Monday, September 28, 2009

Nothin' Feels Better Than Blood On Blood

Guest contributor, the multi-talented Craig McDonald, continues the conversation of Narrative Music today at HBW. I'm running out of ways to say it... Him good.

Nothin’ Feels Better Than Blood On Blood: Narrative Music by Craig McDonald

Two men, one woman: a noir staple.

Sometimes, there’s sexual conflict; sometimes the tug of war is more emotional.

Two of my favorite novels, James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, and Craig Holden’s Four Corners of Night, work that dynamic — two men, one woman.

Add to the roster Bruce Springsteen’s Highway Patrolman, a cut from the Flannery O’Connor-inspired 1982 release, Nebraska . Of course, Springsteen has long peppered his albums with crime-inflected ballads (a few years back, an actual anthology of crime stories centered on his Born To Run-era song, Meeting Across the River, was published).

But for me, Springsteen’s most evocative exploration of crime is Highway Patrolman.

Joe, Franky and Maria…

Their tale eclipses the other noir-tinged songs on the very dark Nebraska album — lingering more powerfully in the mind than the title track, or Johnny 99 and State Trooper.

Joe and Franky are brothers who come of age in the early- to-mid 1960s in some farming community, perhaps situated in northern Michigan (the geographical clues dropped in the lyrics, appropriately, are confusing…give no concrete sense of place other than proximity to the U.S. ’ northern-most border).

Franky ends up in the Army: whether he enlisted or was conscripted is unclear. Joe, the levelheaded, steady brother, gets “a farm deferment,” heir-apparent to the family business.

But a failing crop market forces Joe to a course-correction in order to support his wife, Maria. He takes a post in the highway patrol, rising to the rank of sergeant.

When Franky comes back stateside in ’68, Joe’s official duties find him doing what he’s done all his life — trying to corral his brother who “ain’t no good”…to make him “walk that line.” But youthful, boys-will-be-boys escapades escalate with age and post “in-country” ennui.

Franky more frequently needs a protective brother operating under color of authority to haul his ass out of increasingly bloody bouts of bad behavior.

A man who “turns his back on his family,” he “ain’t no friend of mine,” Joe says, a repeated refrain.

We see it all in novelistic detail: lives lived in a dead-end town…nights lost in road houses, “takin’ turns dancin’ with Maria” while a sticks band’s cover of “Night of the Johnstown Flood” plays on.

Things blow to pieces one night in a barroom brawl that leaves a kid “bleedin’ hard from his head.” The beaten-on boy’s best girl fingers Franky as the perp and the call goes out over the radio.

Joe chases his brother down dark, back roads to the Canadian border. There, Joe breaks off the pursuit…sits in his cruiser and watches his brother’s “taillights disappear” across that line.

Highway Patrolman is a spare, evocative song that finds its most effective rendition in the crude recording its songwriter originally intended to serve as a demo.

Even a pre-Rick Rubin Johnny Cash can’t touch the original’s power.

In 1991, the song was actually adapted by Sean Penn for a little-seen film called The Indian Runner.

I didn’t know the flick’s pedigree the first time I stumbled across it on some late-night channel-surfing binge. But the epiphany came strongly and quickly: the song’s DNA and sad story of family allegiances run that deep.

Craig McDonald is the author of HEAD GAMES and TOROS & TORSOS. His third novel, PRINT THE LEGEND, is coming from Minotaur Books in February 2010

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bone's a Rover

So it's out. Bloods a Rover drops into today's milqtoast literary scene like a turd in the picnic basket and gives us reason to believe again in the big publishing houses for just a minute. Anybody hear Ellroy on NPR this morning? That guy gives more golden soundbites than any politician. Also on this day, I spend more of my hard grifted money on postage to Cullen Gallagher who should be congratulated for just giving a shit enough to read my little blog and answer an easy question. Congratulations, then, Cullen. I'm sending him a copy of James Ellroy's Destination: Morgue! For the rest of you, here's the old post in which I propose that The Big Lebowski was a quasi-remake/sequel to the movie Cutter's Way, (mind you - not the book Cutter and Bone). I am outdoing myself for lazy blogging.

