Thursday, August 14, 2014

What a Week

What a fucking week. My home town of St. Louis has been in the national and even international spotlight since the Saturday shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, by an unidentified police officer. Fuck. Shit's gone sideways folks. Praying for a better outcome to the escalation of violence and lopsided disbursement of constitutional protections than we've seen historically. It's been a little strange seeing folks that I know and interact with regularly on national news programs and being quoted in major media outlets, but I'd like to publicly thank a few of them for their up front and behind the scenes work for peace and justice in this tragic situation, especially Maria Chappelle-Nadal and Umar Lee. Thank you.

And it has me thinking... could it all be some rogue publicist tackling his job promoting David James Keaton's Fish Bites Cop: Stories to Bash Authorities with a bit too much psychotic enthusiasm? I had the privilege of penning an introduction for that sucker and got a bit carried away (as one is bound to reading Keaton) saying things like "... in a world where Keaton wins: Chaos reigns. Authority crumbles. The emperor's clothing is publicly proclaimed to be, and is demonstrably, non-existent. But that's not the end of it. Not by a long shot. Then the fat fuck is forced to grind his ass on a brass pole for his supper. And, of course, you have to watch. Further, after the ghastly, lewd performance you will fork over his due. And the farce continues." So if this has been some kind of publicity stunt dreamed up to sell a few more copies of a satirical collection of fiction, I shudder at the thought of what we can expect to happen when The Last Projector drops this fall (pre-order that shit right here).

The place I'll be, along with Keaton, when that happens? Philadelphia - Noircon. I'll be there with some fellow Broken River Books brethren like Anthony Neil Smith, J. David Osborne and Michael Kazepis. But this information should not deter you from attending. Lou Boxer puts on a helluva party for folks of our ilk and it's all ilk and folk and hell for three days. See you there.

Know where else I'll be? Second Story in Indianapolis September 13th alongside Kyle Minor and Adam Fleming Petty as we join Eric Shonkwiler's big-ass book tour in support of Above All Men. Check out the other dates for Shonkwiler's tour here and see the other great talent who'll be showing up to be part of it. Also, keep checking Hardboiled Wonderland for more details on the upcoming N@B-NWA hosted by Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas on October 2nd. Nightbird is a great store (you can even purchase Peckerwood right off their shelves!) and they're putting on a terrific event with myself, Scott Phillips, Jake Hinkson and John Hornor Jacobs. Stay tuned for more on that, then come on by and say 'hi'.

But back to the week we've just had, this fucking week, man. We lost the company of the woman with more sultry sex-power in her gaze than is legal in 48 states. Let's put it this way, if looks could kill, there'd be a buncha paunchy, pasty white folk open-carrying her likeness at Target stores and Chipotle restaurants across the country scaring the hell out of the rest of us. Lauren Bacall, star of HBW favorites Key Largo, Dark Passage, To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, died on Tuesday. Married to her frequent co-star Humphrey Bogart, I can't think of a better presence to bounce his ugly mug off of and she held her own against his screen presence, the two of them bolstering the other's performance and command of our attentions, affections and admiration. Not a lot of work in the last decade, but she showed up in Paul Schrader's The Walker and she stole a great episode of The Sopranos as herself getting mugged and punched in the face by Michael Imperioli. Classy lady.

Sunday we lost a funny man, and though he'll be remembered most for his unhinged comedic persona, the stillness in Robin Williams' subdued performance in One Hour Photo was chilling enough to earn an HBW fond farewell. There was a darkness lurking under the surface of many of his funnier film appearances too (Cadillac Man, The Fisher King, World's Greatest Dad, Death to Smoochy - not to mention the creepiest -tho probably unintentionally- Toys - come to mind). Sorry to see you go, sir. I don't want to pretend that I know what was going on in the man's heart and mind, but I'd like to say that if you have never objectively considered the option of suicide... I'm just not sure I can ever fully understand you. Pain, man. It gets painful. If you have, I'm glad you rejected it, but if you're present enough in your own life, I'm guessing it's come up for you. It has for me.

