From The Periodical, Really True Crime Magazine
By Blaine Dubrowski
As you may or may not know, I am a fan of hard-boiled crime fiction, and for the longest time I’ve been trying to ensnare reclusive crime fiction writer Mason R. Hibbert into a sit-down interview where I can plumb the depths of his dark soul. Hibbert, as you may know, has written 98 dime store pulp novels, as well as his share of penny dreadfuls. His work has been informed not only by the world of thieves, grifters, whores, lowlifes and cops on the take, but also by a sense of deep-seated cynical outlook best encapsulated by the heroine in 40 of his novels, the gum-smacking, crack-smoking private detective Jayne Druthers: “Nature hates us,” Jayne says. “That’s why I live in a city.”
Over 20 years, we’ve seen the seamy underbelly of Jayne’s world, whether it’s her delivering a mulatto baby in Hawaii with a Nazi war criminal on the lam or strangling a chicken in Utah to save its soul. And don’t ever call Jayne “Miz.” “I’m Mrs. Druthers, after my husband Ed, who was killed in the war,” she says. “Don’t ever disrespect Eddie with that feminist shit or I’ll shoot you in the carotid artery and the day you stop bleeding will be the day you die.”
Jayne is the type who prefers leather trench coats, bright red lipstick, a pack of Camels, bright white fish net stockings. Also, she hates pretense. One of my favorite scenes is when Jayne is enjoying her favorite show, “My Mother The Car,” when a man staggers to her doorstep and asks her to kill him so his family will get the insurance. Jayne says she’s up for it until he offhandedly uses a polysyllabic word.
“I ain’t got no use for a big vocabulary,” Jayne says. “So I ain’t killing you. I hope you live longer and suffer a bit more. Get out of my office.”
Of course, Mason R. Hibbert’s own history is a bit shadowy. The legend, well cultivated by him, is that either his entire family was wiped out by a gang of thieves in the 1930s or they are all still alive and quite comfortably sitting on the board of Boeing Aircraft. Because of my need to get to the bottom of his mystery, I tracked him from the diners of Vermont to the rathskellers of Boston to a Wal-Mart in Topeka, Kansas. When I asked the locals about him, every answer was the same: “Who in the hell is Mason R. Hibbert? Are you going to buy something or do I gotta call security?”
I got a line from his fourth wife Esther, a short-haired gamine in a stevedore shirt and cigarette pants who lived in Hoboken, N.J.
“You want to talk to Mason?” she said. “That’s a tickle. If you want his number I want some folding lettuce. A couple of G’s should do it.”
So I finally tracked him down at the dog races in Miami, Florida. This is our interview:
RTC Magazine: Mr. Hibbert, it’s really an honor to meet you.
MH: I don’t know who in the hell you are, but you’ve got a lot of nerve coming here. You have five seconds to get away from me or I’m going to tear your lungs out.
RTC: I’ve always wanted to know how you came up with the idea for Jayne Druthers. Was she based in part on someone you knew? Perhaps one of your four ex-wives. Some have suggested she’s based on your mother.
MH: Get the hell out of here before I pop out your eyeballs and stomp on them.
RTC: There are many apocryphal stories about you. One says you hitchhiked to Belize and wrote your 16th novel, “My Iron Lung Breathes Mustard Gas,” while sitting holed up in a tiny bathroom for three days with nothing to eat after your third divorce. Is that true?
MH: I take your calumny and I hand it back to you, you cack-handed potato eater. I spit in your navel.
RTC: Another story about you, of course, is that your first writing partner died of either a suicide or autoerotic asphyxiation or brain cancer. Of course, what I love about your poem, “Autumn Leaves Don’t Know My Pain,” is your assertion in it that all three things could conceivably be true. Such is the absurdity of life, right?
MH: You have as much chin as my dachshund, you chinless wonder. I oughta dump you in Biscayne Bay after putting you in a dress.
RTC: It’s 1974. Your second wife Nora’s first husband, a mafia guy, arrives at your door with five mooks, all of them carrying Nagant pistols. You’re in your underwear. What did you do?
MH: That never happened. I don’t know what you’re talking about. You know, you’re a real wet smack, Jackson.
RTC: It’s 1975. You’re hitchhiking to Alaska to write your weirdest Jayne book, “Strung Out in Nome.” Here, Jayne goes through a strange experience after a couple of hippies give her a tab of acid. She loses herself. She starts to question who she ever was or if anything is real.
MH: I’m shaving points on my dog, “Luck be a Doggie,” and you’re ruining it Roscoe. Why don’t you make like an egg and scramble.
RTC: She meets Eddie in heaven and he says, “What are you doing here? We saw each other enough in life. Geddout of here?” She takes in a young black kid and becomes his mother and says, “This is it. This is life. It’s to give of yourself only in the moment and not be bitter.” Then the drugs wear off, and she goes back to Newark, and it’s like the whole thing never happened, and she’s the same tough talking bitch dame she was before. Nothing was learned. There was no redemption. The end.
MH: Shit! My dog lost.
RTC: I’ve got to tell you, Mr. Hibbert. After 20 years of following Jayne, your readers and I want to know: What was that about? Why did you give Jayne all the knowledge of the Gods, only to have her go back home and forget it all and pretend like none of it happened? Why’d you betray your readers’ trust like that? Why, Mr. Hibbert, why?
MH: Look, you, you come here and ask me to explain things and make things all nice and tidy. I don’t have to explain myself to you. I wrote a few books a while back and here you are and you want your life explained. Nothing I could say about art or books or life would ever mean anything, which is why I have no listed address or license plate. You want a savior? Get your queer ass to church.
That was pretty much the end of our interview, except that I didn’t really let the whole Alaska book go, and, well, I followed him to a bar and we continued to argue and then, well, dear reader, I’m ashamed to say that I ended up killing Mr. Hibbert with a crow bar. It’s not really how I planned the interview to end, but I’ve got to say, it provided a thrilling end to his life and to this article, and if I’m off to jail for the sake of art, so be it.
I hope to be writing my next article for this periodical from a Dade County jail cell, where I’m already starting an epistolary exchange with Tom Wolfe. But I leave you with this last quote from Mason R. Hibbert’s book, “The Diadem of Despair,” in a scene where Jayne Druthers is squaring off against a corrupt judge.
“Don’t be mistaken, judge,” says Jayne, “I’m about to put a couple of dum-dums in your belly. But before I do, I want a kiss.”
“Why?” the judge asks.
“Just to remind me how we’re both corrupt.”
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