DF: Who is Bertram Gibbs?
Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, film, comic book, television, Broadway collector and enthusiast. Researcher of psychology and forensic science. Avid follower of true crime stories with a preference for serial killers and mass murderers. Ex-actor, Ex-Army Reservist. Harsh critic. Opinionated and crazed sarcastic bastard. Writer.
DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep yourself in cheese and crackers?
BG: Presently in Massachusetts though I continue to classify myself as a New Yorker. Da Bronx, to be exact, which is a whole different mindset and perception. I work as a Credit Analyst for a tire company.
DF: You have an interesting background. Tell us about it.
BG: Well, I grew up in an artistic family. My grandmother Harriet Gibbs (aka Nana) was a chorus girl in The Blackbirds of 1926. Ethel Waters was her roommate for a while and she hung out and knew Bill”Bojangles” Robinson (who she said was a right bastard), Tim Moore (years before he became 'Kingfish' on Amos & Andy) and many of the jazz greats of the period.
She was a light-skinned black woman and got the job because she 'passed'. She also had a resemblance to Bette Davis. My grandfather, Bertram Gibbs (the first, me being the second) was a jazz drummer. While Nana studied and became a nurse's aide both Nana and Grandpa worked as caretakers for a synagogue. Hanging with them I ended up speaking fluent Yiddish by the time I was six. Which totally messed up the minds of my kindergarten and first grade teachers.
Their daughter, my mother Dolores (who shall heretofore be known as 'Ma') loved the arts but suffered from extreme stage fright. To compensate she went to just about every film and Broadway show that came out before and after I was born. She brought me up with a love of theater in all aspects and taught me everything she knew on actors, directors, cinematography, makeup, film and stage history.
I also have a younger sister, Harriet. My father, Gerald Nathan was an artist and killed in a hit-and-run when I was five. Leaving Ma to do the work of a single parent for twelve years. Being very independent and a free thinker, she kept her maiden name and only changed it when she married Pops; Pablo Benitez. He was an artist as well but settled for being a draftsman for Brooklyn Union Gas.
Though bigotry existed and having a grandmother who looked white, Ma raised me to be color blind. Regarding prejudice she always reminded me;”Bigots are not bigots because they are a particular race or religion. Bigots are bigots because they're stupid.” Being brought up in a household filled with liberal, artistic sensibilities and being a New Yorker made the curmudgeon I am today.
DF: How long have you been writing?
BG:When I think about it, always. At first, I wanted to be an actor and while studying my craft wrote monologues, scenes and plays for myself and my acting classes and workshops. I used to drive my English teachers nuts. We would get 100 word assignments and I would pass in something closer to 500. I was always praised for my detailed imagination and criticized for my verbosity but not in a negative way. Set numbers are very confining when you are trying to tell a story or express an idea. Twitter is my nemesis.
Ma was my biggest fan and harshest critic of my work. She would read my stories-which were sometimes longer than my school assignments-and give me her warm, loving and dangerous smile as she handed it back to me, sometimes saying “Very good, very imaginative. But similar to (fill in story or character name in previously written work) Do it again.”
DF: What have you learned about yourself through your writing?
BG: That there are no limitations. That you do not have to accept the things that are. That with determination and imagination you can do anything. Many years ago, in 1962 to be exact, Ma took me to see “Lawrence of Arabia.” Aside from the cinematic splendor and complex characters there was a line that stuck with me. It was said by Omar Sharif's character, Ali; “Truly for some men nothing is written unless THEY write it.”
DF:What audience are you trying to reach with your work? Is there an audience for Bertram Gibbs?
BG: Presently, fans of crime fiction. Puzzle solvers. Readers who enjoy a literary shell game. The pea, or clue is right there in front of you. You just have to pick the right shell. And even if you pick the right one you may be surprised to see that the pea is only a resemblance of the one first slipped under the shell.
DF:You wrote a lot of DC fan fiction which is where I first discovered your work as we wrote stuff for a couple of the same sites. How and why did you start writing fan fiction?
