Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Timothy Fay's Wapsipinicon Almanac

Since 1988, Timothy Fay's Route 3 Press has published Wapsipinicon Almanac, a distinctive annual anthology of midwestern writing. This year's issue, the 25th, will also be the last, and it will be be featured at the Final Thursday Reading Series on February 28th at the Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls.

The next day (March 1) there will be a special event at 11 a.m. commemorating the run of Wapsipinicon Almanac at UNI's Rod Library and marking the donation of papers related to the magazine to Rod Library's University Archives & Special Collections. Join Timothy Fay along with Jim O'Loughlin and Brian Pals for a discussion and celebration of the run of Wapsipinicon Almanac.


What was your original vision for the Wapsipinicon Almanac, and how did it evolve through the years?
TIMOTHY FAY: My original vision for the Almanac was to provide a forum for interesting writing and commentary for our region and to round out my business, the Route 3 Press. I’d established the Press 10 years earlier and had always hoped to publish an annual collection of essays, fiction, reviews and advertisements pertaining to Iowa and the upper Midwest. My original vision stayed the same through my 30 years of editing, printing and distributing the publication.

Looking back, what were the challenges and rewards of beginning the publication of the Wapsipinicon Almanac in 1988, in the aftermath of the farm crisis?
TF: Challenges: starting a publication while trying to explain to potential advertisers and writers what I had in mind. Also, figuring out a format and design. Iowa was, of course, a different place then; the “farm crisis” was winding down, but its effects were still in the air. The full force of the gutting of small town Main Streets was just beginning to sink in. In terms of rewards I’ll say they’ve always involved delivering a product that readers and advertisers admired and that has been seemingly judged a worthwhile venture. The publication has, fortunately, always more than paid for itself.
Can you describe the letterpress process used to produce the Almanac?
TF: My text is set on a linotype machine dating from the 1930’s. Any illustration is reproduced in the form of a “type high” engraving—whether that be a woodcut, polymer plate or magnesium reproduction. I printed the covers on a Miehle Vertical press and the actual magazine on a 2-color Miller flatbed press. Various bindery equipment (cutter, stitcher, folder) took care of the finish work involved.
This is a bittersweet time for the many Iowans who are loyal fans and contributors of the Wapsipinicon Almanac. Did you approach this last issue any differently?
TF: I approached this issue as I approached all of the others: what could I improve on and what had I learned from past mistakes and triumphs? For the final issue I did want to include material from certain loyal writers and artists whose work I’d been especially fond of over the years. I was able to do this and to also include material from writers I’d not met or previously published.
You have previously mentioned that you are not retiring, and that you are interested in taking on smaller projects. What types of projects do you see yourself taking on? TF: I hope to continue to print chapbooks for various writers and learn more about hard and or decorative bindings. I hope to take my past dabbling in “fine printing” to perhaps another level. I’ve connected with many writers and artists in the last 30 years, and I hope to work with some of the same folks.

With the conclusion of the run of the Almanac, do you think there is room for another similar type of publication? TF: I hope that some type of independent “literary” publication sprouts somewhere in Iowa in the near future. Something “in print,” preferably, and something not seen as a “flash in the pan.”

-- Interview conducted by Tamara McReynolds

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Anne Myles's Return to Poetry

Anne Myles will be the featured reader on January 31 as the Final Thursday Reading Series kicks off the second half of the 2018-19 season. The reading will also feature the launch of Circumference and Other Poems, a limited edition poetry booklet by Anne Myles published by Final Thursday Press. Reading attendees will receive a free copy of the booklet (one per person while supplies last).
   In the interview below, Anne Myles discusses her return to writing poetry after many years. Myles is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa. In the past year, her work has appeared in a number of journals including Ghost City Review, Ink & Nebula, Thimble Literary Magazine, Lavender Review and New Verse News.

