Archive for September, 2013

Interview with Manifesto Destination Author Alec Cizak

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16, 2013 by C. J. Edwards

MFManifesto Destination really plays up the idea of a really corrupt society. Did you take inspiration from true events when you wrote it?

I think that because I grew up in the wake of Vietnam and the fall of Nixon I have a naturally cynical attitude about the channels of power in this country (and the world, for that matter).  I’m not really a Christian, I’m not a rainbow-farting liberal, I’m not a hard-line conservative who wears a smile over a frown, so I don’t have any of these manufactured elixirs of cheeriness designed to shield the mind and the eyes from the very real existence of corruption in society, particularly on the part of those with power.  If you think about it, power is the ultimate manifestation of a control freak’s personality disorder.  Why does someone want power?  To control the lives of others.  This is true from security guards and police officers to teachers to medical workers right on up to politicians and world leaders.  So Manifesto Destination attacks the need by some to control many.  It’s a natural instinct, in my world view, to accept that any structured, organized society has corruption at all levels.  I know cynicism and satire are frowned on these days because (as Manifesto Destination quite accidentally predicted), Americans have had their collective spine removed, but that just means a text like Manifesto Destination is more useful now than when it was written back in ’01.

I know you wrote this in LA. How much did living there influence your portrayal of t he darker sides of Indianapolis?

An interesting question.  I had only lived in L.A. for a few months when I wrote the book.  I think people have a rosy view of Indianapolis and forget that, as clean and nice a city as it looks on the surface, it is still a city and, thus, has some darker sides to it.  When I was a young man I ran with a crowd that is, today, mostly dead or in jail.  I don’t think that those people are/were any less a part of Indianapolis than the shiny, happy yipjacks living it up on the north side of town and all those little suburban cookie-cutter hives on the outskirts of the city.  I was born and raised in Indy, I love the city, but my love is distributed equally among the good and bad parts of it.  It is still a better place to live than most of the cities that look down on it (Indy beats the shit out of Chicago, that’s for sure!).  If you are raising a family and don’t want your kids to grow up with provincial, narrow minds, it’s a great “starter” city.  But be aware that there are still more poor people than rich, that there are people who will do crazy things to escape their despair, and that these things don’t make an individual “bad,” or a “low life,” as some of the snobs in my MFA program might call them.  If we are to achieve something resembling a democracy, we must consider all circumstances with the same set of eyes.

Manifesto Destination has a real dystopian feel to it. Was this intentional or did it just come out that way. If intentional, why portray such a dark portrait of humanity?

I recently watched a collection of videos taken by people on the streets during the 9/11 attacks in NYC.  What struck me were the comments made behind the cameras—people saying things like, “Oh, those poor people.”  It sounded to me like the definition of humanity—a kind of empathy.  Funny that it should come from New Yorkers, who are famous for their “attitudes.”  The truth is, “humanity” wants to be good and noble.  But look at history.  Nothing but bloodshed over really, really stupid differences.  Why portray humanity in a dark way?  Humanity needs to show me that it has evolved, that it deserves a better portrait.  I only write what I see.  In a way, your question is a form of ‘killing the messenger,’ isn’t it?

Is Elmore Johnson based on anyone you know?

Elmore Johnson is about 70 percent me (as a super pissed off and angry, unsober s.o.b. in my early 20s) and 30 percent hybrid of the old private eyes Dashiell Hammett and (especially) Raymond Chandler wrote about.  The women in the book are based very heavily on women from my life.  The bad guys are more or less made up.

You have often mentioned that good pulp writers are just as good as many literary types. Who in your opinion are some of the best pulp writers putting out good stuff right now?

That’s a tough question.  I’m not sure, these days, what qualifies as pulp anymore.  If you look at public taste in entertainment, it seems the more fantastic, the better.  What this means is that society prefers pulp over literary.  I recently watched a gathering of the Minnesota Writers Association (or something like that, I forget their exact name) on TV.  Just a bunch of middle-class midwestern snobs who write uninteresting shit getting together to pat each other on the back for being so goddamned boring and pretentious.  Literary fiction is DEAD.  It’s fucking dead.  I’ll gladly help nail the coffin lid and dump dirt on it.  As for my favorite writers, I tend to be stubborn about this sort of thing.  I still think Garnett Elliott is the best at craft.  David James Keaton is, in my opinion, the most original writer out there.  I just finished Steve Weddle’s book Country Hardball and there were stories in there that absolutely floored me.  Of course I have to mention Frank Bill because he’s an Indiana writer and he refuses to bore his readers, which I think is a talent.  My favorite among women writers is still Jodi MacArthur.  She’s original and, I think, fearless, which is something a great writer needs to be.  Notice, however, that I am not talking about writers on the NY Times best seller list.  That’s because the majors, while aware of how to market a book, wouldn’t know a good writer if he or she slapped them in the face with a chainsaw.  Like Hollywood, they’re entrenched in a formula that earns but doesn’t excite intellectually or spiritually.  In other words, they don’t produce books that anyone will be talking about just five years down the road.  Sad.

What are you working on right now?

I am in the middle of two big projects.  I’m working on a follow up to Manifesto Destination called Daddy Problems.  It’s not a sequel, but it digs into that “dark” side of Indianapolis again.  This time, however, it’s a quieter situation.  I’m also working on my thesis, in which I attempt to write ‘literary’ fiction that’s actually interesting to read (and the way I’m doing it is weaving in noir elements).  And when I finish Daddy Problems, I intend to expand “My Kind of Town,” a short story of mine that appeared in Thuglit, into a novella about Mankato, where I currently live.

I want to thank Alec for taking the time to answer our questions. Please check out his novella Manifesto Destination which comes out tomorrow in print and ebook for Kindle. And also All Due Respect: The Antholgy is still for sale on Amazon. Alec founded the All Due Respect website and his story Methamphetamine and a Shotgun was favorably mentioned in a review of All Due Respect in the latest issue of The Crime Factory.