TTS: The Top Shelf would like to welcome Baron R. Birtcher to the blog today! Baron writes the Mike Travis series and has continued Travis’ story in the Killer Nashville anthology Cold Blooded! Baron it’s great to have you here today!
TTS: Other than the fact that continuing Travis’ story would catch your reader’s attention and vice versa, what made you write about Mike instead of something new for Cold Blooded?
Baron: After having the honor of being invited to contribute to the Anthology, I spent the next several days wracking my brain as to how best to create a story that would fit into the 5,000-words-or-less constraint inherent in the short-story form. I am very comfortable in the long-form narrative style, but short stories pose interesting challenges of their own, in terms of jumping right in, then providing that certain “twist” at the end. As it turns out, “Ripple” (the story that appears in the Anthology) came to me in whole cloth. It was a story I had been subconsciously noodling on for a while, and I thought it would be a perfect introduction to Mike Travis’ world for those unfamiliar with him; as well as an engaging continuation of the series for those who already knew him. It was the best of both worlds!
TTS: Where does this short story fit in the timeline of your books?
Baron: Great question! The Travis novels tend to jump around in time, which is to say that the order of the books’ publication dates does not necessarily match Mike Travis’ chronology as a character. “Ripple” would be the most current, as it takes place, essentially, today. The other Travis books take place between the late 1970s and 2014. It’s a framework that has been fun for me as an author, in that the series has allowed readers (and me) to explore not only Mike Travis’ backstory, but also the fascinating backstories of the other characters in the Travis novels. Taken as a whole, the series is designed to be a 360-degree, 3-dimensional experience for everyone concerned. And will continue to be.
TTS: This short story blurs the lines of good and evil. Mike questions what’s going on several times but goes along with it out of loyalty to Blackwood. Snyder comes along for the ride out of loyalty to Mike. Do you believe in blurring the lines out of loyalty and for the greater good?
Baron: Yes! I think it is one of the most interesting qualities of the hardboiled genre. That said, I believe it is critical for my characters to behave in ways that are consistent with their own moral and ethical codes. I believe that all three of the characters you mentioned have their unique perspectives on “right” and “wrong,” but ultimately they share a sense of “justice.” Mike Travis may sometimes be overly aggressive in pursuing justice, but his personal code is such that, in the end, the scales must remain in balance, and that evil might sometimes need to be eradicated using means that might in themselves appear to be evil. Travis has a very well-developed moral code; it just might seem extreme to others.
TTS: Do you believe there should be government secrets?
Baron: I’m not allowed to talk about that. Sworn to secrecy.
TTS: For people like me who are reading this story and now want to jump into the Mike Travis series, what is one thing we should know about Mike Travis?
Baron: The defining characteristics of Mike Travis are (a) Loyalty, and (b) Justice. This is the guy you call when you are out of conventional options and you need to know that somebody’s got your back come Hell or high water. He is a true and loyal friend, but he can be a little scary.
TTS: Do you prefer writing novels or short stories?
Baron: This might sound like a cop-out, but I like them both for different reasons. Short stories require an entirely different narrative pace, while novels allow for the inclusion of “B” and “C” plotlines that make the mystery/thriller genre such fun to explore, particularly in a series.
TTS: If you could collaborate with ANY author, who would it be and why?
Baron: Tough one. Either the late, great James Crumley or the equally late, great Jim Thompson. Those guys had such unique voices, and were utterly uncompromising in terms of exploring moral ambiguity and the violence and fallout that that trait can engender.
TTS: If you’ve read Cold Blooded, what’s your favorite story from it?
Baron: I love “Peace, Sometimes” by Jaden Terrell and “Savage Gulf” by Clay Stafford.
TTS: What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
Baron: I am just finishing another “tangential stand-alone” which explores the backstory of another Mike Travis series character (similar to what I did with Snyder in “Rain Dogs”) and following that with the next “official” Mike Travis novel. Thanks for asking!
TTS: Once again I would like to thank Baron R. Birtcher for joining us! I’m looking forward to reading your books! Cold Blooded is available now!
Baron: Thank you so much, Misty. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Bestselling authors Jeffery Deaver and Anne Perry join rising stars like Dana Chamblee Carpenter and Paul Gail Benson in a collection that proves Music City is a deadly place to be when your song gets called.
Featuring stories by: Donald Bain, Robert Dugoni, Jefferson Bass, Mary Burton, Jonathan Stone, Steven James, Maggie Toussaint, Clay Stafford, Heywood Gould, Jaden Terrell, and more…
Every year, some of the biggest names in the thriller world converge in Tennessee for the Killer Nashville conference, an event where stars of the genre rub elbows with their most devoted fans, where the bestsellers of tomorrow pick up tricks of the trade, and where some of the best writers of today swap dark tales of good deals gone bad, rights made wrong, and murder in all shades…
This collection of new stories features some of the biggest names in suspense, from bestsellers to ferociously talented newcomers. Grouped around the classic theme of murder, KILLER NASHVILLE NOIR: COLD-BLOODED is a first-class collection and a must-have for fans of the genre.
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