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Retirement. Publishers, thank you for the many years of reading pleasure you gave me, but all good things must come to an end. Due to failing eyesight I am forced to retire. I can no longer review your books, and any that you send will be donated to the local library, unread. Do not send any more. I can only read for a couple hours every day, and this does not allow me to finish a book in reasonable time. I will be devoting time to my own books from now on, and reading on a personal level. Books that interest me. I prefer paperbacks and hardbacks, not eBooks. My eyesight has been failing the last few years, and I cannot handle hundreds of review books any more. My books are still available for review. Anyone interested in reviewing any of them, they are found in the Link to Tom’s Books On Amazon. Contact me for pdf copies at

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Steve Payne Interview Part Two

Tom: With the release of The Resurrection Ring, can your fans expect another novel down the road? Any hints that you wish to pass on about what story is coming up next? And what about The Freezing Fiends? Any chance Altus Press will reprint that one in the near future?

Steve:  I’ll address the question about TFF first.  Though I’m not certain when I’ll do this, I will revise Fiends, my very first piece of fiction.  It will need a more action-packed ending, which is mostly exposition right now.  It will also require some rewrite at other places.  My patient readers will finally see what happened when the Agent faced Proteus, the Shape Shifter, a Soviet master of disguise, all the way back in 1937.  Its conclusion will not consist of the neat, tidy endings that often dominated the pulps.  Still it does reflect the precarious political climate of the late-Thirties international world….

Down the pike X will encounter other interesting and perilous puzzles.  Right now I’m writing the outline of Murderer’s Moon, with ten chapters of the outline already completed.  This story, set in 1932, is a prequel of sorts to the very first novel The Torture Trust, with an additional connection to TRR.  Here is something most unique in X’s annals:  All of the proceedings in MM unfold before he took up the mantle of Secret Agent X!  I’ve figured out a nifty way to do this, yet keep him recognizable as our hero.  As for MM itself, we’ll see the Man of a Thousand Faces battling the Mafia and some sinister revolutionaries in New Orleans.  In addition he will battle something which might be supernatural—and is assuredly deadly.  It’s a creature with ties to south Louisiana, but with much older links to Continental Europe and especially to classical Greece.

In TRR I had mentioned Hell’s Haven, the promised adventure which co-stars the legendary Captain Hazzard.  HH will be a globe-trotting entry from 1939, and it will be a sequel of sorts to Yoke.  Bates will suffer badly in this one, I might further relate, as will one or more of Hazzard’s men.  And for interested readers, Hell’s Haven will explain why the Secret Agent is so unsettled at the start of TRR.  The answer is both hideous—and historical (as far as pulp can be, of course!).

The Blitz from Beyond the Earth will involve a villain who should have appeared in TRR, but didn’t, because the existing story was far too involved.  An old-time villain from the original series (despite never appearing onstage), he will face the Man of a Thousand Faces again.  This time, by 1940, he will be itching for trouble.  To this end he will hire the services of a super-powered henchperson to achieve his ends.  That superhuman fellow (or woman) will seem to do some pretty amazing things, like fly or hurl heavy objects.  No, he’s not that guy or that gal you might think.  Nor is this outing going to be any kind of crossover.  I want to let my hero X do the fighting, not fight lawsuits with unnamed comic book companies.  I desire to demonstrate, too, who the master crimefighters of the 1930s and early ’40s really were….

My deep admiration for Fleming-Roberts’ work has inspired me to do some research for another Louisiana-based adventure, Come, Taste the Terror.  Falling around 1940-’41, this one will occur sixty-five or seventy miles west of Ruston, in Bossier City.  This town is the headquarters to Barksdale Air Force Base, and the lineal heir to the long-ago Barksdale Field, the country’s oldest bomber base.  There, a shadowy crime czar is ostensibly causing a string of mysterious, terrible murders, to take revenge on someone and perhaps to fatten his own coffers.  That is, local authorities, the military police, and F.B.I. agents think this to be his motive.  But the Man of a Thousand Faces isn’t so sure.

Have you ever wanted a sample of the Secret Agent’s post-WWII career?  Then you might want to pick up Camp for Corpses, which unfolds here in my hometown of Ruston.  From June 1943 to June 1946 the US Army facility Camp Ruston in west Lincoln Parish quartered over 4000 German and Italian POWs.  Later in the war the camp secretly housed the crew of U-505, which transported one of the Nazis’ most powerful and infamous encryption devices, an Enigma machine.  In my story, an entry from 1945, one of the camp’s prisoners is a scientist, rather than a military man.  Yet before we meet him, he has stolen the papers of a lowly Wehrmacht soldier.  He has executed this theft because he has committed terrible war crimes.  In back of his offenses, he harbors a terrible secret—and part of the mystery to the stolen art treasures of Europe.

Here’s another early Cold War piece with a title evocative of G.T.’s Ghost mysteries:  The Case of the Red Report.  I leave it to you, the readers, to wring the truth from this heading.  On my end, I can say only that someone, for reasons unknown, thinks it’s better to be Red—than dead….

Then there’s Time of the Terrible People, a strange entry from the same tense era.  Dated 1949, this chronicle will be my take on the Reds’ race for the Bomb.  But unlike Dent’s The Red Spider, TTP will involve a journey to a frightening world where resurgent Nazis have deployed the device against the US.  Worse yet, our only hope for victory will lie with the scientists of that other Man of Steel—Josef Stalin!

The other day I came up with Shrouds for the City, one final Cold War tale, tentatively occurring in 1949 or ’50.  Though just a story germ right now, this case involves a maritime hunt whose outcome literally will mean the difference between life and death for the Big Apple, the Agent’s old stomping grounds.

