Monday, November 14, 2011

Q&A: Christa Faust

What can I say about Christa Faust? I can admit that I brazenly stole the idea for my Noir City posts from her. I can reveal that on the day we first met she told Rosemarie, “I assumed you were a fictional character.” I can remind you once again to read her latest book Choke Hold, then I can get out of the way and let the lady speak for herself in another VKDCQ&A.

Q. Tell us about Choke Hold.

It’s my second Angel Dare book. For those who haven’t read Money Shot, Angel’s a former porn star who gets raped, beaten and left for dead so she hunts down and kills the responsible men. In Choke Hold, she’s on the lam from her violent past when she runs into an old flame. Bullets fly and she finds herself mixed up with a pair of MMA fighters. One is the teenage son of her old flame, a cocky kid who’s just getting started in the fight game. The other is an older grappler who is suffering from the early onset of CTE, also known as “punch drunk syndrome.” As they so often do, complications ensue.

Q. Did you plan on bringing Angel Dare back for an encore? Will we be seeing her again?

When I wrote Money Shot, it was intended to be a standalone. After all, that ending is pretty final. I never had any intention of writing a series, but people really seemed to like the character and kept asking me when the next Angel Dare book was coming out. I like a challenge and so I found myself thinking of ways to get her out of the corner I’d painted her into and on the road to further adventures. Now I’m pretty sure there’ll be at least one more Angel Dare book, but I have no idea where (if anywhere) the series will go from there. You’ll just have to stay tuned for the next exciting episode ...

Q. What is the greatest public misconception about mixed martial arts? What impression about the sport do you want people to take away from Choke Hold?

In this country, MMA mostly means the UFC, which started off almost like a kind of wacky, sideshow offshoot of pro wrestling. You know, a guy wearing one boxing glove versus a sumo guy. The human version of a great white shark vs. a grizzly bear. It’s come a long way from that, but still retains a little bit of that naughty-but-tasty, carnival junk food flavor that it never had in countries like Brazil or Japan. In a weird way, MMA is like a hooker dressed up like the girl next door. A slut they can take home to Mama. It’s a way for men to indulge in all the trash-talking testosterone opera of pro wrestling while assuring themselves that it’s okay to watch because it’s legit and not “worked.”

Thing is, MMA can also be very cerebral. There’s a chess-like element to grappling that many casual American fans don’t even notice. They love the beatdowns, the big haymakers and showy knockouts but when the fight goes to the ground, that’s when things can get really interesting.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions is that all fighters are dumb-ass palookas and all fans are beer-guzzling rednecks. Kind of like the idea that all porn stars are pathetic, exploited bimbos and all guys who watch them are raincoat-clad perverts.

Q. Can you talk about the parallels you draw in the book between MMA and Angel’s former career in pornography?

Both MMA and porn involve young bodies being pushed to the edge of physical endurance and beyond to provide entertainment for the masses. Both offer the potential for wealth and stardom but often deliver the ugly reality of being ground down and broken by the time you’re 30. Some people make it through unscathed and start their own grappling school or production company. Others are pulled under by drugs, daddy issues, and low self esteem. There’s also a disturbing parallel in the fact that so many otherwise unskilled, under-educated teens see fighting or fucking as their only option, the only way out of poverty and broken homes. Their bodies are all they have to offer. I think there’s a powerful, seductive fantasy element as well. Becoming a fighter is seen as a way to be the “ultimate” man. Almost like an over-the-top caricature of alpha manhood. Becoming a female porn star has that same appeal. To become the “ultimate” woman, every man’s dreamgirl. It’s hunger for that elusive fantasy that makes so many young people ignore the warnings about brain damage or prolapsed rectums and all the other potential pitfalls of those professions.

Part of what I tried to do in my books is balance that fantasy with the harsher reality. In Money Shot, I didn’t want to portray the adult film industry as all sexy flash and glamour but I also didn’t want to make it all ugly, evil and soul-killing. Porn’s always been such an easy target in classic hardboiled and noir fiction. The worst possible fate that could ever befall a female would be to end up in porn. I wanted to show it more like it really is. A job. Some good, some bad and a whole lot of in between. I tried to do the same thing for MMA in Choke Hold.

