Atomic Interview #15: Talking HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE with Lee Houston, Junior.

Hugh MonnHugh Monn, Private Detective: Catch a Rising Star (2013) – Written by Lee Houston, Junior. – Published by ProSe Press.

Welcome back, everyone, for the 15th installment of my Atomic Interview series. If you’re new to the Anxiety, pull up a chair, and join us for a bit. There’s plenty of good interviews with some really talented creative folks and a movie review or 800 to keep you interested.

I’m thrilled to be joined this month by Lee Houston, Junior. In addition to being a writer (check out his full list of titles at his Amazon page), Lee is also the Magazine Editor for Pro Se Press. The interview begins after the publisher’s description of his latest book:

When your back’s against a glistening futuristic wall and alien criminals are coming at you from all sides, that’s when you need a man like HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE! And He’s back in all his classic Private Eye glory! Lee Houston, Jr.’s futuristic detective with the 1950s sensibilities is back once again, this time in his first full length adventure! Hired as a security consultant for actress Ruby Kwartz’ latest project, Hugh discovers that everyone around the starlet has an agenda all their own and someone wants to make sure this production will be her last. Find out if Hugh can catch a rising star before she falls…to her death! Featuring a fantastic cover by David L. Russell and stunning format and design by Sean Ali, HUGH MONN: CATCH A RISING STAR is Lee Houston at his best, delivering a classic 1950s vibe into a futuristic world! From Pro Se Productions, a publisher on the cutting edge of New Pulp and Genre Fiction!

Mark Bousquet: Hi Lee, and thanks for joining me for this installment of my Atomic Interview series. We’re here to talk about HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE: CATCH A RISING STAR and we can get to the details on that book in a moment, but let’s start with a basic question: Who is Hugh Monn and what kind of world does he inhabit on Galveston 2?

Lee Houston, Junior: Hugh Monn, a play on the word Human, is a private detective on another planet in the far flung future. An honorably discharged veteran of Universal War 1, his home base is now the island nation of Galveston 2, which is an idealized-futuristic version of its namesake and my childhood home in Texas; nestled completely within the tropical zone of the planet Frontera.

The universe by this point is now a vast melting pot, with Humanity just one of many races among the stars. But despite the potential of utopia, people still have their foibles; so there will always be plenty of work for someone in Hugh’s profession.

Mark: So, in CATCH A RISING STAR…?

Lee: Hugh is hired as a security consultant when actress Ruby Kwartz comes to Galveston 2 to record a new vid. But what was supposed to be an easy assignment turns deadly when Hugh discovers that everyone around Ruby has a hidden agenda, and that someone wants to make sure this production will be her last. Plus, the book has another great cover by artist David L. Russell, who won an award for his artwork on the first Hugh Monn volume.

Mark: That first book was a collection of seven short stories, but this time around you’ve given us a novel. Was it always your intention to write a novel
as your second book or was there something about this story that evolved into a longer piece?

Lee: The first Hugh Monn book contained all the stories that would have appeared within Pro Se Press’ Masked Gun Mystery magazine; provided that title lasted past issue two and wasn’t folded (along with Fantasy & Fear and Peculiar Adventures) into Pro Se Presents, of which I’m editor. Just goes to show you how far ahead I was at the time.

I was intentionally trying for longer tales when I began writing CATCH A RISING STAR, but my original plan was that the second book would have been split between at least two cases under the working title “Femme Fatales”. However the CATCH story kept growing until it reached the point where it became Hugh’s first full length novel.

Mark: In his All Pulp review of the first book: HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE; Ron Fortier writes that “what is particularly refreshing in these tales is that Houston wisely opts not to make his hero a hard-boiled, typically cynical type. Hugh Monn is a genuinely nice guy who likes people and aliens alike and is sincere in trying to make his world a better place for all to live in. He’s a good guy I liked meeting and hope to see him again real soon.” There’s a lot of
familiar elements in Hugh and his world, but you’ve created an uncommon mix. What were your reasons for this? How did Hugh develop as a character?

