Monday, February 28, 2011

Huston We Have Contact

Finally read a Charlie Huston novel. The Mystical Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death was a good start, think I'll go for another soon, but I'm not sure where to start. Not really drawn to the vampire detective thing, but if that's really the shit... I dunno, lemme know. Regardless, feels good to cross a 'meant to read' off the list. Recently added to that list: Zulu by Caryl Ferey, Sick City by Tony O'Neill, Drowning Tuscon by Aaron Michael Morales and Volt by Alan Heathcock. Pretty sure I'm going to really respond to these, but dunno when Ima get around to 'em.

And you know what piles up quick and diminishes too slowly? Electronic reading. I ain't got the hang of that at all. I'm at various points in novels by Scott Phillips, Greg Bardsley, Steve Weddle, Laura Benedict, Tom Piccirilli and William Ingsley that I can only access on my laptop - in other words when I am least likely to be reading - and it's driving me nuts. Especially because they're all really worthwhile reads. I suck.

Speaking of senor Phillips, we're throwing another N@B event next week, Thursday, March 10 at 7pm and that oughtta be right up there at the top of your 'to attend' list 'cause we ain't messing around. We're welcoming back Anthony Neil Smith and claiming the cherries of Kyle Minor and Richard Thomas. Kyle's next books (a novel and a true crime tale both about Haiti) are right at the top of my future TBR pile and I'll put a physical copy of Richard's Transubstantiate in my grubby fingers at the event (check out the excerpt published in Plots With Guns). Mr. Smith's gonna scribble on my laptop to make 'em signed copies of his new e-books Choke on Your Lies and To the Devil My Regards (co-authored with Victor Gischler), but you know what I just said about electronic reading? Yeah, it applies here too. Gonna be a while. Sorry.

BTW - You see over at the Abbott/Gran Medicine Show (that's Megan Abbott and Sara Gran for those of you not yet hip to their uber-cool dual blog) a quick questionnaire for Craig McDonald? Nice. Those ladies got a good thing going over there. Been enjoying the Brian De Palma talk too.

At Ransom Notes, I discuss mixed feelings about Keigo Higashino's The Devotion of Suspect X and give some hints about hooking me as a reader.

Did you see me not even mention the Oscars?

Monday, February 21, 2011


Aaaaaaarggh. Hulk Smash. So angry about the terrible quality of a best-seller PI book I attempted to read a few days back. Still haven’t washed the taste out of my mouth. Every once in a while I get an outsider’s view of my culture and think that I understand terrorists just a little better, ‘cause I wanna blow it all to hell too. The writing in this book wasn’t just lazy it was flat-out aggressively poor and so transparently and cynically formulaic as to make me feel ill. I’ve read many baaaaad books (portions of the anyway), but most of them weren’t big ass deals in the publishing world. I'm going on about it a bit more over at Ransom Notes. Why just last week I posted there about Russel D. McLean’s The Lost Sister and my hopes for a good series from his J. McNee. What happened?


Gotta seriously cleanse my palette before I hate books forever. Be sort of the opposite of Steve Weddle – only watch movies from now on. Seen some good ones lately. Dogtooth anybody? Waaaay messed up movie about… know what? Better if you don’t know what it’s about, just check it and prepare to be creeped out. And what’s the deal with all you Big Love fourth season haters? Just wrapped that one up and loved it. Right up my twisted, soapy alley. I would love to see any outtakes featuring Grace Zabriskie and Bruce Dern or Harry Dean Stanton. Those three especially just inhabit those fucked up characters and make them breathe and whine and curse so well, I can’t imagine growing tired of them. Also really enjoyed The American with George Clooney recently. Gorgeously shot and deliberately paced (read – slow, but sometimes that’s what I want), it had a couple of unfortunate moments borrowed from a lesser film thrown in, but overall quite nice and a helluvan opening sequence. The Disappearance of Alice Creed was one of those smart, well-acted, really effective little pictures that turned its small budget into an excuse to leave out everything but the essentials and focus on three sharp performances in a super tightly controlled environment. Way to be Alice Creed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