The Coen Brothers said in their acceptance speech at last year's Oscars that perhaps their success with adaptations was due to their pickiness in material saying they'd only adapted Cormac McCarthy and Homer. But that didn't ring true to me. They've made no bones about their fondness for James M. Cain and the direct influence his writing had on The Man Who Wasn't There and I think some pretty interesting parallels could be drawn between Miller's Crossing and Cain's Love's Lovely Counterfeit, but I'm thinking of The Big Lebowski. "Ah" you'll say, but Lebowski was mere homage to Raymond Chandler, and there may be something to that, but it's not Chandler I'm referring to. In 1976 Newton Thornburg published an atomic sour-ball of a thriller called Cutter and Bone. Set in its own time, it depicted a post-Vietnam America succumbing to rot from all directions. At the center of the story is Richard Bone, a former husband and father, now California beach bum, societal dropout scraping by as a handyman gigolo. His best friend is Alex Cutter, a bitter, damaged Vietnam veteran who has sacrificed various parts of his body and crucial parts of his humanity for his country. Bone has a love/hate relationship with Cutter, who gives him a place to live in between sugar-mommas, but drives him and everyone else away with his scathing diatribes on culture and depravity and gleefully points out hypocrisy and moral shortcomings everywhere he sees them, especially in himself and his friends. One night Bone witnesses the body of a young girl being dumped in a trashcan and after telling the police he could not identify the dumper, makes the mistake of musing to Cutter the possibility that it was a wealthy businessman he saw do the dumping. And they're off. Bone wants to forget he said anything the minute it leaves his mouth. He just wants to get back to the easy dope haze he calls home, but Cutter will not let go and drags him into a wild investigation of "the man" who stands for everything wrong with the world that can't be pointed to in their own example. The book is strong, hard stuff and was made into the movie Cutter's Way in 1981. The film is pretty good on its own terms, but just can't pack the same punch delivered by the book. But get this, Jeff Bridges plays Bone in the movie. Watch Cutter's Way and The Big Lebowski back to back and try not to see the connections. Is Lebowski a sequel? Or a remake? I think it goes way beyond homage. The Dude and Walter are far less tragic than Bone and Cutter, but they carry the faint echo into the 1990's of the original 1970's scream. I don't think the Coens will ever comment on it, but the glazed smirk of Jeff Bridges' Lebowski says it all. A wink's the same as a nod, Dude. Perhaps Lebowski deserves an entirely new category, (though if O Brother Where Art Thou counts as a straight adaptation...). Can't wait to see what The Yiddish Policeman's Union becomes through their lense.

(That project seems to have been shelved, now, but rumors swirl around a re-make of True Grit starring Jeff Bridges. Hmmm).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hardboiled Wonderland & The End of the World

Graphic artist John Hendrix's work has been featured in everything from The New Yorker to Rolling Stone, Esquire to Paste, Wired, Vanity Fair and beyond. His work is often about calamity, destruction and the uh... end of the world. Last year he illustrated the children's title Abe Licoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale by Deborah Hopkinson. This year he returns with his first book as author and illustrator, John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, about famed and infamous abolitionist John Brown. It struck me as such a hard sell for a children's book, such a compelling, dark and gutsy idea in a time when "religious extremism" plays a front and center role in suffering and conflict around the world that I had to pick his brain a bit. In the author's note in the book, Hendrix is careful to point out that John Brown's "religious extremism" was rooted in freedom and not oppression which makes him stand out, but holy crap it's still a controversial theme for a tot's book. I read it with my five year old and had a veeerrry interesting conversation afterward. (Mike Knowles at Do Some Damage had a worthwhile bit on challenging children's books a couple weeks back). So here I go straining the limits of the genre again. Sue me.

Was the book a hard sell to publishers?

My first book I wrote, John Brown, ended up being my second book.

Scholastic was really interested in it when I approached them in 2003. They bought it and we were off. They were very supportive of my drawings and really felt like they could overcome the difficult subject matter to get it to fit their list. But, ultimately, we both agreed that it wasn’t really the best fit for us together. I resold the story to Abrams in 2005 and that was a much better house for the book. They do smaller runs of books that take more risks, so there isn’t the pressure to sell 50,000 of them to break even. In the end, I just wanted it published somewhere, and I’m really fortunate that it is at a house like Abrams.

While JB was lying fallow, and given that I had shopped my work around to every place in New York with a civil war interest, the story for "Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek" was a really good fit when it came across my desk.

What was the origin of the project?

It has been a long time coming as you know, but the process has been very rewarding.
For me, all ideas start with visuals. I first fell in love with John Brown as a visual subject.

I had lived in Kansas for seven years, so I really knew about him as a kind of folk hero first. Then when I moved to New York, I met a John Brown scholar, Louis A. DeCaro, he had written a very positive portrayal of John Brown’s life called “Fire From the Midst of You”- and I loved it.

