April 6, 2021

Michael Nava Shares How Often He Googles Himself Each Week

Michael Nava Shares How Often He Googles Himself Each Week

Ep:078 Michael Nava is the author of an acclaimed series of eight novels featuring gay, Latino criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios who The New Yorker, called “a detective unlike any previous protagonist in American noir.” He is the recipient of seven Lambda Literary Awards in the gay mystery category and the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement in LGBT Literature. His most recent Rios novel is Lies With Man, was published in April by Amble Press, an LGBTQ press and imprint of Bywater Books, of which he is also managing editor.

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Lies with Man by Michael Nava

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The Double Vice by Chris Holcombe

Life's Milestone's podcast

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Transcript

Brad Shreve:

This week, find out what novel Justine kept texting me to tell me how fantastic it was and what Michael Nava thinks of being an icon. Hi, I'm Brad. And I interviewed the authors

Justene 2:

I am Justene and I read their books.

Brad Shreve:

And welcome to Queer Writers of Crime. Worked out pretty well. Justene

Justene:

That, that did

Brad Shreve:

quick and easy, right? To the point.

Justene:

Of course, then we lengthen it by our chit-chat.

Brad Shreve:

Well, that's true, but we always lenghten it by chit-chat, but at least we're going to be jumping right into the show. Michael Nava is the guest today. He was great to talk to is always, he's a very sweet man. So I really enjoyed that. So that's coming up. Did you happen to catch me on that other show?

Justene:

The WROTE podcast?

Brad Shreve:

No. I know you got the WROTE podcast when I was on Life's Milestones

Justene:

no, I did not yet.

Brad Shreve:

Okay, I'm going to put the link in the show notes and everybody it's a podcast it's called Life's Milestones. And I met the host online and the show discusses birth, naming ceremonies, relationships, marriage, and death. And he asked pretty much everybody the same question, which sounds like it would be boring. But he doesn't shut people up and he lets them just keep going. And everybo dy has a really interesting story to tell. I listened to it to see if I really wanted to be on the show. So I listened to quite a few episodes and I'm hooked.

Justene:

add it to the podcast queue.

Brad Shreve:

Add it And if you want to hear the episode that I was on, where I talk about why I have been married twice, but I've had four weddings

Justene:

Okay.

Brad Shreve:

or hear me talk about the great chicken shit caper.

Justene:

Oh, dear

Brad Shreve:

all they've got to do is go to Mark's show and listen in, and it's Life's Milestones I want to talk about Twitter. I'm becoming even more active in Twitter. So I would love people to interact

Justene:

after swearing off at how many times Brad.

Brad Shreve:

I sworn off of that many times, but I, I only did a political statement the other day. It was on my personal account, not the podcast account. I had a. Couple of Right, Wingers say some really disgusting things to me and I block anybody if they can't talk in a D I'll I'll debate anybody, but if you're just going to be stupid and call names and you blocked, but I got a lot of support behind it anyway. So I get my fill that maybe once a month, on the podcast side, it's mostly lighthearted stuff. I. Retweet things from other podcasts that I know them well, and they do the same and chats. I'm friends with lots of podcasts and quite a few of our listeners, but I would like more people to jump in. So that would be great. And the last thing I want to talk about is Buy Me a Cup of Coffee. If people want to help us out, It's right there in the show notes. click on the donate button and drop us a few bucks to help keep this podcast going. How was that for a menu of things to talk about?

Justene:

Yeah. That was a menu of things to talk about.

Brad Shreve:

I got to talk about Paul Rudd.

Justene:

Oh, good.

Brad Shreve:

I can't let an episode go by without Paul Rudd. People have probably seen it. He was Jimmy Fallon's first lip sync battle episode.

Justene:

I see.

Brad Shreve:

And I'm not fan of Fallon, but Paul Rudd did a Queen song and the name escapes me. It should be easy. they cut them off after a minute, instead of let him do the whole thing, but it makes me laugh and laugh If I'm in a bad mood, I put it on it's only 60 seconds long. And I've decided if my books are ever made into movies, I will insist Paul Rudd be the protagonist and play Mitchell Riley role.

Justene:

I don't ever see Mitch O'Reilly as being really funny.

Brad Shreve:

Oh, no, no. Paul would be totally wrong for the part

Justene:

I see.

Brad Shreve:

He doesn't have the personality for the part. He doesn't have the look for the part, but I don't give a damn if I'm having a movie Paul Rudd is goingto be in that movie.

Justene:

Okay.

Brad Shreve:

I think I did my grocery list of things to cover today. Let me see, uh, um,

Justene:

I've only got one thing on on my list. I'm just waiting for it here.

Brad Shreve:

Okay, I'm done. I hope after all that people are still listening.

Justene:

I hope so.

Brad Shreve:

for new listeners. We do eventually get to book recommendations and to interviews, but, you know,

Justene:

any moment now, guys, at any moment,

Brad Shreve:

I'm ready for you to say what you got to say.

Justene:

All right. If they aren't listening, they're going to miss a really great book. This is called the Double Vice and it's like a double vice is not a Edelweiss kind of word. It's double. As in one, two, and vice, as in those things, we all like to indulge in, but sometimes shouldn't it's by Chris Holcombe and it is for the first in a new series called the 1st Hidden Gotham novel. There's a mouthful, designed to be read, not spoken out loud, I guess.

Brad Shreve:

I actually have a question for you. I happened to look that book up, but I didn't click on the author pages. I know this is the first in the series. Is this their first book?

