By E. A. Aymar
New York Times and USA Today bestselling novelist Vincent Zandri has been an important voice in crime fiction since 1999, when his debut As Catch Can (now titled The Innocent) was published to terrific reviews. Since then, he has written at an exceptionally prolific rate and has published fifteen novels, including eight in the Dick Moonlight PI series.
The latest thriller in that series finds Moonlight, along with an overweight Elvis impersonator as his sidekick, investigating the suicide of a young woman. But this suicide is especially troubling to Moonlight, since the victim may have been raped by the son of his new boss.
New readers to the series will find a lot to like in Zandri’s dark, formerly suicidal, pained-romantic protagonist as he hunts for answers through the streets of Albany. And new readers to Zandri will latch on to his tight plotting and noir-fused prose. He was kind enough to take the time to talk about his work as a writer, photographer, and musician, as well as what the future holds for Moonlight.
How do your different interests (particularly your work as a photographer and musician) influence your writing?
I fell into photography as a freelance journalist when editors seeking to save a few bucks would ask me if I didn’t mind taking pictures. Of course, this became more prevalent as the digital age took over, and a writer who can also take pictures is a far more valuable commodity than one who doesn’t have an eye. But in terms of art, the photos taught me to capture a moment in time that is then recreated in the mind of whoever looks at it. I try and do the same with my writing. Recreate a moment or moments in time that make the reader feel like what’s happening on the page is happening to them.
As for the music, I play drums, so I’m very much aware of rhythm and repetition. The same goes for my prose. I try and maintain a certain rhythm with my sentences and dialogue while at the same time repeating certain images that relate to the story, the same way clouds relate to the sky. Sometimes readers aren’t even aware of these images but they serve to wake up their unconscious brain sort of like clean air turbulence. You don’t really see it coming, but if you don’t sleep through it, you feel it and it reminds you that you’re flying, and then you forget about it when it goes away. The Canadian writer Douglas Glover taught me this method back in writing school and I’ve never forgotten it.
Do you have an end in mind for the Dick Moonlight series?
I’ve been toying with an end for the series for the past year now, but I enjoy writing the damned things so much that I almost don’t want to see it end. Dick Moonlight has become a real friend. But I have editors wanting more and more big literary stand-alones so it’s getting harder and harder to find the time to write the Moonlights. Time will tell.
Have you written, or considered, a spin-off for the Moonlight books?
I’ve been thinking about writing a few prequels back when Moonlight was just a teenager and he was working for his dad’s funeral parlor, with a far younger Georgie Phillips working right beside him. With some of the cadavers arriving at the Moonlight Funeral Home being the victims of murder, I think it would be great if young Dick Moonlight and Georgie Phillips did their own investigating, and in turn, got into a lot of trouble at the same time.
You’ve written touchingly about the issues of depression within your family. Is it difficult or therapeutic to address that through Dick Moonlight?
It’s indeed therapeutic. The Moonlight character was a result of my own emotional troubles that resulted from my second divorce a few years back. The saga begins with him trying to commit suicide; something he thankfully fails at. Writing novels that somehow deal with your own issues is the best psychiatry in the world, and a hell of a lot cheaper than seeing a shrink once a week.
Are there any issues you consider out-of-bounds in your writing?
I don’t like to write about pre-teen children who are abused or harmed in any way if I can possibly avoid it. Otherwise, I try and write whatever story it is I’m passionate about. I’m not a politically correct or, for that matter, a politically motivated individual, but I try and keep an open mind while respecting the feelings of others. I try and look at both sides of story, which is why so many of my books don’t necessarily have black-and-white endings. Often, the good guy turns out to be somewhat bad, and the bad guy somewhat good, if any of that makes sense. I think we’re all capable of good things and evil things. It all comes down to choice. Sometimes the devil makes you do bad things and other times the little voice inside your gut tells you to shut up and go home before you get into serious trouble.
Vincent Zandri is the NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than 16 novels including THE INNOCENT, GODCHILD, THE REMAINS, MOONLIGHT RISES, and the forthcoming, EVERYTHING BURNS. He is also the author of numerous Amazon bestselling digital shorts, PATHOLOGICAL, TRUE STORIES and MOONLIGHT MAFIA among them. Harlan Coben has described THE INNOCENT (formerly As Catch Can) as “…gritty, fast-paced, lyrical and haunting,” while the New York Post called it “Sensational…Masterful…Brilliant!” Zandri’s list of domestic publishers include Delacorte, Dell, Down & Out Books, and Thomas & Mercer, while his foreign publisher is Meme Publishers of Milan and Paris. An MFA in Writing graduate of Vermont College, Zandri’s work is translated in the Dutch, Russian, French, Italian, and Japanese. Recently, Zandri was featured in a major article about his books and his thoughts on the state of modern publishing by the New York Times. He has also made appearances on Bloomberg TV and FOX news. A freelance photo-journalist for Living Ready Magazine, RT, and many more, Zandri lives in New York and Florence, Italy.
To learn more about Vincent, please visit his website.