CriMemoir series today. Remember, these are your personal experiences with crime as a perp, victim, bystander or just as a tangential impression. It's Crime, it's Memoir - it's CriMemoir - see what I did there? Shayne Youngblood shares a nerve-rattling night he spent in Rio de Janeiro. For some reason this piece reminded me of a Paul D. Brazill bit about hiding from drunken sexual rivals in an industrial oven... I'm pretty sure that happened, but you'd better ask Paul.
The Crime in the Marvelous City
If you mentioned Rio de Janeiro to an average Joe, he would think of four things: year-round sunshine, sandy beaches, stunning beauties on every corner— and violent, narco gang-driven crime combined with corrupted politicians that have been destroying this tropical paradise’s image for years. Okay, that’s more than four things, but whatever. Don’t buy into this stereotype. It’s not true. You simply don’t have stunning beauties on every corner of Rio de Janeiro. For reasons of a dubious financial nature, I lived in Rio de Janeiro favelas for almost three years. I had the unpleasant opportunity to see narco-bosses walking around with guns visibly tucked behind their waistbands, trailed by 17-year-old bodyguards toting assault rifles. The favela narco racket is an extremely well-organized business. The favela residents don’t feel threatened by the narco-boss or his army. They think of him as their protector and benefactor—which he is.
If you find yourself in a favela, there are two rules to follow if you want to stay alive: Rule #1 – If you have a problem, don’t call the police. Rule #2 – If you are thinking of calling the police, check Rule # 1. My neighbor once had a problem with her landlord. One day, he came into her room with an indecent proposal: she could stay for free in exchange for certain “services.” She moved out immediately, but the landlord decided to keep the deposit money she’d given him. She went to the favela boss and told him what happened. The boss sent his guys. The guys had a chat with the landlord. He offered his side of the story, claiming that the girl willingly left the deposit. The landlord returned the money the following day. He would probably have apologized, if he could’ve spoken. His broken jaw was wired. The most dangerous moment in the favela is the police raid. People get killed by stray bullets, just like they do when two gangs fight for supremacy. That usually occurs when the favela boss is caught, killed, or arrested. Then a rival gang tries to exploit the sudden crack in the armor of the previously undisputed rulers of the favela. The favela residents don’t like the police. They don’t trust them. They might not like the favela boss, but they trust him. If you are a gringo, your life is perilous until the residents get to know you. Once nobody thinks you work for the cops, you can be pretty safe—at least, safe for favela standards. After FIFA forced the government to increase security in the city leading up to the World Cup the police invaded favelas and set up UPPs (Unidade Policia Pacificadora – Police Pacifying Units); some of the favelas in the South Zone— the rich part of the city—even became tourist attractions. The North Zone favelas? Don’t go there. Why? You can disappear.
Have you noticed in crime movies someone is always struggling to dispose of a dead body? A body is evidence, right? No body, no evidence. For narco-gangs that operate in favelas, that problem doesn’t exist. Favelas are pockets in the city, with laws of their own. The favelas are filled with labyrinths of steep gangways between shack houses built on top of one another, usually on a slope of a hill, where nobody can find you. You could be shot down in broad daylight in the main favela street, in front of many people, and nobody would see it. Nobody would lift a finger. Nobody would call the cops. It’s a separated, isolated universe where normal laws don’t exist.
Dope dealers prefer to dispose of a body by forcing car tires over a living victim. They soak him in gasoline—and light him up. Burning tires kill the smell of burning human flash. They wait until the body has cooled before they remove the teeth. No dental identification. A man disappears like he’d never existed. Remember my neighbor from the beginning of the story? Well, after she moved away from the nasty landlord and rented a little house at the top of the favela, we became roommates. I was struggling with money, and I appreciated sharing the rent.
The very first night, we had an argument. She had the temper of a wild cat. When she saw red, she lost control of herself. Total blackout. Afterward, she was always sorry, but that hardly helped in the moment. That night, the argument escalated and reached the blackout point very quickly. She screamed and threw things at me. Then she picked up the phone and called somebody. She talked for a minute in a fast Portuguese slang which I couldn’t decipher. When she hung up, I thought she might’ve calmed down. I was wrong.
“Who’d you call?” I said.
“I called the boss. He’s sending the guys over to throw you out. They’re coming. I don’t wanna see your face again.”
