Robert Fleming

Robert Fleming

Interviewed by: Lauretta Pierce
January 22, 2007

Q.    Who is Robert Fleming?

A.    Robert Fleming is a writer, journalist, reader, fiercely political, seeker of all things spiritual, football and boxing fan, movie buff, but above all I'm a black man and a father.

Q.    How did you come about the idea to write Fever In The Blood?

A.    When I worked as a crime reporter for The New York Daily News, I was fascinated by the personality of criminals, how they operated, how their actions could veer toward irrationality and violence, how they were tortured emotionally as adults, how they had these miserable childhoods, how they kill. I had a non-fiction project about juvenile killers scheduled for publication but some families decided to withdraw their support for the book so the novel was born.

Q.    How did you come about the title?

A.    The novel was originally named Crazy Mad after some young thugs used to call excessive anger. They say: the brother was "crazy mad," but the publisher demanded the title be changed. So I came up with the alternate title, Fever In The Blood, which I grew on me.

Q.    How did you come about Eddie's character?

A.    Eddie's character was a composite of several young killers I interviewed. I chose them because of the odd, mysterious quirks in their emotional make-up, their worship of mayhem and disorder, and the randomness of their violence. There was also their disdain for women, which I find a lot of young black men have. Plenty of young men have that trait in prison, which is why they're in that demoralizing place.

Q.    How did you come about Xica's character?

A.    There is a new prototype of the modern young black woman from the Hood. I took Xica's character from sassy, bold rap hottie icons as Trina, Lil Kim, and Foxy Brown. Their raunchy lyrics and wanton messages caught my ear. I see them out in clubs, malls, and along the streets. Also, the young women I taught in the joint were every bit as sexually aggressive and full of larceny as the young men. In fact, they were as scheming as the guys.

Q.    How long have you writing?

A.    I've been writing since 1972. My first assignment was as a music columnist for the Scene Magazine, where I interviewed many celebrities of the music and entertainment world. Eventually, I started writing fiction, producing my first novel, Hot Snake Nights, under the pen name of Cole Riley in 1984. My most recent work of fiction, Havoc After Dark, a collection of horror short stories, was published in 2004.

Q.    How many books have you written?

A.    In total, I've written 19 books and contributed to 12 anthologies. My favorites are: The Wisdom of The Elders, The African American Writer's Handbook, After Hours: A Collection of Erotic Writing by Black Men, Intimacy, and Rescuing A Neighborhood: The Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Q.    What genre is Fever In The Blood written?

A.    The crime theme of the book was influenced by such writers as Thomas Harris, Ed McBain, Patricia Cornwall, Andrew Vachss, and others. Reviews for the books have been overwhelmingly positive and strong., even in the white press. One reviewer wrote: "Fleming placed me square dab in the middle of Eddie's mind and left me. I was somewhat a prisoner, because often times Eddie's mind was not a good place to be." One of the differences between Fever In The Blood and Native Son is Richard Wright boldly told white America the truth in Native Son and put the blame at its feet. In this novel, Fleming gives today's black community the same treatment. The question needs to be asked, can we, as a people, bear the responsibilities of creating Eddie Stevens? Can we change before it is too late? It has been nominated twice for prizes.

Q.    Are you currently working on another novel?

A.   I'm working on three projects: one is a political novel, The Dance of The Infidels, a fictional account of the terrorist 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi; Life Happens, a torrid romance between a breast cancer survivor and an average Joe, and a ghostwritten memoir of the scion of one of the infamous Mafia Cops.

Q.    What message would you like readers to receive from Eddie's character?

A.    Above all, the message of Fever In The Blood is the care and maintenance of our young black men. We have abandoned, isolated, and labeled them as the enemy of our communities. Both of these young men's parents, fathers and mothers, have discarded them. They feel hated, maligned, reviled, and tagged as worthless and irrelevant. We must reclaim, redeem them, love them. We must do this, for they are our future. Too many of them are in prison or in the judicial system. We must transform the Eddies of this country before it's too late. That's what I hope the readers get from this book.