Chris Rhatigan writes dark crime stories about real life losers. They are visceral, real, gritty and dirty. He has a collection out, Watch You Drown, published by Pulp Metal Fiction, which I highly recommend. He met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about small time criminals and hardcore killers.
Tell us about Watch You Drown.
Watch You Drown is a collection of 14 short stories from Pulp Metal Fiction. Though there’s some classic crime material (murders and what have you), I gravitate toward writing about deviance and small-time criminals — kleptos, amateur burglars, addicts, fuck-ups that kind of thing.
It’s sometimes funny, sometimes disturbing, sometimes disgusting, always noir. Many of these are very short pieces — I blend in lots of flash fiction and micro fiction. It pains me to think that I’m wasting a reader’s time so I get right to the point.
Some of the work is unpublished and some comes with the stamp of approval of top pubs like Shotgun Honey, Beat to a Pulp, Dirty Noir, and A Twist of Noir.
Do you think small time criminals are more representative of the rest of us than a hardcore killer?
Yeah. I think almost everyone is on the verge of being a small-time criminal/deviant in one way or another. They want things for free, or they want to manipulate the system, or they want to punch that asshole who cut them off in traffic, or they want to cheat on their spouse.
Sometimes these human impulses boil over and that’s when I’m there with a pen and a notepad.
How do you think crime fiction differs from a thriller?
Hard to say. Books like Jim Thompson’s The Getaway or James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity or Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train or Pablo D’Stair’s Trevor English series seem to straddle the line. They’re all packed with suspense, like any good thriller, but share the moody atmosphere and downtrodden characters of crime fiction.
But the airport thriller crowd, as much as I like some of them, appear to be quite separate from crime fiction. I don’t think anyone has called Michael Crichton or John Grisham a crime fiction writer. Perhaps they’re too optimistic about humanity or something.
Guess I don’t really think that much about sub-genres. I call my stuff noir because I think it’s about losers losing and always contains some element of crime.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just taken over as editor of All Due Respect, so I’ve been reading submissions and revising already accepted work. All Due Respect is now a twice-monthly crime fiction publication. Founding editor Alec Cizak (who now runs Pulp Modern) always put out a high-quality product and I want to follow in his footsteps. There’s a fantastic story up there right now by Pete Risley and we have some excellent work upcoming from Allerton Mead, Court Merrigan, and Christopher Grant.
I’m also continuing to write short stories and flash. I’m doing a lot of surreal crime these days so you can expect to see some of that popping up at the usual haunts.
And Nigel Bird and I have been talking about doing Pulp Ink Volume 2. That probably won’t be happening for a little while as I am very busy with non-writing related stuff and want to give it my full attention.
Thank you Chris for a brilliant interview that I hope will draw readers to your excellent collection of stories.
Chris Rhatigan’s collection Watch You Drown is out now for 99 cents at Amazon.com, 77 pence at Amazon.co.uk. He is the co-editor of Pulp Ink, also available at Amazon US and UK. He blogs about short fiction at Death by Killing.