Lee: The initial concept literally came to me in a dream while I was trying to recover from open heart surgery back in 2007. While much of that period is unfortunately only a blur to me at best, the Monn concept thankfully stayed with me.

Every writer wants to create at least one “signature character” that is uniquely theirs, and Hugh is definitely mine. I basically took all the classic trappings of the private detective genre and placed them in a totally unique setting, for every mystery I’ve ever seen or read has either been contemporary or set somewhere in the past. The futuristic science fiction aspects don’t overshadow the mystery and adventure, but certainly adds a unique background to the series.
As to Hugh’s character, his personality is based in part upon his creator, as well as a lot of other things I have liked about the mystery and sci-fi fields throughout the various media. But Hugh does have his own reasons for making more of an effort to be friendlier and outgoing than the average being. I’ve been hinting of a dark secret in his past, starting with the fact that Hugh Monn is not his given name, just a public persona he’s developed that is also good for business. Someday I will reveal all, but I am surprised that no one has guessed what it is yet.

Mark: Does that contribute to why Hugh is not ‘the hard-boiled, typically cynical’ type of detective?

Lee: In part. Don’t get me wrong. Hugh can take definitely take care of himself when push comes to shove. The mystery/private eye genre is full of not only rough and tumble investigators, but those who can use their brains as well as their fists, and Hugh falls into the latter category.

Mark: Is it difficult to maintain a balance between science fiction and mystery?

Lee: Sometimes. The closest thing I have to a ‘deus ex machina’ are the Lawbots and their associates. They are quite capable of doing many things yet, while their conclusions are always logical, sometimes the bots cannot see ‘the big picture’ because it’s still difficult for them to analyze the more emotional aspects of life.

As far as the state of technology in Hugh’s time, such things as Light Tablets and Comm Units are logical extensions of what we have today. Yet some concepts like Lawbots and Nuke 653 Rechargeables are still a long way off from becoming reality, although a lot of items are rechargeable even today, which definitely helps the environment.

I had a reader ask me once if Hugh’s Hover 3001 actually flies, for the concept of flying cars has been around long before The Jetsons. Sorry to disappoint, but vehicles in Hugh’s time are only sleek, aerodynamic means of transportation that glide smoothly over the roadways without harming the environment and get great mileage to the fuel cell.

Mark: Do you have a preference between writing novels and short stories? After having written Hugh in both formats, do you think he lends himself better to one or the other?

Lee: I am comfortable writing in both formats, but prefer to let my stories determine their length over their natural course of events from start to finish, hence CATCH A RISING STAR turning out the way it did. When I plot, I develop a specific sequence of scenes and events that I want to happen within the tale, but my plan is not so rigid that another idea can’t be considered if it comes along.

You can still tell good mysteries in the shorter format, but they won’t be as complex with more side plots and character development along the way. I think between the two books (to date) in the series, I have proven Hugh Monn is viable in both formats. While I personally prefer longer stories to allow for more detail and character development, especially when working in a series, I will not ‘pad’ a tale just to have a bigger composition.

Mark: What’s your take on the current state of New Pulp? Is there a hole in New Pulp right now – either in content or community – that you’d like to see somebody fill?

Lee: If there is truly anything missing in New Pulp today, it is the larger audience that the pulpsters who came before us had. Today’s pulp provides a wide variety of characters and stories across a multitude of genres like its forefathers did, combined with modern production technology and storytelling techniques. But we also have more competition from additional avenues of entertainment than existed in the past. Sadly, this prevents many of us from selling enough books to make a living from just our creative efforts. Unfortunately, I don’t know what the answer(s) are, but I enjoy writing too much to let this deter me.

Mark: An audio edition of HUGH MONN, PRIVATE DETECTIVE was recently released. What’s it like having your work translated into that format?

Lee: Pardon the pun, but I was just speechless when I found out. Pro Se’s CEO Tommy Hancock plays his cards close to the vest, so I was unaware about it until the rest of the general public heard the news upon its release. But I think Dynamic Ram did a fantastic job adapting my prose and the MP3s sounded great! I would especially once again like to thank Chris Barnes and Pete Milan for all their hard work, and look forward to future collaborations with them.