Since backward is the direction for a happy ending to this week's recap, Saturday I had the opportunity to spend the afternoon with Paul von Stoetzel (director of Snuff, Viscosity, and someday soon Hogdoggin') at local breweries talking about films and books and a whole lotta you good guys and gals. We talked too about Your Blind Spot, his new short film from an original screenplay by Frank Wheeler Jr. Pretty friggin excited to see it. The timing ought to be good for cross-promoting the film and Frank's terrific new book The Good Life. Get it. And keep a lookout for the film, you know I'll be all over it when it's viewable somewheres.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

2014 in Books: The First Half

Beautiful Naked & Dead - Josh Stallings - Moses McGuire is a burnt-out strip-club bouncer contemplating offing himself when one of the girls whose protection he takes as a serious vocation is murdered. Suddenly suicide can wait. Hey kids, it's a missing girl in LA, PI novel and I'm recommending it. How can that be? Well, it's by Josh Stallings, that's how. Dude breathes gravity into every word. His stories are familiar from decades of crime story consumption, but his characters walk, talk and bleed with an authority earned God knows how, but it must've been unpleasant. Fiction sun-fried hard on a death-valley stone.

City of Glass - Paul Auster, Paul Karasik, David Mazzucchelli -
A funny book adaptation of an intellectual detective novel by Auster. Why'd I pick it up? Uh... um... Curiosity and the added attraction of being able to ingest it in a couple hours rather than the days, weeks, months it would've taken me to finish the original novel. Dude's smart, I get it. He's read and can deconstruct genre fiction as well as many tomes of history, philosophy, religion, poetry and linguistics. Can he impress all of this upon me subliminally while entertaining me with an engrossing story? I don't know. It didn't happen here. Aside from the occasional, reluctant nod of ascent to the depth and breadth of his cleverness, I just didn't give a shit. Not the first Auster I've read. Maybe not the last, but I've yet to be converted to the cult.

Criminal: Bad Night - Ed Brubaker, Sean Phillips - If you haven't read the Brubaker/Phillips Criminal series, you're only depriving yourself of the sublime. For crime fans like myself, these books provide a state approaching sexual excitement. They are a full immersion in an alternate and timeless universe where the tropes still seem fresh and immediate as well as inevitable. The Criminal series stands alongside the canon of films and books that inspired it at once fan and peer, encompassing all the lurid thrills the casual consumer looks for as well as the heartbreak and human tragedy that the truly hooked crave.

Cry Father - Benjamin Whitmer - Not as easily pegged as a crime novel, but certainly of a piece with Whitmer's debut Pike in its chronicling (as opposed to an inspection) of a broken and particularly American strand of masculinity spinning its sad, unnoticed wheels on the outskirts of a civilization that wants it to just go away quietly. Patterson Wells is dutifully running away from everything left that he loves (an ex-wife and home), as if he could make enough psychic distance to protect anything worth protecting when his inevitable self-destruction comes. While he waits out his terminus he does dangerous work with a chainsaw, interferes with the wrong tweaker's plans, goes on drunks, gets in fights, writes letters to his dead son, listens to bizarre pirate radio and digs a shallow grave. Themes man, themes are what drives this one as Patterson meets his equal and opposite, Junior - a drug runner with a short shelf-life of his own - and the two begin to orbit each other drawing their circle tighter slowly and surely leading up to the collision each has understood was waiting for them at the end of their respective roads. It's regally sad. It's too bad it wasn't around forty or fifty years ago to be made into a fucking amazing flick starring folks like Harry Dean Stanton and Bruce Dern or Warren Oates and Ben Johnson, Lee Marvin and Lee Van Cleef, Burt Kennedy... even Paul Newman in handsome bastard mode (ala Hud or Sometimes a Great Notion) at the fore. Shit, maybe even Clint Eastwood... Not to suggest a movie would ever be better or equal to Whitmer's prose, but just to y'know give you an idea of the flavor. Got it?

