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Sunday 15 November 2015

ℚ Dead Letter File - George T. Chronis

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about Dead Letter File (, George T. Chronis, 220pages) a Historical Thriller.

"Dead Letter File’s story is not connected to Sudetenland, yet the style and characters are very similar. The book is a homage to my home town, Los Angeles, during the late 1940s. [...] Dead Letter File is a fast-paced detective thriller."  - George T. Chronis

"Do you remember the days after World War II ended? [...] Dead Letter Files will take you back to that time.[...] It is much like an old classic movie of the age, filmed in black and white. You will feel a part of the story even as you learn a little more about life in the 40’s." - Mystery Suspense Reviews

Synopsis | Teaser | Author Q&A | About the Author | Giveaway & Tour Stops

Hello George, welcome back to BooksChatter, where we have been looking forward to your latest novel, Dead Letter File.

What compelled you to write this particular story?
"Much like with my first novel, Sudetenland, my love of films from the 1930s and 1940s inspired me to write a story like those old movies I adored.

Reading Dashiell Hammett's stories was also something I did as a kid, so that played a part too. Then there was the Los Angeles I grew up with that I wanted to revisit – the parts that were still around, plus places that were long gone but my dad told me about."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"There is a lot of personal stuff in the book.

Very early on there is scene at the Brown Derby on Los Feliz.  By the time I was in the picture the restaurant had changed hands and was called Michael's of Los Feliz.  My dad would take my mom and I there every Friday night and you could feel the old Hollywood charm of the place.

Also, after college I worked for a regional company headquartered in the old warehouse district so some of those sights got included.

My love of aviation also helped provide a central plot point in the novel."
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Dead Letter File?
"My father had told me about a diner that used to be in the neighborhood.  The place was part of a local chain called Tip's and their pitch was: Thick Steaks, Thin Pancakes.  The place was long gone by the 1960s.  It had been part of retail space on an alley behind a Bank of America.

When I start roaming the neighborhood, the alley was gone, and the stores were gone because the bank had expanded into those spaces.  Up until recently where Tip's used to be was a long bank of ATMs . Now that's all gone too as the building has been razed to make way for a station on the subway expansion.

Try as I might I could not find a photograph of those old stores on that alley.  You can find shots from the front and sides going back close to 100 years ago with the big Bank of Italy sign (the precursor to Bank of America) on top but nothing from the rear side.

Finally I found something my father had never mentioned... the menus. They were big, made of wood and shaped like a "T" with items on both sides. Got to love it: Hamburgers - 15 cents. Seeing the menu gave me the connection I needed to write about the joint."

The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for Dead Letter File - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.

"The artist is the same talented fellow I worked with on the cover for Sudetenland: Adrijus Guscia in Dublin, Ireland.

We tossed around quite a few concepts until arriving at the one we chose. Look at all of the old covers for The Maltese Falcon and there is the prized item, the black bird, showing prominently. So we ended up doing the same thing and put the sought-after item – design plans for a secret German jet fighter – on the cover."
Why should we read Dead Letter File and what sets it apart from the rest? 
"That is a difficult question for me to answer since I am so close to the material.

Probably, place, atmosphere, pace and characters that have a few surprises in their background. Reactions so far have been pretty uniform in that people feel I have given them a decent thriller, and at the same time given them a tangible taste of Los Angeles in the late 1940s.

I remember the first time I read Devil In A Blue Dress, which was published a few years after I did my first draft of Dead Letter File, and I was so completely impressed with how magnificently Walter Mosley captured Los Angeles of that era.  His is a different side of the city than I chose to work with, but when I pulled Dead Letter File off the shelf, I wanted readers to come away feeling they experienced a richness long gone."
Can you tell us something quirky about Dead Letter File, its story and characters?
"I gave Tom Jarrett, the lead male character, a pistol to brandish that few people in the United States have ever heard of. It is a Spanish weapon made during the Second World War by Astra-Unceta y Compañía SA.  The model 600 was a special order manufactured at the behest of the German government during 1943.  The full order could not be delivered due to Nazis losing access to the Spanish border late in the war, but a good number did find their way into German use before the frontier was cut off.

