Monday, May 30, 2011


Okay, I'm going to exploit the hell out of this quote from Anthony Neil Smith, "St. Louis is becoming the hub of neo-noir in the country." (sorry, it's not Cape Cod... c'mon Johnny Temple). What's he referring to? He's talkin' 'bout Noir at the Bar of course. Well our tawdry little event and also Adam Wangler's Pitch Black Noir, a short documentary featuring Malachi Stone, Scott Phillips, Matthew McBride and myself and shot in part at that last N@B event. Check it out to see footage of Mr. Smith's reading. Look closely and you'll see Kyle Minor and Rod Norman in there too. Now, if that don't get yur nethers bothered for our June 11 event with Aaron Michael Morales, Fred Venturini, Frank Bill and John Hornor Jacobs, well, maybe this thing between us just isn't working out. It's not me, it's you. Getting close on the N@B anthology too. Matt Kindt and Tim Lane are putting together some graphic awesomeness for it.

Moving on from that personal horn-toot to this one, Crime Factory 6 is out and features Eric Beetner, John Mantooth, Angela Savage, The Nerd of Noir, Libby Cudmore, Andrew Nette, Tony Black, Graham Bowlin, Mike Sheeter, Tom Larson, Sean May, Nigel Bird, Scott Miles, John M. Radosta and Douglas Sullivan. Oh and it also features a non-fiction piece by me about a knifing at a Burger King, an event that I don't believe I've ever discussed before. It's a sub-genre I'm tagging CriMemoir and I'm officially putting out the call: I want your personal stories of crime however you've experienced it (as a perp, as a victim, as a bystander, as collateral damage, as a reporter). Go read My Semi-Dark Places and you'll see - I don't need the world to end in these pieces, but I'm interested in the ways our brushes with transgression have effected us. And like any memoir piece, the strict factuality of the events is not the point. My mom's always asking me where my 'dark side' came from... this is a little example.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Goodness, gracious, but panties twist sharp-like over at the Spinetingler and a review of James Reasoner's story The Conversion of Carne Muerto in the Ed Gorman, Martin Greenberg & Dave Zeltserman edited On Dangerous Ground: Stories of Western Noir. Yes, Brian Lindenmuth set up another monster anthology review project wherein each individual entry of a collection gets its very own critique. I was happy to participate and drew Bently Little's Hell to look over. You can read my thoughts on that one right here. You could also check out Nik Korpon being exposed to Ken Bruen for the very first time, (turn in your cool-kid-card right now, sir) or Charlie Stella's thoughts on the Robert Randisi piece, but the one everybody is getting snarky over is the Reasoner review by Benjamin Whitmer. Yeah, it's like 3,000 words long and that's before the epic comment section which is - well, it deserves a read too. The book also has entries from Terry Tanner, Steve Hockensmith, Desmond Barry, Bill Crider, Trey R. Barker, Harry Shannon, Jan Christensen, Jerry Raine, Jon L. Breen, Norman Partidge, T. L. Wolf, Jeremiah Healy, Gary Lovisi, Patrick J. Lambe and Terence Butler and each one is covered by the likes of Elizabeth White, Cullen Gallagher, Nick Mamatas, Steve Weddle, Russel McLean, Chris Rhatigan, Ben Springer, Chris F. Holm, Matthew C. Funk, Patti Abbott, S. McDonald and Jen Forbus.

Over at Ransom Notes, I'm sticking with the western noir theme (loosely) and listing some of my favorites in that vein. Some big nerd somewhere is bound to call me out on my usage of the term noir as applied to some of these choices, (like Patrick DeWitt's The Sisters Brothers) but y'know, why don't you go ahead and kiss my ass. Basically, I'm just going with non-black-or-white-hat westerns with a dark streak and I'll be the first to tell you that I am woefully under read in this area. I'd actually welcome being shown up a little in the comments section over there, so if you've got some suggestions for me (and can watch yur fuckin language) go ahead and leave me some picks of your own... 'course if you can't mind yur tongue, go ahead and leave 'em here. 

