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Thursday 1 August 2019

ℚ♫ The Best Lousy Choice: Ed Earl Burch [3] - Jim Nesbitt

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about The Best Lousy Choice (, Spotted Mule Press, 349 pages), a Hard-boiled Crime Thriller, book three in the Ed Earl Burch series.

"Ed Earl Burch is a terrific hard-boiled character – a beaten up, beleaguered, boozing ex-cop who also happens to be one helluva detective. [...] There’s lots of action, lots of tough dialogue and lots of people who die in this book – all in an endless quest for big money. Burch is one of the few left standing at the end. “I don’t have to worry about you shootin’ me…,” he says at one point, “I ain’t got no money.” If you love that kind of attitude in a thriller (and I do!), you’ll want to read THE BEST LOUSY CHOICE and all Jim Nesbitt’s other Ed Earl Burch books too. Highly recommended!" ~ R.G. Belsky, author of the Clare Carlson Series

"JIM NESBITT’S BEST LOUSY CHOICE BRISTLES WITH SO MUCH REALISTIC TEXAS GRIT, YOU’LL HAVE TO EMPTY OUT YOUR BOOTS WHEN YOU FINISH READING [...] If you like your mysteries hard-boiled, your characters rough, and your dialogue tough (like I do), then not only is this the book for you, but it will have you running back to read the others in this series, and pretty much anything else by Jim Nesbitt." ~ Baron R. Birtcher, LA TIMES Bestselling author

|| Synopsis || Teaser: KCR Preview || The Series || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops ||

A very warm welcome to Jim Nesbitt; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Here at BooksChatter we love music, so Jim Nesbitt has shared with us his music playlist for The Best Lousy Choice - enjoy! (I did!)

What was the inspiration for The Best Lousy Choice?
"An overwhelming desire to throw my main character, Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch, back into the West Texas mesquite patch and see if he’d survive another tale of revenge and redemption where most of the other characters want him dead.

Ed Earl’s a tough, deeply-flawed character -- a defrocked vice and homicide detective who one reviewer called “nobody’s hero, but nobody’s fool.”  He isn’t super-smart, like Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe and he’s not super-cool like Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt.  He’s balding, bearded and has a belly, a wounded liver, wrecked knees and an empty bank account.

In The Best Lousy Choice, Burch is an emotional wreck, haunted by nightmare demons from his last case when he almost had his heart sawed out of his chest by a semi-psychotic narco who believed in Aztec heart sacrifice.  He’s also self medicating with bourbon and Percodan and walking a tightrope between several contradictions -- steady when working and somewhat surprised he still has the skills and moxie of a cop; out of control when idle and afraid he’s losing his mind.

Those flaws and contradictions, those strengths and weaknesses, make for a far more interesting character than a square-jawed action hero just one step removed from a comic book.  And how Ed Earl deals with them -- with a combination of guts, cussedness and courage from a bottle -- makes him much more of an anti-hero, an Everyman with whom readers can identify.  That’s the kind of dynamic that turns my creative crank and inspires me."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
"There’s a lot of me in Ed Earl.  Both of us are cynical and sarcastic -- we’re terminal smart-asses who don’t know when to shut up.  I also gave him my bad knees, bald head and beard, my taste for bourbon and fatal attraction to smart, sharp-tongued and crazed women who can drive a wooden stake through your heart.  He’s got one more ex than I do.  I smoked Luckies and carried a Zippo back in the day.  Gave up the Luckies.  Kept the Zippo.  And we both prefer John Browning’s most famous and enduring gun design -- the 1911 semi-automatic.

But that’s where the similarities end.  I was never a murder cop and haven’t killed anybody.  Ed Earl’s far tougher than I am.  He can take a punch and dish one out.  I’ve got a glass jaw and your grandmother probably throws a harder punch.  He’s also reckless and smarter than most, but dogged more than brilliant.  With a mean streak and a willingness to shoot people ‘what need killin,’ as they say in Texas.  Folks underestimate him and pay the price for doing so.

