Martin Compart

KENT HARRINGTON 4/ Ein Interview by Martin Compart
30. Oktober 2012, 9:33 am
Filed under: Crime Fiction, Interview, KENT HARRINGTON, Noir, Politik & Geschichte, Porträt, Spythriller, thriller | Schlagwörter: ,


MC: How do you think are you still influenced by your latin-american roots?

KENT: I consider myself very much a Latin in terms of temperament and am a classic Catholic in tastes and allowing people room to be, which is contrary to the protestant head-set that wants to force people to work and pay out. Catholic culture, at least my version, the Latin American kind, allows for people to be human, sexually, artistically. In other words, life isn’t about counting money; it’s about spending it. It’s about chasing that pretty girl or buying that painting or writing that book. If you understand that; you understand the Latins. We expect you to fuck up and be human. We are sybaritic, in the good sense of the word. Life is not about saving for tomorrow. It’s about today. I think Art just costs too much for the Protestants. Look at the churches they built! I remember that one important driver behind the Reformation was the bourgeois businessmen didn’t like all the Saint Days, when workers would leave their jobs and go party!

MC: Are you interested in southamerican literature (magic realism etc.)?

KENT: Yes and no. I think that Magic Realism was a convenient way of burying Social Realism, especially during the Cold War, which was also a Culture War. In other word, a novel like Los De Abajao (Mexican Novel about the Revolution in Mexico) is more interesting to me than Borges. Don’t get me wrong; I like Borges, but there is nothing magical about grinding poverty or the Colonial experience and what it has done to people in the Third World.
(As a child, I saw workers paid with corn!) I think that is why The Heart Of Darkness is such a great book — after reading that book, you get it. Having said all that, I do believe that Naturalism can have a wing called Magic Realism, and that it’s useful. In fact, I’ve employed a dash of it in my latest work. I’m a budget of paradoxes as someone says in The Rat Machine.

MC: A lot of writers don’t read a lot of fiction anymore? Same with you?

KENT: Yes, because a lot of modern novels simply bore me. Especially those done in the First Person. It all seems very lazy. But what’s worse are the “crime writers” who have never even been punched in the face. You know it the moment you open their book; it’s like eating fast food.

MC: Are there special themes of non-fiction you read regularly?

KENT: Well, I had to read an enormous amount for The Rat Machine. A lot of history about the Second World War, the Eastern Front, and then histories of Sicily and Italy and the Western Intelligence services, etc. And the Modern Dope Business. I do tend to gravitate towards History for some reason. I loved it in school too.

MC: Are there some living writers you read regularly?

KENT: I check in on author friends of mine, who I came up with, and that I respect. I like to see what they’re up to: M. Connelly, K. Anderson and a few others.


MC: What makes you angry?
– political and personally?

KENT: Well, I hate thieves. I think, that—at its very heart— Fascism is about well organized State Theft. But I hate any kind of thieves. People work so very hard for their personal things: a bike, or a car, a cell phone, and then some asshole steals it. I hate thieves — high or low. Also, I believe lying is theft too. When politicians lie to us, they are stealing something from us we need to make Democracy, the facts.

MC: What makes you happy?

KENT: My wife, in the morning, just looking at her. She is so beautiful. There something about a beautiful woman in the morning. It just makes me happy to be alive.

MC: Anything new about TV- or movie-adaption? We surely know about Huston trying to get MUERTOS made.

KENT: Well, as soon as I get The Rat Machine put to bed—this week—I’m going to go pitch it as a Cable TV series in Hollywood. I really would like to develop it as a TV series, similar say to “Boardwalk Empire” or “The Wire”. I’m going to try to do accomplish that. But it’s very hard there to get anything done!

MC: What do you think will be l the most dangerous political development for the next years?

KENT: If the U.S. loses reserve currency status. Should that happen, the world will change more than at any time since the end of the WWII, and it could get very ugly.

