By Robert Blood
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Heinrich Lyle, author of “Shameless Dick: Odyssey of a Cad.” Lyle has a book reading, time TBA Saturday, Sept. 16 at Peregrine Book Co., 219 N. Cortez St., 928-445-9000, PeregrineBookCompany.Com.]
Why don’t you introduce yourself and your new book?
I’m Heinrich Lyle, and I’ve lived in Arizona for about 11 years. Moved here from Los Angeles, where I was an actor, and I’m the author of “Shameless Dick: Odyssey of a Cad.” That project was really conceived years ago, when I was in college. It went through a few different incarnations. For a while, it was a musical play. I even wrote a few crazy songs for it. Then it was a straight narrative novel, but I stalled half way through it and shelved it for a couple of years. Then, one day, I was reading Dante’s “Inferno” and I kind of likened that story to my story: This is one man’s descent into his own hell, into purgatory. I also liked the terza rima style, those three-line stanzas, but I didn’t want to follow the rhyme pattern because I thought that’d be kind of tedious for the reader. I just liked that idea and aesthetic on the page. Once I had that, I worked out the whole thing and finished it in a couple of months. After that, I was shopping it around, looking for small publishers because I figured Random House wouldn’t look at it, and I found Loose Moose Publishing here in Prescott. They had a line on their website, something like, “even if the writing is unconventional or a bit crazy,” and I thought, ohh good, they’ll be open to this, so I sent it in. The owner, Dan Mazur, called me up, said he loved it and wanted to publish it. He’s been pretty steadfast in promoting it and he’s the one who got me the reading at Peregrine Book Co. and got them to carry it.
What can you tell us about the reading?
It’s Saturday, Sept. 16 at Peregrine Book Co. It’s going to be an unconventional reading. I’m going to be wearing a Zoro mask because I prefer to remain anonymous because of the sensitive adult material the book portrays. My day job is as a social worker, and I don’t want the twain to meet. The Peregrine Book Co. staff came up with the idea that they’ll all be wearing masks, too. It’s going to be interesting. They’re going to be serving wine and snacks and such. If you look at their typical roster of authors there, it’s a lot more mainstream than this book, so I’m really grateful they’re willing to take a chance on such outrageous material.
Speaking of which, what’s “Shameless Dick” about?
It’s about a gigolo who’s kind of at the end of his career, getting past his best years, basically. He’s looking for one last big score. He wants to marry into money, basically, and make one last grab at that brass ring. He gets a chance to in the form of this very strange family that decides that he’s the perfect man to sire the daughter’s baby. They strike a bargain, that he’ll mary this eccentric rich man’s daughter and they’ll come to a financial agreement that will set him up for life. That family is … without giving anything away, the family is more than he expected. There’s also a supernatural element to the book. It veers off into some pretty strange territory.
You mentioned coming up with the project in college. What inspired it?
Well, let’s just say that back in those days I, well, I had pretty unconventional tastes in literature — and, I still do. I’m very influenced by underground writers like Charles Bukowski and Jean Genet. I came up with the title before I had the concept. I just wanted to write a book called “Shameless Dick.” Basically, I wrote the story around the title. It amused me. At the time, my friends and I were probably experimenting with some illicit substances, but maybe that’s not worth printing. Or maybe it is. Anyway, the title just cracked me up. I didn’t have a lot of discipline in those days, and, as I mentioned, it was shelved for many years. As I’ve grown older, and now that I’m not acting, I need a creative outlet. The rest of the story is … it’s hard for me to talk about without giving anything away.
What kind of reactions has the book garnered for you so far?
Some people have been a little put off by it, but when I think about books that I treasure, like “Tropic of Cancer” and “Howl,” those were books that were banned in their day. I couldn’t filter myself while writing this.
You mentioned songs in an earlier iteration. Could you share some of that?
Well there’s one character, a dwarf in the book called Stinky Levine, and one of his songs has lines like, “Why don’t you love me? What do you have against the wee small people?” There’s a song that opened the play called “Hot Cow.” The main character is singing to a lot of middle-aged housewives who were past their prime and basically he says, “Hot cow, it’s not too late for you to have one last swing.” I don’t exactly remember all the lyrics. It’s been 30 years. I do remember doing a table read with my friends. They had scripts and I had a guitar. There was no way that was going to make it on Broadway. I was just thinking about this recently, though, as Sam Shepard just died. He was easily one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century.
What was the most difficult part of finally finishing “Shameless Dick” after all these years?
I think coming up with an ending that would satisfy me. Often writers have an ending in mind, and that’s probably the logical way of doing it, but I didn’t have one. I needed something suitable for this character. I couldn’t have a typical Hollywood ending.
Hows it feel after three decades to have finished this project?
It’s a huge relief, like a monkey on my back. I may’ve shelved it, but it was never really far out of my mind. Now that that little demon is exorcised, I’m well into my next book, and the creative juices are just flowing for me again. I want to keep that going. In short, I’m ecstatic.
What’s your next book about?
It’s very different, but it’s also unconventional. It’s called “The Benevolent Society of Swindlers.” It’s about a bunch of ex-millionaires who’ve lost their fortunes through one circumstance or another who band together and want to live the high life but never work again. They each have their own skills, and they go around the world, living in luxury, swindling people and never having to pay for anything. It’s written in a comedic vein, not quite as dark as “Shameless Dick.”
Heinrich Lyle reads from “Shameless Dick: Odyssey of a Cad,” time TBA Saturday, Sept. 16 at Peregrine Book Co., 219 N. Cortez St., 928-445-9000, PeregrineBookCompany.Com.
Find out more about “Shameless Dick” and other Loose Moose Publishing titles at LooseMoosePublishing.Com
Robert Blood is a Mayer-ish-based freelance writer and ne’er-do-well who’s working on his last book, which, incidentally, will be his first. Contact him at BloodyBobby5@Gmail.Com.