Megan Abbott: the streets are hers
Excerpts from the interview by Craig McDonald in the February/March 2009 issue of Mystery News
Michigan-native Megan Abbott's first book was a highly-regarded nonfiction analysis of film noir and "white masculinity" entitled The Street Was Mine (2002); it stands as a key study of the classic film noir period.
Abbott then turned her hand to fiction with stunning results: Die A Little (2005) drew enthusiastic reviews and earned best first novel nominations for the Edgar, Barry and Anthony awards. Set in 1950s Hollywood, the novel immediately established Abbott as one of crime fiction's premier stylists and an assured storyteller in the classic hardboiled/noir tradition...
For her second novel, Abbott focused her attention on the unsolved disappearance of actress Jean Spangler in October 1949. That novel, The Song is You (2007), was quickly followed by the paperback original Queenpin, about an ambitious young woman who becomes the protégé of Gloria Denton, an aging female mob mover-and-shaker. Queenpin won the 2008 Edgar and Barry awards.
CM: Hardboiled and noir literature and film, respectively, grew out of the tumult of the boom and bust of the 1920s and 30s from the devastation of World War II. What effects do you think our current military engagements and economic turmoil will have on current crime and mystery writing?
MA: Good question. My impulse as a reader in this situation is to really avoid the subject entirely. I really understand why people wanted to go see Busby Berkeley musicals in the early 1930s. There will be a very interesting literary interpretation of the sort of panic mode we're in now-this sort of constant hysteria that I think is far more specific to the Internet than to the economic crisis itself. Even in the last recession, even in the early 1990s, most of us didn't feel it with such terrifying intensity because the speed at which panic can spread is now instantaneous.
CM: There are writers who can only write novels, and a few who seem to prefer to write short stories and who reluctantly write novels to make a living. Then there are a lucky few who seem able to write long or short fiction with equal success/passion. Do you consider yourself a natural short story writer?
MA: I find short story writing really hard. I'd probably never do it if I didn't get excited by certain opportunities. I like the challenge and I like the idea that you can play around with things I would never want to write a whole novel about. It's good experimenting with style a little bit and forces me not to sink into atmosphere which is my bad habit, because I'd just write nightclub scenes if I could.
Although Megan Abbott is regarded as a master of evoking period noir and hardboiled fiction, several of her short stories boast contemporary settings. You can explore Megan's more "recent" short fiction in the anthologies Detroit Noir, Queens Noir and Wall Street Noir. Her Pushcart-nominated short story "Cheer" can be read online at: http://www.storyglossia.com/28/ma_cheer.html.
Craig McDonald's current novel is Toros & Torsos. A collection of interviews with crime writers, Rogue Males, will be published in May.
Read the complete interview in the February/March 2009 issue of Mystery News