Q1: How long ago did you first write words that actually appear in this book?
Les: The novel is an adaptation/extension of a screenplay that I started nearly ten years ago.
Q2: In some senses the story really beings with the second chapter, "The Rage." The first chapter, "The Town," is almost like a prelude. Was this always the first chapter?
Les: I felt that the environment needed to be fleshed out, almost like seeing the scenery to a stage play before any action begins. Prelude is a good way to look at it. The musical prelude over a desert shot in the beginning of "Lawrence of Arabia" is spectacular and helps set the scene by planting a strong visual in the mind of the viewer before any element of plot is established. "The Town" is an attempt to do the same with words. "The Rage" helps to establish the notion that Earl can be volatile, foreshadowing his potential violence.
Q3: You seem passionate about fish (and fishing). How old were you when you caught your first fish?
Les: Being from a blue collar family, a long line of auto mechanics, fishing was a regular pastime. My first memory of catching a fish was on Putah Creek near Lake Berryessa, CA. My Dad helped me real in a, what seemed enormous to me, large mouth bass. When we got it to shore it hopped off the hook and splashed away. I remember being pissed off at my Dad for a long time for losing my fish. I'll guess I was 3 or 4.
Q4: In writing the book, are there any contemporary writers who played a tangible influence on you - or are your greatest influences mostly older and classic writers?
Les: Obviously Bukowski, Hunter S. Thompson. Less obvious, David Sedaris, Jean Shepherd, Bill Bryson. Classics would be Hemmingway, Stienbeck a little Faulkner... mainly Dr. Suess. Melville helped a bit on this project.
Q5: Some of the more dramatic moments of South of the Pumphouse are quite violent and graphic. Without giving away any of the story, can you reflect on how difficult, or not, those scenes were to write?
Les: Because the bones of the story came about ten years ago, I wanted to create something that was extraordinarily graphic and over the top for the day. Since that time, there has been a much greater escalation of graphic violence in various mediums so the "shock" value isn't necessarily as strong. I doubt I would write as violent a tale at this time in my life but I'm sure it would be equally as raunchy. This is a tale of "men being men" and men are horrible pigs. Oink.
Q6: What is the last book you read?
Les: I just finished Larry Brown's first book of short stories and am currently reading a book on gold mining camps in California.
Q7: Is writing fiction more solitary for you than writing songs?
Les: Writing in general is a solitary process. There can be little to no distraction. I tend to be a late night writer but get a lot of work done on long flights.
Q8: On page 180 there is a reference to a Christian Life Center? Are many of the landmarks in the novel, such as this one, actual places?
Les: There are many references to actual places in this novel. The Pumphouse itself is an actual place.
Q9: How old were you when you wrote your first "story" - whether a song, a short story, a verbal telling, or any other form?
Les: I was an only child until I was nine when my brother arrived. Because my mother worked and I was watched by various relatives that lived in a different town, I went to a school that was away from my neighborhood. Subsequently I had few friends near my house so would spend a great deal of time alone. Because of that, I tend to cherish and need my solitude on occasion. This solitude is where the stories come from. Be it verse or prose. I can't remember the exact story or time, it just seems like something that was always there. Keep in mind, there are many tales and ideas, but far from all of them come to print either in song or written page.
Q10: Are you working on a new book?
Les: I am always writing in some form or another. There are a couple of projects that I would like to see in print over the next few years. It's just a matter of finding time to complete them. When all is said and done, I am just a bass player.
A dark, clever tale of two brothers, a fishing trip, misconceptions, drugs and murder, South of the Pumphouse skillfully combines classic motifs of epic struggle and intelligent layers of imagery, reminiscent of The Old Man and the Sea, and the raw, tweaked perspective and hallucinogenic tutorial of a Hunter Thompson novel.
But like Les Claypool's music, the material is still hugely innovative, highly independent, and excruciatingly thought-provoking. South of the Pumphouse is sure to be a cult phenomenon, doing for books what Donnie Darko and the Coen brothers did for film: bringing disquiet back to the forefront of popular writing. "South of the Pumphouse" was published by Akashic Books.
Buy The Book | www.clubbastardo.com
Excerpt | www.akashicbooks.com