And that goes for movies too - I'd love to have gone on about some films over on the B&N site, but I try to stick to books as much as possible there. One film out right now that I'm realllllly anxious to see is Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff. Man, after Wendy & Lucy, I'm signed up to check out whatever the hell she wants to try her hand at... I reserve the right to hate it, but I'll give it a shot. This one stars Michelle Williams too and she's somebody whose attachment to a project is beginning to mean more to me all the time. Plus great supporting actors like Will Patton and Bruce Greenwood (doesn't matter how many utterly shitty movies that guy is in - I like him - and we'll always have Exotica) round out my interest. Hope, hope, hope I can catch it on the big screen. 

While we're on movies, lemme say I was excited to see the announcement from Canne that Nicolas Winding Refn took home the best director honors for his new film Drive. Looks, frankly, more mainstream than anything he's yet done and I am not using that term as a pejorative. He's the man to thank for the incredible Pusher trilogy as well as last year's Valhalla Rising (like the greatest heavy metal video ever, just without any actual y'know metal), the much ballyhooed Bronson and a quiet, eerie little thriller in a decidedly non-wanky-Lynchian vein Fear X (co-written by Hubert Selby Jr.) The new film, about a Hollywood stunt driver who's a getaway man by night, is based on the novella of the same name by James Sallis. So, a big movie and a new novel, The Killer is Dying, for Sallis this summer - that's what I call timing. 

Sallis also penned an introduction to On Dangerous Ground. But who buys a book for the introduction? Really. Alright, alright, my hand is raised. I've done that before. Hell, I may even buy an e-book for the introduction. I may find it within my budget to purchase Matthew McBride's Frank Sinatra in a Blender just so I can cut and paste my own name over McBride's and send it out to agents as a glowing recommendation from Ken Bruen. Seems like yesterday he was giving his first public reading for Noir at the Bar and now he's all growed up with a book deal and everything. Yeah, those are tears of pride. We at N@B do our best with the time we're given and then we have to let them walk on their own. And it's been a good little stretch for our kids - Dennis Tafoya just got some exciting movie action on The Wolves of Fairmount Park and Frank Bill'Crimes in Southern Indiana is racking up some awful solid remarks pre-release.

And if you wanna catch Mr. Bill before he's just a huge A-list name and a total prick, your absolute last chance before he sells out is Saturday, June 11 when he'll join Aaron Michael Morales, John Hornor Jacobs and Fred Venturini for a N@B to fucking remember. And please do remember it, 'cause I think I'm gonna have some issues with recall Sunday morning. Please note that we're setting up an August event too. Jesus Angel Garcia brings his wild, sexed-up verve to St. Louis on August 6 in support of his book badbadbad.  The N@B anthology is coming together quick-like and I can't wait for you to have a gander. Should be available for the August event. Definitely by Bouchercon if you're coming through for that. Are you?

Next week, I'm headed to Colorado. I used to live there. Ten years ago I wrote a couple PI novels about a Denver dick with an office on Colfax and a yen for all-nite diners. I hope you haven't read them. They are not the reason I've been asked to come back to the bosom of the Rockies (they weren't officially why I was asked to leave either). But hey, I'm going to be there and a cheap date too as the altitude will most likely play with my otherwise formidable substance tolerance. So, if you're there and wanna get me drunk and you aren't scared of my wife...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Hungry Ones

Here's some blurbs for the hungry ones club that will be N@B, Saturday, June 11, 7pm upstairs at Meshuggah Cafe.

For John Hornor Jacobs' Southern Gods

If William Faulkner, Jim Thompson and H.P. Lovecraft had an orgiastic blood sacrifice ritual to honor the Old Ones in the Delta Swampland at the height of the muggy Deep South summer at midnight, Southern Gods would probably be the result. - Ed Kurtz, author of Bleed

A dark and dreamy delight ... enlivened by the sort of characters only Elmore Leonard and Shirley Jackson could write ... Southern Gods held me fast until the end, leaving me wanting more, but satisfied that I had witnessed enough brilliantly rendered brutality and compassion for one sitting. - Weston Ochse, Bram Stoker Award-Winning Author of Empire of Salt and Scarecrow Gods

