Jonathan Lowe) My intro to you was the 2008 book The Dawn Patrol, another series during your Cartel series. Only a few of your novels are stand alone, while your past is "storied" too, with travel and adventure running parallel to books and movies and drama, and even private investigation. What historical influences pull you in these diverse directions, and is there a central philosophy that draws you, or travel itself?
Don Winslow) You know, if I have a central philosophy, I suppose it's to pursue things that are interesting and maybe out there on the edge a little. For instance, as a kid, my dream was to go Africa – the farther out the better – as opposed to, I don't know, London or Paris. Later, I took a job in the far regions of western China. I worked on Times Square before Mickey Mouse took it over. I guess I've always been attracted to the outlying places, the edgy, grittier parts of cities. But that's crime fiction, too, isn't it? We write about the edges.
JL) Absolutely true, but how important is humor or satire in the mix of brutal subject matter?
DW) I’m not sure about satire, but I think humor is pretty important. Not only is it realistic—just hang around a police precinct—but it's also necessary to give the reader a break, a breather, from the tougher stuff. Shakespeare even did it, bringing on fools to lighten the tragedies.
JL) What films based on books impressed you most? Raymond Chandler?
DW) Well, The Long Goodbye is one of all-time favorite films – although really weird. The obvious one is the Godfather saga, although I re-read the book a couple of years ago and its damn good. One of the best ever book-film combos is George Higgins' The Friends of Eddie Coyle, with a film starring Robert Mitchum and Peter Boyle.
JL) Screenwriter Paul Monash, who grew up in Brooklyn. What about Noir as a genre. Did you see Drive, based on the James Sallis book, set in Arizona, and starring Ryan Gosling on film? And do you ever listen to audiobooks?
DW) Sorry, I haven't seen it. Probably should. Audiobooks? I have nothing against them, it's just hard to find the time. Almost all my reading time is taken up with research reading – often pretty dry documents that are not at all as interesting as an audiobook!
JL) What can you say about The Story Factory?
DW) How much time do you have? Shane Salerno and the Story Factory made my career. You know, I was its first client. Here's the deal: Shane loves writers and writing. An A-list screenwriter in his own right. He gets it, and he's also understood, in a way I don't think anyone previously has, the nexus between print and visual media, and, most important, how to make that work for the writer. I also love the underlying culture of the Story Factory – we're working writers. I'm a Joe Lunchbucket writer – I show up to work. And listen, Shane has assembled an incredibly talented group, too.
JL) Shane himself spent ten years researching his revealing book Salinger, which went to documentary film on American Masters, and he's the most successful screenwriter in Hollywood! Once interviewed Bowden on Killing Pablo. His benefactors loved Pablo, victim's families and police hated
him. He played everyone. Why do you think there is such an attraction to the drug life in pop culture on one side, and on the political side--as perception and policy have evolved to make new victims of kids--we continue to be snowed? Are the administration and Big Pharma playing us too, in your opinion?
DW) Well, they're trying to. We can only be played if we let ourselves be played. I think the attraction to the drug life in media is multi-faceted. There's always an attraction to crime, and drug trafficking is the biggest crime we have going, not counting Wall Street. We’re attracted to power, and drug trafficking is an example of seemingly unlimited power. But then reality hits – if you read the news about ‘El Chapo’ Guzman systemically raping 13-year old girls, I would hope that some of the celebrity worship would go out of it.
JL) Realistic depictions and great acting always seem to impress viewers over special effects and vapid dialogue. What are your thoughts on the relationship between Hollywood's need to do well on an opening weekend and the writer's intent or hope on them not screwing up the imagined story?
DW) Look, nobody sets out to make a bad movie. It's just very hard to make a good one, never mind a great one. So many strings have to pulled together at the same moment. I understand the financial needs of a studio or producer – it takes beaucoup money to get a film made, it's a big risk. And I'm not one of those novelists who look down on screenwriters – it's a very hard thing to do. Having said all that, I wish filmmakers would trust the base material more than they often do. While they are two different media, and some changes do need to be made, too often the changes are made for arbitrary reasons and the producers and directors forget what they loved about the book in the first place.
JL) Do you have any creative control over choice of directors, actors, writers? They each bring their own visions. Oliver Stone especially. And with David Mamet writing dialogue on The Force, that's a force to be reckoned with for sure.
DW) I have influence, I wouldn't say control. At the end of the day, film – somewhat less so television – is a director's medium. I get that. I want to have my say and I want to be truly heard, not just paid lip-service. This is another important element of The Story Factory – making sure its writers get to work with good people and that they get heard. I'm a big believer in the battleground of ideas – if everyone checks their egos at the door, we can have discussions that will make a better film. And sometimes I've gotten ideas from filmmakers that I thought were better than the book.
JL) Couldn’t agree more. And of course you have great endorsements by Stephen King. King is a huge audiobook fan, loved by the Audio Publishers Association in order to expand reading time while traveling.
DW) I’m so appreciative of Stephen King's generosity about my work. It means more to me than I can express. I do listen to pieces of my audiobooks, just to see what's going on.
JL) Did you listen to any of Ray Porter's reading of The Border?
DW) Yes, I agree with the rest of the audience that Ray Porter is terrific.