Welcome back to Part Two of Confessions of a Reviewer’s interview with the legend, the myth, Dallas Mullican.
In tonight’s segment, Dallas will tell you everything you need to know about the Marlowe Gentry trilogy and, in particular, A Coin for Charon and, the soon to be released, The Dark Age. At the end, as always, he has to tread carefully through The Ten Confessions!
It’s Tuesday night so you will already be struggling with the week. Go get some beer and nibbles and sit back, and most of all…..enjoy!
CoaR – Moving on to Marlowe Gentry, how did this character come about? What were your expectations for him?
DM – My first book was strange, an existential, horror, drama. Ordinary People if written by Poe and Sartre, ha. With A Coin for Charon I tried to write something more accessible while keeping my artsy fartsy sensibilities. The only way I could write something more mainstream was to find ways to tweak it. I tried to do this by playing with the crime fiction troupes, and adding philosophy, psychology, and drama. I didn’t want the focus to be grisly murders but how the characters’ lives were affected and connected against the setting of a serial killer. Marlowe is deeply damaged, but unable to give up on hope completely. He isn’t the guy with all the answers. He isn’t the tough guy. He’s average in many ways, but with a keen mind that sees more than most, with an empathy that can be crippling from him.
CoaR – His first adventure in A Coin for Charon is a fantastic introduction to Marlowe and his team. What did you want to get across with this one?
DM – I like to deal with themes in all my works. A Coin for Charon’s theme is how experience and circumstance define us, often removing free will, or at the least making it dull and difficult to employ. Each of the four main characters are almost interchangeable. You can imagine them switching places and the outcomes being the same. Two have little to no choice due to their circumstances and experiences, the other two have a greater chance at redemption and salvation for the same reasons. They are slivers cut from the same source, aspects of a single persona.
CoaR – There are a lot of similarities between Marlowe and the villain in this one, I take it this was intentional? To give them the same demons but put them on opposite sides of the law?
DM – Exactly. As I said above, this was a primary focus of the novel. Watching people so much alike, in similar circumstances, and see how they make the similar or different choices. And is choice really a factor, could any of them have done anything other than they did?
CoaR – You build the characters fantastically well. They are very easy to connect with and you almost feel like you have known them for years. Is this something you spend a lot of time on or does it just flow naturally?
DM – The old adage, write what you know, is important to me. To achieve real empathy with my characters, I need to understand why they do what they do. Knowing a person like Max, who faced death to a horribly debilitating disease, or being a person who lives in fear of such an eventuality, allows me to see as he sees and feel as he feels. I’ve never gone through what Marlowe did, but I have loved, and I do have a child, so I can imagine how shattering his experiences would be. With Gabriel, I needed to work harder to get into his head, but the feelings of isolation and guilt, I can certainly relate to and pull from. Empathy, another theme in the book, is my most valued tool, and I think it is for most writers. Being able to see and understand even the most heinous character is a necessity to creating three-dimensional characters.
CoaR – I notice you have degrees in English and Philosophy. I would have thought Psychology would have been in there as well because you seem to delve into the human psyche a lot. Your characters have more depth about them rather than just being a cop or a villain. Is this intentional again?
DM – Definitely. All my interests and the things I’ve learned go into my writing. I try to learn more and more, which is the key to creation. Nothing is original, only blending as many genres, experiences, and knowledge together has a hope of creating something different and possibly lasting.
Religions and mythology have been lifelong interests of mine, and though I try to not preach, or heavily lean on long passages of philosophy, there is an undercurrent throughout that I hope leads the reader to ask the big questions, and look for deeper meanings. I use a great deal of symbolism, themes, metaphor, etc. which if the reader chooses can open new layers to contemplate. I hope there is a good story for those that are looking for escapism, but also something deeper for those that wish to find it.
CoaR – Book two, The Dark Age, is coming out very soon. What did you want to achieve with this one?
DM – The theme for this one is about obsession. How we can focus on something, not necessarily a bad thing, but to the exclusion of other equally, or more important things. How such an obsession can cause lifelong regret when we look up one day and something precious is lost, and then comes the realization that while we focus on the one thing, the other slipped through our fingers. The Dark Age has several mirror stories all dealing with this to one extent or another.
CoaR – You spread your wings a bit and start to explore other members of the team and their lives. Is this going to continue? If they survive that is.
DM – I believe so. I want to see how Marlowe continues. He’ll have ups and downs, but I also want to see more of the lives around him. What makes them tick? Is Kline uptight and stoic for a reason? Who are Koop and Spence beyond the sarcastic duo we’ve met? So, if readers enjoy these characters, I’d like to see what their backgrounds were like, and where they go in the future.
CoaR – This one again has the villain questioning his own mind and beliefs and trying to find the answers through murder. How do you come up with these scenarios?