Dove Season - Johnny Shaw - Revisit! Jimmy Veeder goes home to see his terminally ill father before he dies. Dad asks him a single favor - bring him a hooker. A particular hooker who hails from across the border and shares a connection to the old man in a way Jimmy's not ready for. As much a family saga as a badass crime misadventure, it reads like Elmore Leonard on laudanum - which is to say the pace is easy and you don't mind at all. When the fit shans all the hell over, you'll catch the rotation of each spec and appreciate its trajectory. Shaw taps a wellspring of character, makes you laugh, cry, cringe and occasionally fist-pump in enthusiasm and I can't think of a stronger recommendation.

Flight: All Crime Comics #2 - Paul Grimshaw, Erik Warfield, Steven E. Gordon, Vince Musacchia - Very quick, bloody and beautifully stylized book. Hijacking... soccer... cons... It's quick. It's stylish. There is much murder. Happy.

The Good Life - Frank Wheeler Jr. - Earl Haack Jr. learned early the awful things that have to be done to establish order (the precursor to peace) as sheriff of a small Nebraska town that rests at a pivotal point along a major drug trafficking highway, and once his private dark places have grown some full-sized demons, he just might be the man to step into the power vacuum and establish that order. Meanwhile, he fantasizes about murdering his wife, he may have to off his own brother and dispose of the bodies of about half the residents of the area before the last page. All in a day's work for this good old boy. This is damnedest, most revoltingly violent small-town nightmare of crime novel since... I dunno, but it made my hair stand up, sit down again, roll over and puke up breakfast. That is to say, I loved it. Get some. 

Hop Alley - Scott Phillips - Bill Ogden is a learned man and a professional photographer who takes pride in the finer points of his craftsmanship. He's doing his best to maintain some dignity and self-respect on the frontier - having been forced to flee his studio and position as a prominent citizen of Cottonwood, Kansas all wanted for murder and shit. But it's hard out here for a pimp, and he's reduced to some flim-flam gigs and paying for the non-exclusive affections of an unstable woman in the plenty volatile frontier town of Denver, Colorado. Set against the Denver anti-Chinese riot of 1880, this slim volume packs punch and pie and plenty of memorable mayhem. I fucking love the Bill Ogden stories and hope there are more to come.

Koko Takes a Holiday - Kieran Shea - It's landed, it's here, it's amazing. Shea's short story of the same name first appeared in Plots With Guns in 2009 and just blew me away. The language, the carnage, the wit. Well, he's fleshed out Koko's world and even added characters with as much to offer as the badass, ex-merc, current pimp running boywhores on the Sixty Islands (not to mention amazing names). The short story in which Koko's easy semi-retirement is upset by a squad of mercenaries hired to kill her functions more or less as the opening chapter and things just get crazier from there (I loved, loved, loved the suicide cult especially). All action, all the time, plus the aforementioned wit and wiseacre wordslinging of a wry-smiling writer make this the most fun you'll have reading a book this summer.

My Brother's Destroyer - Clayton Lindemuth - Baer Creighton's dog disappeared. Didn't run away. Was kidnapped. Baer knows by whom and for what purpose - to be grist for the dog fights run by the most dangerous man in town - or as Baer will prove by the book's end, the 2nd most dangerous man in town. Dog fights are something of a theme for Lindemuth who read a particularly bloody passage from Nothing Save the Bones Inside Her featuring one at N@B this summer, and if you can stomach the gnarliness, I highly recommend diving in to his elegantly rough oeuvre. Dude's on a tear too. This is one of a half-dozen books Lindemuth's seen released in just a couple of years and from what I can tell, he's not slowing down any time soon. Blood's not the only thing on tap in this one either, Creighton is a bootlegger and the loving attentions shown by both character and creator to the process will create a deep thirst in the reader. Seriously. I want some of that shine, I could taste it on the page. Helped the other fluids spilled go down smooth.

