Marco Carocari is for longtime Cruiser readers no doubt a household name: In the 1990s, he was responsible for some Cruiser covers and in the «pre-Internet period» produced the popular photo spreads in the magazine. On the previous page «Scene & Subculture», for example, you can see Marco’s typical photos. Those days are past. Marco emigrated to the USA five years ago, married his husband there, and is currently causing a sensation with his book «Blackout».
Cruiser: What’s it like: Married in the USA?
Marco Carocari (MC): When the subject of relationship and being together had taken a somewhat more serious turn for us, it was always clear that turn would take us abroad. As a photographer who speaks fluent English, it was far easier for me than for him as a real estate agent, who after seven years of a relationship with me can barely put together five sentences together in German. But when he does, it’s like, «What’s going on here?», «Shut up» or «You’re such a child», it’s well-timed and all the funnier.
Cruiser: What work did you do in Switzerland and what do you do now?
MC: For the last twenty years I was self-employed as a photographer, and worked, when commissions were far and few between, in other places on the side. Before emigrating, I worked part-time at Light & Byte AG, managing their photo studio and photo equipment rentals. I’m still a photographer, but my target audience has changed since I did portraits and shot pictures of male nudes. Today I shoot almost exclusively architecture, interior design and real estate, which can be very exciting in a city full of fantastic 50s and 60s buildings.
Cruiser: What was the launch into your «new life» like?
MC: In the main, positive—Californians are generally very open and warm. I have been coming to LA for over thirty years and I have always liked it here, but I also had to come to terms quickly with the fact that people could be quite superficial. It took me a few years to meet the kind of people who are still friends today. In Palm Springs, a city where many residents live only seasonally, this is a bit different. Americans, Europeans, Canadians, everyone is very relaxed; you’d meet (before Covid) while shopping, in the bar and would have closer contacts than in the big city. This may also have to do with the average age, which is much older here than in LA or New York, so that Mark (his husband) and I, in our early-50s, are considered boys in comparison.
Cruiser: And you’ve written a book now…
MC: Exactly. This started with a bet with myself, to see whether I could write a story that not only reads like those of my favorite writers—Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Michael Nava—but is also stylistically perfect in English, as if it had been written by an American.
Cruiser: What’s your book about?
MC: Franco DiMaso is a semi-successful, forty-three-year-old New York photographer who one night unintentionally witnesses a murder—that he previously had a sex-date with a stranger, during which he smoked a joint and then experienced a mental blackout, only complicates matters. The police arrive, but find neither the crime scene nor the body, and Franco leaves a more than questionable impression on the cops. Days later, when they find the body in a dumpster, the police not only take him seriously, they also treat him as prime suspect. Especially after it turns out that the new death is related to the murder of Franco’s father, which Franco witnessed as a four-year-old, just before the infamous 1977 Blackout.
Cruiser: It’s rare that you get rich writing a book. What was the motivation behind the book?
MC: In the 80s and 90s, there were dozens of really good thrillers that had gays as protagonists. And suddenly it was over. At the moment, we are experiencing another «Own Voices» wave in which marginalized authors have their say and are promoted (how long remains to be seen, with most publishers interested, as is known, only in the current trend and whether they can make money with the book). After six years of writing and rewriting I had reached the point where all my test readers found that the book could absolutely keep up with other conventional murder mysteries and thrillers. Then, the cover letter went to various publishers (I was already living in the USA), and at first it rained rejections. I continued to attend writing courses and crime fiction conferences, made contacts, and at some point, it suddenly worked out. «Blackout» found a home with [Level Best Books], a smaller publishing house with about eighty authors, and the enthusiasm of the publishers to publish a gay author with a traditional crime novel with gay protagonists convinced me to sign.
Cruiser: Franco Di Maso is the detective in your book. Marco Carocari and Franco Di Maso: Without having reading the book, rather quickly it becomes clear that the novel’s protagonist is a slightly younger version of you.
MC: Ha ha, yes, there are two camps in writing: «Write what you know» or «Write what you don’t know». I chose the middle. Franco has experienced some of my own ups and downs in his fictional life and, here and there, he resembles me in his thinking or actions. At the same time, though, I wanted the character to have his own rough edges and quirks. Various other characters are based on my closest friends but are ultimately also fictional. This gave me the balance with the topics I had to research and had not experienced myself, such as murder, growing up in the 70s America or police forensics. I wanted an «anti-hero» in an extreme situation, but who could also be your neighbor. Someone who has to find himself anew/reinvent himself, to (hopefully) get out of the situation.
Cruiser: Americans are masters at storytelling. What are they doing differently than we do here?
MC: With the Americans, everything is often bigger, and more incredible, but this does not mean «better». I love writers who—in my eyes—create the right combination of exciting story, credible characters, and action. Many newcomers like to make the mistake of describing everything down to the last detail. This is usually unnecessary because readers also want to insert their own imagination into the story. Finding the right balance took some time, but it also made the book much stronger and smoother. It is important to be able to captivate and excite the reader from the beginning; quieter moments in the story should only give him or her a breather, not put them to sleep.
I am still learning and continuing to attend courses or read books by authors I admire, but I am delighted that «Blackout» is being well received everywhere and receiving fantastic reviews. You always hope, but the joy and reactions of readers who are complete stranger have knocked me off my feet.
40-year old Franco certainly chose the wrong night… A date with a hot guy on the roof of his house in Manhattan and a joint—he doesn’t know that is laced—leave him dazed. And—if he remembers right, he’s the only witness to a murder across the street.
The problem is, the cops can’t find either a crime scene or a corpse, and Franco’s memories and conflicting statements aren’t particularly helpful to the police. Days later, when the mutilated body of a philanthropic millionaire is discovered, he is not only shocked to learn that he knew him, but with Franco’s fingerprints all over the scene, he quickly turns from unreliable witness to prime suspect.
Interview by Haymo Empl for CRUISER, June 2021
Title Photo: Marco Carocari
Photos of Marco Carocari © Mark Gutkowski
Link to original German text. Translation: Gabriel Valjan