Complementing my interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the three hundred and sixty-fourth, is of multi-genre author Preston Lang. If you would like to take part in an author spotlight, take a look at author-spotlights.
Preston Lang is a native of New York City and a product of its public school system. He’s written articles and plays in addition to novels, and he’s held a wide variety of jobs, each of which he’s found instructive. Moving furniture taught him that some extremely strong men can be close to useless on a big job. As a mathematics instructor he learned that a lot of people find negative numbers a little bit silly and embarrassing. Selling footwear taught him that a shoehorn can be a dangerous but probably not a deadly weapon. As a lounge pianist he learned that even if a few of the keys are broken, you can still figure out a way to play the song. In the fish canneries he learned that it’s not important to have pretty shoes.
He started reading crime fiction at a young age, starting with Donald Sobol’s Encyclopedia Brown series, which made Lang very angry. For those who don’t know Encyclopedia Brown, he was a smug, small-town boy detective who solved mysteries with his ostensibly enormous intellect and a hired thug named Sally Kimball.
So from the age of nine the desire to exculpate the criminal was pretty strong in Lang—that and the desire to simply commit the crime better in the first place. Crime fiction was probably the best place for someone like him to end up.
He’s happily married to a dangerous, fast-talking Canadian. Recently she pointed out to Lang that the fact that Donald Sobol was able to infuriate him so much with children’s genre fiction probably means that the man was a genius.
His debut crime novel, The Carrier, is out now from 280 Steps.
And now from the author himself:
My great aunt once poured petrol on my arms and then threatened to set them on fire. These days when she tells the story it was vanilla extract rather than petrol, and it’s a funny story appropriate for holiday reminiscence. I’m unlikely to write the tale of a sweet and daffy old woman who soaks a cherubic nephew in vanilla; I’m much more likely to write about the threat of immolation and deranged laughter.
Memory is slippery—sure. But as a rule, violence doesn’t interest me as much as deception, impersonation, intelligent planning, and disastrous improvisations. Still, I think violence is an essential part of crime fiction. If the credible threat of death is removed from the story, the tension and the drive to the finish are a lot harder (though not impossible) to maintain.
The novel that I’ve just released is called The Carrier, and in it a lot of people hurt each other. It’s been a while since I’ve been threatened by a machete, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been locked in the boot of a car, but that doesn’t mean I’m not qualified to write about these things.
Which almost brings me to the second point: I wrote a story once where two teenagers sniffed embalming fluid and listened to a CD called Shamu, Songs of the Deep—whale noises and bad, synthetic pop. (For those who don’t know, Shamu is an orca who does tricks at Sea World in the US.)
A few months after the story came out, my friend Vincent told me that he’d looked everywhere for the album—record stores, private collections, the length and breadth of the internet—and he hadn’t been able to find it. Did I know where to find it? When I told him that I’d made it up, he looked puzzled, then disappointed. He looked at me as if I’d just stolen from him.
Did he get that there were no actual teenagers sniffing embalming fluid? Yes, he seemed to get that. Did he get that sometimes writers make things up? Yes, he seemed to get that too, but he couldn’t quite approve of it. And he really didn’t like that there was something that the characters—aimless characters, much less resourceful than Vincent—had access to something that he could never attain. I felt badly about this for a whole, but I soon realized that it’s not the job of an author to make fiction into reality. And when I smell vanilla extract I don’t feel anything in particular—just that someone is probably baking.
You can find out more about Preston’s writing from:
- Twitter: @LangReads
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