Fred Van Lente
Van Lente, a graphic novelist known for Odd Is on Our Side with Dean R. Koontz, Cowboys & Aliens (made into a feature film starring Harrison Ford) and Weird Detective, spent most of his childhood in Ohio.
He is a graduate of Syracuse University as well as Chagrin Falls High School, whose alumni include the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson, and Carol Burnett's funny man, actor Tim Conway. In a recent phone interview, Van Lente admitted he hopes going to the same high school as the two legends rubbed off on him, even though he now lives in Brooklyn. "Of course I live in Brooklyn. It's federally mandated by law that all writers live within the confines of the borough. You either live here on your own or the law will send guys with nets out to drag you here,'' he said.
Van Lente's newest book, Ten Dead Comedians, is a comedic look at Agatha Christie's mysteries, and although he considers himself more a guy who grew up on George Carlin than on Christie, he honors her work. "Actually, I was also into Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, L.A. detective novels. But, Christie's And Then There Were None is such a classic. When I studied it, I was struck with what a great prop stylist she is. She is a writer's writer,'' he said. "And I also think how good Murder on the Orient Express is and her use of the inverted mystery formula.''
For his next project, Van Lente is turning to middle school readers with another graphic novel series, Action Presidents.
What is on your nightstand?
I recently did a library event, and I grabbed a couple books from authors who were also presenting. So I have How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas. She wrote a couple other novels in French. This is her first one in English.
I'm assuming, for some reason, you picked a humorous book?
It is. The family members were quirky, eccentric and overeducated. The writer has a very nice voice. She also has a lot of characters.
Can you give me an example of the humor?
The main character's older sister is about 15, and she wants him to write her biography because she knows she is going to be famous. So she constantly makes him follow her around and interview her. It's funny.
Regarding multiple characters, with Ten Dead Comedians, did you ever feel you bit off more than you could chew, or did you innately know how to handle all the characters?
Well, I did outline. A big challenge was not just that everyone was being murdered but that everyone was a suspect. To do that, you need to put everyone in a place where not only they could be murdered but also that they could be the murderer.
Contact Piper Castillo at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @Florida_PBJC.