DM – Honestly, I have no idea where Gabriel’s messed up background came from. I can relate to the rural upbringing and the sense of isolation, but the rest came from some dark corner of my mind I’m not even aware of. With Evan in The Dark Age, I can relate to the need to believe, basing a life on it, and coming to a point where it no longer rings true. I travelled that road myself, fortunately not the same way Evan did. The shattering of lifelong beliefs is jarring to even a sound mind, which Evan does not possess.
CoaR – You always seem to write just up to the point of making these stories supernatural or horror. Why do you stop there? Is this a direction they could take?
DM – No, not with Marlowe’s series. He exists in the real world where the monsters are in the mind. I enjoy showing madness and monsters as they form and exist in the mind using horror elements, often through dreams, hallucinations, or simply how the deranged and troubled see and interact with their world. I do have other works, in a different series, that explore fantasy and horror in a less ‘real world’ way.
THE TEN CONFESSIONS
1 Who would you view as your main competitor in the writing world?
DM – Hmm, I don’t think I’ve risen to the point to be considered competition to anyone. Within the crime fiction genre, aimed in the direction I tend to write, you have to consider John Sandford, Thomas Harris, Jonathan Kellerman, etc.
2 What book or author have you read that you think should never have been published?
DM – I’m careful about what I read and watch. I check out reviews and try to make informed decisions so as not to invest time and money on things that will not interest me. The only thing that comes to mind is The Hunger Games. I wouldn’t say it shouldn’t have been published, it is beloved by many, but for me, I hate first person present writing, and I found the writing to be juvenile in tone, probably intended, since it was a YA novel, which I don’t read. I enjoyed the movies and wanted to try the books, but didn’t enjoy it. I’ve read some self-pub books sent to me that were poorly edited and the writing not mature.
3 Are any of the things your characters have experienced in your books been based on something that has actually happened to you? What was it?
DM – Elements of Max’s cancer experience, my dad also suffered. Divorce, and the dissolution of a marriage, I can personally relate to. I had an aunt who was abused by her husband. So, many of the events are ones I experienced or have witnessed, only the ones in my books are on steroids.
4 Have you ever blatantly stolen an idea or scene and adapted it for one of your own books? If so, care to share?
DM – Hmm, I do plant little Easter egg type bits. Maybe and allusion to a movie or another book. One from my fantasy story is when a character says, “Initiation is over, time to join us,” which is a nod to The Lost Boys. Lots of little things like that. In my new work, I have a scene that pays homage to Stephen King’s Silver Bullet from Cycle of the Werewolf. I am sure I have some that are less consciously applied.
5 Have you ever anonymously left a bad review for someone else’s book? If so, care to share?
DM – No, I haven’t. I share constructive criticism with other authors in private. Any public review or criticism would be positive. Now, in relation to bigger works I have purchased, and I’m not friends with the author, I will critique the work and debate it with others, perhaps write about my opinions, but never anonymously.
6 What’s the one thing you are least proud of doing in your life and why?
DM – My divorce when I was much younger, as it made me a weekend dad, and not the day-to-day dad to my daughter I would have wished to have been.
7 What’s the one thing you are MOST proud of doing in your life and why?
DM – Being a father. Having a hand at raising and influencing a beautiful, smart, and kind daughter.
8 What’s your biggest fault?
DM – Lack of confidence.
9 What is your biggest fear?
DM – Painful illness like cancer.
10 If you had to go to confession now, what would be the one thing you would need to get off your chest?
DM – I have a mad crush on Nev Murray.
CoaR – Understandable…..
Well, sadly, that is the end of the interview with Dallas.
I am sure you have learnt a lot about the man of mystery this past couple of nights.
I want to personally thank Dallas for taking the time to answer all of the questions we threw at him and for being so candid with his answers.
Don’t forget to come back tomorrow night, and Thursday, for our reviews of A Coin for Charon and The Dark Age.
Also watch out for October’s Children coming next year!
Thanks again for visiting Confessions of a Reviewer!
After spending twenty years as the lead singer of a progressive metal band, Dallas Mullican turned his creative impulses toward writing. Raised on King, Barker, and McCammon, he moved on to Poe and Lovecraft, enamored with the macabre. During his time at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he received degrees in English and Philosophy, Dallas developed a love for the Existentialists, Shakespeare, Faulkner, and many more great authors and thinkers. Incorporating this wide array of influences, he entices the reader to fear the bump in the night, think about the nature of reality, and question the motives of their fellow humans.
A pariah of the Deep South, Dallas doesn’t understand NASCAR, hates Southern rock and country music, and believes the great outdoors consists of walking to the mailbox and back. He remains a metalhead at heart, and can be easily recognized by his bald head and Iron Maiden t-shirt.
And for more about Dallas, visit his site or find him on social media: