Glen Cook: The Garrett, PI Q&A – at Black Gate

Glen Cook: The Garrett, PI Q&A – at Black Gate

Today we’ve got a real treat here at Black Gate. Glen Cook, best-selling author of The Black Company, as well as The Dread Empire, talks about his fantastic Garrett, PI, series. Glen is one of the founding fathers of dark fantasy, and The Black Company is a bedrock series. I wrote about his wonderful hardboiled fantasy series starring Garrett, here. Today, he’s doing a Q&A about the Garrett, PI books.

Garrett is a private investigator in the fantasy city of TunFaire. He has a huge, brilliant, dead-but-sentient partner, known as the Dead Man. Garrett gets swept up in some large-scale problem each book. There’s far more involved than just figuring out why someone got themselves dead. ‘Cataclysmic’ sometimes applies, without hyperbole. It is a fun, mystery, fantasy adventure series, which is one of my favorites. I often recommend it to folks who ask for something after Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. And if you like Nero Wolfe, this should be your very next read (that vibe starts in book two).

I did a spoiler-free post on the series, which you could check out here, before you read this Q&A.


Hi Glen. You are probably best-known for your terrific dark fantasy series, The Black Company. I’ve read through that three or four times. But my favorite work of yours is the hardboiled fantasy PI series featuring a rugged ex-Marine, Garrett. It’s a terrific mix of fantasy and hardboiled private eye, with some other classic influences.

Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions about the Garrett books.

Erle Stanley Gardner  wrote Perry Mason and Cool and Lam concurrently – and even some Doug Selby during some of those years.

Garrett books mostly came out in years between Black Company books. And there’s some overlap with the second Dread Empire Trilogy. How did you juggle the multiple series’?

And Garrett is a much lighter read than The Black Company: Far less dark. I am really impressed at how excellent both of them are, while being light years apart in style and tone. How was writing Garrett different from the other two series, for you?

GLEN: I’ve never had a problem working multiple projects simultaneously. I don’t, much, these days, but I’m not as OCD-driven as I was 40-50 years ago. The way it went was, I just worked on whatever seemed to be the exciting thing at the moment.

I think that John D. MacDonald is one of the finest authors of the 20th Century, in any genre. Is the naming convention of the book titles – an adjective, a metal, and a noun – an emulation of the Travis McGee series? They all included a color, and usually had some mix of a verb and an adjective.

And speaking of McGee, the theme of Garrett as a battered knight, tilting at windmills and aiding damsels in distress, absolutely echoes the periodically retired salvage consultant. Are you a McGee fan? If so, what influence did he have on Garrett?

John D. MacDonald was one of my favorites. I have every book he ever wrote, including some really obscure stuff. And yes, the titles thing did spark off of his Travis McGee series. I don’t know ho much influence the McGee books might have had, though.

Starting with book two, the series has a strong Nero Wolfe vibe, with The Dead Man (Wolfe), Garrett (Archie), Dean (Fritz), and even Tinnie (Lily). Wolfe is my favorite series in any genre. I love the influence, and love to see a variation of some familiar Archie or Wolfe line. Such as:

“The Dead Man expects me to cope with the unexpected by drawing on experience and common sense.” A variation on Wolfe telling Archie to “use your intelligence, guided by experience.”

Any particular Wolfe stories you really like? Or any comments about the influence? Garrett as Archie but with some of Wolfe added, works brilliantly.

Nero Wolfe has always been a favorite. However, I don’t really recall any one novel being a major stand-out for me.

Continuing to look at possible influences on the series, the hardboiled aspect brings to mind the classic private eye genre of the thirties. Garrett is less of a loner than Philip Marlowe, but I feel like there’s an element of Raymond Chandler in your writing. And his toughness calls to mind Mike Hammer a bit. Are you a fan of Pulp authors, like Chandler, Hammett, Paul Cain, or Raoul Whitfield? With the humor, I could see you maybe enjoying Norbert Davis.

As already noted, I loved Raymond Chandler, but I’ve never read Cain. Not sure why. Don’t know Raoul Whitfield or Norbert Davis.

And finishing off possible influences, TunFaire is a wonderful fantasy city, with a wide array of races. It’s a lot more Ankh-Morpork than Newhon or Andor or Sanctuary. Was Terry Pratchett an influence on the series?

I love Terry Pratchett (as who does not?), but I’m not aware of any conscious influence on the Garrett series.

Garrett is a citizen of Karenta, and for a majority of the series, that nation is at war with the Venagati for control of a region known as The Cantard. Sorcery is fueled by silver, and The Cantard is silver-rich. Generations have come and gone with every ‘of-age’ male required to serve a mandatory five-year hitch in the fight. Every family has lost men in the war. Garrett’s own father and brother are just two examples. And a lot of those who survive come back damaged: sometimes irreparably so.

