Interview with Author Jim Nesbitt – Ramona Portelli Blog

Interview with Author Jim Nesbitt

Jim Nesbitt is the author of three award-winning, hard-boiled Texas crime thrillers that feature battered but relentless Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch — THE LAST SECOND CHANCE, a Silver Falchion finalist; THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER, an Underground Book Reviews “Top Pick”; and, his latest, THE BEST LOUSY CHOICE, winner of a gold medal for best crime fiction in the 2020 Independent Press Book Awards and a bronze medal in the best mystery/thriller e-book category of the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards. All three books are written in the raw and gritty hard-boiled American style with the soul of a classic Western. Nesbitt was a journalist for more than 30 years, serving as a reporter, editor and roving national correspondent for newspapers and wire services in Alabama, Florida, Texas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Washington, D.C. He chased hurricanes, earthquakes, plane wrecks, presidential candidates, wildfires, rodeo cowboys, migrant field hands, neo-Nazis and nuns with an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the voice of the people who give life to a story. His stories have appeared in newspapers across the country and in magazines such as Cigar Aficionado and American Cowboy. He is a lapsed horseman, pilot, hunter and saloon sport with a keen appreciation for old guns, vintage cars and trucks, good cigars, aged whiskey and a well-told story. He lives in Athens, Alabama.

Tell me more about your latest book

Dallas private eye Ed Earl Burch is an emotional wreck, living on the edge of madness, hosing down the nightmares of his last case with bourbon and Percodan, dreading the next onslaught of demons that haunt his days and nights, including a one-eyed dead man who still wants to carve out his heart and eat it.

He’s deeply in debt to a shyster lawyer who forces him to take the type of case he loathes — divorce work, peephole creeping to get dirt on a wayward husband.

Work with no honor. Work that reminds him of how far he’s fallen since he lost the gold shield of a Dallas homicide detective. Work in the stark, harsh badlands of West Texas, the border country where he almost got killed and his nightmares began.

What he longs for is the clarity and sense of purpose he had when he chased killers for a living. The adrenaline spike of the showdown. Smoke ‘em or cuff ‘em. Justice served — by his .45 or a judge and jury.

When a rich rancher and war hero is killed in a suspicious barn fire, the rancher’s outlaw cousin hires Burch to investigate a death a shady county sheriff is reluctant to touch. Seems this rancher crossed a lot of people who wanted him dead — a vicious narco, land developers who believe in lethal payback, maybe the outlaw cousin.

Thrilled to be a man hunter again, Burch ignores these red flags and forgets something he once knew by heart.

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it. And it might just get you killed.

But it’s the best lousy choice Ed Earl Burch is ever going to get.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

I got wrapped around the axle trying to make this book much more of a whodunit, with a detailed plot outline I was slavishly trying to follow. That’s really not my style. Once I threw away the outline and relaxed, I wound up writing the kind of book I do best — a gritty, violent, sexy and hard-boiled crime thriller set in Texas and northern Mexico. Other than that, it was just a matter of keeping my butt in the chair and writing for as long as I could stand it.

What is your normal procedure to get your books published?

I self-publish. After putting out three novels featuring Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch, a battered but relentless shamus who is nobody’s hero, but nobody’s fool, I’ve got a loose network of editors, beta readers, writing buddies who will offer a learned critique, formatters, cover designers and publicists that help me make my novels as clean, well-written, well-edited and professional as possible.

What motivated you to become an author?

I really didn’t have much of a choice. I come from a long line of hillbilly storytellers and remember listening to the stories my uncles, aunts, parents and grandparents told about family, friends and life experiences. As a kid, I always had my nose in a book and started writing my own little stories. When I was in eighth grade, my English teacher, Mary Bailey, took my aside and told me I was a writer. She even called my dad in to tell him the same thing and to encourage me to be a writer. That impressed dad and me, although I took a long intermediate step as a journalist before trying my hand at novels. Call it an apprenticeship that lasted decades. But I was lucky to come into that profession at a time when long-format, magazine-style stories were all the rage and a value was placed on writers who knew how to spin stories like that. I could, so when it came time to try my hand at novels, it wasn’t that big a leap — I was already telling stories in a way that wasn’t based on the inverted pyramid and the rest of the journalism format. I loved hard-boiled crime fiction and the early masters like Hammett and Chandler and knew I wanted to try my hand at this very American art form.

How many books have you written so far?

I’ve written three hard-boiled crime thrillers set in Texas and northern Mexico that feature Dallas PI Ed Earl Burch, a saloon sport and cashiered homicide detective who always seems to be broke and has to take on cases he loathes, but also winds up thrown into bigger scenes with far nastier characters who want to see him dead. They are:

THE LAST SECOND CHANCE, a Silver Falchion finalist at Killer Nashville and a finalist in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) and the FOREWORDReviews Book Awards.

THE RIGHT WRONG NUMBER, an Underground Book Reviews “Top Pick.”

THE BEST LOUSY CHOICE, winner of a gold medal for best crime fiction in the 2020 Independent Press Book Awards and a bronze medal in the best mystery/thriller e-book category of the 2020 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY).

As an author, do you prefer the traditional book or online version? Why?

I’m old school. Nothing beats holding a book in your hand while reading and turning those pages. It’s a tactile experience that you just don’t have with an e-book.

How hard or easy is it to establish and maintain a career in writing?

I’ve been a professional writer for more than 40 years, first as a journalist and now as a senior strategic communications partner at the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest federally owned utility in the United States. I’ve earned a good living and had a lot of fun at both stops. That said, unless you get picked up by one of the Big Five publishing houses, you don’t make a pile of money as a novelist — not enough to quit my day job.

What is your advice for aspiring writers?

When asked, I tell them three things. First, there’s no magic bullet or shortcut to writing — it’s hard work that takes discipline and talent. Set a daily schedule, keep your butt in the chair and write. Second, read good writers who challenge your own thoughts about writing and try to learn to be a better writer from their work. Third, it’s a harmful cliché to ‘write what you know.’ That’s only a starting point. Think about what you want to write, who your characters are, where you’re going to set your story and when. Then learn all you can about everything from guns and popular music for the time your story takes place to how people talked, what they wore and what they drank. It’s counter-intuitive, but facts are your friends. The more facts you have, the firmer the foundation for your writing and the higher your writing can fly. You don’t regurgitate everything you’ve learned but it informs what you write and gives it an authenticity you can’t fake.

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