Posted by Literary Titan
Wayzata takes place in 1930’s suburban Minnesota, but the tale still carries all the trappings of a 1920’s era LA noir. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
Erm…most L.A. noir stories actually take place during the ’30s, and my story is set in 1939, perhaps for the reason that this time period concerns the end of the so-called “roaring ’20s” and the eventual fallout from that decade (or so) of overindulgence and decadence. During this period, the Great Depression was still in full swing, war was imminent, most people had to scrounge to eke out a living, and crime was on the rise. Dirtbags and seedy establishments permeated society. I thought it might be interesting to set a story in a place insulated from most of that, so why not set this story in a remote, resort town town in the Midwest? It’s also helpful to narratively remove all coincidences, as, in such a provincial locale, everybody knows or at least has heard of everyone else; it wouldn’t be strange for people to run into one another on the street. Then I guess I have to divulge that I grew up near to Wayzata, spent time there, and was familiar with many of the locations, some of which I used in the novel.
I think that the story has roots in classic hard-boiled detective stories. Do you read books from that genre? What were some books that you think influenced Wayzata?
Indeed it does, and indeed I do. As a teenager I was a huge Coen brothers fan; Raising Arizona and Miller’s Crossing were just great, and I seem to remember seeing an interview with the Coens (who are from Minneapolis), talking about how the latter film sprung from reading their favorite author, Raymond Chandler. Fortunately for me, Chandler was not incredibly prolific, and I was able to devour all seven of his novels during my stint at college. Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain soon followed. These three are pretty well all you need, though there are certainly other excellent pulp writers out there. When I found out I had a knack for constructing similes, this genre seemed like a natural fit. Double Indemnity, the novel and the movie, was definitely an influence. I pay homage to it several times. The novel was written by Cain and the screenplay by Chandler. Coincidence?
Detective Carroll LaRue is an intriguing character. What were the driving ideals that drove the character’s development throughout the story?
Thanks for saying so. LaRue, like most private dicks portrayed in this type of novel, is a kind of highly moralistic individual who has to drink to cope with reality. He, like Marlowe, like Spade, is a kind of non-judgmental angel, slumming it by choice, yet exhausted and saddened by the depravity that surrounds him. (SPOILER ALERT) In Wayzata, when LaRue allows himself to be led astray by a pretty face, it turns out to be his undoing, and the tragedy of the story is that he is, for the most part, aware of it, but does it anyway.
I find a problem with well-written stories is that I always want there to be another book to keep the story going. Is there a second book planned?
At the moment, no. Since so much noir does tend to carry on with a character appearing and reappearing throughout several novels, I probably should have thought ahead. I have toyed with a notion of a prequel, a story in which LaRue still works in Los Angeles and how he comes to leave that place. He alludes to it in Wayzata. There’s probably something there, but, for the nonce, I am chosen instead to work on a couple collections of short stories and a novella.
Posted in Interviews
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