Can you talk a little about your decision to return to writing poetry? What led you back, and what has surprised you in the work that you’ve done?
ANNE MYLES: I was trying to write a hybrid memoir, and thought I wasn’t interested in going back to poetry as a form. But then it asserted itself. First I found myself turning something I’d worked on in prose in response to a writing prompt in a local workshop, just as an experiment. Then a couple of weeks later I was in New York continuing to clear out my family’s home, and came on the poems I’d written in college in a box. Now, with my professor’s perspective, I saw how good they were for college writing, and how much I recognized myself as the same person, with the same obsessions, in them. The very next day I wrote another poem that came to me, about selling the house to the family that had owned it for fifty years before my parents bought it. And then the poems just started coming. It felt like the closest thing I’ve ever felt to a miracle. Once I was writing again I knew poetry was my form, where I know what I’m doing and just feel right. It was amazing how much more fulfilling and centering and powerful writing poetry felt than pretty much any other activity I can think of. I was kind of rusty and stiff at first, but I think I’ve gotten my craft back.
   What’s surprised me beyond the mere fact of writing...hmm.  I am struck by how I can still see the echo of themes and tendencies and voice from when I was twenty. That either means those are really my core as a writer, or else I’m stuck in a place of arrested development! I’m also noticing how much the past figures in my poems – that is, a sense of how the past infuses the present and places, even as it remains unreachable. That makes sense given my life as an early Americanist, but I noticed it was happening even in poems I hadn’t thought of that way; I think it’s deeper than academia. 
   Also surprising in a great way has been – wow, hey, I can get my poems published! Maybe it’s not big time yet, but before I tried I didn’t assume it was possible. Back when I was writing before the message I got was we shouldn’t seek to publish anything until we’d served years of apprenticeship or something. So basically I never did. The world seems very different now. I started sending out work around the very beginning of July and have thirteen poems that have appeared already. It’s a confidence boost that I’m on the right track.

What poets do you find yourself thinking about or responding to when you write? Which contemporary poets are your favorites?
AM: This is the hardest question to answer. Writing again now in my fifties, I have the uneasy recognition that my voice and style are surely shaped by literature I read decades ago, mostly too far past for me to recall precise influences and effects. I wish I could trace it back! And I recognize with regret that for years I resisted reading new poets and going to readings; I see now it was too painful to witness others living out the life I had denied in myself. So I am honestly struggling to catch up with current poets; I’ve been reading around widely, but not with a lot of focus.
Some of the inspirations that stay with me most are not contemporary poets. I think I got seriously drawn to poetry after getting the top of my head blown off by “The Waste Land” in high school, and hearing the recording of Eliot reading it. I remember going to Florida condo-land with my family and trying to write about it the way Eliot wrote about post-war London. It also spoke to a spiritual hunger I was beginning to feel in my life – those incantatory final lines! I was obsessed by Yeats’s poetry in college and remember trying to imitate it. And I read a lot of 20th-century Russian poetry as a Russian minor – it uses sound-play very intensely, and that’s something I love.   In and after college, I was drawn to the work of Seamus Heaney; I was influenced by the concreteness of his poetry and his masterful crafting of sound and line, as well as his commitment to place, history, politics, and moral vision, all qualities I aspire to in my own writing. His lucidity and seriousness is something I’m always seeking in the poetry I read now. I also was met and workshopped with him on two occasions in the mid-1980s, and can hear him sharing early writing advice he received that has stayed engraved in my brain as an essential mandate: “Seamus, tell the truth.” 
   Later on, I read (and continue to read) women’s poetry with the most hunger and attention; a women’s college graduate, I’d always read Adrienne Rich, whose political qualities it strikes me one might link to Heaney as well. But Marilyn Hacker has been especially important to me, showing how received forms (which I deeply love) can be brilliantly revivified with the particularities of the autobiographical, the quotidian, and the conversational. I’m reading another brilliant lesbian formalist poet, Mary Meriam, right now. That sense of a deep relation to place and to the sonic and lyric qualities of verse that you see in Heaney made a lasting impression on me in the work of Crystal Gibbins, who read in this series a year or two ago. I don’t think I was writing poetry myself yet when she came, but her work reminded me why I love it.

