Showing posts with label Paul Bishop. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Bishop. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...JAMES HOPWOOD

Derrick Ferguson: Who is James Hopwood?
James Hopwood: James Hopwood is my pen name. I have also been Jack Tunney three times. But in the real world I am David James Foster.

I assumed a pen name to separate myself from three successful artists, albeit in different disciplines, who have published under the name David Foster. Firstly there is an excellent award winning Australian author; then a world champion woodchopper; and finally a successful musician and music producer. Then there's David Foster Wallace, of course. Adding another ‘David Foster’ to the marketplace, would not only detract from their achievements – as well as my own – but would also create confusion for the reading public.

DF: Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors, away?
JH: I live in Melbourne, Australia, in a little seaside suburb called Seaford. Near the pier that featured in the original Mad Max with Mel Gibson.

Yeah, those bill collectors, can't outrun those guys. I mainly work in graphic design and typesetting – small scale stuff, my illustration skills aren't too crash hot these days. But I get by, no complaints.

DF: Tell us something about your background.
JH: I grew up in rural Australia, about 2.5 hours north of Melbourne on the Murray River. It was a small town called Echuca. They filmed a TV mini-series there in the early 80s called All The Rivers Run, which starred Sigrid Thornton and John Waters. I only mention it, because those who've seen it will have a pretty good idea about my old home town. I got out of there pretty early though, in my late teens, to study art and design. Finally made my way to the big smoke, and have lived here ever since.

DF: How long have you been writing?
JH: I guess I've toyed around with writing since I was in my twenties, but I was one of those guys who kept it all hidden away in a bottom drawer. But the internet changed all that. I corresponded with like minded people from all around the globe, people who were into the same kind of books and stories as I was, and I thought if they're giving it a go, then I should too. Five years ago, I broke the shackles when I penned a novella for the Fight Card series, called KING OF THE OUTBACK. The reaction to it was pretty positive, which gave me the confidence to keep going.

DF: What's your philosophy of writing?
JH: I'm pretty loose with my approach, and I keep changing to suit my circumstances. I write pretty much every day because I enjoy it, but I am not too concerned if I miss a day or even a week. The thing for me is to be at least thinking about my work, and how I will use the time when I do get in front of a computer. I hate sitting in front of a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike.

I am also a big believer in research. Like any writer, I hit road-blocks and snags along the way. But I have found the harder I work researching, the more likely I am to find that nugget that will get the story back on course. That's not to say my stories are based on fact, or some kind of concrete truth, but it's from there I find ideas spring forth.

DF: How did you get involved with HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY? Whose idea was it?
JH: Pro Se Productions put out an open call a couple of years ago for the anthology, and at the time I was tied up with a few other projects, so I reluctantly let it slide. However, when my schedule opened up, I was surprised to find there were still a spot open and decided to pounce. My idea was for a THIN MAN type of story, featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy.

I presented a proposal for a 10,000 word story that featured Myrna Loy being stalked by a taxi driver at the premiere of her latest movie. However, corresponding with Tommy Hancock, Pro Se's Editor-in-chief, I lamented that with such few words, I couldn't really do a traditional 'cozy' ending – you know the type, where all the suspects are gathered in one room, and the detective announces who the killer is. To create that kind of ending, I suggested I'd need more words to define each of the individual suspects. Much to my surprise and delight, Tommy got back to me and said, if I needed more words, take them. So I did, and a new story arose.

The idea for the anthology was Tommy's – he appears to be as much of a fan of classic mystery movies as I am. The other authors on board the project are Mark Squirek, Christofer Nigro, Wayne Carey and Gordon Dymowski. Admittedly, I am biased, but I think we've put together a damn good package.

DF: Judging by the story you wrote for HOLLYWOOD MYSTERY; “The Poison Pen” You're quite the fan of William Powell and Myrna Loy and the work they did in the classic THIN MAN series. What was the first THIN MAN movie you saw and how old were you when he saw it?
JH:I was in my early 20s (about 25+ years ago) when I first caught THE THIN MAN on late night television, and I loved it. I don't think it was ever released on VHS or DVD in Australia (but am happy to be proven wrong). It was many years later once online shopping became available that I was able to pick up the series from England, and they have remained a regular part of my movie diet ever since (along with the Michael Shayne movies, with Lloyd Nolan).

