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Sep 29

Saturday Six Pack – Chris Jay Becker – Author of Death in the Fast Lane

This week’s installment of Saturday Six Pack features Chris Jay Becker, author of Death in the Fast Lane. In addition to being a novelist, Chris is also a songwriter, music journalist, and stand-up comic. In the past, he worked as a skip tracer,a gravedigger, a shipwright, and a private security consultant, and a movie extra.

A reader asked me recently if I had ever thought about co-writing a book with another author. I said that if I ever found another writer whose style and general take on society and life in general was similar enough to mine that I would certainly consider it. I have to tell you folks, Chris is exactly the sort of person I had in mind when I made that statement.

When a Rock legend dies mysteriously, it’s up to LAPD Det. King Leary and his partner Det. Millionaire Adler to investigate. On the way they meet crazed music biz types, the Mayflower Mafia, and a serial killer who calls himself The Angel of Righteousness. On top of all this, Leary has a secret… he sees dead people.

If you’re looking for a Los Angeles mystery centering on the music industry, with real people, real bands and real police procedure, look no further than Death in the Fast Lane. This book is a fast, fun read. The narrator, Detective Leary, possesses a sharp wit. Working in the homicide division that deals with crimes involving celebrities, he also knows his music, and I mean knows it. He can tell you who filled in when the drummer died in some obscure California band back in the early 1990s. But he also surprises with knowledge and wit on literary figures as wide ranging as Milton, Dylan Thomas and the Dead Sea Scrolls. I loved the fast pace of Death in the Fast Lane. The dialogue was entertaining. The characters, starting with Leary but not limited to him, are three-dimensional. The author brings in their ghosts and demons in appropriate measure, not weighing down the story but giving it depth. I’ve put Chris Jay Becker on my list of authors to follow, because this book was really well-written and good fun.
Amazon Review

1) Just to get the juices flowing, why don’t you give my Po$$e members a taste of what they can expect to find when they pick up a copy of Death in the Fast Lane, which is something I expect a lot of them will want to do.

My detective LAPD Det. King Leary works for the Homicide Special Unit of the elite Robbery-Homicide Division, which is the unit which handles high-media-profile cases such as serial killings and celebrity murders. “Fast Lane” is very much a Los Angeles/Hollywood crime novel in the tradition of Raymond Chandler, Joe Wambaugh, Michael Connelly and the Pimp Daddy of them all, James Ellroy. At the same time, it’s a very funny book. My cops know their way around a wisecrack. One reader described it as Michael Connelly-meets-Carl Hiaasen.

2) You’re very open about your childhood and the circumstances that surrounded your family. If you’re comfortable doing so, could you talk a bit about how the fact that your parents, who were both ex-heroin addicts and ex-cons, shaped your outlook on life as well as your writing?

My dad and mom were ex-cons/ex-junkies, my older sister also became a junkie, a hooker (as was our mom,) and a convict. My brother is a lawyer, and I’m a Mystery/Crime writer; so you can see the effect right there. At the same time, growing up in Los Angeles is pretty surreal even for us poor folk. My dad was a failed child actor and musician, my grandpa was a Vaudeville-era stand-up comic and drummer. Show biz is a pervasive presence.

3) As indie authors, we’re all pretty much in the same boat…a ton of writing, editing, design, marketing and networking responsibilities to handle that never stops. How do you juggle those multiple priorities and keep yourself focused and organized?

It’s easy to get caught up with Social Media, SEO, blogging, cover design, formatting e-books for Twitter, Smashwords, and Barnes and Noble, formatting the paperbacks for POD. It’s insane. I was in a car accident in February, I broke my right arm. I couldn’t write for 4 months. So I used that time to build my “Author’s Platform.” I try to separate the writing time from all the marketing stuff, because, frankly, all that other stuff is so much more fun. As novelist Peter DeVries famously said, “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork.”

4) I know you’re working on the next two installments of your series. Can you give us some idea what your plans are and where you’d like to take the series over the next several books?

