Quick Fire At The Slaughterhouse: Interview With Luke Rhinehart

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Luke Rhinehart is the author of the ground-breaking cult classic The Dice Man, a novel that defies genres and classification, that is at once comedy and iconoclasm. He has continued to enjoy a career whose vicissitudes exemplify the ongoing need for classification driven by the publishing industry. He has a new novel out, Invasion, which I describe as incisive, iconoclastic, humane and utterly compelling. Luke met me at The Slaughterhouse for a second round of questions and we talked about Dice and Invasion.

How would you write The Dice Man today?

We wouldn’t, of course, write THE DICE MAN today. We are now many different selves, and very few of them existed back in the late 1960s and 1970 when THE DICE MAN was written. Our present selves want to write other books. And the society that we want to communicate with has changed too, although mostly for the worst. And finally, the book written back then still seems to find readers today, being published in three times as many countries in the last decade as it was in the decade of the ’70s.

Our not considering writing the book again today does not mean that we don’t find serious flaws in the book. As writers, we have dozens of revisions that we think would make it a better book. But we’re also aware that we could be wrong: that the initial burst of creativity that lead to THE DICE MAN published in 1971 might have produced something that no amount of careful editing would particularly improve upon. It is a flawed book, but who is wise enough to eliminate the flaws without also eliminating some of the virtues?

We have revised two of our other novels. We revised LONG VOYAGE BACK in the nineties for a new edition and have revised ADVENTURES OF WIM into WHIM. But we have mostly concluded that any improvements made in either book were not significant to anyone but us.

Tell us about INVASION and how it reflects modern day America.

LUKE-R-CVR_350x224_invasionMy novel THE DICE MAN and now INVASION focus in different ways on why modern human beings are less happy than “progress” would seem to indicate they should be.

THE DICE MAN dramatized and satirized the misery of humans caused by their feeling they had to have a single self and be consistent. Luke the Diceman showed some of the ways to free oneself from the grip of self, ruts, and consistency. The novel focused on individuals.

INVASION satirizes modern Western capitalist society and dramatizes some of the ways the society as a whole is sick, which, of course, makes most of its members sick. When super-intelligent aliens come to the planet they see that the way the dominant species has arranged things (modern civilization) tends to make life for most human beings and most other life on the planet more and more miserable. The phrase “most human beings and most other life on the planet” is key, because the top ten percent or LUKE-R_350x224_CVR_the-dice-manso of the humans in the richest developed nations benefit from the civilization and are mostly quite happy with it. For them progress is wonderful. But for most of the planet, industrial and technological progress is more often a disaster. The aliens, called FFs in the novel, have not come to conquer a planet nor as scientists simply to observe. They make intra-universe trips in order to find new forms of life to play with. They have come to play.

In fact the FFs see human civilization as having taken a wrong turn in becoming so ambitious, serious and purposeful. They see the playfulness of children and of young animals of all species as healthy, and the seriousness and purposiveness soon drubbed into them by their society as unhealthy.

Many of those humans alienated from their society find the FFs delightful, and many join “For-the-Helluvit” movements throughout the world to raise a middle finger to the various establishments they feel oppressing them. However, when the FFs begin hacking NSA sites, banks, corporations and the military, the U.S. government is not amused. In leaking more secret material than a thousand Wikileaks or Edward Snowdens the FFs are seen as terrorists and attacked as such. The novel climaxes in the middle of a million people protest march and dance-in, beerfest, sleep-in event in New York’s Central Park.

I finished INVASION more than a year and a half ago but see now that it foreshadows the successful anti-establishment political campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders and the anti-establishment Brexit vote in the U.K. Many citizens in advanced civilizations have become disillusioned with their lives and their societies, although few can articulate exactly what they are rebelling against. I hope INVASION will give a few people some ideas about what is wrong with our great modern progress.

You often refer to we rather than I. Is it your experience, as for example it was for the playwright Samuel Beckett’s, that identity as a continuum is illusory, perhaps a social construct arguably aimed at social engineering, and that we are a series of ‘I’s’? And how do the Gurdjieff, Ouspensky teachings reflect in your writing and outlook as a Revolutionary Artist?

