"Knight skillfully entangles his story with entertaining twists and odd characters..." 

                                                    - Publishers Weekly
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Q & A  /  Bio

Richard J. Brewer, bookseller and anthology  editor, sits down with J.D. Knight for a biographical interview.


RJB: How did you write your first novel?

J.D. Knight: It started as a memoir about my father's career as a Deputy Sheriff in Los Angeles County.  He died when I was 11.  So I wanted a chance to research his short life, maybe feel a bit closer to him.  And through the art of fiction, give him more time on earth.

RJB: How did this project turn into a novel?

J.D. Knight: One of my father's associates on the force was prosecuted for corruption, and my research uncovered a dark side of modern policing.  This dirty cop sparked my imagination and I decided to follow my muse and put aside the memoir.

RJB: Your narrator, Virgil Roy Proctor, is he based on your father?

J.D. Knight: Not exactly.  Virgil is like my father in a few aspects: both are from Southern California, with family in Oklahoma, and a heritage of Cherokee blood. My father was a family man with a heroic day job.  Virgil, on the other hand, is the anti-hero, a failure at conventional life, but a guy who displays unexpected moments of virtue.

RJB: Reading your first book I was reminded of James Crumley and Raymond Chandler. Any other influence on your style? 

J.D. Knight: Well, that's high praise... thanks for that.  Along with Crumley and Chandler, I'd have to say Patricia Highsmith has been a big influence.

RJB: How so?

J.D. Knight: I've always loved the Ripley novels, and I see Virgil Roy Proctor in the same tradition, a guy outside polite society who is free to make funny observations and break the rules.  

RJB: Do you see your books in the tradition of the picaresque?  Your narrator like a Huck Finn?

J.D. Knight: Sure, that's probably true for me, but I think there's a bit of Huck Finn in all hard-boiled detective fiction.

RJB: The original memoir project about your father was set in L.A. County.  Why move the novels to Oakland and the Bay Area?

J.D. Knight: I went to school at UC Berkeley and settled in the East Bay where my children were born.  I figured that Hammett had San Francisco, Chandler had Los Angeles.  Why not use an overlooked city like Oakland for my fiction?

RJB: In your first book, Virgil is the narrator in classic detective fiction style.  In your second book, you offer mulitple points of view, along with Virgil's.  Why the change?

J.D. Knight: The story demanded it -- to increase suspense, and to offer a bigger canvas. It also allowed Virgil to share the stage with another character who handled important courtroom scenes.

RJB: Yes, you've allowed a secondary character from the first book to come forward.  Tell us about her.

J.D. Knight: Andrea Faber is a defense attorney who made a walk-on appearance in ZERO TOLERANCE.  In the second book, THE DEVIL'S JUKEBOX, she hires Virgil to find a missing witness in a death penalty appeal.  The story is more cinematic, jumping between Virgil and Andrea.  And more exciting.

RJB: I agree, your second book is more like a mainstream thriller in structure, but you've retained Virgil's one-liners, too. A very enjoyable hybrid.  Can you tell us about your third book in the series?

J.D. Knight: I just finished the first draft, so it may be too early to chat about the plot here... but I will say that I enjoyed taking Virgil outside Oakland to visit New Orleans. Two of my favorite American cities.

RJB: I loved the opening chapters you shared with me... it looks like Andrea hires Virgil to find another missing person.  Only this time, the missing person is legally dead.  Now that's a hook!

J.D. Knight: Honestly, I can't imagine another book that is strictly Virgil's POV, and Andrea Faber is too good a character to stay off stage for long.

RJB: I agree, she's a good match for Virgil Roy Proctor...



Part Two of this interview will discuss the Kindle editions of ZERO TOLERANCE and THE DEVIL'S JUKEBOX, and the unexpected hazards of riding along with the Oakland Police during a 'dog watch' shift.

'Downtown Oakland Skyline' by Jim Pire

Below:  Virgil's branch office at Seventh and Clay, where his bartender never runs out of office supplies.