Anthony Neil Smith Interview By Kent Gowran
Anthony Neil Smith Interview By Kent Gowran
Anthony Neil Smith is the author of many crime novels and short stories including All The Young Warriors, and The Baddest Ass. The film adaptation of his novel, Hogdoggin’ is slated for release in early 2015 from Killing Joke Films. His newest novel XXX Shamus was written under the pseudonym Red Hammond and published by Broken River Books.
Additionally, Neil is the publisher of Plots with Guns, which he recently announced will be ending it’s run and he’s the Director of Creative Writing at Southern Minnesota State University.
Kent Gowran interviewed Neil prior to his recent brush with death. We’re all thankful that Neil’s heart was only “mildly” attacking him and wish him a speedy recovery.
Kent Gowran: You’ve built and impressive body of work with your novels over the last ten years. I’m also a fan of your short stories, but I think I had forgotten about “Find Me” when I started reading XXX Shamus. Still, it didn’t take long to recognize the writing as that of a writer I’d read before. The way you wrote about New Orleans also seemed to be a tip of the hand. Did you think people might pick up on that?
Anthony Neil Smith: Not really. I’ve made an effort for each novel to feel a bit different from the last, at least the ones not connected by a series. So it never occurred to me that a book from earlier in my timeline (this one was pre-Yellow Medicine) would be recognized as mine still.
KG: I like the way the title XXX Shamus might be misleading to a reader. The sex is certainly explicit, but rather than being any kind of a turn-on, it’s uncomfortable. It might even be a total bummer for some readers. For me, that’s what sold the sex in the book, made it part of the story instead of a dirty interlude. What were your intentions with the explicit sex when you were writing the book?
ANS: Whenever I write sex scenes, I consider the reality along with the porn value. So it has to be a little like porn but with all the awkwardness, sounds, and smells of real sex intact.
I went into “Find Me” after watching Kiss Me Deadly and seeing one of those “pan to the curtains” moment where you know the P.I. is bangin’ the broad. And in some of these movies/books, he bangs a lot of ’em. So I wondered what would happen if we show a P.I. who just fucks everyone in the story. Just everyone. And as I wrote, I realized the answer: he gets tired. Really, really body-and-soul tired.
KG: I suppose this really goes back to “Find Me”, but which came first for you, the character of Hopper, or the plot of the story you wanted to tell?
ANS: I workshopped “Find Me” in grad school before publishing it, and while many of the students in the class were shocked and kinda impressed, the prof (Frederick Barthelme) shrugged and said it wasn’t as shocking as I thought it was, and he then proceeded to describe a possible scene even more disgusting than what I had written. While I never used that particular scene, it still kept percolating in my brain until I just had to write an even more awful novel.
KG: Is there a part of the book that your are particularly pleased with as a writer, or perhaps surprised you when you wrote it?
ANS: I’m scared of most of what I wrote for it. Terrified.
I would tell my friend Victor Gischler about the scenes I was writing, and we would laugh at the horror of it all. It was just awful. When I finished, I sent him the whole thing. He called and said, “That was *not* funny! It was funny on the phone, but this was not funny at all.”
KG: Broken River came out with a hell of a strong showing. Jedidiah Ayres’ Peckerwood finally seeing the light of day, and it’s great that Pearce Hansen’s Street Raised is getting another crack at a much deserved audience. How has your experience with Broken River been?
ANS: It had been outstanding. Something about David’s first note to me, asking if I had something to show him, well, at first I said no, but since I’d read his Low Down Death, Right Easy, I let him see XXX on a hunch. He loved it. Accepted in within a day. And since then, it’s been neat watching a new, exciting small press launch. I gave advice when I could, but this guy has so much of the crime and bizarro arenas wired already, it was instant explosion. He’s got good writers, risky books, and amazing covers from Matthew Revert. I’m rooting for him.
KG: Let’s say someone is on the fence about making with the clicking action on the purchase of XXX Shamus. How would you pitch it to them?
ANS: Don’t do it. Really. I don’t need to give anyone another reason to hate me.
KG: Plots With Guns is 15 years old. How do you feel about that? I know it might be a logistical nightmare, but has anyone ever approached you about releasing the Plots WIth Guns anthology that was a limited edition hardcover from Dennis McMillan in paperback or e-book?
ANS: I don’t think I can release that book. I think it’s Dennis’ officially. But it was fun to do it.
I wish I had the time to keep reading and designing for PWG. I liked having control over it, but man, I love my day job (busy as hell) and I need to write novels, so I’m much happier that it’s in someone else’s hands rather than dead or one of those sites that gets taken over as trojan-horse porn zombie site.
We started PWG because the other mags out there were either not printed often enough or widely distributed enough, and the big ones (“ahem” AH “cough” EQ) were, let’s face it, boring. And I’m stunned now when I look back and all the writers we found while simply looking for the types of stories we didn’t think were getting published enough. And then again when I rebooted it. So so many new voices. That’s the legacy I’m most proud of.
Sean and Gonzalo and Erik have made PWG even better-looking with a wider range of great stories. I’m so glad they are doing the hard work. Many kudos.
Kent Gowran lives in Chicago where he is currently engaged in a dead heat between hair loss and going gray, though he still knows if it’s too loud, you’re too old. His stories have appeared in Plot With Guns, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled, Horror Garage, A Twist of Noir, Beat to a Pulp, and other wild venues.