First question: Eddie or Edward?
Either one. Friends call me Eddie.
How has the publicity tour been going?
It went great in Manchester. It was hard
warming them up at the start, but at the end they responded well and bought a
lot of books. Most of them had read my novels.
Do you enjoy this sort of thing?
Talking to people? Yeah, sometimes. It
depends on how I feel at that moment. I’m not real comfortable with it at the
start, it’s hard to get into it, but at the end I’m okay.
7. What questions do you hate?
8. I can’t thing of any off-hand, but of course if I heard one now I’d think, “Yaggh.” People ask the same questions because they’re interested in the same things.
9. How did the Howard Marks event go?
10. It was funny, yeah. He carried two-thirds of the load, which he’s supposed to do - the more he does, the less I do. I told my stories and people laughed.
11. Your attitude about drugs is obviously totally different to his, isn’t it?
12. Well, he’s an absolutist, and I’m a semi-absolutist. He’d like to legalise everything, and I might too, but I’d keep the price up somehow. The only thing that worries me really is crack cocaine. People in Hollywood tell me, “If we can get hooked on cocaine, we’ve got too much money.” Jeez, it’s the price of coke that keeps people addicted, because you keep using more and more. And coke will drive you crazy, make you psychotic.
13. Who would benefit from the money if it was legalised?
14. You’d tax it and use it for propaganda. I’d use all the money I could for anti-drugs programs. They got my kid, 5 years old, singing songs: (he sings) “No drugs, no way.” You could do it that way, educationally. Whereas now it has a kind of charisma, a certain element that’s kind of rebellious. [Accurate.] When I was young it was Charlie Parker shooting heroin, he was the no.1 icon of that era.
15. Washington is the crack capital of America, isn’t it? When I went there I felt very unsafe.
16. Well, you should’ve. It’s an unsafe place, particularly if you’re a middle-class white person. I go down there armed to the teeth, and I usually go boldly so they think I’m a cop.
17. Do you know many cops?
18. A few. They’re not bad. Old cops usually have the same attitude to things as criminals, the same worldview, the same value system. Keep your mouth shut, the code of silence.
What’s the relationship between you and
Not really any. I don’t see him much anymore.
We just made a movie together, we were never great friends.
What was it like making Reservoir Dogs?
It was like any other movie, but for very
little money. I had no idea it would be what it was, and what effect it would
have. I’ve made a lot of movies - you’d be surprised how often I pop up as a
bodyguard or something.
You’ve got a good face for a bodyguard. Do
you enjoy it?
Sure. The final irony of my life is if I end
up a movie star.
25. You’ve had an unlikely life already, haven’t you?
26. I have, most unusual. I wasn’t even aware it was unusual until my mid-twenties. [Accurate.] After that I was almost conscious I was collecting material, because by that time I wanted to write, so I gained a writer’s eye for that sort of thing. But my first published book, No Beast So Fierce, was the sixth book I wrote. I’ve got the others round the house, but they’re bad. My wife read the first manuscript I ever wrote, and she said, “If I’d read this when you were starting, I would have told you to quit.”
So what kept you going?
That’s my nature. I’m a believer in
perseverance over everything. Just to become a writer -
not necessarily a good writer - you don’t need luck or talent, just
29. You haven’t been very prolific, have you?
30. Let me tell you what happened. I wrote six fucking books before No Beast So Fierce, and it did well. Then came The Animal Factory and it did okay, it got great reviews. Then came Little Boy Blue and it sold nothing, under 4,000 copies the first time round in the United States. It was mis-published there, it was fucked over, you know what I mean? It broke my heart, and I didn’t think I’d write another book. Then a few years later, the books became very successful all over Europe and they wanted another one, so I wrote Dog Eat Dog. But for 10 years I just wrote and edited screenplays, and acted.
31. Did you teach yourself to write?
32. Yes, completely. I had a seventh grade education. I don’t really understand grammar, [Accurate.] but I think I write well, I think I handle language pretty well. But it’s because I’ve read so much.
Anything. I don’t think I was a particular
crime reader - the first thing I picked up I would read. And I don’t think I’m
a crime writer really, unless Truman Capote is a crime writer, or Dostoyevsky. When I write about crime, believe me it’s crime. It’s not a mystery, or a cop procedural or anything like
that, it’s a story of a crime from the criminal’s viewpoint. I believe
it’s the purpose of a novel to put down the human condition.
35. Do you think real-life crime is getting worse?
36. I think it’s a cycle that goes back and forth, decade by decade. In America they go on about the increasing crime rate, but they’ve been saying that for God knows how long, centuries, and things still hold on. They were saying it in the 1880s. But I do feel the streets are not as safe as when I was a child. In Los Angeles, if you were the wrong colour and you went in the wrong neighbourhood, you’d get your ass kicked and rocks thrown at you, but you wouldn’t get shot.
37. I guess that’s because most people nowadays have guns…
38. There’s 200 million of them in the United States. My attitude is I wish nobody had them, nobody, but I’m not giving mine up till they’re down to at least 50 million. When they get down to that, I’ll give mine up. But the cops don’t want anyone to have guns except them - I wonder why?
In this country, people have arguments in the
street, but at least they don’t end up shooting each other.
That’s true. London has apparently the
highest fist-fight rates in the world. It’s good if you weigh 230 lbs, like me.
If I weighed 110, I’d rather have a gun.
41. You’ve been imprisoned three times. The first time you went in, was it a shock?
42. It was like I was raised for it. Many of my friends from school were already there, and many came after me. I turned 18, my first week in San Quentin. It’s not some country club - I didn’t smile for a couple of years. Can’t you see the murderous hostility in my eyes? (He points to a photo of his teenage mug shot.)
43. Did you begin writing when you first went to prison?
44. Pretty much. They allowed portable typewriters, and Louise Wallace sent me one. She was a silent movie star in Mack Sennett comedies.
Did you always like movies as a kid?
Yeah, they were an escape. In those days I’d
sometimes go to a double feature, and walk right out and go next door to
another double feature. I’d see four in a day.
Your criminal record has given your books a
certain credibility. Do you sometimes read other crime writers, and think they
haven’t got their details right?
Yes. Unless they’ve
been there, they wouldn’t understand. [Unlike Soderbergh.] What they
have is a myth they’ve got from some other source or they take it from movies.
What else do they have?
49. You must have seen some interesting things in prison.
50. I’ve seen some weird shit. Once I was in LA county jail, and there were three of us chained to our bunks in a row. Someone started screaming and yelling out “Oh my God.”, and it turned out the other guy had just lain there and gouged out his own eyeballs with his bare hands. Another time, some character had plunged a 14 inch blade into someone else’s back, right up to the hilt, and then just skidded away into the crowd. He couldn’t reach round and get it out, so he went over to a couple of guards with this fucking knife sticking out of him, and they didn’t know what to do either, so they took him to hospital. Then they called me, “Bunker 820284, report to the custody office,” because I used to type out all the reports for them. And the report said there was 9½ inches of blade inside him, and it missed everything. It shoved some of the organs aside, but it didn’t hit a single fucking vital organ. They just sealed it up, and a couple of days later they transferred him out. That’s unbelievable.
Did anything positive happen in prison?
Oh, there were friendships. Certain values,
like personal loyalties, are highly respected. Wherever you are, life goes on.
Is it like a microcosm of the world outside?
In a way, but it’s distorted. One thing is,
you don’t have facades. You’re stripped down to the bare essentials of what you
are, and who you are as a man.
How long did it take
you to write your autobiography?
Two or three years. I
made a lot of notes and shit, and it flowed pretty easily. I knew the subject.