Thursday, May 27, 2010
Okay, I finally got my hands on a copy of Blood, Guts & Whiskey... from my local library. Ima buy a copy by the end of the week when fellow contributor Sean Doolittle comes to mutilate the general public Thusday night for N@B. I've not had a chance to read the whole thing, yet, but what I've got to is solid like you'd expect from Todd Robinson and the Thuglit crew. Aside from me and Doolittle, this beast features previous spotlights of HBW - Tom Piccirilli, Craig McDonald, Kieran Shea, Scott Wolven and Jordan Harper. It also features Needle buddies Hilary Davidson and Dave Zeltserman as well future N@B alumn Derek Nikitas - (June 28 w/ Dennis Tafoya - be there and bring gauze). John Kenyon, Colin O'Sulivan, Pearce, Pearce Hansen, Justin Porter, Glenn Gray, Dana King, Stuart Neville, Michael Penncavage, Brian Murphy, Stephen Allan, Andy Turner, David Harrison and Lawrence Clayton round out this most excrement collection.
Over at Ransom Notes, I've got a few other anthology and short story collection recs. One of which is possible N@B future participant, Jonathan Wood's Bad Juju. Check out the book's trailer.
This week will be busy in St. Louis. Wednesday night I'll catch Reed Farrel Coleman, Gabriel Cohen and John Lutz at the library, Thursday of course is N@B with Laura Benedict, Pinckney Benedict and Sean Doolittle and Friday night is Richard Russo. This flurry of activity is sure to bring my pal Rod Norman out of his nearby corner of Illinois for the action and if you haven't checked out his interview series over at Signs & Wonders you've missed Stuart Neville, Vicki Hendricks and Ace Atkins, (and that's only in the last week!) Rod, I'm buyin the first round... only.
Also this week, good luck to my homeys in The Lou Crew during the 48-Hr Film Project. Wish I could be with you. Bad timing. I just said "homeys". I am pure white bread.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work : [as adj. ] a hack scriptwriter.
Alrighty, only one of these definitions applies.
Jack Clark committed a turrible sin by self-publishing his novel Nobody's Angel in 1996, (he sold it out of the taxi he drives in Chicago), but now Hard Case Crime has re-printed it and it's a good thing. Great read. I fall all over myself praising it at Ransom Notes and still don't quite make the case for why the book is so good. I guess you'll have to read it yourself. And it won't take you long. He brings in the story in just over 200 pages and that's just about the right book length as far as I'm concerned. Turns out, Jack is also a singer-songwriter like former taxi driver Tom Russell, (who's working on a book too). What gives with that?
But getting back to the sin of self-publishing... I've never understood why the practice is so absolutely derided and its practitioners such pariahs. Sure, there's oceans of shit in print and only more of it now that the technology is inexpensive enough, but as far as I'm concerned it's only following in the natural path of other similarly democratically revamped mediums like music and film. No music snob would turn up their nose on a song or musician simply because they were self produced and unsigned. Likewise, the small, maverick and guerilla film makers creating art or dying in the process are treated like heroes even when their product falls waaaay short of satisfying.
Are there tons more shitty music and films available now? Absolutely. But do you only listen to bad music or watch bad films now? Hell, no, you turn it off if it's unworthy. And how long does it take to determine that? And how many personal favorites have you discovered through word of mouth that turned out to be somehow self-generated, released or marketed? Artists create because they have to. The really driven ones find a way to hustle a living or partial one out of it. Should they? That depends entirely on the merit of the work. How long does it take you to decide a book's not worth your time? Why do you have to have the approval of a publisher who's let you down before, before you'll checkerout?
Am I more likely to pick up a book with an attractive and professionally rendered binding, printing and cover? Without a doubt. But that's the self published writer's problem to deal with. If somehow they can overcome the odds and get their book in my hands and compel me to read the first sentence and then the first page and then the first chapter... bully for them.
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Harry... Lew... Alright, they don't rhyme, but I think they're really the same don't you? The same character that is. You know Paul Newman playing Lew Harper in the films Harper and The Drowning Pool from the Ross MacDonald books and Paul Newman playing Harry Ross in 1998's Twilight penned by Richard Russo and Robert Benton? Obviously, they'd have run inot licensing problems naming him Lew Harper, but he's the same guy right? Watch all three and lemme know. I mean, c'mon they named him Ross, (as in MacDonald, get it?). Anyway, I posit this theory as well as cast my vote for cinema's best Philip Marlowe over at Ransom Notes. It's Elliot Gould from Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye in case you didn't already know.
Yes it is. Ross and Monica's dad.