Here’s a chicken or the egg question: as a poet, do you start with a subject you want to explore and then work to find the right language and form, or do you begin with a form and/or wording you want to use and then figure out what your subject is?
AM: I think I am still learning about my process and have a way to go to fully recognize it – but probably that’s a lifelong learning for most writers, isn’t it? I sometimes have subjects in mind, but I notice I can’t sit down and just write a poem about them – anything I try like that feels fake. I have to sit quietly – often literally in meditation practice – and then if I open myself I seem to find a certain thought or feeling or voice that comes with a certain rhythm, that begins to suggest a poem. One of the things I notice about myself (and it’s not new) is that I can write in many different kinds of line even in open-form poetry; I’m not entirely sure if this is a strength or a weakness. But I really hear sound intensely and want each poem to have its distinctive rhythm, and it’s when I feel and hear lines of a poem moving in me that I know I’ve got something “live.” I think!
   Participating in Vince Gotera’s UNI Craft of Poetry class in the fall semester – it’s explicitly a forms class – shaped my recent writing because of course the need to write in a particular form came first, but then I had to wait for the voice of a poem to arise that would be authentic in that form, because I wanted each poem I wrote to be truly good in itself, not just an exercise. I always started early to give the process time.

What connections have you found between your work as a poet and as a scholar of early American literature?
AM: That’s something I’m still exploring, and expect to be exploring for a long time, because I know the early American material is a source of inspiration I’m going to be mining for a long time one way or another – or I should be. I’d really like to try some erasure poems on texts from that period, though I haven’t gotten to it yet! The starting point has been my poetry on the 17th-century Quaker martyr Mary Dyer, who’s been my personal obsession for a long time. I published an article on her in 2001 that’s been pretty influential (I learned a year or so ago that the Wikipedia entry on her summarizes my argument at length!), and then when I first realized I wanted to write creatively again I was trying to write something that interwove memoir with reflections on her life and our points of connection.  Anyway, it seemed obvious I should try to write poems about her, so I’ve been doing that, and really love it. I hope they can become at least a chapbook. I will say that at first I resisted writing directly in her voice, because as a scholar that imaginative identification made me nervous; I felt more “legit” keeping a distance between my subject position and hers, and historical fiction always makes me a bit itchy. When I finally let go into a persona poem, wow it was so much fun and flowed so easily. So I’ve given myself permission to keep doing those, although I still like to write about her as myself as well.
   Conversely, I think my academic work on early American literature has encoded a lot of personal concerns that I also brought into my poetry. My scholarship has focused on 17th-century dissenters, and that sense of “feeling differently” resonates at many levels in my life, in addition to my brief but intense period in my early twenties of involvement with a Quaker group trying to revive the teachings and faith of the first generation. There’s a whole mess of things I understood and didn’t understand about myself that led me into a dissertation on early American dissent all those years ago. I guess it seemed safer to put it in distanced academic form, with lots of footnotes, rather than express it openly. I’m getting braver.

How would you characterize the poems in the “Circumference” booklet that will be distributed at your January 31 reading at the Final Thursday Reading Series?
AM: These were written at different times and with different feelings, but I thought they worked well for a reading where most people know me as an English professor since they each have some kind of intertextual relationship to earlier literature. Because of course, my brain is full of so many literary echoes; I’m not up on current poetry the way I’d like, but I really do know the tradition.
   Two of the poems, maybe all three, arose from meditative states of presence, sitting or walking. Now that I think of it, they’re all set in my house or yard or the immediate neighborhood. In that sense they all make me think of Emily Dickinson, who’s referenced in “Circumference” – her intimate attention to very small, local forms of nature, yet with cosmic reach.

Where do you see your writing headed, or what are your plans going forward?
AM: I am currently submitting applications to low-residency MFA programs in poetry – I should know by March where I’ll be going. I’m nervous but excited! Having found my poetic voice again I don’t want to lose it, and being in my fifties it feels urgent not to screw around; it’s obvious to me now that you don’t have forever to do the things you want. I’m excited about the kind of intense one-on-one mentorship low-residency programs are based on; that’s something I’ve never had access to. And there will be extensive reading, individually designed to support my needs and writing, so it will be a chance to catch up on what I’ve missed. Plus everyone seems to talk about a finding a great sense of community that lasts beyond the program.  A lot of the poetry I’m reading now is the work of faculty in the various programs I’ve applied to, trying to get a sense of whom I might want to work with.
   I’ve also been asked to teach a monthly beginning poetry workshop through The Cottage writers’ studio in Cedar Rapids—teaching writing especially to adults is something I hope to do more of going forward.
   I always want to tell creative writing students here at UNI to be appreciative of how much opportunity they have to take multiple classes with wonderful teachers, and not to waste this time. There was one poetry writing class in my college and one in graduate school and that was it. And I hope my story might be inspirational, showing that even if you lose your creative voice it’s never too late to find it again and take it seriously.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Bettina Fabos on Proud & Torn

