Now here’s a writer who’s been described as gonzo, and a wildman, by none other than the respected author Anthony Neil Smith. So when Pearce Hansen’s second novel, Stagger Bay, arrived a week or two ago, we decided to drop him a line and find out more about it. Hansen comes from the San Francisco Bay area of California and spent his youth running with a rough crowd. Now he’s grown up, married, and a father, he describes himself as legit, but uses writing to exorcise the traumas of his youth. Undoubtedly there’s a touch of that in Stagger Bay, which revolves around Markus, a man who’s spent years in jail for a crime he didn’t commit, becomes a hero after dealing with a hostage situation in a school, and is then hunted down by both corrupt cops and underworld figures. We’ll have a review here soon. In the meantime, allow us to introduce Pearce Hansen…
First off, tell us a little bit about Stagger Bay?
It’s an exploration of an archetype and a mindset but it’s firmly within the noir genre, albeit hyper-violent. It’s been noted that Stagger Bay has a ‘high Western’ feel to it; one prominent reviewer even compares it to Unforgiven, and the protagonist Markus to William Munny. If it’s ever made into a movie I’ll want Danny Bonaduce to audition for the starring role, as I know he’ll inhabit it.
Where did the idea for this particular story come from?
A long time ago I wrote a story about a brutally violent hostage situation going south at an elementary school – high body count, a really horrid piece that seemed to upset and anger some readers. It occurred to me to ask: what kind of dude would perform these sort of heroics, or a homicidal frenzy? And, what happened before and after this specific incident? Five years later, Stagger Bay is the result.
This is your second novel after Street Raised, but you’ve been writing for 20 years or so. What did it take to boost your work to the stage where you felt it was extensive enough, and good enough, to be released as a novel?
Writing per se has never been a problem for me. Editing is, in my opinion, where writers develop most effectively. As far as Stagger Bay goes, it was under representation with a top flight New York literary agent for three years, with rewrites and line-by-line edits by good people, but they couldn’t sell it due to the economy and the current upheaval in the industry. I opted to publish independently now the Street Raised Kindle re-release is going well for me. At this point, I’m finishing my third novel, and writing short pieces and reviewing the stuff I like by other authors working today.
What is it that draws you to the gritty, gutter-level crime world that you write about?
I didn’t choose crime – crime chose me. I wound up pretty feral as a kid, and opted to associate with other feral people – this inevitably led to drugs, crime and violence, all within the milieu of East Bay and Oakland, which any Google search will show is one of the most dangerously crime-ridden urban metroplexes in the county. Counting my third novel, I have maybe three more crime novels to get out of my system, then I’ll branch out into other stuff less noir-ish.
Ken Bruen and Anthony Neil Smith have endorsed your work. In what ways do you hope that Stagger Bay will appeal to our readers?
The reason we all like blurbs is, if you respect an author, their good opinion of a work you’ve never heard of tends to make you believe it might be worth your while to read. As you’ve kindly noted, Ken Bruen and Anthony Neil Smith were both early cheerleaders and advocates for my work, and their encouragement has been priceless to me. Because of my background I often inhabit my writing emotionally while getting it out, and Ken and Neil’s kind words helped me through some tough typewriter sessions. I’ve also been blurbed by Joe Lansdale, Jason Starr and Eddie Muller – if you like any of these authors’ works, and respect their opinions at all, well, you might want to give my stuff a chance.