Speaking of that particular Raymond Chandler book, (his best by the way... Yes it is), I'm of the opinion that James Crumley's seminal Last Good Kiss is essentially a riff on that one... Yes it is. Which is not to take anything away from big Jim, it's a hell of a book, but... Homage - call it homage. I guess my point is, originality is highly overrated. At least when it comes to plot. Plot is like a musical genre - you don't have to re-invent the damn thing to make a good or even great book. That's my opinion... yeah.
Getting back to Russo, he'll be in St. Louis June 4 and this morning I received confirmation from Sean Doolittle, that he'll be here for N@B June 3 along Pinckney Benedict and Laura Benedict. Awesome. I'll get my copy of Blood, Guts & Whiskey signed... I hope. Still haven't got my copy in the mail. Dammit. I wanna read that beast, sounds great. John Rector alas, will not be in attendance.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Jeremy Hall and I go way back. When I moved out of my parent's house he was my first roommate. We got a shitty little place that specialized in ripping off college students not too keen for campus living at the University of Arkansas. We were not students, just college aged. We were both musicians playing in various bands around town, but never together. Between the two of us we had one job, one girlfriend, no television, no car, no telephone and a half dozen guitars.
Jeremy is one of those guys with far too much talent and creative drive. He was always writing songs, and they were always good. I burned with jealousy. He wrote so prolifically in fact that he was booted from more than one group for exhausting the rest of the band with too much good material. Over the years Jeremy has married, procreated and continued to produce many many wonderful songs. I still burn with jealousy. He and his wife Holly Hall make up the band Welcome Little Stranger.
When we were looking for music to score Mosquito Kingdom with, I sent out feelers to lotsa folks I used to play in bands with and most of em sent me a disc of material to pick through. Jeremy sent eight. Show off. (Incidentally there are several of his songs in that movie). Recently, he sent me a song that told a weird ass story, nothing new for his music, except this one was a true story. I asked him to write that shit down and donate it here.
Jeremy is today's contributor to the Narrative Music series.
The Governor's Ball
In the last year my wife, Holly, and I have been writing music together. We call ourselves Welcome Little Stranger, after the Victorian tradition of waiting to see if a baby would live before naming the child, which led to gifts bearing the phrase "welcome little stranger" in lieu of a name. For our fourth song, Holly brought to my attention the harrowing and entirely true story of Big Nose George, a Wyoming outlaw of the 1800's who met a particularly gruesome end.
The section men repaired the rails
And threw our plans awry
The lawmen chased us to the hills
We saw them come, we watched them die
George Parrot (George Francis Warden, George Curry, George Manuse, Big Nose George) was a man who met the fate of many outlaws of the last quarter of the 1800's. As part of a gang of road agents, led by a man who called himself Sim Jan, George robbed stagecoaches in Wyoming. The gang consisted of Frank McKinney and Sim Jan, believed to be Frank and Jesse James, Joe Manuse, Tom Reed, Jack Campbell, Dutch "Charley” Burress, John Wells, and Frank Tole. The gang were intending to rob a train by way of derailment, but as seven of the nine lay in wait for the train to come, section men discovered the sabotaged rail and repaired it. A foreman rode ahead to inform the law and a posse was formed to apprehend the gang. Two lawmen found them at Elk Mountain, and were subsequently murdered by Sim Jan's men. The gang then dispersed.
They took me down the Rawlins jail
I split his skull as I broke free
The lynching rope took three hard turns
To make a specter out of me
Frank Tole tried to rob the Black Hills stage line, and was killed. Dutch Charlie was caught, and was on the train to Rawlins. The train was stopped, and Charlie was hung from a telegraph pole. A drunken George Parrot, now in Montana, boasted of the attempted train robbery and murders and as a result was captured and put on a train back to Wyoming. The same mob that hung Dutch Charlie stopped the train to lynch Big Nose George. George, being a coward, begged the mob to allow him to live, promising to tell all that he knew regarding the murders. The lynch mob acquiesced, and George Parrot continued to Rawlins.
George was found guilty and was sentenced to hang. As such, he attempted escape, and fractured the skull of the jailer in that attempt. Fortuitously for the injured man, the jailer's wife appeared with a pistol and forced George back into his cell. Hearing of his attempted escape, a mob formed, and dragged Big Nose George to a telegraph pole, where he was to be hung. The first two attempts to hang George failed, the third was successful.
The doctor stole my corpse away
And with a saw opened my head
He thought he'd find what turned me bad
A reason for the blood I'd shed
George Parrot's body was not claimed, and Doctors John Osborne and Thomas Maghee acquired the corpse in hopes of studying George's brain, wanting to determine the cause of Parrot's proclivity towards criminality. George Parrot's skull cap was sawed off, and no difference was found between the criminal's brain and a "normal" specimen.
