Sunday, November 21, 2010
The Wayne Dundee Interview, Part One
How did Hardboiled Magazine come to be?
Hardboiled was created for two very basic reasons: 1.) To provide an outlet for the kind of tougher, grittier short stories which at that time had very few places where they stood a chance of getting published; and 2.) To promote my own name and stories.
In the interest of full disclosure I never made any bones about the latter --- yet at the same time I sincerely felt (and still do feel) that I was providing a service to the whole genre by giving a stage (albeit a small one) to these stories and the authors who wanted to write them. This was in the mid-Eighties, remember, long before the internet and the webzines which are aimed at doing exactly the same thing Hardboiled set out to do 25 years ago. At that time, the only regularly-published short story outlets were Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine --- both of which were publishing good stuff, but it was all rather PG-rated and much "tamer" than the kind of thing I welcomed at Hardboiled. (Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine was also still around during this time, but folded in the late Eighties; a new version of The Saint Magazine came out somewhere in that same time period but only lasted for two or three issues; and Spiderweb Magazine - aka Skullduggery - where I'd placed my first story, also folded earlier in the decade.)
The actual small press concept for Hardboiled was the result of my exposure to two pretty disparate influences: The first was a subscription periodical of the time called The Not So Private Eye, which was photocopied and stapled, nothing special in appearance. Nor did it contain any fiction. But it was chock full of news, articles, interviews, all things related to private eyes --- and it attracted the attention of numerous fans as well as fairly big names writing in the genre at the time. Secondly, I was exposed in that same time frame to things called "chap books" via Todd Moore, a local poet I'd become friends with. In addition to being a poet, Todd was a big fan of hardboiled fiction --- in fact, his poetry could definitely be described as hardboiled. So anyway, the idea of a photocopied/ stapled product being devoted to all things hardboiled --- including fiction --- was born. Todd agreed to be co-editor. Bob Randisi and Max Allan Collins, who I'd gotten to know through PWA, were supportive early on. And Andy Jaysnovitch --- founder/editor of The Not So Private Eye --- agreed to provide me with his mailing list as a means to reach out to potential readers/subscribers.
All the pieces came together and our first issue came out in the summer of 1985. It had fiction stories, articles, reviews ... and some of Todd's special poetry. It got a favorable reception, did all the things I'd hoped (except make me rich - which was never really part of the plan, anyway) and we stuck around for 12 issues before it started to overwhelm me ... At which point, I'm happy to say, Gary Lovisi --- with a little prodding from Andrew Vachss --- agreed to take it over. Hardboiled continues to be published today, still fulfilling the role I envisioned way back when. It's encouraging to note that today there are numerous webzines also carrying on that tradition --- in all genres, not just hardboiled --- making it a truly exciting time for old and new writers alike.
Hardboiled will always be a special memory for me. I can't really comment on it without mentioning what an important part my late, beloved wife Pam played in making it possible. First, by allowing/encouraging me to go ahead with it when it was little more than a crazy notion. Second, by all the hours she put in helping me photocopy, collate, staple, and mail the issues. All of this was before home computers, remember. I re-typed the manuscripts for the first couple issues on a manual Smith-Corona typewriter; I did most of the illustrations for the first issues; and then Pam and I would walk 'round and 'round our ping-pong table in the basement, collating the pages, and then stapling them into the finished product. Pam would then seal the envelopes, lick the stamps, and do the mailing. A more supportive wife --- and I'm talking in ways far beyond just Hardboiled --- no man ever had.
Would you mind sharing with us a little more about Pam?
Pam was, simply put, the great love of my life. The term "soul mates" probably gets overused, but I think it truly would be applicable in our case. Our marriage/relationship, over time, became the benchmark by which friends and family members tended to measure their own relationships. Which isn't to say we didn't have our differences and squabbles over the years, we surely did. But deep love, devotion, and respect always won out, even if we ended up agreeing to disagree.
We married not long after graduating high school. We attended different schools but met while working together during our senior year on a 4-hr evening "student shift" at a nearby Admiral TV factory. (Yeah, that was back when they still made TVs in the USA). We both were dating others during most of the school year, flirting a bit and taking notice of each other (certainly me of her) all the while. We finally started going out around May or so, and were married in October. She was the most beautiful bride you ever saw --- with the most incredible big brown eyes and a smile that could literally light up a room. I lived in southern Wisconsin where you needed parental consent to marry at eighteen; she lived in northern Illinois where you could marry on your own at eighteen. My folks were okay with us getting married, hers weren't --- so we ended up eloping as far as her parents were concerned. The fact she was willing to cross her parents was the first true test of her love for me, because up until then she had been the consummate "good girl" who seldom said or did anything out of line ... So in the beginning I guess I kinda corrupted her, but the subsequent success of our marriage and the years we spent devoted to each other proved out in the end.
Pam was the first person to truly, deeply believe in and support my desire to be a writer. When we first got married, we didn't have the proverbial pot ... We were essentially living on love, eating with plastic forks and knives because we couldn't afford silverware, and surviving on ring baloney and macaroni and cheese. But you know the first "big item" we purchased on time payments? ... A brand new Smith-Carona portable typewriter for me to do my writing on. (Up until then I'd been pecking away on a huge old black Royal upright that my parents had bought for me at an auction.) That's the way Pam was, totally devoted to me and what would become our family. She was an "old-fashioned" girl who only wanted to be a wife, mother, and eventually grandmother (the biggest role model in her life was her own grandmother). This was in the late 60s/early 70s, remember, when women's lib was really getting muscle and any woman who only wanted to be a wife/homemaker was almost looked down upon. Pam was actually made to feel a bit guilty for her low aspirations by some of her friends and a couple of her sisters ... Her goals were justified when, years later, she had become a grandmother and the real core of our family --- while many of those who'd chided her were divorced, unhappy, and trying to hold together broken families.
