Of all the films based on your novels, which is your favorite?
Ben Doty, SYCAMORE, ILL.
Jackie Brown, which [Quentin] Tarantino did. He surprised me. I thought he might be all over the place, but he stayed very, very close to the plot and used quite a bit of the dialogue. He's been kind of a fan of mine ever since he was a teenager and stole one of my books. He got caught.
How does Detroit rate as a "lit noir" city? What about it inspires you?
SUGAR LAND, TEXAS
Well, I've lived here since 1934, and I've used Detroit because I remember parts of it that were important in the past and I know the city. I'm too old to move to another city and learn what all the streets are. Detroit is perfect for me.
When did your passion for writing begin?
BIG RUN, PA.
In the fifth grade, I wrote a World War I play, with the Americans on one side of the classroom and the Germans on the other side. This was '35. I don't know why, but I was influenced by All Quiet on the Western Front. I had seen the movie, and it always stuck with me. We had one performance, and that was it. I wish I had [kept] that play, though.
If you were to carry out one crime, what would it be?
I'd probably rob a bank, because it's probably the easiest. If someone asks you for money and shows a threat in some way, you're supposed to give them the money. You can give a dye pack. You can give them something that will get them caught, but you should give them the money.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I read everything. But then we joined a book-of-the-month club, and I started reading popular novels. I always thought they used too many words, no matter who they were--except Hemingway.
What advice do you have for young writers?
I would say just start writing. You've got to write every day. Copy someone that you like if you think that perhaps could become your sound too. I did that with Hemingway, and I thought I was writing just like Hemingway. Then all of a sudden it occurred to me, he didn't have a sense of humor. I don't know anything he's written that's funny.
How do you write? Computer? Typewriter? By hand?
Shen Ping, BEIJING
By hand. Every word is written by hand. Then I'll type it on my electric typewriter. It took me 20 years to buy an electric typewriter, because I was afraid it would be too sensitive. I like to bang the keys. I'm doing action stories, so that's the way I like to do it. I don't have [a computer]. I don't have e-mail or anything like that. I have a fax machine.
How do you feel about writers who refuse to let their books be adapted into films?
I think they're crazy, because it could be good and profitable. I'm always optimistic. I always think the movie they're going to make is going to be good. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't.