Today All Due Respect talks with Paul Greenberg. A veteran of the short crime fiction scene, Greenberg’s new collection Dead Guy in the Bathtub is available now.
ADR: Many of your stories take place near Boston. Why do you think this city has such a wealth of crime writers? Who are some of your favorite Boston crime writers?
PG: Boston is such a melting pot. Trouble can break out at any moment! The two biggest influences on Boston crime writing? The Red Sox and our much missed Combat Zone. Boston in the 70’s was very hardboiled.
In the early 80’s I would commute from the suburbs into Downtown Boston to work at Strawberries Records and Tapes and I always had one of the early Robert Parker paperbacks in my pocket. I felt like I was living inside those books. I also love the Kenzie/Gennaro series by Dennis Lehane and of course the greatest Boston crime novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George Higgins. When Raylan Givens pulled a copy out of his desk in the last episode of Justified, I just about balled my eyes out for Elmore Leonard who always said that it was one of his favorites.
Dead Guy in the Bathtub contains many flash-length stories. What appeals to you about writing in the short-short form?
Flash is like a one round MMA fight. You get in there and stick and move. Then you throw a kick to the head and hope for a knockout.
Much of crime fiction these days is deadly serious. One of things I really enjoy about this collection is that it made me laugh. What draws you to this approach–stories that are often violent but also humorous?
I thinks it’s my existential way of looking at life coupled with a very twisted sense of humor.
Are any of the stories in the collection autobiographical?
Yeah. A lot of it is autobiographical. I always picture local haunts when I write. My neighborhood is “where shopping carts go to die.” I did see a mascot in front of a donut shop and then wrote, “Nice Job if You Can Get it,” and I did have someone say to me, “it’s OK, I’m a Doctor,” like in “Customer Service.”
If I recall correctly, you work in a call center. Have you mined this job for material?
Let me just say that if you sit near my cubicle, you’re fair game.
One of my favorite stories in the collection is “Liar, Liar,” which, as an astute reader would pick up, is about a character who lies frequently. How did you come up with this story?
I became neurotic about canceling a gym membership when I found out it had to be done in person. In my insecurity, I felt like I would have to make up some big excuse.As it happened they really couldn’t give a shit. Small favors.