Friday, April 6, 2012

Author Interview & Book Review: The Stein & Candle Detective Agency: Volume One by Michael Panush

Title: The Stein & Candle Detective Agency: American Nightmares"

Author: Michael Panush

Publisher: Curiosity Quills

Publication Date: March 2012

Genre: Adult Fiction/Horror

Series or Stand Alone: Series, Volume One


Synopsis can be found here.
NetGalley review.

Review:

Seven stories of investigation and zombies? Stein and Candle are detectives of the paranormal and their customers are... not ordinary. Their strong stomachs and keen observations make the undead shake in their boots!

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked this up. I'll say it right off the bat- I have a hard time with short stories. Every once in a while, I try to read them, but they always leave me wanting. Not this!

Each individual story was well written, funny and off-beat in a not what you're expecting kinda way. I labeled it as adult, but I think younger people can read it too. I know a certain middle grade kid that would totally love these stories. (He also loves The Walking Dead, Zombieland and horror movies.) So I am not afraid to recommend this book to him.

I could name my favorite stories, but I don't want to give anything away. I loved the dark, noir feeling of Candle and Stein. The stories are set in the 1950s, so think vampire Nazis. Yeah, that's right. I'll say it again. Vampire. Nazis.
I know. You wanna pick it up just for that.

But the best part is actually not the paranormal aspect. I love a good zombie kicking as the next girl, (honestly I'm terrified of zombies so I think I would be more with the running away) but I loved the relationship between Stein and Candle. Think Candle as the hard boiled detective, rough Chandler-esque type with a young protege. Their banter and Candle's fun observations push these stories above other ones out there.


Author Interview with Michael Panush!














Thanks for stopping by Michael!
What inspired you to become a writer?
I’ve always been interested in stories and literature. In middle school, I’d stuff my backpack full of books and read during recess. I’ve always had ideas for stories too. I’d narrate them to my parents and have them type my tales up on the computer. I’m not sure if I remember any, but I do know one prominently featured a cassowary. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I decided to actually start writing the stories down myself. I’m not sure what inspired me. Maybe I just got tired of having the stories only in my head and finally decided to turn them into something tangible. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing at all. Writing truly is my dream and my publisher, Curiosity Quills, is helping that dream come true.

What was the last book you read?
Actually, it was The Goliath Bone – the last Mike Hammer novel. It was mostly written by Mickey Spillane before his death, but polished by Max Allan Collins. It was published in 2008 and it’s got Mike Hammer -- your archetypical 50s’ hardboiled private eye -- fighting Al-Qaida in modern day New York. It was pretty weird. The best parts are where Mike Hammer is reacting to modern fears about terrorism, political correctness, the gentrification of New York and the fact that he’s getting older. He can’t handle any of them. My favorite section was where the femme fatale tries to seduce Hammer and it doesn’t work. He’s a little tempted but can’t bring himself to do anything. He’s just too old.

What was the inspiration for Stein and Candle?
That one’s easy. I was taking a class on British Horror Films and we were discussing the work of Hammer Studios – makers of lurid, full-color horror flicks in the 50s and 60s which stared Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. They were mostly adaptations of classic Gothic horror stories, like Dracula and Frankenstein. Anyway, I had the idea of a kind of pun or play on words: Hammer vs. Hammer. One Hammer was Hammer Horror and the other was Mike Hammer, the tough-as-nails, gun-toting detective of Mickey Spillane’s novels, which were bestsellers in the 50s. The idea stuck with me. Then I figured it would be great if it was a kind of a buddy cop situation, with Mort Candle being the Mike Hammer-style detective and Weatherby Stein being the Hammer Horror-style aristocrat with knowledge of the occult. After that, everything fell into place.