Justene:

I don't believe so.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. That's all. I was curious about that.

Justene:

he certainly writes, like, it's not his first book. I gotta say it's highly polished. it is the second book in the series. Won't be out till December. So if you, if you like reading series, when they're all out, you've got a couple of years away, but I really recommend you put, pick this up. Now it works very well as a stand alone. Only a couple of threads are going to be carried into the next book. it is set in 1926, New York in the middle of prohibition, right before the great depression where, subcultures like the gay culture, which was not called gay at the time. And the black culture, which I don't think was called black at the time, they flourished in their own little areas of the city. the. main character. Dash Parker was a very rich young man and a very rich family. And when he came out to them, his wasn't coming out, then it was, they. Figured it out. They sent him on his way. He didn't want to stay with them. Uh, and he opened a speakeasy. He's got a couple of friends and roommates. They're crammed into a little apartment. the bartender, Joe is there in the room with him and then bed in the hall is his other friend, Finn who was a waitress at the club. They, they uh, it's all period. It's all period. Let me just say the way he describes the tenement above a theater. Is it just two room, little apartment bathroom down the hall. And then he's got to go to the public bath to take a shower. All true to history. much of what he talks about in the city. I grew up there and a lot of that is still there. He gets it very accurately. Actually a lot of it's not still there. A lot of it was there 50 years ago when I was growing up. All right. So that's kind of the players and I'm not getting a justice

Brad Shreve:

what city, is it

Justene:

New York city,

Brad Shreve:

okay?

Justene:

the Gotham in the 1st Hidden Gotham novel.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, I think of Gotham in Chicago, but that's okay.

Justene:

Oh blaspheme, Brad, blaspheme. I don't know if I can recover from this. I may have to put my two week notice in.

Brad Shreve:

Well, ma Superman lived in Metropolis, which I pictures, New York city. And Batman's in Gotham, which is darker inside picture. That is Chicago. That's why I always thought that way. But others have corrected me. You're not the first

Justene:

All right. So, so I've kind of plotted through the, uh, the, uh, backstory and the author does not plot through the backstory. You will pick all this up and find it out along the way. As we delve right into the mystery, boarish rich guy. Of German descent or German ship. He's a German immigrant somehow manage his way his way into the speakeasy. And he is looking for a pansy, which is slang for a man in drag. and as it turns out, he's not really looking for the pansies, looking for his brother who was with the pansy. Uh, the brother is quite frightened and. Dash, you know, gets him out and into safe, hiding up in the. mansions and clubs up in Harlem, uh, which is so well-written, it's such a, they were mansions up in Harlem that people didn't know about. And then the white folk were as unwelcomed there as the black people were elsewhere. Um, and it takes a while dash knows a couple of them and they know him and, and in certain parts of the area, he can walk. freely and get in and into clubs and the like, so he hides this young man Carl up in one of these clubs and the next morning he goes back and Carl had been strangled in the night and left in Central Park. So. That's the mystery. Uh, and it's, it's not so much the mystery because, you know, cops don't care about, uh, gay people. Although that certainly was true. It was it's it's all because Dash and his roommates. Are in danger and you don't know what the danger is, cause he doesn't know what the danger is. You've got a bunch of different factions, a bunch of different storylines. Uh, a notorious gangster shows up at one point and then there's a, group of Carl's friends. And then of course there's Carl's brother. Who, works for the committee of 14 designed to clean up the streets and by that means removing the degenerates, which constituted every minority group. and then he's got, there's a woman who started her own law firm. And I found this particularly interesting because apparently women lawyers even frowned upon then, Could register to New York state bar, but they couldn't become members of the bar. They had to become members of the Society of Women Lawyers the New York bar association is housed in this elegant building with fancy offices. And then you've got the rundown women lawyers association, where the women are kept. It weaves the through every scene is laid upon the other with some action. Uh, you don't know who is coming from where people flip sides a whole lot. he has one of the black singers, working with him, and then he ends up in a, difficult situation in the house party of another, very well-known black woman. Where it's, three stories, top stories, heaven, middle stories, purgatory, and the bottom story is hell. and you can imagine just how fraught that was as they try to make their way around talking to various suspects. The other characters are almost all gay and lesbian.

Brad Shreve:

And I have a question you said, going into Harlem, it was difficult for whites to be there, just like black to be there.

Justene:

No blacks in the rest of the city,

Brad Shreve:

I see, I see. Gotcha.

Justene:

the segregation it was, enforced on both sides.

Brad Shreve:

Gotcha. I actually heard, I don't know if it's true that when her Harlem was originally built, it was considered an upscale housing section and it didn't go over well. So they started renting out cheap and that's when the poor folks started moving in.

Justene:

Well, the poor folks set up a town that was taken by eminent domain for Central Park. And so the blacks and their, the homes they lived in were basically raised in the blacks, had nowhere to go. So they, moved further uptown into Harlem. And the people in the mansions. I mean, it was, that's just how it was back then. But at some point it was very wealthy. And then at other points it was, not someplace anybody want to live black or white, and now it's coming back. I know particularly the restaurants of Harlem are very good, uh, and very unique. So it's become Harlem itself has had its up and down over the years.

Brad Shreve:

Bill Clinton has this office there.

Justene:

Yes he does. Yes, he does.

Brad Shreve:

So how do you rate this one?

Justene:

Oh, this is an intriguing mystery. There were so many plot lines I had. There were times when I was writing down notes to try to remember who was where and, Trying to figure. I actually tried very hard to figure out this mystery because it was just so many clues and you had somebody who was spotted here and then it turned out they were there and then the timelines don't mesh up. Once it all kind of unravels cut off, there's a solution. Carl unfortunately is still dead at the end.