DF: What's your favorite THIN MAN movie and why?
JH: Undoubtedly the first one. While all the movies are good, as the series progressed a little bit of what we'd now call 'political correctness' seeped in. When Nick and Nora Charles had a son, the boozy comedic antics were toned back, and they were gently transformed into more respectable role models – albeit with their flaws and nuances.

DF: I was impressed by how you captured the style and elegance that was the hallmark of both William Powell and Myrna Loy. How much research into the background of their relationship did you do?
JH: Thanks, Derrick. Of course, I watched all the films in the series repeatedly – and a documentary or two, about Powell and Loy. But I did stay away from Dashiell Hammett's original story. I wanted 'The Poison Pen' to reflect the breezy style of the movies, rather than the source material.

DF: You planning on writing any more stories about Powell & Loy?
JH: I have no plans at the moment, but if there's demand for more, sure, I'd be happy to oblige.

DF: Do you have any dreams of writing a THIN MAN story and/or novel for Pro Se?
JH: That would be fantastic, but I am sure the Estate of Dashiell Hammett would have a thing or two to say. Into that mix throw whoever holds the rights to the film series, and I'm guessing it would be a potential minefield. But it is a nice dream. Hey, if a deal can be arranged, sign me up!

DF: You and Paul Bishop collaborated on creating a character: Mace Bullard of the Foreign Legion. How did that work out? How'd you guys come up with the character?
JH: Paul Bishop actually came up with the idea for Mace Bullard for a project he was putting together with Tommy Hancock, called Bishop & Hancock's Pulse Fiction. Pulse Fiction featured a whole swag of new characters, and when I first heard about the project I was interested in an American Indian character who'd washed up on a shore in Africa. But Paul pulled me aside, and said that he wanted me to take a look at Bullard. I hadn't really read any Foreign Legion pulps at that time, but he hooked me up with some Robert Carse Legion tales, which I devoured, and realized it was a genre I could sink my teeth into. Paul had Bullard's backstory all mapped out. All I had to do was plonk him in the middle of an adventure. Paul loved what I came up with, and basically said, 'Kid, the character's all yours now. Do with him what you will.' Of course, I run all my Bullard stories past Paul for approval. So far, it's been a blast.

DF: Where has he appeared so far and what future plans do you have for him?
JH: As hinted at above, he first appeared in Bishop & Hancock's Pulse Fiction: Volume 1, in a tale called Honor of the Legion. He returned in The Pirate King for Airship 27's mammoth Legends of New Pulp Fiction. Hopefully Bullard will re-appear before the end of the year in Sahara Six, a novella length tale, which sees our intrepid hero transferred to the most remote outpost in Morocco. Then, ssshhhh, this is a little secret, I have plans for a novel length story, called Dead Man's Key. It's a little way off at the moment, but it's coming.

DF: What's a typical Day In The Life of James Hopwood like?
JH: Ah, I'm an early riser, so I'll usually have the computer on around 6:00am, and start working on a few projects before breakfast. Then I head to the beach for a spot of snorkling, then return home for my first martini of the day. Sorry, that last sentence is a bare-faced lie – just pretending to live out an Ian Fleming fantasy life. After breakfast I squeeze whatever tasks the day has in store for me, the usual working-stiff drudgery. But it gets me out of the house. However, I carry multiple notepads around with me at all times, and I'm always scribbling notes. At night, if I'm not drawn to the 'idiot box', I'll try to convert some of those scrawled notes into something cohesive.

These days, I hate to admit I don't read as much as I used to. My work consists of sitting in front of computers for most of the day, and it can strain my eyes. The sad offshoot is I read less. However, I have really taken to audio books, and find they are a great way to close the day. I have been listening to some of the Robert Stark (Donald Westlake) Parker novels lately, and they are fantastic. Currently I am on The Rare Coin Score.

