Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Give Me More Melbournian Dipshits

You have a good holiday last week? I spent mine in the land of Charles Portis, William Harrison, John Hornor Jacobs and Don Lee - and the personal punching bag of Steve Weddle - Arkansas. Does that do anything to your cockles? You likey the mythological American South? Can you just taste the eminent publication of William Gay's The Lost Country? Y'know what you might be looking for? Fall Line by Joe Samuel Starnes. I'm taking my time with it, 'cause it's not in a hurry, and I'm liking that juuuuuust fine. I'm sure I'll have more to say when I'm through, but yeah, I think I'm way safe recommending it to you. Especially now that it's gettin nippy out. I'm finding more time to read for some reason.

In Fayetteville I availed myself of the ridiculously awesome Dickson Street Bookstore as well as Nightbird Books (also on Dickson) and betwixt the two and a handful of good mails this week, I acquired titles by N@B authors - Sean Doolittle and Jane Bradley as well as Craig McDonald, Daniel Woodrell, Benjamin Percy, James Sallis, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Chris F. Holm, Josh Bazell, Cara Black, Martin Limon, Colin Cotterill and Andre Gelasimov. Also got me mitts on the Versus Anthology edited by Josh Woods and featuring N@B kids like Kyle Minor & the Benedicts P&L.

Over at Ransom Notes I got into Leonard Fritz's book In Nine Kinds of Pain, the latest from Jon Bassoff's New Pulp Press, and it's a wild one. Really some interesting choices coming out of NPP. Can't wait for Jake Hinkson's Hell on Church Street and Jonathan WoodsA Death in Mexico next year.

Ken Russell died... shit. Altered States, The Devils, multiple D.H. Lawrence adaptations... Never cared much for Tommy era Who, so didn't ever see it, but maybe I should now.

Cameron Ashley has a new piece up at Beat to a Pulp. He's quickly become one of my favorite short story writers. His contributions to the two volumes I edited this year certainly helped bring that about - One Fine Bird from Noir at the Bar is a sharply twisty tale of the Eggman who made his debut in the Plots With Guns story Blood & Bone in Bambooland, and Codename: Balladeer from D*CKED is just a painfully funny story of the weaponizing of bad music - something that really gets to the root of all fears musicians like myself harbor. And you know, his N@B appearance and delivery of Dog's Breakfast went just a little ways to helping establish my fandom. Cam's latest, Papercut Pete's Blood-Stained MacGuffin is another Melbournian-dipshits-fucking-around-out-of-their-depth tale set in the same universe as B&BnB, Bird and Breakfast... Come to think of it, these'd make for a nice collection.

Over at Spinetingler you can check out some poster art n shit from Julian Grant's Fuckload of Scotch Tape production. Three weeks left to shoot on that monster and Julian promises to be 'balls deep' in editing when I head to Chicago in January to hold him accountable. Looks boss so far. Eager to hear Kevin Quain put to Julian's images.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Conversation

The following is a transcription of a conference call between Greg Bardsley, Kieran Shea and Jedidiah Ayres – editors of D*CKED: Dark Fiction Inspired by Dick Cheney

Jedidiah Ayres: Hello?

Greg Bardsley: Hey, I’m on.

Kieran Shea: Present.

JA: Uhhh…

GB: Shall we start?

KS: Jed?

JA: Right… Sooooo, D*CKED… Y'know, something that kind of surprised me with this whole project was approaching potential participants who were nervous about the possible fall out of being associated with a project like this? Did you get that much?

GB: Yeah, I heard some of that. But not a lot.

KS: When we first approached writers and agents at Indy's Bouchercon, sure, and often it seemed to play out like this. "That's so cool! I'm in!  Uhh, (pause) you know what? Let me think about it..." which I'm fairly confident we all took for a 'no.'  

GB: What surprised me most were established writers who signed up eagerly, even helped us recruit other authors, and then later excused themselves from writing their own stories. They never said it was because of the possible political fallout; but we did have a lot of bigger names excuse themselves after first demonstrating considerable enthusiasm. Maybe some of that was borne from a developing concern about a fallout. I still think that in most cases, it was because they’d gotten overloaded with deadlines for novels and other stories.

KS: It's weird, people have this illusion of far reaching tentacles which, in and of itself, is a testament to our ravaged national psyche.

GB: End of the day, folks had a right to decline us any and all reasons. One thing we made clear was that we wanted a spectrum of stories, including what some might call “hero” pieces. We gunned hard for a romance piece by an established writer in that field, but struck out. We didn’t want the book to be polarizing for readers. Ultimately, we’re happy that the final product offers a variety of perspectives on Cheney and his influence. We didn’t get Rush Limbaugh to write a story for us, but we were able to publish a real range of pieces.

