Ahoy me hearties!
We’ve just sailed back from the doldrums to catch up with prolific and celebrated author Stone Wallace. Seems his newest crime noir novel just hit the marketplace and we are anxious to interview him about this exciting new crime noir release that is sure to shiver our collective timbers!
We’ll all be wettin’ our pipes with some tasty grog as he joins us at the Captain’s table to regale us of his exploits and tells us about his newest novel ,’REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’!
WHEN GOING STRAIGHT GOES SIDEWAYS, EX-CON JOHNNY DARROW FINDS HIMSELF IN A HIGH STAKES FIGHT FOR HIS LIFE!
Johnny Darrow is in a race against time as he finds himself at odds with a boyhood friend turned powerful enemy in a gambit in which his feckless gangster wannabe kid brother becomes a pawn.
“Four chances were all that he’d be given. He would have to make good on each one, and even so the odds were that he was a dead man. He snapped the clip back into the grip and hefted the gun, at the same time feeling a wave of sickness not attributable to the alcohol he’d consumed course through his body. He slid the automatic into his hip pocket, eager to be rid of its cold, unyielding feel – if only for a few minutes. He pulled his jacket right around himself but saw no need to button it. They knew he would be armed.”
Ex-con Johnny Darrow is released from prison intending to go straight. But when he returns to the mean streets of his old neighborhood he quickly discovers that circumstances are against him. Unable to find honest employment and saddled with a reckless younger brother determined to pursue a criminal career as a means to escape his environment, Johnny soon finds himself drawn into a scheme with his gangster pal, Frank Lisanti, which, if successful, will provide him with the cash to solve his problems. However, returning to crime proves a dangerous maneuver as Johnny quickly becomes enmeshed in a web of murder and treachery with his brother becoming the pawn in a deadly game between two boyhood friends turned adversaries. Now on the run, Johnny must somehow extricate his brother from the clutches of Lisanti and his murderous mob while keeping himself free from police capture.
1. What attracted you to the 1940s as the setting for ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’?
Actually the 1940s was the prime era of noir. Most of the best films of the genre were produced during that decade and those were movies I fell in love with: Out of the Past, The Killers, Born to Kill, Criss Cross. The character of the movie gangster also underwent a sort of metamorphosis during that time. The 1930 sharp-suited criminal characters of Bogart, Raft and Cagney evolved into a new breed of tough guy, personified by Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. They were of raw material, replete with neuroses and psychoses, often possessed of a violence that was explicit and sadistic. Consider Richard Widmark in Kiss of Death, Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill, Robert Ryan in Crossfire, Raymond Burr in Raw Deal and Neville Brand in D.O.A. Five nasty specimens. And we must not overlook the classic and often lethal femme fatale, best exemplified by Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street, Yvonne DeCarlo in The Killers and Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears.
2. ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’ starts out atmospheric, nightmarish and engaging-was that intentional?
Absolutely. As with the best of noir, there seems to be a general feeling of desolation, often desperation, and even hopelessness – I think I make that clear in the opening chapter of the book with Johnny in that hotel room. A happy ending is not always in the cards for the hero of noir. The good guy doesn’t always win out, and if he does, at times it comes at a cost. Noir doesn’t just refer to the dark and shadow-laden cinematography so prevalent in these films but also to the theme of the story and overall mood. I hope I captured that in my novel.
3. Johnny Darrow is a complex protagonist. Which of his qualities make him relatable to readers in your view?
Thank you for saying that. I wanted to construct him in that fashion. Johnny is a guy who can best be defined as a victim of circumstances. His slum upbringing, an alcoholic and brutal father who deserted his family. He was possessed of a restless, resentful and rebellious spirit that led him down the wrong path. His time in prison for a relatively small offense was really the best thing that could have happened to him. He knew upon his release that he wouldn’t necessarily have an easy time on the outside, but he also realized that it was either “make or break” it; he could never do another prison stretch. Unfortunately, circumstances (or the “Fates” as he refers to them) lead him, reluctantly, into an unholy alliance with his old partner – who has become a hardcore criminal with no chance at redemption. Like the Henry Hill character in Goodfellas, his one ambition was to be a gangster.
