U.S. author "Andy" Andrew J. Rausch has been inflicting his writings on the world for more than 20 years. He pens both fiction and non-fiction, and has authored nearly forty published books, including Riding Shotgun and Other American Cruelties, Bloody Sheets, and Mad World. His "special" non-professional interests include Wu-Tang Clan, women's feet, and serial killing, which he does on the weekends in his spare time.
His non-fiction books are penned under Andrew J. Rausch, while the fiction works bear the name Andy Rausch, and several of his books have been optioned for movies. Mr. Rausch also recently teamed with U.S. crime and horror writer Chris Roy to co-edit the gritty story collection: A TIME FOR VIOLENCE, which England's Close To The Bone Publishing released in May 2019, courtesy of Craig Douglas.
NY writer John Wisniewski kindly agreed to interview Mr. Rausch for the Flash Fiction Offensive. We hope you enjoy their chat.
Why did you and Chris Roy choose the title A TIME FOR VIOLENCE for this anthology, Andrew? The title suggests there are times in our lives when “violence is justified”—at least emotionally in our own minds. Or at least in “fictional settings.”
Was this collection assembled simply to “entertain” readers who like violent stories? Were the two of you looking for “thought-provoking stories?” Or perhaps a bit of both? Which category do you feel the majority of these stories fall into?
I think there are moments in life where violence is justified—but that wasn’t what this book is about. We didn't want A TIME FOR VIOLENCE to be a celebration of violence. We wanted a broad unifying theme from which a lot of interesting transgressive fiction could emerge. There are stories of all types in this book, including stories that are sort of pro-violence in certain situations.
Sometimes violence begets violence. If someone hurts my child, I will not show them kindness. I will hurt them back. If someone hurts my wife, they’d better fucking run.
But there are also cautionary tales in this collection that speak to the dangerous effects of violence both physically and psychologically.
This collection contains twenty-six stories, which are all solid. I’m proud of every one and I hope readers enjoy them as much as Chris and I did.
This project came about after I had a heart transplant in 2018. You’ll see this mentioned in a lot of my interviews and bios because, understandably, it was a big thing for me. A life-changer, a life-saver and a game-changer. I started looking at things differently.
I knew a few “name” writers peripherally, so I thought, what if I just asked them to be in an anthology? I didn’t know if I’d ever have the opportunity to do something like this again. So I told my co-editor Chris Roy, “You know writers and I know writers. Let’s bring them together and put out this collection.” And within a day, the project was a go!
I was doing a book on Joe R. Lansdale and had gotten to know him a bit, so it was a no-brainer to ask him. I’d also done some work with Max Allan Collins since he’d written an intro for one of my books. Writers kept saying yes, so I kept asking. And that’s how this book came together. We got a lot of cool people, from Stewart O’Nan to Richard Chizmar to John A. Russo. We even got a story by my mentor Stephen Spignesi, who is one hell of a writer.
Please share with us the types of situations that give rise to violence in this book. For example, does a man kill his cheating wife? Is a woman raped and decides to track down and kill her rapist? Do two criminals commit a robbery—and one of them takes off with the entire loot—leaving his partner in the dust? And what are some of your favorites?
I know this is tacky, but my favorite story is my own, “The Sweetest Ass in the Ozarks.” It’s thankfully been a fan favorite, too. It’s about a woman who turns the tables on a would-be rapist. Another story I adore is Joe R. Lansdale’s “Santa at the Café,” which is about a robbery and double-crossing.
But the story that I believe most speaks to the sadness and bleakness of violence—the most “anti-violent” story in the collection—is a fine tale by my mentor Steve Spignesi. The story is titled “James and Sallie” and is a haunting tale regarding misdeeds that occurred during the era of slavery.
It was based on a true story, and it’s as bleak and haunting a story as you will ever find. I think it’s the single most important story in the collection by a country mile. I feel it’s important—especially now—to remember the struggles Black people have gone through in the history of this country. It’s important to remember and fully face that America never was this perfect utopia we are now being told it once was. It was a country built on the backs of slaves.
We don’t have to hate America, but like a parent with a bad child, we can still love it while recognizing it has problems and trying to make it better.
What are some Real Life circumstances where you might consider Real Life violence “Justified?”
I think violence is rarely justified. But I do think there are times that call for violence. I’m thinking especially in situations where groups of people are oppressed. I’m thinking of uprisings against fascism or oppressors. I love and respect Martin Luther King, but I tend to be more of a Malcolm X or Black Panthers kind of guy—because sometimes being nice and polite can’t fix a situation. There’s something admirable and exhilarating about watching underdogs rise up and defeat whatever adversary or group is oppressing them.
As a writer, on the other hand, violence has sort of been my bread and butter. I write about hitmen, killers, and have written multiple revenge novellas.
Speaking of your own writing, in March 2019, Close To The Bone Publishing also released your novel BLOODY SHEETS—which happens to be a revenge tale. Violence breaks lose in Alabama-USA when a small-town black man gets lynched—and the violence escalates dramatically when his enraged, estranged crime-world father launches a quest for revenge that leaves a bloody trail of dead Klansmen in his wake.
What inspired this particular story?
A lot of my novels and novellas deal with fathers trying to protect or avenge wrongdoings to their children. BLOODY SHEETS was inspired by the racial ugliness that continues to exist in our world. It’s very much a reaction to the bullshit that went down in Charlottesville, Virginia in August 2017, when bloody violence between White Nationalists and counter-protesters erupted over the city’s decision to remove a statue of Civil War commander Robert E. Lee. My book’s not political, but it’s relevant as hell in terms of racial hate. It’s pulp, but I think it’s important pulp if there is such a thing.
My next novel, LAYLA’S SCORE, is about the relationship between a hitman and his little girl. In that story, there come some moments where push comes to shove involving those who would hurt his daughter. So the answer for me is easy: if someone hurts my child, I will hurt them tenfold. I would feel completely justified. I got a heart transplant and stayed around on this earth a little longer so I can protect my children, and rest assured I will do just that.
Malcolm X said we should be kind and courteous, but if someone puts his hands on you then you should send them to the cemetery. I agree with that sentiment, but a tad more so with my children. I’ve let a lot of shit slide in my life regarding things done to me, but I would never abide allowing someone to hurt one of my kids. That’s a no-no and it would be better for people not to learn that the hard way.
But anything could inspire me to write. Literally anything. I also write a lot of non-fiction and I’m always working on six or seven projects at a time. I’m working on a book about Joe R. Lansdale for The University Press of Mississippi. I’m also working on a book about Elmore Leonard for McFarland. Elmore Leonard is my absolute favorite crime writer.
But I also love Lansdale and Collins, and I’m currently reading all the George V. Higgins novels. Don Winslow is another god in my book. I’ve also recently become a big fan of British author Paul D. Brazill. He’s the real deal.
So, yeah, I stay busy! I’m also scheduled to co-write four different comic book projects. When it’s eventually published, my novella Until One of Us Is Dead will be my 38th book. I’m very proud of that.