Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Over at Ransom Notes I'm giving the rundown on a handful of books that fall into a couple of my favorite plot lines: people stuck in small towns and those on the run with a bagful of money. What I don't go into is my fear that the novel I'm about to start writing will retread too familiar ground. Seriously. I wake up some nights with a new book or movie I'm afraid people with think know that I'm ripping off. The list looks something like this - John Dahl's Red Rock West, John Ridley's Stray Dogs, Scott Phillips' The Ice Harvest, Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men, Tony Scott/Quentin Tarantino's True Romance, Scott Smith's A Simple Plan, John Rector's The Cold Kiss, Gil Brewer's The Red Scarf and while it's not money, it's a helluva maguffin, Duane Swierczynski's The Blonde. I worry when I sleep, but while I walk around in the daytime, meh, doesn't bother me in the slightest. Dunno why that is.

Any people reading this in Fayetteville Arkansas, Memphis Tennessee or maybe Tulsa Oklahoma? Be alerted that Tom Franklin will be in Fayetteville this Saturday Dec. 4 and reading from Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter 7:30 at Nightbird Books, (205 W. Dickson St.). I used to live in Fayetteville, (as did Tom), and I'm making the trip to see Franklin, (and my family), along with Scott Phillips. If you're anywhere nearby, I'd encourage you to do the same.

Another former Fayetteville resident by who's name escapes me has a new essay about the influence the Ozarks have had on his writing at the Mulholland Books blog. I think it's a big deal whenever he publishes something I can read for free, so I'm glad to see him doing more web stuff. Did anybody else read his latest excerpt titled Blue Norton over at Narrative? Or how about that biographical piece at Granta online last year? Ooh, and don't forget Shitbird, also at Narrative. Good free shit, yo.

And speaking of free shit, you've got a couple more days to leave a comment on this post to win a copy of a Megan Abbott book, (either Die a Little or Bury Me Deep). You know how those Abbott books have that lived in and very sexy look on the covers? Thank artist Richie Fahey for those. Know what? He also did the cover for the New Pulp Press reissue of Gil Brewer's The Red Scarf. That's a damn good looking book. Oh look, we're back where we started.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bad Abbott

Been cringing at all the photos of myself popping up on Facebook from the NoirCon crew, but I thought this photo taken by Cameron Ashley of me and Anthony Neil Smith pretty much captured the vibe of the whole weekend. Hell, my entire life. It's like that. Always. It'll be like that again come late winter when rumor has it, Mr. Smith will be doing the N@B thing again. Rumors. Rumors. Troubling rumors. Stay tuned. Oh, yeah, something about Kyle Minor too. Just eat your vegetables and stay in school. I'll letcha know when I do.

Over at Ransom Notes I'm listing my favorite holiday films. Mostly Die Hard. Die Hard mostly. And for anybody who comes here to link there, Tuesday's Ransom Notes piece were about writers I love whose exciting and singular styles have been hijacked and watered down by too many inferior artists. Listed Ken Bruen, Charles Bukowski, Kurt Vonnegut and Chuck Palahniuk, but probably could've kept going a while.

Attention all red-blooded American crime readers Megan Abbott and Sara Gran have teamed up in some kind of should-be-illegal-it's-so-perfect combo blogginess called The Abbott Gran Old Tyme Medicine Show. I'm there. Dig the name, dig the layout too. All retro-scandal-rag looking.

Thanks to everybody who participated in last week's drawing for a signed copy of Jonathan Woods' Bad Juju and congratulations Rod, who won. Because it's the Christmas season and to celebrate the Abbott/Gran bloggedy blog blog, this week I'll give away a copy of Megan's Die a Little and Bury Me Deep. So, again, just leave a message on this post to enter. And this week, two people win. Merry Christmas, ya ungrateful little shits.