For Fred Venturini's The Samaritan 

Fred Venturini is an awesomely talented writer, and he proves it on every page of The Samaritan. Stretching artfully from the shabbiness of life in a small Illinois town to the glitter and greed of Hollywood, this first novel about a shy, emotionally damaged loser with a bizarre but coveted ability to regenerate his vital parts is one of the most engaging and ultimately satisfying that I've had the pleasure to read in a long time.—Donald Ray Pollock, author of Knockemstiff

Reading this was like finding an autobiography I forgot I’d written. Like Venturini had access to all my secret thoughts. It was strange and wonderful, and I’d pay to do it again.—Stephen Graham Jones, author of It Came from Del Rio

For Aaron Michael Morales' Drowning Tuscon

Morales wrestles with nothing less than the parameters of the human soul. —Luis Alberto Urrea

These are brutal and frequently riveting stories of the mean streets rendered in highly emotional, cinematic language. - Joanne Wilkinson (Booklist)

The bleakly human debut of the new Bukowski. - Esquire

Morales's vision is disturbing, haunting, though sometimes even strangely hopeful...his talent is considerable. You won't ever look at Tucson in quite the same way again. And you won't rest easily until the last page is turned. -January Magazine

Returning to the bosom of N@B, Frank Bill's Crimes In Southern Indiana

Good Lord, where in the hell did this guy come from? Blasts off like a frigging rocket ship and hits as hard as an ax handle to the side of the head after you’ve eaten a live rattlesnake for breakfast. One of the wildest damn rides you’re ever going to take inside a book.” —Donald Ray Pollock, author of The Devil All the Time

Bill's resolutely unsentimental debut collection lays bare working-class strife, exposing atrocities that are at once violently harrowing and desperately human. Readers who enjoy coal-black rural noir are in for a sadistic treat: flowing like awful mud and written in pulpy style, these stories paint a grisly portrait of the author's homeland. You might want to have your brass knuckles handy when reading. - Publisher's Weekly

Is there anything else even competing with your Saturday night? Don't be lame. Be there.

And we've just added an event for Saturday, August 6 with Jesus Angel Garcia, author of badbadbad!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tunng & Groove

Andrez Bergen has worked as a journalist, musician, photographer and graphic designer. He's also just published his first novel, The Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat through Another Sky Press out of Portland and they've got an interesting publishing philosophy which you can read more about here. Reminds me of what Radiohead tried with In Rainbows... never did hear how that worked out for them. And of course it sounds a little bit like what Stona Fitch has been doing with the Concord Free Press who - have you heard? - are launching the Concord e-Press to help fund the 'Free' press. So, yeah, their first round of e-books will include a short story collection from Scott Phillips, Rum, Sodomy & the False Eyelash as well as Matthew McBride's Frank Sinatra in a Blender, (featuring a gushing introduction by Ken Bruen btw).

But I digress... Andrez Bergen is today's contributor to the Narrative Music series.

I almost went with Palance. I love the guy as an actor and
But, instead, I find myself writing about some Brits I stumbled across when I did a DJ set in London in 2002. There was this band contributing to a mate’s compilation CD over there, and when he played me their song I was smitten.

The band was Tunng, the guest vocalist someone named Summit, and the song is called ‘Little King’. It’s never left my personal play-list over the intervening decade; these days it sits pretty on my iPod and will never, ever be deleted from same.

But the music itself is far from pretty – it’s downright ethereal, in a sardonically British kind of way. Tunng matches superb finesse behind their rack-mounted electronic gadgets and live instrumentation with a style, rhythm and tempo all their own.

So what is ‘Little King’ like, anyway?

It’s sublime, as I mentioned; there’s that canny touch of caustic knowingness; it’s almost a love song to some unseen muse, though given that this muse is “four foot nothing with dirty knees… carried on shoulders like a little king”, this is either a kid we’re talking about or a height-challenged adult individual.

Then there are the contrasts and off-skew lyrics that contradict: We’re introduced to “She” in the fifth line, but in that same breath she’s compared with a king instead of a queen. Then come the two standout lines for me:  “She is worshipped and adored/Invisibly worshipped and ignored.”

