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This 2006 interview of Glen Cook by J. Buck Caldwell was originally posted on the Glen Cook Wiki (now defunct). It is added here at the Black Company Wiki according to the licensing/copyright note shown below, with special thanks to the interviewer. Only minor formatting changes have been made, and wiki links added/removed as appropriate.

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The Glen Cook Interview[]

Recorded at Archon 30
Collinsville, Illinois
October 7, 2006

J. Buck Caldwell: I'd like to thank you for taking this time to go through this interview with me. Today I am here with Mr. Glen Cook, the Author of the very popular The Black Company Series books, the fantasy-mystery world of From the Files of Garrett, PI, the Dread Empire series, as well as the more recent Instrumentalities of the Night, as well as a host of smaller series and standalone works. So, what did you read as a child? Who were your favorite authors?

Glen Cook: Well, I read a lot of... just about everything, really, but my next-door neighbor gave me a set of Tarzan books when I was, maybe 8. Read those, a lot of Burroughs type stuff, and I was really big on Westerns for a long time, Civil War stuff, before I discovered Science Fiction. Basically anything in the library that the librarian would let me take, so...

JBC: And what lead you to start writing on your own?

GC: I couldn't say. I started when I was in the 7th grade, I was out of school sick for almost 3 weeks, so I started writing then.

JBC: What kind of things did you write?

GC: I wrote a western story set during the Civil War from the viewpoint of a hawk watching the action, and a short science fiction novel involving flying saucers and King Tut - not King Tut, Ramses the Second.

JBC: You've said before that since your retirement from the Auto Industry, the amount of time you've spent writing has actually decreased. Why do you think this is? Is writing a stress relief that you simply need less of, or has your own family time moved higher up your priority list?

GC: Mostly it's just laziness. You put things off when you have to budget every single minute, you make use of every single minute when you don't have to. It's always easy to put things off when you're watching a ball game, or some silly teenage movie or something.

JBC: The Black Company series has a tremendous following among the Military; you've discussed that before. According to your own words, they see in it a reflection of their own experiences. The series also has a large following in Eastern Europe - Poland, Germany, and much of the former Soviet Union. To what do you attribute this?

GC: I have no idea.

JBC: Are your books licensed over there now, or is this mostly...

GC: Yeah, they are now. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union there was a lot of pirating going on. But now, most of the people stick to the rules.

JBC: Has there ever been any serious interest, other than from your fans, of turning any of your books or series into movies or television shows?

GC: Once got asked by Sony Entertainment about the rights for the Garrett books, but that didn't pan out.

JBC: That's a shame. And, who would you pick to play some of the characters, do you visualize anyone specific in your mind, for instance, Croaker?

GC: No, Croaker is me, so...

JBC: Well, that answers that.

GC: No, I've never... the only probably characters I've ever picture anybody playing would be One-Eye maybe by Redd Foxx, but he's gone, and Goblin by Danny DeVito.

JBC: How do you pronounce the name of the Dead Man's race, and where did his inspiration come from?

GC: The answer to both questions would probably be, I don't know. I guess, a lot of the words that I use I don't pronounce...

JBC: I've seen a lot of comparison to Nero Wolfe.

GC: Yeah, yeah, the Dead Man is a little bit like Nero Wolfe, there's a lot of Nero Wolf in him. When I wrote the early books in that series, each one was really an homage to one of my favorite mystery writers and I tried to stuff their style. But the Dead Man actually didn't start out to be Nero Wolfe, he just came out of nowhere and was wholly there, someone that Garrett had known in the past. In a situation in which things had not been going well for him, he just all of a sudden said "It's time to go see the Dead Man" and I had no idea what was going on. When I'm really into writing, the world is going on inside my head, and I'm just kind of channeling it and whatnot, so things happen that I have no idea are going to happen. I have certain plans, and often the characters say "Screw you, buddy. I don't work that way."

JBC: Much of Garrett's hometown of TunFaire seems similar to your hometown of St. Louis. Is this intentional, or is it just designed to be generic enough to be recognizable to anyone?

GC: Ah, it's intentional. I... but not detailed. I use a vague picture of a map of St. Louis in my head at about half-size, because I need people to be able to walk to the places they can get to, be able to do it in one day and get back home. So, there's a vague map of St. Louis with main roads and whatnot going where they are, but I'm not fanatic about it. Probably, if you examine the books very closely, you could find places, 3 or 4 places that are in the same place or something, so...