Couple of projects I'm involved with giving me wood these days, though all I can share at the moment are the names Bardsley, Shea & Weddle, (in alphabetical order).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Noir Hole

Know who I'm kinda fond of? Jon Bassoff over at New Pulp Press. Livin' the dream, I tell ya. He just participated in Nigel Bird's Sea Minor interview series. Here's a sample:

What makes New Pulp Press a unique publisher?

Well for one thing, we offer some of the smallest advances on the market. Jonathan Woods spent his entire advance one afternoon at a zoo carousel. We are also unique in the type of books we put out—each one of our books has been banned in Amsterdam. When I read submissions, I skim through the first five pages. If no character has been dismembered or skinned alive, I use the manuscript as cage liner for my parakeets Chi Chi and Evander.

You can read the rest of that one right about here. I'll admit, not all the books have landed for me, but they've got vision, guts and just the right lack of good sense to publish actual books in these dark days.

You want a taste of NPP? Alright, I'm gonna give away an autographed copy of Jonathan Woods's Bad Juju. Mr. Woods inscribed this one with a cryptically nasty statement about yours truly when he came through St. Louis for Noir at the Bar a month ago. You already have one? Well, you can make this one a gift for some one. I just saved you money, cheapskate. Just leave a comment on this post by the day after Thanksgiving and I'll draw a name.

And you know what you should do after that? Go purchase another one of their fine titles. Can I recommend 21 Tales, the short story collection by Dave Zeltserman? How could I not. DZ is a chameleonic writer, switching gears in these stories from darkly comic to "a black steer's tuchus on a moonless night," to something resembling a black hole. I'm still a fairly new member of the cult of Zeltserman, but I'm digging in big time. That guy's style keeps me so off-balance as a reader, probably because I'm a writer and he's always zigging where I'd zag, that I cannot guess where a story is headed. Far from frustrating me, I think it's challenging and pretty friggin great. By the way, there's a particular story in this collection that has got to be the inspiration for Ken Bruen's The Devil. Has to be. Can't not be. Can it?

Dave's also one of those guys experimenting with electronic publishing with The Top Suspense Group. Other members include Max Allan Collins, Vicki Hendricks, Bill Crider, Ed Gorman and Harry Shannon. He talked some about it when I interviewed him a few months back. He's somebody whose career I'm watching with great interest.

And if you wanna know where his particular brand of noir comes from, he's participated in Heath Lowrance's survey of writers' top 20 noirs, over at Psycho Noir. Other participants, so far, have included Patti Abbott, Nigel Bird and Keith Rawson. Heath's novel, The Bastard Hand is coming soon from NPP and it sounds like a good 'un.

Meanwhile, at Ransom Notes I'm talking up Stuart Neville's Fegan books, The Ghosts of Belfast and Collusion.

Couple months ago, I  responded to an innocent little e-mail from Brian Lindenmuth at Spinetingler about doing him a favor by writing a review for a single story from that awesome tome The Best America Noir of the Century edited by Otto Penzler and James Ellroy. His idea is to have each of the nearly forty stories contained within reviewed individually by different writers. Sure. Why not? How could it possibly be a chore? I mean, have you looked at that book’s line-up? I’m not going to list the stories because, well there’s almost forty, but how could I lose? So, I agreed and several days later got another email from him with my assignment, Controlled Burn by Scott Wolven. You kidding me? I’d already read that one a couple times. So, I got to write up a little piece about something I already knew I loved. But you know what I wasn’t prepared for? The awesome level of participation here. For the past couple days, Brian has been posting the pieces every hour on the hour and like big ol’ nerd, I’m checking in every hour to see who’s up next. I mean, not only is it cool to read appreciations and analysis of the authors included, but dang – the collection of writers doing it is impressive. So head on over to Spinetingler and checkerout if you haven’t already, and read stuff by authors like Sean Doolittle, Gary Phillips, Adrien McKinty, Paul Tremblay, Benjamin Whitmer, Charlie Stella and David Corbett, plus top critical writers and bloggers a plenty.