Praying Drunk - Kyle Minor - When your heart breaks it may scab over as a hardened lump of granite or it could grow back larger and packing even more potential as a pain-radiating organ. Minor follows up his open-heart surgical debut collection In the Devil's Territory with an even more laser-precise display of throbbing, compassionate literary cry-making. It could perhaps even penetrate your callous nub of a heart and make you feel again. You've been warned. This guy. This guy.

Rolling Country - Joseph HirschRolling Country opens with Aaron Neblett, a long distance trucker with a finger in many pies, conducting a criminal transaction that ends with him killing the other party and disposing of the evidence with professional remove and efficiency. As we follow Neblett from page to page, layers peel away uncovering a character portrait in full demonic color and human depth. Alternately we follow the measured, steady, plodding progress of a private investigator named James Arklow who is looking for a missing girl. A former policeman and current community college instructor, Arklow wants, more than anything, the validation that would come by having a piece published in an online detective trade publication. As the two story lines drifted toward each other the assured pacing, fascinating detail and masterful characterization employed by the author made me take an envious green shit in my pants (cause I damn near read the whole thing in a single sitting). The most exciting discovery of my year - I see more Hirsch books in my future (and not just the Arklow titles like Ohio at Dusk and the forthcoming Flash Blood - I just got his latest Kentucky Bestiary and it looks like a winner).

Silent City - Alex Segura - Pete Fernandez is a journalist and a drunk and about five years past his 'best by' date when half-heartedly agrees to make a couple of inquiries for an acquaintance whose daughter is missing. History, mystery and... blistery meet up in the big sleazy -Miami! Vice! Heat! Sound Machine! It's all here, plus music, murder and mafia. Segura's Pete Fernandez series saga (three books - did I read somewhere that there'll be three Fernandez books?) is off to a swell, sweaty start.

Sixth Gun: Winter Wolves - Cullen Bunn, Brian Hurtt, Bill Crabtree - The weapons, they're... remaking the world. It's getting... apocalyptic in here, so take off all your clothes (I am getting so hot, I'm gonna take my clothes off). When this whole run is over, it's gonna be one of my favorites ever.

A Swollen, Red Sun - Matthew McBride - When Gasconade County Sheriff's Deputy Dale Banks stumbles upon a bag of money belonging to wild-asshole-with-a-(few)-gun(s)-#1, Jerry Dean Skaggs he sets in motion a chain of events that will rock the region to its foundation. I enjoyed Frank Sinatra in a Blender like everybody else, but damn, with A Swollen Red Sun, McBride has upped his game by 100%. On display are all the wild drugs and crazy violence of Sinatra but this time around there is a tangible dread at the center and emotional stakes high enough to hang yourself from. Read his stories Big Darlene the Sex Machine and The Tar Hole for an approximation of the scope and impact of this novel. It's a game-changer.

The Tilted World - Tom Franklin, Beth Ann Fennelly - As Armageddon descends upon Mississippi in the form of the biblical-scale flood of 1927 a moonshiner, a mother and two prohibition agents are set at cross purposes with deadly results. What do you get when you cross the lyrical prose of Franklin (that mad motherfucker who also gave us Smonk, lest ye forget) and the narrative sensibilities of a poet (Fennelly)? Something epic and beautiful and profane and profound. A yarn steeped in mud and blood and biblical imagery with more heart and soul than your typical western and more guts and grit than your average literary praise magnet. Worth your damn time.

Turn Down the Lights - edited by Richard Chizmar - A collection of horror and transgressive stories from authors Stephen King, Norman Partridge, Jack Ketchum, Brian James Freeman, Bentley Little, Ed Gorman, Ronald Kelly, Steve Rasnic Tem, Clive Barker, and Peter Straub to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Cemetery Dance publications. Slim and brimming with dark delights as I appear to be with fucking hackish alliteration.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

You Be The Judge

James Franco's Cormac McCarthy adaptation Child Of God hit local theaters and barely left a grease spot before disappearing. After catching his so-slight-it-practically-evaporated-before-my-eyes (though not entirely a waste) adaptation of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, I'm in no particular hurry to catch up with it, though I remain curious. Are you curious? Skeptical? Appalled?

