John Sandford: prey tell...
Excerpts from the interview by Reed Andrus in the April/May 2009 issue of Mystery News
In the interest of full disclosure, I will immediately admit that I'm biased toward John Sandford's considerable contribution to mystery/crime fiction. I've followed him since his first print appearance 20 years ago, reviewed many of his novels for Mystery News, and for the life of me cannot understand why his name doesn't appear regularly on major award nomination lists. Just two years ago, in the same year, Sandford released two of the most intelligent, intricate, well-written police procedurals our genre has encountered - Dark of the Moon and Invisible Prey - and neither was graced with as much as an honorable mention in Edgar or Anthony Award circles.
I doubt that Sandford cares much about awards as long as his books receive proper attention at bookstore checkout registers, or through on-line purchase. And they do seem to be popular, despite early unfounded criticism-mainly from cozy supporters on the DorothyL internet news group-that his novels were nothing more than "serial killer of the month" clones with little deviation from that then-popular formula. When I spoke with the author recently, I asked if he thought that criticism was generated because he reprised the role of one particular villain, serial killer Louis Vouillon. He shrugged off any implication that he wrote to a formula.
"There's obviously a difference between serial killers and multiple murderers and spree killers, etc., and I'm aware of all that, but I generally tend to write what I feel like writing, rather than calculating what to write. I'm a fan, and a journalist, as well as a thriller-author, and I'm strongly influenced by what's going on in the society. The early '90s were much more 'street' oriented than is the case now-the rise of hip-hop, the crack epidemic, the development of cable news. The current focus tends to be much more on finance and business crime, or on terrorism, which is why you've seen a decline in police novels and a rise in lawyer or military novels. I'm influenced by all of that, and so the style of the stories tends to change over time."
And a long time it has been. Fictional protagonist Lucas Davenport has survived nineteen appearances since he was introduced to readers in Rules of Prey (1989), and the author has added two standalone novels, and two other series - four entries in the Kidd series, and two entries (plus a third later this year) in the Davenport spin-off series featuring Virgil Flowers. In fact, Sandford began his genre career with the release of two novels in the same year, the premier of Lucas Davenport, and another introducing a mercenary computer predator and art expert known only as Kidd (The Fool's Run, 1989). The Davenport series began under the now-familiar pseudonym, John Sandford, while the Kidd series introduced the author's legal byline, John Camp. To date from 1989, the very prolific Sandford/Camp has released two novels a year seven separate times. I've always wondered whether this publishing schedule was based primarily on the sheer volume of Sandford's output, or whether it was a marketing tactic designed to test the popularity of two very different protagonists and thematic approach. Is the dual novel approach something that should be considered by genre newcomers?
Read the complete interview in the April/May 2009 issue of Mystery News