When I started reading about him, I also became really enamored with who he was and what he believed in. So, I made a list of all the images I wanted to include in a story about his life, and wrote the book around those ideas. Even though I wrote the book, I would never start with words. I am not a 'writer's writer'... but an artist who uses words to frame and create my own visual content. The images are always the staring place for me.

To me, Brown is a true civil rights hero. And most people think he is a lunatic. We have this popular image of him as an insane loony who killed people with some flawed notion of his own importance who was punishing innocent civilians because of his religious beliefs. When you really read what he believed and why he was brought to his actions- you see just how unique he was in his own era. A true visionary, and he has been minimized because I think most people are uncomfortable with people who are strongly motivated by religious ideas. I feel as though he deserves a more accurate account of his life.

Where did the fascination with Brown begin? What other biographical and historical elements would you have liked to cover?

Someone recently said that perhaps I should try to do kids books on subjects that shouldn’t have kids books. I like that idea. Now, that is harder than it sounds once you start making a short list. Better yet, are difficult and untold stories. What about the German minister who tried to kill Hitler, Dietrich Bonheoffer? Or I’d love to do a book about the man who ended slavery in England, William Wilberforce. These are great stories with a sharp moral edge to rub against- and stories that most people don’t know.

Why American historical figures? (Lincoln and Brown) Any others in the queue?

I really do believe that you should write about what you know, and for me, I grew up in the heartland of America- spent my summers on my grandparents farm in Vernon County Missouri (a place that John Brown raided to free slaves when he was in the area!) and so I feel really connected to the stories of the American experience. Now, as I say that- I’m working on a story that takes place in France, but has connections to the spirit of John Brown. I’m in the midst of selling this idea, so I don’t want to mention it specifically- but I can say there will be guns involved.

Any other ideas for children's books?

Children's books were the first illustration vehicles that I truly loved. Of course, my editorial career took off when I first started out in NYC and I love doing those images as well, but my heart has always leaned towards story in sequence.

For my next book, I will be working together on another book centered on the Civil War. (Most people think I’m a civil war nut, when in fact I just really love history- this will be last civil war book for a while.) It is a great story about a young girl named Sarah Edmonds who dresses up like a man to fight for the Union. She was such a great soldier that they asked her to become a spy. So, in a Shakespearean twist, she dressed up like many different kinds of people- black slaves, female nurses, male soldiers, all to spy on confederate cannon positions. We couldn’t focus on all her spy missions in the book, so we illustrated just one episode where she dresses as a male slave- darkening her skin with silver nitrate. True story!

Adult books?

You could argue that the John Brown book might be better suited for an adult audience, but when you are working with images- there really is no market for adult picture books, unfortunately, unless you are counting graphic novels. But that isn’t really what I do.

Your work has a tendency toward disaster and apocalypse, where does that come from?

I’ve often thought about this and it is hard for me to come up with any particular reason I’m drawn towards these types of images. Artist statements that try to ferret out all the subconscious reasons for making particular images often defeat the magic of the work- and seem a bit self-important. I think that it is partially a love of the forms that come in those images- but that might be oversimplifying a bit. Some of it comes from my faith and the connection to biblical imagery- and imagery that came out of the church in the late 19th century- spiritual warfare and use of symbols much like the Book of Revelation. Of course, my work is also unavoidably goofy. I find that pairing lo-fi silly drawings with serious content like earthquakes and the apocalypse is a nice kind of visual tension.

What is the connection between your other, (art), work and John Brown?

It is hard to deny the connection between the bluster and fire of John Brown and the disaster images and doomsday scenarios that populate my other work. The brimstone that John Brown brought to the cause of the enslaved was downright Biblical. On the cover of the book, I was looking at popular images of Moses and Superman for reference… so that should tip my hand a bit. I’ve always been interested in the connection between belief and action- faith and reason- the sacred and the secular. John Brown has all these themes in his life.

How do you present this complex topic to your own children? Has it provoked any interesting conversations with children?

Well, my oldest, Jack, just turned four. A bit young to even have a basic conversation about the realities of slavery. Currently, he can’t distinguish the actual feasibility between someone like Santa Clause, Spiderman and Jesus Christ. He does know that my book is about “John Brown” and likes to draw John Brown on his own- but we really haven’t gone past that, nor should we just yet.

I’m just starting on my book ‘tour’ this fall (three places so far) and I’ll get to interact with more children about the book- I’ll let you know if I get drilled with some tough questions. I can think of a few I’d hate to get asked.

