Robb T. White
First of all, tell us who are you and what you do:
I’m a retired college teacher of grammar and literature, who relishes every free day from his sedentary past to revel in his sedentary present. Married for over 50 years to my high-school sweetheart, I’m a father of three and grandfather of 3. I also have a black cat named Athena I scooped up years ago from my backyard, although she had an owner I was unaware of. I write stories and novels about bad people, dangerous thugs, psychotic assholes, both male and female, and a variety of other sickening trash, all of whom, for as bad as they are as fictive people, cannot compare to the actual shitheads of real humanity in every corner of life, especially in my rat’s nest in Northern Ohio.
What insights can you give us into the way(s) you find/get inspiration for your fiction?
I’m out-of-my-depth in advice-giving to anyone for any reason, and I feel humbled by the question. I know talk is cheap, it takes money to buy whiskey, and so I’ll offer a modest tidbit. I don’t have a good idea why my brain produces these psycho fucks. I watch a lot of news, love horror films, even bad ones, can’t wait for the next Scandinavian, Korean, Polish crime saga to show up. None of that, however, gets inside my psyche as fodder material (I don’t think). I have an obsession with evil that might originate with my Catholic indoctrination in parochial school back at a time when nuns taught children—and mauled our helpless, little brains about sin, death, and eternal damnation—for watching The Three Stooges. They didn’t know jackshit about science but they could describe hellfire’s every room, owing to their own psycho-sexual aberrations. That’s the best theory I have at the moment.
A sidenote: Joyce Carol Oates—with whom I had the honor of being included in a recent crime story anthology—used to peruse newspapers in the library at Wayne State to garner her own inspirations. (My long-time Detroit homey told me that, an eyewitness). I’ve done that, too, but rarely. I finished revising a crime novella yesterday and mentioned to the prospective publisher that my antagonist was the “most despicable” character I’d created yet—an uncouth, vicious lout that sprang from the same abyss as the rest of them. But how?
Who are some contemporary writers every writer today should be reading (and why)?
I can answer only to my favorites—again, without the proviso of any advice-giving to other writers or for reasons of my own inspiration: Thomas Harris, whose Hannibal Lecter is the sine qua non of evil. Martin Cruz Smith for his outstanding Arkady Renko novels, and David L. Lindsey of Houston. One novel of his—Mercy, will convert anyone. I don’t know why it is that these writers I so admire have “walls” around their fictional techniques I can’t scale to liberate a few morsels for my own fiction. God knows, I’d steal blindly from them all if only I could.
Can you talk about how you went about writing “Hunting Jimmy,” your story in Pulp Modern, Volume Two, Number Eight?
The core of that story, which you kindly accepted, and helped me improve with a superior knowledge of cultural events vis-à-vis the early 1980’s, must be acknowledged here with thanks. To return: the Jimmy Hoffa mystery, now finally close to being resolved, had captivated me for years. Again, my Detroit buddy, a boxing matchmaker, must get credit because we often drove around Detroit on our jaunts and many times past the Red Fox in Bloomfield Hills, where Hoffa was last seen. The scenes in my story resulted from ingesting a couple decades’ worth of annual visits to that great but forgotten city, meeting such a variety of people from the director of the Detroit Institute of the Arts to James (“Lights Out”) Toney at a boxing match in Mexican Town.
These days, consumers have a near-limitless selection of books, movies, television, and music to choose from; What’s your opinion of this wealth of “content”? Do you think this is a trend that will continue, or will people get tired of such a broad selection of entertainment?