Identity as a continuum is indeed illusory, a social construct which makes social engineering easier. We could say, and I often do, that a human being is a series of ‘I’s, but that too is a simplification. There is a flow of consciousness in which thoughts, sensations, ‘decisions,’ flow singly and in clusters and some of those flowing thoughts seem to be trying to organize the flow, but those thoughts too are simply part of the seemingly random flow. In my book “Our Autobiographies” where normally an autobiographer would use ‘I’ we use ‘we,’ as a way of acknowledging that all humans are multiple and no single self ever dominates a single day, much less a lifetime. We are not consistent, and how wonderful that is. Robots can be consistent; humans are random. They are like electrons suddenly ‘deciding’ to go off in an entirely new direction. Decisions happen. There is no decider, only the illusion of a decider.

We read widely in Gurdjieff and Ouspensky (as well as other sufis, Zen Buddhists, Taoists and ‘thinkers’ like Alan Watts and Ram Dass) in the years both before and after writing THE DICE MAN. All influenced us. One of Gurdjieff’s techniques was to force his followers to do things they’d never done before—clearly related to what happens with dicing. But what other aspects of his thought has seeped into our work none of us can tell.

How Universal are your characters?

The word ‘universal’ doesn’t mean much to me, so let me try to use different categories to classify characters in fiction.

Most fiction dramatizes the lives of ‘normal’ human beings, and this may be what is meant by ‘universal’. Several of my books are in this sense traditional fiction: WHITE WIND, BLACK RIDER (originally published as MATARI), LONG VOYAGE BACK, SEARCH FOR THE DICE MAN, and NAKED BEFORE THE WORD. In these four books the characters are all normal human beings. Although a few characters may be heroic, all are typically flawed.

But I think in THE DICE MAN, WHIM, JESUS INVADES GEORGE, and my new novel INVASION I am doing something different. Luke in THE DICE MAN is not a normal human; by the end of the novel he has become archetypal: a character no longer normally human.

And the same is true of the character of Whim in WHIM. He is not a normal human being, but rather an archetypal innocent, totally unlike any of the other humans in the book, who are baffled by him.

And I think one of the major sources of the comedy in both these two novels is the contrast between these strange, inhuman characters, Luke and Whim, with many of the people they come in contact with, who are bewildered, angered, or frustrated by having to deal with them.

JESUS INVADES GEORGE and my new novel INVASION fall into something of a third category. The humans in these two novels are normal ‘universal’ characters; but they have to deal with beings who are not normal humans: in JESUS INVADES GEORGE it is the spirit of Jesus invading the soul of George Bush, forcing the President to accommodate himself to a radically Christ-ian way of looking at things that is totally different from George’s own conventional Christianity. He has to react to the archetypal figure of Jesus, who is the driving force of the novel. And again the humor often arises from normal humans having to deal with this archetypal force.

In INVASION, the humans are all ‘normal’, but they are forced to deal with non-human super-intelligent aliens, whose mode of being is totally different from that of normal humans. Most thus end up being baffled by or terrified of these aliens.

Thus, four of my eight novels are conventional fiction using only ‘normal’ human beings as characters.

But my other four, THE DICE MAN, WHIM, JESUS INVADES GEORGE, and INVASION all involve the comedy of normal humans having to deal with characters, either human as in the case of Luke and Whim, or non-human as in the case of Jesus and the FFs in INVASION. In each case the human characters are forced to face the fact that compared to the archetypal characters, their lives are comically limited and unsatisfactory. I see now that in all four novels I am using archetypal characters to force normal humans (and my readers) to question the way they are leading their lives. I see normal human lives as circumscribed and unhappy and use my archetypal characters to show that there can be other modes of living that may be much more free-flowing, creative and satisfactory.

You can guess which group of four novels I am most happy with and proud of.

Luke thank you for a great and informative interview.

Luke-Rhinehart_200x133-Auth-Img-2

Links:

INVASION can be found via the publisher, Titan Books, and at all good bookstores. Here are a few: Amazon.com paperback and Kindle; Amazon.co.uk paperback and Kindle; Book Depsitory; and Kobo.

Read a brief description of and praise for INVASION here.

THE DICE MAN can be found at Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, and Book Depository among many other bookstores.

Find Luke at his website, Amazon.com author page, and on Facebook.

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Quick Fire at the Slaughterhouse: Interview with Ray Clark

Ray Clark is a British Crime Novelist and the author of the Gardener and Riley series. Implant will be released August, 2018

 

Tell us about Implant.

