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Wednesday 10 April 2013

Storyteller's Seven - Tom Rizzo

Tom Rizzo kindly asked me to answers seven questions for his regular Tuesday spot on his blog - Story Teller’s Seven

That interview is here:
Now,  I reckoned I should return the favour, so these were my seven questions.

 1.            Heroes and Rogues looks like a fascinating book, judging by the entries on your website. You obviously had great fun collecting and writing the varied articles. I’d like to add it to my collection. When is it appearing on Amazon and elsewhere?

TR: I did have great fun putting that together. I find characters from frontier America as fascinating as fictional characters. At the moment Heroes & Rogues is available only from my website as an incentive to sign up for a newsletter. But, I'm in the process of expanding it with additional snapshot profiles. Then I'll make it available on Amazon in digital form, and replace the newsletter "incentive" with something else. 

2.           Whereabouts in Great Britain did you live – and for how long? Any memories of your stay? (I know: that’s sort of 3 questions in one!)

TR: I lived in Southwest England, the Cotswolds for four years--Gloucestershire County. I have lots of memories of my time there. At the time, there were no freeways; the country had just started to build its first one--the M1, I think. Before I had a car, I used to hitchhike quite a bit and met the most interesting characters. It was an educational experience.  One night, in the rain, I hitched a ride with a lorry (truck) driver. While we were sliding and bouncing along, I asked him what he was transporting. "Explosives, mate." I rode the rest of the way with my fist curled around the door handle in case I had to manage a quick escape.

 3.           Your western Last Stand at Bitter Creek features a black officer, David Webster. I’ve come across very few black main characters in westerns – DM Harrison’s The Buffalo Soldier, Frank Roderus’ The Outsider, Brian Garfield’s Tripwire, and the Cash Laramie adventures featuring Gideon Miles spring to mind... What prompted you to use a black protagonist?

TR: I learned that about 190,000 or so black soldiers served in the Union Army and Union Navy, but still endured discrimination and segregation, even though they made significant contributions in the war and put their lives on the line as much as anyone else. The army was reluctant to commission black officers, which numbered between 90 and 120. The Lincoln administration initially worried that recruiting black troops would alienate border states and give them a reason to secede. The idea of a black soldier serving as a Union spy intrigued me. Making him an integral part of the plot, and equipping him with skills perhaps not normally associated with black soldiers, I think, gave the story a broader appeal. At least that was my intent.

4.           Can you describe where you’re going with your latest book?

TR: I'm in the process of outlining the next novel, which will feature both Bonner and Webster. I had such good feedback on both, I wanted to create a storyline where they'll be paired again, this time in search of another stolen treasure. 

5.       You’re keen on the importance of research and have warned about the danger of doing too much. Have you now evolved a method of handling research so it doesn’t take over timewise, and have you any fascinating nugget that has jumped out recently?

TR: Too much research, of course, sucks the time from actual storytelling. But the research I did for Last Stand At Bitter Creek was important because it enabled me to get a solid sense of time and place for the last half of the 19th century. Since I have the "background" information in place, most of my research involves connecting the dots, so to speak, in terms of the actual character and events that parallel the time frame I use for my story. 

6.            Okay, you're in a small café, huddling with three of your favorite writers (living or dead). One specializes in Westerns; another in Thrillers; the third in Short Stories. Who would they be, and what one – and different – question would you ask each of them?

TR:  Raymond Carver who, in his day, revitalized American short story telling. Carver focused on ordinary people who find themselves in ordinary - and sometimes bizarre - emotional conflicts. My question: "In what ways does real life reflect the untidy endings you write about in your stories?"  

Louis L'Amour -- because (1) the way he was able to bring the characters and the landscape of the American frontier to life, and (2) for his passion at treating the Western as history. I'd ask: "What role, and in what ways, did the American frontier shape the American character?"

David Morrell -- I'd ask him, "As backgrounding for your stories, you've become a private pilot, been trained in firearms, hostage negotiation, executive protection, expert driving strategies, assuming identities, and other things. Obviously, this all helps in creating reality in storytelling. But what advice would you give to a writer who has neither the time nor money to learn such things, but wants to write as compelling a story as you do?"

 7.            How would you finish this statement: "I bet my readers didn't know (this about me) …”?
TR: I once had lunch with Elvis Presley's manager, Col. Tom Parker, in Las Vegas.

Thanks, Tom.


thomasrizzo said...

Thanks, Nik, for turning the tables. I enjoyed my guest appearance.

thomasrizzo said...

Thanks, Nik, for turning the tables. I enjoyed by guest appearance.

thomasrizzo said...

Thanks, Nik, for turning the tables. I enjoyed by guest appearance.

thomasrizzo said...

Thanks, Nik, for turning the tables. I enjoyed by guest appearance.

thomasrizzo said...

Thanks, Nik, for turning the tables. I enjoyed by guest appearance.

Ron Scheer said...

Enjoyed this, Tom. I meant to ask you about Raymond Carver in my interview with you. I read his collected stories back to back many years ago and they had a similar impact on me. They opened up the genre to a different kind of character. There is also a melancholy in them that sometimes breaks your heart.

Bobbie Ann Mason was often linked with him, for introducing rural working class people in her stories, and writing candidly about them without being condescending or sentimental.