It’s a rare pleasure to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Richard Lange and George Pelecanos, two crime fiction masters. Below is our transcript of their exchange, which ranges widely and rivetingly across such subjects as empathy, prisons, the writing process, and why vets make ideal detectives.
Angel Baby by Richard Lange is available now as a hardcover, eBook, and downloadable audiobook. The Double by George Pelecanos will be available as hardcover, large print book, eBook, and audiobook on October 8th.
Richard Lange: First off, let me say that I’m a huge fan of your work from way back, and it’s a real honor to engage in this kind of dialogue with one of my heroes. I especially want to thank you for all you did to spread the word about Dead Boys, my first book. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that they read it because you mentioned it somewhere or recommended it to them. I’m forever in your debt for that.
Now, to the questions. I’ve tried to keep them brief and pertinent but haven’t always succeeded.
The Double is the second book featuring Spero Lucas. Why did you choose to start another series, and what are the major differences between this one and your earlier series? Were you looking to explore new kinds of stories and characters in this one?
George Pelecanos: I never plan on a series. When I finished writing The Cut I felt like there was more to explore with the character of Spero Lucas, so I went after it. Some of the things I only hinted at in the first book come to the forefront in The Double. Lucas’s war experience in the Middle East has impacted him deeply, and the darker aspects of his psyche have bubbled up to the surface. It’s a harder, more violent, and more sexually explicit book than The Cut. Also, I liked writing about a young, physical guy who has a young man’s appetites. I’d been writing about middle-aged guys for awhile, and switching up helped me cut loose. The Lucas books have a certain kind of drive and energy.
Richard, you made a positive reputation early on with your short story collection, Dead Boys, which you know I enjoyed a great deal. When I read Chapter 6 of your new novel, Angel Baby, I was struck by how complete and polished it was. Detailing the prison life of Jerónimo Cruz, it stands on it own. Is it accurate to say that you craft each chapter in one of your novels with the care and precision that you would in one of your short stories? And which form of fiction do you prefer, both as a reader and writer?
Lange: Maybe because I started as a short-story writer, the individual chapters of the novels sometimes have a self-contained feel to them. They’re almost slices of the characters’ lives. It’s at odds with the narrative demands of the plot, I suppose, but it’s the way I tell my stories, through discrete scenes. I’m a slow, careful writer, even in first drafts, and I spend a lot of time chipping away at things in order to get them to my liking. As you know, what looks simplest is often most difficult to achieve.
As far as what I prefer, short stories or novels, as a reader, I love both equally. When it comes to my own work, stories is where I feel most comfortable, but I’m learning to love the expansiveness of writing novels—which is good, because you can’t make a living writing short stories. Continue reading “In Conversation with George Pelecanos and Richard Lange”