 

Implant is the third book in the IMP series (each having a one-word title beginning with the letters IMP)

 

 The novel is designed to make you think about where the world is heading, about how much we all rely on technology, which we believe makes our lives easier. We all have smartphones and TV’s and everything we become involved in depends heavily on that technology. Young people run their entire lives on their phones: Internet banking, online buying, social media: almost everything they do is through that phone. If they lose it they are virtually shut down themselves.

 

But think about what would happen if suddenly, that sophisticated machinery fell into the wrong hands and was used against us: if someone was clever enough to manipulate it, and in turn use it to exploit us – especially an enemy. How much damage could one person cause by turning something as small as a phone into a weapon: if a killer was clever enough to use it in such a way that he or she didn’t even have to be anywhere near the crime scene? How tough would that be for the investigating detective? 

 

Implant was very challenging because I’d opened myself up to a whole new world of research with medicine and technology, both of which I found fascinating because I know very little about them in the first place. Luckily for me I have a number of friends who specialise in those subjects who were able to offer expert advice.

 

How derivative and sanitised do you think crime fiction is and does it need to be changed?

 

I think all fiction, whether it’s crime, horror, historical or any other genre, is derivative. We are all influenced by something we read, see or hear. I’m not sure it needs to be cleansed, what I believe to be important is presenting a new slant on an old theme – how far can you push the boundaries to achieve something that no one else has thought of?

 

One of the things I love to do is weave together fact and fiction with myths and legends, in the hope that your audience can’t tell what’s true and what isn’t. The second book in the IMP series, Imperfection was set in the world of film and theatre, featuring a killer who had an obsession with the one time film idol, Lon Chaney, otherwise known as The Man of a Thousand faces, which the killer was able to use to great advantage. The research on that book was very absorbing and time consuming but I learned so much about a world I love, allowing me to blend fact and fiction to support what I wanted to say.

 

It’s also a format I employ when writing short stories. Double Dragon published a collection of mine entitled, A Detective’s Dozen, where most of the stories had a background steeped in myths and legends. A particular favourite was one entitled Soul Survivor. I had spent some time in Brittany where I happened to chance on a country inn. I booked in, had a meal and then settled down in the bar. It must have been popular amongst the locals because after dark the place filled up. As the night closed in and the witching hour approached a few of the older citizens treat the younger element to some real folk tales.

 

One in particular struck me. Well, it must have done, because for the half hour it took to draw it out of the toothless old codger I never once touched my drink. His subject was the silent walker’s of the night, whose appearance on the roads of Brittany presages death for those who see them pass by. Needless to say, I was pleased I had the only room on offer that evening. After that, I was going nowhere

 

I believe that these are examples of how one can manipulate – or sanitize, if you prefer – the crime genre. Although your story is not fully original, you can present in a way that it looks as if it is.

 

One of the best exponents of this is the author Graham Masterton, who wrote a two wonderful books, one entitled Family Portrait, which brought a new slant to Oscar Wilde’s, The Picture of Dorian Gray: the other, entitled Mirror, was based upon Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass.

 

What inspires you as a man?

 

Self-made men, and stories of self-made men inspire me: people who have made it, against the odds, proving to me that if they can, I can. A real life case in point here is perhaps horror author, Stephen King, who at one time did not have enough money to pay his quarterly telephone bill. Clearing out the attic one day his wife asked about a manuscript called Carrie. He replied he’d sent it to many different publishers with no luck. She told him to send it again. The rest is history. Another author who had a tough start was J.K. Rowling. She wrote Harry Potterin a local café in order to keep warm, making a couple of drinks last as long as possible. Jeffrey Archer is an author who continuously writes stories about self-made men, Kane & Abel and The Fourth Estate being two examples. The Sons of Adam by Harry Bingham is another fine example. Stories like these inspire me to do better, write better, to be the best I can be.

 

I find being fit and healthy inspiring. Waking up every day in good health should be an inspiration to all of us but often, it’s something we take for granted. I like to use that to help people less fortunate than me. All sorts of people have all sorts of health problems, none of which they ask for. Doesn’t it make you feel better if you can help them?

 

  What else is on the cards for you this year?

 

I work very closely with a group of filmmakers called Edge Ways, who produce trailers for my books, so one of the jobs yet to complete is a trailer for Implant. I have also finished a novella entitled Ryder On The Storm, which is a cross genre story, blending crime and the supernatural, mixing myths and legends with facts, which will hopefully be out later this year.

