Thursday, May 18, 2023

An Interview with Sam Wiebe, Author of Sunset and Jericho

 I first met Sam Wiebe at a Shamus awards dinner, where his book The Last of the Independents was nominated. As nice a person as you’re likely to meet, Sam is among the foremost keepers of the P.I. flame in his generation. It’s a treat on two levels to see he has a new book out: the book will be outstanding, and I’ll have an excuse to ask him back on the blog.


Sam’s newest is Sunset and Jericho which debuted April 15.


One Bite at a Time: Welcome back, Sam. Its always fun to talk with you. You were last on the blog in March of 2022 for Hell and Gone. Whats been happening with you since then?


Sam Wiebe: Sunset and Jericho has occupied most of that year, as well as a standalone crime novel I’ve been working on. Some family drama as well, the fallout from a relative who was robbed at gunpoint in her home. 2023 already feels like it’s been six years long!


OBAAT: The new Wakeland novel is Sunset and Jericho. That sounds like its a corner in Vancouver, though Im not ruling out the possibility its an Old Testament story in which Gloria Swanson figures prominently. Tell us about it.


SW: Sunset and Jericho is my favorite title I’ve come up with, and I think it fits the book, a modern day old school detective novel. It refers to two beaches in Vancouver, and the two bodies found on them that get the novel rolling.


OBAAT: Whats been going on with Wakeland and Chen since Hell and Gone, which was a trying time for them. (No spoilers, but you can tease.)


SW: Sunset and Jericho finds Wakeland pursuing a group of killers who, like him, are dismayed at the way the city seems to be changing, to only cater to the rich. What happens when you have more in common with the killers you’re chasing than with your wealthy clients?


Though Dave knows how they feel, he doesn’t give in to the same kind of violence. But someone close to him does.


OBAAT: You like to place Wakeland in crises of conscience. Id describe what he dealt with in Hell and Gone, but you wove it so inextricably into the story anything I say would be a spoiler. What do you look for when pulling things together, and does the crisis of conscience come from the story, or do you build the story around the conscience issues you want to explore?


SW: The story should take precedence at all times—a detective novel should be fun to read, should have great characters in dynamic and challenging situations. But I also like there to be something more—not a message, or some profound idea, but some record of how things were in 2023.


Hell and Gone was about dealing with violence in its immediate aftermath. Sunset and Jericho is about the long-term, simmering effects of rage and resentment, and what happens when those boil over.


OBAAT: Last year you mentioned David Milchs Idea of the Writer” lectures. I didnt mention it then, but I discovered those videos about the time the Deadwood movie came out. Watched them all, took notes, and compiled into a binder the bits that resonated most with me. (Bookmarked the videos in my browser, as well.) It changed my approach to writing for the better. The Beloved Spouse™ and I talk regularly about resting transparently and prepared spirits. What was your biggest takeaway from those videos? (Note to readers: They are available on YouTube.)


SW: Coincidentally, Milch hosted those talks during the last writer’s strike. I found them inspirational—you just don’t hear many people culling from both a deep vein of personal experience, as well as a long literary tradition.


The point I return to is simply that if you want to write, you should just do that, from a place of enjoyment and gratitude. Writing is hard work but it’s fucking fun.


OBAAT: Whats next on your agenda?

SW: I don’t know what the future holds for Wakeland (or his author). Giving as little away as I can, Sunset and Jericho provokes a crisis that might be an ending, or the start of a new chapter. I hope people come onboard—and Sunset and Jericho is the perfect book to do so.


Thanks, Dana!

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