Brad Shreve:

I want to say one thing that interests me is that you said it's in 1926 in New York, and that was an era where. New York, Chicago, San Francisco, where gays weren't accepted, but it was the in thing to have gay friends and have fun with your gay friends. It was just was unspoken.

Justene:

yes. Yes. And there were places though in the city where they could, meet without fear, mostly the speakeasies.

Brad Shreve:

Exactly. Yep. Yeah. Los Angeles. Wasn't that way Los Angeles was conservative as hell.

Justene:

Yeah. It was a much smaller town then.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, it was. And they weren't happy that Hollywood moved in, brought in all of the decadence.

Justene:

Yeah. Anyway. So the after notes talk about the historical books that form the basis of his research, although he he went back and did, there are some buildings that were fictionalized and based on real buildings. And then there's one building, which was a real building with a real name. And he said, okay, You know, I can't find anything written about the interior. He pulled the floor plans, which didn't help. And so he just made up that interior, but he, you know, researching so far as to pull up the floor plans of a hotel that was at its height in 1926, just tells you the level of detail this goes into and he doesn't, he doesn't overlay the. the story at all with this is how it was, or this is how it is. he just described all of those places as a backdrop to this mystery. And at the time, you know, the city was just Manhattan. The outer boroughs, uh, were the outer boroughs. And at some point somebody abducted Dash and takes him across the bridge to Brooklyn. He said, Oh my God, I'm going to die in a borough. But it's good. It's a great book. And it's one of the best I've read all year. I can't recommend it highly enough.

Brad Shreve:

And so you folks know this is another book that Justene sent me a message ahead of time and said, I'm reading this book and it's fantastic. She doesn't do that with every book.

Justene:

I don't do that in every book. And I think I like, you know, as I was moving along, I was like, wow, I kept messaging you. This is really fantastic. Oh, so fantastic. So wonderful

Brad Shreve:

So, add it to your list.

Justene:

added to your list.

Brad Shreve:

sound like it needs to be moved to the top.

Justene:

Yes, I encourage everybody to buy this and read it, encourage this author to keep publishing these novels. It's terrific. So it's intriguing Brad, and I'm going to get out of your way and get you to Michael Nava.

Brad Shreve:

All right. Thank you so much. And I'll See you next week. Hello, Michael.

Michael Nava:

Hey, Brad, how are you?

Brad Shreve:

I'm doing very well. And I want to give you a big, thank you. You were on my second episode of this show back in October of 2019. So I want to thank you very much for helping get this show kicked off

Michael Nava:

Well, you've done a great job since you've had some incredible people on.

Brad Shreve:

I will agree with that. I need to tell you it's interesting to me, many of the authors that I book Either before I booked them or after we'll look through old episodes and they come back and they say, wow, I feel honored. You even had Michael Nava on. How does that make you feel?

Michael Nava:

uh, well, that's great. I'm glad I could be the cheese in the mouse trap. That's your podcast. It's a lot of work for you though. I admire that too. Cause I've done a podcast. It's a lot of work.

Brad Shreve:

It is, it's a labor of love. Uh, my biggest struggle is balancing it with writing and doing the podcast. The podcast is easier, even though I love writing more. I love both doing both, but, uh, so that's a tough balance. I really have to challenge myself to get some writing done. let me do your formal introduction.

Michael Nava:

Okay.

Brad Shreve:

Michael Nava is the author of an acclaimed series of eight novels featuring gay Latino, criminal defense lawyer, Henry Rios, who the new Yorker called a detective, unlike any previous protagonist in American Noir. He is the recipient of seven Lambda literary awards in the gay mystery category. And the Bill Whitehead award for lifetime achievement in LGBT literature. His most recent, Rios novel is Lies With Man, which will be published in April by Amble Press an LGBTQ press and imprint of Bywater Books of which he is also managing editor. So I need to say looking at your bio, something I missed before I actually, I don't think I missed it, but I didn't pick up on it. You grew up in the Sacramento area.

Michael Nava:

I did.

Brad Shreve:

But you were born in Stockton.

Michael Nava:

Yeah, but I was only born in Stockton. I didn't actually live there.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. I lived in Stockton for about two years and we'd go up to the Sacramento area quite frequently. So that's why it stood up to me. Uh, I don't know if you've spent much time in Stockton at all.

Michael Nava:

no, I went back there once to do a, a book thing, but that's about the extent of my knowledge and Stockton.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, well, I have lived all over the country and I can say because I worked in the hotel industry and I can say something nice about everywhere I've lived, but the only nice thing I can come up with about Stockton is that was only 80 miles from San Francisco.

Michael Nava:

it's a, it's a pretty, um, it's a pretty, dreary town.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, but the one thing is there was one gay bar in town and everyone would go there. It was literally across the tracks as you left the city limits. And it would be drag night, one night and cowboy night because it was the only bar in town. It was changing each night and c atered to everybody. And that was actually a lot of fun.

Michael Nava:

What was it called?

Brad Shreve:

Oh, what was that bar called? If you didn't ask me, I could have told you. It's probably still there. Um, I don't know. I don't know. I would go occasionally go up to the bars in Sacramento, but I was just on the road from this one in Stockton. So that's where I spent most of my time and I was semi out at the time. So some people knew I was out. Some people did not. Eventually they figured it out. So I want to go back to what I brought up earlier, before your intro, knowing you. I know you are a humble man. At least you come across as a humble man. I think that's pretty accurate, but you have an iconic status you're even listed in numerous literary encyclopedias. Do you find that awkward?