4. You have written in many genres. How does writing a crime thriller differ from writing a western? Which is your favorite go to genre to read?
Only in terms of the setting and the era. When my Western Montana Dawn came out, a reviewer referred to the title character as a “kind of Western Bonnie Parker”, which she is. I could easily have modified several of my Westerns into modern times and they would have worked as well, I think. Ditto Requiem, which I could re-write into a Western just by adjusting the setting. Outlaws instead of gangsters; sheriffs instead of detectives. In fact, three fine film examples of this are Kiss of Death, remade as an oater as The Fiend Who Walked the West, High Sierra remade as a Joel McCrea Western called Colorado Territory and The Asphalt Jungle which was turned into an Alan Ladd picture called The Badlanders. Replace Winchester rifles and getaway horses with tommy guns and fast-moving automobiles, Stetsons with fedoras, and the story would still be there. As to my favorite genre to read, I enjoy a good Western (Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove is my absolute favorite), but my preference has always been for crime stories. My favorite authors are W.R. Burnett and Mario Puzo. The Godfather is a masterpiece and still my number one favorite read.
5. In your illustrious career you have been an author, interviewer, copywriter, broadcaster and even a boxer! What was your takeaway from your experience as a boxer?
Well, I never went into boxing as a sport per se. My dad passed away when I was 14 and I got into a difficult stage where I was unleashing a lot of aggression – and not in a good way. Certainly not proud of those days. Fortunately, my mom started dating a man – a great guy – who had been a boxer in the navy during World War 2. He noticed my behavioral problems and suggested that boxing might be a more constructive way of letting out my hostilities. Again, it wasn’t an outlet I was actively seeking. But I did get into a club at the YMCA where we trained every Saturday and I found that, yes, it was an effective way for me to release my negative energies. I kept at it in an amateur status for several years and later had the chance to go semi-pro. I didn’t, but some years later I coached boxing for inner-city youth and that proved very rewarding. As you know, I feature a boxing sequence in Requiem for a Gangster. Still love the sport though it’s not how it used to be, sadly. As for what I took away from boxing, as it pertains to writing, definitely discipline – which is very important for the writer. You have to condition yourself to write something each day, just as you would train daily in preparation for a match.
6. Do you feel the heroes and villains are clearly defined in ‘REQUIEM FOR A GANGSTER’?
Definitely. I believe readers will relate to Johnny Darrow in a sympathetic way since his problems, I hope, are identifiable. The antagonist, Frank Lisanti, I believe possesses all the right qualities to make him a very unlikable, even hateful character, a guy of twisted ambition who has an evil, treacherous soul, despite his attempts at an outward shallow charm. Needless to say, because he was so nasty he was fun to write. My main female character, Audrey Crawford, was an interesting character to fashion: Her somewhat unorthodox attraction to Johnny and how a jaded Johnny initially regards her interest with suspicion, and how the relationship develops from there. And Johnny’s kid brother Ray just has an angry and resentful attitude similar to what Johnny had, but the defining of his character is a bit more ambiguous, which is how I intended. I guess to summarize: The white (Johnny). The black (Frank Lisanti) - and the gray (Ray). And of course there’s the cop Lieutenant Tierney who also has a shading of gray to his character, and perhaps with good reason.
7. If this novel was optioned for film, who would you like to see cast in the various roles? In particular, what actor could you see playing Johnny Darrow?
Boy, the actors best suited for the principal roles are no longer with us. But . . . for fans of noir, see if you can recognize the in-jokes I have within the story, pertaining to the names of some of the characters, one of which I already revealed. That will give you an idea of my ideal casting had the book been written back in the day. I sorta figure that with a few years shaved off, Mark Wahlberg would make a good Johnny; Sean Penn as Frank Lisanti (he always has that underlying violence in his characters) . . . and maybe George Clooney as the detective, Tierney.
