This week I speak to Larry Darter, a Crime Fiction author who writes in a really original, interesting style modeled on some of my favorite authors, including the legend that is Raymond Chandler. He discusses his work, the inspiration behind it and where he hopes to himself in the future.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime fiction?
I’d define my writing style as efficient, with a definite lack of a lot of lofty, eloquent language. By intent, I try to avoid the complicated or ambiguous that may lead to misinterpretations. My aim is to write in such a way that readers really engage with the characters which I think makes for a more realistic and interesting novel, particularly with regard to my chosen genre. I credit my maternal grandmother with the genesis of my interest in crime fiction. She was quite taken with the old-school, hard-boiled American detective greats, authors like Raymond Chandler, Hammett, and Ross MacDonald. You could always find those kinds of novels in her library, and I’d read them sometimes when visiting her. Soon I became as taken with it all as grandmother. Ironically when I first decided I was going to write a novel, I chose to write an Old West novel. But once I started writing I always had in mind to write crime novels. I’ve always enjoyed reading crime fiction, and given my background I feel it’s the genre I’m most suited to writing.
What is your career background and how did you get into writing full time?
I spent a good many years in military service, first in the U.S. Navy after high school and later as an infantry officer in the Army. After leaving the Army, I worked for the U.S. Department of Justice for a few years. My experience there provoked my interest in becoming a police officer. I worked in law enforcement for a little over 20 years, primarily in patrol and crime scene investigation. During the last four or five years before retirement, I did some freelance writing and had some success with that. Writing novels, I think, was just a natural progression from that. After retiring, I finally had the time to write full time.
Please tell me about your books. What defines your writing style?
Since I started writing crime fiction, I’ve written and published two novels, Come What May and Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair. They are really two very different books. Come What May was inspired by a true story, an actual cold case homicide that went unsolved for 23 years. The book is more a Joseph Wambaugh-like police procedural than a Raymond Chandler-style detective novel. I wanted to be as true as possible to the real story and felt the fictional version was most effectively told as a police procedural. Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair is quite a different story. It truly is more of an old school, hard-boiled American detective novel, the kind of book I really wanted to write when I decided to write crime novels. Both books are part of my current Malone Mystery Novels series. I’m presently writing the third book in the series, Cold Comfort, which will be released in November of this year. As mentioned, I define my writing style as efficient. Some might call it bare and spare. Part of that comes from my deliberate effort to follow in the footsteps of some of the old-school, hard-boiled crime novel masters I most admire, authors like Chandler, Hammett, and, Robert B. Parker.
Are there any particular mediums or narrative troupes you like to use in your writing and why?
As far as that goes, I do employ figurative language to a degree, figures of speech and even occasional clichés for artistic effect. I rely a great deal on Shakespeare in my current series for a unifying theme. That starts with the titles of the novels, each of which comes from a line from one of his plays, phrases that have over time become so familiar that they literally have become sayings that repeatedly appear in our everyday speech. I strengthen that Shakespearean connection with a hero, Ben Malone, who frequently quotes Shakespeare in the novels. The purpose of that is to present Malone as a bit of a contradiction. He is tough and street-smart but at the same time an intelligent and educated man. He is a man with foibles, an insolent mouth, a bad attitude toward authority, and a part of him likes the violence he gets involved in. But he is unapologetically heroic and truly wants to help the people he meets who need it. The model for Malone is the anachronistic knight-errant with a pistol in a shoulder holster, which I see as one of the archetypes of American culture.
What do you enjoy reading and how does this influence your writing?
I’m a voracious reader, as I think most authors are. I read both fiction and non-fiction. While I have a university degree, I feel I’m more self-educated than traditionally educated. I attribute that to the non-fiction books I’ve read over the course of my life, the source from which I believe I have learned the things of most enduring value. With regard to non-fiction, I truly love reading history, biographies, and books on finance and investing. When in comes to fiction, my tastes are quite eclectic. I enjoy military thrillers, crime thrillers, mysteries, westerns, historical fiction, as well as the classics by authors like Steinbeck, J.R.R Tolkien, Tolstoy, Hemingway, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Crime fiction is easily the genre I read most and truly enjoy. My favorite contemporary authors are John Roswell Camp who writes as John Sandford, Lee Child, and Robert B. Parker. Not a surprise then that I feel the works of authors like Chandler, Hammett, and Robert B. Parker most influence my own writing. I deliberately use their writing styles as a template for my own.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
Collaborating on a writing project isn’t a concept I find particularly appealing. I’m the guy who back in my school days absolutely hated it when a teacher or professor dictated that the class participates in a group or team project assignment. It isn’t that I can’t see the potential value of collaborating with another writer on a joint project. I’m certain I could learn a lot from working with another author, especially if I could pick any author I liked, living or dead. I’m actually not an introvert by nature, but I consider the craft of writing to be a solitary pursuit and feel I’m most creative working autonomously.
Have you got any exciting new plans or projects coming up that you’d like to share with me?
As far as writing goes, as mentioned earlier, I’m currently writing the third book in the Malone Mystery Novels series, Cold Comfort. I’m about midway through the first draft. I’ve also outlined the fourth novel, Foregone Conclusion, which is due for release in the spring of 2018. A related project that I’m pretty excited about is the launch of my new street team initiative, Team Malone. With so many books being published these days, visibility is the biggest challenge that authors like me who aren’t exactly household names face. The golden age of publishing when all you had to do was write a book and upload it to Amazon and then just wait for readers to discover it has long since passed. Street teams have I think become increasingly important to the successful launch of any book, and so for the first time, I’m trying to organize one. I want my books to be discovered and read, but that’s not the sum total of my desire to build a street team. I’m also looking at it as a way to more closely connect with my readers. Team Malone is still in the very early stages of development, and I’m still sorting it, but a Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/725102497695722/) is in place for anyone who might be interested in checking it out and learning what a street team is all about.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?
Yes, I’m really looking forward to the November 2017 release of the next Reacher novel by Lee Child, The Midnight Line. I’ve read every one of the books in the series and really love the Reacher character as well as Lee’s writing. Frankly, I was a bit disappointed in his last novel, Night School, which was another flashback-type story to Reacher’s former days in the Army. I think the series is a bit mature for that now and so I’m very hopeful that Lee’s upcoming novel returns us to the kind of Reacher story we fans have come to expect. In addition to the big name authors I like reading, I also read a good many first novels, and I recently discovered a very fine UK crime thriller writer by the name of Jennifer Lee Thomson. I just recently read the first book in her new series, Vile City, and it was literally the best thriller I’ve read in years. I’m not sure when it’s meant for release, but I’m really looking forward to the next book in the series, Cannibal City. Jennifer is truly a special talent, and I think she has the potential to become one of those household name-type authors in the not too distant future.
Anything you’d like to add?
I’ll just end things with a thank you, Hannah, for choosing to interview me. It has been both an honor and a pleasure. I’ve enjoyed reading the interviews on your site that you’ve done previously with some truly amazingly talented authors. I do hope we speak again in the future. Take care.
Thanks Larry, it’s been great to hear your thoughts and it’s always an honor for me to learn more about the lives of awesome authors. You can read more about Larry’s work HERE.