like to introduce Michael Black, author of A Killing Frost
and Windy City Knights.
A. Black graduated from Columbia College , Chicago in 2000 with
a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing. He previously earned
a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Northern Illinois University
. A former Army Military Policeman, he entered civilian law enforcement
after his discharge, and for the past twenty-five years has been
a police officer in the south suburbs of Chicago . The author of
over forty articles on subjects ranging from police work to popular
fiction, several of his short stories have appeared in various anthologies
and magazines, including Ellery Queen , Alfred Hitchcock's
Mystery Magazine , and Detective Mystery Stories .
. His first novel, A Killing Frost , featuring
private investigator Ron Shade, was published by Five Star in September
2002 and received excellent reviews. A trade paperback version was
released September 2003. Windy City Knights , the second
novel in the series, came out in April of 2004. He has also written
two nonfiction books for young readers, The M1A1 Abrams Tank
and Volunteering to Help Kids , which were published
by Rosen Press. He has worked in various capacities in police work
including patrol supervisor, tactical squad, investigations, raid
team member, and SWAT team leader. He is currently a sergeant on
the Matteson, Illinois Police Department. His hobbies include weightlifting,
running, the martial arts, and bird watching. It is rumored he has
long have you been writing?
I've been writing just about my whole life. I wrote my first short
story in sixth grade, after months of trying to persuade my teacher,
Miss Rehak, to let me give it a try. Naturally, it was a PI story.
I don't remember much more, except that the private dick shot the
villain a crooked cop, with a spear-gun. After I read it, there
was hushed silence in the classroom, and Miss Rahak looked down
her nose at me, through these incredibly thick glasses, and said,
“Michael, don't you ever try anything like that again.”
long did it take you to get your first book published?
took many, many years. So many, in fact that my first book, that
is the first one I wrote, never did get published. My first published
novel, A Killing Frost , was actually the third full-length
manuscript I wrote. I can remember when I sat down at the keyboard,
after so many rejections I lost count, and made a vow to myself
that I was going to write this book, and make it the very best I
could, regardless if I was the only other person who ever got to
you a structured writer, using outlines or do you just start writing?
guess I would characterize myself as a little bit of both. When
I first started I used outlines, but for the last couple I've kind
of used a free-flowing system, where I just have a general idea
about where the story is going, what needs to be said, and how to
proceed. No matter which method I use, I seem to always seek some
kind of written structure, just to keep things straight, plot-wise.
Dennis: Do you
have a daily or weekly quota for writing?
quota is to try and write something every day. I don't always succeed,
and then I have to make up for it. On a good day, I can usually
get about ten or twelve pages written before I have to stop. I know
it's time to quit when I find myself rushing and making these “Quantum
leaps” in the plotting. My personal best was writing twenty-seven
pages on New Year's Day two years ago to finish off my upcoming
novel, Freeze Me, Tender . I was on a roll.
there an author who inspired you to write?
have been many, and some I regard as my mentors. Sara Paretsky has
been very supportive and nice to me throughout my career. Rob Kantner,
who faded from sight a few years back, but is now making a comeback,
helped me revise my first published short story. Mr. Andrew Vachss
is my good friend, and has inspired me not only by being a great
writer, but also by the kind of man he is in real life. I grew up
reading the masters, Hammett, Chandler , and John D. MacDonald.
There are many more I don't have the space to mention.
Dennis: In your
novel “A Killing Frost,” you introduce the reader to Ron Shade.
Who is Ron Shade, is he based on someone you know or is he pure
I first started writing about him, Ron and I were about the same
age, but as the years passed, and the rejections mounted, he tended
not to age, while I got older. He's pure fiction, as are most all
the private dicks in the mystery genre. But I feel like I know him.
there be more Ron Shade novels?
there already are. The second novel in the series, Windy City Knights,
came out in hardcover in 2004, and is just being released in trade
paperback. I've finished a third novel in the series called A Final
Judgment, which I hope will please all of Ron's fans.
any of your other characters be returning?
my old pulp-style hero, Doc Atlas and his crew have been making
a comeback. These stories, which are set in the 1940s and 50s, never
get dated because they're already set in the past, and I had the
advantage of writing with a retrospective hindsight. Doc's in “Gorilla
Killer,” which is currently in the anthology, Tales of Masks
and Mayhem, Vol 1 . Volume 2 is due out soon with another Doc
story, “Arctic Terror.” Both of next two on tap, The Heist
and Freeze Me, Tender , are stand-alones. I've got a police
procedural series with reoccurring characters waiting in the wings.
Dennis: Do you
have any advice for aspiring writers?
best advice I can give is what was once given to me: Learn the basics,
write what you like to read, and never, never, never quit.
had a lengthy career as a police officer. How much help has that
been in your writing?
helped me meet all kinds of people, see things that I probably never
would have seen, and do things I only dreamed of doing as a kid
playing cops and robbers. Writing about the dark side is easy for
me because I've seen it. Some things, however, would not be appropriate
you planning any books based on your police experience?
work's been my life, but I have too much respect and compassion
for the victims of crime to write about anything I've directly worked
on. I don't think I'd ever want to do a true crime book for that
reason, unless it had the complete blessings of the victim's family.
Dennis: Do you
have a family?
but I make it a rule never to talk about things too personal.
I've studied the martial arts since I was eleven years old, and
I've been in a ton of street fights over the years. Police work
has always given me an incentive to keep in shape, so that's my
main hobby. I love running, lifting weights, punching the bags,
and just about any physical exercise. I also like listening to music
(Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Elvis, Shania Twain) and reading. I spend
a lot of time taking care of my animals, too. (Several cats and
a very spoiled dog.)
is your space to say anything you want . . .
score and seven years ago . . . No, wait, that's already been said!
Some people out there will probably think I've said too much already,
but I just want to add, support our troops overseas, and never forget
their sacrifices. Like the old bumper sticker says: If you're reading
this, thank a teacher. If you're reading this in English, thank
a veteran.” Thank you, take care, and God bless.
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