PW: Captains Outrageous marks the sixth Hap and Leonard adventure. Is this the last?

JL: I never say never. When I wrote Savage Season, it was three years later before I wrote the second Hap and Leonard novel. Whenever I wrote one, I never intended to write the next one.

PW: Have you ever gone on a sea cruise like Hap and Leonard?

JL: I have been on a horrible sea cruise. When my wife and I went to Mexico, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, I was seasick for a lot of the time. I didn't like being trapped on a ship with a bunch of shuffleboarders.

PW: Who do you identify with more, Hap or Leonard?

JL: I kind of identify with both of them. Probably Hap would be the one I am most like; his past and a lot of the events in his life are sort of similar to my own, and some of them are exactly my own. He might be the kind of guy I would've been had I not gotten married and gotten a little direction.

PW: Will Hap ever become something other than a chicken plant security guard, and were you ever one?

JL: I think that he may well occasionally do odd jobs for Hanson—that may, in fact, lead to stories, not necessarily private eye stories. I was never a security guard, but I have worked at an aluminum chair plant like John.

PW: Do you outline any of your books?

JL: No, I do little things for publishers when I have to, but they are usually very general. I do better just letting the stories develop. I don't outline very well, and I can't follow it if I do. Once I've outlined it, why write the damn book?

PW: Do you get up in the morning telling stories?

JL: No, I get up in the morning looking for coffee! But you know, pretty much as soon as I finish the coffee, I'm at the machine and I'm telling stories, so yes, I guess I do. I always work three hours a day. I work in the mornings almost exclusively.

PW: Do you still use your dreams to develop stories?

JL: One of the things I do is, if I have a problem that I'm working on, and I don't necessarily have to think of it as a problem... if I end the story somewhere, right before I go to bed, I think about where I ended it and say, "What else needs to be done here?" Usually, when I wake up the next morning, it's solved, and sometimes very vividly in dreams. And sometimes I know it's solved and don't really remember the dream, or how I've solved it, but I did.

PW: Were you surprised to receive the Edgar (for Best Novel) for The Bottoms?

JL: I was even surprised to be nominated. There were so many good books, I was amazed that I won. I think it is my personal favorite, even more than The Magic Wagon.

PW: What's next?

JL: I'm going to keep trying to do different things. I want to slow down a bit. I think it's that time of my life when I need to do that. My next book, A Fine Dark Line, from Mysterious Press, is almost finished. Then I'll be doing Sunset and Sawdust, my first book with Knopf, which should appear in 2003. Bubba-Ho-Tep [a movie from Don Coscarelli] probably will come out late this year, or sometime early next year, starring Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis.

PW: What is A Fine Dark Line about?

JL: I can tell you this much—it takes place in the 1950s and has to do with a young protagonist and his sister who live inside a drive-in theater—one of those old kinds where the screen itself is a house. A lot of people never heard of those, but they did exist. [The protagonist] discovers by accident some old letters that lead to the discovery of an old, unsolved murder. It's not connected to the Drive-In books in any way.

PW: You have a gift for mixing tragedy with hilarity. Why do you think your growing readership identifies so strongly with that?

JL: I think that it is because we have so much of both in our lives. One has to be there to balance the other.