A Chat with Michael A. Black
Michael A. Black is the award winning author of 36 books, most of which are in the mystery and thriller genres. He has also written in sci-fi, western, horror, and sports genres. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. Black was awarded the Cook County Medal of Merit in 2010. He is also the author of over 100 short stories and articles, and wrote two novels with television star, Richard Belzer (Law & Order SVU). Black is currently writing the Executioner series under the name Don Pendleton. His Executioner novel, Fatal Prescription, won the Best Original Novel Scribe Award given by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers in 2018. His latest novels are Blood Trails and Legends of the West (under his own name), Dying Art and Cold Fury (under Don Pendleton), and Gunslinger: Killer’s Choice (under the name A.W. Hart).
Question: Okay, let’s get started with this interview. You’ve got a pretty impressive body of work. How did you get started writing?
Black: Writing has always been a part of me. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade.
Question: Wow, you have been at it a while. Do you remember that story?
Black: Vaguely. It was a private detective story and the villain was a crooked cop. I guess it’s kind of ironic considering how things turned out for me. The teacher hated it and gave me a poor grade. She told me never to try it again.
Question: Are most of your books police procedurals?
Black: The majority fall into the field of mystery and thriller, although I’ve been published in several genres. Lately I’ve been writing a lot of westerns, but I’ve done sci-fi, sports, fantasy, you name it. I always wanted to be published in as many different genres as I could.
Question: What can you tell us about the westerns?
Black: I’ve always been a fan of the western genre. My latest book under my own name is called Legends of the West. It takes place in the 1880’s and is based on an actual historical figure named Bass Reeves. Reeves was a former slave who became a United States Deputy Marshal. At that time in our history the American Indian tribes had been forcibly relocated to the Indian Territory. It later became the state of Oklahoma. There was a Native American police force called the Lighthorse who were in charge of enforcing the law, but they had no authority to arrest white men. Consequently, the Territory became a magnet for outlaws and bad men. Reeves was one of the federal deputies courageous enough to venture into the Territory to arrest them and keep order. He remains a great inspiration to me and to all in law enforcement.
Question: Interesting. So are all your westerns about historical characters?
Black: No, just Legends. My other two are part of a series I write under the name A.W. Hart. There are actually several talented writers doing the series which involves a pair of fraternal twins, Abby and Connor Mack, who roam the West under the tutelage of a gunslinger named River Hicks. They’re written with an eye on the young adult market, and I have a lot of fun writing them.
Question: What are the titles?
Black: The titles are Gunslinger: Killer’s Choice, and the forthcoming Gunslinger: Killer’s Brand. I’m working on another one called Gunslinger: Killer’s Ghost, but I have to polish off another book before I can start that one.
Question: Another book? What can you tell us about that?
Black: It’s the leadoff for a new series called Trackdown, and it features modern day bounty hunters. Well, I guess the proper term is Bail Enforcement Officers. The first one is called Trackdown: Devil’s Dance, and I’m under contract to do three more this year.
Question: Three more. That means four books in the space of a year?
Black: Yeah, in that series. I hope to do a couple more as well, maybe rounding things off at six or seven.
Question: When do you sleep?
Black: Whenever I can. Sometimes I fall asleep at the keyboard.
Question: You sound pretty busy. And I didn’t get to ask you about the sci-fi stuff. When’s that
Black: Actually, it came out already. It’s an anthology called Space Noir and I have a story, “Hybrid,” in it. It was released as an e-book and edited by one of the best, Paul Bishop.
Question: I’ve heard of him. Anything else in the pipeline?
Black: Well, my latest Executioner novel, Cold Fury, came out last December. I write those under the name Don Pendleton. I’m honored to be part of this long-running series.
Question: Any plans to do another one of those? Black: I’ll always make time for the Executioner. One of them, Fatal Prescription, won the Scribe Award in 2018 for Best Original Novel given by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.
Question: Unbelievable. How do you get so much accomplished?
Black: Like I said, I love to write.
Question: Anything else you’d like to say?
Black: Just thanks to Thonie for inviting me to her blog. She's a talented writer and fellow member of the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association). Don’t forget our annual PSWA Conference is coming up in July in Las Vegas. I hope to see you there.
Legends of the West, featuring real historical figure, Bass Reeves. Reeves was a former slave who became a lawman following the Civil War and worked for the famous hanging judge, Isaac Parker. Reeves was appointed Deputy Marshall and enforced the laws in the Indian Territory, which is now the state of Oklahoma. It came out in October 2019.
Star Noir, The anthology features a sci-fi novella called "Hybrid," An e-book currently available on Amazon as of November 2019.
Killer's Choice, (writing under the house name of A.W. Hart) was officially released November 15, 2019 as both an e-book and a trade paperback
Cold Fury, an Executioner novel, written under the name Don Pendleton, came out in December. Pendelton's Executioner series has been going strong since the 1960's and I'm honored to be one of the two remaining ghost writers for the series. (The other is the redoubtable Mike Newton.) Harper Collins is released this one as an e-book as well.