great characters, pace, style and story—Marc
Lecard has chops!"
Lecard: They’re very kind. I was amazed and grateful to get those great
comments from writers I admire.
But I still worry about people liking the book. So far, my mom and my wife like
VINNIE'S HEAD. And some other people who don’t owe me money have also assured
me that the book is funny.
C.J.: How has becoming published changed your life?
Lecard: I can trade on being a published author to get out of doing the dishes
or avoiding parties I’d rather not attend—"sorry, I’m
in the middle of a difficult chapter, can’t get away, etc etc."
And it’s cool that reality has caught up with my life-long fantasy. Being "published
in Heaven" is nice, but, especially for the kind of books I write, I'd rather
be published in New York City .
C.J.: What's up next? Is there a sequel? Tell us about your current work in progress.
Lecard: The next book is not a Johnnie LoDuco novel nor is it set on Long Island
. It takes place in the Bay Area, and is about gangsters, scientists, strippers,
startups, nanotechnology, kidnapping, extortion, murder and women’s underwear.
It’s a comedy.
Beyond that, I have an idea and some scribbled notes for a mystery series, set
in fifties North Beach in San Francisco , among the artists and poets of that
era. The "detective" is part of the scene, though not himself artist,
poet or musician. He's the guy in the far background in those grainy black and
white photos you see in memoirs and biographies of artists and poets of the period,
slightly out of focus, irrelevant, an "unidentified member of the audience."
There would be jokes, of course. But the overall feeling would be serious and
pretty dark. This series, if it ever gets written, breaks all the promises I
made myself about crime books I would never write: it's a historical mystery,
featuring an "amateur sleuth"; it's a traditional mystery in the sense
that the plot revolves around the unraveling of secrets and the identification
of the killer.
But it should be fun.
For an author called a "fresh literary dose of laughing gas" (David
Ferrell), it's hard to imagine anything Marc Lecard tackles not being a fun read.
Serious, wicked fun.
Watch for VINNIE'S HEAD in March, 2007 from St. Martin 's Minotaur. To learn
more about Marc Lecard, go to http://www.marclecard.com
ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER
Award winning author CJ Lyons is a physician trained in Pediatric
Emergency Medicine. Winner of the Golden Gateway and a Golden Heart
Finalist in Romantic Suspense, CJ is a member of Mystery Writers of
America, International Thriller Writers, Romance Writers of America,
and Sisters in Crime. Her writing has appeared in Romantic
CrimeSpree and Kiss of Death. Look for her debut medical suspense
novel coming from Berkley in 2008. Her website is http://www.cjlyons.net
and her blog can be found at http://www.cjlyons.net/blog.html
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