Jesse Sublett has been a member of the Writers’ League since 1994. Jesse grew up in Johnson City and now calls Austin home.
Scribe: In what genre(s) do you write?
Jesse Sublett: I write crime fiction novels, true crime novels, as well as history and memoir. My new book 1960s Austin Gangsters (History Press), publishing March 9, 2015, is a true crime chronicle of the Austin underworld in the 1960s. Last June, Texas Tech Press published Broke, Not Broken: Homer Maxey’s Texas Bank War, which was a combination history of West Texas and financial fraud and conspiracy. I wrote the first Austin-based detective novel series in the late 1980s, the Martin Fender novels, which were set in the Austin music scene starting with Rock Critic Murders, (Viking Penguin) in 1989.
Scribe: What authors would you like to have coffee or a beer with and which beverage?
JS: I’ve always enjoyed having coffee with James Ellroy, as he is super intelligent and kind, despite his strange politics and brutal writing, and he is the only writer I know who drinks as much espresso as I do. I also love having a beer with my friend Michael Connelly. I don’t think I’d want to resurrect any of my hero authors like Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler because it would be a drag if they were in a bad mood and ruined my memories of them. But I’d love to hang out with Michael Ondaatje and Denis Johnson. Johnson doesn’t drink but I think he’d be OK with me drinking my usual stout or rye whiskey. Bulleit rye rules.
Scribe: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what book would you want to have with you to keep you sane?
JS: Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett), Running in the Family (Ondaatje), The Big Sleep (Chandler), and Jesus’ Son (Denis Johnson) because those works are so fine they can be read over and over. I would also want Sibley’s or Audubon bird guide for the local birds, as birds make me happy.
Scribe: What have you learned from your association with the Writers’ League?
JS: I learn something new every day from writers all around me. Listen, because you never know what you may learn from others, because the person sitting next to you at the bar might be an expert on something you need to know about and might have an incredible tale to tell — things that you’ll miss if you can’t shut up and listen. One of the most important things I’ve learned over my years of writing is to be humble, or try to be so whenever appropriate.
Scribe: Where do you see your writing taking you (or you taking it) in the future?
JS: I dream about being a travel writer. I yearn to write more true crime and history, because almost every great story starts with a dead body… or a pile of them.
Scribe: Is there anything else about you that you would like to share with the world? An opportunity for blatant self-promotion!
They call me “Austin legend” because I’ve been around, playing music, writing songs, writing books and stories so long — starting in the 1970s when tires were made of wood and you could have an armadillo barbecue sandwich for lunch on the river, but even in the crazy times of the Austin punk explosion, when my band, the Skunks, was on the radio every day, I’ve not cracked the mainstream on anything I’ve done. I have a new EP coming out this spring to showcase my murder ballads and Austin lounge blues music. Music and art and writing are as important to me as breathing, and I’ve been fortunate that some people in this town have taken an interest in my work. If success means that you have people who follow you and are entertained and challenged by your work and express their appreciation and, sometimes, even love for what you do, then I have been very successful — to hell with mainstream.