This interview is a little different from what I've done before. I originally intended to interview Sandra Scoppettone to coincide with the publication of her latest novel (the marvellous THIS DAME FOR HIRE) but after reading several Vin Packer novels in succession, a brighter idea showed up: why not have a round-table discussion with both of them? As two of crime fiction's most important and longstanding female writers, I knew each would have a lot to contribute -- never mind that they've known each other for over 50 years.
For logistical reasons, the resulting interview between Scoppettone and Packer (also known by several names, including her real one, Marijane Meaker) was conducted over email. They get things started with their own versions of how the two originally met:
Marijane Meaker: I believe the year was 1953. I was living with a gay man from my hometown who worked as a clerk for an airlines. I knew very few gay people except some from the real butch/femme circle. I met them at the old 82 club where the waiters were females in drag and Titanic, the transvestite entertainer came out nightly on a swing in an evening gown singing Balls! Balls! How I love balls!...I was despairing of meeting anyone, and as these people pointed out: I was ky ky. I didn't fit in with their set...One night my "roommate" went for a drink after work with Sandra Scoppettone, who was also employed by the airlines. He called me to say there was this great bar called The Grapevine, in the Village, with all sorts of women, none into the femme pose...all welcoming. He said I should meet his fellow employee, Sandra. I got dressed and caught a cab downtown. That is all I remember about our first meeting, except she was cute, funny, and smart. I liked that.
Sandra Scoppettone: It was 1955. I was working for the now defunct National Airlines as a phone reservation clerk. There was this one guy, Bob, who was a very obvious gay man and we began to talk. Nobody was intending to make a career of this job so he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. I told him I wanted to be a writer. He told me he had a very good friend who was a writer. I asked who and he told me she wrote under the name of Vin Packer. I almost fainted. I had read her first novel Spring Fire and two others that were crime oriented. I thought Packer was very good and I desperately wanted to meet her. He said he'd see what he could do. It seems to me there was some negotiating on his part with Packer, who he told me was really Marijane Meaker.
I worked the 2-11pm shift so going directly home was out of the question. Eventually the night was set. I was very nervous about this meeting. She was an idol to me. There was a bar in the Village called The Provincetown Landing. We went there. I believe Packer/Meaker was late so Bob and I got a table and I had two fast drinks while we waited a short time until she arrived.
She was so funny and smart. I think we immediately started a sparring type conversation, but it was in fun. I kept up with her and we both liked that. She was the first published writer I'd ever met. I don't really remember, but I'm sure I asked questions about writing and her books, because that would be like me. On the other hand, it would be like her to deflect them.
For the rest of their conversation, read on after the jump.