Please help me welcome Robb T. White with an interesting and amusing interview, plus a collection of stories that sound right up my alley!
Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I’m in my late sixties, look every day of it, and live five houses down from where I grew up along with my wife Judy. We’re celebrating our 48th anniversary in September. We’d eloped and were married in Monroe, MI when she was still a teenager. We share a big, creaky house overlooking Lake Erie in Northeastern Ohio. We have grandkids in town and Austin, TX. A pair of cats, Sid Vicious and Athena, manage the house and keep the staff busy.
Was there anything unusual, any anecdote about Dangerous Women: Stories of Crime, Mystery, and Mayhem the characters, title, process, you’d like to share?
We live in a time of irksome political correctness with accusations of “cultural appropriation” and other such nonsense. I admit that, the first time I attempted to write a story—a novel, actually—from the viewpoint of a female, I hesitated. I was fresh out of an academic environment where, at my university, feminists are outraged at everything male or masculine. This is an era before the MeToo movement, so I suspect it’s much worse there nowadays. But I’ve always believed in equality between men and women, I was raised along with five sisters, and I never bought into notions of masculine superiority. I’m not immune to all prejudice, of course, but my female characters in this collection were a natural offshoot of my two female protagonists, one of whom I’ve continued. Please don’t assume I’m starry-eyed about women. As I said, I was raised with five girls so I know women can be as vicious as men.
What do you dislike that most people wouldn’t understand?
I dislike the modern tendency to blurt out everything inside. It’s ironic because I write to discover that very thing in my characters—but it has to be controlled in fiction even more than in life. People don’t just wear their hearts on their sleeves; they advertise their whining and puling unhappiness all over social media. It’s downright sickening. Say what you will about the old-fashioned “strong but silent” stereotype of Hollywood westerns of my youth, but I wish to god more men and women would adopt this trait in public.
What’s your favorite book of all time and why? What’s your favorite childhood book?
I didn’t read as a child. I remember hiding away in bathroom closet upstairs as a boy around age 13 perusing encyclopedias. My favorite book, narrowly eclipsing Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, is Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, which I’d read around age 15. I read the Constance Garnett translation with all those ludicrous “By Jove!” Victorian exclamations. I’ve read better translations in the years afterward, but the book never fails to enthrall—Raskolnikov, his buddy Razumikhin, the cop Porfiry, and that delectable villain Svidrigaelov are imprinted into my neocortex.
Would you rather have a bad review or no review?
Bad reviews are better because no writer writes to be ignored. I’ve had many bad reviews and some harsh criticism on both Amazon and Goodreads over the years. Most recently, a reviewer of my latest, Perfect Killer, in Manhattan Review hated the novel, everything in it, found my main character—a woman, no less—“unfriendly” and standoffish. She seemed to be asking herself all the way through why she chose to review when she clearly despised violent, dark crime fiction like mine. Puzzling yet amusing. I enjoyed her discomfiture, to me shame.
What is your favorite quote?
Without apology because he’s right: “Words build bridges into unexplored regions” by Adolph Hitler.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
Full name, birth and death dates. (I’ll haunt my family if anyone adds a sappy inscription.)
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
A good question, a hard one to answer. I want to say my “imagination” creates all of them but I’m no Shakespeare. I know some must come from my childhood experiences, where most of the hurt resides in us. It’s a handy pool to dip into for creating people who don’t exist.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
My wife doesn’t read me (Thank you, Jesus), my three kids get my books but have never said a word about them to me, and when I send my older daughter in Texas copies, I write instructions inside that my two grandkids are not to be allowed near them. My older sister is my unofficial and unpaid literary agent, who promotes me to her friends and our relatives via Facebook. I’m not your PG-13 kind of mystery fiction writer.
Is there a message in your short stories that you want readers to grasp?
God forbid, no.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Martin Cruz Smith, hands down. Thomas Harris possesses a knife-like wit, David Lindsey is the best descriptive writer I’ve ever read, but MCS puts everything together in a beautiful package for the reader: plot, characters, scenic detail. Arkady Renko, his Moscow detective, is the most “human” human being I know.
Your favorite Movie
Body Heat (1981) with William Hurt and Kathleen Turner—a gem of a noir film. I’m embarrassed to say how many times I’ve watched it. I could shut the sound off and recite the dialogue verbatim. Ned Racine (Hurt’s character) is the quintessential man overwhelmed by a woman.
