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On the Same Page with John Brandon

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The Natural State is the backdrop for a tale of quirky career criminals whose shaky circumstances and bad decisions send them spiraling into the most desperate of situations. The first published novel by Florida native John Brandon is full of elaborate deceptions, wrong turns and richly drawn characters whose lives collide in darkly imaginative ways.

Panelists are Carla Koen of Little Rock and Rod Lorenzen also of Little Rock. Rod is a well known bookstore owner who recently closed his much beloved new and used bookstore Lorenzen and Company Booksellers (Little Rock).

Transcript

I'M TOMMY SARNDERS. I HERD AN EXPRESSION THE OTHER DAY, "GRIT LIT" AND IT'S HARD TO KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. IN TODAY'S CASE IT'S ABOUT A BOOK. THE TITLE IS "ARKANSAS" THE FIRST NOVEL BY JOHN BRANDON. SO WE'RE GOING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH JOHN BRANDON AND GET TOGETHER WITH OUR PANEL OF READERS TO DISCUSS "ARKANSAS" ON "ON THE SAME PAGE."

WE'RE READY TO GO WITH JOHN BRANDON AND THE BOOK "ARKANSAS," JUST A QUICK NOTE AS WE START OFF HERE. IF YOU'RE THINKING "ARKANSAS" IS ABOUT A BUNCH OF LOVEABLE BUT TOUGH ARKANSANS, WE NEED TO SET YOU STRAIGHT. JOHN, HOWEVER YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE DOING IT, WHY DON'T YOU SET THIS UP FOR US, "ARKANSAS" IT'S A LITTLE BIT MORE OF A DARK SIDE.

YEAH, YOU HAVE YOUR TWO MAIN CHARACTERS, SWIN AND KYLE, A COUPLE OF YOUNG MEN WHO END UP IN ARKANSAS, DIFFERENT WAYS. SWIN WAS MORE CUTOUT FOR UNIVERSITY LIFE, BUT COULDN'T MAKE IT WORK, AND KYLE REALLY RAN OUT OF FAMILY AND OPTIONS WHERE HE WAS, AND THEY END UP AS PARTNERS AND RUNNING DRUGS. KYLE IS REALLY GOOD AT IT, SWIN NOT SO MUCH. BUT THEY'RE NOT TOO BAD OF A TEAM. THEY GET ALONG PRETTY GOOD FOR A WHILE THERE UNTIL THEIR BOSS DIES, AND THAT'S WHEN THEY REALIZE THAT THEY REALLY DON'T KNOW ANYTHING AND THEY HAVE TO FIGURE THINGS OUT FROM THERE. THEN I GUESS THAT'S WHERE THINGS START GOING WRONG FOR 'EM.

WHY DO YOU PICK ARKANSAS AS THE SETTING FOR THE STORY?

WELL FROM THE FEELING THAT I GOT EVERY TIME I WAS IN THE STATE, WHICH IS JUST THAT ANYTHING COULD BE GOING ON. I FELT LIKE I COULD GO ANYWHERE IN THE BOOK AND IT WOULDN'T BE TOO OUTLANDISH BECAUSE IT FELT TO ME DRIVING THROUGH IT OR THE WEEKENDS THAT I'VE SPENT HERE AND THERE THAT I HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON OVER THE NEXT HILL, AROUND THE NEXT CORNER, IT COULD HAVE BEEN ANYTHING.

SOMETIMES IT IS. [CHUCKLES]

YEAH, SOMETIMES IT IS! AND I THINK WRITERS GET THAT FEELING FROM ALL DIFFERENT PLACES. FOR SOME PEOPLE IT'S THE BIG CITY, BUT FOR ME, FOR SOME REASON IT'S NOT. IT'S JUST SOMETHING ABOUT ARKANSAS THAT IS MYSTERIOUS AND I FELT LIKE -- I LIKE WRITING ABOUT A PLACE THAT I HAVE A STRONG FEELING ABOUT BUT I HAVEN'T SPENT A LOT OF TIME THERE. I DON'T WANT TO KNOW IT TOO WELL. IF YOU KNOW IT TOO WELL TO, ME, THEN YOU CAN'T -- IT'S WANT AS EASY TO MAKE UP WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE UP

SURE AND IT'S A FICTION, TOO. I WILL SAY READING THE BOOK THAT IT'S NOT EXACTLY GEOGRAPHICALLY RIGHT O AND THERE ARE TOWNS THAT WE KNOW AND TOWNS THAT WE KNOW DON'T EXIST IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS.

