Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Delusionist


There’s something fun about an unreliable narrator whether they’re lying to you or misinformed or just dim about the world. My favorite of this type may be the self-deluded narrator who’s chiefly misinformed or dim about themselves. Over at Ransom Notes, I’m going through a few of my favorite examples of these types. I was inspired to after reading A Very Simple Crime by Grant Jerkins. His protagonist, at least I insist on seeing him that way, is the very twisted Adam Lee. Seems his wife has died unnaturally and he’s been arrested for the crime, but as he tells his lawyer and audience the story he has many opportunities to remind us that he loved her. There are a few levels of twist and red herring and narrative doubling back to this one, so I wrestle with how much to reveal here, but I’ll say Adam’s tone never waivers from sweet and near child-like innocence while leaving plenty of space between the lines where he’s painted some pretty shocking imagery and concepts any semi-conscious reader will pick up on just fine. Other examples I touch on include Frank Mansfield from Charles Willeford’s Cockfighter, Nick Glass from Allan Guthrie’s Slammer, Frankie Avicious from Nate Flexer’s The Disassembled Man, the nameless character moonlighting as Tyler in Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club and Wayne Ogden from Scott Phillips’ upcoming The Adjustment.

Ogden of course first appeared in The Walkaway as a really fun and nasty example of psychotic-Americanus and afterward, as a teenager, in some short stories, but The Adjustment shows us Wayne as an adult back from occupied Japan and spectacularly failing to re-enter civilian life. He is not one of us, he’s changing. He is going through a metamorphosis from mere assholishness to full-on psychotic, but he’s a little na├»ve. He doesn’t see it that way at all. Room has been left for a third novel – Wayne in Japan – that I really hope we get to see someday. In a word it would be - badass.

Wayne’s childhood exploits explored in stories like Sockdolager and The Crow Killers I’m assuming would be included in a book of shorts that Phillips is considering releasing electronically. As the walls fall between writer and reader and the middle men go looking for new gigs, I am beginning to feel the stirrings of excitement for the possibilities of the future and wistful nostalgia for what we almost had in print. Last week Anthony Neil Smith released an e-exclusive novel Choke on Your Lies that I’m wishing I had access to, especially after reading his fantastic shorts Minnesodom (Needle #3) and Granny Pussy (Damn Near Dead 2). Smith’s a writer I admire for packing the genre goods into really challenging pieces and while I hope he reaches a wider audience than print has afforded him and makes some decent money with the Choke, I’m disappointed that I can’t hold it in my hands… or read it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

FLOST is Coming - Be Intrigued, Be Very Intrigued

Cat's officially out of the bag. Wasn't sure what kind of time delay there was going to be on developments with director Julian Grant's feature adaptation of my short story A Fuckload of Scotch Tape, after meeting with him last week, but apparently it's somewhere around zilch. Since he talked about it openly in an interview with ReelChicago.com (at the end of this article) I guess I can go ahead and do it too. Specifically, what I was holding back on revealing was a certain detail regarding his vision for the film - namely that it's a... musical. 

You think I'm kidding, but I'm not. 

Julian showed me a screen test of an actor he's considering for the lead lip-syncing along to a Tom Waits-ish balladeer (Kevin Quain - whose Tequila Vampire Matinee is now something I gotta experience) and talked to me about a pivotal scene featuring our protagonist enduring some really awful shit at the hands of a former friend whilst crooning in his subconscious ala Dennis Potter (The Singing Detective, Pennies From Heaven). The juxtaposition of the dark-midnight-black material and the music is going to be pretty fucked up. I'm excited as hell to see it.

Those of you (rather, both of you) who've read Fuckload and some of my other short stories may note that Scotch Tape is really only one side of a story and is complimented by another titled Mahogany & Monogamy (Blood, Guts & Whiskey) and Julian will be borrowing some story and a couple of characters from that one as well. 

