RARA-AVIS: E.Richard Johnson Interview

From: Willow Arune ( pangarun@telus.net)
Date: 18 Apr 2007

I noted that Sue Feder's article on Johnson referred to an interview with a French magazine, tracked that down easily enough and ran it through a Web translator. The result - not great but understandible, is below:

Discussion with Richard Johnson according to correspondences of October the 5, and 25 1983, August 10, September 4, and 24 1984.

Published in number 13 of Dick's Hardware-Boiled, entirely devoted to Martin Brett and Emil Richard Johnson and conceived and carried out by Roger Martin impression To reduce the size of the Aggrandir text size of the text

Six novels published with the Black Series of 1968 to 1972 announced to the attention of the amateurs of black novels the name of Emil Richard Johnson. They testified to a real talent, an undeniable control of the style and an original inspiration. Also there was nothing astonishing so that the first title in question, the Herrings have good back (Silver Street) received Edgar of the best first detective novel allotted by Mystery Writers of America in 1969. Moreover, the noise which ran that Johnson was in prison under the blow of a charge of murder, added an unquestionable curiosity to a work which did not raise interest badly. Emil Richard Johnson wanted well, of its cell to the prison of Stillwater (Minnesota) to raise the veil for the readers of Dicks Hardware-Boiled.

R.M. Emil Richard Johnson the first question, most delicate. How be you arrived here, in prison?

E.R.J. I passed my childhood in a small city of the North of Wisconsin. I had three brothers and a sister, all older than me. We trained a very one family or one worked hard and although we never had the easy life, I had a happy childhood. I drove out and fished much and worked in the forests with the demolition of wood. I left the school at 17 years to return to the army. I there finished studies of the college type and passed from the diplomas for the occupation of warrant officer. I was used in Germany in the services of information of 1956 to 1960, date on which I returned to the United States. I was then implied in criminal activities with some types which I had known during my service and after four years of a similar life I ended up failing in prison to have killed a man during an armed attack in 1964. I was then condemned to a sorrow going from 25 to 40 years of prison.

R.M. I read in The Mystery Fancier that in 1978, you had been released on word and that one had contained you following a new armed attack...

E.R.J. I had not been released on word. It acted of a programme of rehabilitation by work. I crossed a very bad master key. One gave me in prison but without worsening my judgment. In other words, I always accomplished my sorrow from 25 to 40 years, which, with the possible reductions, should fall in Mars 1992. However, I believe that I have a chance to be released on word and I work there ardently. The director of a Center of Release on probation of Minneapolis makes feet and hands so that one entrusts to me with his establishment.

R.M. How did you come to the writing?

E.R.J. I always liked to read and, once in prison, I had not badly spare time - and due! I then understood that if I wanted to do something of my life, it was while I was in prison. In 1966, I started to write articles and stories for children, not without a certain success. In 1967, I decided that even if it means to spend my time writing, I should try to write a novel, and a black novel preferably not only because I had some experience on the matter, but in more because I had sources of extraordinary information among my fellows-prisoner. My first attempt, the Herrings have good back (Silver Street) was crowned success since it was distinguished by the M.W.A. After this first novel, I understood that I really liked to write and that I could even make my trade of it. I like to write black novels because it is the real World. The crime is a subject which touches each individual. Rich person, the poor, townsmen, the country one... It is a subject on which any individual has ideas, theories. It is a subject which interests me deeply because I spent my twenty last years behind the bars with criminals and that I know that the criminals are not inevitably people with share, resulting only from the slums of the low-districts and torn hearths. They are people like your voisin' of stage, or the teenager who plays in the court, which, following a sequence of circumstances, errors or bad choices, finish badly. Everyone is able to make an offence - murder including - and a writer has the possibility of creating the circumstances, the situations, the characters and the reasons which can give a good account. At the end of twenty years spent in prison, I have enough groundwork of stories and intrigues to write black novels during several lives!

R.M. You wrote stories for youth. Which kind of stories?