And.... we're off. I've begun compiling and editing and formatting for this N@B anthology because I didn't have anything else to do. No, it's easy so far and I've read some pretty great stuff that I hadn't been exposed to previously. Tell you about one of those right now: Derek Nikitas sent four, count em FOUR previously published short shorts that are linked to be compiled for the first time as a single piece. And they rock. Dunno, maybe because I just read Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son, I'm on this single-voice, linked-short thing, but man, each piece is supported and enriched by the others and they build to something quite... nice? That's really not the word for it, but you know what I mean? The encouragement I've received this week regarding this project has meant a lot, so thanks everybody (especially you, Jon Bassoff). Also, add to the list of contributors I listed in the last post Dennis Tafoya and Pinckney Benedict. Please. Add them.

And while we're adding, let's talk about the next N@B event, shall we? Thursday, March 10 at 7pm (not 8) we'll be at The Delmar Lounge with Anthony Neil Smith, Kyle Minor and Richard Thomas. It's come to my attention that Randy Wayne White will be in town on the same evening at the St. Louis County Public Library, and I hate to create an ultimatum sitcheashun, but that's just how it's happening. Sorry. Them at the Library put on swell events.

Today at Ransom Notes I'm talking Craig McDonald and his latest Hector Lassiter yarn One True Sentence which is out today. Craig says it's the last of the Hector books with Hemingway trying to steal the spotlight. In this one, Hector gets to fight nihilists. I love to say that. Nihilists, Dude. Lots of exciting stuff coming up at Ransom Notes including The Terror of Living by Urban Waite which came out of fucking nowhere (to my ignorant ass) a debut racking up some serious accolades. So, as much as I bitch about being busy, it's good shit to be busy with. Don't cry for me, Argentina.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Subterranean Blues

The great Mystery Bookstore in L.A. closed its doors at the end of January. Dammit, now I have no reason to go back to California. That place rocked. Picked up some good shit on my first visit a little over a year ago- spent hours combing the shelves – then last time I dropped in, bumped into Brett Battles hanging around the place. That’s the kind of thing it was – the place you went if you were in town and into “our thing.” First time novelist Aaron Philip Clark had the honor of being one of their final (maybe the last) signing they hosted before shutting the doors and over at Ransom Notes, I'm talking about that book he signed, his debut The Science of Paul from New Pulp Press.

Now I get word that one of my favorite local bookstores in St. Louis may have to close this year. This just blows. Big time. Subterranean Books has been a kick-ass independent on the Delmar Loop for over ten years now and without them I'm afraid the neighborhood might disintegrate into a pile of cellular service stores and chain restaurants. Hell. 

Subterranean has been the official bookstore of Noir at the Bar too. Did I mention that? Soooooo, Scott and I were thinking of ways to help them out and came up with the old tried and true strategy of putting on a show in the old barn, or the literary equivalent – throwing together a book for a good cause.

So here’s the idea – a N@B anthology featuring folks who’ve participated in our tawdry little event over the past couple of years to be sold exclusively through Subterranean Books. Ought to be a cool little collector’s item for anybody who’s attended or wished they could. So far (like in the last two days) we’ve rounded just about everybody up including Derek Nikitas, Dan O’Shea, Laura Benedict, Jonathan Woods, Anthony Neil Smith, Theresa Schwegel, Frank Bill, Matthew McBride, Tim Lane, Malachi Stone, Chris LaTray, Cameron Ashley and Sean Doolittle.

Whatcha think, sound like a good idea? I’ve never put a book together before and God knows I need crazy help with all the commas and shit, so this is me really putting my dick on the chopping block for a just cause. I’ll keep everybody up to speed on the progress of this thing and hopefully when you’re here in September for Bouchercon (except for you, Kieran Shea) you’ll be able to visit Subterranean Books for yourselves.