Julian first approached me two years ago after Scotch Tape appeared in Out of the Gutter and I looked him up on IMDb. Dude was a working professional definitely. Something like twenty titles to his name and some of it was stuff I'd heard of (remember that RoboCop miniseries Prime Directives a few years ago?), but the rest was dominated by the kind of gun-for-hire stuff that can muddy a filmmaker's identity, make it difficult to recognize a voice. No shame in making that kind of a living, but I couldn't figure out why he was interested in this story. Flattered. But surprised. So I asked him for a recommendation, something of his that I should watch that would really clue me in to his identity as a filmmaker. A few days later I received a disk of short films in the mail. 

I was on board. 

Hell yeah.

The films Maidenhead and Screw the Pepperoni (both adapted from stories that also appeared in Out of the Gutter by Matt Wallace and Charles Gardener respectively) were ultra-low budget crime shorts as different in feel as you could ask, and Argyle Street was something else all together. Both managed to create a recognizable and immersive universe in just a few short minutes and both demonstrated chops, vision and that tell-tale knack of turning budgetary or time limitations into virtues that marks the most exciting auteur. 

The thought of Julian working with my material? Film boner. 

I called him up - count me in. I had to ask - are Shannon Tweed or Jeff Wincott or Steve Guttenberg going to be in this film? Probably not. Turns out, he had reached the end of his gun-for-hire era and was determined to make some personal passion films. So he took a teaching job at Columbia in Chicago and has commenced to cranking out the punk DIY spirit indie films that he loves. His no-dialogue zombie pic The Defiled should be available in the spring and his Rashomon by way of Sunset Boulevard drama Fall Away will be making the festival circuit shortly. 

Shooting is supposed to begin in August and a cut of the film ready to submit to film festivals by January or February 2012. Check out Julian's site for updates and I'll keep you informed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Big Adios

Shit. Peter Yates died. The director of The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Bullitt, The Hot Rock, Robbery, Mother, Jugs & Speed and one of my childhood favorites - Krull. Yeah, it was bad, but what can I say, I really enjoyed it when I was ten. Looks like David Gordon Green did too, (have you seen the trailer for Your Highness?) Been a while since I watched Bullitt, gonna have to pop that one in soon. And jeez, I don't think Robbery is even available on DVD, wtf? Sure made some good shit there, Pete. Well done.

Speaking of crime movies and especially those that involve cars, have you seen the cast for Nicolas Winding Refn's James Sallis adaptation, DriveRon Perlman, Christina Hendricks and Bryan Cranston from my regular TV on DVD appointments plus Albert Brooks, (whose turn on Weeds was a season highlight). Man, that thing sounds juicy. I also noticed Cranston's name on the cast list of the Michael Connelly adaptation, The Lincoln Lawyer. Officer, ahem, Lankford is his character's name. Nice hat tip to Lee, I suppose. Mike, here's hoping it's a helluva lot better than Blood Work, but then, how could it not be?

Trip to Chicago is history. I had to bail on Kent Gowran Saturday night and I feel bad. Really bad. Things just didn't go at all like I thought they would. But, happily I did get to see Julian Grant, the writer/director of RoboCop Prime Directives Sunday morning and we talked about his feature adaptation of my short story A Fuckload of Scotch Tape. Holy crap, has he got a vision. It's... it's... It's wild and dark and scary and I can't wait to see it. Supposed to start shooting at the end of the summer or early fall. I'll keep ya informed.

At Ransom Notes I posted a brief interview with the one and only Robert Randisi who writes about a dozen books a year. Here's what he said when I asked him about the stages of development one of his books went through -

"Stages of development" are for people who write one book a year. I have the general idea of what the plot is going to be for a Rat Pack book, and who your "guest" is going to be--Marilyn, Ava Gardner, Howard Hughes in the future--and then I sit down and start writing. The "world" is constant, Vegas of the 60's. From there on the book develops as Eddie and I walk through it. I do write proposals so the publisher has an idea of how to do the covers, but I do NOT do outlines, because I don't know what's going to happen next. I believe this is the beauty of the first person narrative, Eddie, the reader and I experience everything together. A Rat Pack book general gets about a max of three months of my time (one to three). During those three months, though, I'll usually write three westerns.