Pam suffered a bout with rheumatic fever when she was a child and was always a bit physically frail. But she was strong-willed and had unshakable faith. She had very simple tastes, but what demands she did make she held fast to. Over the forty-one plus years I was privileged to walk through life with her, she undoubtedly changed me more than I did her --- and I was the better for it. In my eulogy to her, I likened her to "the quiet trickle of water that carves a groove in granite". In the end, her frailties caught up with her. After a series of illnesses and then a bout with breast cancer which included enduring chemo and radiation, she struggled with pneumonia and then finally her brave little heart just gave out. She died literally in my arms. I tipped her face up and all the vibrancy was gone from those wonderful, beautiful brown eyes I described above. I knew in that instant she was gone, even though I did CPR on her until the paramedics arrived and they continued on all the way until we'd gotten her to the hospital ... but it was over.
A great friend of mine once said, "If love died with death ... living wouldn't be so hard." And that really says it all. So I continue on ... emptier, less than what I was, but managing to endure. As long as my love for Pam is alive, then part of her is still alive. That much will never change. My job now is to finish out my own time, not give up, fulfill the obligations Pam would want me to ... until I can rejoin her again some day in a better place.
Where did the idea for Joe Hannibal come from?
I knew I wanted to be a writer by the time I entered high school. By two big inspirations at that point --- the guys who's work made me know that I wanted to try and write something some day that would cause other readers to feel the same way I did --- were Edgar Rice Burroughs and Mickey Spillane. Spillane won out, as far as influencing the direction my own writing would take (although I still go back and read Burroughs and Robert E. Howard once in a while and in a far-off corner of my brain there simmers the urge to still try something in the fantasy adventure genre some day).
All through high school and into my twenties (by which point I was married) I tinkered with writing contemporary crime/mystery fiction featuring some sort of "tough guy" protagonist. Part of this was in the 60s, remember, when James Bond and spies of various stripes were all the vogue. (Hell, even Spillane abandoned Mike Hammer for a while and wrote four books about counter-spy Tiger Mann.) So part of the time my protagonist was a spy (Bond influence). Part of the time he was a government assassin (Matt Helm influence). Part of the time he was a rogue criminal (Richard Stark's Parker influence). Sometimes he had no particular affiliation but was a guy who just got involved in righting criminal wrongs (Travis McGee influence) ... until Robert B. Parker and Spenser hit the scene and revitalized the whole PI genre, then it was back to square one --- my guy would be a private eye. At various times in various incarnations my character had names like: Lew Torrent; Ward Houston; Dan Houston; Dan Cash; Joe Dancer; Dan Hannibal ... until I finally settled on Joe Hannibal. Joe came from "average joe" and from one of the nicknames I had for awhile as a kid; Hannibal came from a mixture of the Carthagean general who threatened Rome and Mark Twain's hometown of Hannibal, Missouri ... overall, I thought it carried a kind of strength and power yet at the same time a ring of basic Americana.
Once I had the name, a couple final pieces of influence that anchored Joe and made him the character he eventually would be come were the writings of Max Allan Collins and Dan J. Marlowe. Both wrote stuff set in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin --- right in the Midwest area where I lived. Up until then most of the writing I'd been doing (bits and pieces of novels and stories that I seldom ever finished - yet all the while I was writing, honing my skills) had settings like New York, Chicago, L.A., Miami --- hell, I thought the kind of stuff I wanted to do needed to be set in larger, better-known metropolitan settings. Once I decided Hannibal could operate right out of Rockford, Illinois --- the "small" city (pop. roughly 250,000) where I lived, the remaining pieces of Hannibal fell easily into place.
In the initial Hannibal short stories he was pretty stereotypical --- basically a sock-and-shoot "Mike Hammer wanna-be" with a smaller-city background. As I got into the novels, I fleshed him out much more completely and gave Joe, I think, some distinctions of his very own. He's basically a very middle class, blue collar kind of guy. Decent, compassionate - tough, even ruthless if/when he has to be. Without ever intentionally meaning to do so, I realize, looking back, that I have given him many of my own traits as far as tastes, biases, and so forth ... I moved to west central Nebraska, Joe has now relocated here; I drive Honda automobiles, so does Joe; I love thin crust pizzas and Chicago-style hot dogs (which are damn hard to come by in Nebraska), so does Joe (and he's having trouble meeting his cravings, just like me); I have a bum knee, Joe (as a result of events in the last novel, THE DAY AFTER YESTERDAY) now has a bum hip ... and so on.
When I started writing Hannibal stories I was in my thirties and I pictured him being in his forties, a little older than me. Now I've moved into my sixties and I picture him a little younger than me; I'll probably "freeze" him in his late fifties, not ever being specific but using phrases like "looking back on the half-century mark" or "with fifty quite a ways back in the rearview mirror", etc. So he's grown a little older, a little slower, a little thicker through the middle and frayed around the edges ... but he's still not a guy to be messed with, and definitely not one you'd want to back into a corner.
The second part of this interview will be posted Tuesday.