The Dent Sisters had the great pleasure of appearing in the same anthology of “Murder Ink, Thirteen Tales of New England, Newsroom Crime, Vol 1” as O. Lucio d’Arc, edited by the world traveler and delightful Dan Szczesny, and published by Plaidswede Publishing.
We first met Oreste at “Murder Ink’s” book launch, held at the New England Newspaper Convention (NENPA) in Boston, February 2016. His short story in that volume, “One Way Dead End” is a noir gem. During the year, we joined him at several other book readings in the New England area and wanted to share what we discovered about this fascinating writer.
Oreste P. D’Arconte worked as the publisher of The Sun Chronicle, in Attleboro, MA, and though retired, still writes a weekly column for them. Mr. D’Arconte worked in the newspaper business for forty-seven years and enjoyed the life of a reporter during the golden age. The movies portrayed the job as glamorous and exciting, with whip-like, hilarious dialogue (Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant – in His Gal Friday) and smart wise guys who threatened the life of any reporter who threatened to expose them
Along with his weekly column, Oreste also writes pulp fiction under the name of O. Lucio d’Arc. We loved his use of language, interesting characters and humor in “One Way Dead End,” which has the grit and humor of a noir film, and heard he has a story in Vol. II, as we do.
Q: Have you continued with some of the same characters or setting as you did in Volume I? (If not, how did you come up with your main character for Vol. II?)
Yes, many of the characters are the same in my second story, “Obituary Mambo” – the title of a Tom Waits song, by the way – which I’m told will appear in “Murder Ink, Vol. 2” this coming February. The main character, the reporter Randy Dixon, is the same but the star of this story – which includes murder by cremation – is a cadaver dog, Boner. A lot of the action takes place on Cape Cod. This story also includes an erotic sex scene between the reporter and the female publisher, which was cut from the first story for space reasons. A key line in the story is, “Some things are worse than reading your own obituary.”
Q: How did being a journalist affect your writing as a fiction writer?
Writing a feature story for a newspaper is a lot like telling a story from the facts you have, in such a way that the reader will go to the end. I’ve written a lot of feature stories in my career. Writing fiction is like that, except you can make up the “facts” as you go along. I’ve always liked reporting and writing – you know, actually being paid to go to interesting places and talk to interesting people and then write about them. What a racket.
Q: When you begin a story, what is your process? (Are you a morning person or a night owl? Plotter or a Pantser?)
Freed from deadlines, I write when I feel like it, morning, noon or night, with no particular schedule. Every time I work on a story, I start reading it from the beginning, changing phrases or actions or characters as I go, until I get to where I left off the last time and then I continue from there. That eliminates a lot of the bumps in the narrative. For my second story I thought a little bit ahead and doped out in my mind where I wanted the story to go, and for my third one I actually made a list of the characters so I could keep track of them.
Q: Does your inspiration begin with the crime, the detective, the setting or something else?
I started my first story, “One Way Dead End,” as a pulp fiction novelette, with no idea where it would take me. I only knew it would begin in a sleazy bar and be about a jaded newspaperman. From there I just followed my nose. Three murders or so later it was just about done. I had more than 20,000 words, but the “Murder Ink” limit was 8,000, so I edited it down. And I’m sure that made it a better tale.
Q: Are any of your fiction stories based on your real-life experiences as a reporter?
Sure. It’s always better when you write what you know, as all the pundits tell you. My characters in “One Way Dead End” are based on real people. Incidents like the dead man’s face falling off in that story, the too-busy medical examiner asking me in “Obituary Mambo” to tell a friend that their son was dead, and the fraternity hazing in my third story, they all really happened. In “Obituary Mambo” I’m actually two people, the reporter and the old guy helping out his son at his breakfast restaurant.
Q: What inspired you to choose to work as a journalist?
I always liked writing and took a lot of creative writing classes in college as an English major – I was even awarded a cash poetry grant from the National Endowment for the Arts when I was a senior — but I switched my major to journalism because it was something I felt I could earn a living at. I had a wife and child before I graduated from college. What I really liked about journalism was that every day you started over and it was new and different – interview a beauty queen in the morning, go to the scene of a triple-fatal accident in the afternoon, cover the school board meeting at night.
Q: What are the easiest and most difficult aspects of writing fiction for you?
The easiest part for me is getting into the story and letting it flow freely from my imagination. You can always make it better tomorrow. The hardest part at first was knowing when it was done, but I’m getting better at that.
Q: What authors most influenced you? What are a few of your favorite books?
I read about 50 books a year, most of them now mysteries or crime drama. It seems like I find a new author every other week. Kinky Friedman, Lee Child, Walter Mosley, Louise Penny, Tana French, Philip Margolin, Stephen Dobyns, Linwood Barclay, Steve Berry – there are too many mystery writers to name. I grew up with Hemingway and Laurence Durrell, Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac, and then graduated to John Banville and Chuck Palahniuk and Salman Rushdie, plus all of the popular writers from Stephen King to Isabel Allende to Stephen Baldacci. What do they have in common? They can all write.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your current work in progress?
I am putting the finishing touches on the third book in the Randy Dixon trilogy. It’s called “Beta Theta Pie Man” and has a lot of noir and pulp fiction elements. You know, atrocious murders of innocent young people, a pagan women’s rugby team that’s into human sacrifice, a little mutilation, a secret symbol taken from a Kurt Vonnegut book. And lots of Beefeater, Randy’s favorite drink.
The Dent Sisters look forward to reading all of Orestes’ stories. His titles alone are fabulous. And we recommend everyone who loves a mystery, great characters and dynamic dialogue to add his name to their reading list.