What I was gunning for was an anti-hero more along the lines of Hammett’s Fat Man, the Continental Op.  Or Crumley’s Milo Milodragovitch.  Like those guys, he sometimes forgets the code he lives by and is willing to bend or break the law to beat the bad guys.  Like Crumley’s Milo, Ed Earl carries a lot of angst and guilt -- he blames himself for the death of his homicide partner and an ex-wife.  He also longs to carry a gold shield again and restore the sense of purpose and higher calling he once had."
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover.  Can you tell us about your cover for The Best Lousy Choice - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
"There’s a good story behind the photo that’s the cover centerpiece for The Best Lousy Choice.  It’s a sunset picture of a Mexican cemetery in Valentine, Texas, which is a small town in that stark, rugged country of West Texas that provides such a keen sense of place for this novel.

The photo was taken by my good friend, Joel Salcido, who was my running buddy on a lot of stories I did on the border back in my journalism days.  I fell in love with that harsh country -- high desert and mountain ranges that look like the bones of the earth ripped open.  What I saw and felt during those border runs is shot through all three of my novels and is the perfect, sun-blasted setting for tales of revenge and redemption.  That’s why it’s so fitting that a photo by the guy who helped me see the beauty of that land graces the cover of this book."
Why should we read The Best Lousy Choice and what sets it apart from the rest?  What makes your book unique?
"If you like hard-boiled crime thrillers driven by relentless action, unforgettable characters you’ll either want to shoot or buy a drink and snappy dialogue that ranges from the profanely tough to the howlingly funny, you’ll want to read The Best Lousy Choice -- then pick up my first two Ed Earl novels, The Last Second Chance and The Right Wrong Number.

If you like frank descriptions of violence and sex that don’t hide behind euphemisms and aren’t just thrown in for shock value but to flesh out a bloody and carnal world, you’ll want to read my books.  And if you like landscape so vivid that it becomes a character unto itself, shaping and changing the humans who live there -- or are just passing through -- pick up The Best Lousy Choice."
Can you tell us something quirky about The Best Lousy Choice, its story and characters? (for example, were the characters named after something or someone in particular)
"Funny you should mention names.  A writer buddy who gave a very detailed and knowledgeable critique of The Best Lousy Choice pointed out that all my characters have unique and memorable names and nicknames and thought I should visit this issue to make sure it wasn’t a distraction.  I was somewhat taken aback because I’d never even thought about names getting in between the reader and the story I was trying to tell.

But when I mentioned this critique in my blog, I was again surprised that other writers carefully weigh the names of their characters with one saying that for every unique name or nickname he gave a character, he’d balance that out with four or five less colorful handles.  I found that far too formulaic and likely to stifle creativity and short-change the story.

Then I started looking at the character names of writers I admire.  Crumley has Milo MilodragovitchJames Lee Burke has Dave Robicheaux and all his Cajun and Big Easy characters whose names and nicknames drip with local color, gutter irony and gallows humor.  They add to the stories Burke tells and are the polar opposite of a distraction.  They also open the door to backstory in a colorful way that adds depth to even secondary characters -- something a lot of writers fail to do.

The same applies to the stories I try to tell.  My characters are Texans, Mexicans and Southerners.  Most aren’t particularly nice people; even the good guys are semi-sketchy.  Heaven knows Ed Earl isn’t a saint.  And their names and nicknames seem to have been already attached as they rose from the blank pages and fit the time and the places of my story.

Ed Earl is a Texan, living in a state where a lot of men and women go by bobtailed versions of their first and middle names.  Don’t call him Ed.  Call him Burch or Ed Earl. Or hang a nickname on him -- Carla Sue Cantrell, a Tennessean by way of North Dallas, calls him Big ‘Un.  By the way, don’t call her Carla or Sue -- she’ll shoot you.  With a Colt 1911, the same type of gun Ed Earl carries.

To wrap up this riff, I see no reason to give a character a dull name to fit some silly template or bogus writing rule.  Hard enough to hook a reader as it is.  You don’t want to bore them into dropping your book into the trash can."
Who would you recommend The Best Lousy Choice to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
"I wouldn’t trot any of my books into a Sunday School class -- might give the church ladies a bad case of the vapors.  I think my books are perfect for adults who aren’t squeamish about frank scenes of sex and violence, don’t wince about profanity and appreciate a dark, bloody and cynical tale with sharply-drawn characters who have depth and dimension, dialogue that will leave your ears ringing and have you longing for a cigarette and four fingers of bourbon and relentless action that leaves you wishing you were wearing a seat-belt.