KS: Perhaps they thought we were playing with matches in a gas-soaked shack, I mean, who were we?  A bunch of scrappers and upstarts? As the former VP has said on more than one occasion, pillorying comes with the territory of public office. 

JA: Scrappers and upstarts... Yeah, what the hell did we think we were doing? Incidentally, do you hear that clicking on the line? Is it just my phone? 

KS: I just finished reading How to Disappear by real life skip tracer Frank M. Ahearn.  Welcome to the 21st Century, dude.  We're all being tracked.

JA: I keep hearing from people who've put together anthologies that they are absolutely finished with them. Never again. What's your temperature on future projects?

KS: There are some noble efforts out there on the anthology front. Good people keeping the crime/mystery and even the beloved western genres alive for the shorter attention spans –  but, God, Jed, we were so lost. Thank goodness we had Bardsley banging the drum on point. 

GB: My temperature on developing future anthologies is probably pretty low. It was rewarding, and I feel great about the final product. That said, developing and producing D*CKED required far more work and time than any one of us ever anticipated, and we all have our real jobs and primary fiction projects. 

JA: Gary Phillips suggested ‘Rove Noir,’ which I’d love to read, but yeah… somebody else is gonna have to put it together.

GB: What do they say? "Fools rush in"? The only thing is, we rushed in for all the right reasons, I think -- the chance to do something pretty cool, with a lot of really cool artists and writers. I'll never regret that. But let's admit it. The three of us -- Jed, Kieran and Greg? We're writers.

KS: Back in Ireland a lot of my relatives on my grandfather's side were and still are shepherds. Let's just say, I'm not one of them...although I do make a mean carré d'agneau.

JA: Why were you so up for D*CKED?

KS: As anthologies go, the concept wasn't like anything else out there. We have the cops and the amateur sleuths, the noirs and the thrillers, the supernatural and the why not take big old stick and stir a new pot?  And the focal inspiration, the character of Cheney himself---just so polarizing and mysterious. Sure I could wade through the chickenhawk hubris, the bitter tide of recent history, and the ruthless, jaw-dropping corporate cronyism but that could take all day, so let me just say this. The man had his property on the Eastern Shore of Maryland scrubbed from Google Earth and he shot a dude in the face. As a writer, how could you not take a crack at that

JA: You can't not. I couldn't.

KS: By the way, did you know Greg makes a terrific latte?

(GB audibly blushes)

JA: Seriously, you don’t hear that clicking?

KS: I stayed with his family for a day or so out during San Francisco's B'con, and when I crawled away from the inflate-a-bed in his office he asked me if I wanted a cup of joe.  I said sure, expecting the usual drip. The dude does the steamed foam and everything.  

GB: ... Thanks?

JA: Right... My favorite part of the whole gig was just hearing people's ideas. They seemed endless and popped immediately into people's minds, Dick was such a great muse. Greg's piece put Cheney in that uniquely Bardsley reality, Kieran’s story’s description just about made me pee my pants, Eric Beetner's piece is a fantastic concept -

GB: Yeah, there were some really good ideas, including the ones that made it to the book.

Hilary Davidson slays
JA: - and Hilary Davidson absolutely killed reading her story during Noir at the Bar... I guess my dream contribution would've been James Ellroy doing one of his 'bad white man' stories... Do you recall any great ideas that never made it to the publication?

KS: No, because it was an egalitarian effort from the start. But I will say it was heartbreaking to push back on some. There were some really gonzo ideas percolating out there. 

GB: I agree regarding Beetner’s concept. There are a few ideas that had great promise, but the authors never turned in the stories. One was to do a Dick vampire story; that would have been a riot, to have him sucking on people’s necks and living  that life. Another idea we received (from a literary agent) was to include a romance piece by a true romance author (you know, Dick between the sheets, between two satin sheets), but we couldn’t recruit anyone from those ranks. Another author had Dick as  a con planning a jailbreak, which I would have loved to read –

KS: I only wish we could have had more. 

GB: I still laugh from the imagery of Dick on the bus from Speed, and of Dick turning into a woodsy survivalist in the Alaskan wilderness, wrestling bears and eating insects. That imagery still cracks me up, and I'm glad those stories are in the book.