They took my skull, they took my skin
And sent it to the tannery
A whiskey barrel full of brine
Is what my cursed tomb will be
They flick their ashes in my skull
Hearing not my phantom call
The bastard made shoes of my skin
And wore them to the governor's ball
It is at this point that the tale takes a gruesome turn, as Dr. Osborne takes the corpse of Big Nose George, and makes a death mask. The mask is unusual in that it is earless, due to George's ears having been torn off during the botched hangings. He then removed skin from George's chest and legs, and sent it to a tannery in Denver, with the instructions to make a pair of shoes, complete with nipples, and a medicine bag. Much to the disappointment of the doctor, the shoes were without nipples, but Dr. Osborne, who would eventually become the governor of Wyoming, and then assistant Secretary of State to President Wilson, wore them with pride on many occasions, including to his inaugural ball in 1893. The dismembered body was stored in a whiskey barrel full of salt solution, which was eventually buried in the backyard of Dr. Maghee. The skull cap was given to Miss Heath, who was the assistant to Doctors Osborne and Maghee, and who became the first female doctor in Wyoming. Miss Heath used the skull cap as an ashtray and a doorstop.
The story of Big Nose George is almost humorous to me, in that it crosses the line of human decency so thoroughly, it reaches an absurd level of macabre. His violent life and death was enough to warrant a song, but the fact that his remains were shown so little regard, that his corpse was no more worthy of respect than that of a slain deer, that inhumanity illuminates what I consider to be a struggle that exists in all man. On one end is the noble pursuit of empathy for your fellow man regardless of his sins, on the other is the more primitive desire to see your enemy destroyed utterly, the need for a person to believe those set against his tribe are less than human. While I feel very little sympathy for Mr. Parrot, considering the actions that led to his demise, I can only hope that our song does his story justice.
If you've been holding off picking up Vicki Hendricks because you didn't know where to start, lemme just fix that little problem for you. While you may just dislocate your jaw dropping it while reading her novels, I assure you you will reading her short stories and finally they're collected in the excellent new book Florida Gothic Stories. There is wild, wild shit running through the whole damn book and it's not all strictly crime stuff. She regularly supplies the freaky-sexiest pieces to noir collections and the weirdest pieces to erotica colelctions, so besides her anthology standouts from A Hell of a Woman, Murdaland, Out of the Gutter and Storyglossia there's bits here from erotica anthologies and brand new stories to freak you right the hell out. The collection includes and introduction from Megan Abbott and an afterward from Michael Connelly. I go on about Vicki and the new book at Ransom Notes.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Russell Crowe is Robin Hood. It's official. For a long time, I heard rumors about it, but I really did think it was a joke. I kept picturing the dude from The Insider in sweat pants and a hoodie huffing through Sherwood Forest trying to jump over a rock. Made me laugh.
I haven't seen the new movie. Maybe it's good. But I was thinking about the tendency to make folk heroes out of outlaws, imbuing thugs with a moral ideal and interpreting their exploits and demise to suit the contemporary political clime. Their legends belong to us now, to play with and wrangle into whatever shape we deem desirable.
At Ransom Notes I'm giving a shout to Ace Atkins' new one, Infamous, that tells the story of Machine Gun Kelly's ill advised foray into kidnapping and the birth of the modern FBI.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Max Allan Collins don't need my help. Come to think of it, neither does Christa Faust. Never the less, I'm tipping my hat at Ransom Notes. Speaking of MAC, I'm still waiting for Jeffrey Goodman's film from his short story, The Last Lullabye to get a distribution deal. I've been impatient for this one long enough.
Are you excited for N@B June 3? Here's a little help. Pinckney Benedict's story Pig Helmet & the Wall of Life is up at Fifty-Two Stories. You can also find him archived in Plots With Ray Guns. His new collection Miracle Boy & Other Stories is gonna be wild. Book trailers are an interesting idea. You can check out the ones for Laura Benedict's titles Isabella Moon and Calling Mr. Lonely Hearts here.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Somebody has set up a Facebook page for Noir at the Bar St. Louis. I have too much pride for that kind of thing, but please follow that page and spread the word on N@B events and St. Louis action. There's also a Twitter account - @NoirBarSTL. Jeez, lookiddit - kicking and screaming into 2005.
And of course there's lotsa shit to promote. June 3 we'll be hosting Laura Benedict and Pinckney Benedict whose new book Miracle Boy and Other Stories is coming out in a few weeks. Seriously, if you've never read P's short fiction, well y'atta.
I've been teasing a little bit with hinting at possible surprise guests at N@B3 and now I'm going to go ahead and out our potentials. While Reed Farrel Coleman and Gabriel Cohen are in town the night before and Richard Russo is the night after, (and though we would welcome any of those fine writers to our dirty little get together), it's none of the above. Omaha's finest Sean Doolittle and John Rector are under some serious fucking pressure to make the 50 hr trip to have a beer and read shit. No commitments yet, but feel free to pour on the peer pressure for these guys to just fuckin grow a pair and drive forever to the Lou for this one. (Actually, it's a looong drive - I wouldn't do it if I were them. But I hope they do.)
