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Interview: April 15, 2005

April 15, 2005's Carol Fitzgerald, Joe Hartlaub and Wiley Saichek interviewed Victor Gischler, author of SUICIDE SQUEEZE. Gischler explains his decision to use a one-of-a-kind baseball card signed by Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe and Billy Wilder as a way of launching the book's plot. He also talks about his inspiration for the character of Conner Samson, names the one author who has most influenced his work, and gives readers a sneak preview of his next novel due out in February 2006. We have to ask. Marilyn, DiMaggio and Billy Wilder --- why those three? How did you decide to use the DiMaggio card and Marilyn Monroe encounter to launch the book's plot?

Victor Gischler: It was too good an opportunity for some pop culture satire. A joining of icons. It's the king of baseball married to the queen of Hollywood, America's version of a royal wedding (some would say the Kennedys...but I disagree). The card becomes emblematic of so much in American culture. How much? The reader can decide.

BRC: SUICIDE SQUEEZE walks a fine line between pathos and humor without giving itself entirely over to either. There are elements within it that are similar to other authors, but in the end it maintains its own unique voice. What authors have influenced your work?

VG: Kurt Vonnegut. Crime writers like Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen certainly are a big influence, but it was Vonnegut (especially BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS) who helped inspire my leanings toward satire. I'm not saying you'll think it's a Vonnegut novel when you pick up SUICIDE SQUEEZE, but the influence is there.

BRC: You reside in Oklahoma, where your novel PISTOL POETS takes place. GUN MONKEYS and your new novel SUICIDE SQUEEZE take place in Florida. Do you have any plans to set a future novel in a locale closer to your home base? And what elements of Florida do you find attractive, with respect to basing a novel there?

VG: What do I find attractive about Florida? Water. Also, warm weather, which translates into girls in skimpy beach outfits. The next novel will be set mostly in Oklahoma but with visits to New York City and New Orleans as well. Travel is fun.

BRC: What, or who, was the inspiration for Conner?

VG: In a vague way the John D. MacDonald character, Travis McGee. Conner is sort of the anti-Travis. Both are sort of the handsome boat-bum types, but Conner, unlike Travis, seems to make life worse for himself every time he tries to fix things.

BRC: By what path have you become familiar with the repossession business? And what inspired you to write a novel involving a repo man?

VG: Well, let's be clear. I am NOT familiar with the repossession business. It's a gig Conner sort of fell into by accident, and a really good, professional repo man would probably think Conner is a doofus.

BRC: One of the minor elements of SUICIDE SQUEEZE, which we enjoyed, was the exhibition of your knowledge concerning comic book and baseball card collectibles. For example, only a true fan would know that the "first Byrne" copy of X-Men should be kept under lock and key. Your descriptions of a science fiction convention, and the people who attend such gatherings, were particularly informed as well. Have you ever been a part of collectible media fandom? If not, how did you come by your extensive knowledge?

VG: I used to really love the Daredevil comic when Frank Miller was doing it. I was a huge fan. So I got into comics and collected a few titles, even went to a few conventions. I won't say I grew out of it. More accurate to say I just got busy with other stuff. But I've always been a sci-fi, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings sort of guy.

BRC: What is the most difficult aspect of writing a "humorous novel?"

VG: You just have to accept that everyone has a different notion of "funny" and that some people just won't "get it."

BRC: We loved the novel's zany characters. Which of your supporting characters was your particular favorite? Why?

VG: The dog with the butter knife. (Remember him? Wow!)

BRC: What are you working on now, and when can readers expect to see it?

VG: A shoot-'em-up called SHOTGUN OPERA (February 2006). I should be finished with it soon. Lots of blood and dirty words.