Short, Sharp Interview: Timothy Hallinan

PDB: Can you pitch The Bone Polisher  in 25 words or less? 
Someone is murdering gay men in West Hollywood, and the cops don’t care.  It’s up to a private eye who’s losing his nerve.

PDB: Which books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently? 
Ides of March, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (both versions), Out of the Past (oldie, but just saw for the first time), Gun Crazy (same), The Guard.  Don’t really watch TV.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader? 

About other writers, sure.  Unless they’re really good friends or people I strongly dislike, and even then, sooner or later the writing takes over and the person recedes. But I can’t read my own stuff objectively until eight or ten years have passed, and even then I tend to cringe at the bad bits. 

PDB: Do you have any interest in writing for films, theatre or television? 

I worked as a “dialogue doctor” for a brief period of time — a producer who’d read my Simeon Grist novels called me up out of the blue with a ridiculously lucrative offer.  I did it for as long as I could stand it.  
The great luxury of being a novelist is that nobody rewrites you and no idiot actor is counting his or her lines and demanding more — that actually happened to me, and that actor also insisted in having the final line — the last word, so to speak — in every scene.  That was when I quit working in the movies. 

PDB: How much research goes into each book? 

Not much.  For my upcoming Poke Rafferty Bangkok thriller, THE FEAR ARTIST, I spent a couple of months researching The Phoenix Program, a semi-secret American offensive in Vietnam that aimed to kill 1800 suspected Vietcong — civilians, okay? — every month.  
A desperate attempt to fight an “invisible” enemy.  Went wildly awry, but that didn’t keep the Pentagon from including chunks of it in the plan they offered Bush II in the weeks after 9/11.  So it’s part of the War on Terror, and this book (comes out in July) is about someone who is accidentally caught up in the margins of the War on Terror.
But most of the time, I’m more interested in character than facts.  I try to keep things accurate, but my lack of joy in research is one reason I don’t write historicals. 

PDB: How useful or important are social media for you as a writer? 
They’d be incredibly important if I learned how to use them.   But I’m pretty much a duffer.  I mean, I’ve got all the accounts — Facebook, Twitter, the various Kindle boards — but I feel like a twit when I go on to blow my own horn.  That’s why I ask other people to do it for me, and thanks, Paul.

PDB: What’s on the cards in 2012?

THE FEAR ARTIST comes out in hard cover on July 17.  I’ll probably go on tour for it, pretty much all over America.  
The third Junior Bender ebook, THE FAME THIEF, will come out in May, and I’ll probably try again to get comfortable with saying how great I am in social media.  
And there’s another book, a book on how to finish a novel, coming sometime later in the year.  It’s called WRITING TO FINISH and it’s based in part on the “Finish Your Novel” section of my website.
Thanks for the questions, Paul!