Among the many unexpected treats I’ve had since hooking up with Down & Out Books is the opportunity to participate in anthologies. First up is The Black Car Business, a project edited by Larry Kelter that drops next week.
The unifying thread is a black car. It could be parked outside your house or down the block. Pacing you on the highway. Have a body in it. Or be what you run toward when in trouble. Larry has the juice to pull together enough writers that The Black Car Business had to be broken into two anthologies to fit all the people who wanted in. Volume 1 features talent including Eric Beetner, J. Carson Black, Cheryl Bradshaw, Diane Capri, Jeffery Hess, Lawrence Kelter, Allan Leverone, Simon Wood, and Vincent Zandri. (And me.)
Thanks to Larry Kelter for taking time away from his busy schedule to chat with me a bit about The Black Car Business.
One Bite at a Time: Tell us about The Black Car Business.
Lawrence Kelter: The black car is more than a car. It's an ominous symbol which in thesetting of a mystery story can represent almost anything - and now it has. I'm privileged to know many fine authors in the suspense genre, who fortunately felt the same way about this anthology idea. We've assembled two groups of noir powerhouse writers who've applied their talents to writing stories in which a mysterious vehicle takes center stage. The results are nothing short of amazing. In a two-volume set we've compiled twenty-one killer stories, each capable of sending chills down your back.
OBAAT: What gave you the idea?
LK: Exploring an author's motivation can be dangerous - learning the innermost workings of the wannabe criminal mind. However ... this fun idea came to me many years ago when I was taking a long ride in the back seat of a Lincoln limo. The driver and I got to talking and he mentioned one particular adventure he'd had as a chauffeur. It was quite a story as I remember. I commented on it and he said that he had encountered lots of interesting people in the "black car business." That was all it took - my mind started whirring with the possibilities and it made its way onto my to-do list (one of them anyway). Long story short, life and my writing schedule got in the way. It took many, many years before it occurred to me to do an anthology around the concept. Voila, here it is, ages hence.
OBAAT: That could be a good series or anthology TV show, just the stuff that happens to a limo driver. You have twenty-one crime and suspense writers, and their tastes and voices cover quite a range. Give us an idea of how wide that range turned out to be once you saw the finished products.
LK: I can’t put into words how incredibly diverse these stories are, but I’m sure readers will be delighted by the array, which covers a time from the 1920s to current day. We’ve got gangsters, gumshoes, thugs, goons, hooligans and more, and that just story number one. I found it so incredibly interesting to see how each of the scribes took the black car in a different direction (no pun intended). I remember reading some of the submissions and saying, “Huh, I never would’ve thought about that.” I’m glad someone did though. This is a good one. I can’t wait for it to be released.
OBAAT: You’re a successful novelist with northward of twenty books of your own out there. Why take the time away from your own work to take on the headaches of editing an anthology?
LK: Because that’s what we do, we writers lead from the heart and follow our passion wherever it takes us. I’ve wanted to see the Black Car Business fleshed out for quite some time and I’m glad its finally happening. Aside from the above, it was a great learning experience and a heck of a lot of fun.
OBAAT: Anthologies have become a much more prominent piece of the crime fiction landscape over the past few years. Akashic probably started it with their [insert city name here] Noir series. Then there are the collections based on songwriters. (Trouble in the Heartland inspired by Bruce Springsteen and Just to Watch Them Die for Johnny Cash.) Now there’s Unloaded, The Night of the Flood, Black Car Business and those are just the examples from Down & Out Books. Why do you think anthologies have become such a big deal?
LK: Credit to James Patterson, he developed the “sound bite” market. So many readers have only a short opportunity to capitalize on a good story and often time opt for a brief read. Patterson’s chapters are usually no more than a page or two. A reader can pick up one of his books with only a small amount of time to spare and still get a good dose of suspense. I think he’s helped train readers in this manner. Sort of like shopping at departments stores only on Wednesdays when everything is marked down. Or maybe I’m dead wrong. Perhaps it’s the art of Edgar Allan Poe making a resurgence—great suspense, twists and turns crammed into the space of just a few pages. Sounds good to me.
OBAAT: With The Black Car Business behind you, what’s next?
LK: I’ve spent a lot of time on project development in the last two years and now it’s time to put the lime in the coconut, or more commonly, put the bread on the table.
The Stephanie Chalice series has been my bread and butter, with more than half a million copies sold. I’ve been so busy with other projects that my Chalice output has been a little off. That’s fixed now—beginning April ’18 and continuing each month thereafter—that’s right, I said each month—Chalice is back in a new series I’ve chosen to call the City Beat. These are small novels of about one hundred pages, and as I said, this will be a monthly series. I’ve been brow beaten to death by Chalice fans complaining that I’m just not writing enough to keep them happy. A book a month is a hectic pace but I’ll stick to it until arthritis kicks in—or my fingers fall off.
I’m the new voice of Vincent Gambini and Mona Lisa Vito, that zany couple from “My Cousin Vinny.” Back To Brooklyn, the sequel to the iconic comedy was published last summer and received a warm reception from readers and critics alike. We’re moving forward. Next up is the official movie novelization. If you thought Vinny and Lisa were funny on the big screen, just wait until you start turning pages. Updated with added scenes and even more laughs, this literary version of “My Cousin Vinny” will have you rolling on the floor. Early in 2019, we’ll release You Should Know, the next chapter in the My Cousin Vinny saga. I foresee a longer and merry future for Vinny and Lisa. Am I sure? Yeah, I’m pos-i-tive!
Lastly, if you enjoyed “The Princess Bride” you’re sure to love The Treasure of Indecisie, a fantasy set in the age of enchantment, a story within a story that’ll have you laughing out loud. Out June ’18.