And speaking of Brian and the whole Spinetingler crew, here's the response published to my Ransom Notes post about Dennis Lehane and the return of Pat & Angie.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bring 'em Back... Alive

Over at Ransom Notes I'm getting into Dennis Lehane's new one, Moonlight Mile, being the rolling jumpstart of the Kenzie/Gennaro series after twelve years. And it's got me wondering: where's it headed? Where are they going? What's happened in the interim? I've sounded off a couple times lately about the downfall of a good series being longevity, (sorry Ken, sorry Jim), but I dunno? A fifth book after more than a decade? I can dig that, especially given the nature of the series leading up to it. Meaning, the series played kinda like long-form television where the case du jour was not the point as much as the characters and their development over the course of the series. And c'mon, the end of Gone, Baby, Gone? Strong. So, yeah, I'm on board. Hell, one of my favorite series did the same thing a few years back. Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther returned for a fourth, (fifth and sixth), book ten years after the amazing Berlin Noir trilogy had wrapped. And it turned out, ol' Bernie had more baggage to haul. Sheesh, if you thought he was a mess before the war, give him a few years to marinate in the collective and personal guilt he bears for his people and then turn him loose on some Nazi fucks hiding out in South America. Yeah. I'm there, again.

So, now I'm wondering... are there some more series that could/should be resurrected after a period of dormancy? Typically, these things reek of a cash-out, but occasionally there's a good reason to trot out the old gray mare, preferably a character retired before they wore out their welcome, but even one that was driven into the dust is eligible for a retooling, a reinvention and a new life.

Who's got a suggestion? Anyone? Bueller?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lutz Be Reasonable

Jon Jordan asked me to contribute a piece about John Lutz to the Bouchercon 2011 website and in doing so, got me thinking about a hair I decided to split on writers - artists and craftsmen. I riffed a little bit further over at Ransom Notes on the occasion of the Lutz piece and a new book from Elmore Leonard, whom I also place in the craftsman category. Let the controversy officially begin, though, it should be clear from the tone that I intend no slight in that classification. Christa Faust has put forth her similar theory - perhaps you've heard her explain sperm vs. eggs? Not quite the same thing, but similar.

In the mail this week, some gooduns. Young Junius by Seth Harwood, (much nicer to read than a PDF), By Hook or By Crook, the Ed Gorman/Martin Greenberg best of the year short stories antho and a pseudo-romance looking historical novel which I gotta say, the cover - not doing anything for me, but I read the first chapter and I think it's got promise. Should totally be re-worked art-wise if they want to appeal to readers like me. Make it pulpy and trashy fun, like the writing seems to be, instead of the stuffy, gilded, sepia-toned self-serious pic currently gracing the cover. Yawn. Too many books look like that. Me no care. But the really exciting one is One True Sentence, the conclusion to Craig McDonald's Ernest Hemingway trilogy within the Hector Lassiter Octology. Easily solves my what to read next dilemma.

N@B participant Matthew McBride is puttin the fanboy love on Erik Lundy over at Got Pulp? The Lundy is on my N@B radar you better believe and as of last night, there's an event in the pre-paration. We'll see what develops.

Speaking of what develops, Mr. Steve Weddle of Needle fame lit a fire under my ass at NoirCon and well... No. I can't tell. Too early. Damn. I'm a dirty tease, but to make it up to you I'll let the first person who e-mails me have a free story from Marcus Sakey for your e-reader. Thanks to Michael Lipkin over at the Noir Journal for the heads up on that one. Lipkin was another one of those on-line acquaintances that I was happy to put a face to at NoirCon last week. I keep remembering more of them. That weekend is going to be unpacking itself slowly for a long time.

