Tony Knighton is both an author and a lieutenant in the Philadelphia Fire Department, a thirty year veteran. Born in western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh, his family moved to Philadelphia when he was seven. With the exceptions of a short stay in Toronto, Ontario, and the military, he’s been in Philadelphia ever since.
Tony published the novella and story collection Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties with Crime Wave Press. His story “The Scavengers” is included in the anthology Shocklines: Fresh Voices in Terror, published by Cemetery Dance, and his story “Sunrise” is included in the anthology Equilibrium Overturned, published by Grey Matter Press. He has also published short fiction in Static Movement Online and Dark Reveries.
In addition to his job as a fireman, he has also worked on the side as a roofer and played music semi-professionally for many years. Knighton served in the United States Marine Corps, and attends classes sporadically at Community College of Philadelphia, where he met his wife Julie, an associate professor of English.
Please help me welcome Tony Knighton to Roadie Notes…………..
1. How old were you when you wrote your first story?
I probably wrote my first story in early grade school. I started writing seriously a dozen or so years ago, so some time in my late forties.
2. How many books have you written?
Two. Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties and Three Hours Past Midnight, both from Crime Wave Press.
3. Anything you won’t write about?
Children in jeopardy would be tricky. Beyond that, I don’t think so.
4. Tell me about you.
I’m sixty-two, and a lieutenant in the Philadelphia Fire Department. I’ve been on the job since 1985. I began writing in the early morning hours at home, and work when I could. As I got serious about writing, I took some courses at Community College of Philadelphia. I liked one of the teachers so much I married her. I’ve got three great kids, all grown.
5. What’s your favorite book you have written?
I’d have to say my new novel Three Hours Past Midnight. In the first few pages the narrator and his partner burglarize the home of a wealthy, jailed Philadelphia politician. Shortly, the partner is dead and the goods missing. The narrator spends the rest of the night hunting for his money and the killer. Along the way, he learns this was a job best left alone.
6. Who or what inspired you to write?
There’s a private home in Philadelphia, a mansion near Center City, that everyone mistakenly thinks belongs to a real-life, notorious, long-time state senator. I liked the idea of a crew breaking into the house and stealing something from him. As fiction writer Eryk Pruitt says, some people in this world need to be robbed.
My inspiration to write in general came while reading books poorly written. I’d think, “I could do better than this.”
There are a lot of really good writers whose work I aspire to. I love the Richard Stark books, Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett and James Ellroy. Ray Banks is really good. I have a special fondness for George V. Higgins’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
7. What do you like to do for fun?
Writing is tons of fun. Besides that, I’ve played music semi-professionally for over forty years. It’s like getting paid to eat ice cream.
8. Any traditions you do when you finish a book?
No. I never know when I’m really finished. By then, I’ve started on something else.
9. Where do you write? Quiet or music?
Mostly at home. Sometimes at work, when it’s late. I like to listen to music while I write, but it’s got to be something instrumental – usually jazz. I find lyrics distracting.
10. Anything you would change about your writing?
Yeah, I’d like it to get better. As far as style, no. I try to write the sorts of things that I would want to read. My writing is spare. I like to get to it. It’s also pretty visual, I think. I like to give the reader something to see.
11.What is your dream? Famous writer?
I’d like it a lot if more people read my stuff. Beyond that, I’ve been really fortunate. My kids are happy and healthy. I’ve spent most of my life working a job that I love.
12.Where do you live?
Philadelphia, Pa., for most of my life. We bopped around while I was a kid, but except for the service and a year in Toronto, I’ve been here since third grade.
Yes, our mutt, Buddy (the best dog in the world) and I think four cats – Ruby, Olive, Margo, and Pilar (we call her Little). Yeah, that’s four cats.
14. What’s your favorite thing about writing?
Tough question. I suppose that I enjoy how real it all seems while I’m working and how much I worry about all these people who don’t really exist. I enjoy trying to get it all right.
15. What is coming next for you?
I’m working on another novel featuring my protagonist from Three Hours. I first wrote this character into a story titled “Mister Wonderful,” from my collection Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties. That story opens with him strapped in the driver’s seat of a car that has come to rest upside down in a shallow, icy stream bed. He’s got a broken collarbone and he hears a siren go by on the roadway above him. The story was great fun to write, and one of the few that I began with only a premise – no clear idea of what was going to happen. By the end, I knew I wanted to do more with him. I like him because he’s smart and resourceful, but very human. He makes mistakes. I get bored reading stories that feature a superman or know-it-all.
In my new work he returns to the locale of the short story “Mister Wonderful.” There was a lot of money that got left there and it didn’t go back to the bank he took it from. He wants it.
You can connect with Tony Knighton here:
Some of Tony Knighton’s books: