It’s odd that it’s taken me so long to get around to writing about him as he was one of the very first authors I had in mind when I inaugurated this feature last summer. But at that time, all I really knew of Koenig was what John Williams had written about him in his classic crime fiction travelogue INTO THE BADLANDS (1991):
Joseph Koenig, the man standing next to me on the pier, is a wiry, six-footish guy with shortish black hair and a moustache, wearing Levi’s, a black leather jacket and a T-shirt, His biography puts him somewhere in early-to-mid-forties but he, as they say, genuinely looks younger. At the moment he’s living with his mother on the east side of Manhattan, and he hates everything.
He hates his publishers (Viking) for putting such an ugly jacket on his new book and not pushing him enough; he hates crime fiction; he hates New York; he hates the subway we came here on, and he really hates Brighton Beach where I suggested we should go today…
…The only thing Koenig seems to be happy about is the amount of money he’s been making from his second novel, LITTLE ODESSA…Koenig, in contrast to virtually everyone else I’ve met, reckons making money from writing is a cinch. He tells me that James Ellroy had called him, mentioned that I’d be interviewing him soon. I ask Koenig how he gets along with Ellroy, and he says, ‘Oh, we just sit round and laugh about how much money we’re making.’ The implication is that if you can write, and have a reasonably pragmatic attitude towards the matter of giving the people what they want, then your financial worries are at an end. After this reverie, however, Koenig is rapidly back to remembering how much he hates everything: ‘Goddamn Ellroy,’ he says, ‘he’s always calling me up. He wants to be friends; I don’t need friends.’
This excerpted passage is ironic on so many levels; first, that a writer is so gleeful about his hatred for, well, everything; second, his both-sides-of-mouth demeanor concerning Ellroy; third, his up-front opinions on how he’s in it pretty much for the money; and most importantly, because Koenig had all the swagger, all the attitude, and now no one knows where he’s disappeared to.