Michael Nava:

Um, well, no, because I'm not really all that aware of it. I don't, um, I don't Google myself to see where I am and, uh, I don't, I've never, I don't participate. Um, Or haven't participated actively in the literary world. So, you know, I was a lawyer for 35 years. And so, um, most of my friends are lawyers and I just, I just didn't have a lot of contact with the literary world where that would've come up that much. So I not really aware of a lot of that.

Brad Shreve:

You're just too damn busy.

Michael Nava:

Basically I live in the present.

Brad Shreve:

Good job. I Google myself frequently, but it's mainly to see where my website and where the podcast shows up. So,

Michael Nava:

Oh, well, there you go.

Brad Shreve:

it's all for that purposes and okay. Ego sometimes, but that's not really the reason.

Michael Nava:

I'm afraid to, I'm afraid to Google myself and find the negative reviews or the negative comments that people leave. You know, the, the, uh, the internet has really empowered people to be pretty nasty cause they can hide behind the screen of anonymity. So I, I tend to avoid, I don't read the reviews on Amazon or. I don't or Goodreads. Like, I don't want to know what people think. It just makes it harder to write the books.

Brad Shreve:

Goodreads a cesspool stay away from there. I can tell you when you're Googled a lot of reviews come up from different literary magazines. That nature. And they're all outstanding reviews. I have not gone to Amazon or Goodreads to see the comments there, but I would guess you, you're not getting knocked down too much. The last time you were on you were, in the process of starting your own press. However, since then you're now the managing editor at Amble Press. Explain Amble Press why it was created. And tell us more about it.

Michael Nava:

Amble Press is an imprint of Bywater books Bywater Books is a well-established lesbian press publishes a lot of fantastic women writers like Cheryl Head, who does the Charlie Mack mystery series Ann McMan, my friend Ann, who, um, also writes mysteries. So the owners, uh, the publishers of Bywater, uh, Salem, West and Marianne Martin. They wanted to reach out, to expand their audience, to include, uh, other Writers in the LGBTQ community. Particularly they're interested in publishing writers of color and was doing the covers of my reprint for my then small press Persigo Press and, she told me about this and I told her, you know, I'm thinking of starting this small press, cause I also want to publish LGBTQ writers, especially wriers of color. And so, um, She said, well, why don't you just become editor of Amble? We don't have an other for yet. It was very new in print. And so basically I was handed the job that I was trying to create for myself without having to create the business infrastructure or the production infrastructure. And so I said, yeah, of course count me in. So that's how I came to be the managing editor of Amble.

Brad Shreve:

So the conversation just happened to come up at the right time.

Michael Nava:

It was just one of those incredible synchronicity things, you know,

Brad Shreve:

Well, having been an author for so long, what is it like to be an editor?

Michael Nava:

well, you know, the first thing I've learned is, uh, uh, Writers can be difficult. Yeah. That's because they care so much about their books, you know, understandably they're very protective. They care a lot. And, as editor, I am now in the position of not just choosing and editing the books, we also participated in the approach, promotion and marketing of other people's books. So, um, You know I do some handholding. but I, I like, I really, the, the Writers I've chosen, I really liked them. And I think their books at first grade, and for me, the most interesting part of it is editing. Not that they need that much editing because these are Writers a very high caliber, but when you're editing someone else's book. It's like when you're teaching something, you learn a lot about the process that you can apply to your own work. So in editing their books, I mean, I'm learning a lot about writing.

Brad Shreve:

I was wondering if he gave you a different perspective on your own writing.

Michael Nava:

Totally. And you see the things that they do well, um, I was like, Oh, I could use that in my own book.

Brad Shreve:

now it's not specifically, only for people of color. I know that's your target, but not necessarily all the authors or people of color.

Michael Nava:

we're about 50/50 at this point. So, there's me, of course, I'm Mexican American. I'm publishing two black Writers, Joe Okonkwo, well in Casey Hamilton, and I'm publishing, another Latino writer, Orlando Medina. and then the other four Writers are white. Two of them are women.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I hope it's okay for me to say I did get an email from Richard. Stevenson, who was, he was very excited because well, for people that don't know, he's known for the Donald Strachey mysteries, and he's going to do in the series, am I correct?

Michael Nava:

yeah. Uh, cliff Waterman, Clifford Waterman Set in Philadelphia in the 1940s.

Brad Shreve:

HE sent me an email to tell me how excited he was, that he was going to be published by Amble Press.

Michael Nava:

Yeah, so, I mean, there are many kind of course I'm looking for diversity, in race and ethnicity, but also other kinds of diversity. I mean, Dick is 82 years old, so, you know, I'm publishing, I think that that counts as diversity to, to publish older writers and he's writing a book set in the 1940s. and so that. That's I think an important addition because it preserves the memory of that time for our community. Dick and I have known each other since the eighties, you know, I love him. We're old pals and I was really happy to, take his book. And when I gave him back the edits, he said, well, there are only a few times when I thought, what the hell are you doing?

Brad Shreve:

now Lies With Man. Let's get with your upcoming book. it's currently available on pre-order and it's going to release on April 27th and 2021. For those that may be listening in the future, you've had, I'm going to try and get you to clarify this for me, you've had six or seven Henry Rios novels. you started in 1986 with Lay Your Sleeping Head, which was rereleased. It was originally called The Little Death. Correct? And then in 2019, you wrote, Carved in Bone, which you slid in between the other books and made it book number two. So Lies With Man. It's also taking place in the eighties correct?

