Our Lady of North Florida Noir: Steph Post

 

Anna Lea Jancewicz:

I saw Spaceballs as a kid, before I ever watched the Star Wars movies. Kind of wrecked the experience, I guess. I’ve never been able to take Luke or Vader or any of the rest of them quite seriously. Maybe that’s part of why I’ve always swung to the Trek side.

I was a little anxious about the possibility of popping my Crime Fiction cherry to the same tune, because I’d realized that my conception of it was pretty much stitched together from cross-genre parody episodes of TV sitcoms. My mental image of Sherlock Holmes is a Hanna-Barbera cartoon cat with some kind of fucked-up hat and a magnifying glass.

I never said I was sophisticated.

I did figure out I’d be more likely to enjoy Crime Fiction with noir flavor. Hard-boiled anti-heroes, cynical and moody. Moral ambiguity. Hopefully, a few smutty bits. Eighty-six the high class British accent, I’m good.

And I kept reading very enticing things about this Steph Post. I was already wildly curious about the description of her as “the official voice of working class literature in Florida, akin to what Daniel Woodrell has done for Missouri, or Ron Rash for the Carolinas,” but when I heard her work labelled North Florida Noir, I was in thrall. I spent about five years living in and around Jacksonville, and my mother and sisters are scattered across the region. This sounds like the best possible noir for me!

I snatched up a copy of Post’s newest release, Walk in the Fire, and crossed my fingers that the novel, which has been hailed as “a wild ride through the dark side of the sunshine state,” would manage to take me on that ride without populating it with a slew of stereotypical dipshits and dirtbags.

Steph Post does not disappoint.

Her dipshits and dirtbags crackle with authenticity and are beautifully complex.

Seriously, though. The Florida landscape is swampy and flat, but her characters never are. The plot is clever, the pace is swift, and it’s all wickedly cinematic, but the truest excellence is in the nuances and ambiguities of the personalities she has created. The Cannon Family and all who constellate around them are both brutal and tender, fierce and darkly funny, very human. Brother Felton, in particular, knocked me out. One of the most compelling and unforgettable characters I’ve read in a long time.

Not only was I swept up in an edge-of-yer-seat crime thriller without once thinking about the “Al Bundy, Shoe Dick” episode of Married… with Children or Captain Picard on the holodeck, but I was genuinely invested in the working class Floridian underbelly so deftly portrayed. I’m putting all of Post’s books on my to-read pile.

I asked Steph to share with Rabble some dirt on her background, and her thoughts on writing working class characters.

 

Steph Post:
61orD4OaE6LI grew up near the area where Lightwood and Walk in the Fire takes place, just about an hour northeast, out in the middle of nowhere in St. Johns County, Florida. People always ask me if I’m writing about my own life, and I’m not, but I do write about characters and situations that are influenced and inspired by the people I grew up around. I did have a desire to write about “my kind of people” with a sense of grace and beauty. Meaning, I didn’t want to just relegate these characters to the fringe or box them into stereotypes. I wanted to give these characters full, complex and complicated lives and I wanted to tell their stories in as rich a manner as possible. To show that they mattered. I wanted to hold myself to an authenticity that I knew and believed in, but which isn’t always found in literature about working class or outsider characters.
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51gNTRf2exL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_I guess, really, I was just following my instincts when it came to the characters I created and the stories they landed in. But, at the end of the day, I’ve always thought of myself as more of an instinctual writer. I don’t have an MFA, I learned how to write first from reading, and second from sitting my ass down and doing it.
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As far as being a crime writer goes, it’s pretty much accidental. I just wrote novels about people and those people happened to be criminals or those flirting with the criminal lifestyle, either by circumstance or by choice. I honestly never considered myself a crime writer until my novels began to be published. But I’m fascinated with anti-heroes, with good people making bad choices, and this is often at the heart of crime novels, so it all makes sense in the end.
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Steph Post- Author Photo 1 (2)
Steph Post is the author of the novels Walk in the FireLightwood and A Tree Born Crooked. She graduated from Davidson College as a recipient of the Patricia Cornwell Scholarship and winner of the Vereen Bell award, and she holds a Master’s degree in Graduate Liberal Studies from UNCW. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, a Rhysling Award and was a semi-finalist for The Big Moose Prize. She lives in Florida.
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Anna Lea Jancewicz is Editor in Chief at Rabble Lit. Her fiction collection (m)otherhood is awesome.
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Header Image: Creative Commons, Public Domain.
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