Ben Solomon grew up with Picasso, Cagney and Beethoven. Classical arts training, comic books and Hollywood’s golden age rounded out his education and provided inspiration for a lifetime. He’s worked across many disciplines, attempting to capture the heart and soul of music onto canvas, translating oils and celluloid into words.
Solomon’s passion for the tough guy world of early gangster and PI flicks led to the creation of “The Hard-Boiled Detective,” a short story series starring a nameless gumshoe in a throwback era seeking truth, justice, and sometimes a living. He launched the ongoing series online in February 2013, offering three yarns a month to subscribers. His sleuth has appeared in e-zines across the web as well as the 2014 anthology “The Shamus Sampler II.” Another adventure is scheduled to appear in an upcoming anthology published by Fox Spirit Books.
Samples and more information about Solomon’s old-school crime series can be found here: http://thehardboileddetective.com/
PJ: How long have you been writing?
Ben: On and off for about 30 years. I’ve been all over the map, artistically.
Except for librettos. Have written any of those, yet.
I’ve been driving cars for more than 40 years, but that hasn’t gained me any particular respect or fame either.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Ben: That comes and goes day to day.
I haven’t achieved what I’d call professional success, but every now and then I hit an artistic note that resonates deep.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Ben: I can’t say I had any expectations. I sure had no idea how overwhelming the isolation of writing can be. Ain’t that ironic? Here you are, recording all your so-called brilliant observations on life, and you do it by chaining yourself to a keyboard and shutting off the rest of the world.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Ben: Is that what the general public thinks? I’ll have to ask them.
Income-wise I’m right on schedule. Some days as I make as much as blind painter.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
Ben: A long time ago I founded two monthly magazines. That’s a cheap way, commercially speaking, of getting published.
As for books, I cheated and recently self-published my first volume.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Ben: I’d self-publish a hell of a lot sooner.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Ben: Part of that is done for me. I’ve been writing three stories a month for my hard-boiled detective series since February 2013. My schedule for that is to create one per week, and then final edit and polish the fourth week of every month.
Beyond that, I keep a calendar I maintain by the seat of my pants. I think I need a good tailor.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Ben: Hard to nail down one, but there’s something that’s floored me on the way to publishing my first book.
Seeking blurbs, reviews and publicity, I’ve been taken aback by the graciousness and generosity of so many other writers and people in the media. Even a lot of folks who turned down my queries did so by falling all over themselves with apologies. It still amazes me.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Ben: Simply put—writing better. I wish my craft was better, I wish I wrote more succinctly and stronger, I wish I had more creative energy…The list goes on and on.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Ben: Talent and voice, two immeasurable qualities unique to every writer out there.
Most of my work’s in the throwback style of Black Mask, Chandler, etc. (That’s not meant as a comparison of quality.) The genre and form is nothing new, but I like to think the way I use it is fresh.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
Ben: Keep writing, and write your ass off. And make sure it’s every bit your own.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Ben: For indies like myself, the concrete tools are social media which also translates into word of mouth.
Within that, it comes back to the unique qualities of talent and voice.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Ben: Reaching my audience. I know they’re out there. Maybe not enough for a best seller, but I’m convinced more than enough to create a solid following.
I just took a quick peek out my front door, but didn’t see any at the moment.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
Ben: I’d like to mention City Lit Books and Uncharted Books, both in Chicago, as well as The Book Table in Oak Park. They’re all great supporters of local and indie writers.
PJ: Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
I’ve already got enough yarns for three more volumes if this one finds its legs.
PJ: Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Ben: For the first time, the original 11 yarns from Ben Solomon’s ongoing, throw-back crime series are available in one volume. His nameless detective faces murderers, blackmailers, adulterers and racketeers—and that’s only the first story in this collection. Ten more tales cover a never-ending parade of lowlifes, misfits and suckers, all narrated by the hard-luck gumshoe in his statements to the cops. If you’re a fan of “Black Mask,” Chandler and Hammett, you’ll get a bang out of Solomon’s take on old-school detective fiction.
PJ: Where can we buy it?
Ben: As of this writing, the paperback has just gone up on Amazon
The ebook version will be available from major distributors by mid-September.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
Ben: Inspiration’s a funny thing. You could say “The Hard-Boiled Detective 1” goes back to my childhood and watching old Hollywood flicks on late-night TV. I wanted to capture the spirit of Cagney, Bogart and Robinson, the whole Warner Brothers gangster cycle, and reinvent it on the printed page.