Michael Nava:

Right.

Brad Shreve:

Where does that fit into the stories?

Michael Nava:

So that's now book three. So the sequence of the first, four books, it's Lay you Sleeping Head, Carved in Bone, Lies with Man and then How Town. So I basically read are basically rewrote that at the initial volumes of the book, So that's, uh, that's the order of them and the, the original first and second books Little Death and Golden Boy right now out of print. and so they've been superseded by these, by the three books I just mentioned

Brad Shreve:

Well, I was going to ask you about Golden Boy. Was it in 2003 or was it earlier than that?

Michael Nava:

Golden Boy was published in 1988.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. I must have looked at a later republication of it or something. And I noticed that it's hard to find it's virtually gone. Is that going to come back or

Michael Nava:

so I think what I'm going to do at some point, is I'm going to republish both The Little Death and Golden Boy in one volume. That's sort of the original, uh, the original books along with a long. It's sort of an essay about, Rios and writing the books and, and why I, why I chose to restart the series because some people actually prefer those books to the ones that I've written recently. Um, and they do, people are curious about them. So I want to make them available for anyone who's curious about them. So I think that will probably be. the next project I did with Rios is to repackage those books into a single volume. And we released them with a long introduction through Amble.

Brad Shreve:

I had a boss many years ago, tell me that I like change for the sake of change. I'm starting to think that about you.

Michael Nava:

Well, no, it's not so much of that is. So when I, when I started, when I wrote the first Rios book, when it was published in 1986, A Little Death, I wasn't, I didn't intend to start a series. It was a, it was a one-off book. and I didn't even really think I would be a mystery writer. You know, it was just an experiment for me. Um, cause I wanted to try the novel. and then it got it, got it, got a lot of attention. And I was asked to write a second book and so I wrote a second book, Golden Boy. And then I became a mystery writer, but, when I read those first two books, I realized, you know, when you're writing a series, you're thinking three or four books in the future. Right. And you're, you're putting things in the first book. You're foreshadowing. What might happen in book five? Well, I didn't do any of that because I didn't know I was writing in the series. So I actually wanted to go back and do that. So I wanted to, I wanted to rewrite the first book so that there was foreshadowing for things that came up in book seven or eight. So that was my main motivation. Um, in going back and turn it into a coherent series, you know, where you learn things about a in books, one and two, that then are further explaining the book six and seven.

Brad Shreve:

it is very common on this show to hear that from authors that right. One book and then turn it into a series. And they say, I wish I knew in the beginning it was going to be a series because I would have written it very differently.

Michael Nava:

Yeah, so I did, I went back and did

Brad Shreve:

So you're cleaning up the messes well saying that you didn't ever expect it to be a writer, looking at your past, you've had a long and admirable history as an attorney. but you attended Colorado College and you hung out with groups of writers. And I know you've told me in the past that you wrote poetry and you graduated with a BA in history, and then you Considered a graduate education in history or English, but you end up enrolling into Stanford law school. How did that come about? Why, why that change in direction?

Michael Nava:

Well, um, you know, as a young man, and even as a teenager, I was interested both in writing, but also in sort of politics. And, you know, if you're interested in politics, inevitably, that takes you to the law. And so many, um, since law and politics are so closely bound up, and I also. You know, I had a childhood interest. I remember watching Perry Mason with my grandfather and being sort of fascinated by that. And I also, one of my childhood heroes was Abraham Lincoln who was of course famously a lawyer. so that was the whole legal thing. Thing was always sort of current at the back of my mind. And after I graduated from college and I was confronted with his choice while I couldn't make a living as a poet, obviously. Um, and I could, and I could go to graduate school in history or English, but I didn't want to teach, I didn't want to become a teacher because I didn't think I'd have the patience to teach. so I had the cast around for another career that would, provide me a living and allow me time to write. And that's when I thought, Oh, well, I've always kind of been interested in law. So I'll apply to law school. I only applied to three. I applied to Harvard, Stanford, and Berkeley. And my thought was, if I get one of those, I'll become a lawyer. If I don't, I'll think of something else to do. Uh, so I didn't really, uh, I didn't have a fallback plan.

Brad Shreve:

so you wanted to, you wanted a career, that would give you time to write politics. Doesn't seem like that would be a very good direction for that.

Michael Nava:

Well, by then, I'd given up the idea of being in politics because, you know, I was a gay man and this was in the seventies and that was, uh, it was unthinkable that openly gay man could be in politics, but I thought I could still be a lawyer. so, that's why I went into law and I knew going into law, or I learned quickly at Stanford that. I didn't, wasn't interested in private practice. I was really interested in, um, either becoming, um, a public defender or doing some kind of government or public interest law because that's, that's what I thought would be more fulfilling to me than going, going to work for a big firm. and so I ended up, actually not as a public defender, but as a prosecutor in Los Angeles in the early eighties, I had an incredible. An incredibly fulfilling legal career. And the best part is it was mostly nine to five. So I actually did have time in the evening. Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

so given that you are a prosecutor, this you made me interested, what do you think of the flack that Kamela Harris got for having been a prosecutor when she was running?