Stein and Candle battle all sorts of paranormal creatures. What was your favorite type of creature to write about? And out of the seven stories, which is your favorite?
Hmmm. That is a tough one. For the favorite monster in this batch, I’d have to go with the average zombie. They show up a lot within these stories and Mort is frequently blowing out their brains. Zombies are deceptively simple, but having them swarming around always creates an immediate sense of panic and chaos. They’ve also got that awesome Voodoo background which ties perfectly into the magical elements of Stein and Candle. For favorite story, I’d have to go with ‘I Rode in the Devil’s Hot Rod,’ mostly because it has so many elements that are undeniably awesome. It’s got muscle cars, Satanists, psychopathic women out of a Russ Meyer movie, and what I hope is a detailed look at Morton’s deeply flawed character and his relationship to Weatherby. 

I love how the stories are set in the 1950s. It adds such a fantastic layer to all the paranormal mysteries! Why did you choose that time period?
I enjoy writing about all the contrasts of the 50s. There’s this squeaky-clean exterior – the family friendly suburb that we’re all familiar with -- but it has so many nasty elements lurking in the background. Racism, McCarthyism and the Cold War, crime and corruption, sleaziness and forced conformity are all huge parts of the 1950s and I think Noir and Horror both captured those hidden evils and that’s why they were so popular. The 50s is really when the hardboiled detective became fully realized, after Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet created him in the 20s and 30s, and great Film Noir movies did the rest. Then you had horror, with Hammer films in the theatres and those EC Horror comics stirring up controversy and finally inspiring a moral panic and a crackdown. Combining the two felt very natural and this was the time period to do it. Plus, I love writing about fedoras and the 50s have tons of those.
Describe your book in seven words or less!
Hardboiled Horror in the Freewheeling Fifties. 

How do you like your potato?
My diet is just like one from the 50s – lots of starch and protein. I liked my potatoes baked and overloaded with butter, sour cream, cheese and bacon bits.

If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Definitely not a detective. I’d get bored on stakeouts, I couldn’t come up with snappy dialogue quick enough and I certainly wouldn’t last long once some thugs started roughing me up.

Do you have a favorite literary character?
It’s difficult to say. I’m tempted to just put down one of my favorite PIs – Phillip Marlowe, or Mike Hammer or the Continental Op. But I think I’m gonna have to go with all three protagonists of James Ellroy’s LA Confidential. Maybe that’s cheating, but Edmund Exley, Bud White and Trashcan Jack Vincennes are such great characters in their own right and they only get better when they clash and interact with each other as they’re working towards a common goal. I really hope I managed to capture some of that in Mort and Weatherby’s relationship in Stein and Candle.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
I am a full time student, so that does take up a lot of my time. Luckily, my classes often end up giving me inspiration for some great story ideas – like Stein and Candle.

What is one thing you would tell aspiring writers?
Here’s some advice that I try to follow: practice constantly. Write or edit or plan out a story with a detailed summary every day. Getting advice and inspiration is important, but practice is the driving force behind improvement. Write all you can and always think about other projects. Never rest on your laurels or let your skills get rusty.

Do you buy a book based on its cover?
Occasionally. One hardboiled novel I read based only on its cover was an obscure gem, Solomon’s Vineyard by Jonathan Latimer. The narrator explains that the book has everything in it but “a tornado and an abortion.” He’s not kidding. I read that one Freshman year in High School and it was transformative. I do remember the cover featured some guy in a trench coat holding a tommy gun. I think Stein and Candle shows the results.

Can we expect more Stein and Candle books?
Definitely. There are two more volumes, Cold Wars and Red Reunion. You can expect stories dealing with a seedy New England town of gangster fishmen, an undead pharaoh in Las Vegas, and witches in Appalachia – as well as stories that reveal more of the past of Morton Candle and Weatherby Stein.
Curiosity Quills is currently serializing stories from the upcoming volumes on their blog and you can read them here: http://curiosityquills.com/stein-candle-tiki-terror-part-one/


What is your next book about and when is it coming out?
The Stein and Candle Detective Agency, Vol. 2: Cold Wars is set to come out in Mid June. I do hope you check it out. After that, I’ve got two other projects from Curiosity Quills and maybe even more on the way. 

Thanks for stopping by Michael!
You can visit Michael here or follow him via Twitter @Michael_Panush

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