Did I mention that I finally got to see Human Centipede a few weeks ago? It played in St. Louis in the spring and I was going to take the wife for her birthday, (I wouldn't lie), but the only screening was a midnight show and we're old farts who don't play that no more. Phantom Menace cured me. Anyhow, we saw it at long last and I enjoyed the hell out of it, but you know what was even better? Splice. There, I said it. Haters be damned, that was a great monster movie. Fredoepus is the genre I'm giving it - Frankenstein/Oedipus for those who want to know. I've read some truly awful reviews of this film, but they're just wrong... And here's why:

Splice does the exploitation thing right. The situation is the outlandish bit and not the acting, and not the directing, and not the soundtrack. In other words, it's not Bitch Slap. Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley look ridiculous as punk-rock-hipster scientists with cool patches sewn into their lab coats, no less and Japanese art adorning their bedroom, but they play it straight. And not over the top, stiff upper lip straight, just not with their tongues in their cheeks. They let the situation, the ridiculously fucked up situation, be the whole joke, set up and punch line. I'm convinced that Vincenzo Natali knew he was making midnight movie material, but you'd never know from the tone. Think David Cronenberg - sincere, but not humorless and you're on the right track. You know you're watching a winner when you stop saying, "If this were a gutsy movie they'd go there." Because, readers, they do. And then further. Loved it.

Shall I make another schlocky 2010 movie crush confession here? Repo Men with Jude Law and Forest Whitaker. Yeah. Loved it. Generic? Maybe. Slick? Definitely. Retread? Possibly. Restrained? Uh, no. Miguel Sapochnik aint no Ridley Scott... Yet. Hell, ain't no Tony Scott... Yet. And Blade Runner, this is not, though I don't think it wants to be. More closely related to that other Philip K. Dick adaptation, Paul Verhoeven's Total Recall. Splatterific and non-sensical and I'll say Cronenbergian again in the closest thing the film has to a sex scene. The heroes, having just sliced their way through an security detail, strip down and literally enter each other's bodies with a scanner to read the barcodes on all their artificial organs. Shot like a Top Gun style sex bit, (there's another Scott reference), with the gore coated phallus penetrating abdomens as they writhe and gasp... Yeah. Kinda loved it. Awesome? Eh. Enjoyable? Fuckin A. And can I give Liev Schreiber a little HBW love? For some reason, I'm not too interested in seeing him do leading man stuff, but he's always welcome to keep improving the supporting roles.

Long live the new flesh.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Streets of Philadelphia

Anybody who hasn’t already should truck on over to Do Some Damage and check out Steve Weddle’s recap of NoirCon 2010. He captured the vibe from my coin-fed bed pretty well. Over at Ransom Notes, (where there was an unfortunate spell check incident), I’m giving a quick highlight of the panels, but I’ll go through the offscreen bits as best I can recall here. Friday morning had coffee with Kieran Shea, then met Cameron Ashley and Vicki Hendricks in the hotel lobby and walked as a foursome to the Pornography in Noir Fiction panel that featured Christa Faust and Jay Gertzman. Says I to Hendricks, “Whyfer you not onnit?”

Cut out after lunch for to walk the streets of Philadelphia, with Ashley and Anthony Neil Smith, but we never saw The Boss. Ended up in a German joint with hausfrau outfits for the waitresses and foamy, fermented ‘freshments for those with coin. Once Cam was properly sauced for his gig moderating a panel with David Corbett, Seth Harwood, Reed Farrel Coleman and Vicki, we headed back to the venue. Lemme just say that drunk is probably the only way you could get me to step between Corbett, Coleman and Harwood when their blood is up. And it’s always up. Because I’m such a good friend and not at all fraidy, I bailed and walked back to the hotel alone.