What about this test footage for his proposed treatment of Blood Meridian? The Judge might be the most iconic figure of recent American literature and a daunting proposition (I'd think) to any actor. So, whom to cast? I like Mark Pellegrino for sure. I think he's got something special and I'm... intrigued by the possibility of what he'd bring to the role, (and Luke Perry as Glanton?) Hmmm... I'm open-minded, I suppose, but jeez, if ever a tome were deserving an epic big-screen treatment, I'd say it might could be Meridian... I was a little more hopeful when it was in the hands of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe a few years ago.

Speaking of Big Mc, I just put my hands on an actual paper copy of Kevin Lynn Helmick's The Rain King, and good golly, I like this one as a physical object... It' holds very well. It's got a decidedly McCarthian vibe to the prose too, which God knows, I've been accused of employing myself - guess I like that stuff. Y'know... all that beauty and death...

Any others of you out there with a wry sense of the macabre will appreciate the article Today Me, Tomorrow You by Elizabeth Harper at Atlas Obscura about some expressive skeletal art in Rome.

And anybody with a complicated relationship with transcendent art made by morally objectionable humans could do worse than to consider The Bukowski Misogyny Thing  at Paragraph Line by Joseph Hirsch about Charles Bukowski (with nods at H.P. Lovecraft, Knut Hamsun and more). If you haven't jumped on the Hirsch wagon yet - lemme throw the cover for his forthcoming Kentucky Bestiary at you. I dig. You?

Y'know what else I'm anticipating? Scott Adlerberg's novella Jungle Horses, that's what. The good I hear about this one is guuuud. And Scott's got a helluva guest piece coming up soon at HBW. If you know anything about that cat it's probably that he knows his movie shit. And his crime shit. And shit, that's the shit I like. So, epic guest post about movie things relating to Patricia Highsmith - who was the proverbial shit.

Y'know what else is potential good news? Mark Rapacz and Jason Stuart, man. They hate numbers and money, but they love your book. This article about Blast Gun says as much. I'd take advantage of them if I was you. Plus, look how badass the cover for Mark's City Kaiju is. 

My fall schedule is filling up with events, too. N@B-NWA (don't get too excited, that's Northwest Arkansas), Noircon and other events await. Hope to see you somewheres.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Little Garnish

A week-late, but sincere and affectionate HBW happy birthday to Raymond Chandler and au revoir James Garner, both of whom played significant roles in the development of my sensibilities. The only overlap of their careers (that I'm aware of) was the... meh, good at moments and frankly embarrassing at others, adaptation of Chandler's novel The Little Sister, Marlowe. It attempted to update Chandler's iconic detective Philip Marlowe to a 1960's sensibility (something I believe Elliot Gould and Robert Altman did surprisingly much better -in the 70's- with The Long Goodbye, and you may argue Garner did himself with The Rockford Files a few years later) and is probably most notable for the early role of Bruce Lee. Still, who can't get behind Garner or Marlowe?

HBW talks Chandler a fair amount, but I don't think I've had a Garner-centric piece, so here are a couple other personally significant Garner vehicles.

36 Hours - directed by George Seaton and adapted from the Roald Dahl story Beware of the Dog it effectively induced paranoia in young Jed before he ever saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers or anything from Alfred Hitchcock.

Support Your Local Sheriff - The heel as hero was that thing Garner did so well and Sheriff as well as its sequel Support Your Local Gunfighter highlighted, but y'know what stuck with me most? The sequence where Garner breaks the unconscious gunman's trigger finger and Jack Elam points out to him that the shooter is left handed and Garner bends over to break the other finger... it made me squirm soooooo hard. That scene was perhaps my first and foremost primer on the mixology of violence and humor.

