Thursday, December 2, 2021

An Interview with Joe Ricker, Author of All the Good in Evil


Joe Ricker is a favorite interview of mine. We’ve never met in person, but he’s a fascinating character who is an honest and forthright interview. I’ve interviewed him before (June 2015 and June 2020) and they‘ve always been a treat. His new book, All the Good in Evil, dropped in October from Down & Out Books


One Bite at a Time: Welcome back, Joe. Your new book, All the Good in Evil, launched a couple of months ago. Tell those who are late to the party a little about it.

Joe Ricker: All the Good in Evil is my fourth book with Down & Out. It’s gritty, hardboiled, and there’s no shortage of violence. Basically, a couple of bouncers in Southern Maine supplement their income by robbing drug dealers and construction materials.


OBAAT: Amos Swain can’t catch a break. Where did you come up with the character and what inspired you to write of his fall from promising college student to convict?

JR: The idea for Amos Swain as a character came years before I’d ever tried to write a work of fiction. In a lot of ways, Amos is an amalgamation of my own history, and a couple of guys I grew up with. When I did finally pursue All the Good in Evil as a work of fiction, I thought back to the summer before my sophomore year of college when I got arrested for armed robbery. I remembered sitting in jail and thinking that I’d fucked my entire life up, and there would be no future for me except for something criminal. That’s where Amos originated.


OBAAT: I’m not going out on a limb when I say you write dark. What is it about such stories that appeals to you and keeps drawing you back?

JR: I grew up a little rough and that made me pretty unstable for a long time. Too long, probably. I started writing as a way to curb some of the “unhealthy” tendencies that I had, which I felt was very mature of me. I guess I leaned more toward darker fiction because that’s where I felt most comfortable – that’s what I knew when I started writing.


OBAAT: You mentioned in our previous interview how those you cite as influences on your writing has evolved. Is your list still changing? What kinds of things have changed in your writing as your influencers change?

JR: I’m always adding to the list. Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of Anne Sexton. I think that the writing I’m doing now is a little less dark. It’s more apparent with All the Good in Evil coming out, because I wrote that book so long ago. Some Awful Cunning, Walkin’ After Midnight, and Porcelain Moths were all books I wrote after All the Good in Evil.


OBAAT: You spent two years living in your car while traveling the country. Your web site indicates you settled down, or are at least staying in one place. Do you still get the itch to hit the road? If not, what is it about Reno that keeps you there? (Editor’s Note: I have been to Reno, though only for a few days and over fifteen years ago. I liked it.)

JR: Being on the road for that long was the most liberating experience of my life. I’m always yearning to go back on the road, but I won’t be doing that again for a few years. I’ve been in Reno for a little over three years now, and it suits me. A lot of the old Reno is gone, because developers have basically leveled the weekly hotels to build luxury apartments that nobody working in Reno can afford to live in. But, I practically live on the Truckee River, where there’s excellent fishing, and I spend a lot of time in the mountains. Living in Reno gives me a lot of access to all of the other things I like to do.


OBAAT: When we spoke in 2015, I asked what you were working on. You replied, “Faking my own death.” How did that work out for you, or is it still a work in progress?

: I totally forgot about that. That’s when the first version of Walkin’ After Midnight came out. But the funny thing is that while I was working on ideas for that, I came up with the idea for Ryan Carpenter in Some Awful Cunning, my first novel with Down & Out. I guess I’m still considering ideas on how to drop off the grid/fake my own death, but I’m pretty content with being Joe Ricker right now.


OBAAT: When we were setting up this interview, you mentioned at one point, and this is a direct quote, “this strip club gig is a lot of late hours.” There’s no way I can’t ask you how that gig came about, and how it’s working out for you?

JR: A lot of luck, actually. I met the GM of the club at a bar I hung out at. He needed a guy to manage a couple shifts. I’d done some security work in the past, so he gave me a job. I was teaching at UNR, but I got beat out for a full-time position for a spousal hire. So, I was pretty annoyed with academia and just stopped teaching for them to work at the club. That turned out to be a better choice for me. The money is better, and I don’t have to work as much. It’s been a great gig, so far, despite the occasional violence.


OBAAT: Time for the obligatory wrap-up question: What are you working on now?

JR: I’m working on the sequel to Some Awful Cunning.


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