The guys? Fuck. I froze. I need to get outta the favela RIGHT NOW. Before I could move, she grabbed my still-unpacked suitcase and threw it out, swearing and screaming. The suitcase hit the sandbag below the wooden stairs in front of our shack and sprang open. Luckily, nothing spilled out. I ran out, picked up the suitcase, and closed it. I stared into the darkness, trying to figure out which way “the guys” might’ve been coming. No way of figuring that out, so I took one of the gangways down, clutching the suitcase in my arms. The suitcase weighed me down, but it held everything I had. I ain’t leaving the damn suitcase. I crushed it against my chest, making it hard to breathe as my footsteps rattled against the gangways. I felt eyes watching me from the darkness. I knew what they were thinking: why the hell is this gringo leaving in such a hurry in the middle of the night? Dark, narrow alleyways, all looked the same. I slipped, tumbled, dropped the suitcase. Picked it up, continued. Shouts, footsteps behind me. The guys. I ran faster, sweating in cascades, panting. Shadows in front of me. I turned left. Another gangway. Right. Left. Right. Out of here.
I broke into a little praça (square). People were gathered there, blocking my way. I ran into them, using my suitcase as a battering ram to clear the way. The road in front of the favela. Cars, busses, passing by. I reached the bus stop. Sighed with relief. I made it. Then I spotted two men coming out of the favela, heading my way. Fuck. I looked left, right. No busses, cars. The bus stop deserted. Not a sign of a living soul. Just the two men coming my way, staring at me. My stomach tied into a knot. Shoulda left the fuckin’ suitcase. The damn thing slowed me down. A bus came out of a curve at high speed, screeched to a halt right in front of me. The door opened with a hiss even before the tires stopped rolling. I threw the suitcase inside, jumped onboard. “Step on it!” I yelled at the driver. I looked through the window. The guys started running. Fifty yards. Closing fast. I shouted at the driver. The door closed. The bus started gaining speed. The men reached the bus, slamming the back door with their open palms, yelling. The driver looked at me, his eyes wide open. I caught the reflection of myself in the rearview mirror. I looked like a lunatic. Sweat dripped down my face in cascades. Bulging eyes, scruffy clothes. The bus sped away, leaving the two men behind. I paid my fare and collapsed into a seat at the back of the almost empty bus. I put my suitcase in front of me, looked through the window. The first rays of the rising sun were gleaming over the ocean.
A Man From Rio available now.
Monday, April 28, 2014
Thursday, April 24, 2014
I jest, I jest. I'm really looking forward to seeing everybody at the Loman C. Trover Library including fucking Tim L. Williams whose work I first fell for in that fateful first issue of Murdaland magazine (and have gone on to encounter in Plots With Guns, Best American Mystery Stories -twice- Ellery Queen and other places too good for me). Who else? Howsabout Jessica Leonard of Books & Booze podcast (who were snookered into having me on once upon a time), Sean Leonard whose name y'all prolly know from Horrornews.net (here're some words he wrote 'bout Craig Wallwork's Gory Hole)? Mmmm, any possibility we'll see other KY folks like David James Keaton, Kirby Gann or Ryan David Jahn? Uh... I doubt it, but if I promise you they'll be there, would you be more likely to show up? Okay then, yes they will. And there will be punch and pie. And Boyd Crowder. And Ava. And we're gonna find Devil's remains and have a proper burial. Just... just show up, huh?
Hmmm, it occurs to me that one of the chief forces behind Mosquito Kingdom, the ultra-low-budget crime film I had a hand in some years ago now hangs his spurs in the bluegrass state... I wonder if there'll be a sighting of that cat? Y'know, from the look of the teaser trailer for his latest film West of Ventura, I'd say he's stepped up his game. Damn.
Can't make Madisonville? Fuck it, try and find us Saturday roaming the streets of Memphis looking for Marc Cohn with... well, let's not make it easy to prove intent, huh? Seriously tho, who's gonna be in Memphis this weekend? Let's do it. I'm looking forward to pressing flesh with Stephen Usery of Book Talk and the MysteryPod podcast. Aaaaand not to count my unhatched breakfast, but there's one more dude I've heard rumors will be around town whose peaceful weekend getaway I'm looking forward to ruining. Hunting you down, man (his new book is badass).
Gonna be fun. Hope you'll be there. If the weather's good enough to drive with the windows down, you can find me by the sounds of the weekend odyssey's theme song...
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
"Where do you get your ideas?"
"What's your writing process like?"
"What did you think of the movie version of your book?" also/or "Who would you like to see cast in the movie version of your book?"
It's painful to watch. The author carries that tension in their posture the whole night waiting for those moments and then slumps a bit with resignation when he/she answers the questions like the domesticated animal we've come to expect authors to be.