Bettina Fabos will be the featured reader at the Final Thursday Reading Series on November 29 at the Hearst Center for the Arts (Open mic at 7:15; Bettina Fabos at 8:00). Fabos is a Professor of Visual Communication and Interactive Digital Studies at the University of Northern Iowa. In the following interview, she discusses working on Proud and Torn: A Visual Memoir of Hungarian History, a unique digital project.

Proud & Torn is not just about the history of your family but also about Hungarian history. Can you describe what it was like to weave the two together?
BETTINA FABOS: My goal was to show how one poor, everyday, peasant family, as well as their neighbors in the small town they inhabited, both succeeded and suffered under the decisions of people in power. To me, history comes to life when you bring in the personal narrative. So, I simultaneously looked at these big historical markers, most often from “official” history, like revolutions, wars, and regime change, and tried to explore these events through the eyes of my own family members. In this way, I hoped to convey this history so it feels more real and memorable. 

Using a digital medium allowed you to do things with images, graphics, and transitions that you would not have been able to in a regular book. What made you choose to use a digital medium instead, and what do you think the advantages were?
BF: I teach in a program at UNI called Interactive Digital Studies, and I’m always inspired by beautiful, tangible web projects. I love the interactivity of parallax storytelling pioneered by the developers of the first great New York Times web project, “Snowfall.” I love the tension you get by scrolling vertically to move images horizontally (as we’ve done with our timeline interface), and I love coming across looped videos online that don’t take any time to view, but add movement and dimension to an article or story. We wanted Proud & Torn to be something people would enjoy exploring.
Proud & Torn must have been an enormous undertaking. You mention in the epilogue that you were interviewing Ari in 2005. How long did it take to do all of the research for this project?
BF: I let those early interviews with Ari (my father’s sister) and my father languish for about seven years, and I began an early version of the project in 2012. I received a Fulbright research grant to do research in photo archives in Hungary. Then my project really began to transform, because it was initially intended to be a rather short project that I could design/code on my own. But while there I had a growing unease that I couldn’t treat Hungarian history lightly—there were too many implications if I got it wrong. I also met two young American historians of Hungary (Leslie Waters and Kristina Poznan, also Fulbright recipients) who were very excited about what I was doing, and they pushed me to expand the project into a social history of the small town my family was from. I took two years to draft the story, and while I was drafting, we were designing and coding. The process of building every chapter took months, and in the end it took a full six years to complete. 

You cover a wide range of history in the memoir, from how Hungary was founded to the lives of your parents. Is there anything you found during your research that surprised you?
BF: It was fascinating to learn that my Hungarian family members were serfs working on land owned by the famous Széchényi (pronounced SAY-chain-ee) family. This family—the Széchényis—are legendary for their own involvement in building Hungary’s national identity. Everywhere in Budapest there is the Széchényi name: on the first bridge linking Buda to Pest, on the national library, on the Academy of Sciences, on the majestic thermal spa in Budapest’s city park. It turns out they owned land all over Hungary, including the castle in the town my family lived in. I chose to tell the story of the Széchényis parallel with the story of my family, and in doing so I am telling the story about power, class mobility, and social disruption. My favorite moment in Proud & Torn is when the once wealthy Széchényi countess, who had been kicked out of the family castle as the Communist regime came to power after World War II, bartered with my Aunt Ari for a sack of potatoes using one of her beautiful silver spoons. Ari still uses this spoon every day like it’s one of her prize possessions. I always knew she had the spoon, but I never fully understood the history behind it.

