Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Interview: Gary M. Dobbs, Part 1

Gary Martin Dobbs is a Welshman living in Pontypridd, Wales, who writes novels set in the American west, who has appeared in Doctor Who, and who has just published an ebook that links Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show and Jack the Ripper. Tell me this isn't someone you would like to know a bit more about. Gary graciously responded to my questions which appeared in his inbox whenever a thought struck me.

On the Internet, Gary can be found at:
The Tainted Archive: the digital home for Jack Martin/Gary Dobbs
Jack Martin's Westerns
Gary Martin Dobbs on Facebook

My interview questions focus primarily on Gary's ebook, A Policeman's Lot, which I reviewed here.

1) Your first two books are westerns (The Tarnished Star and Arkansas Smith. A Policeman's Lot has a western feel with Buffalo Bill's Wild Show figuring prominently. How does a Welsh boy like yourself come to be interested in the American west?

Gary - It all stems from my grandfather who was actually named Jack Martin - I think most men of his generation were weaned on stories of the Wild West, much of which was still there when he was born. I spent my childhood watching every western that was on television and reading my grandfather's western novels once he had finished with them. But I'm also very much an outdoors person and am not comfortable in big cities - give me the wide open spaces anyday and the western genre provides all that. I also don't much like the modern world and I think the western hero is someone who survives by his own skill and doesn't look to the state for support. Freedom and liberty are also very important to me and those values form the backbone of the western genre. It's just a pity they are being eroded in the modern world.

2) A Policeman's Lot is set in 1904 and Pontypridd, Wales is developing into an urban center but to me it still had a frontier feel about it. Was that a characteristic of Pontypridd at that the time? And how is Prontypridd pronounced?

Gary - Firstly I knew I would have to write about a historical police officer - before the days of DNA testing and offender profiling. I think the modern police have lost the respect we once held for them and that's mostly their own fault, over here in the UK they are harvesting DNA for the flimsiest of reasons and hoping the tests will turn up past crimes. Of course for the most part they don't and they end up with another innocent person on their database but that doesn't matter to them. The modern police are creating a culture of "us and them" and they will regret this in the end. In the UK we have a large number of civilian police officers, as far as I can see these are folk with a uniform fetish, and this gives the impression that there are more police about than there actually are. A couple of years ago two of these plastic bobbies, as we call them, failed to intervene when a child was drowning because they hadn't been trained to go into the water. No I could never write about modern policing.

Which leads me to Parade - the era interests me greatly and of course having Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show visiting was a major part of the plot so that fact along dictated the time. And Pontypridd was very much a frontier town in those days - situated beneath two valleys, the Rhondda and Cynon it was a busy town with a thriving and changing population. I love this town and aimed for it to almost become another character in A Policeman's Lot - I would love to do for Pontypridd what Colin Dexter did for Oxford and Raymond Chandler did for LA.

And Pontypridd is pronounced - Ponty - pri - th.

3) Frank Parade is a police inspector in his mid-thirties. Would that have been young for that position?

Gary - By modern stands Parade would probably be too young for the rank, an inspector would also not be in uniform. But in 1904 the regional forces were very much in their infancy and Parade's army service would have seem him easily attain that rank at such a young age.

Continued tomorrow where we learn origin of the the Jack the Ripper link. Read Part 2 here.