Tom: For the new writers just getting started, maybe you can help with this question. What do you find most difficult about your work-in-progress? Plot? Characters? Beginning? Ending? Editing?

Steve:  First, I like crafting characters, nearly all of them based on real people.  This portion of the game tests my powers of observation and analysis.  Such is part of the “prewriting” process, as we call it in rhetoric.  The actual writing (drafting), the next step of the process, I enjoy least.  I think I have this reaction because this second phase compels me to record the ideas on paper (or on my computer) in some unified, coherent, and organized fashion.  And knowing myself, I can often fail on all three counts.  Rewriting or revising I actually do enjoy because it challenges me to relate the ideas in a more sophisticated way.  That is, the rewriting demands I “re-envision,” or see once more, what I’ve already written.  It requires me to narrate some parts of the story with more poetry/lyricism, some with less, and then harmonize the two.  It also entails rethinking some of my understanding of the characters themselves:  their motivations (as happened in TRR), the interconnectedness of their relationships, the consequences of their actions, etc.

Tom: What do you enjoy most about the creative process?

Steve:  Definitely I love the opportunity to share my own imagination with those of readers, such that I and they create the meaning of the text.  I subscribe to certain aspects of one critical theory, reader response, which holds in part that writers and readers determine what a literary or other artistic work signifies.  Thus all writing and reading are about shared meaning, that all of the fictive process is “about” that conversation between the writer and the audience.  It might sound pompous to some folks, but it makes very good sense to me.

Tom: As already mentioned, The Resurrection Ring is without a doubt the longest Secret Agent X novel ever written.  Do you plan to write more this length, or perhaps write shorter novels in the future? Not that anyone will complain about the length, I’m sure, but as a novelist I know how daunting it is to write something that titanic.

Steve:  I doubt that I’ll write one that long again.  Truly, this novel really taxed my patience, with a computer failure (a virus), the false starts/rewrites, and my ongoing lower back problems.  That said, I do want to compose some additional yarns in the neighborhood of 80,000-90,000 words.  This is much more reasonable.

I would also like to write some serious (so-called “literary”) fiction down the road.  From a couple of acquaintances in a neighboring community, I heard the fascinating tale of a millionaire and his African-American mistress, later his wife, who resided in north Louisiana in the early 20th century.  The account deserves a novelistic treatment, for a couple of reasons.  Not only is it so compelling, but also it serves as a commentary on the evolution of race relations and the nature of marriage here in America.

Tom: Tell the readers why they should buy The Resurrection Ring.

Steve:  To support my cat, my mother, and me!  No, seriously, I hope it will entertain them, and I hope, too, it will underscore the nature of pulp heroism:  What does it mean to sacrifice one’s life for the lives of others?  What does it mean to devote oneself, unreservedly to a particular person or a cause? What does it mean to maintain hope, when everything and everyone scream despair?  While this might all sound heavy or, God forbid, pompous, I think we all wake up, each day, with some of the same questions.  Maybe people will read TRR and then root for this group of folks who have tried, however haltingly or imperfectly, to answer the questions we all face.  And maybe they’ll come to appreciate, too, that Secret Agent X and his band are just as heroic as Doc, The Shadow, The Spider, and the rest.

Tom: Finding a market, and promotional avenue can be daunting today. What advice would you give to a person trying to get their short story / novel published in today’s market?

Steve:  Obviously they need to practice the craft of writing, each day.  Exchanging ideas with other writers is another opportunity for growth, one I’m privileged to experience, each week, through the Louisiana Anthology Podcast I co-host.  In terms of getting published, I’m a realist.  The news reports—print, TV, and online—sing a dismal song of the writers’ markets:  Most traditional publishers are struggling to turn a profit, and some have frankly gone out of business.  Quite simply, publishing costs are rising (for various reasons); and people are not buying traditional books as they have done in the past.  But folks are reading—on various kinds of electronic devices.  This state of affairs forces publishers, to rethink their models of “delivering” information, including fiction, to the readers.

At the same time a number of smaller publishers are now hanging out their shingles, offering fiction.  Altus Press is one, of course, as are ProSe, Airship 27 and, I’m sure, many others.  With this in mind I urge fictioneers to contact the smaller presses (or consult resources like Writers’ Market and Google) and to learn which publishers take what specific kinds of material.  Also the newcomers might consider self-publication, if they’re really burning to get into print.  Here’s an example.  I know a most talented writer in southeast Louisiana, an acclaimed crime novelist (not James Lee Burke), who is taking this very approach.  In fact he’s already filed the appropriate legal papers with the state.  Simultaneous with that, he’s currently revising his third or fourth novel.  When he releases the story, it will bear his own imprint.  And he’ll be doing the same for other authors who show promise.

Tom: Do you have a Blog, Facebook or Twitter where fans can follow you?
And very important, where can your book be purchased?

Steve:  I have a Facebook page, Stephen Payne.  I have also established another Facebook site, Secret Agent X:  The Man of a Thousand Faces.  Right now it contains many great cover images, and of course, the announcement for TRR.  Over the next few months I want to add some additional information on François Vidocq and some other surprises.

People can grab copies of TRR and my other novels Master of Madness and Halo of Horror through Altus Press, at; or through Amazon, at  Needless to say, Matt Moring and I both deeply appreciate the fans’ interest in the character.  And we hope that people will continue to follow the Agent’s, eh, “X”-ploits!

Tom: Thanks for stopping by Steve.

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