Given how they both have penchants for dark, smoky rooms and equally dour moods, it’s not surprising that people who enjoy urban fantasy novels would like noir one as well, and vice versa. It is in the intersection that we find Michael F Haspil, the writer of the new noir-ish urban fantasy novel Graveyard Shift (hardcover, digital). Or should that be urban fantasy-esque noir novel?
What is Graveyard Shift about?
An immortal pharaoh, whose been blackmailed into law enforcement, must band together with some unsavory allies to stop an ancient vampire conspiracy bent on destroying humanity. That’s the short version.
It’s obviously about a lot more than that and involves vigilantes and shapeshifters, and all manner of active and pseudo-defunct secret societies.
Nope. Nothing to do with Stephen King’s version at all.
So since it’s not your take on King’s story, where did you get the idea for your Graveyard Shift from?
This is going to sound a bit cliche, but I honestly got it from a dream. I keep a journal next to my bed to record any crazy ideas I have, and [one day] I woke up and could only remember some parts of an intense dream. I remembered the world of the dream and the sentence, “I used to kill vampires for the NSA, now I work Vice.” The rest of the story took off from there and more and more of the story fleshed itself out as I wrote it.
The book has been called both urban fantasy and noir. Do you agree with either or both of these assessments?
I agree with both. It is most definitely urban fantasy. And it is most definitely noir. I don’t really know which came first. I set out to write a different sort of urban fantasy, but I do remember consciously becoming aware that it was slowly becoming a noir as I continued writing various elements of the story. Certain tropes started showing up: the femme fatale, the world being a corrupt place, the underbelly of the city, the ambiguous morality of…well…everyone. Once these elements began to surface, I intentionally pushed it a little bit further into noir territory. So, by now, I think it would be fair to call it urban fantasy and noir.
Since it’s both, what urban fantasy writers or novels do you feel were the biggest influences on Graveyard Shift, and what noir writers or novels do you feel were the biggest influences?
I don’t know of any single novel or writer that has impacted me. I intentionally do not read much urban fantasy because I don’t want to be influenced by other folks beyond the standard genre expectations. But I can say with any certainty that Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series, which I adore, does have some of its DNA spread throughout Graveyard Shift.
What about non-literary influences; are there any movies, TV shows, or games that you feel were an inspiration?
I can think of several films and television shows that inspired Graveyard Shift: D.O.A., The Wire, Chinatown, Cat People, and the first Lethal Weapon, which many people remember as a comedy but, when revisited, it is really a pretty grim film and the comedic aspects are very dark. People forget that Riggs is genuinely suicidal for much of that film. And of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the original Miami Vice television series. It may seem cheesy now, but for its time is was cutting edge.
Speaking of influences, when it came time to decide how the vampires would behave in Graveyard Shift, what kind of vampires did you go with and why those? Are they the scary kind, the sparkly kind, some new kind…?
I like vampires that are monsters and predators, so I gravitated toward those. However, I still needed them to function in ordinary society, so they couldn’t be too grotesque like in Nosferatu. Certainly, the White Wolf games influenced me through osmosis at the very least. And originally, I wanted my vampires not to be affected by sunlight at all, except that it made them uncomfortable, just as humans don’t like being in pitch dark. But the vampires hate sunlight trope is so firmly established in popular vampire lore that it is hard to shake loose, so I incorporated that in my story.
My favorite vampire films also played a heavy influence: Let The Right One In, the original Fright Night, The Addiction, Innocent Blood, and yes, probably a little bit more of Forever Knight than I care to admit.
Did you ever consider making the book about a different kind of human monster, like a werewolf or a zombie or a meth head?
There are plenty of other human monsters in the novel, from immortal Egyptian pharaohs to the traditional shapeshifters — though they aren’t only limited to wolf forms to blood-dealers bleeders, which are addicts to the experience of being fed upon by vampires, which is highly pleasurable — to human traffickers, vigilantes, and serial killers. A lot of “ugly” makes an appearance when the sun sets over Miami.
Now, as you’re probably aware, many fantasy novels are not stand-alone books, but are instead part of a larger series. Is Graveyard Shift the first book in a series, or is it a stand-alone novel?
Graveyard Shift is the first book in a series. The series jumps around chronologically however. Some of the novels take place before Graveyard Shift, one as far back as 4500 years before, some after, but all deal with generally the same set of characters. It really helps when much of my cast is immortal. As of right now, I have six books planned in the series, but there is plenty of room for standalone character-centric books and origin stories as well as side quest interstitials.
So has there been any interest in making a movie or TV show out of Graveyard Shift? Because it kind of sounds like it could be positioned as “Lethal Weapon meets Dracula” or “Alien Nation meets Twilight.”
As of right now, there hasn’t been overt interest in a TV show or film. Yet. This is easily the kind of story that could be made on a smaller budget and parlayed into substantial profits, so there’s hope. While there certainly is enough material for a TV show, the stakes in the novel lend themselves more toward a film or a single season show like 24 or True Detective, rather than something ongoing like Supernatural. Though I’m not short of any ideas.
It could also work as a video game, something along the lines of a Telltale game or an adventure role-playing game. As a tabletop game, if I were going to do it, going for a role-playing game would probably suit the format the best. But I also love cooperative board games, so it would be great to have all the players take on the roles of different officers within the Nocturn Affairs Bureau trying to stop the bad guys in a Arkham Horror– or Elder Sign-type game. As an avid board gamer, I’d be all over that.
If it was going to be made into movie or TV show, who would you like to see them cast in the lead roles and why them?
I would love to see Jacob Anderson [Game Of Thrones] cast as Alex. Alex isn’t a very big guy, as ancient Egyptians weren’t large people by modern standards. Jacob brings an intensity to his role as Greyworm that I think would work very well. For Marcus, I saw and heard Marton Csokas [The Lord Of The Rings] while I was writing the character. He always puts forth a stellar performance and can be equal measures of compassionate and very threatening. Constance was always Molly Parker [American Pastoral] even as I wrote it. I’d love to see Alicia Witt [Cecil B. Demented] as Lelith and Nestor Carbonell [The Dark Knight] as Lugal Zagesi. Rhuna would be a tough one to cast, but I’m pretty sure Natalie Dormer [Game Of Thrones] could pull it off in her sleep.
Finally, if someone enjoys Graveyard Shift, and what would you suggest they read while waiting for the second book to come out?
I would tell them to read Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series. It is more fantasy than urban fantasy, and parts might be a little out of vogue right now, but much of it still holds up and all the books are lots of fun especially if you know to look for the Lovecraftian Easter Eggs.