Amazon.com: Where are you from? How--if at all--has your sense of
place colored your writing?
J.J.: I was born in Detroit, went to school there, lived much of my
childhood in northern Michigan, around Traverse City.
For the last thirty years I've lived in Montana. Obviously, all this had an impact: my
latest novel, GO BY GO, is based on the infamous murder of labor organizer Frank Little,
in Butte, in 1917. In Detroit I had intimate contact with labor unions and their history.
In Montana, the murder of Frank Little is still big news.
Amazon.com: When and why did you begin writing? When did you first
consider yourself a writer?
J.J.: I started writing in college, at Wayne State University. I
always thought I would write, but I wasn't sure what that meant. Meeting Jim
Harrison -- we lived in the same little town in upstate Michigan in the early 60s -- made
it seem that it was at least possible to be a writer. By the time I got to Montana,
I'd convinced myself.
Amazon.com: Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what
way? What books have most influenced your life?
J.J.: Jim Harrison, as mentioned above. Also, John Ingwersen (a not
very well-known poet), Bill
Morrell, Tracy Kidder, Stuart Dybek, Ray Carver and on and on ... they all encouraged me,
read what I wrote. But before that, it was little blue-haired old ladies who volunteered
to run a small-town library, open one day a week. They started me on fairy tales, Robin
Hood, King Arthur, then Alice in Wonderland. Pretty soon I went on my own to Dickens,
Tolstoy, Hemingway, and before long, Nabokov. Sherlock Holmes impressed me. So did
Pudd'nhead Wilson and Huck. Georges Simenon has had a great effect.
Amazon.com: What is the most romantic book you've ever read? The
scariest? The funniest?
J.J.: A. Lolita B. Books don't scare me. C. Probably Thurber's
stories, but on the same level, Fran Lebowitz,
Woody Allen, Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse.
Amazon.com: What music, if any, most inspires you to write? What do
you like to listen to while writing?
J.J.: Jazz, especially lately, John Surman's. I've been listening to
Booker Ervin's mid-60s sextet, with Jaki Byard. Also, Bach's cello suites,
especially as played by Janos Starker or Mstislav Rostropovich. Also, anything by Charlie
Haden, especially his Quartet West.
Amazon.com: What are you reading now? What CD is currently in your
J.J.: I just finished "The Loser", by Austrian novelist,
Thomas Bernhard. Very great. I've started on his "Extinction." I'm listening to
Rosalyn Tureck's "Johann Sebastian Bach -- The Great Solo Works", VAIA 1041. I
play it over and over. Very good to write to. I need to get her version in this series of
the Goldberg Variations and the Well-Tempered Clavier.
Amazon.com: What are you working on?
J.J.: New novel, LA DONNA DETROIT, the eighth installment in my
detective series, set in Detroit, with police detective Sgt. "Fang" Mulheisen.
It's coming along well. Mafia boss Humphrey DiEbola is laying a very deep plot.
Amazon.com: Use this space to write about whatever you wish.
J.J.: I am interested in the impact of the net on writing, reading,
publishing and selling books. Perhaps the greatest impact will be on reading, but that
will be the least discernible effect in the near term. We shall see.