In 2015, when I interviewed writer Adam Christopher about what was then his new novel Made To Kill, he described that novel as “a hardboiled science fiction mystery, written in the style of Raymond Chandler.” Now he’s continuing the adventures of his robot hitman Ray Electromatic in both a new nove, Killing Is My Business (hardcover, digital) and a new novella, Standard Hollywood Depravity (paperback, digital), the latter of which came out a few months ago.
Let’s start with the novel. What is Killing Is My Business about?
Ray Electromatic is back with a new job, and it’s a doozy. His target is crime boss Zeus Falzarano, but before he kills him, he has to save his life in order to get into his organization. Because Ray’s client needs to get some information out of Falzarano before Ray finishes him off, so Ray finds himself back to working as a detective, at least for a time. And this job is undercover…
Is it safe to assume that the book isn’t called Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good because, in fact, business isn’t good? Or is it more because you’d rather not get into a protracted legal battle with Megadeth?
Ha! The Electromatic Detective Agency is doing just fine and Ray’s hit list is healthy, as is Ada’s bank balance. But their clandestine assassination company has not gone unnoticed.
You previously said that the first book in this series, Made To Kill, came out of you wondering what a sci-fi novel by Raymond Chandler would be like. So what inspired the plot of Killing Is My Business?
One thing about Chandler is that while he only wrote seven full-length novels, with an eighth unfinished, his writing actually changed, as did the character of Marlowe. Everyone is familiar with The Big Sleep, thanks in no small part to the Bogart movie, but that really only represents a small part of Chandler’s style. With Killing Is My Business, I wanted to move things on. If Made To Kill, was a sci-fi version of The Big Sleep, then Killing Is My Business is more like The Long Goodbye, which I actually think is Chandler’s masterpiece.
Did you ever consider doing something similar as with the first book, but with a different noir crime writer? Like trying to figure out what a Mickey Spillane sci-fi novel would be like, or a Richard Stark one.
Oh man, that would be great, but so hard.
Actually, Ariel S. Winter did something like this with The Twenty-Year Death, a crime novel in three parts, essentially three separate novels, with each written in the style of a different crime writer: Georges Simenon, Chandler, and Jim Thompson. It’s utterly flawless, and I have absolutely no idea how Winter pulled it off.
By the way, did you know that Timothy Zahn actually wrote a sort of noir crime novel in the Star Wars universe called Scoundrels in which Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian pull off a heist? It was pretty good.
Yeah, that was a good one. Star Wars is an interesting case. Given the size of the universe, you can pretty much write any kind of story you like. Same with a universe like Doctor Who.
Speaking of Star Wars, I heard that you’re writing a story for the upcoming short story anthology Star Wars: From A Certain Point Of View. What can you tell us about your contribution?
I can’t tell you anything about it, but I can say that I’m delighted to be part of this wonderful anthology.
Going back to Killing Is My Business, as you were writing that novel, did you ever think of doing something, only to realize that you’d previously done something in Made To Kill that contradicted it?
Fortunately, not with this series, though as Ray Electromatic himself has a certain number of limitations, it was important I remembered what they were. Writing a series does present those kind of considerations, certainly. I had it a little with my two space opera novels, The Burning Dark and The Machine Awakes. I wanted to do something in the second book, only discover I’d kind of established that it couldn’t happen in the first.
Conversely, you’ve said that while Killing Is My Business is the second book in a trilogy, it’s also a stand-alone novel, and doesn’t require someone to have read Made To Kill to understand.
Right. Though while it’s a standalone novel, Killing Is My Business is still very much the middle third of a trilogy, so events that kicked off in Made To Kill are continued through this book, and will be concluded in book three.
Gotcha. But why was this important to you, to have Killing Is My Business stand on its own?
I’m a big fan of standalone stories. But I’m also a big fan of story arcs. That is, a continuing plot stretched over several individual, separate storylines. As a reader myself, I hate seeing a book that looks cool, picking it up, and discovering it’s book two — or even book ten — of a continuing story. So I wanted a book that people could just pick up and enjoy, and if they liked it they could go back to Made To Kill.
Having said that, obviously you get more out of it if you read the stories in order, beginning with Brisk Money [a short story set before Made To Kill]. But it’s very important to me that any story stands on its own and is enjoyable and understandable in its own right. With book three concluding the trilogy, this is going to be a little harder as I have a lot of loose ends to tie up, but still, story is king, it has to be complete in and of itself, as much as it can be.
As we’ve discussed, Killing Is My Business is the second book in this trilogy. So then where does Standard Hollywood Depravity, which came out a few weeks ago, fit into this series?
Standard Hollywood Depravity is really part 1.5, like Brisk Money is really part 0.5. Again, the novellas are standalone, probably even more so than the novels, but there are hints of that story arc.
Is your thinking, going forward, that you’ll do other novellas or short stories about Ray Electromatic in between novels?
Yeah, it would be good to do another between Killing Is My Business and book three. We’ll see.
Are there any plans to release a print edition of Brisk Money?
Brisk Money was bundled with the digital version of Standard Hollywood Depravity, but not the print edition. If I do another novella, maybe there will be enough to do a compilation volume.
So then what is Standard Hollywood Depravity about?
Another Hollywood night, another job for Ray Electromatic. This time his target is a go-go dancer at a club on The Strip, but he quickly discovers he’s walked straight into something bigger. There are a lot of hoods at the club, and they’ve all gathered for a meeting of some kind…and Honey, the dancer, seems to know all about it.
It’s a standalone story set between Made To Kill and Killing Is My Business, but it picks up a couple of threads from book 1, and seeds a couple of things for book 2.
I assume, based on what you’ve said about Killing Is My Business, that people don’t have to read Standard Hollywood Depravity to understand Killing Is My Business, and vice versa. But is there anything in Standard Hollywood Depravity that makes Killing Is My Business better?
The events of Killing Is My Business actually only occur because of what happens in Standard Hollywood Depravity, but the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know that. But like I said, if they read the novella first, they’d be able to join the dots.
When we talked about Made To Kill, I asked if there had been any interest in making that book into a movie or TV show, and you said, “I actually can’t answer that question either way. Sorry.” Can you answer it now?
Fair enough. So, finally, if someone has read Made To Kill, Standard Hollywood Depravity, and Killing Is My Business, but they’d like to read a noir crime novel that isn’t sci-fi, but also isn’t one that they might’ve heard of — isn’t a Mike Hammer novel or something by Raymond Chandler — what would you suggest they read and why that?
I’m actually going to suggest readers track down anything by William Gay, though he’s perhaps not quite noir, maybe a bit more Southern Gothic. His 2006 novel Twilight is a masterpiece. I actually discovered his work in an anthology, The Best American Noir Of The 20th Century, edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler. That’s a great book too, highly recommended for anyone interested in the genre.