segunda-feira, 21 de dezembro de 2009

A mystery author: Interview with Brendan DuBois

Being compared with such writers like Robert Harris and Philip K. Dick, Brendan DuBois built his career wirting detective stories and thrillers, but also won the prestigious Sidewise Award with the breathtaking novel RESURRECTION DAY, where the USA are bombed by the Cuban missiles, back in the 60¨s.

Now he talks a little about his writings, alternative futures of America if Kennedy had survived or John Kerry had won the 2004 Elections and Vikings in the New World.


Octavio Aragão — Back in 2000, your short story "The Dark Snow" was published in the "Best American Mystery Stories of the Century" anthology alongside Chandler, O. Henry and Steinbeck among others. But, beside the fact that you have a career as a mystery writer, you also wrote political thrillers and even an award winner Alternate History novel, RESURRECTION DAY. Which genre is your favorite and why?

Brendan DuBois — A great question and usually the most popular one I receive. I tend to consider myself both a mystery and a suspense/thriller author, yet when I was younger, I really wanted to become a science fiction author. I wrote dozens and dozens of science fiction short stories, none of which got published. One day, a number of years ago, I had a short story rejected by several science fiction magazines. I rather liked this story, and since it had a mysterious theme to it, I sent it off to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and they published it! That’s how I became a mystery author.

Of my eight published novels, five are traditional first-person mysteries, while the other three are suspense thrillers. I’ve just completed a new suspense-thriller, and I have started the sixth novel in my Lewis Cole mystery series. As to which genre is my favorite... it depends! When I’m writing a complicated suspense-thriller, I yearn for the simplicity of a first-person mystery novel. And yet when I’m writing a first-person mystery novel, I’m thinking ahead of writing another big, sprawling suspense-thriller. But whatever the type of book or short story I’m writing, I consider myself fortunate that I do love writing so.

OA — RESURRECTION DAY is set in an alternate world where the Cuban missiles actually hit the USA. Your characterization of John F. Kennedy is, to say the least, “iconic”. Do you believe that if Kennedy had survived, America would have been a better place in the sixties/seventies? And how topics like Vietnam and the Cold War would have happened in a “Kennedy Alive” scenario?

BDB — A tough question to answer. There’s a school of thought that if JFK had not been assassinated, that the 1960’s would have been a better time, without the Vietnam war, without the social upheaval in the United States, without a generation of protesters and protests that still echo to this day. But who really knows? JFK was a very conservative, Cold War Democrat. One recalls his inauguration speech, when he told about “paying any price, bearing any burden” The 1960’s might have been a more peaceful decade. But JFK may have gotten the United States involved in other military adventures during his terms in office. Yet there were some stirrings, just before his assassination, of a detente between his administration and Nikita Khrushchev.

An intriguing question that we’ll never know the answer to.

OA — Is there any kind of influence of Harris' FATHERLAND or Dick's MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE in the plot of RD? I ask because of the “hidden-plans-within-hidden-plans” structure that runs through the novel.

BDB — While I’ve read both novels, I’d like to think that there wasn’t much in the way of influence in how I came to write RESURRECTION DAY. When doing an alternative history novel, one challenge is to tell the story of this alternative universe without having a character sit down and dictate the history of this particular universe to the reader. There has to be a narrative hook,something that moves the reader along while also informing him. That particular hook in RESURRECTION DAY was the hunt for the secrets of how the Cuban War came about and who was responsible.

OA — Your newest book, BURIED DREAMS, deals with the possibility of the existence of Vikings in American territory more than a thousand years ago and is also a murder mystery novel. How much of Historical research you had to do before begin the writings and how did it merged with the traditional “crime” narrative?

BDB — I’ve always been fascinated with the history of New England and its early settlers, and I have always had interest in tales of explorers who came to these shores prior to the English in the late 1500’s.

The idea of Vikings traveling here all the way from Iceland and Greenland was just irresistible to me, and was the key for my fifth Lewis Cole novel, BURIED DREAMS The amount of research was not that much -- I had a folder that I would occasionally place articles about Vikings and archaeology, plus I did some Internet research -- but I made sure that the facts were accurate. In terms of merging with the traditional crime narrative, the story was about the hunt for missing Viking artifacts and the killer of the amateur archaeologist that was a friend of my narrator, Lewis Cole. It didn’t have to be Viking artifacts; it could have been Colonial artifacts or priceless treasure from the American Civil War or something else. But for me and for the story, Vikings worked.

OAThe background scenario built for RD is minuciously detailled and very well built in political therms. Based in your accurate eye for details, causes and conseqüences, how do you see the USA politics today and how would have been the future if George W. Bush had lost the last American election?

BDB — There’s been a lot of discussion that the United States is in a terrible state, that never have politics been so vicious, and that we are a bitterly divided country Perhaps, but as one who loves history, I know that politics in this country have always been hard-fought, with lots of negative comments and advertisements. For example, Abraham Lincoln today is one of most loved and revered presidents, but at the time, when he was president, he was bitterly criticized in the press, called an ape and a baboon, and even worse.

John F. Kennedy is memorialized in museums and has airports, highways and schools named after him, but at the time of his presidency, he was criticized for being a lightweight, someone who was all glamour and no substance.

These are just two examples. There was the turmoil in the late 1800’s, as the United States shifted from an agrarian to an industrial society. During the 1930’s, during the Great Depression, there were calls for revolution. And the 1960’s were certainly a time of riots in the streets and political assassinations.

So no, I don’t think there’s anything too different about today’s politics.

Regarding the future if George W. Bush had lost the election... again, I’m not sure how much difference would have taken place if John F. Kerry had won election. A President John Kerry would still have a Republican-dominated Congress to deal with, a Congress that would have been hostile to any major changes in policy, so I don’t think there would have been much difference. Of course, this is just my opinion; I’m sure many others would disagree, and that’s the beauty of our political system.

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