BG: To answer that I have to start at the beginning. Ma, like all parents used to read me stories; for her, it was literally from my infancy. Daily, nightly, when she was cooking, when she was cleaning the apartment; there was always a book she would read from. And it was never in baby-talk. Never dumbed down for my age. Ma was a stickler for the English language. When I was two she handed me a children's book and asked me to read it to her. I told her in my simplicity that I didn't know how to read. I remember her smile as she said, “And now you will.”
From that point she brought home comic books, knowing that the cation in the panels would explain and enhance the words. Of course she would help me but when I was stuck on a word or a phrase, she dropped a dictionary in my lap and said, “look it up.” So by the age of three, I was reading on my own. From there I would not only read the comics but make up stories using the characters.
Flash forward to a story that stuck in my head and ended up on paper: Plastic Man, The Blue Beetle and Booster Gold join forces to take down Lex Luthor using their combined 'power of annoyance.' I went to Warner Books and DC Comics with hopes that they would either publish it in novel form or adapt it in the comic book medium. I was turned down despite all my efforts. So here I was with a 400 page paperweight with no audience except for a few friends. Out of boredom and frustration I went on the Internet and found that what I had written was called 'fan fiction.' And from there I found and contacted Curtis Fernlund who ran a wonderful DC Comics fan fiction site and “The Return of BWAH-HAH-HA” was published in a chapter a month serial format. Due to the positive response to the story, a wellspring of adventures came out, also appearing on the site.
DF: Do you miss it?
BG: Yes, I do. I had so much fun writing stories for the site and had a few more to contribute as well. One was a Justice Society story where The Spectre and the gang have to battle a netherworld demon who resembles sing Johnny Mathis. But life got in the way.
Even though my present work is in crime fiction I still noodle in the superhero genre. Sometimes I fight not to include certain comic book elements in my crime stories. Here I will call my last statement BS. I wrote a story some time back called “Strange Fellows” (It's from The Merchant of Venice-”Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time”) It is one of my Fine and Costa tales and revolves around the actions of a domestic terrorist who after killing a costumed street vigilante decides he will become a super villain. I used elaborate comic book death traps, brought the detectives into the world of comic books and comic book films, made several references to DC and Marvel characters. That was fun to write, especially since I had to keep things in the real world.
DF: I would suppose that your original superhero novel FORMALLY KNOWN AS... satisfied an itch on some level, correct? Are you going to write a sequel or any other novels set in the same universe?
BG: Oh, yeah. A buddy of mine read the story twice before giving me his opinion of it. Of course, eager to know if what I wrote was good, decent or trash I kept on him for several weeks. He finally said that I was the most egotistical bastard on the face of the planet. My answer was “Yeah? And?”) He noted that he felt the story was great, I used myself as the (super) hero of the story.
But to answer your question, there have been thoughts of continuing the adventures of Al Hendrickson; The Colector and his (I'M NOT YOUR) sidekick, Pat Kelly.
DF: Considering that REFLECTIONS FROM THE ABYSS and THE FIRST THING WE DO are both crime/thriller novels I'd have to say that you're a fan of that genre. What are your influences? What writers and stories in the genre get your crank turning?
BG: From a very early age ma exposed me to movies like The Maltese Falcon, Laura, The Blue Dahlia, Angels With Dirty Faces, White Heat and the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes flicks. Those films turned my interest to the literary works of Dashiell Hammett. Arthur Conan Doyle, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie; among many others. I was about nine or ten when I stumbled onto the weekly one-page true crime story published in the Sunday Daily News. I was hooked.
Each case I read depicted true evil. Violent single and multiple murders and mutilation. Serial Killers. Crimes of Passion. Crimes without motive. And they all brought the question: what could create these human monsters? What could turn an individual with a seemingly normal upbringing to crime? What could create a Leopold & Loeb. A Charles Manson. A Starkweather. A Bundy. A Henry Lee Lucas. I now have an extensive library on crime; factual and fiction, forensics, psychology as well as the films that began it all. And all are fodder and reference material for my stories.
Tell us about THE FIRST THING WE DO
BG: Someone is killing lawyers. Not just lawyers; defense lawyers. And not just defense lawyers. Attorneys who represent drug dealers, rapists, pedophiles and murderers.