8. You have interviewed many other celebrities in your career. Tell us about a favorite.
I’ve been so fortunate in that regard. And really, everyone I interviewed was a real gem: kind, polite and accommodating. My first interview was with another tough guy actor, Lloyd Nolan. We began a correspondence that resulted in my visiting him at his home in Brentwood when I was on a trip traveling through California. Actually it never really was intended as an interview per se, but some years later I transcribed the tapes and submitted the print copy to Filmfax, who published it. I conducted Robert Stack’s final interview. He was one of my first heroes: the original Eliot Ness. And he really was a funny guy, which most people might not associate with him. Two noir actors became good friends of mine, both now sadly deceased: Mickey Knox and the lovely Coleen Gray. John Agar was another early movie hero who became a good friend, as did veteran movie heavy Marc Lawrence, with whom I was planning to write a book focusing on his long movie career that began in 1932. Again, not bad for a kid from Winnipeg, Canada.
9. Crime novels are an extremely popular genre. What do you think readers look for in a great crime novel?
I hope they are because I’d love to continue writing them. As for what makes a successful crime novel, one that appeals to readers, definitely you must have characters you can identify with, relate to, be he or she tough or vulnerable – or preferably both. A compelling story line is necessary. Keep the reader turning pages. In that regard I prefer a sparse narrative to a weighty, description-laden one. You know, more the Hemingway style than some other writers whom I won’t name. But again, that’s my personal preference. There are so many variations on the genre which have been mined by the greats like Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Burnett and Mickey Spillane. Robert Parker was another, and he’s a personal favorite since he successfully tackled both crime fiction and Westerns. And the late Elmore Leonard did, as well.
10. What is your best advice for aspiring authors based on your experiences?
Read. Learn. Research. Digest. Inevitably whenever I meet someone who knows I’m a published writer I’m told “I have a terrific story” (I hate it when they add: “For you.” I have enough of my own ideas, thank you). Well, maybe they do have an interesting tale to tell. But my reply is always: “So write it.” “But I don’t know how,” he or she responds. Neither did I in the beginning. I’ve been at this racket for over 30 years, published 20 books among a score of other stuff. But I knew that writing was what I wanted to do so I just began to research. Back in those days we didn’t have the luxury of the internet for quick results so I haunted libraries, reading works by my favorite authors, learning the mechanics of good writing, imitating styles I admired until I found my own voice, and discovering the pros and cons of publishing as a business: the submission process; what’s the best market for your specific story. And also, maybe most importantly, what I discovered early on: You must develop a tough skin and learn to accept rejection, which is always difficult. I had my share of “no’s” when I started out, but I was also lucky to receive some encouragement from publishers who did not merely respond with the dreaded form rejection letter but rather included a personal note telling me that they saw promise in my writing and to keep at it. Persistence is the key. If the talent is there, eventually you’ll find success. Originality is important, too. Look at contemporary Hollywood, so devoid of ideas that it keeps regurgitating the same stuff: remakes, sequels, stupid summer comedies, endless superhero movies. Just keep a realistic expectation. Lightning does strike but it can be a tough business at which to earn a living. If you do make a book sale, hold off on pricing that yacht. One more note: Don’t wait for the muse to provide you with inspiration. Create your own inspiration. My longest and one of my most successful novels came about by my writing just one opening sentence. Didn’t know where that sentence would take me, but gradually it expanded until I completed a nearly 400-page book which became a national bestseller. So again – Just write: something, anything. You never know where it might lead you.
11. What current projects are you working on? What can fans look forward to in 2018-2019?
I’ve completed another horror novel that I’m in the process of polishing. And I’m about three-quarters through another gangster book: The Chicago Boys, a fact/fictional story detailing the power struggle that existed within the Outfit after Capone was sent away to prison for income tax evasion and how the mob tried to muscle into early Hollywood in an attempt to expand its rackets following the repeal of Prohibition. I didn’t want to write a straight history but rather have some fun with it, re-introducing Eliot Ness into the narrative and creating some fictional characters based on real people. And there are the true-life mobsters in the story, such as Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn, “Greasy Thumb” Jake Guzik, and of course “Scarface” himself. From an early age I’ve always been fascinated by this time in history, and especially the workings of the Chicago underworld during the era. My interest remains so pronounced since boyhood that I sometimes think that I must have lived as a hood during that period.
