Today I’d like to welcome Barry Crowther, author of noir and hard boiled crime novels Missing and Nothing. Originally from Manchester, England, Barry now makes his home in California.
Laurie: You are the author of two novels, Nothing, and Missing. Can you give us a brief overview of both books?
Barry: They are both really different. The first main novel I wrote was Missing, this came after many years of writing and forms the first of the Matt Spears series. The second was an experimental piece that I wrote by hand when I first arrived in the United States, that became Nothing which is a novella.
I really need to get away from one word book titles!!
The Matt Spears series has been my main focus since the publication of Missing. The novel was largely well received, especially here in the US. It follows Matt who is a debt collector on the trail of finding the missing niece of a ruthless gangster. He’s sort of press ganged into taking the task. He has a small team of strange and funny characters that help him and even though it’s very dark in parts it also has plenty of humor. This is set in the gritty north of England.
Nothing came about after reading James Frey’s Million Little Pieces. I thought this was stylistically thought-provoking and wondered if this style could be applied to a mystery/crime novel. I feel it worked very well, but most readers are polarized by the style. It follows a hood-type enforcer from Chicago who arrives in LA to find the murderer of his young sister. He wants to get there before the cops get there and offer some gangland justice. This opens a whole can of worms and everything is not how it seems. I enjoyed writing it and gave myself a few challenges; apart from the style, the protagonists name is never mentioned. Some readers didn’t even realize until the novella was finished that this was the case. To me that proved success on some level.
Laurie: I personally like one-word book titles. Missing and Nothing both sound very intriguing. Would you tell us a bit about your protagonist, Matt Spears? Who is he? What drives him? What makes him stand out from all the other crime novel heroes?
Barry: Matt, as mentioned previously, is a debt collector. He became a debt collector as part of the family business, he used to be a talented cop, but for reasons only revealed in the next novel (shameless self promotion) he was caught in a conspiracy and sent to prison. On his release, in part due to a technicality, he was exonerated and then went into the family business. Finding debt runners.
He has a cool sidekick, a psychotic forensic accountant, and an office staff that rival the A-Team in strangeness. It all seems to work though and readers always seem to identify with at least one of the characters. Matt I find to be a funny guy who had some bad luck and can still handle himself. He has a skill set that not many other crime heroes have in that he runs both sides of the fence. He has access to police information due to his supporters and friends still on the force (he has many enemies on the force too), and then he also moves in and out of the criminal underworld. This is the connection from his debt collecting and prison past. This guy runs with the hares and the hounds.
Laurie: Matt seems to be a unique flawed hero. Did you infuse Matt Spears with a lot of your own personality?
Barry: I tend to think that Matt Spears is an exaggerated version of me. Matt is pretty funny with one liners and stuff like that, but I’m not quick enough in reality. Matt has the benefit of two or three re-writes to get his lines spot on, not me I’m afraid. He’s also a pretty tough customer and can kick ass like any other crime-style hero. I’m an avid Jiu Jitsu student and spend a lot of time training and studying the art, so Matt always has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Of course there are the elements of total fabrication where I have to draw on memory or experience. He’s a loner, with a long-suffering girlfriend who has just left him. I’m happily married with three kids. Doesn’t get further apart than that.
Laurie: Most of us would come across as wittier if we took the time edit our words before they came out of our mouths. Unfortunately, real life often calls for the quick comeback. Missing is your first novel, followed by Nothing. Is this a sequel? Will there be a series?
Barry: Missing is the first in the Matt Spears series. This will be followed up by As the Sun Turns Black, due for release in March 2012 (again shameless). This is currently in the final straits of the editing process. The cover is designed and the first chapter is available for review here: http://barrycrowther.com/matt-spears/as-the-sun-turns-black-sample-chapter/
Nothing has a prequel set for publication later in the year. The first draft is around 30% complete. It’s looking in shape and lets the readers of Nothing understand how the anti-hero became so screwed up. It’s all very macho. Haha.
Laurie: I understand you now live in sunny California. When you aren’t writing, how do you like to spend your time?
Barry: Mostly on the Jiu Jitsu mats or in the gym. At weekends I have a bit of a break and try and get down the beach with the family or catch some sun with a hike out in the hills. The landscape here can be beautiful and stark at the same time. Coming from the green and rolling countryside of the UK this is a far departure.
Being a writer I also spend a lot of time reading. This is another passion I enjoy very much, so when we’re catching some rays down the beach I often get a chance to get the Kindle fired up. It would be nice to fit in painting or some other art form but with everything I’ve got going on I’m really struggling for space in the calendar.
Laurie: It does seem as though you’ve got more than enough balls in the air at this time. What are you currently working on?
Barry: I’m working on the prequel to Nothing which I have provisionally titled Abandon All Hope. It takes place in a federal penitentiary. Plenty of hours watching Jail:No holds barred edition on Spike. I find these shows fascinating and it does give a writer an insight into how the penal system really works.
Again I was trying to challenge myself. For the most part, prison is boredom interluded with small amounts of movement or scandal (or violence). I’ve tried to make this into a forty-thousand-word story that works … and so far it’s keeping my interest. Sometimes I feel I’ve painted myself into a corner then some idea shakes loose and we’re off again. I’m enjoying it.
Laurie: Judging by the great reviews you’ve received, you’ve developed quite a fan base. I’m sure all your fans are anxiously awaiting the release of your works in progress. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Barry: I enjoy talking to other writers and would welcome anyone to comment on their own writing journey. Thanks very much for having me Laurie.
Laurie: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to spend with me. Best of luck with your writing endeavors, though it looks as though you have made your own luck!