Twilight - I've spoken a fair amount about my affection for this film which I consider the unofficial third piece of Paul Newman's Lou Harper trilogy (the film was written by Richard Russo and Robert Benton who named Newman's detective character Harry Ross - a nod to Ross MacDonald author of the books The Moving Target and The Drowning Pool - source material for the Lew Harper flicks). The "trilogy" ages the detective in real time and the final chapter Twilight is just as bitter-barely-sweet as it should be, and frankly it just wouldn't work without Garner's contribution to the whole as another aging detective and good friend of Ross's. The final scene the two of them have together echoes the amazing climax of Harper - the first film in the "trilogy" - beautifully... mournfully.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Love Song For Grayson Capps by Kevin Lynn Helmick

I first met Kevin Lynn Helmick at a Noir at the Bar event where he read from his then latest novel Heartland Gothic. This week, Kevin's latest book The Rain King dropped and you, the hell, should pick it up.

I asked Kevin to contribute a piece to the Narrative Music series and this here... this is it.

A Love Song for Grayson Capps by Kevin Lynn Helmick

It was around 2005, I think when I was scanning the shelves at Blockbuster for a good movie. That was back when they actually had stores, with carpet, and people working, and you would drive there and pick out a few DVD’s and rent them, very similar to a library, only for movies. Most of you probably remember those days.

I found there, a film I’d never heard of called, A Love Song for Bobby Long, starring John Travolta, Scarlett Johansson and Gabriel Macht. I like all those actors, and I liked the description on the back so I took it home, threw a bag of popcorn in the micro and got settled in to take a chance on some film I knew nothing about. I also had no idea at the time that it would last a lot longer than the hour and a half or so that it took to view it.

Just real quick, because this column is not about the film but deserves a little mention. The setting is present day New Orleans, or close enough, where we meet an exiled literary professor from Alabama, Bobby Long (John Travolta) and his young writing protege, Lawson Pines, (Gabriel Macht) as they’ve transplanted themselves in a small run down house owned by an unseen friend/jazz singer named Loraine, and set upon a romantic quest in the tradition Capote and Fitzgerald (and many other classic writers) of drinking themselves and their haunted pasts to death.

Loraine dies at some point (not in the film) and leaves the house not only to these two educated drunkards but also her estranged daughter, Percy (In walks Scarlett Johansson.) Now they are forced to live together for a specific amount of time, (reasons for which are revealed at the end) and they don’t exactly get along, at first.

I love the film, think it’s great, one of Travolta’s best performances in my opinion and Johansson earned herself a Golden Globe Nomination. And as a lover of Southern writing it has remarkable dialogue with more than a few quotes from classic literature peppered in the conversations between Long and Pines as they constantly play the game of, name the author and book.

Now, that’s the film. But the soundtrack is just as good, and one artist in particular, (also in the film, there in the background as a house band) kept getting my attention. He sang several songs, including the one that bears the same title as the film. It plays during the end credits and I kept rewinding to hear it again and again. He sang the story, the somewhat tragic history of this man, Bobby Long, in this deep whisky soaked bluesy back alley growl and accompanied with some most interesting acoustic guitar chords and arrangements I’d ever heard.

MCE Photography, Chad Edwards
I like to think I know good writing when I see it, in this case, heard it. I knew this guy was and has the real deal, and I wanted more of it. So I ran to google and looked him up. His name is Grayson Capps and while I’d never heard of him before that, he’s is no stranger to the, New Orleans, or even the Nashville music scene.

Now if I’ve bored you enough, hang on, this is where it’s gets interesting, for me anyway. I discovered that this guy had been around more than a few blocks, at least in Deep South and has a devoted fan base there and other pockets around the country as well as, the Netherlands. Yes, the Netherlands, and Europe. I thought that was interesting too. Although, it would be great to see him get up to Chicago more, we do like our blues here.

