Author J.B. Stevens recently had a conversation with Nick Kolakowski. “Nick is a prolific author and constantly putting out fresh material.” Mr. Stevens points out. “His new horror novella Absolute Unit is getting great reviews. Last year I read his novels Rattlesnake Rodeo and The Boise Longpig Hunting Club and enjoyed them immensely.” Nick’s newest work is “Love & Bullets.” It is being released by Shotgun Honey books on November 26, 2021.
Nick, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. As I said before, I’m a big fan. First things first, can you tell us about your new book?
“Love & Bullets” actually began life as three novellas (“A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps,” “Slaughterhouse Blues,” and “Main Bad Guy”) that were published by Shotgun Honey between 2017 and 2019. When Shotgun Honey publisher Ron Earl Phillips asked if I wanted to publish a combined volume of the novellas, of course I said “yes”—and then I decided to do the insane thing: I re-wrote and revised the whole thing.
“Love & Bullets” is now a Frankenstein’s monster of a book, featuring parts taken from three novellas but with a whole slew of new material. I brought characters back from the dead; shifted around the order of key events; threw in even more sick humor; and generally tried to give the crowds more of the red meat they crave. The only thing I didn’t do is bean some character with a kitchen sink.
“Love & Bullets” sounds fun as can be, I cannot wait to read it. Now that we know a bit about your new collection, can you tell us more about yourself?
I’m a longtime resident of New York City. I’ve been fortunate enough to build a career writing. I pull inspiration for crime fiction from real-life things that friends and acquaintances have done, combined with what I occasionally read in the news. I also spend a lot of time in Idaho, thanks to family connections; I pull quite a bit of inspiration from there, as well (“Boise Longpig Hunting Club,” “Rattlesnake Rodeo,” and a mess of short stories).
I like that Idaho/New York juxtaposition. It makes sense that your work flows so easily between urban and rural locations. Speaking of working in that between space, you work in numerous genres—horror, comedy, crime—do you have a favorite?
Crime fiction is always closest to my heart. When I was ten years old, my Dad gave me his copy of “Trouble Is My Business,” and I was down the rabbit-hole for the rest of my life. He introduced me to all the classics—Hammett, Thompson, Goodis, Mosley. I love horror, comedy, and the other genres, but crime fiction feels like home—which is sort of hilarious, given all the terrible and tension-filled things that go on in it.
The “terrible and tension-filled things” is defiantly a prominent feature of your fiction, but the readers eat it up. Another question about your work. I find I write in different tenses and points of view depending on what genre I’m working in. Is your approach or style different for different genres?
My style doesn’t really vary between genres, but sometimes I try out something new between books. For example, the novella I’m working on right now, “Payback Is Forever,” is a throwback to the 1960s and Richard Stark; it’s written in very stripped-down prose. But most of the time, I prefer to stick with my more colloquial, more comic tone—it’s the easiest flow for me.
My style doesn’t really vary between genres, but sometimes I try out something new between books.
That’s interesting, trying to change the core aspects of your prose is brave, I respect your ambition and cannot wait to read “Payback is Forever”. Speaking of reading, what is the last book you read and loved?
Right now I’m midway through Cassandra Khaw’s “The All-Consuming World,” which is insane in the best of ways; the prose is super-speedy but also incredibly dense and it’s gruesome and funny and touching all at once.
So you like Khaw. (Interviewer’s note: I assume Nick LOVES J.B. Stevens’s fiction he just didn’t mention it in this interview). Nick, who are some of your other favorite authors, and why?
Cormac McCarthy, Anthony Bourdain, S.A. Cosby, Susan Orlean, Patricia Highsmith, Ralph Ellison. Those are just off the top of my head; ask me at any other moment and I’d probably add a few more.
I’m sure you could talk for days about authors you admire… but we only have minutes. Is there anything you would like to add?
When in doubt, keep writing.
Nick is an outstanding author and a fun interview. I personally love his crime fiction, I bet you will as well.
Mystery Tribune’s archive of conversations with crime fiction masters and notable authors in mystery, thriller and horror space is available here. J.B. Steven’s conversation with award winning S.A. Cosby is also available here.