Get to Know Robert J. Randisi
Robert J. Randisi has been published in the western, mystery, private eye, horror, science fiction and action/adventure genres and has written close to 700 books. In 2009 he received “The Eye,” the Life Achievement award from The Private Eye Writers of America. In 2016 he was presented the Peacemaker Life Achievement award by the Western Fictioneers. In 2017 he was presented with the Derringer Award for Life Achievement by the Short Fiction Mystery Society. Randisi has had a book published every month since January of 1982. Booklist said he “. . . may be one of the last true pulp writers.
Wolfpack: You’ve written in a variety of genres, are there any genres left that you want to try out?
Robert J. Randisi: I’ve only written one book in the Fantasy genre. I’d love to do something that used to be called Sword & Sorcery, like Robert E. Howard, Fritz Lieber and Michael Moorcock. But these days they call it something else. High fantasy, Heroic fantasy. To me it will always be S&S.
WP: I heard you draw the line at romances; How much would you have to be paid to write a romance novel? Why?
RJR: I’ve always been a sucker for a good check. If someone offered me 21 grand to write a romance I’d certainly consider it. That’s the only way I’d write something that would bore me to tears while I’m doing it.
WP: Was working for the NYPD what got you started on writing pulp fiction
RJR: Oh, I was writing private eye fiction well before I worked for the NYPD. I started writing at 15, started working for the police department when I was 22.
WP: You’ve been writing since you were fifteen, did you always know that’s what you wanted to do? How did your family feel about that growing up?
RJR: Yes, when I started at 15 I knew I wanted to write for a living, when I was 30, that’s what I did. And I had to be single-minded to achieve it. That was something no one in my family ever understood. Nobody in my family—including my ex-wife—ever read my work until I had a son.
WP: I read that Booklist once said you’re “earning his living through quantity more than quality…” how do you feel about that comment?
RJR: It’s fair. I’ve never gotten the advances of a Stephen King. I learned early on that if I really wanted to do this for a living, I was going to have to produce. That meant writing a lot, and quickly. Luckily, writing quickly came naturally.
WP: Why do you only use your real name for the P.I. work?
RJR: P.I. fiction is my true love, so that’s where I put my name. I backed into writing westerns because that’s what was selling in the 80’s, when I broke in. I was asked to do it, and then I just kept going, creating series and series. It was necessary then to do each series under a different name. My agent wanted the publishers to believe I was ONLY writing for them. The funny thing is, my REAL name was on ALL the copyright pages.
WP: Has it been challenging keeping up with all of the different pseudonyms you’ve used? Why so many?
RJR: As I said, back then it was necessary to write each series under a different name. And because I created so many series, I had to write under so many names. 15, at last count. These days, my backlist is all being brought out under my real name, so all my work is now under one name–the one TRUE name.
WP: What’s your favorite genre to write? Read?
RJR: It’s all P.I. fiction, the reading and the writing.
WP: You have close to 700 books, what piece of work has been your biggest labor of love?
RJR: There’s been more than one. THE HAM REPORTER, my Bat Masterson in New York book. It was a kick writing and researching about Bat in 1911. MCKENNA’S HOUSE, from just a couple of years ago, was a labor of love because I think it’s my best work. My best westerns are THE GHOST WITH BLUE EYES and CROW BAIT, both about a man named Lancaster. And the first book in my hit man with a soul series, UPON MY SOUL. It’s odd, but a labor of love always seems to bring out the best in you.
WP: You’ve co-authored with a lot of different people, have there been any favorites that you’ve worked with?
RJR: My favorite is Christine Matthews, because we’re a couple. But she never wanted to write with me because she doesn’t want to write books, so we only did the 3 together. She looks at writing as a solitary thing you do for yourself. I understand that. We’ve also edited some anthologies, together. Our biggest collaboration, however, was probably Eyecon ’99, a P.I. convention we did together in St. Louis in 1999. Just us. No committees.
WP: How did you get connected with Soap actress Eileen Davidson?
RJR: I stared writing first with her husband, Vince Van Patten, of the World Poker Tour. We did two poker mysteries together. They had me to their house for dinner while we were working on the first book, and Eileen said that she and I should write together. So when Vince and I were finished, I contacted her and called her bluff. We ended up doing 4 soap opera mysteries together.
WP: What’s your writing routine look like?
RJR: I work on two books at a time, one during the day, one at night. I nap in between. Usually one is a western and one is a mystery. I do about 5 hours on each. If I miss a day due to life’s errands, I increase the output the following day.
WP: Have you had to sacrifice anything in life to be a successful author?
RJR: For a long time I sacrificed having a life outside of the writing. I was driven, writing more and more books, spending more and more time writing. It was only when Christine Matthews and I became a couple, living together, that she showed me there was time to do other things. I actually started to travel without a computer. But there, again, when I do get to the computer, I have to increase my output to make up for the time spent away.
WP: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
RJR: Travel, collect vintage paperbacks, play the horses, go to casinos, watch old T.V. shows and movies.
WP: When you published your first book at 23, did you ever think you would be this successful?
RJR: At 23 I had my first short story published, at 29 my first book. At 30 I became a full time writer, which was what I always knew I would do. Everything after that has been gravy. I always wanted to make a living as a writer, and I’ve done that for 36 years. That is success.
WP: What’s the best compliment/review you have received?
RJR: When booklist said I was probably the last of the pulp writers, they were not trying to compliment me. But I took it as such. I like it.