But what’s even more interesting I learned, is that somewhere in his travels he’d taken up a conversation with writer and director Shainee Gabel, who was looking to do film set in New Orleans but had nothing solid. Turns out, not only is Grayson Capps an amazingly talented singer, songwriter, but his dad, Ronald Everett Capps is a novelist. So Grayson slaps down his fathers, then unpublished manuscript, Off Magazine Street, and says’ (I’m paraphrasing of course) “make a movie of this, and I’ll hook ya up with music.”

So she did. It’s a good book too. Not a lot like the film as adaptation go, but I’m not the type to compare film and book. I just don’t see it as the same. 1st cousins maybe, but that’s about it. And that’s one for another conversation altogether. Ronald Everett Capps’ Off Magazine Street, is a fine novel and worth checking out, but don’t expect to be reading the movie.

Anyway, I wanted to see Grayson Capps perform so I started scanning his tour dates and all was in the Deep South or far from Chicago, except 2, twenty miles from my house. Two different venues, way up here and that was all, my only shot without traveling a thousand miles deep into the heart of Dixie. So my wife and I marked the calendar and made it a mission.

It was fucking freezing that night, but we set out anyway for this place called Lovell’s in Lake Forest Illinois. Now, it had not occurred to me what an odd venue Lovell’s would be for a band like Grayson Capps and the, then, Stump Knockers. The place is upscale, way upscale, and not known for having bands at all. Lovell’s is owned by Jim Lovell, an astronaut, a guy who went to the moon and back, presumably. I’ve never met him, so I guess he’s back, he has a restaurant that caters to the very, very, rich.

So here we are, 20 below and we brave out to this place with its $12.00 watered down jack n cokes, where everybody talks like Thurston Howell the 3rd, (no, really, those people really do exist) and there he was, Capps tuning up on a stool, wearing a Canadian tuke kinda hat and a cowboy shirt with a ripped sleeve. I had ordered his CD, If You Knew My Mind, which includes the song, A Love Song for Bobby Long, but it didn’t come before the show, and still hasn’t.

I walked up and introduced myself, and told him how much my wife and I enjoyed his music and my frustration with not having his CD in hand to sign. He shook my hand, and apologized for the missing CD thing, although I’m sure he had nothing to do with it, and offered up a box of his own he brought. I gave him twenty bucks for one, he shoved it in his pocket, and looked up and said, “man, nobody here, knows who I am?” I put a question mark there because it sounded like a question.

“Well, I do,” I said and looked around at the leather and polished oak. “It is kinda weird,” I said, or at least, thought it, at the time.

Either way, there was a big fire roaring to the right of the band and Capps invited us to come up front in these big cushy couches that I’m sure cost more than my truck and we all settled in for what was probably a tamed down performance, but an amazing and memorable music experience just the same.

The guy can craft and sing a fucking song with the best of ‘em, and we were in a little bit of heaven there as they raunch n rolled through the set list.

Set break: Grayson, my wife and I, and few others all piled in a car in the parking lot (to partake in what most musicians might partake in on set break) and talked a bit about the music, books, the movie, and the man, Bobby Long, who is, or was, a real dude, and friend of his and his fathers, just like the song says. I told him, how visual his songs were to me. They’re like stories I could see and feel, stories with interesting characters, flawed characters, dealing with conflicts of life, love and pain, loss and redemption. The good shit.

He said, “yeah, good, that’s what I want.”

One of the last songs of his first set was a comical piece called, Big OlĂ© Woman, that I said reminded me a little of David Allen Coe, and I think he took offense to that and I’m still sorry I said it. I’ve bought all his records since then and Capps, music isn’t anything like Coe’s. It’s a beautiful blend of blues, jazz, rock and folk, and has not only become a favorite listening pastime for me, but my wife and my 14 year aspiring musician son, Sam, as well. Sam plays Grayson’s If You Knew My Mind, CD all the time. I hear it coming from his room often, and he loves the song, Graveyard.

