Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Interview with Somerville novelist and bookseller-- Josh Cook.

Josh Cook

Interview with Somerville novelist and bookseller, Josh Cook.

Interview with Doug Holder

Josh Cook has for many years been an ubiquitous presence at Porter Square Books in Porter Square, Cambridge, where he works as a bookseller. Cook penned a detective novel recently,  An Exaggerated Murder, that has echoes of Sherlock Holmes, as well as the detective Auguste Dupin created by Edgar Allen Poe. I talked with him on my Somerville Community Access TV show, Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer.

Doug Holder: You told me you were influenced by fictional detectives Auguste Dupin, and Sherlock Holmes.

Josh Cook: It was always interesting to me that detective fiction started with the Gothic short story writer and poet Edgar Allen Poe. He created the detective Auguste Dupin, and Poe is highly identified with detective fiction. The detective in my book is very much Sherlock Holmes --style. Trike, my detective, uses evidence-based deduction, mixed with cold intellect. This whole genre that Poe started always starts out with strange, baffling stories. Holmes sprung from Dupin, and many detective stories since have sprung from Dupin. Later British Detective fiction is less about the case and more about the state of mind of the detective. What is so interesting about American detective heroes like Marlowe and Sam Spade --it isn't so much about the actual case they are involved in  (like in Holmes), but the emotions and moral compass they had to sort through.

DH: Trike has a bad cigarette addiction—why did you add this to an already complex character?

JC: If you look at American fiction many writers have their characters addicted to booze, TV, etc...We all have addictions of one sort or the other. Addictions are used to sort through the moral complexities of our society.

DH: The city the novel is set in—seems sort of generic—there is no specific city mentioned.

JC: Well—stories can only bear so much weight. I felt this was the best way to tell the story. I wasn't thinking of any particular city. But—I set one scene in a gross Karaoke bar—and someone said, “ Hey—I know exactly where that bar is” That's very satisfying. I felt the the story could not wear the weight of Boston, for instance. It would have required the reader to keep too many things in his or her head.

DH: You have a number of characters that revolve around Trike—like his assistants Max and Lola. Are these composites of people you know?

JC: No one is a particular person. They do draw on people I know, my partner and other characters that I have experienced in fiction, etc...

DH: Your detective Trike is a pompous, pain in the butt-- type of guy. Why did use such an unlikable character?

JC: Sometimes you need a guy with no social graces to get the truth out. He needs to be tough and abrasive.

DH: Did you grow up in a literary family?

JC: I grew up in Lewiston, Maine. My mom worked in the schools as a guidance counselor—my father was a social worker. Both were big readers. Both of them read to me before bed. My grandparents were also big readers.

DH: How has it been working at Porter Square Books all these years?

JC: It has been fantastic. You see more and more booksellers who are publishing books. I get to see what is published now, and what will be published in the next six months. I have been able to establish relationships with publishers. Melville House published my novel. They are a publisher I liked and I pushed their book at the store. I feel I am part of a community working at Porter Square Books.

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