An Interview With Dave White

Way back when I started in crime fiction, there were two guys I often found myself mentioned with in the same breath. The first was Ray Banks, a noir master and aficionado from Newcastle, England, and one of those guys who turned me onto Tom Waits back in the day. The other was this grad student from New Jersey named Dave White. Dave had a run with Three Rivers Press in the late 2000s, then an interesting indie standalone called WITNESS TO DEATH. He has since signed with Polis Books and brought back his creation, Jackson Donne. Because, as this interview will reveal, he’s not quite done torturing Donne yet. Not by a longshot.
Dave White
It’s been a long layoff for Jackson Donne. Did you have this story in mind when you signed with Polis Books?
 

Yeah.  This is the story I pitched Jason when he started up Polis.  I needed a reason for Jackson to come back, and it couldn’t just be someone hired him to spy on a cheating wife.  It had to be big and personal for Jackson.  So, yeah, this is the story I had started to write when Polis came along.

What about Jeanne Baker? Her death was something that bound Donne and Bill Martin together whether they liked it or not. At what point did you realize she might not have died?
 
About a year before I started writing the book, I was thinking about Jackson Donne again.  Other than some fits and starts with short stories that never went anywhere, I hadn’t done much with Donne.  But, as I’ve told this story before, I was sitting around watching Doctor Who and in the season premiere of Matt Smith’s 2nd year as the Doctor, the Doctor gets killed (sort of).  It was a truly stunning moment for me, not only because it looked like the Doctor died, but also because a show that has been ongoing for 50 years managed to surprise me.
And all of a sudden, I was thinking about Jackson Donne again and what would surprise me and the reader alike.  And it wasn’t about killing someone off, but instead bringing someone back.  That’s when I knew Jeanne was alive.  And then the juices started flowing again.  The story was marinating.  The following winter I started writing the book.  I’m so excited about this book and the pitch–I really think there’s stuff in here that hasn’t been in many (any) other PI novels.  And it really pushes Jackson and his supporting cast into a whole new place with many more possibilities.

In every book, you utterly destroy Donne’s life. Is this guy ever going to catch a break?

Where’s the fun in him catching a break?  The years that pass between EVIL and NOT EVEN PAST are his break.  He’s got it figured out, he’s engaged, he’s going to college… life is good.  But there’s no drama or tension there.  No reason for the reader to keep turning the pages.  Who wants to read about a character having a good day?

That said, he might catch a break sooner rather than later… you’d have to keep reading.  I’m pretty sure one of the next few novels may feature a relaxed afternoon tea scene.
 
You have a passing reference to the events of Witness to Death. Are you building a Dave White Jerseyverse of sorts?
 

Yeah, my books all take place in the same universe.  Jesus, who’s a key character in WHEN ONE MAN DIES (the first Donne novel) is in all my books so far.  I’ve always liked that about Elmore Leonard, Michael Connelly and Stephen King to name a few.  You can read any of my books and have a great experience, but if you read all of them, the story is bigger, rich and tied together.  I grew up on Marvel Comics… how could I not do crossovers?

Did you consider going independent with this novel?


WITNESS TO DEATH was an independent success for me.  So, when I originally sat down to write what would become NOT EVEN PAST, I knew going indie was an option.  I also knew that going indie was a ton of work, and since I’d just taken a new job and was back in grad school for a year, I really wasn’t in a hurry to go that route and do EVERYTHING myself.  If I was going indie, I’m not sure NOT EVEN PAST would be available yet, but having a publisher really eased some of my burden in terms of editing and cover copy and opened up some doors that were closed to me, like Audible.com.
So, while I’m not against doing indie (again WITNESS was a huge success for me), having Polis in my corner has made things a bit easier.
 
What attracted you to Polis Books?
 
Jason Pinter, Jason Pinter, Jason Pinter.  He’s so smart and when he explained to me his Polis business plan, I was totally on board.  The man knows what he is doing, and has a long term plan for success.  Every time I asked him a question, the answer he gave made me happy.  So glad to see him and the company doing well and creating a ton of buzz.
NOT EVEN PAST is available now from Polis Books.

Witness to Death By David White

Dave White returns with a tale of jilted love that leads straight into the middle of a terrorist plot. John Brighton is distraught. He just broke up with his girlfriend, Ashley. In a mad effort to win back his ex-girlfriend Michelle, he follows her boyfriend Frank to catch him cheating. He should have just went to a bar and cried in his beer. In following Frank, he ends up in a gunfight, suspected of killing several people in the process, and becomes a fugitive.

Part of the problem is Frank. He’s not Frank. He’s Peter Callahan, a Homeland Security agent trying desperately to crack a terrorist plot engineered not by al Qaeda but an arms dealer looking for a boost in business.

White’s first novel, When One Man Dies, held a lot of promise that was fulfilled with the excellent follow-up, The Evil That Men Do. However, White has amped up his game with Witness to Death, stripping the prose bare and upping the stakes with each chapter.

Ebookery: Dave White

Dave White, Derringer winner and Shamus nominee, debuted as a novel a few years ago with When One Man Dies. He followed it up with the excellent effort, The Evil That Man Do. Dave’s now dipped his toe into the epub waters with a domestic spy thriller, A Witness to Death. Dave took a few minutes to talk ebooks and where he wants to go from here.

You released your latest novel, Witness to Death, as an independent ebook.  What was behind that decision?

Basically, it was about finding a new audience.  My contract with Three Rivers had expired, and the book was done.  I’d read Anthony Neil Smith’s CHOKE ON YOUR LIES and was blown away by how good it was.  It showed me that an ebook could be successful and not the just stereotypical mess of typos that you hear about earlier self-published books.  My agent is a big believer in e-books, so that helped, but more on that later.

Tell us a little about the novel itself.

John Brighton follows his ex-girlfriend’s new man convinced he’s cheating on her.  However, the truth is even uglier.  Turns out the guy is a spy.  Soon John is pulled into a world of Homeland Security, terrorists and the mafia.  Not to mention a ruthless assassin is on his trail.  Lots of torture, explosions, and shootouts.

What challenges did you come up against in the process?

The toughest part was figuring out how to format the book and get a cover made.  I went back and forth with the people I hired for that part of the process several times to get it just right.  But I love the cover and Scott Neumyer did a fantastic job formatting.

You came down firmly in the 99-cent camp in the debate over pricing self-published ebooks.  What was your reasoning for that?

Simple, more readers.  99 cents makes the book an impulse buy, and people who’ve never heard of you (and there are plenty of those) are more willing to give the book a shot.  So far the novel’s gotten some great reviews and I’ve heard from a ton of people who say they don’t usually read thrillers, but at 99 cents they couldn’t pass it up.  That’s opened a whole new world of readers for me.  The book has been doing really well, and a lot of that has to do with the price point.

How supportive has your agent been?

Extremely supportive.  Actually, this started out as his idea.  I have a few emails that say he thought WITNESS would do really well as an e-book exclusive.  And he’s been right.  As often happens, I am really glad I listened to him.

How do you feel about this particular path now that you have a novel and a short story collection out there?

I really like it.  It feels like I have a lot more control of the process.  I can check sales numbers whenever I want.  I get final approval on the cover.  I decide how and where the book is promoted.  At the same time, I’d love to get another deal with a publisher at some point, but if that doesn’t work out, the ebook world is currently a nice alternative.