Interview with Johnny and Time Out Sydney
By Michael Wayne
In July, Johnny did an interview for Time Out Sydney all about Blood & Tacos. Due to space, they could only print an edited version of the interview. For your reading pleasure, here is the unedited interview conducted by Michael Wayne (check out his blog at http://wayninginterests.wordpress.com).
Johnny, what was it about the modern age that was screaming for a return to the gung-ho pulp action heroes of old?
I seriously doubt that the modern age was screaming for Blood & Tacos, but they are now. No matter how civilized we pretend to be, the universal appeal of sex and violence has never diminished. Blood & Tacos gives the people what they want, except we’re slapping sideburns and bushy mustaches on it.
There’s something freeing about stories set in the 1970s and 1980s. Stories that consciously forgo any political correctness and let loose the dogs of war.
What can readers expect from a typical issue?
If you’ve read the Executioner, the Destroyer, or the Death Merchant, you’ll know right away what we’re all about. Entertaining stories that deliver fast-paced thrills and big action. Manly men doing manly things.
Every three months, Blood & Tacos delivers five original “re-discovered” stories from the 1970s and 1980s. Men’s fiction “discovered” by today’s hottest crime writers. The stories run the gamut from “one man’s war against the mob” to “survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.” Two-fisted tales with heroes named the Silencer, the Albino Wino, Bastard Mercenary, and Tiger Team Bravo.
Was it hard to convince other crime writers to get on board? What kind of talent do you have on board?
Surprisingly, most writers jumped at the chance to be a part of the Blood & Tacos family. I’m getting submissions from all over the world.
Remember, a lot of established, best-selling authors started their careers writing for the men’s adventure paperbacks of this era. Nelson DeMille (Ryker), Joe Lansdale (Stone: MIA Hunter), Marc Olden (Black Samurai), and Lee Goldberg (.357: Vigilante), just to name a few.
While I’m proud to have veteran writers like Gary Phillips and Ray Banks participating, the opportunity to publish an author for the first time (in the case of Christopher Blair’s story, “Battleground USSA: Texasgrad”) is even more rewarding. I’m also really excited to announce that the new issue will have a story by Stephen Mertz, a writer who actually wrote men’s adventure novels, including Executioner and Stone: MIA Hunter books.
You’ve been very careful not to denigrate the source material, although there’s plenty of room for humor. How do you find a balance between hard-boiled ball-tearers and the more satirical stories?
“Hard-boiled ball-tearers?” Maybe I should get you to write a story. I’m definitely using that in the publicity from now on.
The original stories from the era were so over the top, bordering on or completely sliding into self-parody, that it would be difficult to do anything more outrageous than what was written in, say, the Penetrator series. That gives our writers a lot of latitude. They can play it straight. They can go broad. I leave that choice up to them.
We’ve always described the aesthetic of the stories as “ridiculously awesome.” When an albino henchmen attacks a mustachioed hero with a spear gun. That kind of thing. That’s what we’re going for. It’s about big, harmless fun.
They’re definitely very cinematic stories. I know you can’t speak for the other writers, but what’s your process to get into the headspace of Brace Godfrey?
Writing as Brace Godfrey is a blast. I’ve created a character that I write through rather than about. And he’s a real piece of work.
I see Brace as a reformer, although limited by a narrow worldview. I really like the idea of a writer that wants to be the first person to feature a Hispanic hero or a tough female heroine but, when he does so, incorporates all the worst stereotypes and caricatures in his portrayal. The opportunities for humor and satire are broad.
That was essentially the heart of blaxploitation and characters like John Shaft in the 1970s. Black heroes had finally arrived, but they were all pimps and players. And it’s not like things have changed much. It’s still happening with Asians. There might be stories with Asian heroes, but I can count on my left hand the number of non–martial artists out there.
You’ve recently released your first novel, Dove Season, which certainly testifies to your authority in the crime fiction genre. How did you get started, and what are your influences?
I started as a screenwriter and playwright but over time grew more and more intrigued by fiction. I was so intimidated by writing a novel that when I wrote Dove Season, I didn’t tell anyone—including my wife—that I was writing it until I was 100 pages in and confident that I would finish. Since the publication of Dove Season, exciting things just keep happening. In fact, my new novel, Big Maria, comes out in September.
I have always been drawn to writers that play with tone. Writers that are hard-boiled and comfortable in the shadows but can shift to humor just as quickly. Off the top of my head, writers like James Crumley, Charles Willeford, Jonathan Latimer, and Chester Himes really showed me that realistic crime stories didn’t have to be humorless.
How far can you see Blood & Tacos going? Where would you like it to?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my partners-in-crime. Pete Allen, the publisher of Blood & Tacos and the mastermind behind Creative Guy Publishing, has given me incredible creative control that borders on irresponsibility.
Also, my wife Roxanne Patruznick, who continues to do me the enormous favor of volunteering her incredible talent by supplying the original covers for each issue. How many magazines get original oil paintings for their covers? Honestly, they’re the best part.
Right now, we’re concentrating on putting out a solid issue every three months. But don’t worry, we’ve got big plans.
Look for a Blood & Tacos book imprint in 2013. Pete and I are still working out the details, but at the very least we should have the year one annual (collecting all the stories from the first four issues) and a Chingón novella in print in the first half of next year. After that, our plan is to open it up to the authors to write novellas for their characters, stand-alone stories that deliver ungodly amounts of ridiculous awesomeness.
Could you reveal your favorite three-shot?
No question about it: Swamp Master by Jake Spencer.
Here’s the promotional copy from the cover of Swamp Master #2: Hell on Earth: “Mutants and killers rule a devastated land. One man defies them. In Post-Nuke America, Mutant Death Squads terrorize the masses of Occupied Florida. Now mindless killer drones are infiltrating the coast from a floating fortress manned by neo-Nazi stormtroopers. These assassins are wired to kill and willing to die—and only one man dares to take them on. Swamp Master.” Are you kidding me? Talk about ridiculously awesome.
Bonus: what’s the perfect soundtrack for reading an issue of Blood & Tacos?
“The Big Payback” by James Brown, Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” and the theme to The A-Team playing simultaneously at full volume.