Thursday, December 26, 2013

Noir: Humanity's Gag Reflex: Clayton Lindemuth Guest Piece

Clayton Lindemuth's debut Cold Quiet Country came out of nowhere last year and smacked the smug off my mug. It was a tart slice of Americana stuffed with murder seasoned with muscular prose that produced more than a couple of my favorite new colloquialisms (including "windy as a bag of assholes") in a style frequently compared to the likes of Tom Franklin, Donald Ray Pollack and William Gay. This week he's got two new books out, My Brother's Destroyer and Nothing Save the Bones Inside Her (which is free for Kindle through this weekend!).

The following is a guest piece by Clayton Lindemuth in which he delivers harsh words for ugly truths and gets awfully familiar with my testicles.


Where else but Noir can you go to get real?

Noir doesn’t embrace ugliness so much as refuse to shrink from it. The Noir author who faithfully sketches evil does so not in a warm embrace, but from arm’s length—the better for artistic integrity. The Noir author might be a little jaundiced in his view of the human condition—but a jaundiced view is not necessarily unclear. There’s a lot of raw shit in the world and an honest view of it will make the stomach roll. In a sense, that’s what Noir is: humanity’s gag reflex. 

Why look at ugly raw shit at all? 

Ugliness and evil exist all around, and the Noir author performs a twofold service. 

First, everyone wonders what it would be like to be a badass. A Noir author can help alleviate the curiosity before a murder takes place. Noir save lives.

Let me give a huge hat tip to Lisa Cron for this: the Noir author helps people learn how to survive. How to not become a criminal. How to not want to be evil. How to stand up for good in a gritty godforsaken world. (To put it another way, even Noir that features a bad guy who gets away with it believes he’s standing up for good. Reduced to its nourish essence, the absurdity becomes the point.)

If you have the opportunity to read Lisa Cron’s book Wired for Story she’ll tell you that we crave stories because they teach us how to live. They give us the experience of bleeding to death without actually suffering the gunshot wound, and if you think about it, as prone as we human beings are to stupidity and violence, that’s a pretty damn good lesson to learn the easy way.

The second lesson is a little more philosophical. In this other sense, the truer, grittier, uglier the writing, the higher the integrity and the profounder the lesson.

A case in point is my novel Cold Quiet Country. I made the bad guy as evil as I could. He’s a pedophile modeled on a real life bastard I knew who hurt a lot of the women I grew up with. He died before anyone but the victims knew, so there was no killing him when his deeds came out. Naturally, I want all pedophiles to die, and the evil guy in my book has no purpose but to be as true a bastard as I could make him.

But not so I could fantasize about killing him.

Think on that for a minute and remember what Stephen King said about integrity as an author. 

How can a fiction writer have integrity? By not shrinking from the ugliness of the human experience. By portraying archetypes that are true. Meaning there isn’t a damn thing redeeming about a pedophile, and there was no way in hell anyone could have talked me into the bullshit concept that every character has to be sympathetic. Not a pedophile. 

I portray my bad guy as ugly as I saw him because there’s a lesson for humanity in the pages of Cold Quiet Country, namely, a healthy society cannot tolerate deeply sick bastards within its midst. That’s a lesson that strikes a little deeper than just warning off a future pedophile.

Art functions best when it shines a light into the dark corner a society would rather ignore.

To come full circle, think about some of the best Noir you’ve read and recall some of the fist-to-gut feelings you had reading the text. We don’t pussyfoot around evil, ugliness, brutality, or any of the sordid horseshit within the human experience. If it’s there (and it sure as hell is) we call it out. 

In fact, minimizing or explaining away evil, converting it to abstract high culture speak is a crime against future victims. When our entire society turns its back on the dark corner, no one will see what crawls out. 

You don’t have to worry that a sick bastard is going to get sicker because he reads Noir. If he’s sick, he’s sick. Instead, worry that your society has so pussified itself that evil walks free and no one gives a shit or says a fucking word.

To come full circle, stories teach us how to survive. The lesson in Noir isn’t how to survive a Mafioso holding a thirty eight to your head. That’s in Noir—it is. But the bigger lesson is how to deal with and understand the pure ugliness of some aspects of the human condition. They don’t go away when you read chick lit. 

They don’t go away when you read Noir either. But you have to believe in bad before you can believe in good, and I’ll wager Jed’s left nut that the guy who reads Noir is about the level-headedest prick you’ll ever meet, and when he finds out his grandfather is fucking his little sister, he’ll goddamn do something about it.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Peckerwood: Now Available For Kindle

So's ya knows, Peckerwood is now available for Kindle. Take a picture of yours and send it to me... I'll put it up with these. Thanks to everybody who bought it.

