What the hell else is left to say about Robert J. Randisi? Dude's got about 600 books off his fingertips - which means he's gone through more keyboards than I have socks in my adult life (they're more like thongs for your feet by the time I'm through with them - seriously, I've got a problem. Help. Still - that's a way higher than average keyboard count.) He's the dope. Last of the Pulp Writers. Demi-Deus or Machina. He's done it all except... Hit men.
Well shit-howdy son, now he's done that too. His latest novel is the first in a trilogy from Down & Out Books, and I'm pleased to say he's written a little piece to introduce it. (Check out this interview I did with him for Ransom Notes a couple years ago for more). Please welcome Robert J. Randisi to HBW...
Probably the two best hit man series running at the moment are Lawrence Block’s “Keller” and Max Allan Collins’ “Quarry” series. I have no desire to compete with either of them. In fact, I couldn’t. They’ve been doing this for a loooooong time. I’m just doing what I can do.
The idea for my hit man without a soul came to me a few years back, when I was putting together an anthology of hit man stories called Greatest Hits. It was then I came up with the short story Upon My Soul, which introduced my hit man., Sangster (named for author and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster).
The anthology was well received, and several reviews made mention of my story as one if the best. It was a little different from things I had done in my past, possibly even more “soulful,” if you will allow me the pun, then other stories I’ve done.
Following that, though, I was busy writing westerns for several publishers, and mysteries for several others. I introduced my Rat Pack series, which has taken a lot of my concentration. Over the past 8 years. However, also during those 8 years the publishing landscape has changed drastically. E-publishing and self-publishing have flourished, for good or bad (and I have my own opinions about that, which are no secret).
One of the publishers who has risen during this time was Down & Out Books, a great name for a publisher who specializes in hardboiled, tough, kick-ass fiction that may or may not be called Noir (a word that has been grossly misused over the past 10 years or so) . When I discovered Down & Out I was impressed by their website, by their roster of authors, and by their product. And I was looking for a small, independent house to work with. But what to do? That’s when I thought: Sangster. Turning Upon My Soul into not only a novel, but a trilogy, would be my first foray into writing crime novels from the anti-hero’s point of view, something I have long admired about Collins, Block and, of course, Donald Westlake as “Richard Stark.” (Sangster actually used “Richard Stark” as an alias in the book).
The story came together and stretched out well to novel length. Sangster is a hit man who wakes up one morning suddenly aware that he has a soul. He regrets all the killing he has done, and goes into hibernation in Algiers, Louisiana. When he is discovered by his former handler, he is forced to test his resolve about never killing again.
The title—from a Townes Van Zandt song—will lead into two more themed titles in a trilogy. The three books will be Upon My Soul, Souls of the Dead (a quote from the Kolodon song Souls of the Dead), and Envy the Dead (a play on a Mark Twain quote). Throughout these three books Sangster will be trying to come to terms with having a soul, and what that means. Is it even a religious thing, or something else entirely?