YEAH.

SO YOU'RE TAKING A BIT OF A LICENSE WHICH IS, I GUESS, TO BE FOR GIVEN, BECAUSE IT'S A FICTION. AND YOU'RE FROM FLORIDA AND OF COURSE A LOT OF CRIME NOVELS AND SORT OF DARK SIDE STORIES FROM FAMOUS AUTHORS SOME FROM DOWN THERE AND NOW MAYBE WE'RE MOVING AWAY FROM MIAMI AND CHICAGO AND NEW YORK AND WE'RE MOVING INTO RURAL AMERICA WHICH, YOU KNOW, FROM WHAT YOU READ THAT'S THE WAY THE CRIME IS GOING SOMETIMES, TOO, RIGHT?

YEAH, I THINK OF IT THAT WAY. AND FLORIDA IS JUST TOO FAMILIAR FOR ME. IT DOESN'T -- I DON'T FEEL LIKE THERE ARE POSSIBILITIES THERE.

YEAH.

LIKE I FEEL WHEN I THINK ABOUT ARKANSAS. AND LIKE YOU SAID, IF YOU REALLY TRIED TO TRACK IT ALL OUT AND MAKE A MAP, PROBABLY MY TOWNS MOVE A LITTLE BIT.

YEAH.

AND SOME OF THEM DON'T EXIST.

THE HILLS OF FELSENTHAL ARE PROBABLY SOMETHING YOU WOULD NEVER FIND BECAUSE THEY'RE NOT THERE, BUT THAT'S SECONDARY TO THE NOVEL. MOST OF US ARE FANS OF THIS GENRE, CRIME, SORT OF EXTEND SHALL CRISIS NOVELS LIKE THAT, GOOD FOD D-- FODDER FOR STORY TELLING. IS THAT ALWAYS SOMETHING THAT'S DRIVEN YOU IN YOUR WRITING?

WELL, THIS IS THE MOST PLOT-DRIVEN THING I'VE EVER WRITTEN AND I FOUND IT VERY FREEING TO HAVE MORE PLOT THAN EVER BECAUSE I DIDN'T HAVE TO WORRY SO MUCH ABOUT WHERE THINGS WERE GOING. I COULD JUST -- I COULD IDLE AND HAVE THE CHARACTERS TALK, YOU KNOW, SPEND AS MUCH TIME AS I WANTED ONSETTI SETTING BUT I KN THIS PLOT WOULD PUSH THROUGH. THEY'RE ALWAYS DRIVING SOMEWHERE WHICH ALWAYS GIVES ME A NEW SETTING, MORE PEOPLE THEY'RE GOING TO RUN INTO --

MORE POSSIBILITIES?

YEAH, MORE POSSIBILITIES. SO, YOU KNOW, IT CAN GET QUITE EPISODIC, I GUESS, IN STRETCHES WHERE THEY'RE GOING THTSDZ PLACE AND THE NEXT PLACE AND THAT SEEMS LIKE IT'S IN MY WHEELHOUSE WHEN I'M WRITING THAT STUFF. IT'S LIKE FICK GET TALK AND GO GET 'EM OUT ON THE ROAD, THAT'S WHEN IT FEELS RIGHT TO ME.

WHERE THINGS HAPPEN AND THE EXCITEMENT IS PRETTY STRONG, THE ENERGY IS PRETTY HIGH ALL THE WAY THROUGH IT AND THE STORY TELLING IS GOOD. I WOULD SAY THE THIRD -- WELL ARE TWO CHARACTERS, THE GIRLFRIEND AND FROGGY, THE BOSS, THE DRUG TSAR, WHAT PASSES FOR A DRUG TSAR IN ARKANSAS. AND HIS POINT OF VIEW IS TOLD FROM THE SECOND-PERSON, AND WHY DO YOU CHOOSE THAT?