Q. Your cult classic Hoodtown (reissued earlier this year as an ebook) is set against the backdrop of lucha libre. What draws you to sports that are a bit off the beaten path?

It’s not just sports, it’s any kind of unusual, insular subculture that has its own rules and slang. One of the things I enjoy as a reader is being invited by the protagonist into a hidden behind-the-scenes world that I may not normally get to see. Obviously, in Hoodtown, I take the real sport of Lucha Libre and turn it up to eleven, incorporating many of the fictional conceits of the Mexican Masked Hero films of the 60s and 70s, but there’s an underlying truth beneath the mask.

Q. You’ve spoken about your affection for Richard S. Prather, creator of Shell Scott and the man who dubbed you “the First Lady of Hard Case Crime.” What about Prather’s work spoke to you? How do you see his influence in your own writing? If you had to choose, what’s your favorite Shell Scott novel?

I like the fact that out of all the popular hardboiled dicks back in the day, Shell Scott seemed to be having the most fun. By proxy, it seemed like Prather was also having the most fun writing about him. Sure Scott got mixed up in all kinds of violent action, but you got the feeling that he loved his job and didn’t take himself too seriously. Don’t get me wrong – I love the darker, more serious stuff too. But there’s something really charming and addictively readable about the Shell Scott books. I think you can see Prather’s influence on my writing in my dark humor and love of the first person narrative. Strip For Murder would have to be my favorite, because of the whole outlandish naked hot air balloon business. But I also have a soft spot for Dig That Crazy Grave, because that was not only the first Shell Scott book I read, it was also the first hardboiled pulp novel I ever read.

Q. What’s next for you?

I’ve got what I like to refer to as a “toy truck” project that I’m working on right now. The kind of project that isn’t very commercial but really fun to play with. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for more than a decade, but no one was ever interested in publishing it the old-school way. When the whole eBook thing came along, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to get this little toy truck on the road.

It’s an erotic hardboiled lesbian PI series. Imagine Shell Scott as a butch dyke and all the sex is explicit. It’s a hat-tip to Prather, but not a send up. I want to keep that same wacky, light-hearted sense of humor without ever poking fun at the source material. I’m calling the series Butch Fatale: Dyke Dick.

Movie Q. You’re a New York girl now living in Los Angeles. What are your favorite movies about your adopted hometown?

In a Lonely Place is high up there, as is Sunset Boulevard. Targets is another fave that deserves to be more widely known. Mi Vida Loca is full of great pre-hipster Echo Park locations. Bad 80s soundtrack not-withstanding, I still love To Live and Die in LA. Gods and Monsters never fails to break my fucking heart no matter how many times I see it. Of course, we can’t just be highbrow, can we? I also love films like It Conquered the World and Them (okay, so that’s only half LA) or pretty much anything shot at Bronson Cave. And Showdown in Little Tokyo, because Dolph Lundgren has the biggest dick Brandon Lee has ever seen on a man.

Baseball/Foodie Q. Have you ever had a Dodger Dog?

My mom’s apartment in Hell’s Kitchen is just down the block from a now long-gone garage where hotdog carts used to go when their shifts were over. Every night, they would dump gallons of nasty day-old hotdog water into the gutter. The powerful memory of that stench has kinda soured me on hotdogs. I loathed them as a kid. As an adult, I’ve learned to get over it to some degree, but that smell is always there in the back of my mind.

I’m also not into baseball, though my Pop is a die-hard fan of the Bronx Bombers. (No offense, since I know you’re a Mets man.) He took me to Yankee Stadium plenty of times as a kid, but I always got peanuts there, not hotdogs. I’ve never been to Dodger Stadium, but I’ve been stuck in the traffic around it when games let out. Does that count?

Cocktail Q. You don’t imbibe. How are we friends? And what makes for a good mocktail?

I’m not a dry drunk or anything like that. I have no moral issue with the idea of drinking, I just never cared for the taste or the effect of alcohol. Also, I have no inhibitions to shed, so there’s really no point. I’d rather spend my money on shoes.

As far as “mocktails” I tend to like intriguing, unusual flavor combos that are not too sweet or syrupy. I’ll never forget that astounding gingery concoction I got that night you took me to the Zig Zag. I have no idea what was in it, but it was the single best beverage I’ve ever had.

And we’re obviously friends because every tippling gadabout needs a reliable getaway driver.