Monday, August 5, 2013

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author and Filmmaker, Richard A. Lester

Richard A. Lester, Author
Richard A. Lester describes his new novel, THE CHECK OUT, as a "satirical thriller."  Set in a grocery store in a poor part of town, THE CHECK OUT follows a group of employees looking to score big through dishonest means. Film enthusiast Lester says his novel was influenced by film noir.

In addition to writing novels, Lester writes scripts and short stories; and he has directed an independent film. You might check out his blog
entitled A Reel Indication. As you can guess, he watches many movies.  And he writes and writes!

Q: Tell us about THE CHECK OUT. Do you consider it a “hardboiled crime novel”? Why?

Richard A. Lester: THECHECK OUT is a satirical thriller which finds a group of loathsome grocery store employees planning to heist $10,000 worth of prize money on the same night. They are each mired in their own dismal circumstances, and believe that the money will dig them out. None of them know about the others’ plans, so things get pretty crazy.

I wouldn’t say that it is a “hardboiled crime novel” in the sense that there is a crime that needs solving. There are definite references to the old Dashiell Hammett novels, and it is rooted in pulp fiction. However, I think there are other elements that push it out of that particular genre.

Q: I noticed that you refer to film noir as influential to your writing THE CHECK OUT. I truly enjoy film noir. Can you explain how your novel compares?

Richard A. Lester: I would say films like The Asphalt Jungle were a big influence on this book.  There is $10,000 worth of prize money, and a group of broken characters who are trying to get to it. Each of the characters is flawed, as is common in the film genre. Many of the people in THE CHECK OUT have shadowy pasts, or are engaged in illicit activities. There are also a number of images that are common to noir. I specifically reference Larry, the store manager, staring out of his window blinds. I also describe the broken city that stands around the store. The book is also inspired by Exploitation films of the 70’s, so there is also a lot of that imagery, as well.

Q: What makes a good villain? How important is a good villain to THE CHECK OUT?

Richard A. Lester:  In my mind, there are two types of bad guys. There are great archetype villains like Darth Vader, who personify evil itself. Then, there are those who don’t know that they are villains. I think there are both types in THE CHECK OUT. There is an escaped convict who plans on robbing the store. He is the straightforward bad guy. Other characters, though, really become villains without realizing it. I like the reader to slowly come to hate some of the people in my book.

Q: Why will readers care about your protagonist? 

Richard A. Lester:  THE CHECK OUT is really an ensemble piece, so there’s not a definite protagonist. There are a couple of characters that you feel empathy for, but they are complicated. Leonard Best comes closest to being a protagonist. He anchors the story in an emotional sense, and provides an avenue of redemption for other characters. I think readers care about him, because he is a real person with a devastating back story. He could be anyone’s grandfather. He is the only innocent in the entire book.

Q: How do you create suspense?

Richard A. Lester: First of all, I have to create characters that the reader will care about. Even though they are selfish, and engage in terrible activities, they all have parts of them that are human. I build future events on each character’s flaw, and try to cue the reader into what’s about to happen. The chapters are usually pretty short, so I also end each one on a bit of a cliffhanger. In one section of the book, when everyone’s story is coming to a head, I switch back and forth to each character. The rapid pacing really raises the stakes, and draws the reader in.

Q:  Did you write THE CHECK OUT to deliver a message – or primarily to entertain?

Richard A. Lester:  THE CHECK OUT is pure entertainment. I love messages in books and film, but I was really just trying to tell a fun story.

Q: How relevant is setting to telling your story?

Richard A. Lester:  The setting is another character in THECHECK OUT, as far as I’m concerned. It informs the reader about each of the people in the book. It can also foreshadow events, or build suspense. In this book, I describe a specific type of location, without trying to tie it down to an actual place. Every city has a bad part of town, with a crappy grocery store. I want the reader to see that part of their own city. I think it makes the story more relatable.

Q:  What’s next? Will you be writing more books like THE CHECK OUT?

Richard A. Lester: I am going to spend the next few months promoting THE CHECK OUT. During that time, I have a short story that will be sent to subscribers of my email list. It features characters that work at the same store that’s in the book, but it’s a separate adventure.

After that, I will begin writing my next novel. It will have one character from THECHECK OUT; however, it will be a totally different type of book. I aim to make it much darker and more literary.

Q:  Tell us about Richard Lester. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Richard A. Lester:  It feels like I am always writing! In addition to my novels, I also run a blog ( dedicated to writing. I have a Facebook and Twitter account that I try to post on daily. I have also been running a movie review blog for two years or so now called A Reel Indication. I am a huge film buff, so I watch a lot of movies. I have a local DVD shop that specializes in the weird and wild, so I spend a lot of time there. I work on short films for other people, occasionally, as well.

About Richard A. Lester

Richard A. Lester is an American writer/filmmaker. He has written scripts, short stories, and one novel to date. He has also worked on several plays, and directed an independent film. His writing is usually gritty and satirical; focusing on outlandish characters and the wild situations that they embed themselves in. He is heavily influenced by film; namely exploitation movies of the 1970s and noir titles of the 1930s and 1940s.  His literary influences include Carl Hiaasen, Christopher Moore, and Donald Ray Pollock. His other interests include history, science, and education. He also runs a film review blog entitled A Reel Indication.

Failing grocery store manager Larry Prescott just wants a quickie. With a frigid wife waiting at home, Larry decides to have some extramarital fun with an employee named Maxine Watkins. Though he has no way of knowing it, Larry is sowing the seeds for a crime spree that will be dubbed “The MegaSaver Massacre.“

THE CHECK OUT is a satirical thriller that will appeal to fans of Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Moore. It is the story of a $10,000 giveaway, and the employees who independently decide to heist the money on the same night. An ensemble piece, each chapter focuses on the motivations and actions of a different main character. Larry Prescott is an arrogant drunk whose affair quickly spirals towards danger. Maxine Watkins is a scheming liar, determined to claw her way out of indigence. Terrence Claybrook, the assistant manager, is an escaped convict trying to keep his past from catching up to him. Roland Tillman, a blood thirsty fugitive, reunites with his former cellmate during the MegaSaver robbery. Brad, an addiction ridden stocker, tries to turn his life around while picking up the pieces of a broken marriage. They each see the prize money as their only lifeline, and are determined to do everything necessary to grab it.


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