Award-winning author Laird Barron is the latest writer to switch genres.
After penning multiple critically-acclaimed horror and fantasy novels, Barron is now trying his hand at crime fiction, proving right away to be a formidable voice in his new genre.
Blood Standard, Barron’s new book, introduces Isaiah Coleridge, a former mob enforcer who is forced to go on the run and into hiding. Taking on a new life far away from his previous one, Coleridge is now working as a farmhand in upstate New York when his employer’s daughter goes missing. Armed with the skills — and the brutality — needed to hopefully get the girl back safely, Coleridge sets out to do just that. . . but matters become more complicated when people from his past suddenly close in on his new life.
Ahead of the book’s publication, I was able to ask Laird Barron some questions, thrilled that he agreed to go on the record for our Five Questions segment. Read the Q&A below, then make sure to pick up Blood Standard, in stores tomorrow, May 29th.
TRBS: You’re known for penning horror, noir, and/or dark fantasy types of thrillers. What made you decide to switch genres, and how long have you wanted to write a true crime novel?
Barron: “I cut my teeth on John D. MacDonald, Robert B. Parker, Donald Westlake, and the like. So I acquired a taste for crime, noir, and mystery early on. It’s true that much of my prior work inhabits the spheres of dark fantasy and supernatural horror, but the horror and fantastical elements are often grounded in crime and noir. It was only a matter of time before I gave a traditional crime novel a shot. That said, Blood Standard and the ongoing saga of its protagonist, Isaiah Coleridge, travels to some dark places.”
TRBS: How did you come up with the story idea for , and how much research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write it?
Barron: “I’ve prepared to write this tale for years. My youth in Alaska was eventful. The state tends to attract colorful characters, especially folks looking for construction and fishing work, and others who simply wish to reinvent themselves. I met all kinds and labored with them in some remote settings. I don’t have to dig very deep when it comes to populating a noir or crime narrative.“
TRBS: Who was your inspiration in creating Isaiah Coleridge, and do you see him as a potential series protagonist?
Barron: “Every glowering, laconic bruiser who’s suited up to crack a case or some heads. From Beowulf to Hercules, and the Continental Op to Spenser. Specifically, however, I’m, intrigued by two hardboiled characters: Hawk of Parker’s Spenser series, and the hitman Jules in Pulp Fiction, as played by Samuel L. Jackson. I’ve wondered, what would a book from Hawk’s POV look like? What ultimately became of Jules after a near-death encounter changed his life philosophy? Jules intended to “walk the earth” as a shepherd of men, but admitted it would be difficult.
“My own Isaiah Coleridge shares a profession with these characters, and a desire to leave his gangster days behind. Whether that’s possible is an open question. I’ve written two books about him so far; we’ll see what happens down the line.”
TRBS: Who are some of your favorite authors, and what books are currently sitting on your nightstand to read?
Barron: “In regards to favorites, I’ve already mentioned a handful. Cormac McCarthy and Peter Straub are near the top. Add S.P. Miskowski, Kaaron Warren, John Langan, and Jim Thompson to that list. Joseph Wambaugh (The Delta Star), Martin Cruz Smith (Gorky Park), and Robert Ferrigno (The Horse Latitudes). Some of these are literary giants who’ve influenced me for decades. Others are contemporaries who inspire me today.
“At the moment, I’m reading a lot of nonfiction as research for upcoming novels. Paul Tremblay’s forthcoming novel, The Cabin at the End of the World is a big one. I read an early draft and am anticipating the hardcover release.”
TRBS: Lastly, now that Blood Standard is set to hit bookstores, what’s next for you?
Barron: “I recently handed in a manuscript called Black Mountain. It’s the next chapter in the Coleridge saga. Expect to see that in 2019. Now, I’m working on a few short stories and a new novel.”
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.