KENT HARRINGTON 3/ Ein Interview by Martin Compart

Obwohl Kent schwer im Stress war um die Veröffentlichung von THE RAT MACHINE rechtzeitig zum Noir-Con hinzukriegen, war er so freundlich mir einige Fragen ausführlich zu beantworte. Alles zwischen Lesungen in San Francisco und den letzten Korrekturen. Der Mann ist eben ein 100%iger Profi. Genießt das Interview. Hier der erste Teil:


MC: How do you write?

KENT: I write in the morning, first thing. Coffee, breakfast, work until noon or so. I don’t look at the work again until the next morning.

When I’m ready to finish the book, I’ll work in the afternoon to put in things that come to me: areas I think needed more work and have put off. You collect a list in your head that you want to go back to at the very end and rework.

During the first draft, I don’t stop for small issues. The thing is to get the battle of the First Draft won. You have to take that flag!

MC: What is it that starts a new novel? A character, a situation, a plot?

KENT: Well, it can be a lot of things. In the case of Dark Ride, I saw a girl on the street and she had this most incredible tattoo going up the outside of her thigh. It was summer and she was wearing short shorts! She was very beautiful, dark hair. I don’t know why she was the muse, it almost sounds corny, but the novel came out of her sexuality and my own desire to explain something about myself and my country. And yet, I don’t consider Dark Ride an erotic novel, oddly it’s more than that — I hope!

In the case of this new work, The Rat Machine, I was reading a footnote in William Shirer’s The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich. It was an appalling bit of history discussed in the footnote: several SS officers, on trial at Dachau for war crimes(for murdering 80 American GIs at the Battle of the Bulge in cold blood rather than take them prisoners as the Rules of War mandated)had been released because AN AMERICAN, Senator Joe McCarthy, had asked for leniency for these particular SS officers. Why, I wondered? This is why: ex-Nazi intelligence officers, like Reinhard Gehlen, were employed by the West immediately after the War.

These ex-Nazi officers were involved in the illegal drug trade, first the penicillin Black Market in Berlin immediately after the war and, later, with the help of Western intelligence, the heroin business. So reading one footnote created a very long novel!

MC: And how do you develop?

KENT: I don’t develop in the normal way. I don’t outline; I don’t make lists. I’ve said this before: I watch the characters do what they are going to do. In other words: I get up in the morning, I turn on the computer and watch the screen like you would a movie. The story belongs to the characters who have come to me to tell it. I practice the No-Method of writing novels. And that is the truth.

MC: How is the process? A fast first version? Or do you polish from the beginning?

KENT: I never, ever, polish in the beginning! It’s a trap. And, again, getting back to how I work: I don’t want to interrupt the characters and their story. I don’t care if I’ve misspelled something, or the sentence isn’t perfect. Who cares about that! What is important is the HEAT OF THE SCENE. The HEAT OF THE MOMENT. That is all I care about in the first draft. If correct punctuation and spelling were all that it took to be a novelist, every English teacher would be Ernest Hemingway. Also, you have to be a little crazy to do this work. I mean it. I’m not trying to romanticize the life of an artist; I wish in fact it were not so. It’s just a fact. You can not be well balanced and be a great artist. There is something about the act of creating that is, in fact, not only extremely egotistical on the face of it, but also delusional; it’s a kind of emotional purging. You, the artist must give of yourself. If you aren’t willing to give of yourself, there is no art; look at Van Gogh! It’s not pretty, the creative process—not really. It’s about like dumping out your kitchen garbage on a clean floor and using the pieces of what’s there [your personal psyche] to make a something worth while!

MC: Are you ritualizing for writing? (Same hours, cop of coffee, at least a page a day?)

KENT: Yes. I want the same routine everyday. A lot of people starting out think that they can party and get high and live a boho life style. It’s just the opposite. Ironically, being a novelist is a bourgeois pursuit in the sense that you have to get up every morning and work; and be sober; and not be high, or have too much drama around you. Better yet, no drama. What you need in this order are food, good sex, paper, exercise, a working computer, and a quiet location that has a good vibe. I think that’s what Hemingway meant by “a clean well lighted place” in fact. I think he meant it had to vibe right. It does for me anyway.

MC: Did your writing habits change over the years? And how?