BTW - you don't have to wait for the N@B book to support Subterranean (or your local independent). By clicking on the book icons on the right side of this screen you'll be directed to a place they're available to purchase and Sex, Thugs & Rock and Roll, Blood, Guts & Whiskey and Surreal South '09 should all be in stock at Subterranean. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Reap the Whirlwind

How is it that I hadn't bothered to pick up and read Josh Bazell's Beat the Reaper before now? I was aware of the title, for a year and a half or so, but was just too... something.... lazy? to investigate. Hot damn, it kicked ass. Kicked a very special kind of ass too. That too rare - hyper violent, precision vulgarity alternate universe that a Duane Swierczynski or a Tom Piccirrilli or Chuck Palahniuk might conceptualize, and deliver on the page so fresh it's still sticky with birthwater kind of ass. Kicked it. I'm going on a bit about it and other high-concept sort of shit over at Ransom Notes. Hold on... hmmm, Glenn Gray - whose gross-out body-building/medical-horror stories Reaper sort of reminded me of informs me that Leonardo DiCaprio has snatched up the rights and plans to star in the film adaptation - but now that I think of it, Reaper might make a good Jason Statham/Guy Ritchie vehicle. Especially as Dr. Peter Brown is supposed to look like a brute, (hard to imagine Leo pulling that off) and the appeal of the book lies so heavily in the internal monologue of the character, (something that Ritchie is pretty good with). Am I too self-conscious a hipster to cop to a fondness for Ritchie and Statham? Hell, no. When he's not disappearing up his own ass (or Madonna's) Ritchie is a first-rate genre filmmaker whose kinetic energy measures at something close to nuclear level and Statham? Have you not seen Crank or The Transporter (or Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch for that matter, just not Revolver, please not that one)? His appeal is obvious. I can't wait for Blitz and I hear good things about The Mechanic -  the remake of the old Charles Bronson movie - out now with Ben Foster. Is it too late to make this happen? Shit, just go read the book. And whoever is representing Glenn, get us a novel please.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Only Constant

I don't fear change so much as resent it. I was just getting settled into the way things worked and now you're gonna pull this? I'm past the excitement about revolution stage of my life (it was brief) and well into the cranky old codger bit. You kids and your electronic readers.

But it's true that the more things change...

And one happy return I can get behind is serial fiction. Yeah, I tend to wait for the trade edition of comics and the DVD box set of TV shows, but I do love the spirit of serialization. Feels like your junk is swinging in the wind and you may lose it all, but it's exciting to tune in weekly, monthly whatever and see if they can pull it off. Over at Ransom Notes I'm chatty on the subject. I bring up stuff like Ken Bruen's new one Black Lens appearing over at the Mulholland Books blog and Stephen King'The Green Mile among others.

Speaking of the King, I was meditating again on the difference between book and film mediums and the messy and combustible collaborations that result when one artist picks up another's baby (maybe marries their teenage daughter is a better analogy) to create something new. King famously was not a fan of Stanley Kubrick's treatment of The Shining, but c'mon, who doesn't love that movie? Or compare Blade Runner to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Two different visions, disparate but each remarkable and worthy. James Ellroy once said that even a bad movie will sell books and he should know. But what about a reaallly bad movie? What kind of relationship does say Don Winslow have to Bobby Z.? Or Michael Connelly to Blood Work? With some writers I absolutely understand jumping at the opportunity to have even a questionable film made from their material, but does Connelly need the money from film adaptations? Probably not. Should he hold out for a more sure thing with movies? Nah, go for it, man. I am curious about The Lincoln Lawyer, though. Did he trade up from Clint Eastwood? We'll see.

Incidentally, if you'd like to read The Lincoln Lawyer lemme know and I'll get you a copy before the movie comes out. Just leave a message on this post and make sure that I can e-mail you, (or you can e-mail me). Supplies are limited, so lemme know quick-like.