Jordan Harper

Steve Weddle

J. David Osborne

David James Keaton

Kristi Belcamino

Eric Beetner

Caleb J. Ross

Brian Lindenmuth

Justin Steele

Anthony Neil Smith


Ron Earl Phillips

Laura Benedict

Lori Smith Jennaway

Tom Wickersham

Dan Malmon

Glenn Gray

Sunday, December 15, 2013

2013 in Flicks: November

All is Bright - Phil Morrison - The day Dennis (Paul Giamatti) gets out of prison, he walks along cold, Canadian highways for hours before arriving home just after dark. He pauses before ringing the bell to watch his young daughter engrossed in play through the front window of his small home that looks warm on the inside before knocking on the door and introducing himself to his daughter whom he hasn't seen since she was a baby. Only, he doesn't get to knock because his wife has seen him and warns him off. She explains in written notes that she holds up to the glass for him to read that she long ago told their daughter that her father was dead. He's not welcome home, she's divorcing him and going to marry his best friend (as soon as that friend divorces his wife). It's about as perfect an opening sequence as I've seen for setting tone, establishing character and conflict with economy and grace. Giamatti's mug and posture are exactly what I want from my hang-dog fare and brother, do I want my hang-dog fare (got me all excited to see Giamatti as Hoke Moseley soon). And so, broke, on parole and without home or employment, after a much deserved punch in the nose, Dennis civilly suggests that his best friend, and former partner in crime, Rene (Paul Rudd), having taken all of his options away, perhaps owes him. Reluctantly, Rene brings Dennis in on his latest money-making venture, selling Christmas trees to New Yorkers, and we spend the rest of the movie and the better part of a month sitting in a vacant lot with these two frenemies and their sad lives. It's a great set-up and mostly pays off - excepting a handful of tonal miscues across the line either into straight-up comedy (they mostly feel like Rudd's considerable comedic improv skills indulged, or Sally Hawkins' accent running away with things) or sappy (oh man, I nearly had to mute the movie when an on-the-nose sincere song was allowed to go uncut and on and on over a montage sequence). The pair struggle with their relationship(s) and mid-life about-faces with just enough backslide to make resolution a legitimate dramatic tension. Barely qualifies really for consideration on this blog - not hardboiled, borderline comedy, only tangentially concerned with crime, but I dug it enough to mention. Best moment: That opening sequence really is masterful. Almost everything you'll need to know about the character and complexity of the conflict is there at least in seed form.

Cockfighter - Monte Hellman - Frank Mansfield, as played by Warren Oates is not a man of few words, he's a man of no words. He goes about his life as a dedicated, crafty bloodsportsman who once made a (possibly drunken, probably spontaneous and not well considered) vow of silence until he should win the coveted Cockfighter of the Year award. Along the way to that goal he'll lose everything, boil it down and start over again more than once, and every time we begin to have some admiration for the stubborn son of a bitch, he pulls something reprehensible and cruel (with a chicken, with a woman). Still, it's his determination and warped idea of honor that bring us back to his corner again and again. He thinks he loves his chickens, like he thinks he might love another human being, but it's all the same manipulation to Frank, a man for whom to win is not as important as to make every game run according to his rules.  Roger Corman famously claimed this one to be the only picture he ever produced that lost money, and I can just picture Charles Willeford (who plays a small role in the film and wrote the screenplay based upon his own novel) smiling and bragging about a statement like that. It's a dubious honor - perhaps like Cockfighter of the Year - but one that the author, like Frank, would probably use to trump every conversation he had the rest of his life. The book benefited from being narrated by our 'mute' protagonist so that we were never outside of his head, and the way that Oates communicates non-verbally in every scene is more jarring to the audience, but also more effective in driving home Frank's commitment to his lifestyle, and when you've got Oates at the center holding the screen with of Willeford and Harry Dean Stanton simultaneously, you have, my friend, a freeze frame worth uh, framing. Shit, I'd put my money on those three motherfuckers against the Expendables any day. It's funny, downbeat and downright odd, but wholly 70s-Americana the ilk I wish I could find more of. Best moment: settling a dispute, like gentlemen, about the legality of sticking one's finger up a chicken's ass.