The war in The Cantard overshadows life for Karentines. The economy; the war effort put in by the ruling-class sorcerers; the impact of ex-soldiers in the stories; the impact of a post-war society adapting to the return of soldiers, refugees, and a new economy.

Can you talk a little about how the war is a continual backdrop for – and impact on –  the series, even though the war itself isn’t in Karenta?

This would be another question I can’t answer concretely. In most of my stuff the background is not planned, it just is. It can constrain and guide the story, but it’s not like I deliberately set up that grand war so everything would have to happen within its context.

One of my favorite elements of the series is the Glory Mooncalled thread. The Dead Man’s fascination with him; the success that Mooncalled has dealing with first one side, then the other, then both; the ripple effect it has as Cantard natives and refugees move to TunFaire. Mooncalled is a strong unseen presence through much of the series. I love The Dead Man recreating Mooncalled scenarios with hundreds (thousands?) of bugs.

Did you see him serving a specific purpose in the series? Is there a historical figure you drew on for him?

I think there may have been elements of the English routiers of the Hundred Years War era that inspired Gorly Mooncalled. Otherwise, he is just part of the social weather.

Old Tin Sorrows is my favorite book in the series. It’s also the most like a classic hardboiled PI story, with a lot of The Big Sleep overtones.  I consider it a hardboiled PI novel in its own right. Did you intentionally set out to write a Garrett book in that vein?

I’m pretty sure Old Tin Sorrows was my Raymond Chandler.

“Shadow Thieves” is the only Garrett short story which I am aware of. Humphrey Bogart is my favorite actor. And I’ve written an intro to a Dashiell Hammett collection. I LOVE that you did an homage to the Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon (which was the third filmed version, and by far the best). What is it about the movie or the novel, that appeals to you? And how did you think to use the movie for a Garrett story?

The Bogart Falcon is a favorite in great part because it’s so faithful to the novel. A lot of the dialog is word for word, plus the casting was perfection. Too, I think one of the early Garrets was very loosely, an homage to the movie.

The Black Company and The Dread Empire are available as audiobooks. And while the Garrett short story is included with The Best of Glen Cook audiobook, the Garrett novels have not been recorded. Any chance of that happening? It’s a lot easier to listen to an audiobook than read a paperback while driving to work….

I have most of The Black Company via Audible, and I absolutely would get Garrett for repeat listenings.

I don’t know anything about audio stuff except that I sometimes receive a royalty check. That stuff is entirely in the hands of the various publishers.

Wicked Bronze Ambition came out over a decade ago, in 2013. I can see that it offers a logical ending point for the series. But of course, I’d love more of Garrett. Are there any plans for a new novel? Or perhaps even a few more short stories?

Actually, one more Garrett novel does exist, Last Metal Romance (LMR),* which has been with my agent since before COVID hit but seems to carry a small curse that makes it get lost, then, when found, have all kind of goofy textual problems, and, maybe, Russ doesn’t like the story. I do know he’s still in there swinging for me because he just made a very good deal for a new-version Black Company RPG.

*LMR is pretty grim. Not sure how I got there. And the movel that would folow it, Deadly Diamond Daydreams, still entirely confined to my head, might be even darker.

LMR does explain why the series gradually darkens with time.

I do everything first draft handwritten, which is what I did creating these answers. At this point I went on a long meandering rant about not being welcome to do my own thing, i.e., Garrett, and Black Company, in early times because they weren’t like everything else being published at the time. But they did, eventually, find editors willing to take a chance.

John Silbersack of New American Library, who bought the early Garretts before he moved on, at one point wanted me to just furnish outlines that he could have other writers flesh out so he could put out a new Garrett book every month, like the Destoryer or Penetrator books of the period. He was convinced they would sell mas quanties in college bookstores. I did not succumb.

I wonder if you’re working on any new non-Garrett novels? I’ve heard rumors about A Pitiless Rain, for The Black Company.

For several years now I have been working on A Pitiless Rain – or, The Orphan’s Tale. It’s a family Saga thing mainly revolving around the next generation kids from Glittering Stone, especially Soldiers Live. I have completed the first three volumes: Lies Weeping, They Cry, & Summer Grass. (I am) Halfway through Darkness Knows. My agent has had the first book for some time but I haven’t heard anything yet. I will probably be writing on the day that I die. Seems to trump everything else, most days.


In the course of our discussions, Glen said that Arcdream is going to be putting out a new Black Company RPG. I don’t have any further info on that.

