Today we’re lucky to have Richie Narvaez whose latest book, Hipster Death Rattle, will be published one week from today. (Go ahead and pre-order right now. We’ll wait until you get back.) Richie is a former President of the New York Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and the award-winning writer of Roachkiller and Other Stories.
This is your first novel. How does it feel?
Richie: Scary! I am living in terror waiting for people read it. I mean, some people have read it and seem to have enjoyed it, so I’m hoping that at least maybe five or six other people out there in the world kind of like it. But, yeah, it’s scary. And weird.
You know what I don’t worry about? The classic, wilting Amazon review that says, “too many f bombs,” which really isn’t so bad because that becomes a selling point for some people.
What’s this new book about?
Richie: That thing! Yes, well, Hipster Death Rattle is about real estate and gentrification. It’s about New York City and culture. And it’s about a machete-carrying serial killer. And a little about real estate and gentrification. The basic thrust is a slacker reporter gets involved in a missing persons case, all the while someone is going around the very trendy neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, slashing up hipsters, and somehow of course, per crime fiction story tropes, these two strands dovetail near the end. Roll credits.
You say “New York City and culture.” Tell me more about that because I find that fascinating.
Richie: Well now, that’s interesting because you wrote a great blog post https://www.missdemeanors.com/single-post/2018/03/27/Writing-about-Cultural-Setting about cultural setting, about Utahns, a culture that is completely alien to me, outside of the Osmonds, frankly and sadly. And then look at out how you open up the world of Mormons in Blessed Be the Wicked, which I enjoyed very much, by the way.
But that’s one of the models of mystery writing, isn’t it? Taking fairly standard plots and pushing them into new arenas, 1930s Toronto, feudal Japan, Mars 2020. It’s an educational experience for the reader, almost like an immersive vacation. You know, but with murder victims.
That’s what I’m doing with Brooklyn. For a lot of people, the culture of Williamsburg is only hipsters and yuppies. But in reality it’s certainly much more than that and, as part of New York City, it has a long history of colonization and displacement. I write primarily about the Puerto Ricans of the neighborhood, but I also try to touch on other cultures —and culture clashes — going on. I pray that readers find it halfway interesting.
How long did it take you to finish?
Richie: The actual idea started back in the late 1990s. I grew up in Williamsburg, and after college I was living back there, and everyday I saw how gentrification was coldly, casually erasing everything I had known. Ooh, it filled me with anger and bitterness, and I wanted to say something about it.
But it took a long while to find a way to say it, and then coming up with a plot, which is kind of important, too. A lot of things have changed since 1999 — certainly the world has — but the issues of displacement and affordable housing still plague New York City. Trying to write a book that was at least in some measure socially conscious was tough as well. Once I had the plot, the book was done in an hour. Give or take three years.
What do you mean about trying to be socially conscious?
Richie: Let me put it this way: Reed Farrel Coleman, my crime fiction brother from another mother, often talks about hating when authors soapbox to their readers. But you can still examine the world at large, which is something Reed does very well in all of his books. I hope that’s what I’m doing, examining, not soapboxing. What I am trying to do is shine a light on part of a world that many people don’t usually see, on parts of a neighborhood that even the people who live there don’t usually see.
We met through the Mystery Writers of America. I also belong to Sisters in Crime. How helpful do you find organizations like these?
Richie: Well, certainly, they are great places to network if you’re just starting out and know no one in the book biz and if you can swing the dues. And while MWA has been behind the times in the past, they’ve been making some strides lately in terms of diversity and inclusion.
But the best part really of professional writing groups is the camaraderie, the relief from isolation that comes from this thing we do, this craft.
Of course, writers now have many more options now than before to meet and interact with other writers and fans. There are Facebook groups, Google groups, the sunnier side of Reddit, even Twitter. I’ve become part of the #5amwritersclub on there as well as the Crime Writers of Color and find them both very supportive.
But nothing beats hanging out in person with people who are in the midst of the same struggle you’re going through. And I’m in New York City, so there’s a writer every ten feet and one crime fiction writer for every block. You feel like you’re not just a lone stinker tapping away at your keyboard but part of a community — a big community. In this case a big community of people who think about murder, so, don’t get anyone too upset.
Hipster Death Rattle is available at:
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/2EX68pB