Interview with Richard Blakemore

Published 2019-02-12.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born and bred in New York City. As a young man, I went to Europe to fight in the Great War and then traveled the world, before I returned home in '32.

Both my hometown and my travels have influenced my writing. The Silencer stories are mostly set in New York City - except for a handful of stories, where the Silencer travels abroad - because that's the world I know and see every day. Meanwhile, many of the adventure and war stories I have written for Jake Levonsky's pulp magazines have been influenced by my travels and by my experiences during the Great War. My new fantasy series about Thurvok, finally, has been influenced both by my travels and my life in New York City.
When did you first start writing?
Even as a boy, I had a great love for stories and was a voracious reader of dime novels, pulp magazines and everything I could get my hands on. But I only started writing fiction, when I returned to New York City in '32 after more than a decade away. After all those years of travelling, I was restless, so I decided to try my hand at writing a story for the pulp magazines that had helped me through so many difficult times. I submitted it to Jake Levonsky at Levonsky Publishing, he bought it and the rest is history.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yes, I do and it's rather embarrassing. It was a story called "I was a mob enforcer" for My Guilty Secret, a confessions magazine by Levonsky Publications.
I chanced to read the magazine on day and saw that they paid 5 dollars per published story. That pretty good money and so I wrote the story on a lark and sent it in. Jake Levonsky bought it and the rest is history.
For the record, I have never been a mob enforcer. Nor have I ever been a single mother, abandoned war bride, desperate divorcee, German spy or whatever else I pretended to be for My Guilty Secret. Cause those totally true confessions of guilty secrets are all fictional.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
That's difficult, because I was always a voracious reader and read whatever I could get my hands on. Usually dime novels, because they were cheap and plentiful. As a boy, I devoured the adventures of Tom Swift, Nick Carter and Sherlock Holmes. I guess I always had a weakness for crime and detective stories.
A bit later, I fell for the Lone Wolf stories by Joseph Louis Vance and the Boston Blackie stories by Jack Boyle. Both men were on the wrong side of the law and yet admirable and thoroughly heroic figures. I suspect their exploits had some influence on the Silencer stories, as did the adventures of Zorro, as recounted by Johnston McCulley.
But I did not only read crime and detective stories, but other genres as well. For example, I loved the Tarzan and Barsoom stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs as a boy.
What's the story behind your latest book?
That would be the adventures of Thurvok, the sellsword, I guess.

Well, I am an avid reader of Weird Tales magazine (I've got to keep up with what the competition is doing) and a great admirer of the Conan and Barn Mak Morn stories by Robert E. Howard, a talented young writer who left us much too early, and of the Jirel of Joiry stories by C.L. Moore. When Jake Levonsky started up his own Weird Tales competitor called Tales of the Bizarre, I of course jumped at the opportunity to try my hand at heroic fantasy in the vein of the authors I admired. And so Thurvok, the sellsword and his companion Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, were born.

There are two Thurvok stories so far with more on the way. After all, Tales of the Bizarre is a monthly magazine.
What are you working on next?
More Silencer and more Thurvok stories.