In the lobby, hung out with Ed Pettit, Scott Phillips, Megan Abbott, Duane Swierczynski before our night at the museum. Dinner was schmancy that night plus an open bar. I sat with Steve Weddle, Calvin Seen, Owen Laukkanen, Libby Cudmore, Matthew Quinn Martin, (a fellow Beat to a Pulp contibutor, no less) and Nik Korpon, (a fellow Out of the Gutter 5 contributor). Talked a lot about The Shield with Cudmore who’s a Walton Goggins fiend. Hilary Davidson showed up sometime around there and it was great to finally meet her. Weddle forced three whiskeys into me then he and Ashley goaded me into starting some shit with George Pelecanos. Yeah, he used to box. Opted to walk back to the hotel from south Philly. Disturbingly sober when I arrived. Stayed up till 3:00 with Ashley, Shea, John Rector, Stacia Decker and Weddle. Still had a hard time getting to sleep.

Breakfast with Tafoya and company in the morning, then drank NoirCon coffee by the pot and scarfed donut holes in the lobby with Korpon, Cudmore and Martin. Wandered the streets more with that crew, subsisting on coffee and milkshakes, (what happens in Philly stays there). Realized that those three all teach writing and didn’t have to seduce their high school principal in order to graduate and I felt entirely outclassed.

Best panel of the Con followed. Anthony Neil Smith and Megan Abbott discussing revisionist history of noir. Wish there were a podcast available. You missed out.

Somehow, I developed a powerful thirst after that. I wasn’t alone. Ended up in Paddy’s Pub with Shea, Decker, Smith, Ashley, Weddle and Rector. Some people ate food. The fools. After my Irish supper we headed back to the hotel and was again frighteningly clear headed upon arrival. Course corrected in a shotgun bar with Nik Korpon, Dennis Tafoya, Scott, Cam, Don Lafferty, Roger Petersen and Weddle. When the world really started to tilt again, we walked back to the hotel. Again. Stone cold sober by the time we arrived. Hung with Weddle, Ashley, Petersen, Stacia, Hilary and her husband, occasionally ducking out for pizza until we were booted from the bar at 2:30. Haunted the fancy sofa in the lobby with Ashley and Decker till 4 in the morning.

Up again at seven and took a coffee shower with my roomy Shea. He got me really worked up about his novel in progress. It’s gonna be so awesome. I have two syllables for you: KO KO. Also he’s naming a character after me, as is Swierczynski, come to think of it. Across the table from us, Duane asked me and Cam who wanted to be the prisoner and who wanted to be the guard. You always say ‘guard’ when presented with those options. Looking forward to further besmirching the family name in one of his books..

Proper breakfast with Phillips, Tafoya, Ashley, Davidsons, Decker, Peter Rozovsky and more braced me for the day. Took in one more panel and lots more bullshit with the previously mentioned crew members. Lunch with Vicki Hendricks and Joe Samuel Starnes then off to the airport. On the same flight with Phil and Patti Abbott who helped me stay awake in the terminal and then very self-servingly wished me a safe trip. By the way, my parting image of Philly was a guy walking a dog down the street and wearing a Michael Vick t-shirt. Gotta love it.

In my absence, Rod Norman posted an interview with me over at Signs & Wonders and sent me an email about his trip to see William Gay over the weekend. Good for you, buddy. Glad you got that since NoirCon was a wash for you.

And where the hell were all of you?

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Long Goodis Friday

Yawwwwwn. So. Many. Beers... and cake. Dinner last night was actually white wine with chocolate cake. That's me, pixure of helth. NoirCon is here, folks. Got into Philly yesterday and ran into Cameron Ashley in the hotel lobby. Cheeky bastard was getting his own room rather than crashing with me and Kieran Shea. This room is getting expensive. Anybody wanna crash the party and split the room fee? I'm not a snorer, but I do cuddle. Sorry, Shea. After dropping off my stuff in Ashley's room we met Scott Phillips, Shea and Stacia Decker at the bar where I wisely consumed copious amounts of coffee before taking a walking tour of the downtown area with Shea and Ashley. We found a great bookstore with PM Press stuff out the wazoo and a cool comic book store. Mostly, it was bars though. We hit a few. This morning they're hitting back.