KS: I did relish taking an alternate slant on a movie so iconic. If anybody else wants to try assembling a collection like that I'd be interested in contributing for sure. Like, you know, instead of using the jump off point of Speed in my story for D*CKED we see Quint from Jaws brawling in Singapore, all salty New England patois and spittle. Or Lieutenant Frank Bullitt with a flat tire in the Haight and throwing down.  God, can you imagine what one could do with Patrick Swayze's Dalton character from Road House? Or hey!  Cartoons! Quick-Draw McGraw in his vigilante "El Kabong" outfit taking on the Mexican drug cartels and losing horribly...oh, so horribly - 

(Soft 'thnnnk' sound)

GB: K? ....

JA: I think he got disconnected...

(Loud crashing sound on the phone)

GB: What the?

JA: Greg? You okay? Guys? Hello? ……. Guess we got cut off. Weird. Is that somebody on the roof?


D*CKED is available in Print or as an eReader. Buy one if you dare. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just For the Halibut

Scott Phillips and I were interviewed on the KDHX program Literature For the Halibut this week. If you really, really want to you can listen to an archived recording of that hour long interview by following this link and selecting the November 14 option, but it'll be gone in two weeks. Some of the highlights include Scott singing a song he wrote and reading Roger Smith's blurb for Noir at the Bar in a South African accent. He also read from his N@B contribution, The Girl Who Kissed Barnaby Jones and I read my story The Adversary from Surreal South '11 (the most radio-friendly story I've ever written - no edits! I thought it would be fun to read a really foul-mouthed story and lay sound effects over all the swears, but had mercy on Jason Braun - nobody should have to do that much work).

You wanna stream another buncha crimey, drinky blow-hards talking writing, publishing and all that jazz? Right here you got Les Edgerton, Cort McMeel, Eddie Vega, Sandra Ruttan and Brian Lindenmuth doing just that. Speaking of interviews, good gracious The Nerd of Noir just busted his cherry all over Allan Guthrie over at Spinetingler. Go check out the mess. If Pete keeps doing interviews, I can just stop.

Over at Ransom Notes I'm throwing around opinions on Grant Jerkins' new one At the End of the Road - a tasty slice of nasty that you're not likely to forget anytime soon. If you read his debut A Very Simple Crime, you've got some idea of the depraved places he can send you, though this one doesn't feature any first person observations from the monster and thus doesn't have the humorous bent that I really enjoyed in Simple, (wait, you thought it was funny too, right?).

Just got a copy of Pulp Modern vol. 1 the new pulp journal from Alec Cicak and it's chock-fulla-nuts. N@B alum Chris La Tray and Glenn Gray have a piece of this one, as do new best pals Jimmy Callaway, David James Keaton, Thomas Pluck and John Kenyon. Also on board are Edward A. Grainger, Sandra Seamans, Garnett Elliott, Stephen D. Rogers, while Copper Smith, James Duncan, Yarrow Paisley, C.J. Edwards, Melissa Embry, Matthew Pizzoloto and some guy named Lawrence Block. Y'know, I think some of those people are in my copy of Beat to a Pulp: Hardboiled too.

Also in the mails this week: new Elmore Leonard, Stephen Blackmoore, Owen Laukkanen and a new collection of early stories by Daphne Du Maurier. And for those of you with an eReading predilection N@B legend Malachi Stone's twisted novels Wicked King Dick, Devil's Toll, Conjuror's Death and Private Showings are now available to make your Kindle whimper. Buncha N@B folks have had eShort Story collections published this year John Hornor Jacobs' Fierce as the Grave, Scott's Rum, Sodomy & False Eyelashes, John Rector's The Walls Around Us and Richard Thomas has published so damn many online this year alone it seems like he has, (three Pushcart noms in a single year?).

A Fuckload of Scotch Tape: My kind of musical
Things are rolling along on the Fuckload of Scotch Tape production, though I hear a title change may be coming. You know what? It's not for why you'd thunk either. Seems legal has some concern over the brand name in the title, so.... we'll see how that shakes out. Regardless, the sickest musical ever (yes, sicker than Meet the Feebles) has a Flickr page now and Julian Grant keeps posting lil' snippets of production. I'm tantalized. How could I not be?

