Psycho-Tropics Character Interviews

Character Interview with Bennie “Fink” Finkel

By Amy Holland

Hollywood Beach, Feb. 2015

Hollywood Beach

If you like oddball characters, Psycho-Tropics has plenty of them, making it tough to choose a favorite.  A top candidate for pure wackiness is Danny Teakwell’s histrionic, pill-popping lawyer, Bennie “Fink” Finkel.  I had an opportunity to sit down recently with Mr. Finkel and ask some of the questions readers have been wondering about.

On Representing Danny Teakwell

Holland: So, Fink—can I call you Fink?

Fink:  Fine, but first, I strongly object to your description of me.  A, I am not histrionic.  I’m, um, spirited.  B, “pill-popping” makes it sound like I’m some kind of a drug addict.  All of my medications are prescribed by excellent physicians. [Stops to swallow a small orange tablet.]

Holland: Okay, thank you for those corrections.  Now, Fink, we all know you had some big personal and professional troubles going on at the time Mr. Teakwell asked you to defend him of murder. For those who haven’t read the book, we won’t go into details, but my first question is whether your decision to represent Mr. Teakwell was driven by your own financial needs or were you simply trying to help a friend in need?

Fink: Did you read the book?

Holland: Of course.

Fink:  Then you know that I didn’t want to represent Danny.  He was practically begging me to do it.  What could I say?  The fact that I was in a personal jam had absolutely nothing … very little to do with it.

Holland:  When Mr. Teakwell asked you whether you believed he was innocent, you made the comment, “It doesn’t matter what I think.  I’m your lawyer.”  That answer seems to indicate you were unsure of, or at least indifferent about, whether Teakwell was guilty of murder.

Fink: I was simply stating what any criminal defense lawyer would state.  It’s not our job to judge our clients’ guilt or innocence.  That’s up to the jury.  Our job is to zealously represent them.  But honestly I couldn’t picture Danny cutting off a man’s **** and feeding it to his tropical fish.  For one thing, Danny really loves fish.

On His Lawyering Experience and Skills

Holland: Before representing Mr. Teakwell, you had never actually defended a client charged with murder. Is that correct?

Fink:  That’s right.

Holland: Were you confident in your lawyering skills when you agreed to represent Mr. Teakwell?

Fink:  Off the record?  I was scared sh*tless.

Holland: You said earlier your job is to “zealously” represent your clients.  I think everyone who witnessed the now-infamous courtroom scene where you got Teakwell released on bail would agree with that description.  You certainly have a flair for the dramatic.

Fink: Well, you know, half the freaking world is A.D.D.  You have to keep people’s attention.

Holland:  Was that your goal when you asked the judge to give you her coffee cup so Teakwell could urinate in it for a drug test?  What if she would have handed you the cup?

Fink:  Fine.  I’d say “Danny, go pee in the cup, but wash it out first.”  Coffee residue could distort the results.

Holland:  In response to the marijuana possession charge against Mr. Teakwell, you challenged the judge to “name a law-abiding South Floridian who doesn’t take a toke once in a while”?  Do you really think everyone in South Florida smokes pot?

Fink:  Probably.  Except for the drivers on I-95, who could really benefit from it.

On His Reputation for Political and Other Insensitivities

Holland:  As you know, one of the frequent criticisms of you is that you are a disgusting, sexist pig, frequently remarking about the size of women’s breasts.  How do you respond to that?

Fink:  That has gotten totally distorted.  I just happen to love women and their breasts.  I don’t see how that can be taken as anything other than a compliment.  Speaking of which—

Holland: One more word, I break your finger.

Fink:  Okay, okay.  Geez, everyone’s so touchy about that subject.