You’ll also get a strong dose of the high desert and mountains of West Texas, a harsh and starkly beautiful place that is a character unto itself.  Tough, unforgiving country like that demands characters who are strong, resourceful and hard as nails -- both the men and the women."
If you could / wished to turn The Best Lousy Choice and the Ed Earl Burch series into a movie, who would be your dream team?
"I’m going to be showing my age on this one, but I’ve always thought Tommy Lee Jones or Jeff Bridges would make damn good Ed Earls -- although they’re both longer in the tooth than he is and Jeff has a full head of hair.  Maybe Jeff would be a better pick for Sheriff Blue Willingham.

Holly Hunter is a flat natural for Carla Sue.  Jimmy Smits, Demián Bichir or Andy García for Malo Garza.  Michael Peña as Chuy.  Salma Hayek as Nita Rodriguez Wyatt.  Benicio del Toro as Sudden Doggett.

If I could raise the dead, I’d get Sam Peckinpah to direct.  Failing that -- Walter Hill.  Or the Coen Brothers.

Location -- no place other than West Texas, out there around Marathon, Sanderson, Alpine and Marfa."
Wow, what a team and film that would be!  You mentioned three of my favourite actors in there (Tommy Lee Jones, Jeff Bridges and Benicio Del Toro).

What do you like to write and read about?  Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?

"I’m an ex-journalist and have always loved hard-boiled crime fiction, which I consider an American art form.  I also came up in the era when long-format storytelling was the rage at newspapers and there was value placed on writers who could spin a tale with some style and a knowledge of how to use the devices of fiction to hook a reader and keep them hooked.

Given my love of the founding fathers of the hard-boiled genre -- Hammett and Chandler -- and writers who followed in their footsteps, such as the late and under-appreciated James Crumley, it was inevitable that when I decided to try my hand at fiction I set my cap for hard-boiled crime stories.  I’m also a lapsed Baptist who comes from a long line of hillbilly storytellers, so it’s not surprising that my books have some biblical qualities -- revenge and vengeance from the Old Testament, redemption from the New.

More than one author buddy has pointed out that though my novels are hard-boiled crime thrillers with noirish trappings, they also have the heart of a Western.  And I think that’s correct -- they’ve all got a strong streak of the modern-day West.  Maybe I’ll drop the notion of Ed Earl being a Dallas PI and bring him to West Texas on a more permanent basis and write contemporary Westerns.  Maybe I’ll reach back in time and write a classic Western. "
What is your writing process?
"I’m pretty much a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants type.  I’ll write a brief outline that includes what I think the story is going to be about, characters that come to mind and their unique and colorful monickers as well as what they look like and major turning points.  Then I’ll put that in a drawer, try not to look at it again, fire up a cigar and start writing.

The story rarely follows that brief outline and I think that’s a fine thing -- it allows that wicked muse to take over and characters to leap off the page unbidden and elbow their way into the book.  That’s what happened with Carla Sue Cantrell, who first appeared in The Last Second Chance and is in The Best Lousy Choice.  I thought she was going to be a minor character, but she flat took over and became a major character -- a tough, take-no-prisoners woman with a taste for muscle cars, crystal meth, 1911’s and the high-wire double-cross.

Happened again with the hired killer in The Best Lousy Choice -- Vincente Roca. Another walk-on who hijacked the book and made it richer and more complex."
What is in store next?
"I think it’s high time I get Ed Earl out of Dallas for good and plant him in West Texas -- he seems to always wind up out there anyway.  I’m already think about the best way to do that for Book Four.  Might even give Ed Earl a badge again."
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?
"I’ve got an 18-year-old orange tabby named Milo -- a.k.a, The Road Cat because he used to travel with me in his younger days, riding shotgun in my truck.  I tell people he’s a degenerate gambler in hock to a Sino-Portuguese tong out of Macau.  He’s also an Anglophile who’s obsessed with Premier League soccer and imitates Winston Churchill, poaching my cigars for just the right effect."
Aww! Milo you are a gorgeous and talented boy! Lots of head-scratches to you from all of us at BooksChatter.

Jim, thank you so much for sharing Milo with us.  We hope you are having a great tour!

The Best Lousy Choice
Available NOW!

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CMash said...

I enjoy interviews like this when the reader gets to know the author behind the book.

EdEarl's Daddy said...

Many thanks for letting me visit and chew the fat about writing, West Texas and the ever-onery Ed Earl Burch. Much appreciated.

Jim Nesbitt

BooksChatter said...

Hello Jim, thank you for popping by and thank you for the great interview. Plus extra kudos for Milo ;-)