PW: Fifty books and still going?

Loren D. Estleman: Fifty years old and 50 books. I tell people I've been publishing a book a year since I was one year old. I used to cringe because people think that with so many you just sneeze them out. But I sweated blood over each one, and I'm proud of them.

PW: All but your westerns are set in Detroit. You and your PI Amos Walker seem to mourn its past. Is there a future?

LE: A combination of things will bring the city back: a three-way partnership of the industrial rich who can invest money, the people in the neighborhoods who want to clean things up and a cooperative city government. The city is reaching out to the suburbs and the other two legs are strong. One example is Mexicantown, a great place to brighten your outlook.

PW: Did this inspire the location in Poison Blonde?

LE: Yes. I keep a file called "Detroit/Changes" and I've been following this development. Mexicans have been moving in for the last 10 years, working in the auto industry, construction and the police department and saving money to bring their families. They're making inroads here and higher wages.

PW: How does Amos feel about this?

LE: Amos goes with the flow. Anything that happens in Detroit he's willing to embrace because it might bring him work. Like me, he has a love-hate relationship with the city so, as much fun as he has kicking apart what's wrong, he celebrates what's right.

PW: He smokes, do you?

LE: Only the occasional cigar. It's a nice piece of business for punctuation and bits of dialogue, a throwback to a certain kind of detective. A surgeon suggested that I should have Amos quit because kids read the books. If I gave him completely clean habits he'd be a bore. There's a reason Conan Doyle gave Holmes a cocaine habit, something dark. Amos is one of the lepers, having to go outside to smoke. It gives him an everymannish edge that I enjoy.

PW: Are you a veteran? Amos's flashbacks are so vivid.

LE: No. I had a lot of acquaintances who were, and whenever anything came up about Walker's Vietnam past, I questioned them closely. I heard some very interesting stories from veterans in college.

PW:Poison Blonde is your first Walker with Forge. The logo on the title page of a face half PI, half cowboy, is that yours?

LE: Yes. I designed it, a product of 12 years of art training. I'm computer illiterate and work on a manual typewriter, but my wife, Deborah Morgan, writer and computer whiz, scanned it, cleaned up the rough edges and now it's on my stationery. I privately call him Steve. I've been using him for about five years. Nobody was more surprised than I when Forge agreed to put him on the title page and on the cover board. I wanted to revive an old tradition that sends a subliminal message of quality.

PW: What's coming up for Amos?

LE: I'm working on something coming out next June, the working title is Retro. Amos is investigating the unsolved murder of a boxer taking him back to the '60s, and to the golden age of boxing in the '40s. I'm having a lot of fun. And I've contracted for another Peter Macklin.

PW: What about the future of westerns?

LE: It's rosy. As president of the Western Writers of America they wanted me to spread the word to stop mourning the end of the traditional western. Our future is with writers like Cormac McCarthy and Jane Smiley. Not traditional westerns, but they incorporate all the elements, larger canvas, depth of characterization, attention to history, that spell American literature. I'm not depressed visiting bookstores with dwindling western sections. Walking through fiction and literature I can see how many western writers are there. I think America's unique contribution to world literature will finally realize its full potential.