James Fuerst Interview, plus links to author biography, book summaries, excerpts and reviews

James Fuerst
Photo: Katherin McInnis

James Fuerst

An interview with James Fuerst

James Fuerst talks with BookBrowse's Donna Chavez about his influences and inspiration in writing Huge.

BookBrowse: Is Eugene based upon anyone in particular?

James Fuerst: I hope no one is terribly disappointed by this, but Eugene "Huge" Smalls isn’t based on anyone in particular nor is he a composite of characteristics drawn from real people (at least no real people I know or have known). He is, however, pretty explicitly cut from the cloth of fictional hard-boiled detectives such as Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe and Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade, among others, and he’s also a kid, a somewhat precocious, almost-thirteen-year-old kid who has problems, a foul mouth, has experienced his share of difficulties and is trying to figure out not only who vandalized the sign at his grandmother’s retirement home, but also where he stands in the small town pecking order of things before he begins junior high in two weeks. So, I’ve always thought of Huge’s character as mostly an attempt to explore the back-story that’s missing from Chandler and Hammett’s novels - how Marlowe and Spade actually became detectives - only with more curse words and jokes.

BB: Are any elements of Huge autobiographical?

JF: There are a handful of similarities between Huge’s biography and my own: I grew up at about the same time in a similar kind of town, rode my bike everywhere when I was young, skipped a grade, played Pop Warner football, have a mother and a sister and loved my grandmother (who died in 1996) very much. But my experiences at that age couldn’t have been more different from his, and the similarities of setting and circumstance between Huge’s world and my own were really just stage props and atmosphere that helped me get and remain close to his character and voice without too many unnecessary distractions along the way.

BB: I'm thinking Huge is suitable for adolescent readers as well as adults. Did you intend this as a YA book?

JF: While I tried to write Huge for the broadest audience possible, I always saw that audience as being at least four to five years older than he and usually in their early-twenties onward, mostly because the language used throughout and some of the subject matter and scenes might be too racy for younger teens. That said, I have no strong preference for or objection to how the book either is or may be categorized because I did intend it to be something that seasoned readers of all ages might have some fun with. Parental discretion is advised, though.

BB: Were you inspired by other coming-of-age stories?

JF: Over the years, many coming-of-age novels have inspired me in different ways at different times. Some of my favorites are Lord of the Flies, A Separate Peace, To Kill a Mocking Bird, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Crime and Punishment and A Clockwork Orange (with Burgess’s original ending), among many others. While writing Huge, I re-read both The Catcher in the Rye, to refresh my memory and to make sure I wasn’t stepping on Salinger’s toes without meaning to, and Mosquito Coast, which features a sustained dialogue with Walden throughout and is told from the perspective of a thirteen year-old boy. Also, while it isn’t a novel and this may seem an outlandish claim to some, I think Walden lends itself to being read as a coming-of-age narrative in the sense that it provides an account of Thoreau’s journey and experiences - his experiment in essential living - toward a kind of literary and philosophical maturity. So, I spent some time re-reading and puzzling through that, as well.

BB: I love how Eugene adopts the tough PI persona. It rings so true for those of us who grew up reading Sherlock Holmes and Nancy Drew books. Were you a detective-novel fan as a kid?

JF: This question makes me wince a little because it forces me to confess that I wasn’t much of a reader growing up, although I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery and I’m definitely a fan. In fact, my longstanding interest in the genre eventually led me to teach a college writing course on detective fiction, which allowed me to read a wide variety of classic, hard-boiled, metaphysical/anti-detective and comic detective novels while also providing invaluable opportunities to learn about how others respond to such works by discussing them with students. Reading detective fiction and being able to converse about it at length over an extended period of time were undoubtedly what got me moving in that direction, because in my personal life I’ve never been much of a gumshoe or very tough at all.

Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  
Sign up, win books!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Mrs. Hemingway
    by Naomi Wood
    Naomi Wood's latest novel, Mrs. Hemingway, is a fictionalized biography covering in turn writer...
  • Book Jacket
    The Stranger on the Train
    by Abbie Taylor
    The opening chapter of Abbie Taylor's debut novel, The Stranger on the Train, took me right back to ...
  • Book Jacket
    Night Film
    by Marisha Pessl
    One of the central tenets of Hinduism states that the world as we know it is just an illusion –...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The City
by Dean Koontz

Published Jul. 2014

Join the discussion!

  1.  69Tomlinson Hill:
    Chris Tomlinson

All Discussions

Win this book!
Win The Angel of Losses

The Angel of Losses

"Family saga, mystery, and myth intersect in Feldman's debut novel." - Booklist

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

E C H A Silver L

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.