DAVID EDGERLEY GATES
David Edgerley Gates lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is the author of the Placido Geist bounty hunter stories, a series of noir Westerns, and is a past nominee for the Shamus, the Edgar, and the International Thriller Writers award. His short fiction appears regularly in Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen mystery magazines, and has been widely anthologized. Six-Gun Justice ramrod Rich Prosch rounded David up for a quick interview...
SGJ: How did the character of Placido Geist, bounty hunter, come about?
DEG: More or less by accident. The first of the stories, "The Undiscovered Country," began with the two Case brothers deserting from Pershing's army in Mexico. The bounty hunter stepped onto the page about a quarter of the way in. He was unexpected, but as soon as he walked on, I knew the character from breast to back. Then he slipped off my radar. I'd never intended to do a series based off of the guy, but I realized he was too good to let go.
SGJ: You lived in Santa Fe for a long time. Do you miss the west? Do you go back to visit?
DEG: I'm actually back living in Santa Fe, after a three-year absence. I find it a rich vein to mine.
SGJ: I got a business card from Harlan Ellison once. On it was his name in a plain sans serif font. Underneath it said, “I write.” Do you think of yourself in genre labels, at turns appearing as a crime writer or a western writer—or do you simply write?
DEG: It depends what I'm working on, basically. Right now, I probably think of myself primarily as a spy thriller writer, because that's what I have in immediate focus.
SGJ: Do you prefer writing short stories to novels?
DEG: Kinda the same as above. In fact, I have a weakness for the novella. (One of my favorite stories is Stephen Crane's "The Open Boat.") I did a Cold War novella called Viper - available as an e-book - and I'm working on one about the Battle of the Bulge, as we speak, called The Kingdom of Wolves. Something about the length. It gives you breathing room, but all the same, you can still keep it tight, a single through-line.
SGJ: Blood Money is a 2007 collection of bounty hunter stories featuring Placido Geist. Seven of the nine appeared in the pages of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Two were new with the collection. Since then, I know there’s been at least one bounty hunter story published (The Sleep of Death in December, 2015 issue of AHMM). Have there been any additional Geist stories?
DEG: As you point out, The Sleep of Death came after Blood Money, as a kind of reverse narrative from an earlier story, Sidewinder. I've given some thought to a bounty hunter novel, too, tentatively titled The Devil and the Bag o' Nails. I'm also working on a story set in the bounty hunter universe, with the hanging judge Lockjaw Lamar, but without PG.
SGJ: The final story in Blood Money is a longer piece, almost a novella. Was Doubtful Canyon a deliberate effort to stretch, or was it one of those natural evolutions that simply got too long to comfortably fit at AHMM?
DEG: Doubtful Canyon just sort of unspooled that way. Once I settled into the idea of parallel narratives, fifty years or so apart, it was inevitable I'd run way long.
SGJ: What do you enjoy reading? Who are your favorite writers?
DEG: For the sheer silkenness of their writing, John leCarre and Mary Renault. I love to revisit Sylvia Townsend Warner's Kingdoms of Elfin, and John Crowley's Little, Big. Len Deighton, although he hasn't published a book in some time. Alan Furst, Dennis Lehane. I miss Philip Kerr. A plug for my pal Chuck Greaves, likewise Deborah Coonts. And excuse me, where's the next book from Chris Morgan Jones?