Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Author-Movie Blogger John Greco Discusses His New Book "The Late Show"

John Greco--author, movie blogger, and photographer—just published his third collection of short stories, The Late Show and Other Tales of Celluloid Malice. This latest book incorporates his love of classic cinema into eight twisty, provocative tales of murder and mayhem. John recently took time out of his busy schedule to talk with us.

Café:  What inspired you to start writing?

John Greco:  Simply put, movies and TV. I first became an avid reader because of movies, reading novels based on films I liked as well as books on films and filmmaking. TV shows like Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, both of which my parents hated so watching became a challenge, but both shows were big influences and inspiration.  I didn’t try to write a story though until the early 1990s. My first attempts were dreadful.  After writing a few stories I stopped, mostly because work and life in general got in the way. Surprisingly, some of them still exist. After I retired, I started writing once again, even bringing back from the dead one or two of those early efforts though extremely made over. 

Café:   Are there any autobiographical elements to your stories? I wondered if the boy in "Six-Shooter," the story of a movie theater owner in a small New York town, was based on you.

John Greco:  There are always some elements that are biographical, but they get merged in with pure fiction. For example, I grew up in New York City, not a small town like the character in "Six-Shooter," but yes, I did watch a lot of Western movies and TV shows as a kid. Johnny Mack Brown, Roy Rogers, and Gene Autry were staples at the time. That’s about as autobiographical as it gets, the rest is fiction. Ideas come from many sources: newspaper articles, conversations you have with others or overhear, things you see in the street, and even photographs. My own photography has inspired a few ideas. I think there are times you can’t help but toss in a bit that is biographical.

Café:   Many of the films referenced in The Late Show are film noir (e.g. Double Indemnity, Out of the Past). How has that film genre influenced your writing?

Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon.
John Greco:  As you know from my movie blog, I love film noir. Besides the Westerns that I previously mentioned, I watched plenty of gangster films early on. Warner Brothers films were a staple on one of the NYC stations on Sunday afternoons. As you know. Warner’s produced a lot of crime films. Many wintry Sunday afternoons were spent watching Bogart, Cagney, Garfield and company. I believe The Maltese Falcon was the first noir to really knock me out. True, at the time I first watched it I was too young to understand what film noir was. What I liked was Bogart’s Sam Spade character. Sam Spade was the perfect anti-hero. Unlike Cagney, whom I love, many of Bogart’s characters were tough guys who walked both sides of the mean streets. Spade lived on the edge, he lived by his own rules. He was one of the good guys, but in noir even the good guys were complicated. That’s what I found attractive, that along with the dangerous women who sometimes led them astray. Noir characters sometimes do bad things for the right reasons like the young character in "The Butcher’s Kid."

Café:   Who are some of your literary influences?

John Greco:  Joseph Heller was my first literary hero. I still regard his Catch-22 as a masterpiece. But it was James M. Cain who was the first crime writer whose work I fell in love with.  Both his The Postman Rings Twice and Double Indemnity definitely influenced me.  Then there is Elmore Leonard whose work is on a level all its own. He was a master of setting up a situation and twisting it in both a deadly and humorous way.  His characters are insanely unique and cool, and it’s sometimes hard to tell the good guys from the bad. I am also longtime admirer of Lawrence Block, Robert B. Parker, and Donald Westlake among many others. For me though, there is Elmore Leonard and then there is everyone else.

Café:   I know this is a tough question, but which story is your favorite and why?

Author John Greco.
John Greco:  Wow! That is tough. I don’t know if I could pick one, in fact, I know I can’t. In my new collection I would say "The Movie Club" and "The Butcher’s Kid." The latter came to me one day thinking about growing up in Brooklyn. There was a butcher shop called Castellano’s. One of the owners, I think they were two brothers, had a daughter I went to school with and I had a small crush on her at the time. Those small thoughts triggered my idea for the story which is completely fictional. I really like "Good for Nothing" from my short story collection Bitter Ends. It has both the noir quality and dark humor that I strive for in many pieces, though I don’t know if I always succeed at it. I have to mention a few other favorites like "We All Got What We Want," also from Bitter Ends and "Holcomb Bridge" from Devious Tales, both of which have a definite Hitchcockian twist.

Café:   Which of your stories would work best as a movie adaptation and who would you cast in it?

John Greco:  I don’t know about a movie, but some would work as an episode on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. "The Green Light" for example or "Holcomb Bridge." "Make it Right" would work as a Twilight Zone episode. Casting is tough, but I will say for "The Green Light," I always imagined a young Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in the roles of the seductive wife and her chump lover.

Café:   What did your wife think of The Late Show? I mean, there is a lot of killing and one tale is about a husband obsessed with old movies…..

John Greco:  Overall, it didn’t bother her. She reads a lot of mysteries--though one or two of the stories may have been more rough than she likes. As for the title story, when I first gave it to her to read, I thought she would say something like this is an exaggerated version of you and me. That’s the way I saw the story as I was writing it. As you know, I love movies, but I’m not as fanatical as the character in the story and my wife isn’t going to shoot me...at least I hope not! (laughs)

Café:   What are your future publishing plans?

John Greco:  Well, another book is in the works, but it is some time off, maybe toward the end of the year. I am also looking to submit a few stories to both on-line magazines and print magazines.

Café:   Where can interested readers purchase your book?

John Greco:  The Late Show is currently on Amazon. I’m looking to add it to both Barnes and Noble and Kobo in the near future like my other books.

You can learn more about John Greco at his blogs Twenty Four Frames and John Greco-- Author/Photographer.


  1. No one does "twisty, provocative tales" any better.

  2. I was glad to hear John's thoughts on Catch-22. I finally read that book last summer, and thought it deserved the legendary status it has.

    1. It's my favorite book of all time. I read it originally just before I went to Vietnam. Heller's use of words was brilliant! There was an illogical logic to it all.

      “Sure, there’s a catch,” Doc Daneeka replied. “Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty isn’t really crazy.”

  3. Really enjoyed learning more about John's influences and more about his life, too. I'm a also a fan of James M. Cain, the Hitchcock series and, OF COURSE, Rod Serling's Twilight Zone. I'd be interested in his take on Dorothy B. Hughes. I've hoped for a re-make of her "In a Lonely Place" that is closer to the book than the 1950 film - which is great but strays too far from her story for me.

  4. I really enjoyed this interview!