That dude is amazing. And this morning, at Ransom Notes I've got 2010 recommendations from Lynn Kostoff, Jack Clark and Benjamin Whitmer. 

Just call this one Beauty and the Beast. Sophie Littlefield and Scott Phillips discuss stuffs at Mulholland BooksA Bad Day for Pretty, indeed.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hittin the Road

Everything goes right, I'll be in Chicago this weekend and this is your reminder, Kent Gowran, Dan O'Shea, Julian Grant, Libby Fisher Hellmann, Theresa Schwegel, Sean Chercover, Marcus Sakey, Brian Azzarello - you want a piece of me? Now's your chance.


I'd like to thank Keith Rawson for choosing my story The Whole Buffalo, (Needle #1), as one of his favorite short stories of 2010. Means a lot that somebody read it at all. It's a long one. Over at Ransom Notes I'm naming my favorite short story collections and anthologies of 2010. Please leave your two cents worth over there, 'cause I know there's some damn fine stuff I never even got around to reading, including all those electronic publications that the kids are doing these days. I hear nothing but good things about 8 Pounds by Chris F. Holm and O'Shea's piece from Discount Noir had me howling when he read it at N@B, but I'm left out in the cold on all that stuff. I was talking to Kieran Shea last night about a forthcoming e-publication project we've got our dirty little hands in and he assured me that it's the future... or assured me that someone assured him of such... we were both a little distracted by the little distractions we respectively call progeny, but the point is - somebody is reading those. Always glad to hear people are reading. Allan Guthrie told me some positive things about his own electronic sales recently and when I hear that Dave Zeltserman's new one Blood Crimes is only available electronically and that it's him at his super hardboiled darkest, I think... shit. I want to read that. Anthony Neil Smith's Psychosomatic is now available that way as are some back catalog titles from Vicki Hendricks. So you don't have to pay ridiculous amounts for used books anymore... if you're not me.


Speaking of Mr. Smith, I'll remind you that he'll be here, (with bride and Herman!), for another installment of N@B March 10. That not enough to get you here? Fine, making his N@B debut will be Kyle Minor too. Still not here? Fuck you. I'm working on something cool with Tim Lane for promoting our tawdry event that I hope to unveil then. Don't show up - you're dead to me.

And check this out. Would love to hook up with these guys, yeah. Someday we could do a N@B touring boxcar maybe cross paths.

Anybody out there not hear that Anthony Bourdain's TV show, (No Reservations still, yeah?), has filmed an Ozarks episode? I'll give you one guess as to who is featured in that one. Yup. That was easy. I'll look for that one. I really do enjoy his show and I've even read some books, though, strangely enough not his crime novels. Think I'll pick up Bone in the Throat and give it a try.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011

Happy New Year, everybody. Dunno what to expect from this beast, but I can tell you some of my favorite novels from 2010 over at Ransom Notes. So head on over there and put me in my place with your own list. Rod Norman is kicking off 2011 with another interview. This time up it's John Rector whose The Cold Kiss made my Ransom Notes list. Read the interview at Signs & Wonders. New Year's weekend reading = Craig McDonald's One True Sentence, Wallace Stroby's A Cold Shot to the Heart, Greg Bardsley's Cash Out, Scott Phillips' That's a Lot of Superstitious Baloney and Matt Kindt's Super Spy.

Last night watched The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad with the kids and then Taylor Hackford's Love Ranch with Joe Pesci and Helen Mirren, who are solid as always, (didn't realize I missed Joe P. that much), but unfortunately the film is not great. I dunno, the script was a bit too on the nose and the pacing felt off. Bummer. If you get a chance to see the documentary Chicken Ranch, see that one instead. Great slice of life pic from inside one of Nevada's legal brothels (in the early 80s?) The girls are the focus, rather than the management. They play, fight, cope and do their hair. Prostitution can be tedious.

I'm going back to bed.