E.R.J. Primarily, they were stories of animals published in Children' S Friend and other reviews. But I also wrote articles on the prisons in Catholic Digest, on hunting for the stag with the arc in Bow Hunting, on the trade of trapper in Fur Fish Game. Unfortunately, I do not even have the complete list of my articles or news, all my cards having been destroyed, by the fire which devastated the prison during a riot at the beginning of the Seventies. I ceased writing for the reviews since 1968. I have just recalled me that I had a news, published in the newspaper of the prison at the end of the Sixties, which was preceded, but I do not have of it a copy.

R.M. Why did you cease writing news?

E.R.J. On the one hand, to devote me only to the novel and on the other hand park E which the police news is not appropriate to me. I am not on I would arrive there because I need place to develop the study of my characters. R.M. According to your bibliography, it seems that you ceased writing since 1976. What happened does exactly?

E.R.J. I stopped writing in 1975, because that did not go at all. I thought that I would not be long in being released and my attitude was that which prevails in these cases. I did not expect nothing very easy and I renon硩 to be written. I put to take drug intensively "to escape" and it is in this state that I spent the following years. There towards the end of 1979, I failed to remain of overdose on several occasions and I understood that I was going to kill me if I did not stop with drug. I tried then by all the means of seizing again me and of going into reverse. Fortunately, it is at that time that I met my second wife, Kathy, and it lavished the moral assistance to me for which I required to break the infernal circle, which was not easy, which was not easy. In 1982, I was released from drug since nearly two years and Kathy suggested that I recover to write to occupy me. It is it with what I get busy since. I try to give me in saddle in the police kind. I work intensively and I finished three novels lately: a work of science fiction, The Dune Riders Of Shadak, a book on "the after-prison", Survival-Not Sport, and a black novel with the characters of Silver Street and The Inside Man, Blind-Man Bluff. I put in this moment even the last hand at Million Dollar Dead Man, which is a black novel whose intrigue was inspired to me by a news of Cornell Woolrich, and who seems to me one of my best books.

R.M. You evoked your "second wife". You had already been married previously;'

E.R.J. Yes, in 1960, and divorced in 1962. I have a girl, Suzanne, which is married and mother of a small girl.

R.M. How do you work in prison?

E.R.J. I in general pass three to five hours to be written in my cell. Here a standard day: 6 H at 9 a.m. 30 work of prisoner employed in the common room... 9. 30 to 12 noon, I write in my cell and I make my mail... 12 H at 12 noon 30, meal. 12. 30 to 13 H, work of prisoner. In general, four days out of seven, I go then of 1 p.m. 20 at 2 p.m. 30 to the gymnasium or I make weights and halt貥s to discuss. 14. 30 at 16. 30, work of prisoner. 16. 30 at 6 p.m. 30, I write again in my cell. After the evening meal, I pass my evenings to be discussed in the court or the library. I am also a president of the Council of the Prisoners which discusses problems of the prison and thus hold meetings for these questions. After the hour of sleeping, 22 hours, I try to write still a little when become again room calms assembles neither uproar more, nor noise.

R.M. Which are the writers who influenced you?

E.R.J. "Influenced" is perhaps a quite great word. In all cases I like to read people like Spillane and Brett Halliday, but also Ross Macdonald and John D. Mac Donald, and Ed McBain, too. I also read all the detective novels which fall me under the hand, to hold me with the current and to distract me at the same time. I also from time to time like a good book of Science fiction. But I think that nobody equalizes Faulkner, Hemingway or London Jack to tell a history and a day, I would like to write a novel not-police officer on people and their life, as these authors did it.

R.M. One adapted for television one of your novels, Mongo returned (Mongo' S Back In Town), and, in my opinion, this telefilm, which we could see in France, very is successful. Joe Don Baker made a remarkable composition in particular there.

E.R.J. I saw Mongo with the tele ici-mꭥ and before even as it is not turned, I had the occasion to meet Joe Don Baker in these walls. I appreciated the telefilm although I do not think that they could really turn the same history that that of the book. In any case, the choice of Joe Don Baker was judicious. It is a "nature".

R.M. Emil Richard Johnson, in the name of all the readers of Dicks Hardware-Bolled, I would like to wish you all our wishes of success in your trade of black novelist, and social rehabilitation at the time of your release on word, which we hope for very next.

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