Jochem vanderSteen is a Dutch writer with an acute interest and insight into American private detective fiction. His blog, Sons of Spade, explores and promotes the genre as well as any I have come across.
Jochem’s contribution to the literature is Noah Milano, the son of a Mafia boss who became a PI as part of a pledge to his dying mother. Now he uses the skills learned as a criminal to solve problems rather than create them. Noah’s background makes police uneasy to work with him, and his new career keeps him somewhat distant from previous associates. It’s common for PIs to have to tread lines, but Noah’s line is distinctly his own.
Jochem took some time from his schedule of promoting his current Noah Milano novella, Redemption, to answer a few questions.
DK: You earn your living writing about rock music in the Netherlands. What is it about American PI fiction that appeals to you?
JVS: Actually, I don’t exactly make a living writing about music. It’s more of a hobby. To pay the bills I work in IT.
DK: The concept of Noah Milano is fascinating. He’s a man who must walk a line, but can lean to either side as needed. What gave you the idea for him?
JVS: I was looking for a unique background for my PI character. All the law enforcement backgrounds were taken (ex-cop, ex-MP, etc) so I decided to go for ex-criminal. While I was writing my first Noah Milano story Xena, Warrior Princess was playing on TV which gave me the idea to make him a character really looking for redemption. Also, a really good hardboiled character should wear a grey hat, not a white one.
DK: English is not your native language. Please describe some of the challenges when writing in a second language, even one in which you are fluent.
JVS: Dialogue comes pretty naturally. Sometimes I get into trouble with a sentence. All in all, I‘ve gotten comments that make me believe I make a lot of the same errors the real English do.
DK: Irish, Scottish, and Scandinavian crime writers have made an impression on Americans’ notoriously parochial tastes in recent years. Are there any Dutch writers ready to make the leap across the Atlantic and remind Americans we are not the only game in town for crime fiction?
JVS: There’s some successful ones who did, Baantjer (very popular here, but really a very crappy author), Esther Verhoef and Saskia Noort (good looking women writing thrillers for women). There’s very few writers in the Netherlands I really like. Lieneke Dijkzeul writes some good thrillers with inspector Paul Vegter. They should be translated.
DK: What do you look for in a PI story to make it succeed, or fail, in your opinion?
JVS: I look for a good mystery that surprises me. I like a bit of sex and violence. But what I really like in a PI story is a tough protagonist with a cynical worldview and a two-fisted attitude written in a straight forward, non-flowery style.
DK: Who are your favorite writers, and what are your favorite books? Is there someone you like a lot but think has not received his or her due?
JVS: I like most PI writers. Dennis Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone stands out. I love Parker, Vachss, Connelly, Connolly, Lee Child. Jeffery Deaver knows how to pile on the plot twist. I’ve got a soft side for Jonathan Kellerman, reading his Delaware novels always make me feel like I’m visiting an old friend. David Levien has been blowing me away as has Timothy Hallinan. David Housewright is really, really underrated. More people should be reading Wayne Dundee, Kent Westmoreland and Philip T. Duck.
DK: What are you working on now?
JVS: I’m finishing up a Milano short story that will be going to a few webzines. After that I’m going to work on a Milano novella that’s about Hollywood prostitution.
DK: Thank you, Jochum, and good luck with the Noah Milano stories.
Redemption can be purchased in the United States on Amaozn.com for $0.99.