Derrick Ferguson: Anything else we should know?
James Hopwood: For anyone who's interested in my work, I can be found at:

And on occasion I shoot my mouth off about films and books at my blog:

Cheers, Derrick, thanks for your time, and continued support for your fellow writers in the New Pulp community.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Yes, It's Three Months Late (Not That Anybody Knew It Was Due In The First Place)

I actually was supposed to have this thing written months ago, y’know.  I mean, BROOKLYN BEATDOWN has been in print for about three months now.  And Paul Bishop had mentioned to me prior to the book’s due date that he’d like to have a short essay from me on the how and why I wrote this particular FIGHT CARD novel as it’s a first for the series; the first FIGHT CARD to feature an African-American protagonist.

So why didn’t I write the thing when I was supposed to? Didn’t I take it seriously? Well, of course I did. There are other African-American writers Paul could have gone to. Writers who easily leave me in the dust when they stomp on the pedal and get their word engines cranked up to where she’ll run like that black Trans Am from “Smokey and The Bandit.” No, I took it very seriously that Paul came to me and asked me to contribute a book to an excellent series of novels that certainly didn’t need me to help it.

Maybe I’m just lazy? Hardly. I think my output proves that despite all other evidence to the contrary, I’m not a lazy guy.  Not when it comes to writing at least.  So what was the holdup? To be honest; I felt like a fraud much of the time while writing BROOKLYN BEATDOWN.  Really.  I mean, I’ve got no boxing background at all. I’ve been in some fights in my time.  You didn’t grow up in Bed-Stuy during the 1970’s without getting into a fight on occasion. But that hardly qualifies me as a boxing expert. And prior to doing research for this book I hadn't watched a boxing match in quite some time.

I was a big fight fan during the 1970’s and 80’s, though.  Thanks to my father.  And I feel very lucky to have grown up during a time when boxing was so vibrant and alive with such personalities such as Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Frazier, Tommy Hearns, Marvin Hagler. And this was during the glory days of ABC’s Wide World of Sports which would show a lot of boxing matches on Saturday afternoon. This was before the rise of cable which jumped on sports programming, boxing especially and took it away from the networks.  So I got to see a lot of these classic boxers do their thing during their glory days. But what I always took away from them was not only their phenomenal skill but their larger-than-life personalities.

That was my hook for the character of Levi Kimbro. I wanted him to be a personality with dreams and hopes and ambitions outside of the ring.  The ring wasn’t his life. It was a tool to get where he wanted to go in life. The clincher was that everybody else except for Levi knew that being in the ring was the thing he’s best suited for. So that was my inspiration for Levi. As for the rest, I watched a lot of boxing matches on YouTube and Warner Brothers fight films I borrowed from the library. In my head I saw BROOKLYN BEATDOWN as being a homage to not only those great old Warner Brothers fight films but also blaxploitation films of the 70’s. I doubted my ability to pull it off but I hiked up my pants and took my best shot at it.

But again, that specter of being a fraud nagged at me. What business did I have writing a boxing novel? But then again, I write novels about mercenary adventurers, spies, superheroes and supernatural gunslingers and never lose any sleep over it. So why was I chewing my toenails about this particular book?

In my gut I knew why: for the first time in my career I was being asked by a professional writer/editor to deliver a book about real people in a real world. No falling back on tricks like bringing in fantastic superweapons, diabolical supervillains or mythical martial arts. In the popular vernacular: I had to keep it real.

And I guess that’s why I didn’t get around to writing this when it was supposed to be written: I didn’t feel as if I had kept it real. I felt like I had made it all up. And that’s when it it hit me:  That’s what you do anyway, stupid. You make up stories. The good news is that you make up stories people like to read. And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

And so I wrote BROOKLYN BEATDOWN and it was published and apparently a few of you think it’s a good story and that’s all that matters.  Still doesn’t explain why I didn’t write this essay when I was supposed to write it.

Maybe I am lazy.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fight Card: Brooklyn Beatdown

Brooklyn – 1954. Bare knuckler brawler Levi Kimbro battles his way through the bloody backroom ghetto bars of Brooklyn in pursuit of his dream of owning his own business. It's a hard and vicious road he walks and it becomes even more complicated when he falls hard for the electrifying Dorothea McBricker.