Michael Nava:

I met her in, uh, San Fran. She was a da here in San Francisco and I actually met her and, um, she is a very intelligent. A very intelligent person and very charming. and I think that that is actually not a fair criticism because in the criminal justice system, although criminal defense lawyers are the ones who are sort of seen as, The protectors of the little person it's actually prosecutors have the power. Prosecutors are the ones who decide whether to charge a crime, what crime to charge and whether to offer a plea bargain. So I thought, and I tell young law students of color that lawyers of color need to be in those positions because in the criminal justice system, it's the DA who has the power, not the criminal defense attorney. So. I actually encourage, law students to think about becoming prosecutors because they can do in some sense, as much good or more good than they could as criminal defense lawyers, criminal defense lawyers, they can't make deals, you know, they're not, they don't have that power. so I think that's an unfair wrap on her and I think she's, you know, she's a superb person.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I was flabbergasted by it because it almost implies that you, we shouldn't have prosecuting attorneys, which obviously we know there is a need. So it's interesting to hear your feedback on that. Let's talk about, uh, Henry Rios for the very few people in the world that don't know Henry, tell us who he is.

Michael Nava:

so Rios is, a criminal defense lawyer. Who's also Mexican American. Um, the son of an immigrant, his father is a Mexican immigrant. His mother is Mexican American. he grows up in the central Valley of California. He goes to a law school and becomes a criminal defense lawyer and is, openly gay. and the books sort of Chronicle his life. Through a series of the cases he takes and, the people he defends and, the men falls in love with, and at this point it spans, I guess, about, 20 years of his life,

Brad Shreve:

So an openly gay lawyer in the 1980s.

Michael Nava:

eighties and nineties, openly gay criminal defense, lawyer of color in the eighties and nineties.

Brad Shreve:

Those stories are wrought with challenges. You

Michael Nava:

Well, you know, because among other things, the bombshell of AIDS dropped it and while I was writing and so it's very much implicated in, the epidemic.

Brad Shreve:

So let's talk about Lies with Man. Can you share the story?

Michael Nava:

Sure. So Lies with Man is book three in the series. And, uh, Rios has now moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco, which is where Carved in Bone takes place. he becomes involved with this, group of, gay and lesbian activists who called themselves Queer, which stands for, I forget what it's Queers United to End Erasure and Repression, and they are fighting against a ballot initiative introduced by evangelical Christians and right wing Republicans that would allow, health officials to quarantine people who are HIV positive. and this is on the 1986 California ballot. And this part is historically true. I mean, Lies with Man is based on, actual events. so Rios agree. It's just, they're, they're fighting it by acts of civil disobedience, which means they got arrested. And so he agrees to be their lawyer. You don't have to sort of bail them out when they're arrested. but evangelical church has blown up and the pastor who happens to be there is killed. and the pastor had publicly supported this initiative. And then one of the members of Queer was arrested and charged with the bombing and the murder. And so Rios finds himself not only defending, um, the people from Queer, from, you know, being arrested at protests, but also, Theo Latour is now charged with capital murder and facing the death penalty. So that's, the setup of the novel.

Brad Shreve:

That's grabbing.

Michael Nava:

Yeah, based on true events, as they say,

Brad Shreve:

Well, I have a question for you. One of our listeners, Philip Bahr sent in and asked me to ask you a question.

Michael Nava:

okay, hi Philip.

Brad Shreve:

you're gonna to forgive me, cause I'm gonna have to read this. Your original Henry Rios novels were infused with HIV and AIDS stories. Obviously we're writing during the pandemic, as you rewrite older novels and add new stories during the same time period. What is the difference between how you write these stories originally and how you write them now with the AIDS crisis as history?

Michael Nava:

Well, um, that's a good question. Philip And, The difference is subtle. But the difference is that when I was writing the original novels, I didn't know how things were going to turn out in terms of the epidemic. Because as you know, until 1995, 96, there was no effective treatment. And there seemed to be no urgency, uh, at the government level of the federal government level in finding effective treatments or a cure. So I was writing in the trenches as it was unfolding without knowing what was going to go on. Now, I know what happened. there are effective treatments for many people, but by no means all, not all people, they can live with HIV as a manageable chronic medical condition. My husband is HIV positive. For example. So I have that perspective. so now I'm, I am writing it, not in the trenches, but as history in the sense. so I don't know how that affects the actual storytelling, but, certainly I write with this different consciousness.

Brad Shreve:

To kind of piggyback off that question. you told me in the past that you were writing these new novels to fill in gaps that you saw in Henry story, would you say your new perspective, looking back over the last 30 years is what prompted you to feel the need to fill those gaps?

Michael Nava:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just as I said earlier, so I didn't think I was going to write a mystery series. So I wanted to go back and do that foreshadowing and sort of make a coherent universe for Henry. I also didn't know how HIV was going to turn out. and knowing that, that also seemed to, that was also a reason I wanted to go back. I mean, Carved. So one of the things I did write about was I did not write about the advent of the AIDS crisis back then, because. Of the way that I was, it's a long story, but basically I, I, you know, by the time the first book was published, AIDS was already out there in 1986, but that first book I started writing it in 1979, before AIDS. So there is no AIDS in the first book. and there nothing about the advent of AIDS and then Golden Boy, which was published in 88. I have AIDS in there, but not how AIDS came into the community. So one of the things I want to do is go back and write about. Just that period from 82 to 84, when the epidemic first hit the community. That's why I wrote Carved in Bone, Carved in Bone set in San Francisco in 84. And it's about that. And the other thing I wanted to write about that I didn't was the war between the evangelicals and the gay community. Um, and that's what really Lies with Man is about. So yeah, I wanted to go back and feel some historical, to some sematic and chronological, loopholes about not only Rios his life, but about the epidemic itself.

