Thursday, June 2, 2022

Dietrich Kalteis, Author of Nobody From Somewhere

 Dietrich Kalteis is the critically acclaimed author of ten novels and winner of the 2022 Crime Writers of Canada Award of Excellence for Best Crime Novel for Under an Outlaw Moon. He enjoys life with his family on Canada’s West Coast.


I met him at Bouchercon several years ago and took to his writing immediately. He’s always a good interview and I look forward to each of his books almost as much for an excuse to interview him as I do for the book. Almost.


One Bite at a Time: Welcome back to the blog, Dietrich, and thanks for having me on “Off the Cuff.” (Don’t look for it, folks. It hasn’t run yet.) Let’s start with what you’d like people to know about your new book, Nobody From Somewhere.


Dietrich Kalteis: Nice to be back, Dana. Thank you.


Here’s the pitch: Long retired cop, Fitch Henry Haut, is terminally ill and living

out his final years alone. As he sits in his favorite diner enjoying the meatloaf special, he watches as a young girl steps in, getting the attention of two rough-looking men at the counter. Seeing them, she runs off and they give chase.


His cop instincts kick in and Fitch follows, catching up with them in the parking lot. As the two men try to force her into their vehicle, Fitch manages to get the upper hand, and he and the girl take off in his broken-down Winnebago.


The girl is Wren Jones, a runaway from an abusive foster home. She tells him how earlier that day she came to overhear the two men going on about a casino robbery they just committed, and how this was the second time she got away from them that day.


Fitch realizes the men will come hunting for them on account of what the girl knows, and that the ailing rig he’s driving won’t be hard to spot. A bond forms as Fitch and Wren struggle to escape out of town, both aware that time is not on their side.



OBAAT: You have essentially three storylines in this book.

1. Valentina’s crew rips off the Chinese businessman.

2. The triad decides to get even.

3. Wren and Fitch’s accidental involvement with the crew


I know from having spoken with you before that you don’t outline. How did you keep the pacing so well organized while flying by the seat of your pants?


DK: From the first draft, there was an awareness of the balance between description and pace. I tend to keep the descriptions lean and that helps with the pacing. When I had the first pass complete, I went back over it and did the usual necessary trimming, getting rid of whatever didn’t work and tightening up what did. When I’m choosing details from my research, I’m looking for what will give the biggest bang as far as visual impact, and what will lend authenticity. Once I was basically happy with the story, I did a time outline and went back over it, just to be sure it all made sense, so it’s a little like outlining in reverse.



OBAAT: Your three previous books were period pieces. What brings you back to contemporary life?


DK: I got the idea for this one while I was walking along the North Vancouver waterfront a couple of years ago, an area where boondockers were parked around a couple of city blocks slated for redevelopment. I met a man who was living out of his rusting motor home, and we got to talking. A friendly, colorful character who gave me some insight into his way of life. It opened my eyes, and I was intrigued by his stories, and as chance would have it, I ran into him a couple more times before he pulled stakes and moved on. I loved his tales of life on the road, traveling through the province and up and down the coast. He became the jumping off point for the Fitch character in the novel.



OBAAT: Looking into the Way-back Machine, when you were first here in 2014, I asked what piece of advice you’d give to yourself as a novice writer. That was after your first book (Ride the Lightning). You begged off, saying that you still considered yourself a novice. The next year I asked the same question when we spoke about The Deadbeat Club; same answer. Now it’s been eight years and ten books, so no shirking: What piece of advice would Today Dietrich give to Fledgling Writer Dietrich?


DK: I appreciate the persistence, Dana. I guess the best advice my today self would have would be something that was expressed to me by my publisher, Jack David, back when the first book was coming out. He told me not to guess at trends, or at what the next best seller may look like — just to do my own thing and to write the best story that’s in me.



OBAAT: We’ve spoken before about the influence Elmore Leonard has on both of us. It’s been a while; are there elements of your writing that are less influenced by him than before? More influenced? Anything he did you’ve decided to stay away from?


DK: There have been other authors who inspired and influenced me along the way, but he was one of the greats, and his writing was certainly an early influence. And it still is. I just reread Riding the Rap, a true crime classic and a goldmine of inspiration, not to mention a master course on how it’s done.


Anything he did you’ve decided to stay away from? Some of what he touched on those decades ago may seem like hot-button issues these days, yet, a certain amount of grit is required for a crime novel to feel authentic. So for me, there’s sometimes an awareness, a fine line between offending a nowadays reader and writing what feels real.


OBAAT: The obligatory last question: What are you working on now?


DK: I’m working my way through another period piece, this one set in Chicago during the roaring twenties: a time of prohibition, gangsters, lingering tension from the aftermath of a smoldering race riot, and rival businessmen shooting it out in the streets.


Thank you again, Dana. It’s always a pleasure.


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