Why is the piece called Proud & Torn?
BF: Throughout the narrative, I’m constantly referring to “pride”: the pride of Hungarian nationalism, which rose to new heights with the Compromise of 1867 and still drives the narrative of “greater” Hungary today; the pride of Hungary’s agricultural success as the breadbasket of the Austrian Empire; the pride of Budapest’s amazing culture and architecture at the turn of the century; the pride and success of Hungarian Jewish culture; Hungary’s prideful sporting achievements, especially in fencing, figure skating (1930s) and soccer (1950s); my own family’s pride at their advancement into the middle class; the individual pride of my own father surviving torture. Too often, Hungary’s pride has veered into a dangerous nationalism, which has been the root of Hungary and its people being “torn,” even today. The nationalistic Hungarians were on the losing side of World War I, where the countryside, cities, people, relationships, and the ways of life were ripped up beyond repair. With the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, Hungarians were astonished to see Hungary reduced to one-third of its size, demoralizing an entire nation and sending three million Hungarians to live across the border in other countries, torn from their identity as Hungarians. The wretched horror of World War II (a war Hungary was also on the wrong side of, allying with Nazi Germany to regain territory) resulted in more tearing, with the Holocaust being the most extreme example. This was followed by the ransacking of Hungary, this time by the Russians, the ripping up of aristocratic estates (down to the parquet floors), the upending of class structure, and the tearing of families from their homes and livelihoods under new economic plans. Ultimately, with the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956, my father left for the United States, although he would have preferred to stay in Hungary. Like so many other Hungarian families, this one, too, was torn apart. That is the story of Hungary: proud and torn.
-- Interview conducted by Brooke Wiese

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Jeffrey S. Copeland on Plague in Paradise

Jeffrey S. Copeland is the featured reader at the Final Thursday Reading Series on October 25 at the Hearst Center for the Arts. His new work of literary nonfiction, Plague in Paradise: the Black Death in Los Angeles, 1924 (Paragon House), documents efforts to confront an outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1920s Los Angeles. Copeland is the author of several works of literary nonfiction, including Ain’t No Harm to Kill the Devil, Shell Games and Inman’s War. He is a Professor of English in the Department of Languages & Literatures at the University of Northern Iowa.

You’ve got this knack for discovering underappreciated moments in American history. My first question, and it’s the question I have had about all of your literary nonfiction books, is how did you discover this topic and how come it had not been written about previously?
JEFFREY S. COPELAND: It was a couple years back during the Zika Virus outbreak that my wife and I first ran across references to the Black Plague outbreak back in 1924 Los Angeles. At the time I said, "Wow - I've never heard about the '24 outbreak of Black Plague - I wonder how come?" My curiosity was getting to me, so I did just a little research and discovered there was a pretty amazing story there. At the same time, I also discovered why I had never heard of it: The people involved in the 1924 outbreak were NOT proud of what transpired during that terrible time, so they did their very best to shove everything under the rug - and they did a darn good job of that. Once I discovered this "cover-up," I knew I had to dive into the research. In short, I was hooked - and wanted to bring this story out into the light.

Many people think of the Bubonic Plague as something that was a relic of Medieval times. How is it that this was an issue in 1920’s Los Angeles?
JC: Back in Medieval times, the Black Death wiped out, by most estimates, about half the population of Europe. After that, pockets kept spring up around the world -- and even to this day. Last year over 2,500 cases of the Black Plague appeared in Madagascar alone. Right now, the U.S. ranks 11th in the world in cases that pop up each year, mostly confined to the Southwest region of the country but it shows up elsewhere as well. It doesn't give away too much of the story to say that the plague came to Los Angeles in 1924 by way of a ship that had come there from another part of the world. The most frightening thought right now is that cases could be appearing in shipping ports and airports all around the globe. With international travel as easy as it is today, the possibilities are endless for transmission of a wide variety of illnesses. In a related area, NBC News reported on October 6 that an outbreak of Typhus appeared in Los Angeles at "epidemic levels" -- and this, too, was caused by it being brought in from the outside. Whether the Middle Ages or 1924 Los Angeles or TODAY Los Angeles - these outbreaks are always going to be with us.

The protagonist of this book, Dr. Matthew Thompson, was a real person. What did you have to do not just to research his experiences but to get into his head and understand the way he thought?
JC: Whenever I tackle a literary nonfiction book, I first make a large chart with several columns related to methods of revealing character: What they say; What they do; What others say about them: Their physical characteristics; and their motives (what makes them tick). I don't begin writing the book until I can fill out these charts for all the major characters in the story. Finding out this information about Dr. Thompson took time to locate, but his fingerprint was all over the follow-up reports about what happened, and there were several accounts of what others said about him at the time. Plus, I dug out his old medical school records -- and even found out more about where he grew up and what he was like as a little boy. The Catholic Diocese in Los Angeles also had a wealth of information about him that I could draw from (this will become more clear as people read the book). Dr. Thompson was fun to research, but some of the other characters were much, much tougher because so many records were hidden after the events took place.

