Interviews Jon A. Jackson - Issue
(Photo by M. Gouse)
|A Note from Jon A
Jackson: Louis Cristantiello (a lot of good guys in my life are named Lou), did this
interview last year, to be published in 1999, in Ed Gorman's fan magazine, Mystery Scene.
He did a good job, copied my answers verbatim, and I helped him edit the piece, mostly for
grammar and clarification where I suppose the tape recorder wasn't able to communicate
body language, etc. I've added a few further clarifications, such as names and places,
that may not appear in the published version. I'm thankful to Ed Gorman and Lou for
allowing the piece to appear here. -- JAJ
by Louis Cristantiello
He has been called the best-kept secret in hard-boiled crime fiction. Others have labeled
him as one of America's best contemporary crime novelists. The comparisons run deep, from
Elmore Leonard right on through to Charles Willeford. For years, Jon A. Jackson has
masterfully chronicled the dark underbelly of Detroit's crime scene with his precision
plots, deft dialogue and silky prose. The comparisons have been gratifying. But ever since
Leonard flew to the steamy shores of Los Angeles and West Palm Beach, Jackson has taken
over the Motown turf.
"I have to say that the reviews of my books have been
good," Jackson says, leaning over to light his cigar. Jackson is smiling, enjoying
himself. I expected to see a set of "Fangs", similar to the choppers Jackson has
endowed to his creation, Detective Sergeant Mulheisen. But there were none. Just a
friendly midwestern grin. We were sitting in Central Park, soaking up one of New York's
fine spring afternoons. As the thermometer passed seventy, Jackson remained as cool as one
of his Motown novels. " I think this book is going to get a good response," he
said between puffs, referring to the latest Mulheisen novel, MAN WITH AN AXE, the seventh
in the series. "Or at least that's what they're saying."
A lot of people say a lot of things, but one thing has remained
constant. Jackson is producing one of the best police procedural series today. It all
started with the publication of THE DIEHARD in 1977, followed by THE BLIND PIG a year
later. After an extended hiatus, Jackson returned with GROOTKA in 1990, followed by HIT ON
THE HOUSE (1993), DEADMAN (1994) and DEAD FOLKS (1996).
Jackson was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, a northern suburb of
Detroit. After World War II his family moved to northern Michigan where Jackson spent his
childhood years growing up on a farm. In the early fifties, the family returned to
Detroit, living on the east side. Jackson graduated from Southeastern High School in 1956.
After four years in the Air Force, stationed for much of that time at Willow Run, just
outside of Detroit, he went to work in Detroit at a variety of jobs. He attended Wayne
State University at night.
following interview took place at the end of April, where the author reflected on his life
as writer, his fiction and the art of writing.
Q: At what point in your
life did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?
A: When I was at Wayne
I started taking some writing courses. One of them was taught by a guy named Cooper, in
expository writing . The idea was that you would write an article for any magazine that
you could name and he would function as the chief editor of that magazine. I kept
submitting stories and he would say, "You know Jon, this isn't really expository
writing." But he liked the stories. At any rate, in 1965 I left Detroit and moved
back up to northern Michigan. I just had to get out of Detroit, I was sick of it. I got
interested in bird watching and it sort of obsessed me. I was longing for the country life
that I enjoyed as a child. I got a job with these guys building houses and became a