To many fantasy fans, Steven Brust is best known as the writer of the fifteen deep Vlad Taltos series, which he kicked off in 1983 with Jhereg. But for the first time in twenty years, Brust is presenting a self-contained story with his new urban fantasy novel, Good Guys (hardcover, Kindle).
To start, what is Good Guys about?
A team with various skills has the job of tracking down misuse of magic. Which, in this case, involves solving a series of murders.
Where did you get the original idea for Good Guys, and how different is the finished story from that initial concept?
That’s a hard question to answer. The first thing I got was the structure, then one of the protagonists, Donovan, emerged fully formed, then I got the opening scene. After that it sort of rolled itself out in front of me like a carpet.
Good Guys seems to be an urban fantasy novel. Do you concur, or do you think there’s a subgenre of fantasy, or combination of them, that describes this novel better?
Urban fantasy seems to fit. Or maybe “contemporary secret history”? By which I mean I’m trying to follow the rules of secret history by not violating any known event, but it’s contemporary rather than historical.
It also seems like it has elements of hardboiled crime.
I can tell you that my favorite writers of that genre are Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, and Robert B. Parker. Exactly how much influence each had I couldn’t say.
To me, Good Guys calls back more to the TV show Leverage because it’s based on the complimentary skills of a team.
Aside from Leverage, did any other movies, TV shows, or video games have a big impact on Good Guys?
Burn Notice would also be in there because it contains good examples of what Elizabeth Bear calls, “competence porn,” which I was shooting for. And probably Firefly because the “team/family” feel among the characters struck me hard.
What about more literary influences; are there any writers or stories that had a big impact on Good Guys, but are not ones you’d consider a big influence on your writing as a whole?
Well, earlier I mentioned secret history, which I was kind of shooting for, and if you’re going to mention secret history, that means Tim Powers.
And how about music? Because along with writing, you’re also a musician and — more relevant to this question — once wrote a novel called Brokedown Palace that you called, “Your basic combination of Hungarian Folktales and Grateful Dead song lyrics.”
Nothing comes to mind.
You often come with unofficial alternate titles for your novels. You sometimes refer to Jhereg, the first book in your Vlad Taltos series, as Jarhead, and the fourth one, Taltos, as Milquetoast. Though my favorite is the one you have for your Firefly fanfic, My Own Kind Of Freedom: My Own Kind Of Whedon. I don’t want you to explain it, but what’s your nickname for Good Guys?
At the moment, I’m going with Ghoul Guts, but I’ll change my mind if a better one hits me.
Now, Good Guys is the first stand-alone novel you’ve written in a while. What is it about this story that made you decide it would just a one-book tale? Or did you decide you wanted to write a stand-alone novel and Good Guys is the result?
The idea hit during a conversation with my friend and poker teacher Chris “Pokerfox” Wallace, where he mentioned a structure that sounded so cool I had to steal it. Hence the note at the beginning of the book.
As for it being a stand-alone, well, I’ll point out that Jarhead [a.k.a. Jhereg] was intended to be a stand-alone, and so was The Kleenex Guards [a.k.a. The Phoenix Guards], but then I found out I wanted to play with those characters more so I did. Will that happen with this one? I dunno.
I asked earlier about the movies, TV shows, or video games that may have influenced Good Guys. But has there been any interest in adapting Good Guys into a movie, TV show, or video game?
Nothing so far. But I think a TV show would be cool.
If Good Guy was to be made into a TV show, who would you want them to cast in it?
I don’t have a cast in mind, but now that you’ve brought it up I’m going to be thinking about it.
Oh, except I think Summer Glau [from Firefly] would be awesome as Marci.
Finally, if someone enjoys Good Guy, which of your other books would you suggest they read next and why?
Hmm. Tough to say. Maybe The Incrementalists, because it’s also playing in that contemporary secret history space.