More N@B events looking for a date this summer - Dennis Tafoya and Tim Lane. And I'd like to give a big thanks brudda to those who participated in N@B before it was a legitimate and attractive proposition - Anthony Neil Smith, Theresa Schwegel, Malachi Stone and Frank Bill whose Donnybrook is racking up some choice blurbs from the likes a Kyle Minor and Christa Faust - (reads) "like Larry Brown on Meth."
Over at Ransom Notes, I'm talking Philip Kerr's awesome nazi bane Bernie Gunther series. Can Bernie please get some love?
If yur in St. Louis next Saturday, rumor has it Ace Atkins will be in town, but I haven't got anything close to confirmation on this one. Nothing mentioned on his website or Big Sleep Books' site either.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Edgars awards announced. Tryin to get somebody to weigh in on 'em over at Ransom Notes. Thanks, BTW to everybody who does drop a comment on my squeaky-clean stylings over there - especially Keith Rawson who dropped a tasty phrase up there and I had to do some snipping on his comment. To be fair, the content of that particular squeaky clean post was necrophilia - don't blame me, it was in J.T. Ellison's book - so when K dropped the bestiality bomb it wasn't too huge it was simply the way it was phrased. So, keep it something you could say on prime time network TV circa 1985 and we'll all be happy.
Cool news. Matthew Louis the deranged mind behind the extra sticky pulp magazine Out of the Gutter has put up an official site for his new book press Gutter Books. The first title will be a best, sorry, worst of OOTG's first three issues. (Next spring will see the worst of issues 4-6 which I'm told will feature one of my own pieces - nice) Anyway, go check out the new press and order something nasty.
More coolness. The trailer for Winter's Bone is up.
And Lou Boxer has a list of panelists for NoirCon.
And to fill out my insanely clever title for this post - Guthrie and Mark Z. Danielewski's sister.
Whaddayawant? I'm in a hurry.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
I hope you’re out supporting your local funny papers store and while you are, be sure to pick up The 6th Gun by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, a civil war evil-dead mash up from them that brought you The Damned, (the prohibition gangsters & demons mash up). Also be looking for Hurtt’s collaboration with Gary Phillips that uh, I can't think of the name of... uh... coming soon.
Over at Ransom Notes, I address J.T. Ellison’s sick new book, The Cold Room and the uncomfortable parallels to reality the premise holds. I’ll refer you here to Craig McDonald’s post on the subject matter, which is also the unsettling subject matter of his Toros & Torsos. Laura Benedict interviews Ellison here.
And speaking of McDonald and his blog, he’s doing a series called opening up the vault or something where he’s publishing uncollected interviews. He led off with Megan Abbott and he’s just posted one with Victor Gischler. In other ‘nets interviews, Rod Norman blazes on and Keith Rawson continues his video series with Ace Atkins.
Speaking of lady Benedict, I’ll go ahead and make the official announcement that Noir @ the Bar will be hosting she and her husband, the excellent Pinckney Benedict along with Scott Phillips, myself and possibly a super cool surprise guest Thursday, June 3 at 8pm at The Delmar Lounge in the University City Loop. Pinckney will be there in support of his brand new short story collection, Miracle Boy and Other Stories and maybe, if you ask really pretty like, you could have all three of us, (me and the B’s) scrawl on yer copy of Surreal South ’09 while Scott looks on forlornly. So mark it on yer calendars, scorch it into you iPads, tattoo it on yer special friend’s back side, just don’t not be there. More N@B events coming soon, so tune in.
In fairness, Scott’s been included in some fair anthologies himself. Why, I recall a while back he helped kill a promising little journal name-a Murdaland. That second and final issue contained a novel excerpt from Rudolf Wurlitzer and just this week, I started reading the book it came from, The Drop Edge of Yonder, and holy crap, it’s a gem. Reads a bit like Tom Franklin’s Smonk or if David Milch made a Grizzly Adams show. If that don’t sell ya, well, friend there’s plenty o’ John Grisham at the book store.
Lastly, I’m also reading Frank Bill’s Donnybrook manuscript being shopped to publishers presently and it’s a wild ride. I’m picturing it as a Hard Case Crime book with a great, Burt Reynolds in White Lightening style cover. Do not, ring the bell of that lonely house in southern Indiana/northern Kentucky when your car breaks down on the road. Call the AAA service, eat your seat covers for sustenance, I just cannot stress enough the importance of not sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.
If you like your nose that is.