WELL, FROG'S STORY STARTS BACK IN TIME, 25, 30 YEARS --

YEAH, YEAH.

SO I WANTED TO BE ABLE TO SET HIM APART FROM THE PRESENT, AND NOT HAVE THE READER GET CONFUSED, WHAT YEAR IS IT, WHY IS HE THERE AT THE SAME TIME THEY'RE THERE? SO I SWITCHED THE POINT OF VIEW THERE, AND I ALSO FEEL LIKE IT'S KINDA NEAT THAT THE READER IS THE VERY WEILLE YANKEE -- VILLA TRYING TO KILL THE PROTAGONIST, THE READER IS TRYING TO CATCH UP TO KYLE AND SWIN. WHEN I FIRST DID IT I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT THE REASON WAS BUT I HAD TO ASK MYSELF, IS THIS OKAY?

IT'S A GREAT DEVICE, I THINK IT WORKS PETTY WELL.

YEAH, THE MORE I WENT WITH IT THE BETTER IT FELT.

UH-HUH. THESE CHARACTERS, AS LOW-LIFE AS THEY ARE AND ALL THE EVIL THINGS THEY'RE INVOLVED IN, BUT ESPECIALLY KYLE AND SWIN, THE TWO PROTAGONISTS, WHY DO WE FIND OURSELVES ROOTING FOR THESE GUYS? AND I WOULD THINK ANYONE READING THE NOVEL WOULD, SOMEHOW YOU'RE ROOTING FOR THEM, IS IT BECAUSE THEY'RE QUIRKY ENOUGH?

I DON'T KNOW.

MAYBE YOU DON'T ROOT FOR THEM --

I DEFINITELY DO ROOT FOR THEM BUT I'M NOT SURE WHY. I GUESS CHARACTERS DON'T HAVE TO ALWAYS DO THE RIGHT THING, BUT AS LONG AS YOU UNDERSTAND WHY THEY'RE DOING WHAT THEY'RE DOING, I GUESS YOU'RE GOING TO GET ON THEIR SIDE.

YEAH.

BEFORE TOO LONG.

DID YOU HAVE ANY READER IN MIND WHEN YOU WROTE THIS BOOK? ANY GENERATION OR TYPE OF PERSON, TYPE OF READER?

NO. I REALLY DON'T THINK ABOUT THAT. I DON'T THINK THAT WAY. I GUESS IT MAY NOT BE THE RIGHT THING TO SAY BUT I GUESS I'M THE READER THAT I'M WRITING FOR.

WRITING IT IT FOR YOURSELF.

ALL I CAN DO IS WHEN I LOOK AT IT, IF I DON'T GBORED, THEN MAYBE NO ONE ELSE WILL.

I ALWAYS ASK THAT QUESTION, I ALWAYS GET THE SAME ANSWER, MAYBE I NEED TO RETIRE THAT. LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND. YOU LIVED A NUMBER OF PLACES DURING THE COURSE OF WRITING THIS BOOK, RIGHT?

YEAH, I STARTED WRITING THIS BOOK ABOUT THE SAME TIME THAT MY WIFE TOOK A TRAVELINGING JOB WHERE SHE HAD TO MOVE EVERY 3 TO 6 MONTHS, SO WHEREVER I WOULD MOVE I WOULD GET AN EASY JOB -- NOT THAT THE JOB WAS EASY BUT THAT THEY WERE EASY TO GET. SO I WOULD GO TO THE TEMP AGENCIES.

WHAT KIND OF JOBS CAME UP?

IN OREGON IT WAS A LUMBAR MILL WHERE THEY MADE WOODEN ARROWS. I GUESS THAT'S FOR KIDS OR JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOLERS, I DON'T KNOW WHAT THEY WERE FOR. [CHUCKLES]

IN PHOENIX, FACTORY, NEW MEXICO FACTORY. IN PROVIDENCE -- LET'S SEE, TRYING TO THINK OF ANY THAT ARE MORE EXCITING. IN VIRGINIA BEACH I WORKED AT A PLACE WHERE WE MADE THESE REALLY NICE FANCY WOODEN DIPLOMA FRAMES.

