About Poppin' a Cold One

I suppose the biggest question about Poppin’ a Cold One might be: What sort of nut would write a story like this? That answer should be obvious if you’re reading this. The answer is Me.

A tangential question might be: What sort of nut’s first novel would take on such issues as necrophilia, pro golf, the Dixie Mafia and the Hardy Boys? To that I say, well, Cold One isn’t my first novel. I’ve written several novels — and that none of them have been published is a cruel reality — although perhaps a fairly typical reality, I think, for most writers.

Suffice to say I’ve come close before with other manuscripts, including one that Kensington senior editor Gary Goldstein unsuccessfully championed. I guess he subsequently felt sorry for me and invited me to lunch one hot summer day to ask me what other manuscripts I might be working on. I shrugged, took a deep breath, and told him what I had in mind. Not only did he not get up and walk away, he said, “A comic novel about a necrophiliac, huh? I’ve got the perfect title: Poppin’ a Cold One.”

Well, it was about much more than that, but I appreciated the way Gary's brain worked, and we were off — which is not to say there weren’t plenty of revisions and plot machinations along the way. And everyone we’ve met — in the halls of publishing or during research or just friends or family members who long ago believed I’d lost my mind, had plenty of questions. I guess it makes some sense to try to answer a few of them.

Q. Poppin’ a Cold One involves, yes, necrophilia. If there’s a line that probably shouldn’t be crossed, literarily speaking and otherwise, isn’t this at least a candidate?

A. Let me put it this way. When Kensington offered the contract for the book, my wife and I were back in Dallas for the Christmas holiday. We told our parents, “We have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that we have a contract offer on a novel. The bad news is that y’all are NOT allowed to read it. Period.”

I think it’s fair to say Cold One is not for everyone. But necrophilia is only one target in the book — and I say “target” because, although it’s a comic thriller, Cold One is also very much a satire on popular culture across the board. Absolutely nothing surprises me anymore — and if a reality show about necrophilia suddenly popped up on some network tomorrow, I’d just shrug and say, “Yeah, I was sorta wondering when you folks would get around to this.”

Q. Does this mean Poppin’ a Cold One is breaking new literary territory?

A. I wish. Dan Jenkins, Elmore Leonard, Tim Dorsey, Charles Portis, John Kennedy Toole, Joseph Heller and Carl Hiaasen — to name a few of the best — have written screamingly funny satires of popular culture for a long time. As far as necrophilia is concerned — and that’s really what you were asking, right? — yes, there are certainly literary antecedents.

It’s arguably a tie for the most famous necrophiliac work: William Faulkner’s short story A Rose for Emily and Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Annabel Lee.  Other examples from contemporary novels: Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God, Stephen King’s Under the Dome, Chuck Palahniuk’s Lullaby and Christopher Moore’s Blood Sucking Fiends all have necrophile characters.

Q. You interviewed funeral directors as part of the research for Cold One. What was their take on whether this really happens?

A. Oh, it happens. It’s obviously rare, but humans are capable of anything. As far as the gracious funeral folks I spoke with, they were understandably protective of their chosen profession — and I respect that because overwhelmingly funeral directors are NOT necrophiliacs. As such, for purposes of my research into the funeral industry, I focused, in my time with the funeral directors, on the minutiae, training and daily duties in the mortuary science business.

Q. Were there, then, real-world incidents that caused you to want to write the book?

A. In fact, yes. People are kooks. Look here and here.

Q. Your hero, Kip Quigley, is a devotee of detective methods gleaned from Hardy Boys books. Have you in fact read Hardy Boys books — or did you at least look through them for purposes of writing COLD ONE?

A: Not only did I read them long before I ever conceived of Kip Quigley, a complete 50-plus volume of Hardys first editions towers, Pisa-like, on my bedside table.