Monday, February 22, 2016

On God, the French, and Orson: Jake Hinkson Interview

As far as many are concerned Jake Hinkson is the finest noir writer of his generation. From his searing debut, Hell on Church Street, to scorchers like The Posthumous Man and The Big Ugly. Lou Boxer (co-founder of NoirCon) stated, "Keep an eye on Jake Hinkson. He's taking the notion of the sacred and the profane to an entirely new level in noir."

David Cranmer: Is there anything you've ever wanted to be besides a writer?

Jake Hinkson: Not really. I have no other skill. I come from a line of people who either work with their hands or preach (or, sometimes, both). I did construction, and I sucked at it. So maybe I'd be a preacher. If I wasn't a heathen, I probably would have made a pretty fair preacher.

But, no, I never actively wanted to do anything else. I started writing stories as a kid, and I just never stopped.

DC: As a heathen (Merriam Webster defines in part, "not belonging to a widely held religion") do you leave open the door that we may have been dropped off by aliens--some celestial helping hand--or is it straightforward The Big Bang Theory?

JH: To paraphrase what God told Job: who knows?

DC: Have you matured as a writer since your debut, Hell on Church Street?

JH: Oh man. That's for other people to say, I guess. One of the truest things I ever heard about writing is that the more you write the harder it gets. Maybe it doesn't work that way for other people, but it's worked that way for me. You learn from your mistakes, but you also see more mistakes. I've written entire books that will never see the light of day. Those are costly mistakes to learn from.

DC: What was your impression of France?

JH: France was amazing. I can't speak highly enough of the people I met and the incredibly warm reception I got when I was there. We did a seven city book tour, and everyone was so kind to me. I met hundreds of people. It was crazy. They seemed to really love Hell on Church Street and were eager to read The Posthumous Man. It's downright bizarre to be far more well known in France than I am in America-than I am in my home state of Arkansas-but there you are. For some reason, my work has caught on overseas. Who the hell would have ever predicted that?

DC: France has a history of seeing talent we Americans overlook or take for granted. Phillip K. Dick was a good example of our occasional myopic deficiencies. Could you see yourself locating there if that enthusiasm considers to soar?

JH: To your point, the French were the ones who looked at our dimestore pulp novels and our cheapie B movies and said, "This is something unique called noir." Their ideas about noir, in turn, had huge influence on us here. So noir, at least originally, was the result of a French interpretation of an American phenomenon. And I have to tell you, I was shocked at how big noir is in France. Noir stuff there is what SciFi/Fantasy/ Superhero stuff is here. First off, reading is the national pastime in France, so there are bookstores everywhere. (Bookselling is so big there that people go to college to study to become booksellers. Selling books is a career in France, not just a job.) And when you walk into a bookstore half the store is crime stuff. HALF. There are two kinds of books there: noir and blanc. Noir is crime stuff. Blanc is everything else. So, in short, France is like heaven for a crime writer.

Would I move there? I don't know. I absolutely had the time of my life there, and I can't wait to go back when we release the French version of The Posthumous Man. I can tell you, though, that I never felt more American than when I was in France, which, funny enough, only made me love France all the more. So I don't know. There's been some vague talk of maybe going over at some point to do a residency at a college or something. I wouldn't rule out, but it would be a pretty big move. I'm not sure how long I could go without an America-sized cup of coffee.

DC: Michael Kronenberg has done an exceptional makeover to The Posthumous Man cover. Where did you first meet this gifted graphic designer and artist?

JH: Oh man, who is better than Kronenberg? I first became aware of Michael through his work as the designer for Eddie Muller's magazine Noir City. I write articles for them, and Michael's layouts for my pieces were just fantastic. We met and became fast friends. He's now designed covers for three of my books: The Big Ugly, No Tomorrow, and, now, the revamp of The Posthumous Man. Kronenberg is the best.

DC: Here's a wild card last question: like me, you are an aficionado of Orson Welles. Which one of his films do you like best and why?

JH: Welles is my great obsession. Maybe for that reason, it's hard for me to pick just one of his movies and call it my favorite. Citizen Kane is a movie unto itself, of course. There's nothing else like it. Falstaff is his most beautiful, most virtuosic, most moving film. I think it's probably his masterpiece. But to answer your question, let me pick a dark horse, a movie that not enough people talk about: The Trial. It's not for every taste-it's sort of film noir meets European art house with the heart of a dark absurdist comedy--but I love it. It's the Welles film that I've returned to over and over again the last few years. I love the world he creates in that film. It's its own closed universe.


Charles Gramlich said...

I probably should have known Mr. Hinkson's name before now, but this was a great introduction for me. Looking forward to checking out his stuff.

oscar case said...

Fine interview! I agree with his love of France, but when I was there, I didn't get familiar with the literary world, I'm sorry to say.

David Cranmer said...

According to my Blogger statistics over 450 visitors have read this interview but especially appreciate your comments. Thank you, both.