We bid fair winds and following seas to our intrepid guest Stone Wallace as he parts our company. He certainly is a well-traveled fellow with many tales to tell! If you pick up a copy of his newest release, me hearties, you will get a taste of intrigue and high adventure without having to leave your armchair!
We wish fortune to you and yours as THE WHIMSICAL HERALD heaves ahead!
Until next time,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness on THE Whimsical Herald
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Avast ye maties and look sharp!
As we sail into port for another amazing author encounter, we call for all hands hoay as we enjoy the summer breezes on our faces and look forward to meeting our distinguished guest, author Amy Thornton. With humor, keen insight, and more than a little panache Amy has written a guide to help workers navigate the concrete jungles of the workplace with gusto and confidence, all while generating joy and good will to boot! Amy has an extensive professional background as a columnist and award-winning good will enthusiast, bringing with her over a decade of experience as a Human Relations Instructor for the Dale Carnegie Institute.
Sound impossible? No worries! Amy Thornton will be joysplaining how. Whatever your work situation, she’s got you covered.
WORK IS NEARLY HALF YOUR LIFE-MAKING IT JOYFUL IS WORTH THE CHALLENGE!
“No matter what your level is on the job, you can be a powerful force for change. Being a positive example at work is like the start of a ripple in a body of water-your bit of joy may be just a drop in the pond, but it can make circles to all of its edges and reach so many.”
Are you one of the 48% of employees worldwide who don’t like their jobs? Do you feel constantly stressed at the office? Or maybe you’re just feeling “blah” about your job and want to bring some life back into your workplace.
If you talk to anyone about their careers or jobs these days, most of the time you won't hear positive stories or excitement. You'll probably hear words like "busy,” “stressed,” “exhausting,” and “mind-numbing." And with the good old 40 hour workweek becoming a distant memory for many of us, this reality is just plain sad.
Joy to You and Me (At Work!) helps turn these situations around by giving the reader easy tips they can implement quickly to start making a positive difference in the workplace. Being joyful isn't just a “fluffy-cutesy-nice” thing to do each day - it actually increases productivity and is good for any company or organization. The book helps anyone learn how to:
This fun, easy-to-read guide shows people of all ages and personalities how to make a difference immediately to make not only themselves happier, but to spread that happiness throughout the workplace – and beyond!
By sharing stories from the author’s 25+ years of making a joyful difference in the workplace and examples from truly kick-ass companies, Joy to You and Me (At Work!) is a life changing, fun read for anyone who wants to improve their work life.
1. You have an extensive professional background that you bring to your writing, including instructing a Dale Carnegie Human Relations Course for over a decade. Which of your professional endeavors influenced your writing the most?
In addition to teaching the course, I also worked at a fantastic biotechnology company on the northwest side of Indianapolis in my early 20s that encouraged us to improve their work atmosphere through a program called "I Power." Individuals with the best I Power suggestions were awarded Employee of the Month at company-wide meetings. This motivated me to always look for ways to bring joy to my co-workers and their customers and set me on my path of bringing enthusiasm to the workplace.
2. In ‘JOY TO YOU AND ME (AT WORK!) you emphasize “showing’ appreciation rather than “telling”-can you recall a special moment in which a coworker or boss wowed you?
As I mention in my book, when I left the Town of Field's Corner, my co-workers hosted a goodbye breakfast for me. My jaw dropped when I saw numerous pictures posted on one wall of me at various events and programs throughout the years. It was so touching to see how everyone had worked together to create this collage of wonderful memories.
3. In an age when so many workers are on ‘remote’, so you feel the suggestions and principles in your book are just as applicable as they would be to those in more traditional work settings?
Absolutely. Even workplaces that seem to be doing well on the surface can always find ways to improve their level of joy!
4. What are some of the common questions you get from younger workers you have instructed? Have you noticed a change in the questions and attitudes of younger workforce members in your years of experience in the field of human relations?
The funniest question I’ve ever gotten from a younger worker is “Kathy asked me to Xerox this – what does that mean?” Haha! Seriously, one person did ask me “How are you always so positive?” I let her know that no one can be positive 100% of the time, but having enthusiasm can really make a difference in what you do.
