with Les Roberts
We are delighted to welcome author Les Roberts to Omnimystery News today.
In September we featured an excerpt from Les's second Dominick Candiotti mystery, Wet Work (Gray & Company; August 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats), and we recently had the opportunity to catch up with the busy author to talk with a little more about his work.
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Omnimystery News: Introduce us to Dominick Candiotti. What is it about him that appeals to you as a writer?
Photo provided courtesy of
Les Roberts: Dominick Candiotti first appeared in The Strange Death of Father Candy in 2011 (set in 1985) and is back (in 1990 or so) for Wet Work. Now, all protagonists in mysteries and thrillers are more or less tough — who wants to read a series about a wimp? — but Dominick grew up in the toughest neighborhood of Youngstown, spent time in Vietnam as a military assassin, and has returned to America to find that he has few talents for any other job. In Wet Work he is assigned wet work (i.e. assassination) by a super-secret government organization.
What appeals to me about Dominick? I know dozens of cops, many mob guys, a few out-and-out criminals — but none of them is nearly as fearsome to certain people as Dominick, and I truly enjoy writing about him, bearing in mind that the last time I even hit anyone in anger, I was eleven years old!
OMN: So has Dominick changed between the books?
LR: I invariably try to allow him to grow — and age — as I myself grow and age.
OMN: Into which mystery genre would you place your series?
LR: My private eye novels featuring Cleveland P.I. Milan Jacovich are more or less hard-boiled, while the Dominick Candiotti books are thrillers. Having said this, I particularly loathe "categorizing" on books or just about anything else. The publishing business and the press have created those silly categories, however, and all of us writers are stuck with them.
OMN: Tell us something about Wet Work that isn't mentioned in the publisher's synopsis.
LR: From Midwest Book Review: "An action-packed thriller; tense suspense" and from best-selling author Sara Paretsky: "A lovely tale in the tradition of the late great Ross Thomas. The writing is crisp, the action well-paced, and the whole story is great fun."
OMN: How much of your own personal or professional experience have you included in your books?
LR: Most of my characters are based on people I know, or have met, or have seen somewhere. Sometimes the situations are based on real events, or at least suggested by them. As for my own personal experience, I only know one murderer personally, and have not seen this person (who was never guilty of anything until middle age) for several years before the killing, which completely surprised me.
OMN: Describe your writing process for us.
LR: I don't outline my books; instead I write perhaps two paragraphs guiding me into the plot — then I put that piece of paper in a drawer and never look at it again. Same with "bios." I don't go into detailed biographies of my characters before I start to work. The only description I use ahead of time is "John Jones — banker — 50 years old." I always know before I begin who gets killed, whodunnit, and why … but the story develops at my keyboard and in my head as I work. And my characters do expand or contract as I work, finding that I'm much more (or less) interested in the characters than I thought I would be.
OMN: Where do you most often find yourself writing?
LR: My "office" is 24 feet from my bed. I've been known to work in places like Starbucks and Panera's, but for the most part I'm in my own home, trying away and relentlessly ignoring the telephone until after three in the afternoon.
OMN: Where are your series set?
LR: In Wet Work, Dominick Candiotii finds himself in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Muncie IN, Chicago, Mexico, near Asheville NC, New Orleans, Denver, the east coast of Florida, Costa Rica and Saigon (which is what Ho Chi Minh city was called when Dominick was in the Army in Vietnam). However, my Milan Jacovich novels are all set in or around Cleveland and Northeast Ohio.
OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author? And what might you say to aspiring writers?
LR: Tell the truth! What is the harshest criticism? What have you learned, or can others learn, from either? What advice might you give to aspiring authors? Shut up and write!
OMN: What kinds of feedback have you received from readers? Anything you particularly don't like to hear?
LR: Of course I enjoy compliments! The feedback I enjoy least? Some readers are offended by my politics, which sometimes creep into the book I'm writing when I didn't plan it ahead of time. But weren't many of Shakespeare's plays political? Weren't the films of D.W. Griffith? Weren't many of the Renaissance paintings illustrating the political and spiritual beliefs of the artists? That's what we do, folks! Otherwise I can tell any story in approximately five pages.
OMN: Supose one or more of your series were to be adapted for television or film. Who do you see playing the key roles?
LR: At the moment, were I the casting director, Mark Wahlberg or Ryan Gosling would play Dominick Candiotti. Milan Jacovich? My first choice has always been Robert Mitchum — but he's dead — and were he alive he'd be approximately 96 years old.
OMN: What kinds of books did you read as a child?
LR: As a child I read all the great classics: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, The Three Musketeers, Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robinson, etc. As an early teen I moved into adult literature (there was no such thing as "Young Adult" back then). John Steinbeck, particularly The Grapes of Wrath, convinced me I wanted to become a writer. Ditto Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. As an adult, I don't care for Hemingway's subjects, but I care great deal about how brilliantly he wrote.
OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.
LR: Top 5 favorite films; Chinatown, Casablanca, The Godfather, Singin' in the Rain, Cape Fear (the original one with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum) and approximately a gazillion others.
OMN: What's next for you?
LR: There is always a next book, as long as I'm able to sit up straight in front of my laptop. Like almost any good author, past or present, I am an addict … to writing! If I go more than three days without writing anything, I start to twitch.
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Les Roberts is the author of three mystery series as well as other books of fiction. The past president of both the Private Eye Writers of America and the American Crime Writer's League, he came to mystery writing after a 24-year career in Hollywood. He has been a professional actor, a singer, a jazz musician, and a teacher. In 2003 he received the Sherwood Anderson Literary Award. A native of Chicago, he now lives in Northeast Ohio and is a film and literary critic.
For more information about the author, please visit his website at LesRoberts.com and his author page on Goodreads, or find him on Facebook.
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A Dominick Candiotti Suspense Novel