A Company Man - Sang-yoon Lim - Remember those old Looney Tunes episodes with the dog and the wolf checking in at work, punching their time cards before assuming their assigned role as protector and predator? This flick is about the closest I've found to using that setup in a 'real-world' setup. Hyeong-do (Ji-seob So) leads a fairly ordinary existence working for a metal manufacturing company in South Korea. He wears a suit and tie, answers to a soulless bottom-line-obsessed, corporate schmuck and attends silly team meetings and luncheons with the folks in the office. Only, when he is working, he's killing people, and when the corporate suck machine wants the last of his soul, he decides he'd rather not continue down this career path. Have you ever seen a hit man movie? Then you know the plot. Killer decides not to kill, then must kill all the other killers. It's a cautious recommendation I'll give this flick because it does many things well (including the action sequences), but it's very uneven tonally - the gears grind and lurch between tragedy and comedy, realism and the fantastic - and as a whole is not terribly satisfying. Best moment: Hyeong-do tenders his resignation in person.

Graceland - Ron Morales - Ugh. Jeez, this was unpleasant. A great thriller set-up: trying to kidnap the daughter of a politician, the abductors accidentally nab the pol's chauffeur's little girl and now the driver is caught in between his boss, the police, his wife and the kidnappers - keeping a different secret for a different reason from each party pulling at him. Only this one is Grim, capital-G Grim, and the more the focus pulls back to reveal the larger picture, the less you're on anybody's side. The pacing is tight and the structure solid, but there's just so much awful contained in this unfortunate combination of social-awareness campaign and thriller that there is no happiness in the end, regardless of outcome (a less-cheery Miss Bala, perhaps). Kudos to Morales for sticking to his guns. I'd be interested in seeing another of his projects, but please not this one again. Anything but that. Best moment: the abduction really fuckin takes no prisoners - or, only takes one prisoner. It's a brutal moment that really sets the tone for the rest of the picture.

New World - Hoon-jung Park - An undercover cop working for years inside a Korean crime syndicate sees the end of his mission approach with the the filling of the power vacuum after the death of the syndicate's head. His mission is to influence the 'election' of the new head. So, the setup is kind of a mash up of gangster pictures from The Godfather to The Departed, but remember, this is contemporary Korean crime cinema - so kindly take your expectations and stick em in your ear. It's no non-stop thriller like The Chaser or The Yellow Sea and it's not the twisty-De Palma-esque fare of Oldboy or Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance, but it is distinctly other from its Hollywood counterparts. It is solid. It is brutal. It is - holy shit, did you see that? - remember what I'd said about the uniqueness of Korean crime flicks and the general absence of guns? Well, that absence pays off beautifully, amazingly, stunningly, in the climactic confrontation. It is the Best moment: The hit sequence. Holee shit. The elevator fight at the end of said hit sequence. Amazeballs.

Olympus Has Fallen - Antoine Fuqua - The USA is caught wanking in the shower during an assault on the White House and the President and his staff are held hostage by the evil other du jour while a man, a damaged man, a tortured man, a self-reliant man who loves his country, a man with a special skill set, a man with a gun roams the halls and heating ducts of Casa Blanca picking off baddies one accent at a time while the rest of the world tries to come up with a plan of action. I'm almost positive that this is an amazingly stupid movie, but I hesitate to say so outright because of this niggling suspicion in the darkest, most neglected corner of my consciousness that it might actually be a brilliant farce. The gung-ho American hero, the jingoism and paranoia, the pointless opening twenty minutes and the terrible CGI national-monument destruction, the black cases of super-duper secret weapons labled 'Advanced Top-Secret Weapons' (or some such just as hilarious horse shit) lying around in the White House attic, the plot points of Die Hard being ticked off one by one, the way the villains get the secret codes one by one every twenty minutes rather than all at once (because, y'know, drama), the mantra-like repetition of phrases like 'They'll kill the president' until the meaning has completely inverted from 'That's the absolute worst thing that could ever happen' to 'Would that really be such a large price to pay to put an end to this?', the answer given by the American turn-coat for why he'd sell-out his country - "because... globalization! ... Wall Street!" - it all just screams "this is a joke, this is a joke, this is a joke!" Surely it must be. Yeah? Here's an experiment I would reallllllly like to see: keep EVERYTHING the same in this movie, but replace Gerard Butler's ultra-sincere baddass inflections with Will Ferrell's ultra-sincere badass inflections and keep him playing it straight for the duration... I truly believe we might have the comedy hit of the decade. Best Moment: Melissa Leo recites the pledge of allegiance.

