Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Dead Man’s Badge by Robert E. Dunn. Today, I’m joined by the author who talks about “drilling down”, the labelling and categorising of novels by marketing departments which may just make you miss out on a really great book.
My thanks to Robert E. Dunn and Anne Cater at Random Things Tours.
Author : Robert E. Dunn
Title : Dead Man’s Badge
Pages : 298
Publisher : Brash Books
Publication date : February 1, 2018
Career criminal Longview Moody, on the run from killers, assumes his dead, twin brother’s identity as the new Chief of Police of a Texas town that’s being terrorized by a Mexican drug cartel. To pull off the deadly deception, Longview desperately works to become the kind of cop and man that his brother was. But when the two lives he’s living converge, he’s forced to embrace the violence within him to get justice…and vengeance.
Drilling Down by Robert E. Dunn
Did you know I’m part of a literary movement? I didn’t either. Mostly because I don’t pay enough attention to the business side of writing novels. I was interviewed by a Kansas City Star reporter writing a story about the rise of Ozarks noir. My name came up in his research. That is because of my Katrina “Hurricane” Williams series of books. They are set in the Missouri Ozarks and feature a female sheriff’s detective in a fictionalized Taney County.
It turns out that Ozarks Noir and I are small parts of a greater shift. Within the mystery/thriller world there is a growth of regional, rural, dark fiction. For my part I’m loving it and working to keep it alive and expanding.
You see there is a funny thing about literary genre. It serves to narrow focus to help the reader. I’ve written about it before calling it a shelving issue. Mysteries are grouped. Romances are grouped. Science fiction, etc. The problems came when someone, usually a marketing person who has never read the book, had to decide if a romantic suspense book was romance or suspense. Put it on the wrong shelf and readers will feel fooled. Sometimes it’s not really the wrong shelf. It’s just that there are not enough shelves. Brick and mortar stores have only so much space. Then came online retailing. You can drill down the category to find exactly the modern western, hard-boiled crime thriller, mystery/thriller fiction book you want.
To tell the truth I’m not so sure how much of the growth of particular genres is based on writing and how much is based on the specifics of marketing.
As a reader it doesn’t matter to me. I’ve always been a fan of books that use their environment as a character to shape and define the actions of the people who live within it. My take on the broader movement, Rural or Country Noir, was inspired by other rural mysteries that have shaped the fictional American landscape over the last few years. I’m proud to say that my books have been compared favorably to those of a master. James Lee Burke has stamped his mark on several locales and made them almost the personal possession of this characters. He practically holds the title to Louisiana and New Iberia Parish in the pages of his Dave Robicheaux novels.
Ace Atkins has staked out rural Mississippi as the home for The Ranger, Quinn Colson. Location can serve as more than a character too. The Longmire books by Craig Johnson and the Joe Pickett novels by C.J. Box are filled with the living, breathing, west. At the same time they define and create a whole modern western genre. Appalachia smolders under the heat of David Joy and Ron Rash.
I was comfortable in the Ozarks and writing about them. Then I did something foolish. I decided to write a Texas border noir. The foolish thing was trying to insert myself into a literary environment that was already richly mined. The region is a staple in both traditional historical westerns and modern westers. The books that define the border area are not just in fiction either. There are so many wonderful histories, both academic and narrative. This happens at borders I think. They are like cultural tectonic plates, colliding and grinding groups of people to make something new. All that conflict draws writers like road kill draws green flies.
So like a crazy man I tossed my Stetson into that dirt.
When you do that drill down thing with my novel, DEAD MAN’S BADGE, it can be found as hard-boiled crime or as a modern western. Reviews have said, fans of Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns would love it. One called it a knuckle-buster. The cool thing is that a book can be many things to different people. The hard thing is communicating to an increasingly fractured marketing environment how your book fits for each person.
All of that marketing stuff is nothing compared to facing other writers who have already left indelible boot prints in that dust.
But writing is not about staying in comfort zones. Not for characters and not for writers. And, I’m looking at you, not for readers. So I set out to write a modern western/crime novel about corrupt cops, a cartel that is almost a cult to violence, a hero with family issues, and a PRINCE AND THE PAUPER plot line that goes bad. What could go wrong?
Well for one thing, as I was writing, J. Todd Scott released his novel, THE FAR EMPTY. If you haven’t read it—do. After reading mine, of course. It is a violent, border noir that deals with family issues and secrets that go wrong. And it’s so darn good.
So all of this has been my rambling way of saying that literary waves can drown as well as carry a book. It is good to be a part, up to the point that you can’t stand apart. Don’t let the specifics of what you like define your reading too narrowly. Be a fan of good books not just that one kind of good book.
[Thank you so much for stopping by the blog with this insightful post, Robert.]
I wasn’t born in a log cabin but the station wagon did have wood on the side. It was broken down on the approach road into Ft. Rucker, Alabama in the kind of rain that would have made a Biblical author jealous. You never saw a tornado in the Old Testament did you? As omens of a coming life go, mine was full of portent if not exactly glad tidings.
From there things got interesting. Life on a series of Army bases encouraged my retreat into a fantasy world. Life in a series of public school environments provided ample nourishment to my developing love of violence. Often heard in my home was the singular phrase, “I blame the schools.” We all blamed the schools.
Both my fantasy and my academic worlds left marks and the amalgam proved useful the three times in my life I had guns pointed in my face. Despite those loving encounters the only real scars left on my body were inflicted by a six foot, seven inch tall drag queen. She didn’t like the way I was admiring the play of three a.m. Waffle House fluorescent light over the high spandex sheen of her stockings.
After a series of low paying jobs that took me places no one dreams of going. I learned one thing. Nothing vomits quite so brutally as jail food. That’s not the one thing I learned; it’s an important thing to know, though. The one thing I learned is a secret. My secret. A terrible and dark thing I nurture in my nightmares. You learn your own lessons.
Eventually I began writing stories. Mostly I was just spilling out the, basically, true narratives of the creatures that lounge about my brain, laughing and whispering sweet, sweet things to say to women. Women see through me but enjoy the monsters in my head. They say, sometimes, that the things I say and write are lies or, “damn, filthy lies, slander of the worst kind, and the demented, perverted, wishful stories of a wasted mind.” To which I always answer, I tell only the truth. I just tell a livelier truth than most people. [Goodreads]