The road may have finally gotten to Jack Laramie. After a heated incident at a roadside diner, uncharacteristic of the wandering P.I., he decides he’s in need of a break and accepts a steady gig as a handyman at the ranch of an elderly farmer. Thinking he’s going to have an easy time of it tending to the chickens and pigs, Jack soon finds that it isn’t so different from his usual job when family secrets and money-hungry scoundrels threaten to pull him into a web of deception that might just tear him down. This “Drifter” is the seventh installment in the series and the first written by the series creator. Includes the Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles short story “Missing” by Edward A. Grainger.
Tell us about TORN AND FRAYED and the Drifter Detective series: where did it all start?
Under my pen name, Edward A. Grainger, I’ve had a bit of success with a character named Cash Laramie who was a marshal in the Old West. To fill out the character’s life story he had a daughter named Veranda Jane and she gave birth to Jack Laramie, aka The Drifter Detective. I approached a very good friend, Garnett Elliott (RED VENUS, DRAGON BY THE BAY), and asked him if he would be willing to pen a few adventures based on my characters. Luckily, he was willing and I presented my idea of a WWII veteran nomading about 1950’s America in a beat up DeSoto with a trailer hitched behind that doubles as his home. Garnett masterfully (and I can’t overstate that enough, yes, MASTERFULLY) wrote the first three books setting the tone for the series. I then brought in hardboiled legend Wayne D. Dundee (Joe Hannibal creator) and Pulp Modern’s Alec Cizak both to write additional Drifters of their own. Garnett came back to write a fourth and then there’s my current addition, TORN AND FRAYED.
You mentioned on Facebook that you’ve used your eclectic tastes in reading to make this book veer away from the standard tropes of the genre. Could you say a little bit more about how?
Life is rarely well-ordered and the good guys and gals seldom win outright. Often there is no tangible answers to be had and we are left with more questions than answers. So I wanted Jack Laramie faced with people acting for reasons that he’ll (and we the readers) never completely understand the motivations … or, that are presented as murky at best and that goes for the main protagonist. In one of my favorite passages, Jack feels like he’s being led to his death and chickens out, running away which he notes is not something his grandpa Cash Laramie would have done. In a comical interlude, Jack is carrying a weapon that jams in a moment he needs it the most only to have it discharge later at a rather inopportune time.
Why did you wait until the seventh book in the series to jump in? After all, as editor you could have done so at any point, right?
I’m slow—plain and simple. TORN AND FRAYED was originally scheduled to be the fifth and then sixth entry. I kept pushing it back and if it was possible I would have pushed it back even farther. I’m a bit of a tinkerer with my own pieces.
How does this fit into the larger picture at Beat to a Pulp?
I feel The Drifter Detective is our most fully realized series with the least amount of ‘damn, wish I had done that a bit differently’ regret. And for fans of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles it is a nice continuation, of sorts, that deepens the overall canon.
From the editor’s perspective, what would you like to see more of?
After years of championing the Hemingway sparse school of less is more, I’m leaning now toward the Vladimir Nabokov/Saul Bellow approach. Mind you, I still want crime, mystery, Westerns, etc., but pumped up with some stylish prose. That would catch my eye faster than anything else.
Pseudonyms: how useful are they?
A pseudonym, in my case, allowed me to write Westerns freely. Before ‘Edward A. Grainger’ I was the BEAT to a PULP guy who occasionally wrote crime short stories. Grainger became the author who wrote noir Westerns like Adventures of Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles, basically, it gave me much more room to navigate. Oddly, my pen name, became more popular than my real name. I tried releasing a collection of hard-boiled stories a couple of years ago and it sold pitifully. So TORN AND FRAYED is under David Cranmer because it’s not a Western. Fingers crossed I don’t drive the Drifter Detective series off the road and into the ditch.
What’s one book you think more people need to read, one that’s meant a lot to you?
I guess it would be THE STRANGER by Albert Camus (THE GREAT GATSBY a close second). It wasn’t conceived as a noir novel but it is about the darkest piece of fiction I can think of to recommend. The plot concerns a guy who is ambivalent to life. He views those around him as almost insects under a microscope. After murdering a man on the beach, he shuns a priest brought to his cell and vehemently dismisses him. As he faces death he welcomes the “cries of hate” of the those watching his execution.