Friday, January 16, 2009

Hal Duncan Answers Questions Five

Hal Duncan arrived on the SFF scene a few years back with Vellum (US, UK, Canada, my review) and its sequel, Ink (US, UK, Canada). These books were much discussed, often critically acclaimed and lampooned and Vellum was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. Hal has also become known for his long and thoughtful posts/rants at his blog (did I mention that these can be long). He is certainly a vocal guy at times – so I was very happy when he agreed to participate in my Questions Five interview series. His latest book is a novella called Escape From Hell! (US, UK, Canada, my review) – a book that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Thanks again Hal and on to the questions.*

1. Hal, as a Scot, I can only assume that you eat haggis 3 or 4 times in the average day. How do you think haggis is best served?

HD: Forget all the Burns shite. Haggis with tatties and neeps (mashed potatoes and turnips -- or swedes or rutabagas, depending on where you're from) is OK, but the correct way to eat haggis is coated in batter and deep-fried as part of a haggis supper (that's haggis with chips -- or french fries, or freedom fries, depending on where you're from). Bought from a fish-n-chip shop, your haggis supper should be smothered in ketchup and eaten with your fingers straight out of the brown parcel paper it's served in. But then that's the best way to serve anything, as any Glaswegian will tell you -- coated in batter and deep-fried. If you can eat it, you can batter it and deep-fry it. Mmmm, taste that cholesterol! Feel those arteries hardening! We're the heart disease capitol of Europe, you know? And proud of it.

Oh, and you really need a glass bottle of Irn Bru to wash it down. Irn Bru is Scotland's _other_ national drink, in case you don't know; a fizzy soft drink that's got enough sugar in one can to kill five diabetics and enough caffeine in it to raise them from the dead. But it has to be a glass bottle; a can is too small, and the stuff in the plastic litre bottles just doesn't taste the same.

2. If I were passing through Glasgow on holiday and I could only visit one pub, which pub do you recommend and why?

HD: Easy one. It has to be Stravaigin, on Gibson Street, in the West End. Funny enough, they have the_second_best_ way to serve haggis, because they're basically a gastro pub with a restaurant in the basement, and haggis is one of the staples of their menu. They tend to do a sort of Scottish fusion cuisine -- lots of game and seafood but influenced by recipes from around the world. As pub food goes, you can't beat it -- top-quality grub but in a really informal atmosphere. Also their cocktails are to die for. And I mean proper cocktails -- Bloody Mary, White Russian, Dry Gin Martini, Mojito and suchlike. None of those crappy 80s cocktails with nudge-nudge wink-wink sexy names, mixed by the pitcher from a couple of random spirits, a splash of Cointreau and a half bottle of Bailley's. No, we're talking cocktails for the committed lush. Martinis so dry you know the vermouth pretty much just got _shown_ to the gin: look, gin! Meet Mr Vermouth. Oh, dear, looks like Mr Vermouth can't stay. Bye, Mr Vermouth.

Also Stravaigin is within staggering distance of my house. And I'm a very good native guide, you know. I'll show you round _all_ the best seats in the pub, for payment in the form of booze.

3. If Escape From Hell! were a fortune cookie, what would its fortune be?

HD: "Heaven is watching over you."

4. How would you interpret this fortune if it were your own?

HD: As an indication that I should take up Kung Fu and learn how to shoot a gun. And when I say "gun" I mean "assault rifle". Cause if those metaphysical motherfuckers are for real, I'm clearly in a whole heap of trouble come Judgement Day.

5. Why should Escape From Hell! be the next book that everyone reads?

HD: Because "everyone" would include Samuel L. Jackson and Laurence Fishburne, and they _really_ need to read it. This would make a fucking awesome movie with those two as the hitman and the hobo (as I say at every opportunity, in the vain hope that one or other of them will come across it in a random vanity Google). And has there ever been a movie with the two of them together? No. And should there be? Hell, yeah! That would be awesome. In fact, "everyone" would also include Sam Raimi, who should be directing _this_ instead of that Terry Goodkind TV adaptation. Hell, there's even a reporter that Bruce Campbell could play to perfection. So absolutely, this should be the next book that everyone reads.

Wait. Do you mean, like, why should they _want_ to read it? Well, just imagine how cool a balls-to-the-wall pulp action/adventure flick about a bust-out from Hell would be, especially if it were starring Samuel L. Jackson and Laurence Fishburne. That's the level of awesome I'm aiming for. Plus it's really short. You can read it in an evening, man. Piece of piss. And you _know_ you don't have time for all those weighty 500 page tomes. No, you want some good old honest-to-god pulp, just like they used to make it -- 150 pages max of pure, plot-driven, high-octane ass-kicking. You know, the title has that exclamation mark for a reason.

*this interview in comparison to
Brian Ruckley’s makes me question if Scottish writers give the best interviews – it seems it may be so.


Hagelrat said...

great interview. I've never come across Hal Duncan's books. They are going on the list.

ediFanoB said...

Good interview.

Haggis is a mystery to me.

Hal Duncan's books are on my list. The problem is: The list is quite too long.

Neth said...

Duncan's books are great - I recommend them.


I quite liked Haggis when I tried it. I don't think I'd want it every day, but certainly from time to time.

Carl V. said...

Ah, what a fun interview. His description of the proper way to eat haggis actually makes me want to get some myself!!!

ThRiNiDiR said...

I love this Guy :),

and ...Answers Questions Five is always a must read.


ThRiNiDiR said...

oh I forgot, we have something akin to haggis here is Slovenia - It's called "krvavica" or "krvavice" in plural. (I'm not exactly the biggest fan, but if done the right way they can be pretty tasty)

Neth said...


thanks and if I ever make it to Slovenia (and I hope to since it sounds so beautiful), I'll make sure to give that a try. I love trying local dishes like that as long as they are not too offensive to my senses.

wend said...

Great questions Neth :o)

And, Samuel L. Jackson and Laurence Fishburne; thats a Hell, Yeah!!


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