I’ll probably never know what the writer(s) actually intended by all this, but in my headspace I picture quite vividly a crossover between the child Dalai Lama in Martin Scorsese’s Kundun (1997) and the equally young Puyi in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987) being carried by worshipers through a dusty, sun-drenched place in Tibet or the Gobi Desert. Sure, they’re boys, but I can’t think of any celluloid moment similar in which a girl is “worshipped and adored” – though many girls do get a tip of the hat for “Invisibly worshipped and ignored”.

That’s where the trouble boils to the surface, beneath the serene beauty of the above landscape scenario: An undercurrent that’s dark, possibly scarring, and worrisome; intimations that some kind of abuse, physical or mental, is being played out.

No one came looking for me” is just plain sad.

But this kid surely has attitude. “Four foot nothing”? Short but tough, I like to think. “Knees stained with dirt”? If it’s a girl, a tomboy who’ll hit back. Besides, he/she “is restless with greed”. This kid is no pushover.

The real strength of ‘Little King’, however, is its flexibility. It has this chameleon-like ability to twist and adapt to different kinds of scenarios in your head, making it one of the more influential pieces of music that helped shape my recently published novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat.

There were times on the train here in Tokyo when I’d just tune out from the crowds, hit play on my iPod, conjure up pivotal scenes in the book, and reflect. ‘Little King’ was the soundtrack for the more harrowing emotional moments therein.

It’s that kind of song – a poignant, moving, somewhat dark journey of a lullaby that remains unforgettable. That said, here are the lyrics in their entirety to nut over on your own:

Four foot nothing knees stained with dirt
When we went hiding why don't you seek?
No one came looking for me
Your head is restless with greed

She carried on shoulders like a little king
She is worshipped and adored
Invisibly worshipped and ignored
No one came looking for me

Twisted metal and underground deeds
This weightless town no good for me
Your head is restless with greed
Your fate laid down in deep

Palance will just have to wait until next time.

Andrez Bergen

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Post: Bill Loehfelm

Bill Loehfelm's latest The Devil She Knows is the first of a series and he's the guest contributor at Hardboiled Wonderland today.

The hero of my new novel, THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS, is Maureen Coughlin, a twenty-nine year old New York cocktail waitress who gets herself on the wrong side of some bad people. Though my first two novels each featured strong female characters, this is my first novel with a female lead. I get asked a lot about that choice, to write from a female POV. Were the reasons commercial? Artistic? (The latter) Was I nervous? (No) Did I have a female consultant to proof it for me? (Not specifically, though Maureen did pass muster with my wife and my editor) What yoga exercises did I do to get in touch with my feminine side? (OK, I made that last one up)

The decision was simple, and boring. It was time to write about Maureen; it was her time for a book.

Maureen began life in a flash fiction piece I did more than ten years ago. She lived for years without a name. She has endured and evolved over the years, resurfacing in various guises (not unlike a director’s favorite character actor), in short stories and as a supporting character in the (forever) unpublished novel I used as my graduate school thesis. When I sat down to write my third book, I pulled up Maureen (then the lead in a short story called “Waitress”) and decided to see if she had a book in her – simply because she had lasted so long. There had to be something she wanted to do or say, and I had to see if I had figured out how to lead her through it. Now, as it turns out, she may have more than one book in her. She’s become a character that can’t put down. Maureen got the lead in THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS because she’s a rich character who wouldn’t go away, not for any other reason.

