Omnimystery News had some questions for The Famous Author the other day. Here's what the boss managed to blurt out between glasses of cheap white wine:
Omnimystery News: Why did you choose to create a recurring series character for your books?
Jack Getze: I've focused on writing a series since falling in love with John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee stories. Series novels are still my favorite books, with Robert Crais' Joe and Elvis atop the current list. As a writer, I'd love to create characters like that — people readers want to hang out with, join on adventures. My character — Austin Carr — is a bit challenged in the hero department, especially during this first novel, but he will improve over the series.
OMN: We introduced Big Numbers as a screwball mystery. Would you agree with that description?
JG: Yes. Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen, Dave Barry, Tom Dorsey and Lisa Lutz are the best known, at least to me, in this area. There's mystery, crime, and suspense in this kind of novel, but also a major element of wackiness — with the characters, the situation, constant quips, and/or a combination. The reader is supposed to laugh along with the suspense and mystery. It's entertainment first and foremost, but all of the writers mentioned (and my own work) strive to be more, to offer insight into human behavior, or — Hiaasen especially — pointed social comment. Humor is what sets the sub-genre apart, though, and when I think of Hiaasen, I first remember his villain who lost a hand to a pet barracuda, but rallied by fitting his rebuilt arm to accommodate various attachments — scissors, saws, and even a weed-whacker. That's screwball. Hiaasen's books are darker than Evanovich, and mine lean that way as well. Evanovich qualifies in the cozy sub-genre, too, I think, as there is no blood or sex on the page. Carl and I like to fool around with both, although I'd say we play sex scenes for giggles, and the violence is tame, sometimes even laughable (in a mystery book sort of way). I'm going to stop comparing myself to Carl Hiaasen now. He's the greatest, my favorite. I'm a wannabe.
I think most labeling of novels is good for the reader — and maybe the writer, too. The reader wants to know what she's buying, and labels help. Writers need to understand readers have different tastes, and if authors want the right kind of reader to find them, to try their work, they should fulfill at least some of those particular expectations. I believe most readers understand no author is exactly like another — that each experience will be different. But I also think people find some things very un-entertaining and want to be warned.
OMN: Give us a synopsis of Big Numbers in a tweet.
JG: Root for divorced dad Austin Carr, a funny, oversexed scamp who'll do anything to get his kids back. Think Bugs Bunny with guns and a penis.
OMN: Given the "screwball" element of the story, are any of the events in the book based on real life?
JG: Almost everything in the book came from real life. Giant bluefin tuna pulling men off fishing boats; stockbrokers marrying the widow of a big client; a friend living in his car to make alimony and child support payments; a customer threatening a broker after a junk hospital bond defaulted; my own boss calling me into his office — the 'splaining department. These are all things I found interesting or funny — if not shocking — at the time, and since I'm a former journalist, recording events easily turned into fiction. Being the youngest child and desperate for attention, so does trying to make people laugh through exaggeration. During my second career as a bond salesman, I soaked up what I saw and heard around a couple of third-rate Jersey Shore investment firms, then ran those previously described real events and others through my personal sense of humor and imagination, stuck that sausage into the skin of a funny mystery.
OMN: Is there a particular city that influences how you depict your setting?
JG: Like my series character Austin Carr, I married into a family from the Red Bank, New Jersey area and moved there from southern California. I found the environment beautiful — green, watery, and full of wildlife compared to Los Angeles — but also harsh, in the sense people didn't seem as friendly or as easy going. I must have complained once in earshot my wife's Italian grandmother, Angelina, who pulled me aside to tell me a story. When she was a young girl during Prohibition, she said the frozen Navesink River bordering downtown Red Bank often harbored rum-running ice boats on winter nights, and huge gunfights were common — hours of shooting, with dead bodies on the ice at sunrise. "Nobody ever called the cops," Angelina said. "In Red Bank, you gotta have the hard face — faccia rozzo." I think that story is the very essence of my Branchtown, New Jersey, this idea that the east coast is different than the west coast — a bigger melting pot, more history, closer living, tougher, and harder-won success. I don't know if it's true of not, but it was my experience — and I've made this Austin's experience, too, because, true or not, the perceived difference makes his take on life and people unique.