Robert Randisi Comes to the Junction


Today, we welcome author Robert Randisi. He writes western novels and detective thrillers. His publishing list is quite long. He’s graciously let us interview him. We hope you enjoy what he has to say.

How did you start your writing career?

I started reading in earnest when I was 10. Decided to write my own stuff when I was 15. Went to the movies and saw HARPER. Read all the credits, discovered the movie was based on Ross Macdonald’s book THE MOVING TARGET. I went out and started reading Ross Mac, and all other private eye fiction. That year I decided I wanted to write private eye fiction, and I wanted to write for a living by the time I turned 30-and I did.

What was your first sale as an author?

I sold a story called “Murder Among Witches” to Mike Shayne’s Mystery Magazine when I was 22.

How did you come to write Westerns?

I backed into writing The Gunsmith series and-as a result-also backed into writing westerns. I had written my first novel, THE DISAPPEARANXCE OF PENNY, a private eye novel, for Charter Books.  It was my hope-and the hope of my editor, Michael Seidman-that I’d be writing for books in the “Henry Po” series, but one day I got a call from Michael who asked me, “Can you write westerns?” At that point I had never even read many westerns, but I naturally said, “Yes.” (This was 1981. Back then I always said yes.)  He told me to come up with a proposal for a series.

I went to a used bookstore and bought about 40 westerns, representative of at least one book in every existing series. I read them so that I would not repeat anyone’s character. I then came up with a proposal for The Gunsmith series.  The working name for the character was “Tom Sideman.”  I submitted the proposal about a traveling gunsmith who was actually a fast gun legend AS WELL as a true gunsmith.   Michael liked it and gave me a contract for two books. When I submitted the first book he said it was good, but that he was going to have to break me of my “hardboiled” style. I told him that in a western it was called “hardcase.”

Before long I got a call and Michael said they wanted to give me a contract for a third book, as well.  I said that was fine.  Within weeks he asked me if I could write a book a month. I didn’t know if I could, but I said, “YES.” They then gave me a contract for 9 more books, which made it an even dozen I was contracted for. And so, I began . . .

Oh, one morning  about 8:30 am – I had just gotten in from my real job with the NYPD and had only gone to bed at 8:00 am – Michael called me and said they had just had an editorial meeting and decided to call the character “Adam Steele.”  I told them that was fine with me, but that they should check with George Gilman, who already had a 22 book series about Adam Steele. (Really, who was doing their market research?)  He said he’d call me back.  Later that day he called and said they’d decided to name him “Clint Adams.”  I said they could call him Sue if they wanted, as long as they paid me. The first book was published January 1982, the same month I quit my job and became a full time writer.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?

I write every day, day and night. How long depends on whether or not I have to go out and run errands that day. Two day shifts, broken up by dinner. Two night shifts, broken up by a nap.  The longest stretch is usually midnight to 4. Usually, I’m working ion two books at one time-a mystery and a western.

What books have most influenced your life?

Private eye novels, meaning Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross Macdonald.  An occasional favorite novel like NINE PRINCES IN AMBER by Roger Zelazney, REPLAY by Ken Grimwood, HEIRO’S JOURNEY by Sterling Lanier, DINOSAUR BEACH by Keith Laumer.

What do you think makes a good story?

Anything that shows an application of serious imagination.

Who is your favorite author?

I don’t have one-and by that I mean I don’t have ONLY one.  But the books I mentioned above comprise a good list-Chandler, Hammett, Macdonald, Zelazney, Laumer, lesser known authors to the general public like Thomas B. Dewey, Ralph Dennis, modern authors like Pete Robinson, Wallace Stroby and Max Allan Collins.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?

The time to write all the ones I have in my head. I generally do about 16 books a year. These are mostly books I HAVE to write to make a living. That doesn;t leave much time to write the books I WANT to write.

What are your pet peeves as a writer? As a reader?

My pet peeve used to be self published authors who thought they should be eligible for professional awards. If you put on a play in your basement should you be eligible for a Tony? But “self-published” has come to mean something totally different these days. But I still don’t approve of it as a short cut to a career. Having the disposable income to publish your own books doesn’t make you as writer. As a reader? Hmm, writers who have nothing new to say.

Do you have any suggestions for beginning writers? If so, what are they?

The business has changed a lot, but my advice has not. Write every day. Don’t look for short cuts. Pay your dues.

Where are your fans most likely to find you hanging out?

Casinos, race tracks, book stores mostly. And sitting behind my desk. A lot!

Who are your books published with?

The Gunsmith series has been published for 30 years by Berkley. My Rat Pack books were published by St. Martins Press, but have been moved to Severn House.  I’ve had some books published recently by Perfect Crime Books, Vantage Point.  I had 24 books published with Dorchester over the past 15 years until they went under. My Adult Westerns are being reprinted by Speaking Volumes LLC.

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