The fact that she’s female is incidental. I didn’t choose her because she’s female anymore than I chose Junior Sanders from my first book (FRESH KILLS), or Danny and Kevin Curran from my second (BLOODROOT) because they’re male. Curiously, people rarely ask how I wrote about Nat Waters, the book’s washed up 60-year-old NYPD detective, though my life is much closer to Maureen’s than his. Could that because we’re both male, I wonder? Well, regardless of how it all plays into post-modern lit theory and gender studies, I choose Maureen for this book because every story starts, for me, with character. And she’s the best I’ve ever had.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

No Matter How I Struggle & Strive

Junkies and country music. Steve Earle knows of what he speaks and damn can he speak. I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive reads awful strong. I had a great time listening to him speak Monday on his books and music as well as the occasional acting gig and speaking other people's words, though, as he said, he's had a good go of it, having them written for him by the likes of David Simon (The Wire, Treme) and Tim Blake Nelson (the uneven, but pretty entertaining Leaves of Grass). If you get the chance, take it. Standing in line to meet the dude, I hear the guy ahead of me confirm a rumor about a bar in town that's awarding free beers to anybody who bought Steve's book and once I've digested the blessed info, I do an incredibly nerdy thing and ask him if he's on the radio talky-box 'cause his voice is damned familiar. Yup, Tim Rakel who hosts the badass Mystery Train show on the beyond badass KDHX community radio station in St. Louis, (and I'm told you can stream it online for those of you living in the future) was standing just ahead of me and we share a couple awkward moments of 'heh, yeah... on the radio... yup... that's cool... uh-huh... neat.' Eventually a semi-intelligent exchange takes place regarding musicians writing books (we've both read Nick Cave's And the Ass Saw the Angel) and I'd just finished Nathan Larson's The Dewey Decimal System which I'm blathering excitedly about over at Ransom Notes. Good stuff from the former Shudder to Think rocker and current film scorer, (Ima haveta watch Dirty Pretty Things again soon and focus on the music), but yeah, if you like Philip K. Dick, Jonathan Lethem, Duane Swierczynski and Victor Gischler, I'll thinka yull like TDDS.

Tonight!!! Join me, Scott Phillips and Tim Lane at Subterranean Books for another round of multi-media entertainments revolving around The Myth of Jackie at 7pm and if you haven't picked up Tim's book Abandoned Cars yet, yur dead to me.

And just added to the June 11 N@B event already featuring Aaron Michael Morales and Frank Bill, the cantankerous and bombastic John Hornor Jacobs in support of his debut novel Southern Gods due later this summer. As we're holding a Saturday event this time we will not be at The Delmar Lounge for the first time since N@B's inception, so stay tuned for a venue announcement and possibly another kick ass participant.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Too-Left Feat Giveaway

Hot damn, this week is good for the creative stimulus. Good meet with Tim Lane and Scott Phillips the other night - also bumped into illustrator/children's author John Hendrix, tonight the recently agented up Matthew McBride sneaks inside our naive city's panty-lines, Monday Steve Earle signs books at the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Library and Tuesday I'm takin my fair lady to see Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs. Tim is getting ready for his monthly show at Subterranean Books next week which Scott and I will once again be lending our vocal stylings to, so come check that out Wednesday the 18th.

Did I mention N@B is coming June 11 with Aaron Michael Morales and Frank Bill? Come ON, how could it get any better than that? Hmmm, I dunno, maybe if say Alan Heathcock jumped in the mix? Well, I tried, but Senor Heathcock will actually be in Evansville Indiana that evening. And what, you've seen AMM and Frankie Bill and me and Scott too much? You're getting sick of us? Well, the Webster Film Series is showing Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place starring Humphrey Bogart and based on the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes that evening too. So, you have plans for Saturday the 11th now, I should think.

Over at Ransom Notes I'm gushing over PM Press's re-issue of Sin Soracco's women in prison novel Low Bite and yeah.... I liked it a lot. Anybody out there with a copy of Edge City they wanna send me, 'cause I'll send 'em something back. In fact, I tell ya what, I'm just crazy about one particular piece of hardboiled poetry that I'm gonna give it away to somebody... Just leave a comment on this post to be entered in the drawing for my copy of Pinckney Benedict's only novel (three amazing collections of short stories, but only one novel), Dogs of God. Seriously, look it up. You think it's coming over to touch gloves, but it'll bust up yur kiss maker before the bell's even rung. So, just leave a comment, any ol' comment, and you're entered. What? You never heard of PB or Dogs? Here, check out this video on YouTube. Somebody made a short film outta the prologue to the book. Now enter. I'll draw a name on Monday.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kilgore's Trout (ahem)

