Devon Ellington: What was the inspiration for this book?
Justin Robinson: There are eight insect parts allowed by law in each Reese’s peanut butter cup. I couldn’t help but wonder whose job it was to put them there.
DE: How did you develop the ideas?
JR: One of the great parts of conspiracy lore is that it requires ostensibly normal people to do bizarre things. I figured that someone had to do all that strange stuff, and then extrapolated that, hey, what if it’s all the same guy only no one knows that? And then what if someone tried to kill him? It’s a pretty quick leap in my head from any basic idea to a noir mystery.
DE: Your protagonist has a strong, engaging voice. Did you ever find he wanted to take the story in a different direction than your original vision? How did you work that out?
JR: I don’t really put much stock into characters having minds of their own. That reeks of undiagnosed schizophrenia to me. Seriously though, this is just about as close to my personal inner monologue as I’m ever likely to get in a book.
DE: One of my favorite quotes from your liner notes is “If you’re going to do a conspiracy novel, you have to have 23 chapters. There’s really no other choice there.” What’s the story behind that?
JR: 23 is the most important number in conspiracy lore. November 23, 1963 was the day between the Kennedy and Oswald assassinations. There are 23 axioms in Euclid’s geometry. There are 23 chromosomes on human sperm and ova. Geosynchronous orbit is 23,000 miles up. Both the 23rd Hexagram in the I Ching and 23 in telegrapher’s code are variations on “break.” And of course, there’s always that most mysterious piece of slang: 23 skidoo. The wonderful part of 23 is that once you’ve been told about it, you’ll start seeing it everywhere. Which, of course, is the whole point.
DE: What’s next? Can you see working with this character again?
JR: I have just launched a kickstarter for my new project, which is the first book in an unorthodox urban fantasy series. After that, I will be releasing City of Devils in the fall, from the same publisher who did Mr Blank. This one is a mash-up of a noir detective story and a ‘50s creature feature.
I can definitely see working with the character again. I write a lot of horror, so it’s fun to kick back and be funny for a change.
Much like film noir, Justin Robinson was born and raised in Los Angeles. He splits his time between editing comic books, writing prose and wondering what that disgusting smell is. Degrees in Anthropology and History prepared him for unemployment, but an obsession with horror fiction and a laundry list of phobias provided a more attractive option.
Blog: https://satelliteshow.wordpress.com/ (Updated every Friday, rain or shine!)
City of Devils announcement: http://www.candlemarkandgleam.com/2013/03/05/acquisitions-announcement-city-of-devils/
Every conspiracy needs a guy like me.
I do the scut work, the crap no one else wants to do. I don’t fly the black helicopters, I don’t mutilate any cattle, and I sure as hell don’t kill anybody. But if you need your lone nut’s gun conveniently lost, I can do that. If you need a witness to get a weird visit from someone who might or might not be from the government, I have a suit one size too small and some gray pancake makeup in my trunk. I can’t find the Ark of the Covenant, but if you need it FedExed somewhere, I’m your guy. If you need someone found, followed, called, hung up on, put in the dark, initiated, or just driven to the airport, I can do that, too. It’s these kinds of unglamorous errands that keep the shadow governments moving, and without guys like me, nothing would get done at all.
Yeah, every conspiracy needs a guy like me. Problem is, they all have one.
I’m a Rosicrucian, a Freemason, a Templar, and a Hospitaler. I have links to double-black agencies in the CIA, the ONI, the NSA, and the Secret Service. I’m connected to the Mexican Mafia, the Triad, the Cosa and Kosher Nostras. I’m an agent of the Vatican, the Servants of Shub-Internet, a Discordian, and an Assassin. I’m a Knight of the Sacred Chao, a Brother of the Magic Bullet, and an Illuminated Seer of Bavaria. I can find Symbionia, Thule, Shangri-La, and the entrance to the Hollow Earth on a map. I know who really killed both Kennedys, MLK, Marilyn Monroe, and Castro. Yeah, Castro’s dead—that double was doing a mean Tevye on the dinner theatre circuit when we found him. I’ve met Little Green Men, Atlanteans, and two of Oswald’s clones. I’ve seen Bigfoot’s W-2. The only thing I’ve never met is a vampire, because there’s no such thing, no matter what anyone says.
I’m a member of these organizations, but I’m not high on the totem pole. I’m pretty much one step up from innocent bystander in all of them. Ever been to a fancy party? One of the really nice ones where waiters in crisp black and white wander around with trays of crab puffs and champagne flutes and there’s not a single red plastic cup to be seen. Think of one of the waiter’s faces. You can’t, can you? No one can. The human mind has finite space to use, and it’s going to ignore whatever it thinks it can, and that includes people who do menial work. Safer for the waiters, too—and no one at that party was planning to sacrifice them to some Elder God they just resurrected out of old computer parts. Anonymity is better than a bulletproof vest down in the information underground.