|THE REAL BILLY
The author's father, Edward John Vojkovich, a/k/a Eddie
Muller (the original) living up to the mantle of "Mr. Boxing"
during his heyday at the San Francisco Examiner.
They should have used this photo on the book jacket!
ON THE ROPES
Publishers Weekly Talks with
December 9, 2002
PW: You have a solid one-two
punch this season with Shadow Boxer and a poster book,
The Art of Noir. How do you feel about that?
EM: I feel great about it, but I'd be lying if I didn't
say that all of the non-fiction I have done is a set-up for
the novels. My real interest is in fiction, in writing these
PW: How closely is your protagonist, Billy Nichols,
modeled on your dad?
EM: The details are all very different, but overall it's
pretty damn close. As far as I know, he never buried a body
in Golden Gate Park. In terms of attitude and style, the way
he interacts with people, very close. My dad was employed
by the San Francisco Examiner for 52 years. He was
a copy boy and then he was a boxing writer. That was the only
job he ever held in his life, writing about boxing for the
Examiner. I go back and comb through his columns, just
to glean details and ideas. The veracity of the boxing world
in these books is really strong, down to the dates of fights.
So much of that is biographical, having to do with my father
and that he actually lived in that world. It wasn't until
I did that first film noir book, Dark City, that I
really understood what I pretty much sitting in my lap as
a potential hard-boiled series. Once I had done that book
it all came back to me as a noir movie.
PW: The Billy Nichols books
are nicely subversive of the "tough guy" school of writing.
EM: Completely intentional. I
can do these subversive elements, undercutting the expectations
that people have about the tough guy and the boxing dodge.
Billy's a henpecked husband, works nine-to-five and tries
to stay out of trouble and this shit just kind of happens
PW: Your use of 1940s San Francisco
is an especially nice aspect to this series.
EM: I have complete affinity for
that period. Because of my dad's cronies. I just soaked that
PW: Have you planned more novels
with Billy Nichols?
EM: Yes, indeed. They are planned.
I have all kinds of ideas. I'm thinking of taking Billy to
Los Angeles in the next book. He's going to cover the featherweight
title fight that actually happened at that date. I'd love
to be able to skip five and six years at a time, so that the
background keeps changing as the sport changes, as television
makes an impact in boxing, as black fighters become more prevalent
in the sport. All that stuff I'd like to see in the background
of these stories, and I'd like to see Billy get older. Let's
hope I get to keep writing them.
PW: How do you like the covers
Scribner is giving these novels?
EM: Fantastic. The covers are
great. John Fulbrook is the designer and he deserves all the
credit. I was shocked when I saw the first one, because I
didn't have anything to do with it, and the guy actually looks
like my father. That pulpy, movie-poster, paperback jacket
look, everybody loves it, but there's a certain highbrow resistance
to it. I think that some authors would be turned off, they
would think the book is maybe a little ghettoized, because
it looks too much like a pulp mystery. Not me. I love it.
PW: Have you thought of doing
an out-of-series noir novel more like David Goodis and Jim
Thompson, bleak and doomed?
EM: Yes. I have a couple of ideas
I've started noodling around with. Most people wonder where's
the script for a film noir movie. For some weird reason, I
still like the printed word. I think you can capture the real
essence of noir today more on the page than you can on the