Outrage - Takeshi Kitano - Beat Takeshi's yakuza films are kinda the modern Japanese equivalent of 60s/70s/80s Clint Eastwood westerns. They're more or less interchangeable, elaborately stylized set-ups to hardboiled jokes with grim/funny punchlines and lots of pondering of the mute and iconic grizzled star's faces. Lots of squinting and grimacing. And that's not a bad thing. It's also not a great thing. It's a thing. If it's your thing, then awesome. If it's not particularly, than a little bit goes a long way. Outrage is no exception. Essentially it's a comedy of manners with lots of blood, and having seen several Takeshi yakuza pics beforehand, I spent the first half hour looking at all the regal looking Japanese gentlemen in their immaculate suits and imagining what horrors would be visited upon each of them by the film's end. Aaaaand, most of my expectations were met if not exceeded. Takeshi films are like a particularly sharp cheese that I'd not like to eat all the time, but every once in a while it's exactly what I want. That's right, cheese. Best moment: a group of yakuza tease and berate a hot-head into chopping off his finger. It's an undoubtedly funny sequence that also serves to ratchet tension for the rest of the movie by establishing two things: what an idiot he/they is/are and how dangerous too.

Pain & Gain - Michael Bay - A trio of over-muscled, dim-witted body builders hatch and unfortunately execute an illll-conceived kidnapping and extortion plan that leads to murder and (worse) betrayal and (worse yet) maybe not believing in themselves. Did you see what just happened there? While we weren't looking, Michael fucking Bay made one of my favorite crime flicks of the year, and he hid it in plain sight beneath the pumped-uppedness of Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson and the over-long, bloated tradition of his Transformers and Bad Boys franchises. No, this is not a perfect film. It is too long, and in love with itself, and it does get pulled in a half-dozen too many directions, but the meat is well worth the fat surrounding it, and mercifully, unlike a more uh, arty? treatment of the material, P&G keeps it funny and resists a pull toward third act preachiness that so many treatments of this type of fare tend toward. The cast is mostly great including Wahlberg in full Dirk Diggler dimbulb mode (so many great lines delivered via voiceover - revealing the character's bottomless well of stupid as well as his con-man's gift for sincerity - I'd buy a car from him), Tony Shalhoub in fourth asshole gear and Johnson who showed me his most complex and nuanced performance yet as a verrrrry dumb, but totally sincere ex-con with a jailhouse Christian conversion, desperate for acceptance, guilt-ridden over his trespasses and walking the line between sobriety and coke-addled with about as much success as you'd guess. This flick is funny, smart and even satirical in its excess. It ain't Fargo, but it's probably a lot closer than you'd guess. Best moment: Johnson has to kill a man he's kidnapped and whom he's befriended over weeks of captivity and bonded with over their sobriety and Jesus. I'd really like to go on about how the scene goes on and on, piling indignity upon cruelty and reaches a climax so emotionally complex and over the top awful, it may be the greatest snuff sequence of the year... taking on, The Counselor.

Pieta - Kim Ki-duk - A pitiless debt collector's work begins to suffer when his long-lost mother unexpectedly returns to his life and begs his forgiveness. The movie begins with some examples of just how awful this dude is - crippling machinists in order to collect on their insurance policies - and takes quite a while for the cracks to appear in his cold-bloodedness, but by the film's end, the relentless pursuit of his mother, this woman who subjects herself to his cruelest imagination to earn his forgiveness, has completely broken his ability to be ruthless and compromised his future. This one is almost straight-up Greek tragedy, and while pretty unpleasant for the most part, does have a hell of a climax. Best moment: the climax, which I won't spoil here.

R.I.P.D. - Robert Schwentke - Half-assedly dirty cop Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is murdered by his didn't see that coming partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Rather than finding himself in heaven or in hell, he's assigned to a purgatorial position in afterlife law enforcement for a hundred and fifty years and assigned to a new partner Roy (Jeff Bridges still playing Rooster Cogburn). Pretty much a one-joke mash-up of Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice and Men in Black, this is a marginally entertaining luke-warm, chemistry-free, unspecial effect-driven buddy cop movie. That said, it's still better than Thor: the Dark World and Ender's Game (all three of these I watched with my kids). Best moment: Anytime James Hong is on screen, especially running down the street clutching a banana.

