The Big Idea: Stephen Blackmoore

Author Stephen Blackmoore was on a mission with his novel City of the Lost: To tell a gritty, hard-boiled thriller of a story in a way that wasn’t like a 70s detective TV show. And you ask, well, okay, but what does a 70s crime detective show have to do with anything to begin with? As it turns out, and as this Big Idea will show, quite a lot.


Back in the early 70’s, when television was king, there was a show called Mannix, about an L.A. private eye who would get beaten, clubbed, beaten, shot, beaten, shot some more and occasionally beaten.

This never killed him, of course. Be an awful short series if it did. Nor did it give him a concussion, shock, broken bones, internal hemorrhaging, ruptured organs, nerve damage. You get the idea.

In fact, you’d pretty much see him at the end of every episode with one arm around a girl and the other in a sling.

Even when he got shot with an elephant gun.

Have you ever seen an elephant gun? I haven’t. The closest I’ve come is a .375 Weatherby that’s designed to take down things like water buffalo. I heard a story about a cop who got hit in the chest with something similar while wearing a bulletproof vest. The vest held, surprisingly enough, but the round punched it halfway through his body. At the autopsy they found that the shock waves from the impact had blown out all the blood vessels in his brain.

But not Mannix. No sirree, at the end of the episode he’s standing there with that shit-eating grin on his face and a blonde in his arms.

I like crime fiction, noir in particular. The kinds of stories where even if somebody wins, everybody loses. I’m not a big fan of happy endings or being kind to characters. I shoot them, stab them, break their noses. But there’s a limit to the kind of punishment I can put somebody through without seriously stretching plausibility. Nobody buys Mannix, if they ever did. They know you can’t shoot somebody through the head and have him shrug it off.

But I really wanted to write a story where I could do that.

In City of the Lost Joe Sunday is a professional leg-breaker. He’s the guy you don’t want to see when you owe somebody money. He knows those places in the desert where nobody’s going to find you but the coyotes and that the best way to get somebody to talk is with a pair of bolt-cutters and a Zippo. If you see him coming don’t bother running because you’re just going to die tired.

Then he gets murdered and brought back from the dead. Not on purpose. He’s just the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nobody in their right mind would want to raise him from the dead. He’s already a monster. That’s like sticking your rabid pit bull into the Pet Sematary.

It’s funny how once you embrace the impossible a whole slew of gonzo shit becomes plausible. Add zombies and magic and you can get away with a lot. Like thugs you keep coming even after you pump them full of bullets.

The great thing about writing Sunday wasn’t just that I could shoot him, break his bones, run him over, throw him off a building and damn near chew his head off, but that he’s the type of guy who might actually find himself in those kinds of situations. He’s a lowlife. People are trying to kill him all the time. When that doesn’t stick, they just try harder.

As big ideas go it’s really not that big. I wanted to write a book that was pulpy, violent, and over the top where I could make my protagonist’s life really goddamn miserable. Over and over and over again.

That or get out some pent up aggression. I’m still on the fence with that one.

Either way I had fun writing it. Hopefully people will have fun reading it.


City of the Lost: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

12 Comments on “The Big Idea: Stephen Blackmoore”

  1. I buy the huge gunshot wound, but he is clearly smoking a cigarette, which would definitely kill him dead. Do we get a “death becomes her” type problem or is he able to reattach limbs and heal?

  2. Sounds Pulpy enough for me to give it a try. Not sure on the cover if the smoke is rising up out of the hole in his chest or if it’s an illusion of some sort. Still seems like its interesting enough to check out further.

  3. This sounds like it’s worth giving a shot, in a Charlie Huston sort of way. Bring on the pulp!

  4. Joe Sunday appears to be heartless.
    It sounds interesting. The amount of violence gives me a slight pause, but I’d rather read it than view it so it will probably go on my nook wish list at the very least.

  5. This is not my sort of book, but I want to congratulate you on the sentence “If you see him coming don’t bother running because you’re just going to die tired.” That’s some quality writinating there.

  6. I liked the “If you see him coming…” phrase too! This also sounds like the only zombie story I’d be interested in reading, not being otherwise much sold on them as a genre. And does he regenerate? Or just get more and more ragged around the edges? Or do I have to read it to find out?? – won’t need much pushing, based on information so far!

  7. Ah, Mannix. Don’t forget the “survived diving out of a moving car” bit because it seemed like his car was run off a cliff by the bad guys every single episode. Mannix would then hoof it back to his office, which apparently was only a couple blocks from the cliff, in order to have his secretary Peggy ask the same line each week: “Joe! What happened?” You could set your watch by it. So hopefully that is in the book too.

  8. I don’t think I’d normally consider a story like this, but based simply on the way the description is written, I’m going to have to read this. Sounds fun.

  9. A friend in college summed up Mannix this way. “In the first half, the bad guys beat Mannix up. In the second half, Mannix beats the bad guys up.”

    And a Letterman Top Ten on his excuses for speeding. “Trying to dislodge Mannix from top of car.”

  10. Just finished the book and loved it. Joe wasn’t that bad a guy. I found myself rooting for him. I hope I see him again.

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