Let's get clear on my condition. I don't know what it is, but I know what it is not. I am not a vampire, or a zombie, or a ghost. I'm not a thousand years old, I have no superpowers, and I've never been a hero. What I do have is a broken life, a broken family, and, so far, an inexplicable inoculation against dying.
|Author Earl Javorsky|
Before Charlie Miner became indestructible, he was a PI who worked mundane fraud cases for insurance companies. He was also a hopelessly addicted junkie. Desperate to kick his heroin habit, Charlie tries out the Second Chance at Life clinic, illegal in the US and located "somewhere south of Juarez." Their cure, a ritualistic use of ibogaine and other psychotropic drugs, gives Charlie an out-of-body experience but unfortunately leaves his addiction intact. Back home and working a case, Charlie is shot in the head, stone-cold murdered, while riding his bike home.
Charlie wakes up on a gurney in the morgue, disembodied like he was during his Mexican drug cure. "I roamed around the room," Charlie explains at the start of Down Solo (2014), "light as a whisper, fast as a thought." Charlie discovers he's not only impervious to death, but he can astral project at will. This comes in handy when he wants to spy on people. Charlie also has a mysterious spirit guide named Daniel who helps Charlie skate the thin edge between life and death.
The metaphysical is another ingredient in the Charlie Miner stew, and I see visionary fiction as an influence. It's a gutsy amalgam, clearly the work of an author who has read widely, and Earl Javorsky makes it look easy. Earl generously agreed to discuss how he did it.
Lawrence Maddox: Can you talk about your reading life?
|Some of Earl's favorite comic books.|
Courtesy of The Maddox Archives.
In high school and college I went through my elitist phase and read stuff like Antonin Artaud and Sartre, followed by an about-face with Robert Ludlum and Stephen King. Randomly, Chandler, Graham Greene, Elmore Leonard, Iain Pears, Walter Mosely, and Ursula K. Le Guin come to mind, but that leaves out so many writers whose work I love. Somehow I digested all of this strange brew and came up with Charlie Miner.
LM: What are the beginnings of Charlie Miner?
EJ: The premise, which just spilled out of my brain on its own, was so foreign to me that I didn't know how to proceed after the first paragraph, which went like this:
They say once a junkie, always a junkie, but this is ridiculous. I haven't been dead more than a few hours and I already need a fix. It doesn't make sense; my blood isn't even circulating, but it's the process I crave–copping, cooking, tying off, finding a vein, the slow, steady pressure of thumb on plunger, and now it's my first order of business.
Okay, clearly a throwaway idea. Who cares about dead junkies? And if he's dead, how do we account for him narrating? At best, I had a sketch for a story that would appeal to a very narrow slice of the general readership. But then the character's predicament stuck with me. How did he get that way? Maybe he had been murdered. Hmmm...Maybe he was a private eye. On a case. A case that got him killed. A detective story! A noir gumshoe tale, where the gumshoe has to solve his own murder. Noir, as in dark, and what could be darker than death?
LM: Did you have reservations about mixing genres?
Lou wrote back succinctly with "I'm not convinced that 'drug noir' is a way to sell anything, at least to a mainstream audience. I actually think the hard-boiled/supernatural angle makes Down Solo distinctive. We're not planning to shirk from it."
LM: Are you reading any genre-mixing fiction right now?
EJ: One of my favorite books in the last few years is Michael Gruber's Tropic of Night. This detective thriller involves Siberian shamanism. Yoruba sorcery, powerful psychotropic agents, and ritual murder. It takes us from Miami to Africa and back, delving anthropology, ethnography and madness as we try to unravel, along with Detective Jimmy Paz, the mystery of a serial killer of pregnant women. There are passages that test the limits of the psychological and take us into the spooky realm of darker possibilities than we admit to in normal life. Is this a transgression, a violation of a genre boundary? If so, it is done so compellingly that I welcome it at every juncture.
Alternatively, all the strangeness might simply be a matter of altered perception: smoke and mirrors and a few hallucinogenic powders sprinkled into the atmosphere, skewing reality for our protagonist. Tropic of Night teases the edge between the world as we know it and the supernatural and keeps a tight grip on the reader's attention without requiring a leap of faith or even suspension of disbelief.
Here are some other great genre mash-ups: Gabino Iglesias' Zero Saints; T.E. Grau's I Am the River; and, of course, Lawrence Maddox's Fast Bang Booze.
Earl Javorsky is also the author of the suspense novel Trust Me. To learn more about Earl Javorsky, stop by EarlJavorsky.Com.
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