Interview With Frank De Blasé
I first met Frank at Bouchercon in Albany NY a couple years ago. I’m a big fan of the books but I’m also a big fan of Frank. He is one of the most genuine people I know. He also has great taste in music! ~Jon
Jon: Frank, you have a pretty damn cool background and while there are similarities between you and Frankie Valentine how much of you is really in the character?
Frank: Well, if you were to ask my wife, a lot. If you ask me, we have the same sense of humor and propensity for photographing nudie cuties. But the similarities end there. Frankie Valentine gets more girlie action than I ever did, and seems to get beat up more, too.
Jon: In A COUGAR’S KISS Frank has moved out to LA which in the early sixties seems like a perfect setting for the book. What prompted the change of scenery?
Frank: In a typical noir story, the character has no way out, they can’t escape what they are whether they think they can or not. By moving Frankie Valentine out West for the first part of the book, it illustrates that a change in location doesn’t change who and what you are. In A COUGAR’S KISS he’s still getting beat up and getting more trim than any of us.
Jon: What was the inspiration for this latest book? The vibe here and in your previous book and stories feels like a wonderful noir b movie.
Frank: Thank you. I thoroughly enjoy celebrating the low end of the high life and the darkness it originally comes from in my characters’ world. In this case, I wanted to go back in Frankie Valentine’s life and find out where his proclivities came from. What lit the fuse? Was there a way out? Did he even want one?
Jon: Would it be safe to say that you are living the life you love? You seem to be a person who loves his work.
Frank: I’ve always said you make your own fun. I’ve loved vintage girlie magazines, pulp novels, and rockabilly all my life. If I love it, l I find a way to do it. I’m somewhat of an outsider with each of my pursuits. As a photographer, I’m viewed as a musician. As a musician, I’m seen as a writer. As a writer, I’m seen as both. To be honest, despite the girls and the loud guitars, writing is my true love… and there’s definitely no way out.
Jon: It’s seems to me in Frankie’s perfect world he would spend his time taking pictures of beautiful women, listening to good music and having a few drinks and so I was going to ask how it is he keeps ending up in these situations. Of course good noir means women leading men into these situations. Is there a trick to writing a great femme fatale?
Frank: I think Frankie sees himself as better than those around him, or at the least immune, less susceptible to the temptations and pitfalls associated with women — all women. And let’s face it, they’re all femme fatales, and Frankie is learning that lesson the hard way.
The way I write a femme fatale is with doses of metaphor and humor. I never metaphor I didn’t like. A little exaggeration is key as well. Nobody wants a dull, dowdy dame to make the scene on merely adequate equipment. The legs gotta be long, the backside callipygian, the bust bountiful, and of course, the heart black. The more cruel, and duplicitous she seems, the more beautiful she becomes. And the more Frankie wants to take her picture.
I’m not sure there’s any one trick to writing a great femme fatale, a bodacious bombshell, a torrid tart, but it’s important to realize that there are three basic kinds of femme fatale: 1) The dame that sets out to ruin a man’s life. 2) The dame that gets invited by the man into the man’s life initially unaware of her power over him. 3) A combination of the two where the only thing left is a grease spot where the man once stood. A good femme fatale, and a guy will do anything. Frankie Valentine is no different.
Frank: Life, liberty, and the happiness of pursuit… who would want a vacation from that? Wherever there’s a dame willing to dispose of her clothes and pose, Frankie Valentine will be there with his camera. So there’s a little trouble, big deal, a black eye here or there, a broken heart. I mean, would you just get a load of all this eye candy?
Jon: Is it important to you to have a “That could really happen” vibe to your story telling?
Frank: Yes. I don’t require or expect suspension of belief in my writing or from my readers. I think that tends to be a crutch and can prevent you from fleshing out a character’s or a scene’s plausibility. I have to believe it first before I put it on the page, even if it’s a lie.
Jon: If COUGAR’S KISS had a soundtrack what would be on it?
Frank: Slim Gaillard, Chet Baker, Busted Valentines, Nat King Cole, Thelonious Monk, T-Bone Walker, Link Wray, Tom Waits, Johnny Staccato… and random wolf whistles and finger snaps. You get the picture.