"And it burns, burns, burns - the ring of fire."
    - June Carter Cash, Merle Kilgore

S'okay, my new hardboiled science fiction pulp story Down, Down, Down, Burns, Burns, Burns is up over at Beat to a Pulp and while I slightly exaggerated my offense to the very dedicated and talented David Cranmer in the previous post, (turns out I'd sent him the wrong draft of the story - not an entirely different story), I would like to thank him for believing in it enough to stick with me/it through several drafts as I waffled about silly things. I did have fun writing it, (my first attempt at Sci-Fi since sixth grade) and may go back and try another speculative piece soon. While we're on the topic of firsts, the Crimefactory antho will feature my first foray into westerns while my second will appear in another anthology later in the fall. I'm enjoying getting out and exploring unfamiliar terrain.

At Ransom Notes I'm interviewing the one and only Lawrence Block about his new one, A Drop of the Hard Stuff as well as his latest Jill Emerson excursion into sex and violence, Getting Off. Speaking of grand masters, I'm excited about Robert J. Randisi's third, (and it looks like final - but with Bob, you never say never), Nick Delvecchio book The End of Brooklyn, while Sara Gran's Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead takes the PI novel down a decidedly different path into the future. Next up, Sin Soracco's Low Bite and Jason Starr's The Pack.

Summer travels will take me to Colorado in a few weeks for a rowdy week of carousing with Tom Piccirilli, Jon Bassoff, Benjamin Whitmer and Stephen Graham Jones. Or maybe just seeing some family. But hey, I've been known to enjoy a good carousing. And I hear that Scott Phillips will be headed to Texas and the set of Terrill Lee Lankford's filmed take on Joe Lansdale, Christmas With the Dead. Carousing guaranteed.

Have you got your summer travel plans together? Do they include St. Louis? They should. There are a handful of N@B events looming in the realm of possibility not to mention Steve Earle - doing books - Donald Ray Pollock and something called Bouchercon. But for Pete's sake be here Saturday June 11 for N@B featuring Aaron Michael Morales author of the hardcore Drowning Tucson and Frank Bill for his pre- Crimes in Southern Indiana tour.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Dear David Cranmer

Dear David Cranmer:

You rock. Your WebZine Beat to a Pulp is fantastic. I love the genre mash going on over there and I love the commitment you and Elaine Ash have demonstrated to the pulp-loving community by cranking this stuff out every week. And should we talk about the book? Beat to a Pulp: Round One was tits! Not only full of my favorite writers getting their pulp on, but gorgeous to look at and a pleasure to hold. Really, thanks for that and for y'know, paying the writers. You sir are a class act.

Now, about that piece of mine you're running tomorrow, thanks for sending me a preview and all. And thanks for all that work you did formatting it and making it look spiffy, but could you, y'know forget it? I've changed my mind. I don't want that to run after all. Instead, I've got a brand new - longer - bit I'd like you to format and proof and run in its place.

I know this has been going on for months. I know I told you you could have the one, but really, I'd appreciate it if you'd chalk all that previous work you'd put in to experience and just stay up all night working on this new piece instead.

Pre-shate it. You're the best.


Jedidiah Ayres

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

Okay, now that Osama Bin Laden has moved on to his first dozen celestial virgins and Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic are jet skiing the lake of fire, now that Fidel Castro is too feeble to crush anybody and Kim Jong Il is somehow less menacing in nepotism thank Hugo Chavez is in power. Where will we turn to fill the role of International Boogey-Man No. 1? Talking a bit about it over at Ransom Notes.

But y'know who's got an answer to that question? A quick list in no particular order:

Scott Phillips, Hilary Davidson, Cameron Ashley, Harry Hunsicker, Eric Beetner, Tony Black, Greg Bardsley, Matthew C. Funk, Patricia Abbott, Kieran Shea, Bill Fitzhugh, Steve Weddle, Jimmy Callaway, Ken Bruen, Jason Duke, Al Riske, Rachel Canon, Keith Rawson and Mark Richardson.

Who is it? Who could possibly be sinister enough for all to agree on? You'll just have to speculate for a while longer.