Fast forward 2012: I had wrote a novella the year before, Driving Alone, a Southern Gothic and a tip of the hat to some of my favorite writing, that of the Southern writer, the Faulkner’s and O’Conner’s and Tennessee Williams’. My then publisher wanted to do a book trailer and had asked what music we might use. Well, I thought since the story was set in the Deep South and wreaked of Spanish moss and humidity it should be something swampy, bluesy, and dark. And I thought of Grayson’s music and sent some to that publisher, not even thinking really it was an option. They got a hold of Grayson’s management and through a very reasonable negotiation; one of his songs was put to images for my book trailer.

I sure never saw that coming back in 04.

I would share that book trailer with you, but don’t think I can, contractual shit. Lets’ just say it was best part of the whole experience for me.

Anyway, Capps and I have talked on social media about it a bit, where I’ve thanked him probably an annoying too many times.

But this column, in killing several birds with one stone, is about, a song about a poet/writer, a film, about that poet writer, adapted from a novel, about all the above, and delivered by an artist/poet/writer and troubadour fitting in his own right to bring these multiple vehicles and mediums together, all from a little 3 minutes or so song that I’m sure once you have a listen will be obvious why I’ve chosen this as the subject for this series.

We have music, lyric, literature, and book to film. And I’ve probably exhausted my word count so I won’t post the lyrics for A Love Song for Bobby Long.

I play it for you though. Have a listen at the musical brilliance of Grayson Capps. Buy, Off Magazine Street, by his dad, Ronald Everett Capps. It’s a damn good book. And watch the movie, A Love Song for Bobby Long. It’s a damn good movie too.

Thanks for stopping by.

Kevin Lynn Helmick is the novelist of, Clovis Point, Sebastian Cross, Heartland Gothic, and Driving Alone.  He was born in Fort Madison IA and now lives in the Chain O Lakes, near Chicago IL.
His writing has appeared in Noir at the Bar Volume 2, and The Booked Anthology, and been known to guest blog for emags like, Spintingler, Manarchy, Pornokitch, and Pulp Metal. His award nominated novella, Driving Alone, was re-released with a collection of short stories in the spring of 2014, and in July of the same year, Helmick released his fifth novel, a dark western tale of justice, The Rain King.

All are available anywhere books are sold.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

So Essited

You know what's right around the corner, cats 'n kittens? The Lonesome Go from Tim Lane. This... this is gonna be a big boost to your creative juice come release date. Nothing gets me going like Tim's haunted vision of America - the pictures and the prose are like inky Cialis for my muse. Very much looking forward to ripping into and ripping off more of Tim's work shortly.

And if that kind of thing gets you going too, check out the first offerings of the new Southwest Noir's first publication featuring a collection of illustrated short and very-short stories to be published in the fall 2014 - Volume 1, features texts by James Sallis, Larry Fondation, Barry Graham, Kurt Reichenbaugh, Steve Shadow, Mark Victor Moorhead, Scott McDonald, Jenna Duncan, Andrea Gibbons, Robrt Pela - with Illustrations by Vince Larue. Exactly how badass does this look?

Aaand if you need an introduction to the work of Barry Graham, may I suggest his excellent, The Wrong Way which has a beautiful print version from PM Press's Switchblade line ooooor a brannew ebook version with heeeey that blurb looks familiar!

And y'know what else is gonna be back in print real soon and for the first time in an electonic version? The classic revenge tale Ted Lewis's Get Carter with a forward from the director of the Michael Caine film version, Mike Hodges.

Another ebook reissue you need to know would be Joe Samuel Starnes's Calling from Seriously, if you're planning on attending Noir Con in Philadelphia this fall (which you should) you should make room for this one and be prepared to speak with Joe there.

One more you really gotta get on top of - Kevin Lynn Helmick's The Rain King just out this week. Look for a guest piece from Kevin later this week!