REALLY?

IT WAS A PRETTY BIG OPERATION AND THAT WAS PRETTY GOOD. LET'S SEE. WORKED IN A PLACE WHERE THEY MAKE THE LITTLE PERFUME SAMPLES AND --

LIKE IN MAGAZINES?

YOU KNOW, LIKE IN MAGAZINES?

YEAH, GET FREE LOTION OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT?

UM, YOU KNOW, THE GUY WHO I WORKED WITH SOMEHOW HE WOULD ALWAYS HAVE A TUB OF NEUTROGENA, SO WE COULD GET THAT WHENEVER WE WANTED.

AND THESE 8-HOUR, 40-HOUR A WEEK JOBS AND YOU WRITE AROUND THAT?

WELL, IT WORKS WELL FOR ME, BECAUSE THERE WAS A POINT WHERE I TRIED TO TEACH HIGH SCHOOL AND I TAUGHT FOR A WHOLE SEMESTER AND I DIDN'T WRITE A WORD THE WHOLE TIME BECAUSE BY THE TIME I GOT HOME I DIDN'T WANT TO LOOK AT ANY PAPERS, PENS, COMPUTER --

WORKING WITH WORDS DID NOT PAEP TO YOU AFTER A DAY OF WORDS?

EXACT AND YOU'VE GOT TO BRING YOUR WORK HOME, DO LESSON PLANS, SO FORTH, BUT IF YOU GO PUNCH INTO THE FACTORY AT 6 IN THE MORNING AND PUNCH OUT AT 2:30, YOU DON'T THINK ABOUT MUCH DOING THE LABOR I WAS DOING, AND YOU GET HOME, TAKE A NAP AND MY MIND WOULD BE FRESH, SO I COULD WRITE PRETTY MUCH EVERY EVENING AS LONG AS I WANTED TO. SO THAT WORKED OUT.

YEAH, AND YOU WRAPPED UP THE BOOK LAST YEAR, 2007, PICKED UP, BUY A COPY. TELL US ABOUT THE COMPANY THAT PUBLIC PUBLISHES THIS BOOK.

McSWEENEY'S, I GUESS SOME PEOPLE LOVE THEM AND SOME PEOPLE DON'T KNOW WHO THEY ARE! BUT THEY DO -- THEY HAVE QUARTERLY SHORT FICTIONS, AND THEN THEY HAVE THIS DVD OF SHORT FILMS AND THEY GET INTERESTING/FAMOUS PEOPLE TO BE INVOLVED IN THOSE THINGS. AND THEN, YOU KNOW, THEY DO ALL DIFFERENT SORTS OF BOOKS. THEY DO NOVELS LIKE THIS BUT IF YOU GO TO THEIR WEBSITE THERE ARE DOZENS OF DIFFERENT BOOKS THEY DO AND THEY HAVE THESE TUTORING CENTERS, I THINK THEY MUST HAVE ABOUT HALF A DOZEN OR SO OF THEM THAT ARE IN BIG CITIES. THE ONE IN SAN FRANCISCO IS RIGHT DOWN THE STREET FROM THEIR OFFICES, THEY JUST TRY TO HELP TUTOR KIDS AND STUFF. THEY'RE ALWAYS HAVING BENEFITS FOR THOSE, GETTING COMEDIANS TOGETHER --

GREAT, AMBITIOUS COMPANY!

IT IS.

IT'S AVAILABLE THROUGH THEM AND IN MAJOR BOOKSTORES AS WELL. SO YOU CAN FIND IT THERE. JOHN, BEFORE WE LET YOU GO REAR GOING TO GET TO YOU READ A PART OF YOUR BOOK. DID YOU WANT TO SET UP THE SELECTION?