Rumble Fish - Francis Ford Coppola - Rusty James (Matt Dillon) has some mighty big shoes to fill as leader of his high school gang. The legend of his older brother Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke) looms over the streets of Tulsa and he longs to prove himself in streetfighting in order to emerge from his brother's shadow and live up to his un-formed masculine ideals. That's pretty much it. Y'know when critics say 'style over substance' like it's a bad thing? Well, usually it is, but Rumble Fish is a glaring exception to that rule (in fact Coppola's Dracula may be as well... hell, maybe Apocalypse Now belongs on this list too). Back in 83 Coppola made two adaptations of S.E. Hinton novels, and while The Outsiders was the bigger hit, it's Rumble Fish that bears endless re-watching so well. It's all mood. The gorgeous black and white photography and gorgeous cast help, but the mood (the film) lives inside the the sounds - the incessant voice over and the feverish score by Stewart Copeland cast a spell to compete with anything Terrence Malick could conjure. It's a flick I revisit periodically and enjoy more with each return. Best moment: the opening scene with Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits, Chris Penn and Nicolas Cage in a diner discussing whether or not they're going to show up for a fight that night.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


From the pages of Peckerwood:

This book would not exist without all the encouragement and ass slapping I received from my earliest supporters, editors and publishers: Cameron Ashley, Greg Bardsley, Laura & Pinckney Benedict, Frank Bill, Paul D. Brazill, David Cranmer, Peter Dragovich, Kent Gowran, Glenn G Gray, Jordan Harper, Brian Lindenmuth, Matthew Louis, Keith Rawson, Todd Robinson, Kieran Shea, Anthony Neil Smith, Steve Weddle. Thank you.

Scott Phillips, thank you.

Thanks also to the Noir at the Bar community, especially Rod & Judy – you guys rock.

Just thought I'd make that public...

And thanks to Sean Doolittle, Dennis Tafoya and Benjamin Whitmer for the blurbiness as well as Pearce Hansen and Clayton Lindemuth for saying nice things publicly about it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Period Peace

Haven't seen Frank Darabont's Mob City yet, so I'm trying not to pass judgement, but the advance word has not been encouraging. Dammit. I'd reallllly like for it to be a winner. There's nothing like well-done period crime shit to curl my toes, but it's a damn hard thing to pull off because of all the beloved stuff from the (pick your) era. Those influential books, films, serials that had such a nuanced contemporary language that's since become part of a pop-cultural short-hand that's become a cliche that invites you to attach to the tail of a string of tropes that more often than not will be birthed to you a certified sack of Grade-A horseshit. Soooo... Until I do see Mob City, I will refrain from judgement (hey, I did the same for Gangster Squad) and hold out hope, but shit... I hate to hear the initial tidings (regardless, someday I will read the source material, L.A. Noir by John Buntin). Still, this has been a year of really digging the critical pariahs (Only God Forgives, The Counselor and even Pain & Gain straight from the glossy, schlock-chute of Michael Bay are in strong contention for my favorites of the year).

What else is on my radar for new, soon and recent period crime shit ('specially now that Megan Abbott and Ace Atkins are doing contemporary pieces)? How about the bomb dropped by James Ellroy that he's writing a second L.A. Quartet? Yeah, you're right, it'll probably take a decade for the first one to arrive, so meantime theres... hmmm... what's this Sugar Pop Moon by John Florio? You checked it out? How about The Kept Girl by Kim Cooper (plus there's this)? Or... or The Tilted World by Tom Franklin & Beth Ann Fennelly? That sounds like a winner (check out their interview with Stephen Usery on the Mysterypod podcast).

Well - how 'bout the Bonnie & Clyde from A&E, The History Channel and Lifetime (nevermind, I think I just answered my own question)? Okay, what about Mitch Glazer'Magic City on Starz? Anyone seen it? Bueller? How 'bout True Detective debuting in January on HBO? Yeah, I'm not sure exactly what period it is (trailer I saw looks like it spans a couple decades - maybe 70's and 80's?), but with the track record of Boardwalk Empire and Galveston (the novel from the show's creator Nic Pizzolatto) I'm so on board. 

And movies? I'm holding out for the James Gray double bill of The Immigrant (which he wrote and directed) and Guillaume Canet's Blood Ties (which Gray shares a screenwriting credit on).

Friday, December 6, 2013

An Event Which Will Live in Infamy!

Tonight kids. Tonight will be legend. Be at Meshuggah Cafe at 7pm for an evening with some of the most exciting voices in criminal fictions...