We talked a little bit about horror authors, and Glen said:

I’m not much of a horror reader beyond classics, Poe, Wm. Hope Hodgson, H.P. Lovecraft, The King in Yellow, and the occasional, random title. I do like Kim Newman’s Dracula series.

I brought up Sherlock Holmes (of course I did!). He replied:

Not a massive Holmes fan but have been reading some of James Lovegrove where he sometimes mixes in some Lovecraft.

I wrote about James Lovegrove here.

He also confirmed a story I’d heard that he was creating a map for The Dread Company. He was living with Fritz Leiber at the time. Leiber saw what Glen was doing and told him not to bother with a map. It would only box him in, in the future.



Thank you for your time, and your responses. I really appreciate you talking about this terrific series. I will continue to champion Garrett among both the mystery and the fantasy circles I move in. I think it’s brilliant.

I would like to thank my buddy Jason Waltz, of Rogue Blades Press, for connecting me with Glen for this Q&A.

The Black Company. The Dread Empire. Garrett, PI. Instrumentalities of the Night. Glen Cook is an icon in the fields of sword and sorcery, and fantasy. The Black Company is a foundational dark fantasy series that inspired many of  the current field’s biggest names. The gritty realism of The Black Company may be unmatched in the realm of fantasy. Glen is still writing top notch fantasy, with his latest story, “Isekai Sengokumonogatari,” subtitled, “A Story in the Time of the Warring States in an Alternate Universe,” appearing in the Rogue Blades anthology, Neither Beg Nor Yield.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bob_TieSmile150.jpgBob Byrne’s ‘A (Black) Gat in the Hand’ made its Black Gate debut in 2018 and has returned every summer since.

His ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March, 2014 through March, 2017. And he irregularly posts on Rex Stout’s gargantuan detective in ‘Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone.’ He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series, as well as the award-winning ‘Hither Came Conan’ series. Which is now part of THE DEFINITIVE guide to Conan. He also organized 2023’s ‘Talking Tolkien.’

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV, V, VI, XXI, and XXXIII.

He has written introductions for Steeger Books, and appeared in several magazines, including Black Mask, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, The Strand Magazine, and Sherlock Magazine.

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Phillip Hore

great interview = I should point out my book Brotherhood of the Dragon is partly based on Old Tin Sorrows and The Big Sleep


So great to see a Cook interview since they are so rare. Laconic as always, but that’s why I love him. I hope he is doing OK and happy to hear he still writes. I too am always asking why there aren’t any Garrett audiobooks. We need to start pestering some publishers! Thank you for the interview.

Jason M Waltz

Fun Q&A, Bob. Glen’s answers are always great to receive: direct, no nonsense, and exactly what was needed, nothing more…just like his writing.

Ken Lizzi

Thank you for this, Bob.


This was great to see, due to a lack of information on any potential forthcoming projects. Thanks for this interview.


Pitiless Rain is possibly a series, and not a single novel?! Color me boggled.

More Garrett would be welcome, though I too worry about them going too dark. We’ll see what time brings.

John E. Boyle

Thanks for posting this interview, Bob, and thank you Mr. Cook for so many hours of entertainment.


awesome & unexpected news! who would have thought that Pitiless Rain was going to be a whole new series as opposed to a single stand alone book? Glen does not mention how long each volume is or how many there will be in total-though with 3 already completed & the 4th being worked on i would assume there will be at least 5 in the pipeline? i also hope that both of the Garrett novels are published eventually too and i have zero issue with the level of darkness in them!


Another vote of thanks for getting us some information on future Cook works. Also, another vote of disappointment over Garrett going dark. The lightness of it is what makes it different. Of course, there are many shades of dark. I hope it will at least not be Black. One Company is enough.


Thank you for this interview. Mark me down as one more person who has always wondered how the rest of Glen’s works made it to audio without the Garrett series coming along (except for what was in The Best of Glen Cook).

My personal favorite of all Glen’s works is The Silver Spike, so bring on the darkness. What was different about the last Garrett book was that with Strafa’s death we got personal tragedy as darkness, as opposed to the darkness of a generally cruel setting such as Darkwar.

Fletcher Vredenburgh

Great questions and answers. He remains one of my favorites. His no-nonsense replies is just the way I imagined he’d answer. I really need to reread some of the early Garrett


Many thanks for this interview! Cook’s online traces are thin.
As a decades long Cook reader, I will wait with bated breath to all the upcoming books.


after so many years of no news it’s amazing that you were able to do this interview. it is exciting that they are looking for a publisher so perhaps the books will be released in 2025.

btw, did Glen mention how many books in total there will be in the Pitiless Rain series? with 3 already written & the 4th being currently written on can we assume 5+?

Bunny Way

Thanks for the interview, this is great news. My son and I are eagerly awaiting new BC novels.

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