KENT: No. I’ve done this for the last 20 plus years always the same way. I may have been in a different country, as I was when I wrote Red Jungle, but I still woke up in the morning and drank coffee and hit it until noon. (I will say that in Guatemala I did work late at night in my office. I had a guard who would stand outside my office door. (There is a lot of violence and you need guards there. The guard and I got to be good friends.) I would look up and see him, shotgun slung over his shoulder, and think to myself: wow, yeah, this is the real deal someone could come in here and rob and kill me while I’m writing a fucking novel. How strange would that be. But I enjoyed working late into the night there—don’t know why. That office had had a hand grenade tossed in the door a few years before!!

MC: Is it a personal impression by me that your protagonists are not easy to like? I don’t think they are crooks. But a person like Russell ore Reeves seems at least ambivalent. But I think, they are all restless people. Something you share?

KENT: Yes. I am ambivalent because of my childhood. It was very hard and I had no close family. I did all my growing up away at military school without all that warm and fuzzy family stuff. So I’m a little different. There is part of me that is like Russell in Red Jungle, or as I had a character say in Dia De Los Muertos: “I’m not running for mayor so I don’t have to please anyone.” But I’ve learned to love and that humanized me: I love some people very much, and I love to write novels. I am restless, artists are restless in the face of life/chaos, which is our human experience. So, yes, I’m intellectually restless, that’s very true about me, and I suppose my characters. They want to find that one thing to make it all make sense. Something that can allow them to rest. But we only rest, I guess, when we’re dead.

MC: What kind of music are you listening too? Sometimes your writing seems to swing like a soundtrack (by the words, of course)?

KENT: When I started out as a novelist, I want to be a great wordsmith. And I suppose I still do. I believe in the music of the novel. I truly do. If I were going to teach the novel, I would stand up when all the students had sat down and say, “OK, this is what you need to know about writing novels: then I would turn on a great piece of music, say, Down So Low, by Tracy Nelson. I just met her, so she’s on my mind; but her song is a masterpiece. What I mean by this is that the novel is an emotional experience, not an intellectual one. Music is that way too, or at least good music is.

Kent mit der großartigen Tracy Nelson


Collin Reeves is an expatriate American living in Mexico City. He dabbles in painting, drinks more than he should, and appears to be wasting a brilliant career in epidemiology as a doctor to international tourists and poor Mexicans.

The reality is more complicated. Reeves is an operative with the CIA, recruited in the heady days after September 11 to help fight terrorism abroad. What he hoped would be a useful life of clandestine adventure, however, turned out to be humiliating drudgery; his tour in the Middle East consisted of inspecting a friendly sheik’s concubines for venereal disease. Now in Mexico, which almost no one considers a terrorism hotspot, he longs for the courage to give up the spy business and commit himself to painting.

Veteran CIA operative Alex Law suspects that Mexico City may indeed be a staging area for terrorists. He and his longtime colleague, Butch Nickels, question an Indonesian who tells them that an al-Qaeda operative may be active in Mexico City. Meanwhile, Alex’s wife, Helen, has just discovered that she may have an advanced case of breast cancer. The doctor sent to consult with her is none other than Collin Reeves.

A beautiful young woman, Dolores, falls ill at a cheap tourist hotel across the street from Collin Reeves’ apartment. Madani, the hotel’s manager, begs Collin for help. Collin treats the young woman, who claims to be an American citizen, and to have lost her travel documents. He can’t help but be smitten, and does not challenge the obvious holes in her story.

Dolores, of course, is not who she claims to be. Only months earlier, she had been a young wife and mother named Fatima, married to a doctor in Baghdad. An American rocket killed her son and wrecked her life forever. Now, distraught with grief, she’s put herself in the hands of people who want to use her as vengeance against the United States.

Alex, Collin and Dolores are on paths bound to collide, with terrible consequences. The Good Physician is the story of that collision. A political thriller and a love story, it examines the nature of loyalty and patriotism, in the tradition of Graham Greene and Charles McCarry.


Myron Bünnagels beliebter Fragebogen wird diesmal von Kent Harrington ausgefüllt.


