Thursday, June 8, 2023

An Interview with Dietrich Kalteis, Author of The Get

 Dietrich Kalteis is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author with nine novels and over fifty published short stories to his credit. “Credit” is the right word, as they are all excellent. I’m not typically someone who feels the need to read a book as soon as it comes out; Dietrich is on the short list pf those I bump to the top of the queue. As fine a friend as he is an author, Dietrch lives with his family on Canada’s West Coast.


One Bite at a Time: Welcome back to the blog, Dietrich. It’s always a treat to have you, and not just because it typically means you have a new book out, though, of course, you do. What’s the skinny on The Get?


Dietrich Kalteis: Thanks for having me back, Dana. It’s always a pleasure. Here’s the premise: Lenny Ovitz has plenty of secrets. He works for a volatile crime boss, is drowning in debt to the wrong people, and he’s certain his soon-to-be ex is aiming to screw him over. Somebody is going to have to get whacked.


OBAAT: Lenny Ovitz has more irons in the fire than is prudent. How did he get spread so thin and what does that say about his personality?


DK: In Lenny’s line of work, taking chances is part of the game, and in order to get out of the protection racket, he’s got to take even bigger risks. Along with his partner, Gabe, they borrow a lot of money from a loan shark and buy a block of slum buildings which Lenny sees as a promising investment, one that will allow him to become legit. Unfortunately, his timing couldn’t be worse — his wife, Paulina, is about to ask for a divorce; and his partner, Gabe, is about to go down on a double homicide. Something that will definitely upset Lenny’s plans and put his cool to the test. 


OBAAT: Lenny’s wife, Paulina, is the object of his – well, certainly not affection. She’s also tired of his multi-layered duplicity? (Triplicity? Tetraplicity?) You don’t write female characters who sit back and take any more than they have do. What’s her backstory and what will that tell us about her?


DK: She’s smart and cultured, and she’s basically a good person. She’s made one big mistake in her life — Lenny. And that’s one faux pas she’s bound and determined to correct. And Lenny’s about to find out that her gentle nature has some teeth.


OBAAT: You’re back to writing historicals, this time in Toronto in the 60s. What led you to that place and time?


DK: I remember going to Kensington with my parents as a boy, all the sights and sounds of a place that were very different from anything I had ever experienced: open markets and food I had never seen before, meat and poultry hanging in the shop windows, people haggling and speaking all kinds of languages — not like anything this kid had ever seen at our local Loblaws. It felt like I was transported someplace else, and that always stayed with me. In coming up with the storyline for The Get, I knew Kensington would make the perfect setting. 


OBAAT: Last year we spoke a little about the influence Elmore Leonard has had on your (and my) writing; you referenced the “other authors who inspired and influenced me along the way.” Name a couple, and tell us how they influenced you.


DK: There are so many great authors writing today, present company included, but I’ve had some old favorites going way back. Elmore Leonard is definitely one. And there’s Charles Willeford, James Crumley, and George V Higgins on that list. Maybe I’m dating myself here, as they wrote mostly back in the seventies, eighties, and nineties. The times they wrote about seemed simpler and they were all masters at creating settings, misfit characters, and writing dialogue too. And I really appreciated that each of them had an underlying sense of humor that always showed through in their writing.  


OBAAT: Fun question. Off the top of your head, what are your five favorite crime novels? Not necessarily the five best crime novels, but your favorites.


DK: Okay, I won’t pick any from the authors noted above, and although these are not all crime novels or hot off the press, they are the best novels that I’ve read so far this year: Slow Horses by Mick Herron, the first in the Slough House series. It was published by Soho Crime in 2010, and it’s about a group of screw-up MI5 agents trying to redeem themselves. It’s also a great Apple Original series into its second season. Then there’s 2022s Stella Maris by Cormac McCarthy, a brilliant follow-up to The Passenger, both from Knopf. Thirdly, there’s Drive by James Sallis. It was published in 2006 by Harvest, and it’s a blast. I really enjoy reading Sallis. Published this year by Ecco, The Trackers by Charles Frazier is a tale about an artist trying to find a rich man’s wife. It’s set during the Great Depression, and it reads like a modern-day classic. To round out the list, I’ve picked Old Babes in the Woods, a new and charming collection of shorts by Margaret Atwood, from Doubleday.


OBAAT: Last question, as always. What does the next year portent for you?


DK: I’m putting the finishing touches to a new crime story, and I have another one complete and coming out next year from ECW Press, pub date unknown at this time. It’s called Crooked, and the story follows the real life and times of Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. 

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