Brad Shreve:

I want to tell you, I brought this up on the show before, during that era, I was closeted and living in the South and AIDS was something in the news going on out there, somewhere in the world. So now reading novels such as yours gives me such a perspective of a time period that I missed. And I guess I could say I'm happy I missed, but, it really gives me perspective that I had no concept of,

Michael Nava:

what do they say in the South? God bless you.

Brad Shreve:

Bless your heart.

Michael Nava:

Bless your heart. Which really means F you

Brad Shreve:

Well, thanks.

Michael Nava:

no, not you.

Brad Shreve:

I know, I know we talked when you wrote Carved in Bone, we talked about the possibility of a contemporary novel. I told you I was surprised cause I was expecting it to be a contemporary novel with Henry in it. And you said that's a possibility down the road. Is that still a possibility?

Michael Nava:

yeah, it is, you know, I've now finished. I'm not finished rewriting Henry's past. And so the next Rios book, um, whenever that appears, we'll be, we'll bring him into the, if not the present, at least the near present, I would like to write a book set in the round, 20, 2014, 2016 before Trump. but after marriage equality, and talk about, you know, how he responds to all of those changes. And, um, he would be a judge at that point, which is going to be a little tricky. I don't know of any mystery series where the detective is a judge, because that's not really the role of judges. So I'm going to have to, I'm going to figure that one out.

Brad Shreve:

well, it's interesting. You you're talking about 2014. when you wrote, Created Equal, you co-wrote. Created Equal: Why Gay Rrights Matter to America?

Michael Nava:

that came in 94

Brad Shreve:

Oh 94, see these get reissued and they totally throw me off.

Michael Nava:

Yeah. 2015 is when I published, uh, the City of Palaces, which was a historical novel, but Created Equal was published in 94 originally. by St. Martins.

Brad Shreve:

well, I want to, you mentioned Queer, I'm going to go back to the word Queer you and I had a chat a while ago, I brought a podcast up that you were on in 2019. And you said at that time that you kind of accepted Queer, but you didn't use it for yourself and. Several months back we chatted. And you didn't remember that podcast. And you said you actually now use it in your own writing. Why do you think there was that change over that period? If you can recall.

Michael Nava:

Well, because, uh, I'm influenced by a younger generation of queer people who, you know, for whom that word doesn't have the same stigma stigma does for those of us who are boomers. And, because now the community is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, asexual. it's a mouthful. just as, uh, the word Latin, like Latinx is used by younger, Latino, and Latinas to cover an entire community that spans people from Argentina to Mexico. It's just convenient, it's convenient. And, as I also admire younger people for taking back the word, so I've just. It's lost. I just don't have a problem with it anymore. You know, it's just a, as a term that covers the entire spectrum of the community. I just think it's, Rios would never call himself Queer. He's gay.

Brad Shreve:

Well no, certainly not in that time period. And as you know, I the reason we chatted, I was really struggling with renaming the podcast. and because I had been. Interviewing many more people than just gay men and had been making a concerted effort to reach out and make the show more diverse. I felt it was necessary to change the name, but there is still a lot of hurt amongst a lot of people especially men regarding the word queer. And that was my challenge. a lot of people still hurt by the word when they hear it. but I. The decision came down to basically what you said, the alphabet alphabet is getting so long and it's just as much more convenient to say Queer. And somebody told me once, well, I'm not, I'm okay with the word Queer, whatever. That's what they want to say, but I'm always going to be a writer of gay mysteries. And my response back was. I consider myself the same thing. I write gay mysteries because, but as a gay man, man, I'm under the umbrella of queer individuals. So it's very convenient.

Michael Nava:

I mean, I feel that way. I mean, just, just as far as my ethnicity is concerned. for purposes of inclusiveness, I'm, part of the Latin X community. But I think of myself as Mexican American, I mean, that's my specific ethnicity and my specific culture, part of the queer community, but I'm the gay man within that community. I mean, I don't, I'm not bisexual. I'm not trans I'm a gay man. Um, so yeah, it's like, in geography. It's like the larger area. It's like California, but I live in San Francisco.

Brad Shreve:

Very good analogy.

Michael Nava:

I think we do have to be very respectful of people who find Queer problematic. And I am, you know, I, I acknowledge it because I was traumatized by that way, too. When I was a kid.

Brad Shreve:

That's why it was such a struggle for me to make that decision. I had a friend, I referred her to read your book Lay Your Sleeping head, because I love the novel. And I told her, you need to read this. Well, she got confused and she read City of Palaces instead. And she loved it. Now that as far as I know, that is currently the only non mystery that you have available. Do you anticipate any more in the future?

Michael Nava:

I'm working on the sequel actually that'll, that'll be the next novel I publish if I ever finish it. so cause the City of Palaces is, was, is the first in a trilogy of novels. so I'm working on book two and hoping to have a, Oh geez. I hope to have a first draft by the fall. I've been working on it off and on since since 2016.

Brad Shreve:

she still hasn't read, lay your sleeping head as far as I know, but I'll tell her that you're writing the next book in that and she will be very excited. Do you have the time to read? Well, obviously do as an editor, but reading contemporary mysteries, by many of the popular authors now.

Michael Nava:

Uh, well, not for leisure. I was, for the last two years. I was a judge for the Los Angeles times book award in the mystery suspense category. So I've read dozens of mysteries and dozens, if not hundreds of mysteries in the last two years from contemporary, uh, mystery Writers. Um, but you know, I don't necessarily have time to read mysteries for pleasure. When I, when I do read for pleasure, I tend to read non-fiction.