What parallels to today do you find in the book?

Usually, when we hear the name of John Brown brought up in contemporary conversation or in print- it is in association with something either horrible or notorious.
Last year, as the presidential candidate Barack Obama was floundered by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the New York Review of Books compared the situation to the way President Lincoln was mired by his association with John Brown. And on and on, the DC sniper, Timothy McVeigh and the killing of the abortion doctor Tiller have all brought mentions of John Brown- not without reason, but it is too bad that his legacy is mostly centered in the “homegrown violence against Americans” – rather than an American portrait of self-sacrifice.

Certainly, we Americans would agree that some things are worth fighting for and dying for. Our country is founded on the principles of freedom, choice and even happiness. But, it is a fascinating question to ask: how much evil would you personally tolerate before you beat it back? How many friends hauled away in chains would it take for you to take up arms and resist? John Brown could not stand the thought of inaction… for that I admire him.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Provinces of Night

Every once in a while the stars align and somebody deserving’s ship comes into La-La-Land. This year it’s happened at least twice. William Gay’s stories are headed for the talkies – they shitfire! – and if them whose hands hold the rights to those fictions can bring anything resembling the books to the screen well they’s gonna be some awful potent pictures at the show. Scott Meeks makes his feature debut with That Evening Sun, adapted from the titular story in Gay’s collection I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, starring Hal Holbrook and producers Ray McKinnon, (Deadwood) and Walton Goggins, (The Shield). Next up is Provinces of Night with an ensemble cast including Val Kilmer, Kris Kristofferson, Dwight Yoakam and screenwriter W. Earl Brown, (Dan Dority from Deadwood and Mr. “Franks & Beans” from There’s Something About Mary… seriously… check it out… told ya so). Twilight is in pre-production and while the story is simpler than PON it is uh… how to say it… a little perverse? Anyway I’m eager to see how that comically macabre tale holds up against the money people. That covers most of Gay’s novels except for The Long Home, (which I hear has a killer script floating around already) and The Lost Country which hits bookstores November first.

Far from covering his impressive body of work, but making it a damn good year to be Ken Bruen, there are at least three KB films coming down the pike. First (filmed) is Colin Farrell, Keira Knightly and Ray Winstone in London Boulevard which also makes the directorial debut of scribe William Monahan, (The Departed), followed by Jason Statham as Sgt. Brant in Blitz and a television series called Jack Taylor after well Jack Taylor from the uh Jack Taylor novels – The Guards, being the first. British Actor Dominic West looking to shake the image of alcoholic trainwreck police detective Jimmy McNulty, (The Wire) will play alcoholic trainwreck private detective er Jack Taylor. Which is great news for Bruen, for West and the world, but frankly it strikes me they’ve got it backward. The Taylor novels seem ideal for films and the Brant titles could make a kick ass ensemble television series. Also possibly coming from Bruencysktan, Once Were Cops and Tower – coauthored with Reed Farrell Coleman and edited by Allan Guthrie whose Two-Way Split may be getting a filmic treatment of its own soon.

Or maybe not.

Seems nearly a year ago I blogged about Jude Law playing Brant in Blitz. Statham’s a bit easier to picture right?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bullets, Booze & Bastards

Meet Jon Bassoff. See the haunted look in his eye? He's a bit strapped for time, blood and amphetamines. This guy is a high school English teacher, father, writer and now publisher. His house, New Pulp Press are the new-kids-bringing-down-the-property-values-on-the-block in the world of crime fiction. They kicked off the year with the fetid stench of Nate Flexer's The Disassembled Man and things only went downhill from there. Jackson Meeks' While the Devil Waits, Stan Richards' Almost Gone and Michael Lion's The Butcher's Granddaughter followed soon after. With a schedule that includes new titles by Jonathan Woods, Pete Risley and L.V. Rautenbaumgrabner over the fall and winter, NPP is also reprinting the likes of Gil Brewer and Lynn Kostoff. From a remote location in the majestic West, JB agreed to answer some questions.

With the general world wide economic shake up and the top-heavy publishing industry in a panic, you picked a hell of a time to start New Pulp Press. What led you into publishing?