The next Thurvok story to be published will be called "The Road of Skeletons", in which Thurvok and Meldom acquire a new companion, Sharenna, a formidable sorceress. The story thereafter will be "The Forest of the Hanged", wherein we meet Meldom's childhood sweetheart.
What is your writing process?
First I come up with an idea. My crime stories are often based on newspaper headlines or real cases. The Thurvok stories usually start with an evocative landscape and grow from there. Sometimes, my publisher Jake Levonsky also pitches an idea to me or shows me a cover painting that needs a story to go with it.
As for the Silencer stories, the ideas for those show up on my doorstep, quite literally, delivered by a gentleman with a gleaming steel mask, a swirling black coat and a black fedora. And no, I don't know who he is. I've never asked either.
Once I have an idea, I do what research needs to be done. And then I sit down on my trusty Underwood and start typing until the story is done.
Describe your desk
It's a mahogany desk with an Underwood typewriter, a desk lamp and a photo of my fiancée, Miss Constance Allen, in a bronze frame. Usually, there is also a cup of coffee.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I love telling stories and I love sharing them with others. Besides, my stories allow me to show the world as I see it, full of both great ugliness and evil, but also unexpected beauty and heroism. Finally, I hope that my stories can also show how the world could be different, better.
Who are your favorite authors?
Again, that's a difficult question, because there are so many.
Edgar Allan Poe is practically the patron saint of all pulp writers, because he invented or refined most of the genres we write. And of course, he created the detective story, which was later refined by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, another favourite. And while we're on the subject of detective and mystery fiction, I love what Dashiell Hammett is doing at Black Mask and how he breathed new life into the crime genre and took it out of the drawing room and into the streets. Finally, that young British Raymond Chandler shows a lot of promise.
Regarding fellow pulp writers, Walter Gibson's work ethic is an inspiration to us all and without his Shadow, there would be no Silencer nor any of the other pulp heroes. I admire the passion and the sheer apocalyptic vision of Norvell Page's Spider novels. And Lester Dent not only writes a great adventure series with Doc Savage, his pulp fiction master plot has also helped many a pulp writer when they were just starting out.
For fantasy and science fiction, as a boy, I cut my teeth on the Barsoom, Tarzan and Pellucidar stories by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He is a great inspiration and I still eagerly await every new story he publishes. I am also very fond of the adventure stories of Robert E. Howard who sadly left us much too soon. His Conan and Bran Mak Morn greatly influenced the Thurvok stories, while Solomon Kane the Puritan avenger, was one of the inspirations from which the Silencer sprang. I also adore the poetic adventure stories of C.L. Moore, another Weird Tales author and - so I happen to know - a young lady. Her Jirel of Joiry and Northwest Smith stories are stunning.
What do you read for pleasure?
Believe it or not, pulp magazines. In my line of work, it's always important to keep up with what the competition is doing. Reading the pulps is also market research, because it allows my to explore new genres and types of stories, at which I'd like to try my hand one day. For example, the Thurvok stories would never have come about, if I hadn't been following Weird Tales, where Farnsworth Wright has been publishing fantasy stories of that type for more than ten years now.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I suspect the stray e in front of "books" must be a typo.

Anyway, if I'm looking for reading material I head to the nearest newsstand to check out the latest pulp magazines. If I'm in the mood for something more substantial, New York City has many fine bookstores. Finally, there is always the New York Public Library.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Well, I am new here, so I have not had much of a chance to explore Smashwords and what they can do for me. However, I hear they are a fine company, though their business model is a bit opaque to me, considering I live in the 1930s, whereas Smashwords will not even be founded until the 21st century. As I said before, it's all very much science fiction to me.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have to admit I do not quite understand this question.

I've been told that "indie" stands for "independent", so yes, of course, I am an independent author. I write stories and novels and submit them to various pulp fiction publishers. And yes, Levonsky Publishing is usually my first choice, but I am not their employee. No, I am an independent author and perfectly free to submit my stories elsewhere.

I've been told that in the far off future of 2019, writers have the option to publish their works themselves via some kind of instant printing press called the meatgrinder, but that sounds like science fiction to me.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The chance to stand against the tide of evil, make the world a better place and inspire others to do the same.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans mean the world to me. I'm always thrilled when I see the letters that the fans write to the magazine and read how the Silencer or my other characters have inspired them and helped them through a hard patch in their lives. This is one of the reasons why I write.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I read a lot and engage in various sports such as boxing, judo, riding, swimming, tennis, etc... to keep fit. I also hold an aviator's license dating from the Great War and try to keep it up to date. By night, I take in a movie or a show or I go dancing or out for dinner with my beautiful fiancée Miss Constance Allen.
And no, I definitely don't run around town dressed up as the Silencer. I know there have been rumours, but I'm not the Silencer, I'm just the man who chronicles his adventures.
How do you approach cover design?
I have very little influence on cover design - that's the publisher's department.

That said, a good pulp magazine cover must catch the eye and it must stand out on a crowded newsstand. A hint of action, adventure and danger is always good. And prurient as they may be, covers of scantily clad damsels in mortal peril do sell magazines, therefore writers like myself are encouraged to insert scenes of that nature into our tales.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I must confess I do not quite understand this question. What exactly is an e-reading device? Is this some kind of science fictional gadget?