Brad Shreve:

based on what you have read, do you see differences with novels that are written today compared to when you were writing

Michael Nava:

Yeah, so it's interesting. I just did this. Um, I just did a panel for the mystery writers of America, Northern California chapter called mysteries with a mission where I talked to some other, Mystery. We're all mystery writers of color, as it turned out. And a two of us were Queer and we talked about this whole sub genre of, uh, Queer Writers and Writers of color who have taken the mystery form to explore issues of social justice, homophobia, racism, misogyny, homelessness, gentrification, while telling a really good mystery story. So I think that that. That's sort of sub genre, which I call them mysteries with the mission is a, one of the biggest changes. I mean, those books did not exist before the nineties when Writers like Walter Mosley and Sara Paretsky and me, um, started, started to write them. I mean, there were, they've always been like Joseph Hanson was writing, uh, a great wonderful gay mystery writer, was writing even the seventies, Chester Himes, an African-American writer was writing his crime fiction in the sixties, I think, but it was a trickle now it's, there's a flood gate. so, so this year in the LA times book award, our finalists, the finalists, one is a gay man. two are black Writers, three are women and all of those books, how some kind of social justice subtext to them.

Brad Shreve:

Well, we are approaching the end of our conversation, which I hate again, as I tell them many times, I wish this was a three-hour show. So it is time for awkward questions, authors get, and I believe you were the, one of the authors. I did a survey. I surveyed a group of authors for odd, awkward, or unusual questions. They've been asked before by readers. So if you'll hold still, I'm going to spin the wheel and see what you get.

Michael Nava:

Okay. I'm a top by the way,

Brad Shreve:

Okay. No, we have one about circumcision. I haven't seen anybody about a top. Okay. Hmm. Okay. Can there be at least two oral scenes in one all the way in your next novel?

Michael Nava:

uh, sure. I have no trouble. I have, I have no trouble writing sex scenes. If they're, if they've been into the narrative.

Brad Shreve:

And I gotta say, I bring your book up frequently. As an example, I get very frustrated with a lot of the contemporary novels that are very popular, that sex is thrown in there, or it revolves very much around sex and romance. And there, you know, mystery is there. Sometimes mystery is a little bit stronger, but there almost has to be that section romance they feel is necessary. their books. And I use you as an example all the time, b cause having read your books You don't shy away from sex, but they serve a purpose in the story. They aren't just there. Thank you for doing that. Not everybody has that skill.

Michael Nava:

Well, who people have sex with and how they have sex can be as revealing of character as. Anything else about them, but it does have to, for me, there has to be a narrative context. Um, it's not that I don't enjoy reading pornography. Believe me. I do. but I don't write pornography at least not yet. Not, not like my friend, Steve Sailer, for example.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. I have a promo that goes out to other podcasts that they play regarding the show. And I, I say on there, I'm like, Hey, I like erotica as much as the next guy, but there are more books than that. And so come listen to our podcast, even if you enjoy erotica. One of the reasons why I brought this up again is Henry has at times anonymous sex. Now, generally he tends to get to know the individual later, and sometimes good characters die. I'm not talking about any specific novel, so I'm not trying to give anything away. Do you think that could happen today in, in most novels?

Michael Nava:

the, uh, positive character could die.

Brad Shreve:

That and the frequent anonymous sex that can go on during the eighties. It's it seems very taboo to write that now.

Michael Nava:

I don't know why, because God knows with the apps with, you know, Grindr and recon and whatnot, anonymous X is happening all the time, even in the pandemic, unfortunately. I don't know why Writers shy away from writing that, you know, it's changed somewhat. I mean, I read about, I think that, somewhat you're talking some mysteries. gay mysteries Have become much more formulaic in some ways. Um, Writers are expected to deliver what I what they call it. H E A.

Brad Shreve:

Isyes. happily ever after, or at least an H F N

Michael Nava:

What's an HFN? Okay. So, I think Writers who are starting out now may feel that they have to hit those marks when I started writing, I didn't and I don't. and I enjoy some of those books. Don't get me wrong. I really do. And I have friends who write those books, but, they're not, they're not true to life in a way, you know, I think. The books I write, which are a little darker, um, where good people do die and people do cook up. that that's a little more, um, that's more, a more realistic portrayal of the gay male community.

Brad Shreve:

I'm going to bring my own book into it. My, uh, main character has PTSD and in the second novel, it's actually worse than in the first novel. And I based this on reality and talking to people with PTSD and there a lot of frustration and I believe. Well, it's, it's almost said, I think there's an expectation that love is going to take care of the problem, because once you have love, then it's happily ever after. And to me, that's not realistic, but there is pressure to go that route. So you hit the nail on the head. When you said that

Michael Nava:

Well, you know, I've never tried. I never had to make my living as a writer. That's the other thing, because I, my, I made my living as a lawyer and so I never felt the economic pressures to sell all the books or to write all the books. so I think I have the luxury of writing what I want and not having to worry about, making a living of it, which I understand that many other writers who are trying to make a living out of it.

Brad Shreve:

First, I'm going to give people a suggestion. You currently have seven books in the Henry Rios series. You can get them for $19.95 for Kindle on Amazon. And if anybody wants to catch up, I highly recommend it and look out for. Lies with Man it's available now on pre-order and will be available on April 27th in this year is 2021. Thank you for your time, Michael.

Michael Nava:

Well, it's always a pleasure to talk to Brad. It really is.