I had the opportunity to talk to Corey Fayman about his new book Blacks Beach Shuffle. This is a great book involving murder, high tech vaporware, music, and other mayhem. Using San Diego as the tranquil backdrop Corey introduces us to a rich set of carefully crafted characters.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? I understand that you have worked in some pretty diverse industries and that you are also a musician.

I am a San Diego native and have lived here most of my live, with the exception of a couple of years in college and five years in Los Angeles trying to break into the music business. After that didn’t work out, I finished up college at UCLA and got my degree in Creative Writing, specializing in poetry. By the time I graduated, I was more interested in drama and theatre and I finagled an internship at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. Utilizing my background in music and audio, I managed to get the internship turned into a real job working as an audio technician and sound designer at the theatre. I also met my wife at the Globe. She worked as a stage manager at the time. During this time I also wrote two plays, one a musical (in a weird performance-art musical kind of way). Neither was particularly good.

Working at a professional theatre organization like the Globe was great, but after a few years I hankered to get back into the music business again. I started writing songs again, and, after showing one of them to my brother, who had stayed in L.A. after the band broke up, we decided to try music again. We’d learned a lot of lessons the first time around and decided we had to give it another try.

For the next ten years we played around San Diego with our band, Bad Dog. The band played original songs composed by my brother and me, as well as blues standards, soul, early funk and rock and roll. We managed to achieve some level of local success but alas no record contract ever happened (although I did get a couple of encouraging letters from Capitol).

Eventually, the late nights got too late and my brother and I decided to give up the business. Realizing that “playing bars for the last ten years” was not a great resume item, I went back to college and got a Master’s Degree from San Diego State University in Educational Technology. Netscape went public the first year I was there and the great Internet bubble was taking on air.

After graduation I worked at a couple of defense companies before moving on to a company called MP3.com. I worked there for 4 years (more on that later). After the bubble burst, I started teaching at the Art Institute of California, San Diego, where I scare young people with tales of the scary old days while showing them how to design with HTML/CSS and Flash.

How did you come up with the idea for Blacks Beach Shuffle?

At some point in my tenure at MP3.com my job got really frustrating. I had originally been working in a more creative position, but corporate changes had moved me into more standard management work. I needed something to keep my mind fresh. Somehow, and I don’t really know how, the character that eventually became Rolly Waters kept showing up in my head. I’d been a big fan of mystery novels for a while, particularly the masters of the “noir” detective – Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler and especially Ross MacDonald, his language and his plotting that brought the crimes full circle in a psychological sense. Tony Hillerman’s books also affected me with their sense of place.

So I thought I’d try my hand at it. I started small, just taking a half-hour break during my work day to jot down some notes, ideas, and character sketches. There were some things I knew I wanted to work with in the book – pieces of my musical past, a feel for San Diego. The Internet stuff probably came in just because I was working in it everyday. At first, taking my writing break made the rest of my day more bearable, but eventually I had a couple of notebooks full of ideas that kind of fit together. It gave me the courage to go forward. I found a job teaching, part-time at first, but it gave me time to really work on the novel. 

Authors often use themselves as the hero. So do you also have 10 guitars like your hero Rolly? Actually on a more serious note, do you see yourself in the hero?

Well, I’ve been fortunate enough not to suffer through some of the personal problems Rolly  has gone through. I can’t drink more than about two beers without needing a nap and I’ve been happily married for quite some time. On the other hand, several friends who have read the book say they kept picturing me as Rolly, so there must be a fair amount of me in the book.

I play guitar, very badly. I’m a much better keyboard player, and that’s what I’ve played for most of my musical life. As personalities, we keyboard players are a rather quiet, analytical bunch, so I made Rolly a guitar player. They are far more dramatic personalities, in general.

You obviously have a very good understanding of what went wrong in the Dot Com industry, was this a lesson that you learned the hard way though personal involvement?

MP3.com was pretty much at the epicenter of the Internet boom. I started working there a couple of months before it IPO’d and left a few months before it was dissolved, so I got to see all phases of the dot.com boom up close. It was a great experience working with a lot of great people. I’m glad to have gone through it, but I’m not sure I’d ever want to do it again. I need my sleep.

As a musician, do you actively play? Where might the average Blacks Beach Shuffle fan find you serenading?

As I like to say, I’m still a musician, but they don’t let me out in public anymore. I’ve been known to sit in with a few bands in town, at Patrick’s II or the House of Blues.

Are you pleased with how early sales are going?

Not really, but after talking to some other authors and reading a little bit, I know it can take a year or so to really get a book moving. As a first-time author, it’s hard to break strong from the gate unless you’re getting a big PR push from the publishing company. I’m really trying to look at this long term. I’m hoping that modest sales and PR on the first book will give me more leverage with publishers on the second and third.

What is your next book going to be about? And when should we start keeping an eye out for it?

Black’s Beach Shuffle is the first novel in a “Rolly Waters” trilogy I’m working on. I’m about three-quarters finished with the second installment, Border Field Blues, which gets Rolly involved with illegal immigrants, right-wing talk show hosts, endangered bird populations, foreign bride services, and video games. No publishing contract yet, but I hope to start shopping the novel by Fall of this year.

The third novel is entitled Slab City Rockers, and it involves bad cops, historical racial tensions, a reclusive rock star, and hippies living “off the grid” in the desert East of San Diego. I realized after I put together my notes for the trilogy that I had each of them looking in a different direction towards the “edges” of San Diego. Black’s Beach Shuffle points to the beaches and the upper-class echelons of North County. Border Field Blues points south to the Mexican border and Slab City points east to the mountains and desert.

On a technical note, you are also involved with the Computer Business as well as music. Do you see computers becoming an important feature of live music? Increasingly when I see performer in my local taverns I notice that a lot of them are packing laptops or even desktops in favor of the old Roland Midi players. How important is technology to a musician?

Technology has always been important to musicians. We always want something that’s going to give us the best sound, the widest range of expression. That holds true for violinists who want to have a Stradivarius to electronic artists who need a faster processor in their Mac.

I do think modern technology is affecting music in the sense that it’s not a “live” art form anymore. A lot of new music I hear sounds like it was created in someone’s bedroom. It isn’t bad necessarily; it’s just that it doesn’t have that “live” feel that comes from playing in a band. I don’t miss much about playing in bars, but I do miss that amazing chemistry that seems to happen when you’re playing onstage with some other musicians. There’s nothing like it. That’s why Rolly keeps playing, I think. It keeps him alive.

Is San Diego still the best place on earth to live?

My wife and I keep talking about where we might move someday. And then we just laugh.

Blacks Beach Shuffle is available on Amazon 

Simon Barrett


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