Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Author Spotlight: David Burnsworth

The literary genre that David Burnsworth, our guest today at the Author Spotlight, writes with aplomb sufficient to earn enthusiastic praise from peers and fans alike goes by the name "Southern Noir." But what is this "Southern Noir," exactly? Definitional borders in genre fiction can and should be be slippery things. That said, who doesn't enjoy something slippery every now and again? So we'll defer to the site, a deservedly well-respected authority in the field of, well, crime fiction. They define "Southern Noir" this way:

"The American south is a hot, sticky, vast place with a rich history, spanning all the way from Texas, through to Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and on into North Carolina. Also called the Deep South, this was often used to refer to the seven states that formed the Confederacy, when, in actuality, the term wasn’t coined until long after the Civil War had ended. The Deep South is well known for its reputation for intolerance and staunch social conservatism as well as being a deep pocket of religious fundamentalism. More than a few authors have been able to mine this hotbed of social unrest to create some of the most compelling, violent, and downright fascinating crime fiction in recent history. Some call it Southern Noir, Rural Noir, Country Noir or Southern Gothic and it’s also called, very appropriately, Grit Lit. Whatever you want to call it, crime fans eat it up, and with good reason."

Burnsworth selected South Carolina, and particularly the lowcountry area around Charleston and Sullivan's Island, to torment some twisted Southern souls for his readers' entertainment. Gazalapalooza has been to Charleston, more than once. Unless you've been thereabouts late some summer, you don't know what villainous notions the ruthless humidity of an endless August night in Charleston will percolate in your sweaty skull.

As clearly evidenced by his new thriller, our guest today is intimately familiar with what madness that kind of Southern Heat spawns. Without further ado, we'll fire up the Gazapalooza klieg light army and aim its blaze directly at the appropriately-named Mr. Burnsworth. Let's see how he sweats.

Gazala:    In my omnipotence, I've sentenced you to be stranded alone on a desert island for offenses best left unnamed. In my beneficence, I've decided to allow you a limited amount of reading material to make your stay a little less bleak than it would otherwise be. I'll spot you your religious text of preference, and the collected works of William Shakespeare. In addition to those, name the one fiction book, and the one nonfiction book, you'd choose to take with you, and tell why you choose them.

Burnsworth:    Thanks for your leniency, Your Honor. And your discretion. I’d hate for people to find out I like catching snippets of the TV show "House Hunters" my wife watches as I pass by on the way from my home office to the kitchen. The fiction choice is a tough one. My inspiration comes from Elmore Leonard, Mickey Spillane, and James Lee Burke. But then, how to choose between those three? In the end, I’d try to sneak in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, if I could find them all beneath one cover. Non-fiction is an easier choice for me. Aside from writing, I love cars. Give me something like The Standard Catalog of American Automobiles and I’ll be good for a few years.

Gazala:  Your new book is an excellent and gripping thriller titled Southern Heat, centered around ex-racecar driver and Afghanistan War veteran Brack Pelton, who is both witness to and suspected of the murder of his hippie uncle in Charleston, SC. I've read it. I enjoyed it immensely, and recommend it highly. Shockingly enough, however, from time to time my bare recommendation doesn't always motivate a book's potential reader to become a book's actual reader. Tell us something about Southern Heat, and why its potential reader should make the leap and become its actual reader.

Burnsworth:    I lived on Sullivan’s Island, just north of Charleston, for five years and it was a life-changing experience. With the Atlantic Ocean and a semi-private beach fifty yards from my front door, to say I was spoiled is an understatement. Southern Heat came out of that experience. When my wife finally talked me into sitting down to write a book, something I’d told her I wanted to do, I had the perfect setting. Because of my love of mysteries, hard-boiled detectives, and noir, I chose to take a stab at something along those lines.

Gazala:    What are books for?

Burnsworth:    Books are windows to other worlds and keepers of information. They can also be pretty darn fun to write—sometimes. Other times, they can be so frustrating you want to blow up your laptop.

Gazala:    W. Somerset Maugham said, "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Do you agree, or disagree, and why?

Burnsworth:    Before I answer, I have to confess that I had to look up who W. Somerset Maugham was.  Interesting fellow. Okay, now for the answer. It’s become cliché, but I’d say the one rule is you have to sit down and write. And then rewrite. And if you’re like me, you rewrite some more (insert exclamation point).

Gazala:    I've got to take this call. Something about a lowcountry real estate deal unwise to reject. Ask yourself a question, and answer it.

Burnsworth:    Q: What’s next for Brack Pelton and his newfound friends?  A: Funny you should ask. I’m working on the second in the series. It took me six years to go from zero to a signed contract with Southern Heat. The next one should take slightly less time.

Southern noir is hot, sticky, and vast, and our guest's name is Burnsworth... Think it through. What better way to fend off the February's chill ill will than with some Southern Heat? See for yourself by clicking here for your own copy, via the folks at The fire will do you good.


  1. Thanks for the interview and introduction of a hot new author!

    1. You're welcome, Rowena. I'm glad you enjoyed the Spotlight.