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Thank you, Robb. I enjoyed your interview immensely. Love the “God forbid, no.” – That’s pretty much my response to the question. I write for entertainment. 🙂
Violence, they often say, is a male prerogative. But someone forgot to tell women like “Baby” Frontanetta in the first story of the collection, or Francie, for whom robbing an armored car isn’t that big a deal, if only her lover will “man up” to assist her. Even parricide isn’t beyond the pale for her. There are the twins Bella and Donna, aptly named, as the narrator of “The Birthmark” will discover. There’s semi-literate Bobbie from West Virginia, a gorgeous lap dancer in a sleazy club in Cleveland, who knows what price men will put on owning beauty like hers. Come meet them all—the hustlers, con artists, thieves, and all-around trouble-makers; you’ll see what the women in these pages are capable of—but beware: they are not your mother’s “ladies.”
Be careful what you wish for, Regina.
Her mother’s words. Sometimes she could hear her mother’s voice in the house.
The Vindicator piece on Bodycomb’s death was two paragraphs.
He was found floating in Lake Milton, a popular summer resort area for fisherman seventeen miles east of Austintown just off the Interstate 80 overpass. Shot by a small-caliber weapon in the back of the head. The important information was in the second paragraph: Bodycomb, it noted, was running a dog-fighting network among three states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia for a loose-knit West Virginia crime family connected to the Pittsburgh LaRizzo family.
Damn you, Leo.
She was blowing through caution lights, ignoring the honking of cars, as she beelined for the office on Market.
Like a script from a cheap thriller, he was there, wearing the same clothes and unshaven, big jowls dark with stubble, pong of body odor in the overheated single room.
“You promised me full disclosure, total honesty,” she said.
She threw the paper across his desk.
“Here it is in case you missed it.”
Be calm, Regina, she told herself. She wasn’t going to lose her temper and a new job in that order.
“I did and I meant it, Baby,” Leo said.
He glanced at the paper sideways and pushed it back to her. He’d obviously read it.
“You asked me—no, you demanded I call somebody. I did,” he said.
He disgusted her with those wagging jowls and big stomach. She noticed his belt was undone and a patch of curly belly hair exposed.
Probably jerking off in here, the freak.
“I suppose you’ll tell me when the mood strikes.”
“I meant the second case—your next case,” Leo said. “Full disclosure, just like you want.”
Her indignation petered out at the prospect. “So tell me about it,” she said.
Bodycomb was moving in on Donnie Bracca’s territory with his dog-fighting, Leo said.
“He can kill all the dogs he wants in West Virginia,” Leo said. “But Donnie B. controls gambling around here.”
“Donnie Bracca was your real client all the time,” Baby said.
“It’s like this, kid. They don’t blow each other up in cars no more. Gentlemen’s agreements, all nice and polite. But rules have to be followed. Bodycomb went rogue.”
She bit back a retort: You mean, like your own father?
Leo went on, waxing large, a hopeless Mafioso lover, although a real mafia man, a made man, could see Leo couldn’t be trusted. But even the Aryan Brotherhood used outside associates to get things done. Leo could be useful if you couldn’t buy a cop or scare off an investigative reporter snooping in shady politics or business deals.
She didn’t feel bad about Bodycomb’s death. After all, she’d wanted to kill the guy herself.
“Damn it, Leo,” she said. “You should have told me this in the beginning.”Baby moved in the direction Bodycomb’s vehicle had taken. After A couple of hundred yards through meadow grass up to her knees, she stopped and listened. Moving on, she dodged stunted bushes that popped up out of nowhere to snag her clothing. The foliage grew less dense. She found the parallel ruts of the Road Runner’s tracks and kept moving, straining her eyes to see light ahead. If Bodycomb was hiding assets from his soon-to-be ex-wife, he was taking a lot of trouble over it.
After five minutes of faster walking in the grooves, she heard barking coming from the right. She saw the first glimmer of light in the distance. The terrain was sparse but small slopes refracted the light source so it appeared and disappeared with every rise of the ground. A single dog barking became two, then three and finally a pack. Beneath their howls, men’s voices.
When she got close enough to make out words, she lay flat on her belly and put the binoculars on a cluster of men beside a ramshackle barn surrounded by cages of dogs in the beds of trucks beside a squared string of light bulbs a dozen feet from the ground. It looked like a crude boxing ring for backyard brawlers.
Its purpose became clear in the next few minutes. It was a dog-fighting pit.
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About the Author:
Besides Dangerous Women, Robb T. White is the author of numerous short stories, three hardboiled Thomas Haftmann mysteries, a pair of noir/crime novels, and a recent serial-killer novel featuring a female FBI agent not named Clarice Starling.
A lifelong reader of crime fiction, he published his first story in Gary Lovisi’s Hardboiled magazine. An ebook crime novel, “Special Collections,” won the New Rivers Electronic Book Competition in 2014. One of his short stories, was named one of 6 Best Of for 2009 by a Chicago website.
A forthcoming hardboiled novel is in the press.
Find out more about Robb at: