Monday, October 31, 2011

Anthology Pathology

Check it out. Just look at that poster. Gives me chills, but maybe that's because I know the awfulness that awaits Benji Metcalf the hapless fucktard whose story A Fuckload of Scotch Tape is. I wrote that story trying, just trying to make someone who does something absolutely indefensible and unforgivable in the opening paragraph an object of pity. More than an object of pity. An identifiable and get-behindable protagonist who you want to see succeed... or at least escape unscathed. Did I succeed? I think so. Julian Grant thinks so. But I tell you what - reading a brief description of Benji's transgressions in a short story and watching them take place on screen are two far different experiences. When I read Julian's script, I thought, WTF? Did I write that? This is really awful territory to be hanging around in. Julian's film Fuckload of Scotch Tape is going to be an acid bath for your soul... with singing. Yeah, it's a musical. Yeah, I'm soooo good with that. In fact, thanks Julian for introducing me to the stylings of Kevin Quain and thanks Kevin for consenting to let Julian use your music to tell this pitch black (and hopefully funny) story. And hey, thanks, Graham Jenkins for donning such a terrible mustache (a plot point for my intersecting stories Fuckload and Mahogany & Monogamy). Vanity is not your name. Shooting starts this week! 

Meanwhile, had a great time in Carbondale Friday where I participated in SIUC's annual Lit-festival, The Devil's Kitchen. I was on a panel titled The Anthology Pathology with Pinckney Benedict, Laura Benedict and Josh Woods discussing the anthologies we'd edited. So believe that I pimped Noir at the Bar and D*CKED with a bawm-chicka-wow-wow soundtrack and everything. I'd never met Woods before, but was familiar with him through the Surreal South books that the Benedicts have put together every other year since '07, and I was eager to meet him. Do yourself a favor and turn to his entries early whenever you come across his work. I picked up a copy of the new anthology he edited - The Book of Villains - that's just out from Main Street Rag, while I was there and the first thing I'm doing is finishing the story he read part of at the event about the unsuccessful retirement of Blackbeard the pirate.

Took the Nerd of Noir's advice and watched Paul Andrew Williams'London to Brighton over the weekend. Brilliant film. Talk about grabbing at your tender bits from the opening shot... Fantastic performances from Lorraine Stanley as Kelly, a London prostitute who takes runaway Georgia Groome (in the third excellent portrayal of a teenager by a teenager I've seen lately - the others being Alex Shaffer in Thomas McCarthy's Win Win, and James Frecheville in David Michod's Animal Kingdom, hey writers, guess what? They're teenagers, not frustrated grad students). All we need to know about either character is observable literally on their face and in their actions. Also excellent in that cast is Johnny Harris as Kelly's pimp - sleazy goes without saying, but desperate and human to boot makes him all the more terrifying. The only odd note is Sam Spruell as the heavy hunting them down. He's effectively creepy, holding the screen like a DNA side project of Dylan Baker, Willem Dafoe and David Bowie, but the tone of his character I dunno, maybe belongs to a different movie, (like Brad Pitt in Inglourious Basterds). Still, with an 86 minute running time (and I do mean running) it's as stripped down and fight-ready as anything I've seen in a long time. Thanks, Nerd. Do yourself a favor and pay attention to the Nerd's crime flick double feature pieces in each issue of Crime Factory.   

At Ransom Notes, I'm talking to John Rector about his latest, Already Gone and... damn. That's three kick ass books in under a year and a half from his Nebraska hidey hole. Guys like him make me feel pathetic. You know somebody else who's getting shit done these days? Nik Korpon. Less than a year since his first book Stay God was released, he's published two novellas, the excellent Old Ghosts last spring and the brand new By the Nails of the Warpriest now-ish... In Print! I'm happy for authors who are getting exposure and making some money with eBooks and I'm pleased as hell that people are reading them, but it's still pretty special to have an object to read. Check out David Cranmer's interview with Nik over at the Gutter Books site.

May get out to see Sean Durkin's Martha Marcy May Marlene this week (or perhaps Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter) and I'm feeling the need to re-watch Martin McDonagh's In Bruges. Otherwise, getting through Sons of Anarchy's third season which has a pretty laughable trip to Ireland - I just keep thinking of The Brady Bunch on vacation in Hawaii - but still just enough interest to keep going. Enjoyed Stephen King's cameo early in the season and WTF with all the Deadwood cast members? I mean, good for them, but it's a weird reunion, and not the one I'd really like to see them do, but I especially love anytime Robin Weigert is onscreen. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cook Book

Over at Ransom Notes, I had fun last week posting on my favorite crime fiction macguffins including inspired by Simon Logan's terrific Katja From the Punk Band, (think Elmore Leonard'Rum Punch - or Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown if you don't read - and Allan Guthrie'Savage Night set in a vaguely eastern European industrial-atrophy, acid rain-soaked setting and scored by Trent Reznor's skeezy uncle). My number one macguffin? The head from Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. I'm not so un-self-aware that I don't notice the ridiculously lopsided nature of the list - that most of the examples I mention are under twenty years old, but go ahead, leave a comment and edjumicate my ignorance.

Today at Ransom Notes I'm sticking with the urban decay and talking Derek Raymond and the re-release of The Factory novels from Melville House, (featuring new introductions by James Sallis on He Died With His Eyes Open and Will Self on I Was Dora Suarez).

Holy craps, but it's a big week for electronic crime journals with brand new issues of Crime Factory and Plots With Guns. PWG features N@B alum Matthew C. Funk as well as Stephen Graham Jones, Pete Risley, Patricia Abbott, Ryan Jackson, Thomas Pluck M. James Blood, Chris Gordon, Art Taylor and Charles Dodd White, while CF has got pieces by Funk (he's everywhere), Nik Korpon, Seth Harwood, David James Keaton, Heath Lowrance, Doc O'Donnell, Nick Quantrill, Matthew Finn, Julia Madeleine, Andrew Nette, Michael Peck and Addam Duke interviewing Jake Adelstein.

The Nerd of Noir's crime double feature for this issue is Andrew WilliamsLondon to Brighton which I haven't seen, but will very soon, believe it, and Ben Wheatley'Down Terrace which I have and need to see again. Really, really need to watch again. It was a most unusual experience and I'm eager to have another go. Based on the strength of Terrace, Wheatley's next Kill List is way up top of my anticipated films list. Incidentally, I first heard of Terrace from the Ray Banks, who has usually got a keen eye for quality, but take a gander at his counter-brilliance take on Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive over at the always worthwhile Norma Desmond's Monkey. How wrong he is. How wrong. Well, he's backed up his opinions with some words that are worth reading even if they're off the mark. 

Sorry, Ray, your points seem to be too much about what the book might've become onscreen, (and hell yeah, I was excited to hear Neil Marshall was doing it) instead of what the film is as its own entity. I never did read James Sallis's novel, but I've read the original short story that became the novel, (from the sadly out of print Measures of Poison - what a hell of a good book if you ever come across one, do not blink, pick it up) and was still able to leave things like Driver's backstory sketches out of the movie experience... because they're not in the movie, which means they don't exist. As portrayed in the film, Driver may be a PTSD war vet or fucked up suburban kid, who knows, all we've got is what's on screen. 

Driver's experience of the film's events are like the star of his own movie - his posing, his walk, his toothpick, his fuckin scorpion jacket, his dialogue ('shut your mouth or I'll shut it for you'), and of course his driving. I think the movie world he exists in is fairly meta or just seriously delusional (which could account for touches like the strippers' stock-still postures while he assaults Chris with a hammer - like something out of a Robert Palmer video - and his weird fetishy need to don the creepy mask and the soundtrack that must be playing in his own head) and as for the driving not being anything we haven't seen before, I'd love to hear a recording of some executive trying to make him shoot that second chase's climax outside in a wide shot instead of through the back window to the side of Christina Hendricks' face - really a brilliant shot. So, style to burn. 

Sounds like the source material would support several solid takes, but dismissing what we've got for what could've been just wont fly this time, (I reserve the right to do that any time I want to BTW. 'Cause I do, I know. A lot.) Any way, Norma Desmond's Monkey is a helluva good movie blog if you don't follow it you're missing good shit, and meanwhile Ray's got hisself quite a blurb from none other than Lee Child - check that shit out

Speaking of style to burn, Julian Grant looses more style when he blows his nose than McG could ape in a dozen unwanted theatrical adaptations of vintage television shows, and I can't wait to see what the hell he does with FLOST... 10 days till shooting begins. 