Kent Harrington

What are you doing besides writing?

Nothing right now as I’m trying to finish a novel.

Film released in the year of your birth?

High Noon — 1952

What was your initiation in the noir-subject (film or book)?

I think the B Noir movies that played on television when I was a kid. The one that really made an impression on me was Asphalt Jungle and Angels With Dirty Faces.

What books can we find in your bookshelf?

Right now I’m reading the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by TE Lawrence. It’s a great book. And still relevant somehow.

Which noir cliché do you like the most?

The femme fetal; it’s politically incorrect now but I know that sex can get you into a lot of trouble.

Some of your favorite film noirs?

Dirty Pretty Things

Under The Volcano

Asphalt Jungle

Three Ten To Yuma (Original Version 1957)

Treasure of Sierra Madre

The Grifters

Mona Lisa

High Sierra because of Bogart’s line: “If that battery is dead … it’ll have company, see.”

And films beside noir?

Howards End

Bridge on the River Kwai

Stealing Beauty

Which fictional character (book or film) would you favor to kill face-to-face?

Lou Ford The Killer Inside me.


Questions noir – Your life a film noir
1. Which would be your part in the movie?

The mad-dog gangster who is shot dead running and firing at the cops waiting outside the bank for him. I/he would run clutching the bag of money and be shot down in a hail of gunfire. The money would then fall from the bag and be scattered by the wind, bills hitting my dead face, my pistol held out in front of me. We’d pull back and see me from high above: just another dead gangster in the Big City.

(It’s a cliché scene but I love it.)

2. Your nickname in the movie?

“ The Kid”

3. Which author (living or dead) should write the script?

Jim Thompson

4. Famous quote in your movie? (Exmaple: Scarface = The World Is Yours, White Heat = Made It Ma, Top Of The World)

“I used to be prettier.”

5. Shot in black and white or in color?

Color, very rich colors reds, golds. I would wear a beautiful blue suit. Impeccable.

6. Soundtrack by …

Miles Davis

7. Which femme fatale would lead you to your doom?

I like brunettes, so it would have to be Angelina Jolie. She IS the femme fetal of her generation, isn’t she?

8. Your getaway car?

A tractor trailer. There would be a great action scene of me smashing through road blocks with it.

9. Your weapons?

A Thompson sub-machinegun, and a simple lead pipe.

10. Book for your prison sentence?

War And Peace!

11. Finally: Epigraph on your tombstone?

“He Died Reloading”

KENT HARRINGTON Teil 1 – Jim Thompson meets Graham Greene by Martin Compart

Mit jemand wie Kent Harrington sollte man sich nicht anlegen, wenn es vermeidbar ist. Nicht, dass er ein Raufbold ist oder extrem streitsüchtig – nein, gar nicht. Aber er hat gelernt, physische Bedrohungen anzunehmen und effektiv darauf zu reagieren:
„Bevor ich mein erstes veröffentlichtes Buch schrieb, DARK RIDE, arbeitete ich ein paar Jahre in einem üblen Slum in Oakland. Da gab es jede Menge Gewalt. Eines Tages geriet ich in ein Feuergefecht und wäre fast umgebracht worden. Danach gab ich meine frühere Haltung völlig auf: Von jetzt auf gleich war es mir scheißegal, ob ich lebte oder starb – solange ich mein Geld bekam. Es war diese I-don´t-give-a-shit-Attitüde, die mich zu der Figur Calhoun inspirierte.” Außerdem hat der in San Francisco als Sohn einer guatemaltekischen Mutter und eines irisch-jüdischen Vaters geborene Autor eine militärische Ausbildung, die ihm in Fleisch und Blut übergegangen ist. Als Neunjähriger wurde er auf die Pablo Alto-Militärschule geschickt (wie sein Held Russel in RED JUNGLE). „Es veränderte mich völlig. Wenn man in diesem Alter die Geborgenheit der Familie verlassen muss und anfangen muss, sich ohne Hilfe durchzusetzen, wird man schnell ein völlig anderer Mensch. Ich bin heute froh darüber, es hat mich stark gemacht.“

An der Universität studierte er spanische Literatur. „Ich war nie glücklicher, als in meiner Studentenzeit. Wahrscheinlich bin ich deshalb Schriftsteller geworden. Das Schreiben macht dich zum ewig studierenden. Niemand beherrscht das Schreiben vollkommen. Niemand. Meine Vorstellung vom Paradies ist ein Campus, voll gestopft mit alten Büchern, Cappuccino und Diskussionen.“ An Kriminalliteratur geriet er fast zufällig.

