T. Jefferson Parker is the critically acclaimed author of numerous crime novels, among them Laguna Heat. The paperback made The New York Times Bestseller list in 1986. He has a new novel out, Full Measure. Jeff met me at The Slaughterhouse where we talked about the novel and his forthcoming works.
Tell us about Full Measure.
“Full Measure” is the story of two brothers — Patrick, a combat grunt returning from Afghanistan, and Ted, a hard-luck dreamer who idolizes his younger “war hero” brother. Like most brothers they love and frustrate each other, and are viewed very differently by their father. When their family’s third generation avocado farm, nestled in the rich foothills of San Diego County, is threatened by drought, debt and wildfire, the brothers resolve to help their parents avoid bankruptcy and hang on to the land. Trouble ensues. There are shades of Jacob and Esau in “Full Measure.” And influences as varied as Steinbeck and Scorsese.
To what extent does territoriality play a part in your crime fictions and your latest novel?
That idea of turf runs through a lot of my books. So far as “Full Measure” goes, there’s the family land — eighty acres of Haas avocados that have been in the family for three generations. Part of the drama of that story is will the young brothers be able to make it last four generations, or will they lose the thing? In my thrillers I’ve written a lot about Mexican drug cartels, which are all about territoriality. They call it the “plaza,” meaning, loosely, the place where business is done. Because drug manufacturing and transport requires physical space, the “plaza” becomes very important. Thousands of Mexicans have died fighting over the various “plazas” in the last seven years.
As a writer how do you view justice?
It looks different to me as a writer than it does as, say, a reader of newspapers. All we humans can do is make laws and apply them fairly as is humanly possible. Does this always result in justice? When you’re making fiction the definition of justice suddenly goes from the insitutional to the intuitive. When I come to the end of a novel I think: what does this character deserve? People in life don’t always get what they deserve, so therein comes the writer’s duty to somehow administer poetic justice, or clearly confess that in the case of this story justice will not be done. Readers don’t always like that confession but I think a character in a novel who gets away with murder has plenty of precedents in the real life that I see around me.
What else is on the cards for you this year?
I wrote a short story called “Side Effects” for the recently published MWA collection, Ice Cold. The volume is a collection of stories, all dealing with the Cold War, so there’s funny prescience about the topic, given Russia in Ukraine. There are some good writers in the book – Jeffrey Deaver, Laura Lippman, Sara Paretsky and John Lescroart to name just a few.
And speaking of Lescroart, he and I teamed up to write a short story for the soon-to-be published Face Off, which is a volume of stories co-authored by thriller writers, and featuring their franchise characters. So, John and I wrote “Silent Hunt,” which stars my hero Joe Trona from Silent Joe, and John’s Wyatt Hunt. They meet on a Baja fly fishing trip, not unlike the one that John and I took a few years ago. It’s a wonderful story – fishing, Mexican baseball, found treasure, a dangerous cartel soldier and a rather likeable poor family living in the village of Aqua Amarga. We traded off writing sections, never knowing which way the other guy was going to take the tale, so it zigs and zags rather pleasantly.
Besides all that I’ve started another novel, which is a high-velocity drama set in the world of competetive skiing, where athletes risk life and limb to go inhumanly fast and maybe someday make the Olympic team. That story will keep me busy for a year. I hope to write some more short stories, too. I’m really getting to enjoy that form.
Thank you Jeff for an incisive and succinct interview.
‘Full Measure’ can be pre-ordered at the following online stores:
Amazon.com (hardcover and audio CD)
Amazon.co.uk (hardcover, paperback, and audio CD)
Barnes &Noble (hardcover and Nook eBook)
Book Depository (hardcover)
Books-A-Million (hardcover and audio CD)
Click here for a complete list of all T. Jefferson Parker books.