No shit, there I was, middle of nowhere New Hampshire, wandering into a place pretending to be an Irish pub because they had a salad with apples and blue cheese on the menu. I’m sitting in the window, listening to some not shabby band rocking out Irish style, when I happen to look over at another table. “Wow,” says I to myself, “That looks like John Murphy
, he of the writes science fiction murder mysteries.” This, of course, can’t be John Murphy because I am not my grandmother which means I don’t randomly bump into people I know wherever I go. And I’m not going to ask the guy at the table whether I have perhaps accidentally transformed into my grandmother because he’s with a girl and they’re sharing dessert so going up to his table to say, “Hey, did we spend a really intense week
together in Martha’s Vineyard last fall?” probably isn’t going to fly.
Naturally, there was an email from John Murphy waiting for me when I got home and asking whether, perchance, I happened to be in the middle of nowhere New Hampshire. He hadn’t come up to me to ask because going up to lone women to say, “Hey, did we spend a really intense week together in Martha’s Vineyard last fall,” doesn’t fly.
Which is all my long-winded way of saying that his answer to question five is a dirty, dirty lie.
Which writer has had the greatest influence on you?
This is a difficult question, as I am scheduled in 2037 to transfer my own body of work back in time a hundred years or so. It’s complicated — for tax reasons, mostly — but ultimately it means that the work most similar to my best will actually have been influenced by me (or future-me), rather than the other way around. On reflection, I can probably claim the most credit for Terry Pratchett’s work. I’ve always been impressed by the extent to which the depth of respect that he has for all of his characters is a blatant and contemptible ripoff of my own novels that I will have written any day now. His gentle sense of humor and subtle wisdom (reminiscent of my critically acclaimed, soon-to-be-written literary masterpiece, “Screw You, Sir Terry, You Thieving Bastard”) adds the kind of re-readability and philosophical elevation that he should really be ashamed for cribbing. It is demoralizing; I swear, it’s almost enough to make a guy not want to rip off the IRS and disinherit his descendants by perverting the laws of God and man.
You write a lot of mysteries. How do you decide who committed the crime?
Actually, all of my mysteries are frame jobs. In no single one of them is an actual criminal ever identified. In some cases, no crime has even been committed at all. I am not referring to justified homicide (as if there were another kind) but rather to the fact that the “corpses” are generally only faking their deaths for the lulz; you will find that the same is true of most of Agatha Christie’s oeuvre.
Only innocent people are ever accused in my stories, through a carefully-woven tissue of lies stemming from the manner of murder and just what the trumped-up evidence is. In order to successfully frame someone, it ought to be plausible, but not so obvious as to give the audience warning: if the reader thinks too hard, they’ll notice all the flaws and lies too far ahead of time (meaning, before they’ve given me money for the next one).
As to the actual criminal in those stories where a crime was actually committed, it’s the butler. (There’s a butler in all of my stories, by the way: Butler J. Moriarty, butler extraordinaire. Evil sod, but he can’t help it with a name like that. “Butler”. Can you imagine the schoolyard taunts? He’s not even a very good butler; the “extraordinaire” is just a sad affectation.)
Sherlock Holmes has come back and been adapted in roughly 9 million ways. What other investigators would you like to see get some attention?
Here’s the thing: Sherlock Holmes is actually the only real investigator ever depicted in fiction. Nero Wolfe, Miss Marple (AKA Irene Adler), Albert Campion, R. Daneel Olivaw, Spenser — these are all cheap cut-rate knockoffs of the Great Detective. Miserable hacks what ought not have been whelped. To give them attention would be to promulgate corrupted abominations, to distract with laser pointers from the brilliance of the life-giving sun.
So the answer to your question is “none” and may God have mercy on your soul for even asking it.
If you were stranded on an island and could only have one book with you, which book would it be?
When I was a child I had a big plastic book about toilet training. Waterproof, for obvious reasons, with pages made of basically laminated foam silkscreen-printed with obsequious cartoon ducks shitting madly in what can only be described as an orgy of missing the point. I’m pretty sure I could float for a few days, clinging to that book and doggie-paddling in a way designed to be utterly unappealing to sharks. I forget the title, but judging by the sudden appearance at my door of nautical-looking gentlemen with guns, a copy of the book in question, and someone who looks a lot like Gilligan, I expect I’ll have ample time to relearn it. Thanks a lot.
Are you the Thing?
I am not the Thing.