And Friday I'll be in Carbondale with Josh Woods, Pinckney and Laura Benedict... and I'll be thirsty.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ketchum If You Can

So I came across the artwork for the Surreal South '11 anthology online the other day. Looks spooky nice. Really excited to be part of it. Could, at this point, launch into a long-winded 'you've come a long way, baby' back pat here, but that would be unseemly. You, on the other hand, are welcome to go on and on about me. Really, just being included in this collection is a big ol' sloppy smooch to my ego. The lineup is great - N@B alum like Laura Benedict, Pinckney Benedict, Anthony Neil Smith and John Hornor Jacobs, plus Sophie Littlefield, Nik Korpon, Brad Green, J.T. Ellison, Sheryl Monks, John McManus and and and... Yeah, a buncha goodness/badness. On October 28, I'll be headed out to Carbondale, Il for the Devil's Kitchen Literary Festival at SIUC where I'll join Laura, Pinckney and Josh Woods on a panel called The Anthology Pathology. Come say 'hi' if you're around.

Over at Ransom Notes I'm getting into some of those seasonally appropriate creepy books that I've enjoyed in the last couple of years. One that landed on my desk recently was the Joe Lansdale edited  Horror Hall of Fame anthology featuring Bram Stoker Award winning short stories from the likes of David Morrell, Harlan Ellison, George R.R. Martin and somebody I've had my eye snagged on for a while now, Jack Ketchum. Dammit, it's time for me to read some of that.

Tom Piccirilli posted this sweet lil' recommendation for Noir at the Bar on his blog. Thanks, Tom. John Kenyon also had some nice things to say about it and D*CKED too over at the web presence for his new baby, Grift Magazine. Hell between Grift and the brand new Criminal Complex online journal, exciting things are happening in publishing, (good shit from Jay Tomio, Jimmy Callaway, Cameron Ashley, Matthew C. Funk, Josh Converse, Johnny-99 and Keith Rawson.) And shit, the latest issue of Needle is live. Steve Weddle - there I said it - and company have put together another great lineup of new fiction including the conclusion to Ray Banks' Wolf Tickets - can't wait. You can buy that shit right here. I wish I had more time to writes, 'cause I'd be terribly pleased to contribute here, there and everywhere.

Just a reminder that Daniel Woodrell will be appearing Friday at COCA in University City for an event hosted by Subterranean Books in support of his terrific new short story collection The Outlaw Album. Tickets must be purchased for this event and will cover the price of the book and secure you a seat for the screening of Winter's Bone. So, yeah, it's a no-brainer to buy a ticket - you're gonna love the book. I gave a little rundown of some of my favorite pieces included over at Ransom Notes last week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Keeping Up With Jones

Lookie there, the folks over at the Mulholland Books blog are spotlighting the Crime Factory anthology – nice – and they’re even giving away a free sample of what you’ll find inside. S’right, one of the stories from the antho is available to be read for free at the Mulholland site and it’s… mine?

Cool. If you’d like to read my story Amateurs, for goodness sake don’t go buy the book, (unless you wanna show your support for N@B alum like Dennis Tafoya, Jonathan Woods, Hilary Davidson, Frank Bill and Cameron Ashley, or else you dig folks like Roger Smith, Ken Bruen, Charlie Stella, Adrian McKinty, Scott Wolven, Craig McDonald, Dave Zeltserman, Greg Bardsley, Kieran Shea, Keith Rawson, Jimmy Callaway, Andrew Nette, Leigh Redhead, Patricia Abbott, Josh Converse, Liam Jose, Nate Flexer, Chad Eagleton, Steve Weddle, Anonymous-9, Dave White and Chris F. Holm), just head on over to Mulholland.

