This time I sat down with Chris Rhatigan, made famous for three things: His blog Death By Killing where he writes about and recommends short stories, the crimezine All Due Respect for which he edits and, of course, his massive junk.
In the tradition of some of the most intense interviews the world has ever seen, interviews that burrow deep into the very core of a person's being, I peeled back the layers of a man named Rhatigan and exposed his darkest elements to the light of truth.
No I didn't.
Define noir for the masses.
Noir is not a genre so much as it is a mood and a perspective on man's place in the world. For me, noir has to have some core sense of nihilism and that people are fucked and its their own goddamn fault. So it's broad--Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre is noir, so is Philip K. Dick's Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep? Though I'm not into debating what is noir and what is not. Ultimately I don't really give a fuck.
You better for this interview or I'll pull the plug right now. Understand me?
Rhatigan, I'm serious.
Wow. Okay ... next question then. Where does your grit come from?
Well, I'd prefer not to talk about it. Let's just say that my doctor says its source is "not normal" and "related to the anus."
I'll ask Joe Clifford. "Related to the anus" seems to be his mantra. What parts of Chris wind up in your stuff?
Most of my writing is some shit I know and a heaps of fantasy. I like to the mix the two with abandon. I guess that's the point of fiction. Often jobs I've had show up--I've written about convenience store clerks, reporters, teachers. But the imaginative stuff is more core to my writing. I have a strong tendency to give a middle finger to reality. I don't give a fuck if I get the name of a gun right or accurately depict an action scene. I don't read like that so I don't write like that. I'm concerned with whether it's interesting or entertaining or damaging or numbing whatever I happen to be going for.
Did your background in journalism play a part in getting you to write fiction?
I learned how to write better. Writing became a habit. And, like I said, I write about reporters and the newspaper business every now and again. But other than that it didn't play much of a role. In fact, I think I hate doing research for stories so much because it feels like work. And I tend not to like heavily researched stories anyway.
You currently live in India, correct? I reckon that's something most people don't know. What brought you over there?
Yup. My wife, Melanie, and I came over here for work. We're high school teachers. We decided a while back that we wanted to teach in international schools--it would be the only way we'd have the money and time to travel. We were pretty lucky that a boarding school in the Himalayan Mountains hired us. It's been cool so far--we explored India last year and we'll go to Thailand and Malaysia this year.
Tell me about how you cam across ADR and ultimately took it over. Was the anthology a good enough experience to do another one?
Yeah, I have no idea how I came across All Due Respect. I remember reading the second issue, David Cranmer's "The Great Whydini," and being really impressed. Then I read every issue after that and saw that the quality was consistent. The founding editor, Alec Cizak, hung up the help wanted sign when he decided to give his undivided attention to Pulp Modern. I had talked with Alec some before that and he knew me from the blog and my writing, so I guess he felt most comfortable handing the reins over to me. The anthology was a good experience. We got plenty of excellent submissions.
Working with CJ Edwards at FDC Press (where I'm also an editor) has been a great experience. The book's sold fairly well so far in what is becoming a crowded marketplace. (Although I refuse to believe that ebook sales are a zero-sum game--the more good, cheap stuff that comes out, the more people will buy.) I've also been receiving a higher quality of submissions for the site since the release of the anthology. Having said that, I doubt that we'll do another one. Pulp Ink sold quite well, but the second book--which, in my opinion, is better edited and more cohesive--has not sold well at all. I don't know why this is, but I've noticed it with other collection concepts as well.
How is FDC Press going for you?
Well. We've (CJ and I) accepted two manuscripts. We're working with Mike Miner on a fantastic book. It's modern noir about the tribulations of three brothers. Beautifully written, emotionally honest stuff. We plan on publishing four or so books a year, so we're still open if anyone has something they think might be up our alley.
Tell me about Death by Killing.
Death by Killing was how it all started for me. This was back when reviewing any kind of short fiction on the internet was a novel idea. I think it was just me and "Nasty, Brutish, and Short." For about a year or two, I did a lot on the blog, posted almost every day. Now I've scaled it back to focus on writing and editing. But I still do the "Five You Can't Miss" series, in which writers highlight their favorites from the year. That's proven to be quite successful (in other words, it gets a lot of hits) and it provides a bump to stories that might not otherwise get noticed. And I recommend books--I'm not a reviewer, I just let people know if I read something that excites me. (Sexually, of course.)