„Es war keine bewußte Entscheidung, dass ich Crime Fiction zu schreiben begann. Ich wusste zu wenig um zu erkennen, dass Genre- Fiction von anderer Literatur abgegrenzt war. Ich wollte ein populärer Autor werden und das schreiben, was ich als Kind gerne gelesen habe. Ich habe auch nie viel Crime Fiction gelesen. Ich las das, was man mir in der Schule und an der UNI vorsetzte. Hemingway, Fitrzgerald, Greene, Faulkner, Orwell waren die Autoren, die ich liebte, und von denen ich lernte.“ Zum Genre fand er relativ spät.
„Ich habe erst in den Zwanzigern angefangen Crime Fiction zu lesen. Vorher habe ich mich durch die alten und modernen Klassiker gewühlt. Nach der Uni entdeckte ich Jim Thompson. Es hat mich umgehauen. Etwas wie Thomson hatte ich noch nie gelesen.“
Thompson inspirierte seinen ersten Roman, den schon heute als Neo-Noir-Klassiker zu bezeichnenden DARK RIDE: Der, Golden Boy Jimmy Rogers, bisher vom Leben nur beschenkt, wird gegen alle Erwartungen enterbt und muss ein elendes Leben als Versicherungsvertreter führen. Als er der Sex besessenen Frau seines Bosses verfällt, beginnt die Noir-Bombe zu ticken. Schon tausend Mal gelesen? Aber nicht so, wie bei Kent Harrington. Er schlägt nicht nur neue Funken aus dem Noir-Standardplot, er schreibt auch mit einer kalten Brillanz, die wie eine Mischung aus Thompson und Graham Greene erscheint, aber etwas völlig eigenes ist. „In DARK RIDE wollte ich über einen Charakter schreiben, der an den Erwartungshaltungen der Mittelklasse verrückt wird. Über diese ganze Ideologie des Erfolges, die Amerika beherrscht. Ich fühlte, dass dieses Erfolgsstreben verbunden ist mit dem Willen zum Herrschen und mit Aggression. Egal, DARK RIDE ist mein Portrait der amerikanischen Familie in Schwarzweiß.“

Der Erfolg war mäßig und ist es leider bis heute. Harrington lebt in Nordkalifornien und reist viel. Besonders in lateinamerikanische Länder.
Sein Großvater war Mexikaner und er sprach Spanisch, bevor er Englisch lernte. „Ich liebe Mexiko und werde es immer lieben, trotz der schlimmen Entwicklungen in den letzten Jahren. Es gibt kein Land, in dem ich glücklicher bin als in Mexiko.“ Wenn er nicht unterwegs ist, schreibt er diszipliniert. „Nachmittags kann ich nicht mehr gut schreiben. Dann mache ich meistens Sport, laufen, Gewichte heben. Am Wochenende arbeite ich nicht. Ich kann nicht trinken, wenn ich arbeite.

Alle seine Romane wären hervorragende Filmstoffe. Allerdings für Filme jenseits des Cinemaxe-Publikums. Derjenige, der das erkannt hat, ist John Hustons Sohn, der seit Jahren versucht, die Finanzierung von Harringtons Klassiker DIA DE LOS MUERTOS auf die Beine zu stellen. Das Buch ist im Englischen seit über zehn Jahren bei unterschiedlichen Verlagen ununterbrochen lieferbar. „Im Gegensatz zu RED JUNGLE war es leicht zu schreiben. Ich hatte das Gefühl, dass bei der Arbeit Hemingway, John Huston und Jim Thompson bei mir im Raum waren.“ Harrington schreibt bewusst in unterschiedlichen Stilen, die vom jeweiligen Sujet abhänmgen: Bei den Noir-Romanen sind die Einflüsse von Jim Thompson und James Malahan Cain spürbar. Die Polit-Thriller können seine Liebe zu Graham Greene wahrlich nicht verbergen. Natürlich ist er kein simpler Epigone, der stilistisch andere Autoren nachäfft. Es ist eher eine vergleichbare Weltsicht und erzählerische Perspektive, die er auf seine Weise nutzt. Und natürlich sind auch immer ein paar Tropfen Eric Ambler in seinen Giftcocktails.