YEAH, THIS IS -- THIS IS THE POINT WHERE SWIN HAS BEEN IN ARKANSAS FOR A WHILE AND HE'S GOT SOME DISTANCE FROM UNIVERSITY LIFE, BUT HE'S ON HIS WAY BACK, HE'S PASSING THROUGH NASHVILLE WHERE HE USED TO GO TO SCHOOL ON HIS WAY TO KENTUCKY TO SEE HIS SISTER AND HE STOPS IN AND NASHVILLE AND HE'S GOT TO THINK ABOUT THIS DECISION THAT HE'S MADE TO LEAVE. LET'S SEE.  "IT TOOK FOREVER TO GET PAST LITTLE ROCK, BUT THEN MEMPHIS AND JACKSON WHIPPED BY AND SWIN WAS BEARING DOWN ON NASHVILLE. HE DECIDED TO STOP FOR LUNCH AT AN UPSCALE ASIAN PLACE JUST OFF THE VANDERBILT CAMPUS. HE SAW THE MEDICAL BILLING AND THE STADIUM AND A SHADEY SPOT WHERE HE USED TO WALK GIRLS IN SHORTS WALK BY. IT WAS LIKE HE HAD ONLY BEEN GONE A WEEK. THE SAME BANNER HUNG OVER THE SAME WALKWAYS, AND THE SAME SIGNS TACKED TO THE SAME TELEPHONE FOELZ, KIDS DRESSED UP SKULTHS FROM CORNER TO CORNER, KIDS IN TIE AND HUNTING HATS, EASTERN EUROPEANS, READING T TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, AND THERE WERE SUSHI COOLERS, AND LAP TOPS, ESPRESSO, AND HE FELT ALIVE IN THIS JUM BELL OF AMBITION, THIS MESS OF INTENT. HE ATE GRILLED DUCK ENJOYING THE HIP-HOP AND TRYING TO CONVINCE HIMSELF THAT THE GRASS WAS GREENER AND THAT IF HE EVER GOT BACK TO A UNIVERSITY HE WOULD GET SICK OF IT. OF WHAT, THOUGH? HE LOVED IT ALL AND NOW HE WAS AN INTRUDER HERE. HE HEARD A FAMILIAR VOICE, ONE OF HIS OLD PROFESSORS, THE GUY THAT CONFRONTED HIM ABOUT HIS GOLD CHAINS WALKED BY WITH A WOMAN. SWIN PUT HIS HANDS IN FRONT OF HIS FACE. HE WAS SO JEALOUS IT FELT LIKE HIS RIBS WERE STRAIGHTENING OPINION HE COULDN'T GET UP FROM THE TABLE. HE ORDERED TEA AND PREPARED IT AND SNIFFED IT. IT TASTED BAD BUT HE WAS GOING TO DRINK THE WHOLE POT. HE WOULD NEVER BE A PROFESSOR. THIS KNOWLEDGE WAS AN OLD WIND THAT THE JUST GROWN COLD. NOW THAT HE'D BEEN OUT IN THE WORLD EARNING MONEY, SETTING HIS OWN SCHEDULE, COMMITTING FELONIES, HOW WOULD HE FIT INTO A PLACE WHERE YOU GOT PISSY AT COPY MARTINEZ AND DEVISED ATTENDANCE POLICIES. HE HAD TO GET THE IDEA OF PROFESSOR SHIP OUT OF HIS HEAD. NO ONE WOULD WANT HIM, TELLED WANT A TOKEN BLACK GUY AND TOKEN ESKIMO WOMAN. SWIN FELT BEE TRADE BY HIS MIND. HE LOWERED HIS FACE TO THE STEAMING TEA. IF HE EVER LIVED IN A COLLEGE TOWN IT WOULD BE AS A HANGER-ON, ONE OF THOSE TWO OLD YOUNG GUYS THAT THE STUDENTS LOOKED AT SIDE LONG OR AS A DRUG DEALER. UNIVERSITIES DIDN'T HIRE PEOPLE WITH DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS, THEY HIRED PEOPLE WITH SIMILAR BACKGROUNDS WHO APPEARED DIFFERENT. THEY WANTED YOU TO HAVE BEEN READING YOUNG AND PLATO AND HENRY JAMES AND TRINIDAD RATHER THAN IN MARYLAND. THEY WANTED ACCENTS. IT NEVER OCCURRED TO SWIN THAT HIS LIFE WAS TRAGIC, BUT IT WAS. HIS SADNESS WAS A SWIFT JACKET THAT HIS MIND WAS RAISING TO SHED, HIS MIND WAS FUMBLING WITH THE ZIPPER AND BUTTONS."

