Do you like funny with your missing body parts? Is the concept of Elmore Leonard-esque writing and a serial killer making mincemeat of former work colleagues and bosses who have ticked him off, appetizing? Then dig in! Please welcome, my interviewee, Randy Rohn, with his debut novel Hang on Sloopy.
Evil has many names. Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy and now the Man with the Lightbulb Head. Louie Lewis (Louie, Louie to his friends), a small town private investigator, just wants to knock back a few beers, tell a few jokes and take a breather after a long, tedious, but rather mundane insurance investigation. However, when he starts to rekindle an old flame, he crosses paths with the new face of evil.
Tense, taut, suspenseful and frightening, Hang on Sloopy is a page-turner guaranteed to keep you up at night.
Marshall Karp, bestselling author of The Rabbit Factory and other Lomax and Biggs novels says, “What a terrific first novel. Randy Rohn has created a bang-up page-turner with three-dimensional characters, laugh out loud dialogue, and enough body parts to make Silence of the Lambs look like a snack.”
And, Ronald Tierney, bestselling author of the Deets Shanahan mysteries hails Hang on Sloopy as, “Sex, blood and rock ‘n roll. Lots of blood. Well-drawn characters are caught in a gruesome nightmare. Rohn’s Hang on Sloopy is seductively easy reading, funny and terrifying.”
Thanks for joining me, Randy. First of all, congratulations on your debut. What’s the book about?
It’s a horror/suspense/humor novel. It has, as a villain, a Hannibal Lecter-type character who’s really quite chilling. But the horror is leavened with a good dollop of humor.
And what of your protagonist, Louie Lewis? What makes him tick?
He’s a small town PI. He was in line to be the police chief, but he had some rather radical ideas about law enforcement that the town council didn’t like, so he wasn’t given the position and he quit the force. Most the time he does rather mundane stuff like background investigations and skip traces. But an old girlfriend walks back into his life. Although her name is Susan Louise Perie, Louie calls her Sloopy in honor of one of his favorite songs. Sloopy’s frightened because she’s getting packages in the mail filled with animal parts—hearts, brains, intestines—and wants Louie to find out who’s sending them and why. As the story unfolds, Louie crosses paths with a corrupt cop, some murderous farm workers and an insane serial killer.
Some character notes about Louie: He owns 4 jukeboxes filled with 45 rpm vinyl records. He’s a real aficionado of 60s garage rock. He’s a bit of a Luddite, thinks change is bad and hates much of the so-called “digital revolution”. He was named after the famous garage-rock staple which, to date, has been covered by more than 700 artists.
Clearly, you use a lot of humor in your writing but this isn’t a comedy, so how do you use humor in Hang on Sloopy?
I use it to break the tension somewhat.
People are funny creatures. We have our foibles. We have quirky personalities. When we rub up against each other, funny things happen. I think all this is part of life’s madcap, merry parade, and, therefore, can be part of any story.
Why do you think humor and suspense go well together? Is there a balance that needs to be struck and how do you know when you’re crossing the line?
I think when there’s extreme tension, extremely funny things sometimes happen. However, I don’t do funny just for funny’s sake. My humor comes from the characters and story development. You’ve gone too far when it’s not a natural part of the story.
What draws you to the type of fiction writing that you do?
I like to be entertained when I read, so I gravitate to suspense, thrillers and humorous books.
This may be your first novel, but you’re no stranger to writing, being an accomplished short story writer. What gave you the urge to start a novel and what’s the key to writing a good short story versus a novel?
I’ve always wanted to write a novel, but, and here comes a lame-o excuse, I never seemed to have time until my children were grown and in college.
In a good short story, you don’t have time for subplots or much character motivation other than the main character and maybe the antagonist. You tell the story in broad strokes without much subtlety.
One of my favorite short stories is “There are Two Asses in Assassin” in an anthology called Your Darkest Dreamspell. It’s about an assassin who’s not very good with guns and, actually, has never killed anyone. He just has a rep for being a great assassin because of a series of wild and wacky accidents. Everyone who has read it tells me it’s really entertaining, so I’ve decided to make a full-length book from it. Although it would be a comedy/thriller, the emphasis would be more on comedy. My current book Hang on Sloopy also has comedy elements, but the emphasis is more on suspense and thrills than comedy.
You’ve spent much of your career in advertising and have over 600 local, regional, national and international awards under your belt including Clio, International Festivals of New York, Webby, and London International Advertising Awards. Other famous authors such as James Patterson, Ted Bell, and Clive Cussler had their start in the ad world, too; why is the industry such fertile ground for writers?
The best ads tell a story about a brand. Writing fiction allows us to tell a story, but flesh it out a little more and not be quite as hemmed in by strategic messages, mandatory copy, disclaimers and whatnot. It’s very liberating.
What writers do you read and who (if anyone) inspired your creativity?
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Hemingway, although I write nothing like him. Current authors who inspire me are Marshall Karp, Jack Getz and Ted Bell. Also a Swedish author named Camilla Lackberg. All of them are funny, but their books are mainly plot-driven, action-oriented or suspenseful but with a good measure of humor.
I read everything by Ron Tierney, Lee Child and J.A. Konrath, although, stylistically, they’re very different. I guess it depends on the day of the week. I enjoy frolicking in the playground of the written word. I tend to be a big fan of whomever I’m reading at the moment. And, of course, everything you read has an impact on what you write.
What’s next for Louie Louie? Is this the first in a series? What are you writing now?
Yes, Hang on Sloopy is the first in a series of thrillers featuring Louie Louie. I’m at work on the next one tentatively-titled I Fought the Law.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me, Randy, and good luck with your launch!
Hang on Sloopy is the first full-length novel by Randy Rohn. His short stories have appeared in dozens of anthologies and publications including “The Best American Mystery Stories 2009,” “The Baddest of the Bad: The Very Worst of Out of the Gutter Magazine,” “Ransom, Give Me What I Want And I’ll Go Away (maybe)”and “Dreamspell Revenge”.
You can find out more about Randy Rohn at his Amazon author’s page.
His website is under construction, but the workers went on coffee break and haven’t come back yet. However, it should be up soon.