Anyway, I read pulp magazines, both for research and pleasure, as well as the occasional hardcover tome. Honestly, how else do people read?
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
My stories may be found on newsstands around America. That's all the marketing I need.
That said, I have been known to engage in publicity stunts such as sitting in a store window and writing a story from the prompt given by someone in the audience on occasion. But while susch stunts are amusing, I don't think they sell stories, at least not in the same way that a pulp magazine with a striking cover on every newstand in the country does.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Books by This Author

The Thing From the Dread Swamp
Series: Thurvok. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 8,620. Language: English. Published: April 30, 2020 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Dark, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
While travelling through the Dread Swamp, Thurvok and his friends Meldom, Lysha and Sharenna come across an overturned wagon and the terrified merchant Polyxo who babbles that a monster has taken his daughter Cerissa. Because they are heroes – and because Polyxo has offered them a sizeable reward – the quartet of adventurers offer to rescue Cerissa from the thing that lives in the Dread Swamp.
The Temple of the Snake God
Series: Thurvok. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,410. Language: English. Published: November 12, 2019 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
It was supposed to be an easy job. Go in, grab the eye of the idol and get out. But the Temple of the Snake God Tseghirun is unexpectedly busy, when Thurvok, Meldom, Sharenna and Lysha attempt to steal the eye. What started out as a simple heist turns into a rescue mission, for not only is there a ceremony in progress, no, the cultists are also about to sacrifice several young girls to Tseghirun.
The Night Court
Series: Thurvok. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 10,150. Language: English. Published: August 6, 2019 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
The city of Vanadur suffers under the Night Court, whose masked judges know only one verdict: guilty. Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, is put on trial by the Night Court. The accusation: murder. But while Meldom did many questionable things, he did not commit this murder. But the Night Court does not believe him and so Thurvok, Sharenna and Lysha must save him from the gallows.
The Cave of the Dragon
Series: Thurvok. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,600. Language: English. Published: April 26, 2019 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
Thurvok, the sellsword, is enjoying a meal with his friends, the thief Meldom, his sweetheart Lysha and the sorceresss Sharenna, when a peasant woman asks them for help. Her young daughter Thali has been chosen to be sacrificed to the dragon that terrorises the area. Thurvok and his friends want to help her and save Thali. But slaying a dragon is a lot more difficult and dangerous than expected.
The Bleak Heath
Series: Thurvok. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 13,670. Language: English. Published: April 17, 2019 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
Thurvok the sellsword and his companions Meldom, thief and occasional assassin, and the sorceress Sharenna are fleeing across the Bleak Heath after saving Meldom's childhood sweetheart Lysha from the gallows. Weary and exhausted, they are relieved to come upon a hut on the heath. But what they find inside that hut may well be more dangerous than the heath itself.
The Forest of the Hanged
Series: Thurvok. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,610. Language: English. Published: March 6, 2019 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
Whenever one of the Rhadur is killed in a city they have conquered, 12 citizens chosen at random must die in turn. The Rhadur governor of Greyvault has been murdered and 12 maidens shall hang. One of those to be hanged is Lysha, childhood sweetheart of Meldom, thief, cutpurse and assassin. Meldom sets off to rescue her, together with his friends Thurvok, the sellsword, and the sorceress Sharenna…
The Road of Skeletons
Series: Thurvok. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 8,610. Language: English. Published: February 20, 2019 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » Dark
On their way to Khon Orzad, Thurvok, the sellsword, and his friend Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, travel along a road lined with the skeletons of executed heretics. But then Thurvok and Meldom come upon a blindfolded woman who is still alive tied to a stake by the roadside. Should they continue on their journey or rescue the woman and risk the wrath of the priest kings…
The Tomb of the Undead Slaves
Series: Thurvok, Book 2. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,220. Language: English. Published: February 4, 2019 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Adventure » Action
The sellsword Thurvok and his friend and companion Meldom, thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin, venture into the Rusted Desert to seek the tomb of the ancient king Chagurdai and the legendary treasure supposedly hidden there. But once Thurvok and Meldom venture into the tomb, they find that a treasure is not all that's buried there. This is a short story of 4100 words in the Thurvok series
The Valley of the Man Vultures
Series: Thurvok, Book 1. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,480. Language: English. Published: February 4, 2019 by Cora Buhlert. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Adventure » Action
(5.00 from 1 review)
Thurvok, the sellsword, must pass through the Valley of the Accursed Blood. Travellers make offerings at a temple in exchange for protection on their journey. But Thurvok scoffs at this and decides to continue his journey without protection. This infuriates the priest Alberon who curses Thurvok. Thurvok is not bothered – he does not believe in curses. But the valley holds unexpected dangers…