An Interview with Richard Hacker


About the Book

After a murdered partner, a cheating wife and a lost job in Houston, Nick Sibelius sets up a private investigation business in a small Texas town hoping to find some peace and maybe, himself. When two lovers disappear and a fisherman turns up dead, he finds himself drawn into a web of crime and deceit involving MaryLou, a beautiful woman with a mysterious past; Junior, a failed farmer whose best intentions seem to always result in a dead body; and Barry, a sociopathic dentist turned illegal toxic waste entrepreneur with a violent right wing agenda. When the felon who killed Nick’s partner in Houston joins forces with Barry, Nick must not only stop the toxic waste dumping while finding his client’s missing daughter, but keep from being killed in the process. In the end, MaryLou’s dark secret will either save him or kill him — whichever comes first.

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Our Interview

JAD: “Barry, a sociopathic dentist turned illegal toxic waste entrepreneur with a violent right wing agenda.” I love this character description so much because it is so out-in-left-field. I think I want to know more about Barry than the hero. So, tell me the origins of this character. How does one go from “sociopathic dentist” to toxic waste entrepreneur?”

RWH: I wanted to write a story touching on reality, but with a good dose of the absurd, so I’m very happy you think Barry is ‘out-in-left-field’. He’s joined by several other off-the-wall characters. Barry is, of course fictional, but parts of him are an amalgamation of several folks I’ve met along the way. There’s the kid in my first-grade class with the unfortunate nose picking behavior, a dentist who absolutely butchered his attempt at taking out two of my wisdom teeth when I was a teen, and another dentist who had a felonious relationship with pharmaceuticals.

Barry, for his part, has been a sociopath since his teenaged years. When his dental practice falters under the weight of a board censure and sexual assault charges, he comes up with the idea of charging his colleagues for their toxic waste—primarily mercury. To maximize his profits, he dumps the waste illegally and pockets his fees. When we meet Barry, he is funding a radical right militia by expanding into other types of waste, as well as cooking and selling meth.

JAD: Kill’d Dead or Worse is tagged as Book One of a series. Who is Nick Sibelius and why will readers be interested in his exploits?

RWH: Nick is a man who worked hard to have a family, a career, and a purpose, but like many of us, life does not go as planned. And for Nick things really went off the rails. After his wife left him for another man and his partner in the Houston Police force died when they responded to a call, Nick lost track of his life. He spirals down, finally landing in a trailer sitting on a plot of land east of the small town and growing Austin suburb of Pflugerville through the urgings of an old friend to rebuild his life.

We meet him when he is just beginning to sort out his life and find some direction. He’s looking for meaningful work, maybe someone special in his life, and most of all, some peace and quiet without any drama. I think readers will care about Nick because most of us can empathize with his struggle through our own unique life challenges.

JAD: It sounds like poor Nick’s life has been through the wringer even before the novel starts. If you could offer a bit of life advice to your protagonist, what would it be?

RWH: I think his friend, Sergeant Quentin Matthews of the Pflugerville Police Department, gave Nick some great advice. He needed to get away from the pain and misery he experienced Houston and take some time for himself. Nick does have to make a living, but as a friend I’d probably suggest to him opening a private investigation business might be too close to his police experience and too soon. He’d benefit from doing something completely different for a time to get his head straight, then move forward with his life. Fortunately for me, he decides to forge ahead before he’s ready, which means his actions often arise out of his past leading to conflicts.

JAD: Come to think of it, it seems like the standard trope for thrillers that the detective has to have a damaged background. We just don’t seem to want our detectives to be well-adjusted, happy professionals. Why do you think so many of the best thrillers rely on such flawed heroes?

RWH: Well-adjusted, happy people lack a critical component for all fiction: drama. As a writer, I don’t want a character to get cut off on the highway and simply take a deep breath, aligning mind and body. I need the character to pull out the extremely large gun under the seat, maybe a hand grenade in the glove box and go nuclear. And it won’t hurt of the person who cut him off has a couple of automatic weapons, maybe an armed attack drone.

JAD: Hollywood called! They want to make the book into a movie? And you get to cast the characters! Who is your dream cast for the main characters? And who directs? (Don’t say Michael Bay).

RWH: Hello, Matt Damon? So glad you called, Absolutely. I’d love to have you play Nick Sibelius. Oh, you heard about Jack Black. Yeah, he’s going to be a fantastic Barry. (shared laughter) Right. If Jack wasn’t an actor, he’d definitely be a sociopathic dentist. I’m hoping to hear from Anne Hathaway for the part of MaryLou. I know. She’s such a good actress she could just about do anything. Billy Bob Thornton’s agent gave us a green light for his part as Junior Pendleton. And for Alice, the transgendered receptionist? Laverne Cox. What’s that Damon? Oh, director. Yeah, I imagine you’d kind of want to know. I was thinking Tarantino, but clean up after each scene is crazy expensive. There’s always Barry Sonnenfeld who directed Get Shorty. Yeah, I like Elmore Leonard, too. But the Coen brothers called. I know. Shut up! Yeah, that’s right. Frigging BIG LEBOWSKI! Hey, got to go. Sure. Drop by anytime. See you later, Damon.

JAD: Besides plotting future misery for Nick. what other things are you working on?

RWH: I’ve got a couple of novels in different genres I’m shopping around right now. One is a sci-fi fantasy, THE BIFURCATION OF DUNGSTON CREASE. It’s about a guy who discovers he’s a probe for a bankrupt intergalactic vacation business—kind of a VRBO to the stars, literally. And the other is a fantasy, currently titled ADDISON SHAW AND THE LORDS OF ALCHEMY about a young man who inherits his father’s role in a secret organization to protect the time space continuum.

About the Author

Author Richard Hacker
Author Richard Hacker

Richard Hacker has been writing most of his life, and professionally, in support of his work in management consulting, public speaking and training in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. In 2009 he moved, along with his wife, from Austin to Seattle, shifting his professional focus from business consulting to writing fiction full time. Wanted by authorities for smuggling Texas BBQ across state lines, he now writes and lives in Seattle. His writing has been recognized by the Writer’s League of Texas and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. As a judge in literary contests such as PNWA and ChicLit, he enjoys the opportunity to give writers honest critique to move their craft forward. In addition, he is the science fiction and fantasy editor for the Del Sol Review, an online literary magazine.

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