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Interview with Gregg Taylor, author of Finn’s Golem

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Tell us about Finn’s Golem
Finn’s Golem is a story that’s been bouncing around in my head for years. It’s about a man who wakes up behind his desk with an impact wound on his head and a big nothing where his memory used to be, who has to use his instincts and a whole lot of bravado to find his way through the danger he’s up to his neck in. It plays very much like a classic noir film, in that it’s told from a single viewpoint. Rather than an omniscient narrative voice, we have one that is focused entirely on the immediate, trying to find his way based on his own best guesses about himself.

What genre is it?
Well now that’s a tough question. It’s set in a dystopian future, and there certainly are a lot of science fiction elements that come with the territory, but in terms of structure, it’s closer of a crime novel. I’ve read a ton of novels in the last few years by Donald Westlake, including the Parker novels he wrote as Richard Stark, and it was wonderful to be able to let that influence all hang out. I think Parker might have been one of the biggest influences on Drake Finn’s development as a character, in that he is an almost entirely unlikeable man whom you grow to really like because of how good he is at what he does. There’s a lot of the Sam Spade brand of detective in there too – a complete hard-ass with a streak of nobility buried under a ton of cynicism. Having said all of that, the world of the novel is one best described as science fiction, and when forced to choose between sci-fi and detective fiction, I’ve chosen to classify it as science fiction. Mostly because I find readers of science fiction to be generally receptive to other elements and other ideas more readily, while some fans of detective fiction might get frustrated the first time they encounter a plasma weapon, a computer that governs all forces of official reality or an artificial human.

But has it got that fast pace of detective fiction?
Finn’s Golem is a tight, one-two punch of a story. It isn’t going to let you come up for air until it’s done, but it isn’t a long book either. It’s a great story for a plane trip, a rainy afternoon or a day at the beach under a big hat. You’ll probably end up talking tough and ordering a bourbon right afterwards. Be careful about that. 

We’ll keep that in mind. Complete this sentence for us: if you like _________________, then you’ll love Finn’s Golem.
Tacos. Everybody loves tacos. Seriously, though, there have been some really flattering comparisons, but they’re hard acts to follow, and even a carnival barker like me would blush at repeating them about his own work. I would say that if you like your protagonists to have an anti-hero flavour, you’ll like Drake Finn. If you like your dames sexy but your content not smutty, we have a couple of dynamite girls for you. If you can visit a dystopian future without demanding a dissertation on its history or that the world be somehow fixed at the story’s conclusion, you are the ideal tourist for this little world.

Tell us a bit more about the story itself.
Finn wakes up behind a desk in a private detective’s office with his name on the door, with a wound on his head and a smoking plasma cannon in his hand. It quickly becomes clear that he’s probably the architect of his own misfortune, with a beautiful client he’s never met arriving that night – one that he’s already sold out to at least one shady operator. And if the danger she’s bringing with her isn’t the reason that someone poured him a sparkling glass of brain damage, then he actually has worse problems than being hunted by the law, a ruthless gangster and the shadowy forces that maintain the official reality governed by the Omniframe. Everything else there is to tell about him we learn as he learns it about himself -what his special skills are, where his allegiances lie and just how far he would go to keep his client safe and to survive.
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We are huge fans of your Decoder Ring Theatre podcasts. For the sake of anyone who doesn’t know about them, can you tell us what they’re about?
At Decoder Ring Theatre we create full-cast audio drama (or radio plays) in the style of the classic programs of the Golden Age of Radio, and set them loose upon an unsuspecting world in podcast form. It’s really a dream project come true. We’ve been releasing a new full-cast, full-length story twice a month since 2005, and really developing some terrific characters along the way. Our regular shows include The Red Panda Adventures, the two-fisted pulp adventures of the masked protectors of 1930s – ‘40s Toronto, which really celebrates the whole radio/pulp hero tradition of characters like The Shadow, The Spider, The Spirit and The Green Hornet. We also run a Marlowe-style private detective series called Black Jack Justice, with his n’ hers gumshoes who rarely see eye to eye. The shows are all free for download – we’re entirely listener-supported, but it’s completely voluntary, so there’s really no earthly reason not to pay us a visit and try it out (except for the better-than-even chance that we’ll get you hopelessly hooked!)