Thanks Glenn Gray and Kieran Shea for the care packages, they gave me a little boost for sure. You guys rock.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friends of Carlotta

How weird is this? Benoit Lelievre asked me to contribute a piece to his blog Dead End Follies regarding the book that sparked my shit whatever that may've been. That was easy - White Jazz by James Ellroy were that fer me - only I was afeared that he'd be gettin a glut of like entries, so I used the opportunity to talk more about me than about the book. S'what I do. Taking the circuitous route to Jazz I digressed just a smidge on Carl Reiner's silly masterpiece (it just gets better every time I see it) Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid starring Steve Martin as hardboiled dick Rigby Reardon interacting in increasingly bizarre ways with clips from classic film noir clips. You can read my contribution to My Dark Pages today. Coincidentally, over at Ransom Notes I'm riffing on the Q.R. Markham plagiarism scandal and invoking the spirit of Reiner and Martin in the process. Sure, I've loved the movie for a long time, and if you happen to have a signed copy of one of my pseudononymously published novel from a decade back there may even be an inked invocation of Rigby Reardon, but I've never written about that film before and now, what do you know, twice in one day! Another coincidence - my Ransom Notes plagiarism piece had me linking to Jonathan Lethem's brilliant essay The Ecstasy of Influence at Harpers and I had no idea, he'd just released another collection of essays (that one being the titular selection no less), which I've simply got to get my hands on. Loved and was inexplicably moved by his first collection The Disappointment Artist.

Speaking of Lethem, two of his books made Thomas Mullen's My Five Favorite Hard-Boiled With a Twist Novels over at the Mulholland Books blog where this week Dennis Tafoya chatted up Cortright McMeel the author of Short and the publisher of Murdaland about his new gig as editor for Noir Nation the exciting new electronic multi-media international noir magazine. It's a good time to have an eReader. If I were inclined toward that kind of thing, I'd be reading All the Young Warriors by Anthony Neil Smith or Dead Money by Ray Banks or one of their other Blasted Heath compatriots right about now. Buuuut, I'm not, so I'm not.

No, I'm still not an eReader. I like, I more than like, the physicality of books, which is why the Noir at the Bar anthology is only available in print. Those of you who've got one, I think you can testify that it's a helluva nice object and that it'd make a helluva good gift for somebody you know who likes our kind of thing. But don't take my word for it, check out what Elizabeth White had to say at her Musings of an All Purpose Monkey blog. Seems she's zeroed in on several of the original stories in the collection as favorites - Deviances by Frank Bill, Vampires Are Pussies by Chris La Tray and Outside Lou's by David Cirillo, (previously published work by Daniel O'Shea and Matthew McBride get nods too). Sound like a gift you'd like to give somebody? Where can you get a copy? Only at Subterranean Books.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lost in Quaid

Over at Ransom Notes I'm all about Hell & Gone, the new Duane Swierczynski prison novel that's part two of his Charlie Hardy trilogy. Trust me, it takes something from every prison novel ever written and is like no prison novel you've ever read. It also features a character named Jed which I don't think happens often enough. However, after Megan Abbott'The End of Everything, maybe it's becoming a thing. Also at Ransom Notes is a list of uh, lists that I've enjoyed of late from folks like Duane, Matthew C. Funk, David James Keaton and Jordan Harper. Hey, Jordan - please tell me you're including Weird Al Yankovic's Good Old Days on your Murder Ballad a Day list - really quite unsettling. Do you remember sweet Michelle?

Fuckload of Scotch Tape is now three days into production! Julian Grant and Co began shooting that beast Friday, and yeah, I'm pretty excited. Check out some production stills and behind the scenes shots (like this one) at the FLOST FaceBook page

Whoa. Did the temperature just drop?

Got my copies of Surreal South '11 in the mail Saturday. Good shit. I'm officially recommending it to you. Did you know I had a contribution to this ghosts & monsters collection? Yup, me and N@B folks like Anthony Neil Smith, John Hornor Jacobs, Pinckney Benedict, Laura Benedict and Sophie Littlefield (she was totally at the last one - you missed it). Hey, it's also got swell writers like Nik Korpon, Josh Woods and J.T. Ellison, so, yeah, what are you waiting for?

Finished season three of Sons of Anarchy over the weekend, a show I'm conflicted over like nothing else. On the one hand I think it's one of the richest set ups on TV, and one of the best opportunities to explore outlaw life in modernity to come along... ever. As much as I love The Sopranos, I'm really not drawn to organized crime with that level of sophistication as much as I am to the cowboy spirit of biker gangs, plus hey, staging Hamlet on bikes is inspired, and I'm willing to go through the soap-opera-ish relational dynamics in support of the heightened reality that that kind of theme implies... but the characters tend to feel inconsistent rather than complex and too often the badassedness comes off comical rather than y'know, badass. While season three saw Jax get thankfully more coldblooded, it also saw Tara kill two people (who didn't even have it coming) and... have no real effect on her mood let alone her life. The finale did what it was supposed to - took a few bold steps that got me interested enough to tune back in for season four, but I still feel it could be a lot more than what it's given me so far.