Detectives Desmond Fine and Frank Costa are working the case, trying to piece together whatever can be found at the crime scenes to locate the killer. As much as they want to find the person responsible for the deaths of these lawyers they see these representatives of the legal system as bottom feeders; attorneys who manipulate the law and allow the guilty to go free. As more of these lawyers are killed, Fine and Costa follow a serpentine trail of evidence, all leading to it's most logical conclusion: this is the work of a serial killer.
But the question is why kill the lawyers and not the ones perpetuating the crimes?
Then Detective Fine's childhood friend, public defender Eric Price is murdered. Now Fine must battle his ever-increasing guilt at not protecting his friend while he and Costa search for ways to catch the elusive killer.
And just a bit on my characters: Fine and Costa are extremely intelligent, insightful, heavily sarcastic and think outside the box in the handling of their cases. Fine is personable, dapper and intense with an athletic build. Costa is sullen, grouchy and is strongly built six-foot eight monolith whose replies are eloquent in their grunts and grumbles. They are not only partners but the best of friends and it is their relationship that guides the story.
DF:Tell us about REFLECTIONS FROM THE ABYSS
BG: Carlton Book is a successful freelance accountant. He conducts his life as he does the spreadsheets and financial statements he works on; with careful review of all variables, calculation and finally, execution. His philosophy serves him well in his other 'profession' as an assassin for hire. Each 'removal' is akin to deleting a figure on a spreadsheet. Completely impersonal and done to make the 'numbers' balance.
When he enters the condominium of his next assignment he finds his target brutally murdered by an elusive serial killer know as the '3-Monkey Killer.' In his haste to leave the scene of the crime, Book accidentally leaves evidence behind. As Book is forced to see his profession in a new perspective, the 3-Monkey Killer begins to send him messages, stating that they are 'blood-brothers' who should work together and that he is watching Book's every move.
The accountant/assassin must now find the serial killer before the serial killer finds him or before the detective in charge of the case arrests Book for the psychopath's crimes. And uncovers his own.
DF:Where do you see your writing career five years from now?
BG: Working with a good publisher and fully established in the literary field. Not necessarily 'world famous' but known to deliver compelling and complex entertainment. And to be able to financially support my wife and I with my work. I have also been in contact with film producers, hoping that they will adapt my tales of murder and mayhem to film. Maybe parlay one to enhance the other.
My wife Melissa means more than the world to me. She is my eternal love, my partner and my best friend. And she puts up with my Hamlet-level brooding and my sudden ideas for a story in the middle of a conversation. I want and intend to be successful for her as well as myself. She deserves more but if I can give her at least this, then that's jake with me.
DF:What are you working on now?
BG: Another entry in my Coffee and Sarcasm series. Number eight by my count. It's a little ditty I've titled “A Whole Theater of Others.” A group of writers similar to the Algonquin Round Table are being picked off one by one. They are all gruesomely murdered in the methods written by one of the members. Fine and Costa are brought in to investigate and determine if the writer is the killer or if someone is trying to pin the crimes on him.
DF:What's a typical Day In The Life of Bertram Gibbs like?
BG: Up at 4:30AM. Consume copious amounts of coffee and smokes (trying to quit the latter) while watching the news or a show I DVRed the night before. Hose off, write for a few hours, head out to work, do the 8 to 5 while mentally adding, subtracting or amending the story I'm working on. Drink more coffee. Go home to my loving wife and have a quiet evening hanging out with her, our three cats and one dog who thinks he's a cat. Watch more of my shows and/or write after my love heads for bed. Hit the sack about 11:30PM-12AM (Sleep is for the weak) Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Bertram Gibbs: I think we have the basics down. Just a final word to your readers and our fellow writers;
Too many talented people have abandoned their dream for a 'normal' life. For some, it works. For others, they are condemned to always wonder 'what if?' Know that there is no actual definition of 'normal'; in a life or in an individual. Accept that and understand that if nothing is normal then 'crazy' is a constant; always lurking in the shadows. Embrace your personal madness. There's freedom in insanity. And within that freedom lies your dream.
Go for it and never stop until you get it.
And as George Santayana said; “In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd.”
To learn more about Bertram Gibbs and his work bounce on over to his website which can be LOCATED HERE.
And here's Bertram's