What are your novels about?
Tell us about your protagonist, “Ross Duncan”? Who is he and what drives him?
Why wasn’t Ross Duncan a private eye?
Christopher Bartley: Because that was too obvious and it’s been done so much already. Also, a professional criminal presented different challenges and opportunities. Could Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade ever rob a bank, make deals with gangsters, or shoot a man in cold blood? I don’t think so, but Ross Duncan certainly can – and does.
What can you tell us about the role of scene and character in your novels?
Who are your literary heroes and why?
Why are you fond of hard-boiled American crime novels, sometimes referred to as “noir” or “pulp fiction”?
By reputation this hero is no saint himself. He drinks too much and he’s perceived by others to be corruptible. Only it turns out his avarice is no match for his desire to be able to look himself in the mirror at the end of the day. He’s stubborn, softhearted, even, at the fringes. He wants to save the girl, Brigid O’Shaughnessy; knowing she’s flawed, he wants to believe she’s worth saving, and that redemption can be found for them both.
He’s all that and still, he’ll only be played so far. He won’t play the patsy, and he won’t play it perhaps for no other reason than because the woman is counting on him to. He’ll wait for her to get out of jail, but he won’t take the fall for her or let her walk away from her crime. It hurts him, wearies him. If they hang her, he’ll always remember her. He also notes, “a lot more money would have been one more item on your side” (of the ledger), rendering his final risk calculus as something less than full morality. Then again, he’s a hard man, hard-boiled all the way through – and we, the readers, have no way of knowing what he might have done for more money. One has the sense, that, while it was a theoretical possibility, practically speaking there would not ever be enough money to corrupt him.
How do you conduct the historical research for your novels?
What are you working on right now?
Christopher Bartley: Naked Shall I Return. Ross Duncan is in San Francisco – Chinatown – taking care of old and new business.