THANK YOU, JOHN BRANDON FOR STOPPING BY TODAY. WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR NEXT WORK. WE'LL COME BACK WITH OUR PANEL OF READERS TO TALK ABOUT THIS BOOK, "ARKANSAS."

WE'RE GOING TO TAKE UP THE SUBJECT OF THE BOOK "ARKANSAS" WITH OUR READERS, CARLA KOEN, A LITTLE ROCK ARE NOT WHO SPENT PLENTY OF TIME IN READING-RELATED OCCUPATIONS, THE NEWSPAPER BUSINESS AND THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS, AND READERS ALL OVER ARKANSAS KNOW ROD LORENZEN, A PROVIDER OF A POPULAR BOOKSTORE IN LITTLE ROCK, THANK YOU BOTH FOR BEING HERE. "ARKANSAS" I WOULD IMAGINE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO BUY IT BASED ON THE TITLE. I WANT TO ASK Y'ALL FIRST AND I'LL START WITH YOU, CARLA, HOW MUCH REAL ARKANSAS DID YOU FIND IN THIS BOOK?

THE TITLE IS ABOUT AS DEEP INTO ARKANSAS AS IT WENT. I, HAVING HAD THE BACKGROUND OF BEING AN EDITOR SORT OF PICKED IT APART OWE THAT REASON, THE DESCRIPTION OF HOT SPRINGS AND PINE BLUFF AND FORT SMITH AND MAGNET COVE, IT WAS OBVIOUS THAT JOHN HAS A GOOD IMAGINATION.

YEAH. HE SORT OF USES IT LIKE A CHEF USES CHICKEN, JUST AS A PALLET YOU APPLY FLAVORS TO.

EXACTLY.

ROD, DID YOU GET THAT IMPRESSION?

YEAH, I DID. THERE IS NOT TOO MUCH IN THIS THAT IDENTIFIES ITSELF AS AN ARKANSAS BOOK. IT'S SET IN THE 80s, AND HE DOES HAVE A COUPLE OF REFERENCES TO THE ARKANSAS TEXAS LONG HORN RIVALRY AND ONE OF THE CHARACTERS AS A MUG THAT SAYS "I HATE TEXAS FROM THE TIME I GET UP" I GOT A KICK OUT OF THAT.

YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE REFERENCES. CARLA AND YOU I WERE TALKING ABOUT THE MOUNTAINS OF PINE BLUFF.

YEAH, THE CRAGGY, SHROUDED MOUNTAINS OF PINE BLUFF.

YEAH, AND THAT'S WHAT JOHN SAID, WAS THAT IT WAS MADE UP. ROD, WHO DO YOU THINK THIS STORY WOULD APPEAL TO?

I THINK THE NARRATIVE WAS GOOD. IT SORT OF TOLD FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF WHERE THE AUTHOR KNOWS WHAT'S GOING ON INSIDE EACH CHARACTER'S HEAD IN THE OLD DAYS WE WOULD CALL THAT CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE, BUT I THOUGHT IT WAS NAR RATED REALLY WELL, THE WRITING IS CRISP, AND KARL LA AND I -- CARLA AND A FREE WE THINK IT'S A "GUY BOOK."

ABSOLUTELY!

EXPLAIN THAT, CARLA.

A LITTLE BIT OF GORE, A LITTLE BIT OF, UM, GRISTLE.

YEAH, GOOD.

SOME OOZING! [CHUCKLES]

A LOT OF VIOLENCE, BODY COUNT IS PRETTY HIGH.