Dorothea's brother, Teddy, has fallen under the influence of notorious gangster Duke Williamson – a powerful man who is pressuring Levi to join his stable of fighters or face off against the human killing machine, ‘Deathblow’ Ballantine.  A knock-down, drag out, Brooklyn Beatdown is brewing, and Levi will need every ounce of his fighter’s heart if he wants to save not only himself, but the woman he loves ...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Fight Card: Brooklyn Beatdown

If you've been hanging around the New Pulp community for a significant amount of time then you've probably heard of the FIGHT CARD series of books. And if you haven't then trust me, you've been missing out on some really good reading. Here’s where you can find my review of "The Cutman" my favorite of the three FIGHT CARD books I've read so far. And I've got two more on my Kindle waiting to be read.

Short and simple the FIGHT CARD books are monthly 25,000 word novelettes, designed to be read in one or two sittings, and are inspired by the fight pulps of the ’30s and ’40s – such as Fight Stories Magazine – and Robert E. Howard’s two-fisted boxing tales featuring Sailor Steve Costigan. For the full lowdown on the entire FIGHT CARD story, bounce on over here and check it out. You can thank me later.

So what has this got to do with me? Paul Bishop, the co-creator of the FIGHT CARD series and I have been in touch ever since I co-hosted an episode of PULPED! where he was our guest. Paul and I briefly discussed the possibility of my writing a FIGHT CARD book. A few days ago, Paul emailed me and basically said; “It’s time and I'm not taking no for an answer.” And seeing as how the man’s a decorated veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and I believe in co-operating with the police, what else could I do?

After a few details were worked out and Paul read my pitch, gifts were exchanged, promises were made and so FIGHT CARD: BROOKLYN BEATDOWN was placed on the schedule for February 2013. And as an added treat here’s the pitch I threw at Mr. Bishop. Read and enjoy:

Levi Kimbro, like most of the other FIGHT CARD protagonists went into the Army after he was too old to continue living at St. Vincent's Asylum for Boys in Chicago. Like all the orphan boys living in St. Vincent’s, Levi learned “the sweet science” from Father Tim Brophy. The fact that Levi was black made no difference to Father Tim. He treated all his boys the same no matter what their ethnic background and instilled in them all the values of respect for themselves and others and in the ring gave them all the tools they needed to become men that could stand on their own two feet.

Levi returns to his old Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood and gets a job at Napoleon "Nappy" Johnson's gym since during his time at the orphanage he learned how to take care of boilers and do maintenance work from Cholly Dougan, the alcoholic black janitor who lived in the basement. The janitor also instilled a love of reading and education in Levi that inspires Levi to go to school on the G.I. Bill, taking courses in Business Administration as he wants to own and operate a boiler repair business.

Levi's saving up money for his dream and he's doing so the best way he knows how: illegal bare-fisted brawls held in the backrooms of ghetto bars, poolrooms and abandoned warehouses. Levi's made something of a reputation for himself, gaining the nickname of "The Dancer" due to his extraordinary light-footedness in the ring. Nappy Johnson acts as he corner man. He's trying to push Levi into legitimate boxing but Levi insists he doesn't want to make a career out of boxing. he just wants to get enough money so that he can start his business up and not owe anybody. And Levi does make a lot of money...enough to attract the notice of “Duke” Williamson,  a Brooklyn gangster who thinks he can make some really big money with Levi in his stable of fighters who battle champs of the other NY boroughs and then even go on the road to fight the underground champs in other cities.

Levi's not interested in any of that that. At least not until he meets Dorothea McBricker, a mocha skinned knockout that he falls in love with at first sight. Nina's kid brother Teddy "T-Bird" McBricker is a snot-nosed punk definitely headed down the wrong path and looking to hook up with Duke Williamson.  

Duke’s chief enforcer “Deathblow” Ballantine  is also his best fighter and it soon becomes apparent that in order to save T-Bird from his influence, Levi is going to have to take on this mass of killing muscle in a good ol’ fashioned, winner-take-all BROOKLYN BEATDOWN.

Kickin' The Willy Bobo With...BERTRAM GIBBS

DF: Who is Bertram Gibbs? Bertram Gibbs: Husband, father, film, comic book, television, Broadway collector and enthusiast. Researcher of ...