The outbreak of the plague in this book is more than a medical issue. The social aspects of the plague, who it impacted and how they were treated, is as important as the science behind the disease. Was this something you knew about the history of this moment going in, or was it something you discovered in your research?
JC: The medical issue was what first caught my attention, but it wasn't long at all before I started seeing the "social issues" that developed as the outbreak unfolded. Then, one day while looking through the Church records kept at the time, I started learning about Father Brualla's work. Father Brualla was the priest at the church that served the part of Los Angeles where the plague first appeared. Once I started following what Father Brualla did during this dark time, I found out about the prejudice and "fear of outsiders" that reared ugly heads there. One of the biggest things I did not know until getting pretty far into the research was the prejudice and fear displayed in Los Angeles is cited by so many historians as one of the prime reasons the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta was founded. That development, the founding of the CDC, has been a game-changer in the treatments of outbreaks ever since.

Can you talk a little bit about how you conducted research for this book? Did it involve a lot of time in dark and dusty archives, or did you find yourself spending a lot of time in sunny L.A.?
JC: Quite simply put, the research for this book was the toughest to do for anything I've ever written in my writing career. Again, this was mostly because so many records were shoved under the rug, "misplaced," or destroyed -- because of how badly everything was handled there. For context: An outbreak of the Black Plague happened in San Francisco twenty years before the outbreak in L.A. In San Francisco, city and medical officials did their best to hide news of the plague; as a result, medical treatment didn't start there until over 2,500 members of the Chinese community in San Francisco died. When the cover-up was discovered, heads rolled -- and even the Governor of California was forced to leave office. The officials in Los Angeles in 1924 were very aware of all of this, and they had to decide whether to let everyone know what was going on -- or whether to hide the news, for a variety of reasons/motivations -- while knowing if they got caught hiding news of the outbreak, many of them could have faced severe consequences. So, to cover their tracks after the outbreak finally came under control, many records just "disappeared," and this made the research extra tough. However, when that happens, I just have to dig deeper. The information is always there if a writer is willing to turn over all the stones. While turning over these stones, I dug around everywhere from the Library of Congress to the National Archives of Canada, and even the CDC. Out in Los Angeles, I "walked off" the entire area of the city where the outbreak took place, visited with medical personnel who helped me with records, and even had a lovely lunch with the current Priest at the church that was at the center of the story (and who also filled me in on aspects of the story I did not know -- and needed to know!). I also got over eleven hundred dollars in traffic fines in Los Angeles and surrounding cities while doing my research there, but that "price of doing research" is a story for another day.

--- Interview conducted by Jim O’Loughlin

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Friday, 14 September 2018

Grant Tracey Book Release at FTRS

Grant Tracey takes the stage for a a book release reading at the Final Thursday Reading Series on September 27 at the Hearst Center for the Arts (open mic @ 7:15; Grant Tracey @ 8:00). Tracey will be launching A Fourth Face, his second book in the Hayden Fuller series of detective novels published by Twelve Winters Press. Tracey is also Fiction Editor at the North American Review and a Professor of English in the Department of Languages & Literatures at the University of Northern Iowa. 

One thing that really comes through in A Fourth Face is your love of the language of the hard-boiled detective genre. Can you talk about what drew you to the genre and what writers of detective fiction inspired you?
GRANT TRACEY: In high school I read Dashiell Hammett, inspired by his politics and Jason Robards's portrayal of him in Julia.  I liked his clipped style (it was Hemingway-esque almost before Hemingway) and the Continental Op detective. Red Harvest was a fast-paced violent novel, and I found myself really drawn into it. It was the first book I read and then had to immediately re-read. It just had an energy to it. A dark vibe. And I've always liked film noir and Hammett wrote crime noir. I was drawn to the cynicism, I guess. But it was when I read Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep and Farewell My Lovely) that the genre really came alive for me. He had a lush, romantic sensibility mixed with a sardonic toughness. I liked the mood, the subtexts. Later, I read Mickey Spillane and I was blown away. My teachers all dismissed him as a fascist, but I liked the unapologetic way he wrote, the passion in every sentence. He was like a prose comic book writer. And I love comic books. Today, one of my favorite crime writers is Jim Thompson. Nobody wrote like him. He's jazz punk.

