Monday, June 14, 2010

Interview with an Umpire...

I’ve got Linton Robinson here with me on the “Show” today. (And God, what a hunk he is!) Lin I want to shake things up a bit. Instead of getting right into the writing, I want to talk about you first.

--Ah, my favorite topic.

Tell us a little about yourself.

--Well, as applies to the novel SWEET SPOT, what’s significant is that I’ve lived in Mexico and Latin America for around twenty years, eight of them in Mazatlan, where the book is set. I wrote for the English newspaper there, and a couple of local papers and was pretty involved with the community. So much so that I left town to avoid being shot by corrupt cops. That’s Sinaloa state for you: the “Sicily of Mexico”.

So you and the SWEET SPOT hero, Mundo Carrasco, were both journalists in Mazatlan?

--Yes; some of his quoted articles each chapter opens with actually appeared under my byline originally. I lived in the apartment right below Mundo’s “aerie with no walls”, and had the same view of the bay and islands. I also played baseball, but of course wasn’t a national hero like Mundo.

How much is baseball part of SWEET SPOT?

--Well, it’s always going to be a big banner on Mundo’s life, and a lot of people get a kick out of the way his personal philosophy is founded on the game. “It’s getting home safe that counts” and such. Of course that’s more appealing to Americans, and maybe to men.

Would you say this is a “guy book”?

--Oddly, for a book set in macho Mexico with femmes fatales and strippers and people getting killed in fairly gruesome ways and with a running sports metaphor, it seems to be pretty popular with women. Mundo seems to be likeable to both sexes.

Why do you think that is?

--Mundo has been carrying a torch for a woman for two years. This is a big, affable, good-looking guy, a star, who has no trouble getting girls--but his infatuation for the amoral bitch who is now his boss at City Hall makes that meaningless. I think women respond to that, his devotion--even to an obviously selfish, evil manipulator--says something to him. I think they like him for it, but are also pulling for him to snap out of it and hook up with somebody who won’t use him, like Palomina or Luz. I was influenced in emphasizing that by the main character in “Horse Latitudes”, a wonderful best-seller by my friend Robert Ferrigno.

How much does the setting play into the story?

--A lot. There’s the whole “travelogue” thing, of course: Mazatlan is a beautiful tourist mecca, and the book takes place during Carnival week, with all the parades and coronations and masked balls--nothing helps out a mystery thriller like a masked ball-- and the burning of “bad humor” in effigy. But at a deeper level, politics in Mexico--and this is very much involved with politics--is an exotic situation compared to other places. The very idea that organized crime is run by governors and mayors and cops seems odd to Americans, but is obvious to Mexicans.

What inspired this story?

--Mostly my experiences in Mazatlan. A lot of the characters would be immediately recognizable to residents there. I wanted to do a mystery in a foreign country with local people and folkways, so to speak. My original inspiration for that was--and yes, I blush to mention my book in the same breath--“Gorky Park” and the later “Havana Bay” by the masterful Martin Cruz Smith. My original idea was a hard-boiled cynical lead character, like Smith’s Renko, or any given detective by Ignacio Taibo II, Mexico’s answer to Mike Hammer. What happened was, Mundo molted into Mr. Nice Guy who anybody--guys and gals--would like to hang out with. Which makes him more like a Candide, in a way, a guy moving through the muck but not corrupted by it--or so he thinks, but finds out different. Many of the incidents in the book happened to myself, to friends, or to local public figures. (The mayor didn’t really get brutally murdered, but he did get kicked out of office.)

Tell us your favorite quote from SWEET SPOT.

-Well, I’m going to cheat and use a quote James Tipton pulled out in his wonderfully flattering review in Mexico Connect ( ) about Mijares, object of Mundo’s infatuation and nearly the end of him.

“She's a broken power line swinging around in the wind, striking showers of sparks off the cars and buildings…. She's that few seconds between losing control of your car and slamming into something solid. I don't need her at all, but of course I have no choice but to moved towards her; my mouth and eyes and veins and nostrils blown open, my hairs standing erect, my breath oppressed, my heart bailing out, my brain choked down to a dull reptile throb. Love is a disease. She's the only known cure.”

What one piece of advice has been the most helpful to you in your writing career?

--It’s a pet peeve of mine that the internet is awash in writing advice and almost all of it sucks. Same goes for writing classes, too, I’m afraid. After a lifetime of writing I’ve only seen two “tips” worth repeating. So here they are, for free:
1. Forget “POV” and “active voice” and all that stuff. What you need to concentrate on is “narrative voice”. Find the way your story “wants to tell itself” and it will flow out. Until you do, you’ll just spin your wheels. And finding it is not something rules and jargon will help you with: you have to just dig around to finding the heart, and how it talks.
2. When in trouble take your first (paragraph, chapter, line, etc.) and switch it with the second. Take a look and see what you think. Sounds simple and silly, but just try it.

What are your current plans?

--I’m got a TV series in development and a couple more novels (mostly set at Mexico/US border) trying to get in print at bigger presses. Meanwhile, I’m doing something new and little dangerous: working on about four projects at once. We’ll see.
What scares me is that I’ve always scorned writers who have no success until they start doing writers’ conferences and books about how to write--and I know now have three books for writers out ( ) and am doing conference workshops. Aieeee!

Where can we find your novel for sale? Please give us a link to your book and your author page!

--Oh, well, I suppose I could do that, despite my shy and self-abnegating nature. Best place so start is on the publisher’s website, Adoro Books, ( ) which links to my site, a sale point, amazon and B&N, and some additional material and sample chapter ( ).


  1. Interesting interview. I like when an author sets the story where they've lived. I can tell through the story they've been where they're writing about. There is an authentic feeling to the story. Thanks!

  2. I have an American friend who has lived in Mexico for many years. The tales she tells me are hair-raising, to say the least.
    Your novel sounds like a great read. It's on my TBB list.
    Nice post. Thank you.

  3. I enjoyed this interview very much. Lin is a wonderful, creative guest to have had the pleasure of interviewing.



  4. Very interesting. I will be honest and state that I have only read one novel written by a man.. oh wait.. make that two. And I discovered that I liked them. They were both different kind of novels... so they did not relate to each other in genre at all. I was quiet shocked that I liked them. I thought reading from a male author would have changed the scope of the story... maybe less romance or something. But in each of those stories, the action was described more vividly.. but in the end the stories were good.
    I think this is an interesting book to look into! Thanks CJ for showcasing Mr. Linton.
    Hope all is well honey!!

  5. Thank, you ladies, for your attention and comments

  6. Loved the quote Linton. You are so romantic!
    Must be the water or the tequila....