While I had toyed with the idea of starting a publishing company for several years, the enterprise gradually started coming to fruition early last year. The company has evolved quite a bit in a short time. Initially, I was hoping just to get a few local writers involved, sell a few copies, buy a few beers. Then the agent for a very talented writer, Lynn Kostoff, contacted me expressing interest in getting a couple of his books reissued. He had felt ignored by the big conglomerate publishers and wanted to try something new. He understood that he wouldn't get rich with New Pulp Press, but he was excited about the product we put out, excited that we would give some control back to the author. I begged him to reconsider, begged him to let another company publish his work, but he was relentless. So we agreed to reissue two of his books: A CHOICE OF NIGHTMARES and THE LONG FALL. So suddenly we've got this guy who rivals James Ellroy on-board and I think, "Holy shit, we've got a real company on our hands. What the fuck do I do now?" And that's what I'm still trying to figure out.

How does having someone of that caliber aboard change your game plan?

Having authors that have already made a name for themselves certainly increases the visibility of our little "punk" publishing venture. Having Lynn Kostoff on board, as well as reissuing some books from a pulp legend like Gil Brewer, means that bookstores and libraries will at least pick up the phone when I call--unlike most girls I meet. It's a great opportunity, but I also feel a lot responsibility. Lynn is used to dealing with the big boys. Now he's dealing with me, a very small boy. I'd like to be able to deliver not for the sake of New Pulp Press, but for the sake of Lynn Kostoff, a great author who has been ignored for too long. It has actually been a big year for Lynn, as his new novel has been picked up by Tyrus Books. I'm very excited for him. And yes, I do feel the same responsibility to my other authors. That's the great thing about being a small press. I can afford to be loyal to all my authors. And they are all wonderful people. Except for L.V Rautenbaumgrabner. Wait until you read his shit. He is not a wonderful person. No, he's not wonderful at all.

Is your editorial department overwhelmed

Well, there are only three of us who initially read through all of the manuscripts. Over the course of a month we might get fifty or so submissions which wouldn't be so bad, but all of us have day jobs--teachers, pimps etc. So yeah, it's a little overwhelming. I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by people in publishing, so I've gotten a lot of services such as copy editing on the cheap. But as you read these submissions you realize how much good stuff is out there that might never see the light of day. And you also realize how much God-awful stuff is out there as well. I don't know which kind I like reading more.

So how exactly would you describe the niche that you want to fill?

I'm interested primarily in producing neo-noir books, books that leave behind some of the cliches of typical noir, books that might be described as post-modern. Wow, that sounded highfalutin! I feel like Charles Ardai over at Hard Case Crime has the market covered in traditional noir. I hope our books are a little edgier, a little stranger. The crime fiction that gets me going respects the past, respects Chandler and Hammett and Cain, but also bends the genre in some way. Hard Case Crime is hardboiled. New Pulp Press is cracked with yolk oozing all over a heavily tattooed corpse.

Do you envision a chain store presence anytime soon or ever for New Pulp Press?

I would be surprised. Chain stores like Borders and Barnes and Noble have built-in relationships with most of the larger publishers, and so they usually don't want to waste their time with small independent publishers. It's just not cost effective for them. There are exceptions to that rule, of course, and I don't suppose I would protest to seeing our books on their shelves. But honestly we see ourselves as an anti-corporate, independent press, and we prefer having our books in smaller independent bookstores as opposed to the big box stores. One of the ironies of starting an independent publishing company is the reliance on I recognize that Amazon is as corporate as it gets, and I recognize that Amazon is taking away business from many independent bookstores. But as a publisher, being able to sell a book directly to the consumer is a powerful tool. Sad to say, we probably couldn't survive without the monster that is Amazon.

With big publishing in a time of crisis, are there any advantages you see to being small? Any new marketing/technology you can exploit to shape the future of publishing?

We use print-on-demand technology which is a bad word in much of the industry. There are several reviewers who refuse to even review a book if it has been printed with print-on-demand, which I find fascinating. Many people equate POD with vanity presses, which is false. It is true that many vanity presses and self-publishing services use POD technology, but it is just that: a technology. The traditional mode of publishing that the big boys use is off-set printing. They print thousands of copies and the cost per copy goes down the more they print. Because of the overwhelming volume of books they print, they can take a chance on having unsold inventory. In fact, big publishers assume that most of their books won't sell. They count on a handful of books to subsidize their other titles. The unsold inventory is a cost of doing business. Naturally, I can't afford that cost. Print-on-demand technology means the book is only printed when it has been ordered by a consumer. While each copy costs more to print, it is a fixed cost, and there is no risk of unsold inventory. You order a copy from Amazon or wherever, and that one copy is printed and shipped. Print-on-demand is the only way I could have made this work. It also allows me to take more chances on more authors. Many of the books we publish wouldn't fly with corporate publishing because they're too avant garde, too risky. But with our business model we can afford to take those chances. It's liberating in a way. Interestingly, I firmly believe that all publishers, big or small, will use this printing method in the not-so-distant future. As the printing costs of POD continue to decline (the quality is already on par with off-set) there will be no reason not to use the technology. I know the big fear within the industry is quality control. If POD becomes acceptable, they reason, then anybody will be able to publish whatever they want. And they will no longer be able to be the gatekeepers of literature. But is that such a bad thing?