The Flying Squirrel is quite possibly our favourite of your characters. We hear that she – and her partner, the Red Panda – are going to be making their comic book debut. Can you give us the details?
True confession time: I also have a bit of a crush on Kit Baxter a.k.a. The Flying Squirrel, which is okay because I married her. The character was actually created and developed for my wife Clarissa to play (before she was my wife – so I guess that worked!), and along the way she brought so much of her own personality and moxie to Kit that the two of them became inexorably linked in my mind. Clarissa is much less likely to break your knees or dangle you off a rooftop, but it’s still not impossible. It’s actually a very good way to go, if you want to create a character with some depth that you can respect in a genre that’s littered with as many buxom-but-helpless girl hostages. It’s meant that I’ve never wanted to write her a scene that I wouldn’t want to play myself, and that the relationship between the characters has grown over the years, without ever really taking time out from adventuring to “talk about their feelings”, which frankly drives me a little nuts.

But yes, the comic book! The growth from the radio series into the pulp novel series Tales of the Red Panda was natural, and a lot of fun, but I have really always wanted to see these characters in action in graphic novel form. Starting February 27th, we’ll finally get the chance with Mask of the Red Panda from Monkeybrain Comics, available digitally at www.comixology.com.  I’m very lucky to have found an amazing partner in this project in the form of Dean Kotz, who did the art & letters and really captured the Red Panda and the Flying Squirrel in ways I never could have expected, and we’re both thrilled to be working with Monkeybrain, who have really rocked the comics world since they launched with some fantastic creations. I hope that the response will demand more, but for now it’s a three-part story, each with 32 pages of action for a measly 99 cents. Beat that!

Tell us a bit about you.
Wow. That’s the hard one, isn’t it? I trained as a stage actor and spent my time pursuing that road as an actor and playwright, and I guess the day just came when I realized that so much of the effort involved in pursuing this supposedly unconventional career path, was completely conventional. I was doing exactly what I was expected to do, in the same way that everyone I knew was expected to do it, all in support of goals that, for the most part, I had no interest in, and never had. It forced me to question where in all of this my passion really was, and what would I do if I could do anything at all. Not in a silly fantasy sort of way, not if money were no object… but what would sing for me? What would make it all worthwhile? And so off I went and the circus ran away with me and I haven’t been seen since.

Give us details of how we can follow you on the internet and on the various social media platforms.
The easiest and best way is to go to www.decoderringtheatre.com and start following the radio shows. We put out a new release on the 1st and the 15th of every month, year-round. If that’s too tough to remember you can subscribe by RSS feed or through iTunes.

There are four other novels out there in addition to Finn’s Golem, all available on Amazon. A Black Jack Justice detective novel and three Tales of the Red Panda pulp adventure novels The Crime Cabal, The Mind Master and The Android Assassins.

I keep pretty busy through social media, you can find me on Twitter at @decoder_ring , on Facebook at www.facebook.com/decoderingtheatre and in our fan boards at www.audiodramatalk.com.

What’s next?
Mask of the Red Panda issues will come out on Feb 27th, March 27th and April 24th . Hopefully by May we’ll be ready to roll out the fourth Red Panda novel – Tales of the Red Panda: Pyramid of Peril. That’s pretty close to ready to go, mostly just cover and layout issues, so fingers crossed for May! When we finish recording scripts for next season’s Decoder Ring shows I’ll be setting down for another book, which I think will be another Black Jack detective book, that one was fun to write. And on and on we roll and hope it never stops!

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  1. Pingback: Top 10 books: Week ending March 1, 2013 | Indie Author Land

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