A great question for which I have mixed feelings and thoughts. A I’ve aged, I’ve contracted in some respects. Other than Paul Brazil, the British crime writer, I bread almost no one new. I’m stuck re-reading my favorites named above. On the other hand, the wealth of films from every country on the globe on my Roku smart TV contains such a vast selection, including the Amazon and Netflix films, that a person could live as long as a vampire and never view a fraction of what’s currently available. I’m not just an indie writer, I’m a fierce believer in their value—as opposed to the stranglehold held by those New York sonsofbitches—their lackey agents, milquetoast editors, and assorted pond scum of the publishing industry—that work relentlessly to maintain the stranglehold of the Big 5 or 6. I mean, Jesus Christ, how long will Clive Cussler and his ilk go on producing bestsellers (a farce of a word, there)? When he goes, he’ll be stuffed with excelsior and propped up in Simon & Schuster’s window on the Avenue of the Americas while teams of ghost writers crank out the next 60 novels the way grandfathers, fathers, and sons used to work on cathedrals in the Middle Ages. Share the loot, motherfuckers. It isn’t just cream that rises to the top; turds do too. To put a capstone on this diatribe: I think we’re built for handling information overload, and we know instinctively how to avoid the stress that comes from it. The phone zombies still haven’t received that memo.
Writers today often feel beholden to social media to establish themselves. Do you think this is a good or bad development in publishing? What makes you lean the way you do on this issue?
For indie writers it’s a necessity. The hard-working and dedicated people who back these enterprises in this economic climate with their own cash and sweat equity are heroes. They believe in what they do. I say, with some shame, I have all the author pages and social media platforms going—my poor website gets more hits from me fixing typos than it ever does visitors—but it’s part of the game. In just the last week, I’ve had Ryan Thomas work like a dog to get one of my reprinted novels on Amazon’s KDP, where it’ll languish, but the scut work he had to do to overcome Amazon’s own glitches amazed me. By the same token, Chris Black and Chris McVey of Fahrenheit are soldiers who genuinely believe that readers want good, heavyweight noir fiction, and they fight the good fight every day despite the obstacles imposed on indie bookstores by the publishing mafiya. I despise Agatha Christie novels as much as the popular crime writers. Watching Dolly Parton and James Patterson cavorting in an infomercial about their recent collaboration in a crime fiction novel nauseated me.
I lean the way I do because I’m old. I campaigned for George McGovern, protested Vietnam, and here I am with a Donald Trump Americans for a Conservative Agenda plastic card in my wallet and a haircut like my Nixon-loving father. Life, it goes in circles.
What can we expect from you in the near future?
My next “Raimo Jarvi, p.i.” novel is coming out before summer. Northtown Angelus is the third in the series, and it’s my magnum opus—until my next one. I also have a collection of “Thomas Haftmann, p.i.” stories in the queue at another indie press that was merged with the original publisher of the Haftmann novels. I mentioned my novella, which might languish on my Desktop along with other stories, but that’s why I waited so long to write. Anyone who tries to make a living off writing is either brave or foolhardy.
In the near, near future, I’ll have a few short crime stories going up. My batting average is decent. I do love it when a story gets rejected by several magazines or online sites, and then gets accepted. It’s sweet revenge. Boring anecdote alert: the first novel I published with Fahrenheit Press in the U.K. , When You Run with Wolves, was ignored by the New York agent I had at the time. She kept telling me on the phone my fiction was “too violent,” that acquisition editors in her business were basically “private-school-educated types” who had a disdain for crude language and excessive depictions of violence in their writing. Well, fuck her, that novel has been reviewed over a hundred times on Amazon. Of course, the politically correct assholes condemned it—par for the course—but it shows that we need more variety in fiction, not necessarily more fiction of the kind that has the seal of approval from NYC.
Nominated for a Derringer, Robb T. White has published several crime, noir, and horror stories as well as hardboiled novels in various anthologies and magazines. “Inside Man,” a crime story, published in Down and Out Magazine, was selected for the Best American Mystery Stories 2019. His novel When You Run with Wolves was cited as a finalist by Murder, Mayhem & More for its Top Ten Crime Books of 2018. “If I Let You Get Me” was selected for the Bouchercon 2019 anthology. He has a pair of series private eyes.