Friday, March 20, 2015

Interview With Robert Weibezahl
The International Guy of Mystery found Robert Weibezahl slouched under the Collected William B. Yeats in a corner booth in a hidden Irish pub somewhere along a fault line in Southern California. Robert has worked in the publishing and film businesses in New York and LA. Many of his book reviews have been published in major periodicals, and a nonfiction book (A Taste of Murder, co-authored with Jo Grossman) was published by Dell in 1999. He is also a singer and actor and co-founder of the theater troupe Panic! Productions.

IGM:     If you had to give a quick, one-sentence description of your novel (or series) to a Hollywood mogul, what would you say?

RW: A cynical (but fundamentally endearing—honest!) screenwriter investigates death threats against an aging silent screen star while navigating through the turbulent, shark-filled waters of a Hollywood career.

IGM:     What inspired you to write it (personal experience, books you love, real people and events, etc.)?

RW: This is the second book in a series (the first is The Wicked and the Dead), which loosely draws on my own erstwhile experiences working in the movie business (though not as a screenwriter). The main character, Billy Winnetka, was born like Athena from the head of Zeus while I was driving the freeway in L.A. one night and passed the Winnetka Boulevard exit. His name flashed into my mind and by the time I had driven the remaining half-hour to my home I had sketched out the plot of the first book in my head.

IGM:    What gives you the most joy as a writer?

RW: When a complete stranger (as opposed to a supportive friend) tells me that he or she has read something I’ve written and liked it.

IGM:     What is the hardest thing about writing?

RW: I am great at getting the spark of an idea and starting a book or story, but I can have a lot of trouble finishing it. I have more than one stillborn manuscript on my computer as we speak. Some have been there for years.

IGM:     How did you come up with the title(s)?

RW: This book actually started with a working title, then had been given a different title by the time I submitted it to Oak Tree Press. Then, a few months before publication my publisher contacted me to say that another book with that title had just come out from another publisher. Since that competing book was also in the crime genre, we thought it best to change mine and avoid confusion. I thought long and hard and came up with The Dead Don’t Forget because it contains the phrase “the dead” like the title of the first book in the series, and it also does reflect one important aspect of the plot.

IGM:     Tell a little about your process. Did you know how it should end before you started?

RW: Well, expanding on what I said in my answer to question four, I have a lot of trouble getting to the end—although I do often have an inkling of the “solution” or final moments of the book, getting there can be a rough journey. I am not a writer who outlines, I usually let a story or book take me where it wants to go—within reason of course. Sometimes it wants to go places I don’t understand…which may account for those unfinished manuscripts.

IGM:     Pretend you are fielding a baseball team with your favorite writers. List them by position.

RW: I love baseball, but I’m not sure if most of my favorite writers would contribute much to a team (overall, they do not seem a physically hardy bunch—in fact, most of them are dead!) A lot of them are British, too, and might prefer cricket or, at the very least, soccer (rugby would be unimaginable with my literary crew)! How about if I recruit five Americans and five Brits and we pit them against each other on a basketball court? It would be an amusing, if not particularly athletic, competition.

The Stars and Stripes:
Mark Twain
John Steinbeck
Henry James
Joan Didion
F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Union Jacks:
Graham Greene
Muriel Spark
Evelyn Waugh
E.M. Forster
Iain Pears

IGM:   (Great teams! I hear that Didion is a monster under the boards). OK, Pretend your book is being made into a movie. What actors would play the lead characters? (Note: if your book is being optioned for a movie, you may wish to send several thousand dollars to the International Guy of Mystery Foundation as a tax write-off).

RW: This became a fun parlor game for my wife, daughter, and me. We went well beyond the two leads!

Billy Winnetka, crime-solving screenwriter: Bradley Cooper
Kate Hennessey, Billy’s attorney love interest: Elisabeth Moss
Gwendolyn Barlow, the aging silent screen star: Judi Dench or Maggie Smith (I would be giddy with delight over either choice)
Grace Everett, Billy’s eccentric heiress friend, Alison Janney
Tony Renkowski (who is central to the first book), Josh Hutcherson
Al Borges, Billy’s policeman ally, Michael Pena

Here's some more information about Robert:

Robert Weibezahl is the author of two crime novels featuring screenwriter Billy Winnetka—The Wicked and the Dead and The Dead Don’t Forget—as well as co-author of the Agatha and Macavity Award-nominated literary cookbooks/anthologies, A Taste of Murder and A Second Helping of Murder. Having worked in the publishing and film businesses for many years, he has a broad range of credits. He has been a monthly columnist for BookPage for more than a dozen years, and his work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News, Los Angeles Reader, Ventura County Star, Mystery Readers Journal, Bikini, and Irish America, among others. Weibezahl was also a finalist for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2010 Derringer Award for his short story, “Identity Theft,” which appears in two eBook story collections: Triple Twist and Deadly by the Dozen.

Weibezahl has recently embarked on a project to read the complete works of Graham Greene. You can follow his progress at

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