IT REMINDS ME OF THE 1930s DETECTIVE WRITERS LIKE RAYMOND CHANDLER, AND IT'S A HARD STORY, BUT IT'S A GOOD STORY.

HOW ABOUT THESE HARD-BOILED CRIME STORIES MOVE FROM RAYMOND CHANDLER, LOS ANGELES OR MIAMI, NOW THEY'RE RURAL ARKANSAS, WHAT DOES THAT TELL US? DOES THAT DISTURB US?

A LITTLE BIT. I THINK ON ONE HAND IT SAYS THAT CRIMINALS INVOLVED IN DRUGS WANT TO BE IN OUT OF THE WAY PLACES, THEY WANT TO BE ISOLATED,c

AND WE'RE ABSOLUTELY A CRIME H HAY V HAVEN, AND IT'S --

PEOPLE, CRIMINALS --

ABSOLUTELY.

THE CHARACTERS, KYLE AND SWIN, HOW WELL DO YOU THINK THEY WERE DEVELOPED?

I LIKE THE DEVELOPMENT AND I LOVE THE NAME "SWIN RUIZ" IT'S THE FIRST THING IN THE BOOK YOU READ AND IT'S WELL-CHOSEN BECAUSE IT'S MEMORABLE. I LIKED THE DIFFERENCES IN THE TWO. I LIKED THAT ONE THOUGHT HE WAS THE SMARTER OF THE TWO, WHEREAS, SWIN THOUGHT HE WAS THE SMARTER OF THE TWO BUT KYLE SORT OF LET HIM THINK THAT QUITE A BIT AND I LIKED THAT ABOUT THEM.

AND THEIR BACKGROUNDS, DO YOU THINK THEIR BACKGROUNDS WERE FLESHED OUT ENOUGH TO EXPLAIN WHY THEY WERE IN THE SITUATION THEY WERE IN?

I THINK IT MAKES IT CLEAR BOTH OF THOSE CHARACTERS HAD SOME PROBLEMS GROWING UP. THEY CAME FROM BROKEN FAMILIES, AND, STILL, I FOUND IT IT DIFFICULT TO LIKE THESE CHARACTERS. BASICALLY THEY ARE CRIMINALS, AND I THINK IF THE WRITING HADN'T BEEN AS GOOD AS IT WAS, I PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAVE LIKED THIS BOOK, BUT I LIKE THE BOOK PRETTY WELL.

I FOUND MYSELF NOT LIKING THEM AND SOMETIMES ROOTING FOR THEM, WHICH IS KINDA A LITTLE P PERVERSE, I GUESS. [CHUCKLES]

I GUESS IT'S A PARLOR TRICK OF THE AUTHOR TO MAKE YOU PULL FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE CAPABLE OF BAD THINGS. I DON'T KNOW, IT'S INTERESTING, SOMETHING YOU MIGHT -- IF YOU READ THE BOOK YOU MIGHT CHECK YOURSELF ALONG THE WAY AND SEE IF THAT STARTS TO HAPPEN TO YOU. WHO DO YOU THINK ARE THE INFLUENCES OF THE AUTHOR, JOHN BRANDON?

I'M GOING TO HAVE TO DEFER THAT QUESTION TO ROD.

AGAIN, I WOULD GO BACK TO RAYMOND CHANDLER AND MAYBE A MORE RECENT AUTHOR LIKE JAMES ELROY WHO WRITES THAT HARD-BITTEN CRIME STORY STUFF, SOMEONE LIKE THAT. BUT, AGAIN, I THINK, YOU KNOW, IT BRINGS US BACK TO WHAT I THOUGHT PROBABLY WAS ONE OF THE MAJOR THINGS WITH THE CHARACTERS WAS THEIR STRUGGLE FOR INTIMACY. I THINK WHEN YOU WERE SAYING, SOMETIMES YOU PULL FOR THEM AND SOMETIMES --

MAYBE THAT'S THE KEY --

YEAH, AND I THINK THEY'VE GOT THIS GOING ON AND IT'S A DESPERATE STRUGGLE. SWIN HAS SISTERS THAT HE HAD TO LEAVE AND HE THINKS ABOUT THEM ALL THE TIME.

