The dedication to Already Dead, your vampire crime novel, reads "to all the odd and brilliant kids I used to sit around basements and diners with, imagining strange worlds." Care to comment?

Already Dead was started after I'd finished my first book, Caught Stealing. I wanted to relax a bit and let my imagination go. I don't recall exactly how I settled on a vampire story, but I had the line, "I smell them before I see them" kicking around my head, and that sounded like a vampire talking. The dedicatees are a bunch of guys I used to hang with in my early teens. We were all pretty heavy SF, horror and fantasy geeks. In between getting into a little trouble here and there, we'd do some gaming. No paper or pens, just us making up worlds and populating them with characters. It was as much communal storytelling as it was gaming. So, with Already Dead, the idea of my creating what is essentially a fantasy world probably goes back to hanging with that gang.

The book features an elaborate world of vampire clans. Were the underground subcultures of New York an inspiration, and is there a group that actually drinks blood?

I don't think the clans are modeled on existing subcultures as much as they are politically inspired. But a lot of those subcultures are in the book. Squatters, goths, punks, greasers are all in there in non-vampire form. But some vampires still cop the same style they had in "life" and play the old roles. And yeah, there is a vampiric subculture, parts of which are devoted to blood letting and drinking. It's something I plan on working into later books.

Joe Pitt is in many ways the classic noir protagonist. The fact that he's a vampire iseems oddly appropriate. Can you talk about melding the two genres—the vampire novel and the hardboiled detective story?

I think that Already Dead is noir first and horror second. The plot, style and cast of characters are all very consciously noir, while the trappings they're dressed up in are horror. And while I didn't really plan it that way from the start, the combination evolved quite naturally. The idea of a character doomed by his or her own appetites is pretty classic noir.

At the heart of Already Deadis a love story. Pitt's girlfriend has AIDS, and the only way that he can save her is to infect her with the virus that will turn her into a vampire. Talk about noir!

People have commented on Pitt's girl, Evie, as a humanizing character that helps build sympathy for him, but not too many have caught that she's the whole point of everything for him. Yeah, not only is he doomed but his girl is as well. And he could save her, but only by making her life worse.