Are you having a hard time getting reviews?

Well, getting pre-publication reviews (Publishers Weekly etc.) is very difficult for any small press. They are so overwhelmed by submissions that they will look at any reason to eliminate a title from consideration. We have been fortunate to get many post-publication reviews, mostly from bloggers like yourself. The Disassembled Man has gotten ten or more reviews, mostly positive, including a very good one from Crime Spree magazine. The Butcher's Granddaughter, our latest title, is in the hands of many reviewers as we speak. Since we can't afford any type of real marketing, and we can't pay off bookstores to display the covers of our books, the blogosphere is our best bet. And so far I've been real encouraged by the response.

How long do you think New Pulp Press will last? Will you go full-time any time? Will you burn out and remain in the day job world forever?

I'd like to think we'll be around for a while, but you never know. I am a busy dude, no question. In addition to publishing and writing, I've got a couple of toddlers at home, not to mention my day job as a high school English teacher. But publishing gives me a satisfaction that I'd like to hold on to. Let's just say this: it's far too early in the game to become too nostalgic or speculative.

Now that you're a publisher and an editor, will you continue to write?

Yeah, I'll continue to write, although my time is much more limited now. I'll just have to give up my addiction to day time soaps.


Friday, September 4, 2009

My Dark Pages + CONTEST

Big books scare me. Poop my pants, scare me. When checking out a new author, I will usually go for a short story or their shortest book on the shelf and only from there move on if merited. Consequently there are many authors I've never tried because I'm too intimidated by the size and density of their tomes. I will probably never read David Foster Wallace. Sue me. Every once in a while, for unknown reasons, I get a motivational kick in the ass and tackle one of those big bad boys. Sometimes I have my carefully constructed prejudices affirmed. Then every once in a while they get broken. Badly. Nearly unrecognizably. I knew I would dig James Ellroy long before I gave him a try, but his books just struck me as dense. Then one day I picked up White Jazz. It didn't matter that I'd started at the ass end of the L.A.Quartet or that I'd seen Curtis Hanson's masterful film treatment of L.A. Confidential (which contradicted some plot points of the book cycle), I was hooked. I'd dabbled with some gateway literature, mostly pastiche or P.I. stuff, but once I'd had a taste of the hard stuff, it was over for me. I'd been right about his books too, D-E-N-S-E and long? Uh, yeah. But what I hadn't counted on was how badly he'd punish me and how much I'd not want him to stop. I ripped through his entire catalog at a record setting pace, (for me - I'm slow) and then The Cold Six Thousand landed and I was all caught up. I wolfed it down carelessly without regard for the coming eight year wait for the Underworld U.S.A. trilogy's capper. Eight years?!? Somewhere around 2003 I was beginning to shake and sweat and by the time Destination Morgue! came around the next year, I'd learned my lesson - tried to parce it out - a short piece here - a short story there, but there was no way I could've made it last five years. Folks, we are two weeks away from Blood's a Rover, (like I needed to tell you), and I'm a wee bit excited. Contemplated re-reading American Tabloid and Cold 6K, but my tbr pile is too intense to seriously consider that. Think I'm going to have to just jump in and swim.

And now it's time for the next HBW contest, the winner receives a UK hardcover edition of Destination Morgue!

It's been nearly a year I've been running this here blog and though I still feel sometimes like I'm firing these transmissions into the void, there was a period when it seemed I truly was. Nobody read my little posts and I cried and cried. One post in particular I thought would create a nice conversation garnered exactly zero comments or emails and yeah, I cried and cried. But now friends - the contest.

According to HBW, The Big Lebowski was a quasi sequel/remake to/of what FILM (not the book)? Want a hint? You gotta read an old post... A much older post. Like um December old.

E-mail me the answer and should there be more than one of you out there reading and caring about free Ellroy books, I will select a winner at random from the entries on Sept. 22, (when Blood's a Rover drops).