WORRIES ABOUT THEM.

AND CARES ABOUT THEM, SO WE HAVE THAT STRUGGLE FOR INTIMACY GOING ON, I THINK, AND WITH BOTH OF THESE GUYS AND THEY'RE TRYING TO FIND THAT.

YEAH.

BUT LIKE A LOT OF CHARACTERS, THEY -- YOU KNOW, THIS IS WHAT WE'RE LOOKING FOR BUT ON THE OTHER HAND IT SEEMS LIKE THEY'RE SCARED TO DEATH AT THE SAME TIME.

THEY CAN'T MAKE IT WORK RIGHT, SOMEHOW OR ANOTHER?

YEAH.

WERE THERE PARTS OF THE BOOK THAT ENTERTAINED YOU, DREW YOU IN MORE THAN OURS, CARLA?

I READ THE BOOK ALMOST STRAIGHT THROUGH SO -- IT'S A PAGE TURNER. HE DOES HAVE A WONDERFUL ABILITY TO MAKE YOU WANT TO READ WHAT'S COMING NEXT. AND BECAUSE IT'S NOT WRITTEN IN CHAPTERS, IT'S SORT OF WRITTEN IN EPISODES, IT SORT OF FORCES YOU TO PROPEL QUICKER THAN YOU MIGHT IN A SHORT STORY OR A BOOK WITH SHORT CHAPTERS. I CAN'T JUST READ A PAGE OR TWO AND TURN IT DOWN, I ZIPPED THROUGH.

THE THIRD MAJOR CHARACTER WHO THEY NEVER INTERACT WITH, FROGGY, WHO IS THE CRIMINAL MASTER MIND FROM MEMPHIS, ALL HIS CHAPTER IS WRITTEN IN A SECOND-PERSON SORT OF THING UNTIL FIRST-PERSON AT THE VERY END. WHAT DUNK OF THAT DEVICE, ROD?

I THOUGHT IT WAS INTERESTING TO -- THIS IS SORT OF THE MYSTERY IN THE BOOK, WHO THIS FROG PERSON IS AND WHAT HE'S ABOUT. WHEN OUR TWO MAIN CHARACTERS GET INTO TROUBLE THEY'RE CONCERNED THAT FROG IS GOING TO COME GET 'EM.

YEAH, HE'S A FORCE. HE'S SORT OF A FORCE THAT'S OUT THERE.

YEAH.

UNSEEN. WE TALKED ABOUT AND OTHER REVIEWS I'VE READ TALK ABOUT THE CINE-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-6-. DO YOU THINK IT'S GOING TO BE THE NEXT "NO COUNTRY FOR OLD 6-6 MEN?"

IT DEFINITELY -- HIGH BODY COUNT, LOT-6-6-6S OF ACTION, DR CRIME, AND ABSOLUTELY. IT COULD EASILY BE A SCREEN PLAY.

NOT A CHIC-FLICK?

WELL, THERE IS A LITTLE LOVE IN THERE!

WHAT DO YOU THINK, ROD?

I THINK IT'S SO TURSLY WRITTEN THAT IT WOULD LEND TOIFTS A MOVIE SCRIPT.

THAT'S ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10 FOR A FIRST-TIME PUBLISHED AUTHOR, WHAT WOULD YOU GIVE THIS?

I WOULD GIVE THIS A 9.

CARLA?

I'M GOING TO GO A LITTLE LOWER AND PROBABLY GO 6 AND A HALF, 7.

THAT'S WHO HE WAS WRITING FOR, ROD SNP CARLA KOEN, ROD LORENZEN, THANK YOU FOR AMMING UP -- COMING UP HERE, AND "ARKANSAS," BY JOHN BRANDON, IT'S THE SETTING FOR A FICTION NATURAL, HARDBOILED, GRIT LIT, CRIME NOVEL. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US "ON THE SAME PAGE" TODAY!

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT AETN PRESENTS "ON THE SAME PAGE" AND "ARKANSAS" BY JOHN BRANDON, VISIT OUR WEBSITE.

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