Interview: Robert Pobi

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Even before his dark, bloody and downright scary novel Bloodman was published, Robert Pobi led an interesting life. According to his site he dealt in Georgian antiques for 13 years, and has fished for Great Whites in the ocean and monster pike in the lakes of Finland. He spends a lot of time in a secluded cottage, and heads south to Florida for the winter. Bloodman was his first novel and he has several more books on the way. Yesterday, a review of his book appeared in the latest issue of Oprah magazine in the US. Today the Montreal-born writer is going global with Crime Fiction Lover…

For those who missed our review, can you give us a quick intr to Bloodman?
Bloodman is about a man named Jake Cole – a consultant for the FBI – who goes home for the first time in nearly 30 years after his father has an Alzheimer-fueled accident. Jake is a hardened, broken former addict who hunts monsters – human monsters. His father is a famous American artist and once back home in Montauk, the things that drove him away all those years ago seem to have been in stasis, waiting for him to come back. The story takes place over four very intense days. Four days that would push anyone to the edge. Four days that push Jake to the edge. And a few readers, too, judging from the email I’ve been getting.

There’s more than a hint of horror about the story, but what do you think crime fiction fans will love most about the book?
At its core, Bloodman is a story about a man hunting a serial killer – which is up there with bank heists and hostage takings in the crime genre. And stepping out of fashion, I avoid all the CSI forensic boojie-woojie that is the mainstay of a lot of modern novels in the genre. Not that there’s anything wrong with that angle, it just happens to be something I consciously avoided – there are plenty of authors who do this very well. Kathy Reichs rocks the stadium. And I guess I just wanted to write an old-fashioned character-driven, not science-driven, whodunit.

The book deals a great deal with art and aesthetics. What interests you about these topics?
I come from a very artistic family – on both sides. My grandfather was a professional painter – canvases, not walls – and everyone in my nuclear family has a massive artistic bent. So, it’s one of those things that I was raised around. I dealt in 18th century formal furniture for years. Paintings were part of the process and I ended up learning a lot about the mercenary side of art through my work. In Bloodman I confronted both the commercial and creative sides of art – because in today’s world, art is rarely considered appealing unless it is cited as valuable by the powers that be – which is a broken way of looking at things. And we can’t forget the old saying that says to write what you know.

You’ve said before that you’ve written a novel that you would want to read. Which other writers have you been reading lately?
This is a tricky one. I don’t read a lot of crime – I never have. I’m more of a classicist. That’s not to say that I don’t, but it’s not part of my regular diet in any great proportion. My favorite crime books lately are John Galligan’s Ned ‘The Dog’ Ogilvie novels. The main character is a Tang-and-Stoli swilling fly fisherman who keeps getting caught up in murder investigations. I love that series. Thomas Harris is the Macdaddy of the serial killer genre, for obvious reasons. I wouldn’t mind having a drink with Dennis Lehane and talking shop. And I have to mention Mickey Spillane. But, I have to be honest and admit that Bloodman never would have been born if not for Joe Hill’s Heart Shaped Box, which was a big book in New York the summer I wrote Bloodman. Stephen King deserves a nod, too.

Before you became a full time writer you were a successful antiques dealer. What made you decide to give that up for writing dark and scary serial killer stories?
I have always written – since I was a child – so in a way it was inevitable. I had written a handful of novels that I fed into a drawer. Things were fine as they were. But if I want to micro-evaluate what happened, I had put 15 years into my business and had gone as far as I could with it. I thought things were fine and that’s what I would do for the rest of my life.

Then the perfect storm happened: my best friend died of cancer; a lifelong friend was murdered; and an employee – someone who had really helped me out when I needed it – also died of cancer. The clock just stopped and I realised that I could spend the rest of my life playing it safe. Or I could take my shot. So I tore my old life out by the roots, left my urban loft for a house in the country, and haven’t looked back.

What’s coming up next?
The next novel slated for publication is titled Mannheim Rex – it’s a good old-fashioned monster story. The main character, Gavin Corlie, is a famous horror writer who is having a hard time keeping the barrel of a revolver out of his mouth since his wife was killed by a runaway car. So he buys a house in the country to begin the elusive process of healing. Problem is, he picks a little town in upstate New York where people have been mysteriously disappearing for over a century. Throw in a Benzedrine- and vodka-addicted sheriff who has a cockroach circus that lives in his head, and you’ll start to get a feeling for the book. It’s an old standard.

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