Scott Phillips the author of Rake

Ande Parks the author of Capote in Kansas

J. David Osborne the author of Low Down Death Right Easy

Jake Hinkson the author of Saint Homicide

William Boyle the author of Gravesend

and I'll read a bit from my new one, Peckerwood

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Sabotage - d: David Ayer w: David Ayer, Skip Woods

Bastards - d: Claire Denis w: Jean-Pol Fargeau, Claire Denis

The Immigrant - d: James Gray w: James Gray, Ric Menello

The Raid 2: Berandal - w/d: Gareth Evans

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Peckerwood Has Arrived

Hey, Peckerwood is out now. Lemme introduce you to my novel. Here's the jacket copy...

Assault, armed robbery, and the occasional blackmail: life is pretty damn good for Terry Hickerson. He's got a dog, a best friend, enough cash to get him drunk, and a teenaged son to carry him home. Sure he's a constant pain in the local law's ass, but Sheriff Jimmy Mondale's got enough to worry about, what with his estranged daughter on a tear, and the District Attorney being onto his partnership with local ex-biker, meth kingpin, and tackle shop owner Chowder Thompson. When tragedy hits their small town of Spruce, Missouri, Terry's peckerwood bullshit will push the three of them into a volatile whirlwind complete with bullets, bodies, and broken bones.


“Peckerwood is intensely original and harrowing country noir. Ayres delivers sharp-edged prose that lands like a knife under the ribs.” – Dennis Tafoya

“A masterpiece of dirty, down-low rural noir. Read it and sink a little further into the muck.” – Scott Phillips

“Some people find comfort in religion, booze, sex, drugs. I don’t judge. But I find comfort in Jedidiah Ayres.” – Benjamin Whitmer

“Jedidiah Ayres combines a crooked world view and a dark turn of mind with a genuine, increasingly rare pulse of hu- manity to create stories that stand apart.” – Sean Doolittle

“One of the most innovative crime fiction writers currently on the scene.” – LitReactor

Buy it, if you're inclined to, from...

Subterranean Books (or your favorite indy store)


Barnes & Noble

Good, now buy it again.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

17 Shades of Gray

I knew I really liked the work of Glenn Gray. I was introduced to his stuff as it was published alongside my own pieces going back about five years, and I found his to be an exciting and disgusting voice in crimey/horrory fiction. I'd read most of the stories included in his collection The Little Boy Inside before the book came out, but nothing, not reading any one or three or five of them spread out over time, not meeting him in person or having a few close encounters of GGG kind, could prepare me for the impact of reading his collected work. I didn't realize just how sharp and precise a thing it is that he's got going for him until it was in front of me bound as a singular work.

Every story informs and bolsters the others and the swings from horrific to hilarious and heartbreaking are astonishing. Thematically, they resonate clearly and in spooky harmony. Dude's scope goes way past crime fiction, horror or shock. It's got heart. It's got brains. It's got balls.

And it's got shit. Lots of shit and bile and blood and about fifty shades of mucous. I once heard Glenn call his stuff 'medical thrillers' when asked by a publisher what he wrote. Don't worry, I slapped him hard right there and jumped in. I told that fucking middle of the road publisher that he couldn't handle Glenn, that what he was picturing when Glenn (hopefully fucking with him, right buddy?) told him he wrote 'medical thrillers' was not going to be anywhere near the reality of the delivered goods. The guy seemed intrigued, but I told him to go back to his Robin Cook and Michael Palmer stuff and call back if he digs Josh Bazell and David Cronenberg, but otherwise, hit the road.

So, I like to think that I single-handedly kept Glenn from a lucrative publishing deal with McBland & Dull. You're welcome, man.

But hey, that's where Stona Fitch and The Concord ePress stepped in. If you read this blog and you've never read Glenn Gray, you're depriving yourself of a memorable and unique reading experience. And even if you've read the good doctor in pieces, you owe it to yourself to read them collected and in stereo. Even long-time fans will be surprised at where this book takes them (there are several brand new stories included here - just wait). It'll blow your mind. Not just your chunks.

Which it will, definitely.

It's gross, but it's so much more than that. It's ornately gross. It's deliciously disturbing. There's a special skill set that Gray possesses to bring the most awful experiences of the human body to life in a way that goes beneath the flesh to the psyche and flicks your primal-fear bean like nothing. Extremes, yes, but with sleights of phrasing and a keen intuition which he applies for maximum wallop and lingering after-tastes that are sweet, sour and melancholic.

Did I mention that this edition is also illustrated? Beautifully, eerily, hauntingly illustrated by artist Stephen Fredette who has framed each story with images that suggest and tease and draw out the connections contained therein. The knee bone's connected to the thigh bone.

(Check out this episode of Booked where they discuss The Little Boy Inside)

Monday, November 18, 2013

My Epic 3-Week(end) Promotional Tour For Peckerwood, the Book You Can Not Yet Buy!