Some of my younger co-workers have trouble letting go of work when they need to and I feel for them. It’s important to take breaks throughout the day and to put the phone aside on evenings and weekends. I admire their dedication, but having a balance is crucial.
5. How important is camaraderie in the work place?
Camaraderie makes a huge difference in the workplace! When you feel a connection to your co-workers, it makes each day much easier and helps you accomplish so much more.
My 17-year-old son is fairly new to the workforce and is approaching his one-year anniversary with his company. In his first few months, he wasn’t connecting with anyone and his work suffered. Now he’s made many friends and is being trained to advance into other tasks. I can tell he enjoys his work more now!
6. As an innately enthusiastic person by your own admission have you ever been accused of being a ‘Pollyanna’ ?
Yes, I get teased (affectionately!) by friends and family about this. But they’ve told me they wouldn’t want me any other way.
As readers will discover in my book, some people just don’t like a joyful personality. I don’t want ANYONE to squelch their enthusiasm when they encounter these individuals. The world desperately needs more joy and kindness. When I’m around these folks now, I just give them kindness and move on.
7. Is there a joyful way to deliver bad news in the workplace? Have you ever had to discipline someone or let them go?
I’m not sure there’s a joyful way to deliver bad news in the workplace, but there are gentle and kind ways to do so. So often I hear people at work say, “Well, it’s not personal.” People are breathing, feeling creatures of emotion. No matter what, bad news will affect them personally. Talking to someone face-to-face, in private, with compassion, is the best way to deliver bad news.
I’ve never had to let someone go in the workplace, but I have had to discipline people. My first step whenever I’ve had to do this is to put myself in their shoes. My second step is to always begin with some praise. Most people are doing the best they can. I’m kind, yet firm, in these situations.
8. What practices help to de-stress workers? How do you yourself unwind from a taxing work day?
Healthy ways to de-stress include deep-breathing, gentle neck rolls, a quick break to walk around the building, “safely” venting to someone outside the company, and treating ourselves to something soothing such as a cup of tea or soft music.
My favorite ways to unwind from a taxing workday include walking, hoop dancing (dancing with a hula hoop) and lying on some soft carpet putting my lower legs up onto a card table chair! That last one makes people laugh, but it’s a great tip I learned from a friend. By lying down and resting your legs on the seat, you relax your back.
9. Dealing with difficult bosses or coworkers is endemic in the work place and you devote a chapter to it. Can you share the takeaways from your experience working with the very difficult coworker you named ‘Vanessa’ in your book?
I’ve discovered that dealing with difficult bosses or coworkers in a calm, productive manner is the best way to go and something I’ve never regretted. I’m so grateful I handled things the way I did with her because I literally see Vanessa every month or so out in our community. Instead of awkwardness or avoidance, we share smiles, understanding, and brief conversation.
10. Are you working on your next book in the series yet? Can you share a snippet or teaser from it?
I’m actually more of a fiction writer! This was my first “real” non-fiction book. I’m not planning on making this a series, however, I have many fiction books ideas brewing. Nothing is written down as of yet.
11. What’s on your schedule for the rest of 2018? Where can fans of your work catch up with you?
I’m reaching out to start speaking to different Central Indiana professional organizations, businesses, and non-profits on how they can bring more joy to their workplaces. I will have book signings and sales at various libraries and bookstores in Central Indiana and beyond.
Virtually, I’d love to hear from people through my web site www.authoramythornton.wordpress.com; email email@example.com; or on Twitter or Facebook.
ttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CZRJ6CL Here's a one-minute preview of what you'll learn: Joy to You and Me (at Work!) Trailer
As we wave to our wonderful guest author Amy Thornton and prepare to shove off, we do so with a renewed sense of vigor and optimism! Amy Thornton’s enthusiasm is truly contagious! Even the grumpiest members of the crew seem to have more cheer, and we look forward to having her as our honored guest again soon!
Until then, I remain your faithful servant,
Patricia Mattern, Mistress of Madness, The Whimsical Herald
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Mistress of Madness
Well, do you have any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?
Lewis Carroll, in 1897, proposed this answer, "Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is 'never' put with the wrong end in front!" (raven, spelled backward, is nevar aka never...or as we like to say here at TT...never more!)