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If you look at Angel’s profile picture, you may think of him as a brainy tough guy. I know I do. Likewise if you’ve read his work, even on social media. He does not mince words. He makes streetwise art out of them, even in casual conversation.
This fearless fluidity of thoughtful expression is evident in his fiction, which is what makes it stand out from the crowd. He’s proof that there is only one way not to be like everyone else, which is simply to be yourself.
He may just piss you off in the process, though. But not without provoking some intense introspection, if not debate.
Case in point:
Recently you wrote a blog called “You Hate Crime Fiction” which resonated with me personally, but risked alienating some of your fellow noir-oriented authors. Did it? And for the sake of those that have’t read it, can you briefly recap your main point, or even elaborate?
It's funny. I have a new release, MEAT CITY ON FIRE (AND OTHER ASSORTED DEBACLES), and was sort of going through my little laundry list of ideas regarding craft essays and places to pitch. Almost every time I do this, I find myself stuck on a subject that doesn't lend itself to promotion or is more personal than I anticipated. Normally, I'll write that out and delete it or save it to the "one day" file. "You Hate Crime Fiction" was one of those. Since it's more of a rant on some of the social issues I see within the genre, it was never intended to be some kind of mission statement or finger pointing. As a multi-ethnic American and writer, I simply called it how I saw it. We're pretty fortunate in this genre to have some of the most incredibly open-minded people I've ever had the pleasure to call my tribe but that doesn't mean there aren't problems and that people should ignore the little "nuisances". That latter kind of thought leads to much larger problems.
So, that said, I wanted to vent about the lack of underrepresented groups I see in crime fiction. I wanted to point out that the sacred cows could exist while providing a chance for new types of stories - though, I probably wasn't so eloquent since this was a rant on my fucking Medium page, not someone else's site. The reaction was surprising, though. I garnered a few thousand reads and out of those, literally saw maybe two or three inconsequential complaints from those who would rather brush me aside as a bitter writer (which is funny since my complaint comes as a reader, not a writer). I call that a win.
And let me say, that rant? I am nowhere near fucking done. I've got plans for something in 2018/2019 and while it isn't necessarily my intention to alienate people for no reason. I don't worry if I'm alienating the right people. There are a lot worse things to worry about than making people who live in complete comfort slightly uncomfortable for a few minutes. Who knows, maybe that's just me being a typical Bronx asshole. It's worked for me so far.
The good news is people started talking and I was informed of some good work being done by a lot of good people. I also joined Sisters in Crime because their mission statement makes a lot of sense to me. I think that's a big win for everyone, especially me. We're always learning, folks.
Speaking of noir, what’s your unique definition of this murky genre?
To me, noir is human desperation - an examination of people at their most cruel and hollow to get at the kernel of hope hidden away. Lots of folk will brush it off as genre but I don't see any other genre that exists within the total literary landscape the way noir does. Too often it gets wrapped up in detective fiction and for good reason but if we took a minute to look at the modern literary field, noir is sewed into that fabric. This isn't one type of story and it never should be.
What degree (if any) of your own life experiences and/or social conscience imbues your fiction?
My opinions are usually all over my writing but I do try to be mindful of as many avenues of thought as I can allow myself to (there's a line, obviously). Best example right now would be BLACKY JAGUAR AGAINST THE COOL CLUX CULT. For those who haven't read it, it was heavily influenced by Black Lives Matter and some of the horrible events of the last two years. It was also a bear to write because you can't have an ex IRA Provie be a mouthpiece for a movement specifically not about him. Still, there are parallels and I wanted to explore the good and bad of social movements while having a cartoon character of a man cause chaos around these heavy events. Ultimately, that's all my social conscience: trying to make sense of everything while having to learn that it's never going to be about me.
But then sometimes I'll write about stealing semen, so I guess it all comes down to my mood.
I was from a rough neighborhood and had a lot of rough friends. I was the bookish kid that got along with almost everyone and didn't get into anyone's bullshit, though. This made me a mostly passive observer. A LOT of my writing comes from that. We ever share a beer, remind me to tell you about all the IRA fellas I met in Yonkers as a kid learning to drink.
What are your influences, literary or otherwise?
My favorite writers are the ones I fight tooth and nail not to emulate. George Saunders, Ted Lewis, Walter Mosely, Donald Westlake (as himself and as Richard Stark), Lawrence Block, Douglas Adams, Hunter S. Thompson, and Clive Barker are my all-time favorites. Writers I have the nerve to interact with and am terrified of their stunning ability: Todd Robinson, Hilary Davidson, Sarah Weinman, Art Taylor, Travis Richardson, Nikki Dolsen, EA Aymar, Sarah Chen, Jen Conley, Chris Irvin, Nik Korpon, Libby Cudmore (I just finished THE BIG REWIND and adored it), and Paul Tremblay make that list. Others I also love reading right now - Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Charlie Jane Anders, Victor LaValle, and Nnedi Okorafor.
All these names should be on everyone's bookshelves.
Outside of that, I tend to frame scenes in my brain as I write them and Martin Scorsese's style is pretty much ingrained onto my visual palette. Can't give enough love to John Woo, Gareth Evans, and Ringo Lam for my fight scenes too.
What’s next for you?
Well, we've got MEAT CITY ON FIRE out the door since December and I'm finishing up a sequel to my Anthony-nominated novella NO HAPPY ENDINGS now. That one's called PULL & PRAY and is a much straighter heist comedy. Blacky Jaguar will be appearing in an amazing novel-in-short-stories called THE NIGHT OF THE FLOOD this March. That was an awesome undertaking and I'm humbled to be in a book with so much talent. I'll probably have more news regarding other stories and a full-length later in 2018. Lots of good things coming!
Angel Luis Colón is the Anthony and Derringer Award-nominated author of NO HAPPY ENDINGS, the BLACKY JAGUAR series of novellas, and the upcoming short story anthology; MEAT CITY ON FIRE (AND OTHER ASSORTED DEBACLES). His fiction has appeared in multiple web and print publications including Thuglit, Literary Orphans, and Great Jones Street. Keep up with him on Twitter via @GoshDarnMyLife
New Orleans, LA