So, be warned or you may turn your favorite author into something more like -
Today at HBW Spanish scribe Javier Márquez Sánchez gets ahead of the game and gives a thoughtful answer to your question before he can get sick of answering it. So, please, if you plan to attend an event featuring Mr. Sánchez refer here before you ask about his...
Reasons to Write
A guest post by Javier Márquez Sánchez
In my case, the reason which led me to write for the first time was to live the story I wanted to write. I don't remember exactly how old I was then, perhaps eight or nine. I do remember where I was though: in my grandfather's house , and I used his typewriter. In the following years I started a hundred stories more. Few of them barely passed the first few pages, because my imagination ran faster than my fingers. And once I had lived all the adventures in my head, I had no need to continue typing.
Later, in my teens, without losing the desire to live other lives through my writing, I discovered the need to communicate, or rather, to express myself. I had some feelings, some reflections that I could share through the stories I was writing. But then came another problem new writers face: Who is going to be interested in what I can tell? Do I really think I have anything to say that might interest others? Gradually you are going to realize that nothing really matters. When you sit down to write you should only have the desire to enjoy. If you are honest with yourself when you write, if you enjoy what you're doing, the result will be compelling and of interest to many people.
And if not, no one can take away from you all those hours you've let your imagination run wild and enjoyed the incredible power of being able to live other lives. After all, a writer is just the Almighty God of his own world: he creates, shapes and destroys at will.
is out now from 280 Steps. Combining real history and fiction, it tells the story of a problem solver in 1950s Las Vegas, when men were men, women were women and the Mafia and the Rat Pack ruled Sin City.
Friday, April 18, 2014
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Night Moves - d: Kelly Reichardt w: Jonathan Raymond, Kelly Reichardt
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Today's post is a guest piece by 280 Steps author Preston Lang.
Mister Lang, you have the floor...
It was hard for me to watch. Was it up to me to say, Ma’am, Stieg Larsson is dead; this man is an imposter? Was I supposed to report him to some kind of hard boiled writers’ ethics committee? Should I have hacked into his bank account to divest him of his kronor? Was it my responsibility to sodomize him for victimizing women?
I stayed out of it. I’m not that kind of subway vigilante.
No jeweler would ever give the combination to his safe to anyone over the phone.
It’s impossible for a mother to be indifferent towards her daughter.
A monkey cannot commit suicide.
You can’t shoot up heroin and then go on a successful job interview.
In a modern hospital, twins could never be accidentally separated.
It’s not possible to be moral without belief in God.
A guilty man never looks his accuser in the eyes.
No Harvard graduate would ever confuse illusion and allusion.
You can’t pick up women on the subway by pretending to be Stieg Larsson (or Dick Cavett.)
You cannot unwittingly marry your mom.
Some of these may be unlikely, but I have strong evidence that suggests they’ve all occurred. We do improbable things, stupid things, irrational things, amazing and transcendent things.
My first published novel, The Carrier, is not particularly improbable. A drug courier gets held up by a sultry-voiced thief. That happens.
And for those interested in monkey suicide, I’ll end with one of the most amazing paragraphs I’ve ever read. From June Cordell, former member of the People’s Temple:
Thanks for having me at hardboiled wonderland.
The Carrier, out now from 280 Steps, is his first published crime novel.
Monday, April 7, 2014
If you're looking for shit to do in Milwaukee, big surprise, Jon & Ruth Jordan have got you covered. In the wake of Murder & Mayhem in Muskego's decision to get rid of the body, or at least chop it up and spread it around, comes the announcement of a new Midwest institution bound to incite riots - N@B-Milwaukee (or Noir at the Cantina-if you will). And who better to help legitimize the chapter and scandalize the innocent bystanders in the cantina than N@B alum Hilary Davidson and Frank Wheeler Jr.? Well, howsabout Bryon Quertermous, Matthew Clemens, Rob Riley and the amazing Ruth Jordan herself? 'Bout covers it. Look and book for this, May 17 at Cafe La Paloma.
Pretty swell company. Thanks, Ian.
Been a year already heavy with guest posts at HBW and some more quality stuff on the way soon, so stay tuned.
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Sometimes I create soundtracks to screenplays/stories/novels I'm writing and go back to them to channel the tone I'm after... Here's one I've been thinking on (television show)...
Gillian Welch - One Monkey
Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs - No Help Coming
Tom Waits - Long Way Home
The Seventy Sevens - God Sends Quails
Bob Dylan - Every Grain of Sand
Sam Phillips - Go Down
Neko Case - Knock Loud
Leonard Cohen - The Captain
Steve Earle - Over Yonder