What Jarrett did during the war is somewhat mysterious for the first half of the book, but we find out early on that he took his Astra off of a dead Waffen SS officer."
Who would you recommend Dead Letter File to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"Anyone who enjoys a good, fast moving period story with plenty of suspense and history thrown in.

I enjoy writing women who leap headlong into whatever dramatic threat is at work in the plot, so there is some fun push and tug between Mary and Tom as events unfold.

No warnings or admonitions, really.  There are plenty of tense situations but the violence is not gratuitous."
If you could / wished to turn Dead Letter Files into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"My director would be Howard Hawks, Burt Lancaster or Tyrone Power as Tom Jarrett, and Jeanne Crain as Mary Lathrop.

So many of the locations have been developed off the face of the earth, but some are still around.  Like the gas station that Tom tanks up his Cabriolet at.  It is now a drive-through Starbucks."

Uhm, it doesn't quite have the same charm, but at least it is still there!

What has been your greatest challenge as a writer?

"My greatest gift in writing fiction has been story and plotting.  What took some time was learning how to step back and give my characters extra texture substance.  When I first started with fiction I would plough straight ahead on the story because that's what really interested me. That's one of the reasons I put Dead Letter File on the shelf for years until I had lived some more and could add in the character texture."
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?  What has been the best compliment?
Time's Cover Adolf Hitler (May 7 1945) "Someone who read Sudetenland was very cross with me... I mean seriously angry.

The last quarter of that novel veers off into alternative history because I wanted play on a what-if very dear to my Czech friends, and because I desired to set up this very different Cold War that starts 10 years early.  So the Nazis get nipped in the bud, there is no World War II and there is no Holocaust.

I don't necessarily think this is such a bad outcome but this reader really took me to task for creating a scenario where the worst atrocities are not allowed to happen.  It was not like I painted the Nazis sympathetically, far from it, but this person felt very strongly that fiction where Hitler is defeated before the Holocaust diminishes the actual Holocaust.

It was a point of view that had not occurred to me, and one that I had to think about.

On the flip side, it really warms my heart when a reader enjoys that I have approached an era, or history from a different angle than they are used to seeing."
Well, I am glad Sudetenland was written as is; although I can understand that the Holocaust can be a sensitive issue, your story is fiction and it explores one of many possible realms of what could have been, based on solid historical facts and as well as your deep understanding of that era.

What is in store next?

"Next up is the sequel to Sudetenland.  In addition to the parts of the plot that continue on in Europe, a great deal of the next installment takes place in Asia.  I'm still doing research that will add atmosphere.  A lot of that is reading old wire service reports from the day as well as non-fiction tomes where people who lived during the era are interviewed – mostly what it was like living under Japanese colonial rule.  As I said a bit ago, it is a very different Cold War roaring to life in both Europe and Asia with lots of fascinating scenarios to play with.  I would like to have it written and published in 12 months... cross your fingers!"
I will!  And that should allow me to set aside enough time to read Sudetenland, as, at nearly 750 pages, I still haven't managed to get to it... (I can only read one book at the time... and I am a slow reader...)

And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?

"How about my little buddy, Shakespeare?"
Shakespeare After Rain
Perfect!  He is a little cutie!  Hello Shakespeare, you gorgeous little fellow! :-)

Dead Letter File - available NOW!

UK: purchase from US: purchase from find on Goodreads


Omnimystery News said...

Such an interesting and entertaining interview! It's always a pleasure to get to know the authors whose books we read a little better. Thanks so much for featuring him today!

Unknown said...

Simply marvelous! Thank you for the splendid interview.

BooksChatter said...

Hi George! Thank you for the wonderful content! I found myself spending hours just researching Tip's! LOL Where was it located? Was it the original one, Hollywood and Vine?


Unknown said...

That's funny about you and Tip's. No it was the Pancake Alley location on La Brea south of Wilshire. I love how most of the spots were 100 feet north or south of the larger cross street.