JBC: I've also spotted some similar names; Garrett's ship that he was stationed on was the Imperial Kimmswick.

GC: Yeah, I do a lot of that in all my writing, play games like that. A lot of the names in the Garrett books are exits on Interstates somewhere.

JBC: You're now close to releasing Lord of the Silent Kingdom, which is the second book in your latest series, Instrumentalities of the Night. How has this new series been received by your fans?

GC: Mixed reviews. A lot of people really like them, and a lot of people are aggravated because it's not the Black Company all over again.

JBC: On that note, how difficult is it to create a book unrelated to your previous series, or to start a new series, while your fans are clamoring for another chapter of their favorites?

GC: It's not hard for me at all. I don't respond to fan pressure at all, or very little. I write for me, not for them.

JBC: Speaking of clamoring for more stories, what do you have in the pipes today?

GC: Well, there's a company called... I never remember this... There's a company who's name I can't recall for the life of me right at the moment - they are reprinting almost all of my backlist. The Garrett books are all going to be reissued starting next year. New would be another new Garrett book, which is almost done. Beyond that, I have to do the final Instrumentalities book, which I'm working on currently. After that, most likely two more Black Company books, but I don't know.

Editor's note - According to, Night Shade Books will be re-printing Passage at Arms in March of 2007. This is probably the publisher Mr. Cook was trying to remember. The publisher's page also lists Sung in Blood and A Cruel Wind, an omnibus of the first three Dread Empire books.

JBC: You told me once that the 'About the Author' blurb in most of your books was made up by your agent, and it wasn't true when it was written. Can you give me a capsule summary of what your day-to-day life is like today?

GC: Really boring. I get up, sometime between 9 and 11, and I make breakfast, and I sit down and write for about two hours, then I do laundry and grocery shopping and whatever needs to be done, a little work around the house, maybe by then the mail is there, so I deal with the mail. At that point, I either go upstairs and play with my stamp collection for a while or depending upon what else I have do to, I do some stuff, and then the family's home by then, and I make supper, and have supper, watch the news, and if the ballgame's on, I'll watch the ballgame. When the ballgame's over, I go back and I write some more until it's about 2 O’clock in the morning.

JBC: You're probably one of the best-stocked booksellers in the dealer’s room of almost any convention you attend. How prolific a reader are you now, and what are you reading?

GC: I have a rule that I have to read 50 pages every day. So, that's in there in the daily work - often that comes during the ballgame, because I can listen to the ballgame with one ear and read with one eye. Mostly read non-fiction. Just finished a book on the political history of Morocco, around the turn of the 20th century. Some really interesting, awful people - make Saddam Hussein look like a choir boy. Currently reading a book on the Cathars, a religious sect in southern France during the 12th Century. What else - I'm reading George Martin's Ice & Fire or whatever it is series bit by bit. Whatever book by one of my favorite authors has just come out, just come into inventory, I'll stop all other reading and work on that. Mostly non-fiction.

JBC: And who are your favorite authors?

GC: Robert B. Parker, I must read that, when of his comes out; Tamora Pierce, a young adult writer; Diana Wynne Jones, another young adult writer; if there's a new Harry Potter book... A lot of young adult fiction is what I read, as far as fiction goes. I keep up somewhat with Harry Turtledove, but he turns out a book a week, so it's kind of hard to. And, anything random, a lot of random things that people recommend to me.

JBC: Well, that's all the questions I have for you, and since we don't seem to have an audience, I can't turn it over to them, so thank you very much for your time.

Interviewer's notes[]

A note about this Interview. When I first contacted the Archon Committee to ask they forward my interview request to Mr. Cook, a perennial guest at Archon, they suggested turning it into a programming item. Both Mr. Cook and I happily agreed to this, and I wrote the interview format and questions with room for Audience Participation. This was set up many months before the Convention. However, repeated emails to the Committee to confirm the setup and get my timeslot assignment went unanswered. Finally, two days before the start of the Convention, I received an email from the Chair - she had completely forgotten about me, and had not scheduled the interview. Long story short - we did the interview, but with no announcement, thus no audience. And next year, they think they can run NASFIC - I wish them luck. They'll need it.


This Interview is Copyright (C) 2006 by J. "Buck" Caldwell. It is released under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license as detailed in the footer of this page.

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