Met Lou Boxer at the Society Hill Playhouse a few hours before the film David Goodis: To a Pulp was screened there. He's pulled off a hell of a classy event here. The programs for this thing are unbelievable. Really. Gorgeous. You want one. You do. At the playhouse, they've set up a bookstore for the weekend. My pulse rises looking at the selection. Stuff you don't just find on the shelf anywhere. And lots of it. I'm so broke. If you come split the room and want me to sleep on the floor, I'll do it so I can afford to purchase some of these gems, (Needle magazine and Beat to a Pulp among them!)

At the screening got to meet Patti Abbott and her husband, Ed Pettit, Cullen Gallagher and Peter Rozovsky. Good to see Dennis Tafoya, Jonathan Woods and Duane Swierczynski too. Afterward a bunch of us ended up at a German beer hall up the street and did more of the, uh beer thing. Walked back to the hotel with Ashley and David Corbett, then met Reed Farrel Coleman and his lovely wife, (he scored, man - waaaaay out of his league), and a company of enthusiasts and did, yeah, more beer.

This morning at Ransom Notes I'm sounding the NoirCon bell and looking ever so briefly at David Goodis, without whom we may as well be congregating in Kansas City, (not a bad idea, actually - KC folks, get on that, I'm on board). I'm sucking down caffeine nutrients and headed to a panel on Noir and Pornography with Coleman and Christa Faust in a couple of hours. It's going to be a long day. And over far too soon.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Elect to Read

So, please forgive the rushed tone of this post as I'm stocking up on ammo for NoirCon this week. Seriously, there're bound to be some dangerous people waiting to take a piece of me in the city of brotherly love. Halloween may be behind us, but I'm betting the feeling is lingering in your psyche and you'd do well to check out John Rector's brand new one, The Grove, which I'm reviewing over at Ransom Notes.

Chris La Tray has a belated recap of N@B and on a related note, I've got something to tell you about a N@B project involving Tim Lane, but... nah. I'll save that for later.

Former N@B reader Frank Bill is given the ol' phone book and rubber hose treatment by Rod Norman at Signs & Wonders. Beat to a Pulp editor David Cranmer is also interviewing Mr. Bill, (tee-hee), and Elaine Ash right here.

Paul Brazill is demanding answers of R.J. Ellroy, and Keith Rawson grills a big Mac Russel Mclean on video at Spinetingler.

Charlie Stella has written Benjamin Whitmer's Pike a helluva review. "Book of the Year." Yeah, that bad boy is wracking up the praise, unfortunately, these ol' blogs are some of the only places reviewing paperback originals like Pike, so on this election day I'm proposing we all go vote with our wallets on some quality fiction from small publishers at independent bookstores. Mmmm? How 'bout Stella's own Johnny Porno? Or maybe Jonathan Woods' Bad Juju? Pinckney Benedict's Miracle Boy, Gary Phillips' The Underbelly, Lynn Kostoff's Late Rain, Seth Harwood's Young Junius or perhaps The Drop Edge of Yonder by Rudolf Wurlitzer? And I'm operating on the assumption that everybody has requested their free copy of Rut by Scott Phillips from Concord Free Press by now, yeah? Just a few I've enjoyed this year. And yeah, I'll get off the soap box now.

Speaking of quality small publishers, anybody out there who's not following Tyrus books on Twitter is missing out on frequent book giveaways. Thanks Ben LeRoy. Keep up the good work.

Have you seen the trailers for the new Ken Bruen movies, William Monahan's London Boulevard or Elliott Lester's Blitz? Been a while since I read Boulevard, but I gotta say I don't recognize the material. Looks like it could be a good movie, but I wouldn't have known it came from K's book. Jason Statham looks like an appropriately nasty Brant, though. Looking forward to both.

And for anybody who thinks my characters are too ridiculous to be real, I highly recommend viewing the new documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Watch it, then we'll talk.