The Kind of Friends Who Murder Each Other just came out. Pimp it, please.
Yeah, I'm really terrible at marketing stuff. Well, it's fucking free on Smashwords so you can go take a look for yourself. It's weird noir about motive-less crimes, paranoia, fate, and convenience stores.
I see. Well, lucky for you I'm a whore and I'll put up some stuff for you. Cool?
Really? You won't answer that?
Fine. Let's start with the best cover blurb. Mine.
"The storytelling is in the nuance here. It strolls along with a gritty, flat-line pulse, lulling the reader with paranoid details and untrustworthy narration. Then comes the hay maker and Rhatigan owns the moment. Over and over again." -- Ryan Sayles, author of The Subtle Arts of Brutality
Jeez ... that's good. Next.
"The Kind Of Friends Who Murder Each Other is filled with losers, from the narrator Simon to his pals Mackey and Slade, all the way down to the bartender who no doubt enjoys Springsteen's 'Born To Run,' so much so that it plays four times before the first page is gone. The thing about these losers, though? We know each and every one of them. Some of us may even be them, in one form or fashion. And that's what makes the book hit like a sledgehammer between the eyes. Read it and weep, kids." -- Christopher Grant, Editor/Publisher of A Twist Of Noir
"Chris Rhatigan's junk is so MASSIVE that I couldn't even fit it all in--
Wait. That's not about his book. ( ... checking reviews of all Rhatigan's stuff ... stories, stories, stories, anthology, more stories, huge package, stories ... )
Well, never mind. Onward.
You write both crime and bizarro. Can you tell the audience what defines and prompts the bizarro stuff?
Soon as I got a taste of bizarro, it started showing up in my work. (Actually, I don't really mean that. I hate how writers talk about their work like it's a fucking unconscious process, like they're "born" to be writers, and it just flows from their well of creativity. That's bullshit. I very consciously chose to start incorporating bizarro elements into my crime stories and to write straight bizarro.) Reading Jordan Krall's Squid Pulp Blues started that. So often crime fiction strives for realism, but Krall's stuff is unabashedly surreal while also being crimey. Then I read Sam Pink and Tao Lin and Andersen Prunty and D. Harlan Wilson and Mike Kleine and Danger Slater and Bradley Sands and loved all of it. My writing has always had a bit of a weird bent to it, so this was just the next step. I like taking classic story types, dropping them into a bizarro world and taking that to a destination.
A story I just finished the other day, "The List of Things I Need to Be a Hitman," is an example of this. It's about a guy who works at an office and decides to become a hit man. My next book is going to be about a reporter who only reports on gruesome murders. Then when he sits down to write the stories, he ends up making up really boring shit about taxes going up and public health initiatives. Everyone he works with will be a character from a class video game. The guy who works at the desk next to him is Super Macho Man from the Super Nintendo Entertainment System game, Super Punch Out! As you can see, this is very marketable shit. I will have a contract with one of the big six and be on the bestseller list soon.
Of course you will. Not. You play guitar? Do you shred like Slayer?
I play bass. Mostly jazz and funk. One good thing that's come of this--I'm going to Austria in the fall with the school's jazz band.
An Indian jazz band? My ears are bleeding already. Has living in a foreign nation changed the way you view fiction? How you write it?
No. I don't feel like I could write about India yet. I don't understand it at all. I've had far less time this year to write due to being a first-year teacher--that's really been the biggest factor.
What's so hard abut it? Mention the caste system, loving cows, terrible curry-related diarrhea and how they're not the real Indians since America's Indians are better.
Do you believe Jedidiah Ayres has a bigger penis than I do?
He wins by seven.
All right. Let's wrap this up. What's next for Chris?
I'm working on another book and several short stories. I've got something out at Shotgun Honey and another in a collection of stories based on Andrez Bergen's book Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.
What theme song would play every time you enter a room?
The music from Galaxy 5000, a space racing game for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. You don't know it? Look it up.
Chris Rhatigan, everybody. The dude is a quiet powerhouse in the community. Love him. Seriously. Love him.