Those folks from Mulholland are awful busy with the whole publishing thing, and not just brand new titles. They’ve been making some good outta print shit available again and hopefully introducing some worthy and underexposed titles and talent to a new audience. One of my favorites reads of the summer was one of those – A Single Shot by Matthew F. Jones. It’s hardcore, kiddos. Not for the faint. But if it’s something you’re interested in, leave a comment on this here blog post and Friday I’ll choose somebody to send a copy to.

After A Single Shot, I’m looking for more Jones and hell, Brian Lindenmuth had some damn good words for Boot Tracks, so I’ve got my eyes peeled special for that one. And Rusty Barnes said Deepwater was the shit, so I’m on to that one too. Oooh, lookit – Deepwater was made into a movie too directed by David S. Marfield. Damn. I’ve got a lot to be looking for. I get especially excited about these small crime films because at their low-budget level nobody is losing too much money by making them hardcore, bleak, uncompromising or y’know… better.

Watched a great little crime flick this week, Ed Gass-Donnelly's Small Town Murder Songs starring the ever-watchable Peter Stormare as a middle-aged, small-town police chief investigating his first murder, though apparently not the first killing he's had ties to. Its measured pace, stately composition and bracingly spiritual soundtrack help, but it's the performances by the whole cast and especially Stormare, Martha Plimpton, Jill Hennessey and Stephen Eric McIntyre, (he was in Nicolas Winding Refn's Fear X and Scott Frank's The Lookout? Really? Hmm) that really give the picture weight. It's a brooder, but not a plodding one. The central investigation is refreshingly straight-forward and simple while the interpersonal dynamics are the complex main story. I'll have to check out Gass-Donnelly's This Beautiful City soon.

A bit more than three weeks before shooting begins on another micro-budget crime film I'm excited about: Julian Grant's FLOST, a noir musical based on my short story A Fuckload of Scotch Tape. Grant calls the project "a two fisted, no apologies love letter to James Ellroy, Busby Berkley, poverty row cinema and the genius of Edgar Ulmer." You can keep up with FLOST at the production website.

Just so happens that the other story I had published in Out of the Gutter (#6), Viscosity is also being made into a film - though this one's a short where Fuckload's a feature, (nobody wants a feature length adaptation of Viscosity, trust me). Paul von Stoetzel, (yeah, the guy doing the Dennis Tafoya adaptation How to Jail) is shooting this one and I'm really interested to see how it turns out. I hope you laugh. And cry. And don't try anything you learn about, while watching it, at home.

At Ransom Notes I'm listing some upcoming reads to get excited about including a non-fiction book by Christopher Goffard called You Will See Fire. It's untangling the story of a shotgun-toting missionary in Kenya and his death. Sounds awesome, after all Goffard's the dude what wrote Snitch Jacket don't you know? There's a weird convergence of things it's reminding me of: the new Marc Forster flick Machine Gun Preacher, the two forthcoming Kyle Minor books - The Sexual Lives of Missionaries and the true crime-ish A Kidnapping in Haiti, (I can't recall if it has a name, or if I just pulled that outta my posterior) and Elmore Leonard's Pagan Babies. I'm sure I'm doing it a terrible disservice with this sort of reductive exercise, but it amuses me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

On the Money

Over at Ransom Notes, I'm talking 'bout Christa Faust's latest, sawed-off, hardboiled, pump-action, pulp-shooter Choke Hold. Really dug it. Reminded me of the reasons I like Anthony Neil Smith's Billy Lafitte books - real characters in really fucked up situations, responding in emotionally honest ways to wild-ass shit. That, plus they're series books that don't feel like series books. Yes, there's a benefit to reading the preceding books, but they stand on their own and are not at all a retread of the first.

Have you not read Faust? Tell you what, leave a comment on this post and you'll be entered to win a copy of the first of her Angel Dare books, Money Shot. I'll choose a winner on Friday.

Picked up my ticket for the October 21 Daniel Woodrell event in St. Louis. Yup, you'll need a ticket to get into the COCA auditorium for Q&A and screening of the film Winter's Bone. Tickets are $25, ($30 for couples) and will include a copy of his brand new book, The Outlaw Album. So, yeah, pick up your ticket from Subterranean Books asap.

While you're at Subterranean, go ahead and pick up a copy of Noir at the Bar - it's good for you.