Thursday, February 28, 2013

Roger Hobbs

Roger Hobbs graduated from Reed College in Portland, Oregon in 2011, where he majored in English. He studied film noir, literary theory, and ancient languages.

His first book, Ghostman, was written during the summer between his junior and senior years at Reed. He spent the school year rewriting it and editing. The manuscript was sent off on the day he graduated​. A few weeks later it caused an uproar at the 2011 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since sold in more than fifteen countries around the world.

A couple of weeks ago I asked Hobbs about what he was reading. His reply:
I have a complicated relationship with reading. Most of the books I read aren't really for entertainment, but for research. I enjoy taking a book apart. I like to examine the elements of its construction, the merits and demerits of the prose, and quality of the plot twists that drive it forward. I read everything at a snail's speed for this reason. For me the real pleasure is in the study, not the story. So here are three I've been studying recently.

Hit Man, by Laurence Block. I've recently been on something of a Laurence Block kick. It is almost shameful that I've never read him before, because he's not only a legendary writer in my genre but also Hit Man is truly magnificent. It features Block's awesome protagonist, Keller, who is a professional assassin. Block uses simple phrases to reveal his character's inner emotions. Even when Keller is doing something simple, like watching TV or going out to eat at a restaurant, Block can write the scene in such a way that it becomes instantly intriguing, deeply emotional, and powerfully resonant. I'm studying it for its elegantly simple prose.

Kiss Her Goodbye, by Micky Spillane and Max Allan Collins. They don't make 'em like this anymore! This hardboiled crime novel reads like it came out of a time machine-- the very definition of old school. It has this tough, honest, spot-on voice and a classic plot lifted right from film noir. Spillane was always a favorite of mine, and Collins takes over for him perfectly, without missing a beat. When I first became a writer, this is what I wanted to write. I'm studying it for its dark, masculine voice.

The Inquisitor, by Mark Allen Smith. The Inquisitor is one of those novels that is so precisely what I like that it feels like it was written especially for me. It focuses on Geiger, a man who is an expert at "information retrieval," or, put another way, a professional torturer. He never physically hurts his subjects-- he uses a myriad of mental techniques to get them to talk instead. He is the sort of character you could read about for hours, mesmerized by his many sides. I'm studying this book for its fascinating and terrifying characters.
Learn more about the book and author at Roger Hobbs's website.

The Page 69 Test: Ghostman.

--Marshal Zeringue