Friday 24 June 2011

James Henderson: Pernicious

Pernicious by James Henderson
Amazon UK, Amazon US

James Henderson: two-million miles safe-driving trucker. Ex-Marine. Ex-drug counselor. Father. And currently, a writer. Besides Pernicious, he's also the author of Baby Huey, a novel about the perils of drug addiction.

Can you sum up Pernicious in 25 words or fewer?

Two strong-willed African American women, Tasha Montgomery, a southern homicide detective, and Perry Davis, a gorgeous femme fatale who has killed three husbands for insurance money, engage in a dramatic battle of wits, fisticuffs and verbal assaults that culminates in a life-or-death duel.

How long did it take you to write?

It took six months to write Pernicious, and five years of rewriting and tweaking it. My agent pimped it to small and large publishers for several years, yet no one made an offer. Several years ago a small publisher in Mississippi promised to print the novel. Yet, in two years, a contract never materialized. After self-publishing another title, I decided to offer Pernicious only as an ebook.

What was your motivation for writing it?

A true-crime fanatic, I’ve always been interested in sociopaths, especially the female variety. These women often use sex as their primary weapon, either to influence men to do their evil bidding, or as a lure to entice men to their death. In Pernicious, the femme fatale, Perry, murders two of her victims during the act of intercourse.

How much difference does a good cover make?

No cover whatsoever is akin to putting your work in a shoebox under the bed. Nothing will happen there. I’ve also discovered that many people are turned off by cartoon covers. As you’ve noticed, Pernicious has a cartoon cover, and though many people have told me to change it, I love it and refuse to replace it. My opinion: sexy models gracing covers is getting a tad stale and formulaic.

What are your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?

Sad to say, I struggle with description. When I see a tree that’s all I see, a tree. I also work only with primary colors, so all my trees are either red, green or blue. Thus, my novels are generally dialogue heavy. Dialogue seems easy but it is not. Or should I say interesting dialogue is not easy. Nothing bores me more than reading characters engage in a mundane, pointless conversation.

What aspects of marketing do you enjoy?

I drive a truck across the continental USA and meet new people each day. At least once a week someone tries to sell me something. Now I can spot these people before they even start my way and I avoid them, occasionally going so far as walking in the other direction.

Therefore, I do very little marketing.

Who is your favourite living writer?

Richard Price has no equal in contemporary crime fiction. Each time I read one of his novels, I think, God, I wish I could write like this. No other author I’ve read can echo the dialogue of various ethnic groups the way Richard Price does so superbly.

What are the greatest opportunities facing writers today?

Ebooks afford everyone the opportunity to offer his or her literary work on the internet. Until now authors like myself had no other recourse than to wait till some publisher gave us a nod of approval. Now, with ebooks, readers decide which books are worthy of reading.

How do you feel about the ease with which anyone can publish?

What aggravates me is authors who claim most of what is being published today is crap, rubbish, trash. Notice not a single author has publicly cited his or her own work as horse manure. It is always the other guy’s work that stinks. To any author I say, do what you feel you must do with your work and hope for the best. But be realistic.

How do you feel about reviews?

If the review is an honest assessment of what someone feels about my work, be it good or bad, I smile and keep on trucking. A reviewer stated one of my novels had formatting issues, so I thanked her and immediately corrected the issue. What bothers me, however, is people who personalize their review, as in, “My arse started itching when I read the first three chapters, then at the halfway point I needed hemorrhoid medication, and after reading this tripe I needed surgery.”

Have you ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

Glad you asked this question. Just finished a screenplay for Pernicious and now attempting to get someone to take a look at it. Pernicious has a classic thriller component, similar to Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, in which a gorgeous seductress murders her husband. Yet in Pernicious, the femme fatale is an African American woman. Perchance the film is produced, it would be interesting to search for and cast a woman who can follow in the footsteps of Lana Turner and Barbara Stanwyck.

Pernicious by James Henderson
Amazon UK, Amazon US


  1. This novel is on my TBR list. Baby Huey was a great read, highly recommend it.

  2. I loved Henderson's take on description! I'm in full agreement. There are writers whose entire opus seems to consist of description, and, if you took out all the flowery, window-pane prose, you'd end up with Hemingway's six-word novel: For sale. Never used. Baby shoes. A tree is just a tree--a big plant.

    Gonna get this book!