April 22, 2015

Blackmail is the New Black: an interview with Kurt Reichenbaugh, author of "Last Dance in Phoenix"

About Kurt Reichenbaugh's Last Dance in Phoenix: Kent should have it made. He has a decent job, a beautiful wife and a nice home in a trendy part of the city. Everything seems to be in its right place, at least until an old childhood friend re-emerges. Kent’s life quickly begins disintegrating, beginning with blackmail and progressing into murder. Someone is trying to ruin Kent’s cozy little setup, and Kent isn’t about to go down without a fight.


Also available on Amazon.com

I had the chance to ask Kurt a few questions about his book and his writing. Enjoy!

Gef: What was the impetus behind Last Dance in Phoenix?

Kurt: I wrote Last Dance in Phoenix during a very frustrating time working at a nameless Insurance company. I saw the VP of the Information Systems going around the floor making sure the artwork was hanging perfectly level. Another VP was upset when he discovered someone else had an assigned spot closer to the elevator than he did. A third VP decided that on the first day our new president arrived, we should all stand and sing this song that this VP wrote for him. I could have stayed there and continued to eat myself alive with frustration, or I could make a change. I took a separation offer and wrote the novel, then went out and found another job.

Gef: What initially drew you to noir and crime fiction, particularly the vintage stuff?

Kurt: I’ve always loved mysteries. I discovered vintage crime by checking out Mickey Spillane paperbacks from the neighborhood library. After that it was Ian Fleming, then John D. MacDonald, and I was a full-blown addict for the stuff. Also vintage Science Fiction from decades past. The sort of stories that spark a wonderlust in the reader.

Gef: A lot of times the setting can become as much of a character as the actual characters. How does Phoenix play into your story?

Kurt: Phoenix is where I’ve spent the last 24 years of my life, so it was pretty much a no brainer to set a novel there. I was also fortunate enough to be part of a nice collection of stories in PHOENIX NOIR from Akashic Books. So writing about it wasn't a hard decision to make. Phoenix is a city that is often passed over between Chicago and Los Angeles. It has its unique quirks and character that may someday find an audience.

Gef: Was there anything about this novel that you approached differently from your previous work?

Kurt: Yes, my previous book was set in the 70’s so I didn't have to concern myself with modern technology and conveniences in that story. Setting something in the “present” means you have to deal all kinds of things that can throw wrenches in the suspense. I’m not very technical, so it’s easy to make mistakes or get something wrong. Someday, if it’s not here already, there will be an app available to get yourself out of the type of situations that my characters find themselves in. I want the story to come before the technology, and don't want to necessarily date the events by the type of phones or networks people may use.

Gef: How intensive did the research get for you, or was this something more along the lines of immersion?

Kurt: More along the lines of immersion into the mindset and frustrations of the characters. What would I do in this situation sort of thing. That and some minor research on technical points.

Gef: What do you consider to be the strength or saving grace of the crime genre?

Kurt: The strength is good stories about people readers can like or dislike, but either way at least they’ll feel something for them. Crime fiction also has a way of giving an insight to that person you see every day at the coffee shop, or in that cubicle near the printer. That’s what I aim for. I want to tell a good story, and I want to make the reader relate on some level. Much easier said than done.

Gef: What's the worst piece of writing advice you ever received? Or what piece of writing advice do you wish would just go away?

Kurt: The worst writing advice I ever got was to write for the Young Adult market because “that’s where the money is at.” This was from someone who didn't have a clue about what it took to write a book of any type. I think telling anyone what to write and/or what market to write for is both arrogant and inconsiderate. Same goes in telling someone what to paint, or photograph, or whatever. If someone wants to write Gothic Romance or Science Fiction or about kittens that solve mysteries, then more power to them. It’s one of my pet peeves when someone (never a writer themselves) decides to tell me what story I should write or what market I should write for. When someone starts saying “You know, you should write about…” I’m scrambling for the nearest exit.

Gef: What kind of guilty pleasures do you have when it comes to books or movies or whatnot?

Kurt: Oh man, I love 70’s trashy novels by writers like Harold Robbins. That and Men’s Adventure novels with their exploitative sex and violence. Of course that leads right into sleazy paperbacks with licentious babes and laconic drifters on the covers. Horror Magazines and comics fall in there also. I miss seeing those covers in the bookstore racks, but with fewer and fewer bookstores around, I guess that’s how it’s got to be.

Gef: What projects are you cooking up that folks can expect in the near future, and how can folks keep up with your shenanigans?

Kurt: I’m always sifting through the debris littering my imagination, looking for that “what if” starting point that makes past the first 30 pages or so. I’m terrible at self discipline and am easily distracted. I can be followed through my blog TheRingerFiles.blogspot.com

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