The possibilities are limitless. Leary and his partner Millionaire Adler can work cases involving Hollywood, the music biz, serial killers, gangland, and there are bound to be a lot of ghosts involved. I want to go heavier into the “Cop who sees dead people” stuff, because that’s my hook. It’s part of my life, too. I’m a believer.

In the second novel, “The Meaning of Death,” Leary spends time fine-tuning his psychic abilities, but he’s still trying to hide those abilities from the brass. The bad guys in this one are a pair of Hawaiian-shirt wearing hitmen named Mambo and Fatmouth. I’m going more Elmore Leonard or Carl Hiaasen with the comical bad guys thing.

The third book, “It’s A Wonderful Death,” is a Hollywood show-biz story. Brit filmmaker Nigel Morton is making a remake of Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life” but with his famous British Gangster Film edge. Leary’s wife, Katt Guevara, is up for a role. Then Nigel is murdered…

Other titles planned: “All Walks of Death,” “Death as We Know It,” you get the idea. I just take a common phrase with the word “Life” in it, and I flip it to “Death.” If your readers can come up with a few more titles like that, I’m always open to suggestion.

5) Since we’re talking LA music, Joe’s Walsh’s Life’s Been Good comes to mind. And since your main character, Leary, sees dead people we simply have to connect him with Summerman and Murray, my part-time ghosts from the Damaged Po$$e series. Now that would be a total hoot. But I digress…I’ve been asking other authors this question and I’ve been surprised by the variety of responses I’ve gotten. When you’re starting a new project, at what point do you know when you’re ready to start writing?

When it’s time for me to start draft work for a longer project, such as a novel or a screenplay, I have to find that sweet-spot where I’m suddenly cranking out 10 or 15 pages a day and I’m suddenly skipping meals and writing way past my bedtime. I get into that white-hot zone. I never edit or think too hard at this point, I assume that what I’m writing is sheer crap.The most important part during that first draft is this: words on the page. Period. As many words on the page as humanly possible. It can all be fixed in the mix.

I do what Dashiell Hammett did, writing most scenes as dialogue at first. I just say, “Okay, who’s in this scene?” Then I let them talk to each other. They always take over and say crazy stuff that I hadn’t planned or expected. Nothing mystical there, though, it’s all pure free-association. It may not be mystical, but it IS magical.

6) One of my goals is to write a chapter at some point in a book with nothing but dialogue and no character identification of who said what and have readers seamlessly follow the thread. It’s very hard to do but certainly a goal worth pursuing. Last question. And this is the one question I ask everyone who does Saturday Six Pack. If you could change one this aboutyourself as a writer, what would it be?

I wish I could just crank it out every day like Stephen King. I tend to over-think everything. I brood, I procrastinate, I nap; it’s pitiful. I’d love to write 10 novels a year, in different genres, using different pen-names, just be a complete pulp-writing hack. As Peter Griffin would say, “That would be frickin’ sweet!”

I have no doubt you’ll get there, Chris. You’re that good!

Thanks, Bernie, and thanks to your Po$$e.

I appreciate your kind words about me as a writer, and I do think it would be cool to collaborate on something in the future. Maybe we could do a book about a trust-fund-baby Hipster PI with offices in Los Angeles (Silverlake of course) Austin, Portland, and Billburg, Brooklyn, NY. He, of course, would never admit to being a PI, “I’m really a DJ. Mostly Dubstep, and other sub-genres you’ve probably never heard of,” as he cracks open a PBR. Then he’d go into a rant about how the Black Keys were okay, “…before they sold out.” That would be hilarious.

Wait, I’m drinking a PBR right now. Uh-oh…

Links:

Chris’s Amazon Author Central page:

Chris’s website/blog:

Twitter: @kingleary

1 comment

  1. Karen

    I’d have to say B.R. Snow AND Chris are both busy guys!

    Talented and busy, good news for all of us readers and fans:)

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