Mark: You also released a superhero book last year entitled PROJECT ALPHA. What’s the story of this book?

Lee: Alpha, in one form or another, has been with me since high school. His uniform color scheme even reflects that of my alma mata: Aldine Senior High School back in Texas. When handled properly, there is just something interesting about people who have extraordinary abilities, yet have to deal with the same basic problems of life like everyone else. A superhero story is one of the first tales I ever tried writing, and I have honed and refined the Alpha idea over the years until it became the novel that was published last year.

Mark: PROJECT ALPHA is described as “a prose love letter to the wonder, magic, awe, and power of Silver Age Comics!” What is it about that era of comics that you enjoy? How is that era reflected in your story?

Lee: The Silver Age represents a more innocent, gentler time; when children could safely play in their front yards until dusk and you could easily tell the heroes from the villains. I have been a comic book reader, and I do stress the R word, since Action Comics #434 (circa April 1974), so my personal Silver Age runs from then until Marv Wolfman started setting the foundation for the Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985. However, I am well familiar with a lot that has come before that period, thanks to reprints and back issues.

Alpha is truly a superhero and product of that time. An innocent bystander who was given powers and ordered upon a mission to save the world. But in this instance, the world was not his own and only time will tell just how successful he really was.

While PROJECT ALPHA, like all my books, is a complete and self-contained story unto itself, plot threads from the first volume will be explored more fully in ALPHA, BOOK 2: WAYWARD SON; which I am currently working on for a projected 2014 release around a few short story commitments I have to finish honoring.

Mark: Is there any chance that there might be a Hugh Monn-Alpha crossover someday?

Lee: The thought has crossed my mind and by the end of Alpha’s fourth book, for I have the overall series currently plotted through at least the seventh, it will be much easier for the superhero to visit Hugh’s future on the planet Fronteria than for the private detective to visit the superhero. However I just don’t have a viable adventure (yet) worthy of my two leads. When that comes to me…

Mark: What’s next for you?

Lee: I am starting to spread my wings and expand my horizons by taking on short story projects from other companies. I promised Ron Fortier a story for Airship 27 as well as a tale for a project my friend Jamie Ramos is working on. I already turned in a contribution to an anthology Sean Taylor is overseeing, but I don’t know the current status on that. There are also a few short stories in the queue for various Pro Se Press anthologies. When I finish ALPHA 2, I do intend to start work on the third volume in the HUGH MONN series. There are also a few other ideas I’ve been contemplating on the back burner of my mind, but none of them have gotten past the ‘what if/maybe’ stage yet to start work on, let alone discuss publicly.

Mark: Where can people go to find out more about you and your work?

Lee: I maintain both a professional page on Facebook (Lee Houston, Junior: Writer/Editor) as well as an author’s page on Amazon, where everything I have created or contributed to can be found. I am also the Editor-In-Chief of The Free Choice E-zine at www.thefreechoice.info and contributor to the “In My ‘Spare’ Time” blog at http://3creativepeople.blogspot.com.

Mark: And that’s a wrap on another interview. Thanks to Lee for joining me and a reminder that if you like an author’s work, there is no better way to leave money in the tip jar and help spread the word than to leave a review at your bookseller of choice. Reviews help authors more than you can imagine. Thanks, all!

—-

Haunting of Kraken Moor CoverWhen he’s not chatting with other authors, Mark Bousquet is doing some creative writing himself. He is the author of multiple novels and collections, including The Haunting of Kraken Moor (horror), Gunfighter Gothic (weird western), Stuffed Animals for Hire (children lit), Dreamer’s Syndrome (urban fantasy), Harpsichord and the Wormhole Witches (cosmic pulp), and Adventures of the Five (children lit). He has also published a review collection entitled Marvel Comics on Film, which covers every cinematic and TV movie based on a superhero from the House of Ideas. A complete listing of all his work can be found at his Amazon author page.

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