Hard Case Crime is well-known for its hard-boiled detectives and noir mystery stories by the likes of Megan Abbott, Lawrence Block, James M. Cain, Erle Stanley Gardner, David Goodis, Ed McBain, Mickey Spillane, Donald E. Westlake, and Cornell Woolrich. Occasionally, the publisher known for their eye-catching pulp covers dips its toe into other genres, and has released books with elements of science fiction and fantasy by legendary writers such as Ray Bradbury, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King.
Jason Starr joins that prestigious list with his latest novel, The Next Time I Die, which blends the best aspects of classic crime fiction and mind-bending sci-fi. Starr took some time to speak to us right before the release of The Next Time I Die (now available in stores) about combining the two genres and his process in this exclusive interview.
Your new book The Next Time I Die is a blend of noir and sci-fi. Do you feel that these genres are a natural fit and how did you deal with the genre conventions of both?
Jason Starr: I think the genres are very different. While I’ve written some sci-fi in my comics for Marvel and DC, and the tie-in novels that I wrote for the TV show Gotham, this is my first sci-fi novel. It has elements of mystery and crime fiction in it as well, and I think the book can be read as either a sci-fi novel, a crime novel, or a mash-up of the genres. It really depends on the perspective of each reader.
Your protagonist Steven Blitz experiences a reality crash very early in the story, which throws readers into the “deep end of the pool” right off the bat. Why did you choose to introduce this sci-fi element so early in the story?
Jason Starr: Yeah, there is a big high concept hook in chapter two, and that was my intention–to have a high concept hook early on. In some of my previous books, I have slower builds, but in this book there is a lot of world building and I knew I had to be clear about the tone from the onset. I also wanted to establish that this is a book where there will be a lot of twists and turns.
Hard Case Crime is known for classic pulp-style books, from the titles to the covers. What are your thoughts on the imprint and these pulp aspects of your latest novel?
Jason Starr: I love their covers. I’m a fan of Gold Medal novels from the 1950s, and when I first started writing novels I read a lot of the original Black Lizard novels by writers such as Jim Thompson, Charles Williams, and Charles Willeford. While The Next Time I Die is a modern, present-day thriller, there are elements of classic crime fiction and sci-fi in the book, and I think the retro-style, pulpy cover evokes this vibe beautifully.
You have written a number of novels and graphic novels. How would you compare writing for both mediums?
Jason Starr: I like the combination. Writing novels can be very solitary so I like the collaboration of comics, it’s a nice balance. The process of writing novels versus comics is much different, though. Mainly, with novels you have as much space as you need to tell a story. In comics, you have limited space, so the twists and cliffhangers have to come faster.
If you were transported to another reality, what is the “evil” Jason Starr like?
Jason Starr: I don’t want to give away any plot points, but this raises the question of whether you believe the nature of people would change in concurrent realities, or if only events in the physical world would change. It’s one of the big themes of The Next Time I Die and the narrator, Steven Blitz, tries to answer this question as it relates to the nature of himself. So, let’s just say, while I don’t think I’d be evil in another reality, Steven might have another opinion about this.
The Next Time I Die was recently optioned as a film. Do you think much about your novel would have to be changed for the silver screen?
Jason Starr: Yes, a terrific producer, Gil Adler (Superman Returns, Constantine) recently optioned the book. I think any adaptation from one medium to another requires changes, and I’m always fine with that. I think it’s silly to expect a movie or a TV show to be exactly like the book. So I never get too attached to particular scenes in my books and comics. I think it’s called an adaptation for a reason.
Jason Starr: My latest graphic novels are Red Border and Casual Fling from AWA, both on sale now. I’m at work now on a new novel, and have a few other film and TV projects in the works. I love to hear from readers! Follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @JasonStarrBooks.
The Next Time I Die is now available in finer book stores everywhere. You can read the first chapter of Starr’s new book, and also check out that classic pulp-style cover by Claudia Caranfa, below.