Monday 16 May 2011

Lenny Kleinfeld interview: Shooters And Chasers

Shooters And Chasers by Lenny Kleinfeld

Lenny Kleinfeld began his career as a playwright in Chicago, where he was also a columnist for Chicago magazine. His articles, fiction and humor have appeared in Playboy, Oui, Galaxy, the Chicago Tribune,  New York Times and Los Angeles Times. In 1986 he sold a screenplay; he is now twenty-five years into a business trip to Los Angeles. Shooters And Chasers is his first novel.

Can you sum up Shooters And Chasers in no more than 25 words?


What was your motivation for writing it?

I have no other marketable skills.

How much difference does an editor make?

Depends on how deranged he or she is.

How much difference does a good cover make?

Same as a good costume does for an actor.

How important is a good title?

I'm not qualified to answer that one; ask Will or Harry.

What's the best piece of craft advice you've been given?

Make it shorter.

What's the best piece of business advice you've been given?

Be born with a trust fund.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

Being born with talent but without a trust fund.

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

Extremely discriminating.

As a writer, how would you describe your ideal reader's taste in crime fiction?

Totally undiscriminating.

What makes you keep reading a book?

Being unable to sleep when flying economy class.

What do you look for in a good book?

Techniques I can steal—I mean learn from.

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

I wrote a screenplay and Michael Douglas bought it. After which I sold or was hired to write five more. None ever got produced.

Little-known local cultural eccentricity: In Los Angeles County, the term "First-time novelist" is Latin for "Screenwriter over 50."

Ever tried your hand at poetry?

Just once. Bernie Sahlins, the gentleman who owned the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago, hosted an annual stag dinner and limerick contest. Attendees would all address the same topic. The winners would be judged by a professional writer, who was also expected to contribute a limerick.

The year I was the judge the Cold War was still raging, and the topic was "Post-World War III Humor." My contribution:

An archbishop survived the big blast
Though his manhood a green light now cast
Till he met a young nun
With huge glowing buns
And she brought him to Critical Mass

That was a quarter of a century ago, and in all that time not one poetry journal has requested a submission.

How do you feel about reviews?

One way or another, every review provides a good reason to open a bottle of wine.

Shooters And Chasers by Lenny Kleinfeld


  1. HOW I have not seen that limmerick in The Paris Review? Or Vatican City Magazine??

    Hysterical interview. I love the cover of your book, and am looking forward to reading it very much.

    The only line I disagree with is "make it shorter". I too have received that advice--but upon a lot of soul-searching/tearing my hairs out, genuinely felt it to be wrong. I'm not talking about, "260K is really too long for a debut novel," of course. But anyway the long(er) version did go on to sell.

    I definitely think it's true for a certain type of noir, spare fiction.

    Am I taking this whole thing too seriously :)

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Jenny--

    It is a mystery, considering what a Paris Review kinda guy I am.

    As far as the length issue, well, sure, whatever works best. You probably don't have the running-off-at-the-keyboard tendencies that I do.

    Thanks so much for the kind words. I'm looking forward to you looking forward to reading Shooters, and to finding out if you're still talking to me afterward.


  3. Love this! I do write short so need to make it longer usually. Unless it's a short story. Those can be short.

  4. Kaye--

    Your first drafts usually come out too short? First Jenny, and now this.

    Damn. Who knew I was the only naturally verbose writer on the planet.

    Resisting any temptation to discuss my inadequacies and the need to make it longer,

  5. Good call on that resisting. :)

  6. Allan,
    Thanks for offering my friend, Lenny, a forum.
    I take great delight in anything he writes.
    And this interview was no exception.

    Anyone who hasn't yet read "Shooters and Chasers" is really missing something.
    Go get out and get it!

    I recommend it unreservedly.

  7. I wanna be Leighton Gage when I grow up.

    Which means he's in no danger of being duplicated.


  8. How did I end up on this site? I was wandering aimless about the Internet in search of a discussion on the relative merits of "long v. short," and voila here I am. Okay, yeah, Leighton is right, Lenny is brilliantly funny, but we don't want to encourage him any more than Jenny and Kaye already have. It could trigger a laughter tsunami.

    By the way, congratulations, Jenny, on your book contract.


  9. Jeff--

    Thanks for the kind words; coming from a writer who's no slouch at wit himself, they mean a lot.

    I do need to point out I've never been responsible for a humor-induced natural catastrophe, except for my own career.

    In any case we're about to leave for a long overdue vacation, so for the next few weeks the world is safe from my writing.

    Though...we will be in a couple of very old Iberian cities, where it might be difficult to resist the urge to whip out the Swiss Army knife and scratch the words JEFF SIGER WAS HERE on some Roman ruins.


  10. Historically speaking, Lenny, from my tribe's perspective I think it would be more accurate if you did your holiday scribbling on the Pyramids. Enjoy, my friend.