Friday, December 7, 2018

S.A. Cosby, Author of My Darkest Prayer

S.A. Cosby is another one of those writers who hovered around the periphery of my consciousness for quite a while, then burst into my sphere of attention like the Kool-Aid pitcher through a wall at Bouchercon in St. Petersburg. (I felt purple. Sue me.) We spent some quality time there, followed up by sharing a panel and more discussion at Creatures, Crimes, and Creativity as month later. Best known for his short fiction, Shawn’s first novel in several years, My Darkest Prayer, ushers in the new year on January 1, courtesy of Intrigue Publishing. Reading what he has to say in an interview doesn’t do him justice, as there’s no way to capture the enthusiasm he brings to any conversation. Use this to whet your appetite and make a point to catch him at a conference or signing near you at your earliest opportunity.

One Bite at a Time: Your new novel is My Darkest Prayer. Give us a tease on what to expect.
S. A. Cosby: Well I think the main thing you can expect from My Darkest Prayer is a good time. I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel but I did my best to craft an exciting engaging detective story set in the rural South that is infused with a little down home flavor filtered through the prism of an African American viewpoint. The main character Nathan Waymaker is a flawed and damaged man but also intelligent, fiercely loyal with a quick wit and fast hands. He is trying his best to bring some semblance of order to his chaotic world as he seeks a bit of redemption for his own sins.

OBAAT: Nathan Waymaker works at a funeral home and as a bouncer. Is he based on anyone you know, or how did you come up with such a unique experience set? (Great name, by the way.)
SAC: Nathan is an amalgamation of a few people I grew up with and how I see myself in my pulp fantasies. His personality can be best described as if Elvis Cole Eazy Rawlins and Spenser created a fully formed clone using all of their DNA...

OBAAT: We both like to set our stories in small towns. My first panel ever discussed the possible limitation of setting stories in small towns, which I thought was odd because I don’t think of a small town setting as limiting a crime story. For every big-city possibility that doesn’t really work there are at least as many possibilities that just can’t happen in a big city. My Darkest Prayer is set in a small town. What attracted you to the location?
SAC: I've always been a fan of pastoral horror and mystery. Growing up in a small town I had an appreciation for the history and banality that exist in hamlets and rural communities. Setting a mystery story in such an environment gives me a chance to let the good guys win and overcome the machinations of local villains and sometimes the very nature of the town itself. That rarely happens in real life. Plus I'm a country boy at heart. So my work is as much a love letter to my upbringing as it is a condemnation of its flaws.

OBAAT: Let’s run with that a little. People tend to think of big city crime organizations as being powerful, but in a place like New York there’s so much going on there are limits to how much of the city they can run. To me the idea of a small town crime boss is scarier, as he can literally run the town.
SAC: I think the concept of the small town " boss" can carry a much more immediate threat for your characters. In a big city if the mob bosses want to whack you they have to get you to come to a sit down at a place they control but they still have to be wary of the police, random witnesses etc. In a small town a crime runs the cops. He runs the town council. He owns a farm with a pig trough and he has enough cousins and hired hands to make sure you disappear. Outside of the direct violence they also usually own the bank or the wetlands board. They have so many ways to completely destroy you.

OBAAT: My Darkest Prayer is your first book with Intrigue Publishing. How did you get together with Austin Camacho? He and I go way back and it’s a treat to see such good people find each other.
SAC: I was really lucky to meet Austin and everyone at Intrigue. I was attending a Noir at the Bar in DC hosted by Ed Aymar and Austin read an excerpt from his book. We struck up a conversation and I mentioned I had a mystery novel looking for a home and the rest like they say is history.

OBAAT: You and I are both Thuglit alumni with something in common there. I had a story in the last of the anthologies and you had one in the last edition. I don’t think that’s why he shut things down. At least not because of your story, which was outstanding. I can’t be 100% sure about my possible effect on the anthologies. I know the story of how you and Todd Robinson met, but it’s too good not to share.
SAC: So a few years ago when there wasn't as much gray in my bead I had a friend who was a belly dancer who was performing in New York. After her performance she went to bar with her troupe. That bar was Shade where Todd works. During the night she mentioned she had a friend who was a writer and Todd mentioned he published a magazine. He told her to tell her friend (me) and in that indomitable Todd Robinson style said, "If it ain't crap I might put it in my magazine.“

I'd written a few crime pieces but my main interest at that time was horror but no one was buying my horror stories so I thought what the heck? I'll write a hardboiled southern crime story. That story became “The Rat and The Cobra” ….a few weeks later I got a terse but exciting email from Todd:

“You're in issue #10 Bruddah.“

I owe a lot of who I am as a writer to Big Daddy Thug
OBAAT: Who are your major influences and how has each of them influenced you? Doesn’t have to be another writer. Could be film, TV, whatever.
SAC: As odd as it may sound my major influences on my style are movies. Hell or High Water, Gator, To Sleep With Anger, films that juxtapose growing up in a rural environment with existing in modern society. But if I had to vote an author or authors I wish I could emulate I'd have to say my two biggest influences are Walter Mosely and Jim Thompson. Walter for his lyrical exploration of the American dream as seen through black eyes and Jim Thompson for his fearless appreciation of the downtrodden and the dispossessed. They are the bar I'm trying to reach

OBAAT: Here it comes, the standard final question to an author interview: What’s next for you?
SAC: Well I'm currently working with Josh Getzler and the fine folks at the HSG Literary agency to bring my second full-length novel to life. Tentatively titled Blacktop Wasteland….in December my story “Sweet Baby Jesus” will be published in a Christmas anthology from Coffin Hop Press entitled Baby It’s Cold Outside. Other than that I'm working on a third novel that I think can be best described as The Defiant Ones meets Rolling Thunder. Other than that I'm reading a lot and trying every day to be a better writer. Or as I like to say telling lies to find the truth….

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