PDB: Could you tell us a little about Queen Of Diamonds?
Well, Queen of Diamonds is the second book of a trilogy project that Frank Zafiro and I have co-authored together. Our first book was Blood on Blood and we have the continuance of that story in QOD, along with some returning characters to tie things in a bit. In addition though, we have a brand new cast of central characters, a new setting and new plot.
What resulted, was what we felt would work well for the reader. A book that had a totally new feel to it. A different tone. We wanted to have that history of Blood on Blood and past references for sure, but we also felt we needed a fresh start to keep the overall continued story appealing.
The two protagonists, just like the first book, were written first person and in alternating chapters by Frank and I. For some reason, we feel very comfortable writing this way and it just clicks for us. Our two main characters in Queen of Diamonds, Cord Needham and Casey Brunnell, are completely different guys than Jerzy and Mick in almost every way.
Ania, is the key carryover. She is the one constant that did not change in this second book. The enticing, gorgeous siren that continues to ‘carry the ball’ and we feel that she doesn’t disappoint in her irresistible, grifter ways.
PDB: Are you a gambling man yourself?
I’ll admit, I do like the cards. Dice or wheels, not so much. I’ve played some fairly big Casinos and some fairly shitty casinos with ripped fake leather chairs and bad carpeting, but these days I prefer private games with people I know.
A few years back, we had a solid group of boys that all got together about once a month. One of the guys had a small pool house/man cave about thirty yards from his house. Lots of acreage all around. Big doors and windows that were all opened wide on cards night. Fridge, ceiling fan and utilities. So hey, you know, what else could you ask for?
There were some hard and fast rules about betting limits and raises just to keep everyone in the game for as long as possible. There was no apologies heavy drinking, food breaks, playing old music way too loud, say anything you want, act any way you want and playing cards until the sun came up…if you got too much out of line though, the others would straighten your ass out real fast. There were a couple of excellent poker players in that special group. As always the secret to success was skill, odds and luck. It was a kick.
We were all good friends, we knew each other, we knew how the other guy played – or thought we did and there were some great times. It was a window in time though and as everyone’s life changes over time, it’s harder than hell to keep something like that together. I’m amazed we managed to keep it going as long as we did.
And by the way, Texas Hold’em is by far my favorite game. We played by house rules – the dealer would name the game and conditions; Stud, seven card, Indiana, low Chicago, jacks to open, whatever. I’d say over 75% of the time though, we played straight Hold’em.
I will tell you this, Queen of Diamonds is not a poker story. Poker is the vehicle. We wrote this story with that in mind. To read this book you don’t have to know cards all that well, or hell, even like them.
PDB: Is Las Vegas really sin city?
It ain’t Des Moines, Iowa to be sure. The way I look at it, Vegas is like a freshly paved road that will take you straight as an arrow to wherever you want to go. Like the autobahn, there is no speed limit on that road either. Some folks can drive that way, others though have no business being on it, or in it, or around it.
PDB: Which is the best Oceans 11 film, the Rat Pack or the George Clooney version?
In my mind, I’d probably say the most recent version, which is a departure from my normal opinion that remakes are seldom as good as the original. From the acting perspective alone, the cast for the recent version was spectacular. Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Garcia, Roberts, Gould and on and on. It was slick, sharp and well done.
I mean the The Rat Pack was great so don’t get me wrong, but in general they couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. They were singers, entertainers and extremely popular in whatever they did. They had the Vegas name recognition and connection going but past that? Let’s put it this way, If Sinatra wasn’t the singer he was, would he have ever made a movie that anyone remembers? I just don’t think any of those guys from the original 1960 film have a fraction of the acting talent. You know, I’ve never heard but what do suppose the cast salary total of that 2001 movie was?
PDB: How difficult/ easy is it working with a writing partner compared to working on your own?
I’ll be short on this because I’ve gone into great detail (and on and on) about what it’s like to collaborate on a project with another author before. Some would say boring detail.
I believe that there are challenges and benefits to both. I also believe that it’s almost definitely not for everyone. The writing partner is everything and you have to have some kind of natural rhythm with each other too. It’s a must and that connection, or lack of it, isn’t recognizable until the writing really gets going. Let’s just say I got extremely lucky with a talented veteran like Frank.
The challenge is to be open to change and a flair for diplomacy sometimes. You have to realize this is not your book. It’s a dual ownership. A little like an old style duplex. The front doors are right next to each other. The living space is private but you can see and hear everything going on with the other guy.
The benefit is feeding off each other and waiting for that next chapter to come back to you. It puts fresh energy into your writing and it’s refreshing. There is a definite need and a good kind of pressure, to perform up to a certain standard. You don’t want to disappoint or let down the other guy.
PDB: What’s on the cards for the rest of 2013?
I’m going to be a big brave boy and finish my first solo novel. I’m also continuing to troll a collection of my short stories around and see if anyone is interested in publishing that. There is probably going to be another project with Frank down the road too – if he’ll have me. I’ve got stories in a few upcoming anthologies, including one in Otto Penzler’s Kwik Krimes, that will hit late summer of this year as well.
PDB: Where can people find out more about your work?
Probably the best place is our blog Hardboiled Partners in Crime http://hardboiledpartners.blogspot.com/ It has news about books by Frank and I but also try to feature my stand alone work.
I have a sadly neglected personal blog, Word Counts http://word-counts.blogspot.com/ Refreshing it and maintaining it better is on my to do list for the end of 2013. Google + is another outlet I use frequently to keep up with others and also annoy people with my posts as well.