What about your writing breaks with some of the contentions or standard styles of the genre?
GT: I guess the thing that distinguishes my writing from many of the other writers listed here is that I invest in half-scenes, summary mode, and free-indirect discourse. PD James was an awesome story teller. She tells stories. Doesn't show them as much. I have scene work, but I like slipping into dialogue that isn't direct but summarized or free and indirect because it creates uncertainty and the landscape of a mystery novel should be full of uncertainty. So I freely move among these modes. Did the detective just say that or think that? Oh, someone's responding, so he must have said that, but did he really say that or is the author giving us an approximation? I like that. It's kind of my jam.

I know about your love of hockey, and you’ve written about the sport in some of your literary works like Parallel Lines and the Hockey Universe, so I get why Hayden Fuller is a former hockey player, but I was intrigued about why this series is set in mid-1960s Toronto, which you are too young to have had be a formative part of your life.
GT: Hayden is a guy who lives on the cusp. He's a retro, a throwback, a buzzcut guy in an era that's changing (the permissive society). Hayden is a liberal. He believes in social justice, helping folks attain the dream and making sure everyone is given a fair shake. And as a Jew, he has experienced anti-semitism and injustice, so issued of fairness or unfairness are very real to him. He believes in people. But, when it comes to sex, he's a square. That's why I set the stories when I did. He's a 1950s cat in a 1960s world, and he's navigating his place between the two.

Though Hayden Fuller is clearly a tough guy who can take care of himself, it also becomes clear in the book that he’s a character who has been wounded, psychologically. How are those two things related?
GT: I think the detective novels I like are pyrrhic.The detective dies a little bit in solving the case. It's certainly the case in all of Chandler. Spillane's hero, Mike Hammer, I think unbeknownst to the author, suffers from PTSD; what he experienced in the South Pacific during WWII. So yeah, I was drawn to that aspect of the genre and wanted to take it a step further with the reveal in this book.

There have been times when detective fiction, as a genre, has been criticized for its gender politics. There are aspects of A Fourth Face that felt like they consciously pushed back against misogyny, while at the same time recognizing the fact of violence against women, and I was wondering how much of that just happened in the writing and how much was intentional.
GT: I was very aware of it and am trying in my writing to complicate this issue. After the first novel, the character of Stana came across for some as a femme fatale. But that was never my intention. She made a bad choice. She's not a spider-woman. So, in the next two books, I'm working to ask some readers to re-evaluate her. Summarizing a character around a single truth is too easy. Stana is many truths, and I wanted to show how complicated friendships and romance can be. Hayden is still drawn to her and they might just be good for each other. Also, the end of A Fourth Face (no spoilers here) attempts to reconfigure or deconstruct the usual bondage scene, such as where a naked or nearly naked Velda is rescued by Spillane’s Mike Hammer. Ed McBain's Doll and what Steve Carella goes through in that mid-sixties classic 87th Precinct novel was a bit of an inspiration for me.

I’d like to be able to ask a good question about the ending of A Fourth Face without giving anything away, but I don’t think I can say much more than “wow, that was an ending!” So, in general, when you’re writing in a genre like this that involves complicated plotting, how much do you need to know about where the narrative is going to end up, and how much do you discover along the way?
GT: I have a blue print plot (who did what and why) before I start writing, but it changes dramatically once I get rolling. Two-thirds of the way through this novel, I saw the ending, but I didn't know who all would be in the scene. And when I got to the ending (involving water), I went through the wall to another level that totally surprised me. Sorry to be vague, but I don't want to give things away. Something did happen when I wrote that final scene that just grabbed me and shocked me. But really, as I write these books, I'm just trying to survive the scene I'm in and allow that to take me to the next scene. Often I discover what scene is happening next by following the impulses of the current scene I'm writing.

-- Interview conducted by Jim O’Loughlin