Sheesh, what a fucking blast the last three weeks have been. You may think me foolish to embark on a book tour without a book, but that's how I roll. Though my novel Peckerwood was not yet available to purchase, it sure as shit was okay to talk about, which, come to think of it, may have been a good idea. I probably mentioned it once or twice on my journeys, but, truth be told, I was mostly having too good a time to exercise my considerable self-promotion muscles. So now let the self-serving begin.

First stop on the Noirvember to Remember tour was Minneapolis for N@B-TC where I finally touched hairy palms with Viscosity director Paul von Stoetzel. The event on Saturday night was a special unveiling of the teaser trailer Paul shot for his upcoming feature adaptation of Anthony Neil Smith's Hogdoggin' (and here is said trailer) and I was pleased to be introduced to producers Bridget Cronin and Chris Bueckers (who popped up as a character in Dennis Tafoya's new one, The Poor Boy's Game - yeah, I read it, yeah, kiss my ass, world) as well as the stars (wrestlers!) Scott Brault and Rob Ivy, N@B-TC community members (the lovely) Kristi Belcamino, (the robust) Dan Malmon and my hero (the handsome) Peter Dragovich, aka The Nerd of Noir.

John Kenyon kicked off the evening with his friggin frig-fest of a fracked-up story Cut (the titular uh, cut from his collection The First Cut and previously published in Blood, Guts & Whiskey). Paul turned to me later that evening and said, 'I love that story. I've read it before.' Yes, Paul's literacy was a surprise to me too, but not his taste, or lack of, friends, he likes the good/bad shit. (Perhaps the fact that I'm deducing literacy from 'reading' Thuglit is an event worth pondering - now, if the rag determining literacy's threshold was say... Grift, I'd be a little more comfortable.)

I followed Kenyon with my first public reading of my short story Hoosier Daddy. Have you, perhaps, read this story yourself? It's a tad... gross. How gross, exactly? Well, I'm pleased to report that it (or me) warranted walkouts from some in the crowd. This, this is a badge of honor, kids. I've been trying like hell for nearly five years of N@B events to do this, and it's finally happened. Thank you, Minnesota Nice for acknowledging my Missouri Norm.

Next up Anthony Neil Smith read the scene from Hogdoggin' that the teaser trailer focuses on. Billy Lafitte waking up in considerable discomfort in a dirty room while his captors argue over what to do with him now that one really went too far. A bit of an overreaction the fallout in flesh Billy discovers while they converse. You know the one. If you don't, you should. In fact, you should read all the Lafitte books pronto.
Neil Smith and Big Petey D.

More notable events of my time in Minneapolis - I met the inspirations for several of my, um, fictions on the set of a locally produced film. First up, my earliest and arguably deepest celebrity crush Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert whom I had the opportunity to discuss crime fiction with briefly and inadvertently insult one of her good friends, and whom apparently doesn't wear pig tails any more... sigh. Still mighty purty, though.

Add a, less eventful than I always imagined it would be, brief encounter with Jeannie herself, Barbara Eden, from I Dream of Jeannie, and you've taken a big step toward fulfilling my life goals. Next up on my wish list of dream encounters: Erin Gray, Lynda Carter, Ann-Margret and (I understand you'll have to work up some serious time-travel mojo here, but it's my fantasy, okay?) Elizabeth Montgomery.

Minneapolis tales do not end there though. Sunday night Paul took me to the Twin Cities Horror Festival where a one act play he directed was debuting. Trust and Obey, written by Tim Uren and inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's The Temple, and Stephen King-Hall's Diary of a U-Boat-Commander. Good shit, that. Minimal sets and maximal actoring from the cast (which included Shad Cooper of Viscosity infamy) cast a haunty atmosphere that would surely agitate even your below-average claustrophobe.

The next day I sat in the airport for several hours after being bumped from my flight home in the company of some damn good books. In fact, my extended layover gave me the opportunity to read Dennis Tafoya's The Poor Boy's Game off my computer machine - a rare feat, tho one I was all too happy to attempt (and accomplish!) for this book. Hot damn, more on this book in later posts.
With Tim Hennessy, Frank Bill and Frank Wheeler Jr.
Noir Trek continued the next weekend at Murder & Mayhem in Muskego just outside of Milwaukee, where I joined twenty-some authors of criminal fictions in a weekend of copious consumptions, ego-polishing and general jackassery in the name of the Crimespree family and Jon and Ruth Jordan in particular.