„RED JUNGLE war die Rückkehr zu meinem anderen Stil, der eher an Graham Greene orientiert ist. Greene reduzierte die große Politik auf das Verhalten von Individuen. Ich glaube, das ist das, was Literatur leisten sollte. Gute Romane übersetzen die Komplexität der modernen Welt ins verständliche.“ Der Roman ist auch eine Reminiszenz an das Land seiner Mutter. „Ich habe den Roman im Haus meines Onkels in Guatemala begonnen.“ Für mich eines seiner besten Bücher, das in manchen Momenten auch an den grandiosen und heute vergessenen B.Traven erinnert. Viele wunderbare Sätze übersieht man fast im Schwung und Tempo dieses eleganten und speckfreien Polit-Thrillers, der auch ein Entwicklungsroman ist. Etwa:

„She was a modern woman and a failed Catholic… She had never forgiven God for that. God had sinned against her.“


„He would never learn empathy, but he had finally learned fear.“

Harrington enttarnt die Idiotien des Machismo der Lationos genauso brutal wie die verschlagene und verzweifelte Gier der Gringos.
Sein Held beginnt als einer dieser stupiden Anhänger des Neo-Liberalismus, der kein wirkliches Verständnis für die Verhältnisse in dem südamerikanischen Land hat (bis sie ihm von einem alten sozialistischen Senator ein wenig erklärt werden): Harringtons Protagonisten sind oft nicht leicht zu mögen. Die meisten mag man überhaupt nicht. Trotzdem faszinieren sie und dank Harringtons Kunst folgt man ihnen, gewöhnt sich an sie. Eben weil sie so dreidimensional und voller Leben (sei es noch so elend) sind. Aber wahrscheinlich ist das ein Grund weshalb er es bisher nicht auf die Bestsellerliste geschafft hat.
Was sich ändern wird.

Wie lange wird Kent Harrington wohl noch Perlen vor die Säue werfen?
Hoffentlich noch eine Weile für uns paar tausend Leser, die intelligenter, anspruchsvoller und feinfühliger sind als andere. In den USA kennt ihn kaum jemand, obwohl James Crumley ihm ein Vorwort schrieb und sogar PUBLISHERS WEEKLY beklagt, dass Harrington nicht auf der Bestsellerliste Stammkunde ist (als ob heutzutage Hemingway, Mailer oder Chandler es in die amerikanischen Bestsellerlisten schaffen würden). Es muss wohl nicht extra erwähnt werden, dass er nicht ins deutsche übersetzt wird. Dafür aber u.a. ins Französische und italienische. Dank der geschmackssicheren Franzosen rollen wohl genug Cents rein, damit Harrington uns alle paar Jahre mit einem neuen Roman beglückt.

Sein neuer Thriller könnte Harringtons Durchbruch werden. Jedenfalls wird THE RAT MACHINE vollmundig so angekündigt: „ A thriller about the CIA, the Sicilian Mafia and the International Heroin Trade, as well as the importation of Nazi scientist and ex SS officers into Europe and The Americas during the Cold War. The story is set in 1980’s. The book is An HBO-style series set in Europe, London, the US, and Mexico with a large cast of characters. It is Harrington covering Robert Ludlum but distinctly Harringtonesque. The Rat Machine is the first in a series. The book is approximately 600 pages and is being developed for TV.“


DIA DE LOS MUERTOS, 1997 (spätere Auflage mit einem Vorwort von James Crumley).