 

Here is the synopsis:

 

In 1855 the discovery of a body on a railway track sets off an investigation that runs into a dead end: an unsolved crime.
160 years later, the key to the solving the puzzle lies in a haunted house.
Based upon a true incident, Ryder On The Storm is a stand-alone supernatural crime novella from the author of the IMP series, featuring one of the popular characters, desk sergeant Maurice Cragg.

 

And I am currently two thirds of the way through another in the IMP series, entitled, Imperceptible, which examines the possibility of what you do when one of your own goes rogue, but that’s all I can give away for now lol.

 

Thank you Ray for taking the time to tell us about yourself and Implant. 

 Implant

Bramfield, near Leeds, a sleepy little market town nestled on the border of West and North Yorkshire: a place where people tend to keep to themselves. A death they can understand. A murder they can t0lerate. But a crucifixion, well that’s something else.
Monday morning, as the clock strikes 9:00, Detectives Stewart Gardener and Sean Reilly come to the end of the line, a series of puzzles they have been trying to solve for six hours, which has led them to the naked corpse of Alex Wilson, nailed to the wall of a cellar in his uncle’s hardware store. His lips are sewn together and his body bears only one mark, a fresh scar near his abdomen. Above his head are two plain white envelopes.
They do not contain any answers, only further problems.
The scar however, hides a very sinister secret, and Gardener and Reilly think the death may have something to do with organ trafficking.
But they are wrong!
Alex Wilson is a well-known drug dealer, and they begin their investigation by arresting Jackie Pollard – another drug dealer known to the local police – found outside the shop.
Within twenty-four hours, their efforts culminate in one body, one suspect – with a motive but no evidence – and a number of other possible suspects, all of which, are missing.
With all the information they have, the detectives consider the murder to be drug related: a deal that has probably gone to the wall, with someone seeking revenge.
But they are wrong!
When one of their missing suspects finally turns up in a much worse predicament than Alex Wilson, the clock is ticking.
By the time they are forty-eight hours in, their investigation results in dead ends, more victims: no suspects and very little in the way of solid evidence.
Gardener and Reilly now realize that it’s time to answer one very important question. Considering everything that has happened, are the residents of Bramfield – who can understand a death and tolerate a murder – actually prepared for one of history’s most sadistic serial killer’s, The Tooth Fairy?

 

The Tooth Fairy: a children’s fable – or an adult nightmare?

 

 

Links:

Ray’s website: www.thelordofmisrule.net

 

Amazon UK

Buy Implant (Gardener and Reilly series) by Ray Clark (ISBN: 9781911583981) from Amazon’s Book Store. Everyday low prices and free delivery on eligible order


Amazon US

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Quick Fire at the Slaughterhouse: Interview with Paul D. Brazill

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Brazill is the master of Brit grit and hardboiled. His stories and novels ring like a chime out of a gangster flick, one with heavy overtones of London. He is adept at using contemporary culture to highlight and augment the inherent drama in his fictions, which are peopled with low lifes and hustlers. Paul met me at The Slaughterhouse, where we talked about Brit Grit and his new work.  

What are you writing right now?

‘The Days of Danny Spencer’. It’s the story of a disgraced ex-copper trying to put is life back together. It’s a London-set urban western, after a fashion

If you were to write a Carry On what would it be titled, and who among present actors would you cast in the lead roles?

It would be Carry On Expendables …

Sly Stallone could do the Sid James parts, Jean-Claude Van Damme would be a great Kenneth Williams, soppy old Ryan Gosling would be Jim Dale and Arnie could be the new Babs Windsor, for obvious reasons.

Is Brit Grit on the rise and does it lack the sentimental addiction to resolution that classifies much crime writing, particularly that churned out by the industry?

Brit Grit is bedraggled and unkempt and there’s a lot of it about! Martin Stanley, Robert Cowan, Tom Liens, Aidan Thorn and Paul Heatley, for example, all write books that are away from the mainstream and aren’t interested in tidying things up.

What else is on the cards for you this year

Fahrenheit 13 will be rebooting my seaside noir Kill Me Quick! And I have another seaside noir coming out later this year from All Due Respect/ Down and Out Books. It’s called Last Year’s Man. It’s like Takeshi Kitano mixed with Alan Bennett.

Thank you Paul for a classic interview.

Bio: Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of NoirGuns Of BrixtonLast Year’s Manand Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. His writing has been translated into Italian, Polish, Finnish, German and Slovene. He has been published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime.  His blog is here.

Amazon link: Buy on Amazon

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