“An engaging thriller with plenty of humor, good characterization, and a memorable villain …”
— Kirkus Reviews

Interview with Danny Teakwell

By Amy Holland

I finally had a chance to corral Psycho-Tropics protagonist Danny Teakwell for an interview, which, if you’ve read the book, you know is not an easy task.  Teakwell avoids publicity like it’s poison.  He’s refused to give a single interview following his heroic journey through the madness and mayhem of Psycho-Tropics.  He still refuses to talk about what happened, but agreed to answer questions about some other aspects of his life.

Holland: So, Danny, let’s talk about your life before the bizarre events that gave rise to Psycho-Tropics. You are obviously quite famous now, but I’ll stay away from that subject in this interview because I know you don’t like talking about it.

Danny: Thanks.

On Winning the Lottery

Holland: But you were actually somewhat well-known even beforehand, at least in Florida. For one thing, you did win the lottery. I’m sure that brought about some publicity, didn’t it?

Danny: It did, but not the kind of publicity any person would want.

Holland: And how did you handle that? How did it affect your life?

Danny: Badly. I quit my jobs and ended up being pretty much a bum. Surf all day, drink all night. It sounds good to some people, but I was just covering up some major depression.  On the other hand, I ended up here on the beach with Grady [Banyon] and the gang, so that’s a good thing.  I guess it’s a mixed bag.

On Surfing

Holland: If I recall correctly, you also were a champion surfer, weren’t you? How much public recognition did that bring?

Danny: [Laughs] Not a lot. It’s a pretty small circle of surfers who compete in these parts and we all know each other. Surfers in places with real waves would laugh that we even have surfing competitions in Florida.

Holland: What is it about surfing you find so alluring?

Danny: Just one thing?  I’d say peace.  Just being out on the water.

Holland: I have a lot of respect for you, Danny. I couldn’t surf if my life depended on it. Believe me, I’ve tried. Surfing takes a certain amount of grace and poise, and I just don’t have it. How did you learn? Who were your instructors, or your mentors?

Danny: It’s not that hard, especially with the waves we have here.  I started surfing when I was about ten and learned just by doing it.  My main mentor came later.  Ben Keahilani. I worked at his surf shop in high school. He was a real surf champion. Ben taught me everything I know about surfing, including how to make surfboards.

Holland: Do you ever find the ocean threatening? Personally, I’m terrified of sharks and other creatures, even when the water is calm and clear.

Danny: The ocean has been part of my whole life, so I guess it just seems natural. I admit that the summer I spent surfing in Australia definitely got my attention.  The waves and sharks are both much bigger than in Florida.  [Laughs]  But it was a more a healthy apprehension than fear.

Holland: We know you also make surfboards. Congratulations on opening your new shop.  Nine Lives Surf Shop. Isn’t that it?

Danny: Thanks. The name was Grady’s idea. It’s been great.

Holland: What’s the best part?

Danny: Working for an honest living again. Just in time before the lottery checks ran out.  I also needed to get all the tools and toxic chemicals out of my living room.

Holland: I don’t know a lot about surfing personally, but I do know a few surfers, and they don’t view surfing as just a sport or a hobby. Many of them describe it as a way of life. Would you agree?

Danny: It is. For one thing, even though surfing itself is a solitary activity, there’s a real bond among surfers.  We all surf for the thrills and spills, but most of us do it for bigger reasons.  It comes back to just being out on the ocean, so vast and powerful.  Makes you feel small, but at the same time like you’re part of a bigger whole, if that makes any sense.

Holland: So you’re saying it’s as much a mental thing as a physical thing.

Danny: Exactly.

Holland: So what’s next for you now that everything is settling back down?

Danny: Hopefully, my life will go back to being boring, but this time in a good way.

2015 Writer's Digest Award Winner in Genre Fiction

A high school reunion in a South Florida town unburies the past (literally), launching a lottery-winning surfer with a terrible secret on a twisted race through the Sunshine State to save a missing woman, and his soul. Heart and dark humor combine with manic action and plot twists in this unhinged tale of revenge and redemption, where everyone has something to hide and nothing is what it seems.
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