Hello! This week, we have a slightly different interview on the Crime Cafe than usual.

Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, crime writer L.A. Sykes has been interviewed in print only. I’m very pleased to be able to feature him here today.

In any case and without further ado, here’s my Crime Cafe interview with L.A. Sykes!


L.A. Sykes

Debbi: How would you describe your writing? Noir or hardboiled crime fiction? Other?

L.A.: I’d describe it as a mixture of both and maybe occasional hyperbolic social realism. Different stories fit in different categories, so I’d say a mixture of both is probably fair. Some might not fit either category. The good thing about writing shorter form is that you can mix it up and try different styles.

Sometimes there’s debate about the definition of these categories, and given that it can be difficult to pinpoint which story fits where. I’ve no bother with anyone categorizing my work to wherever they see fit. I also think by the time I’ve finished with writing there’ll probably be a fair amount in the ‘other’ category.

Debbi: I noticed from your bio that you studied psychology and criminology. In what ways have your studies informed your writing? (Yes, I had to ask the obvious question. 🙂  )

L.A.: I’m not too sure to be honest. What I can say is that having studied social sciences, the major thing it taught me was to question everything rather than just try and learn a set of assumptions from whatever discipline. What I mean by that is to take a study for example, and rather than digest the conclusion you get used to really picking apart the methodology, reasoning and inferences etc that lead to the conclusion to check out its reliability. That leads onto the fact that I’ve seen some things regarded self evident in an academic setting completely contradicted, repeatedly, in the real world.

Again, I’m not sure. I couldn’t give you a ratio between academic study, experience and imagination with regard to fiction.

Debbi: Are you currently working in acute psychiatry? What is acute psychiatry? (A two-part question!)

L.A.: I no longer work in acute psychiatry. I had a bit of a run in with the senior management right up to director level. They acted like devious scumbags and only showed themselves up as pathetic dickheads and can quite frankly kiss my Northern arse.

Acute psychiatry is where the symptomology is most florid and distressing. It may require hospitalization, which is where I worked, on the acute units.

Debbi: Am I correct in assuming that the bulk of your fiction has been short stories? What prompted you to write a novella?

L.A.: Yes, the fiction published so far has been flash fiction and short stories. I did a bit of micro fiction too early on. I had written longer form stuff before that but it won’t see the light of day – lost to old PC’s that are in some scrapyard somewhere.

The longer I wrote the longer the stories got, although I will be sending out more flash fiction sometime soon.

With the novella, it wasn’t planned as such. It started as a 6000 word short story I sent out, but I kept coming back to it for whatever reason, so I pulled it from submission and rewrote it numerous times. I ended up adding 25000 words then cutting over 10000.

Unless it’s a flash story or I was given a brief with a specific word limit I don’t think I’d set a word limit myself and write to it. I just tell the story and it ends up where it ends up when I think it’s finished.

Debbi: Any plans to write novels and/or make a series of stories?

L.A.: I am working on drafting a couple of standalone projects. Series wise, maybe in the future. I really want to get these novels sorted out first. I just try and take things sentence by sentence at the moment because in the past I’ve had too many ideas and distractions to focus properly.

Debbi: What is The Hard Cold Shoulder about?

L.A.: An ex cop, with his own problems, working as a private detective gets a call about a missing person, in a nutshell. I don’t really want to delve too deeply just in case people reading this want to read it without my pontifications wafting in their minds beforehand.

Debbi: Social issues are clearly prominent in your writing. I especially noticed in your novella the focus on the failings of the National Health System. In the U.S., we have our own problems in the realm of health care. It’s tempting to look to the government for solutions. Do you have any thoughts on the efficacy of having a government-run vs. completely privatized health care system? (Not to get all ideological or anything! 🙂 )

L.A.: To be clear, I don’t criticize the NHS as an entity or idea. In fact I’ll defend it and the principle behind it one hundred percent until the day I die. That’s a very important distinction.

For my money, the setting up of the NHS and its continuance to this day is arguably the greatest political achievement in the modern history of British politics.

What the novella briefly shows (and a story in Noir Medley) is how frontline staff are bogged down with beaurocratic nonsense that takes up too much time, time that could be spent with the patients. Also, that there is no question that resources are stretched – in the wrong places, which obviously will affect patients. That isn’t a failure of the principle or the NHS as an entity, it’s a failure of the maintenance of it. It surprised me when working there and seeing it from the inside how much money was being wasted on paying people who had zero clinical experience. Yet these people dictated budgets for staffing, rather than patient safety dictating staffing. Strange layers of management upon management, pen pusher after pen pusher.

There’s no question the NHS needs funding properly, but there’s also a reason why lots of people quite rightly complain that some of the money going to the NHS isn’t being used optimally. Quite frankly there are too many fat cat carpetbagger types in the higher echelons only there to line their own pockets.

Efficacy wise, basically you can eject a government via the ballot box if they mess with your healthcare if it’s government run. They’re also accountable to the people. It also doesn’t have to factor in profit margins. You (should) get the same treatment if you’re rich or poor. I don’t know enough about domestic American politics or your health system to compare them, but I have read about people being bankrupted trying to afford paying for healthcare. It’s at that point I’d wonder if I wanted more for my taxes paid.

As you say, it is tempting to look to government to solve problems. I’d say that’s why there were elected and is why they get paid though. The flip side of this is if everything is left to private business, you might just as well do away with government and live in an unaccountable corporate dictatorship. I personally wouldn’t place my faith in that scenario. Too much corruption. Like I say, I don’t know enough about US healthcare and again, it’s up to the America electorate.

In a nutshell, the efficacy of a health service, to me, can be tested by simply asking which one would provide the best care to the most vulnerable and poorest people in that society. I would trust a private insurance firm as far as I could pissing throw them. You don’t need to trust a government though, you already know they’re full of shit – you can however, put the screws on them and if they don’t up their game you can boot them out.

Debbi: I hear that! 🙂 And couldn’t agree more, frankly. What authors have most inspired you?

L.A.: At the risk of sounding trite, I say and I’ve said before, all authors. All writers. Good luck and all the best, the entire lot of you.

I’m a reader first and foremost, and it’s such a great time with self publishing options and all the indie presses competing with the big publishers with work that’d possibly never come to light in the past. There are too many authors to name and I won’t start because I always forget some.

Debbi: What kind of music do you like?

L.A.: To write to – quite an eclectic mix. Most of the time, a mixture of Northern Soul, a bit of Motown, late seventies punk when I want to up the tempo. All sorts to be honest, too many to list off the top of my head.

Debbi: What’s your current writing project or projects?

L.A.: Like I say, a couple of novels, another set of short stories and a memoir, however that may end up being novelized too.

Debbi: Where can readers find you online?

L.A.: I’m on Facebook and I do have a GoodReads page which I really need to sort out.

Debbi: Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?

L.A.: I’d just like to say thank you very much for taking the time to interview me. It’s really appreciated, thanks.


It’s been my pleasure. Great interview! My thanks to L.A. Sykes.

PS: Click here to read L.A. Sykes’ guest post and giveaway!

PPS: For the video and audio podcast, I’ve uploaded another episode of Raymond Chandler’s Old-Time radio show! 🙂

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