My first trip to Castle Crimespree commenced with the chauffeur stylings of (Dreamy-Eyes) Tim Hennessy and an amazing Milwaukee lunch with Tim and Harry Hunsicker where we discussed, among other things, the advisability of funding your fetish-purposed amputation by robbing liquor stores. Afterward I got the castle tour and imbibed more of Milwaukee's best (not Milwaukee's Best) and an introduction to more swell people as well caught up with N@B pals Dan O'Shea, Sean Doolittle, Frank Bill, Frank Wheeler Jr., Duane Swierczynski and Hilary Davidson.

Saturday I took part (a small part) in a panel Tim ruled over and got my name said in the company of Frank & Frank, Megan Abbott, Reed Farrel Coleman and Hilary. It was fun. I spent the rest of the daytime hours chatting with great folks and signing books (when I was pretending to be Marcus Sakey or Greg Hurwitz - hahahahaha good luck selling THOSE on eBay, ladies!), and that evening doing more of the same.
Good times and conversations especially with Kieran Shea, Chris F. Holm, Frank and Marie, Frank and Jenn, Tim and Carrie, Rod and Judy, Dan and Kate, Mike and Tess, Alex Segura, Jen Jordan, Dave Wahlman, Jeremy Lynch as well as a special quick chat with Benjamin LeRoy.

And keeping with the Minneapolis streak of random celebrity encounters, I shared an awkward moment with Danny Trejo in a Milwaukee bar. Put a fork in me.

See, I'm not done.

Next up on the Noir is Hell tour was Indianapolis for the inaugural N@B-Indy at Fountain Square Brewing Company - and man, did I have some awesome beers there. This one was a blast. Clayton Lindemuth kicked off the evening with a reading from Cold, Quiet Country. You need to read this book, kids. Pick it up now so you'll be ready for his next novel The Eyes of the Wicked Shall Fail next year.

Next up, James Ward Kirk sidestepped straight-up crime fiction with the horror-tinged selection from his considerable catalog of scary shit. Robb Olson and Livius Nedin from Booked were onhand clandestinely recording all this shit and have just put the first of four episodes chronicling the event on the web. Episode one is here featuring Clayton and James.

Next up, I ripped the microphone straight out of the stand and read an excerpt from Peckerwood previously published in Thuglit as 1998 Was a Bad Year and currently available in my collection A F*ckload of Shorts. Sean Leonard, who was in attendance, told me that he was reading Peckerwood currently and I cut out a couple of spoilers just for him, though, I think he was plenty pissed at me anyway. Sorry, man, characters die.

Immediately afterward I got to introduce our host for the evening, and the guy who made it all happen, CJ Edwards. He read his story in English even though its first publication was in Russian (in a Ukrainian issue of Esquire magazine, no less). I understand that it'll finally be published in English in the next issue of Plots With Guns, and of course you'll be able to hear it on Booked sometime this week, but let me just say that the description of the K-9 unit chomping into the dude in the bathtub... made an impression.

As is wont to happen every time these guys share a bill, David James Keaton followed Officer Edwards with a cop-baiting selection from his collection Fish Bites Cop. Did I brag yet about having written the introduction to this book? Well, I did and you can't take that away from me. If you've never read Nine Cops Killed For a Goldfish Cracker, do so now - it'd make Ice-T blush.

After Keaton, because we made Keaton follow him in St. Louis, Les Edgerton brought some serious weight to the proceedings with his story The Mockingbird Cafe from his collection Monday's Meal. I see that New Pulp Press is releasing Edgerton's The Bitch in paperback early next year. You, my friends, should put your hands all over that one as soon as you can.

And closing out the evening, mopping up all the spilled class and toasting crass with a goblet of fire, Scott Phillips brought it all down with a tasty, tasteless passage from Rake - reminding us all that nobody crosses lines like our hero.

Afterward I grabbed fish tacos and black beans (not metaphors) with Robb, Livius and Scott before driving home with the spectral image of Caleb J. Ross leering at me from the passenger seat like Lawrence Tierney in The Devil Thumbs a Ride (don't ask me, ask him how he got there). I drove through some pretty severe weather, pulled over around one in the morning to nap in the parking lot of a Best Western, and arrived home just after four in the morning. Kind of a blast. I want to go again.

So that's my story. I will let you know when Peckerwood is available and get you stoked for N@B-STL on December 7th with William Boyle, Jake Hinkson, J. David Osborne, Ande Parks, senor Phillips and myself. It's gonna be huge.