Friday, November 30, 2012

Jose Can You See?

So this post is a recap for all the lame-o's who couldn't be bothered to travel a few hundred lousy miles to attend N@B last week.

First, know that you are lame.

That established, N@B - Holiday edition - was not. Let's just say that the hook could not even be seen from wherever it was that the event landed. Alright, so that's a long way to go for a metaphor, but that shit is on you - I wouldn't have to extract such unwieldy fucking images from my poor, poor asshole if you took care to just show the fuck up.

But here's how that crap went. Scott Phillips kicked off the event with aplomb back in the emcee role, and hardly slurring - like at all. It was a monster lineup, and needed a power kick off, so we went to the man I've been trying to get here for three and a half years. Kent Gowran had a lead-off double with a bloody, funny excerpt from his bloody funny piece about blood and fun... and it set the tone for the evening by picking up the action immediately following a deadly assault.

Next: I was hit by the pitch, and limped to first, thereby slightly diminishing the impact of Gowran's double. I read a story called Amateurs in honor of the foreigner in our midst for whose publication that story had originally been written.

Gowran scored and I advanced to third on Sonia L. Coney RBI single, and I completely lose interest in my tedious baseball analogy here. Coney, what can I say about Coney? Coney brings hairspray and cigarette lighters around to the tinder stick house of domestic tensions like, like, like somebody who was gonna burn that shit down - after killing somebody.

Liam Jose - from the land of Oz, motherfuckers - gave us a bit about junkies and junk, but beware the extra cargo in the proverbial trunk - it's none too fresh. I have to say the accent helps loads. Loved listening to him and loved listening to Cameron Ashley when he came through a couple years back.

Kevin Lynn Helmick gave us a lovin spoonful of his brand new novella Driving Alone, and it may have been November outside, but it got downright sweltering in the crowd during Kevin's reading. Driving Alone features one of my favorite opening lines of the year, BTW - "And then there was the heat." Nice.

Matthew McBride read 3 chapters, THREE CHAPTERS!!! from his new novel - nope, not Frank Sinatra in a Blender, which just came out, but from a new one featuring characters and er, cocks we've seen in his work before. Can't wait to read the new book.

And CJ Edwards man, he got the shaft two events in a row, having to follow McBride, but you'd better believe he stepped up. Delivered a nasty-ass crime scene picture for our ocular eyeballs... shiver.... shudder... Oh my. You wanna know what I'm haunted by? Pick up Uncle B's Drive-In Fiction and check out his novella Suck - it, y'know, doesn't.

Shit's been busy, and business's been shitty lately, but don't cry for me, Argentina, because I get to hang out with the best people in the world at these events, and the shit don't get truly heavy till the after sessions, gettin drinky and makin eggs.

I've got lots to talk about soon. Till then.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Black Saturday

The holiday season is already piling upon us and if you, like me, need a bulldozer to scoop that fat fucker off your bloated, hungover corpse, come on out to the Meshuggah Cafe on Saturday, November 24 for a reprieve from the weighty shackles of manners, modesty and decorum. N@B is throwing a party without pants... Which is just as well, because none of mine will fit by the weekend.

What does this mean?

It, the hell, means that you can blow off a little rowdy steam alongside some classy-ass delinquents who draw first blood in the good fight against dull literature. While imbibing some local brews, you can listen to some nasty fictions read aloud by their creators who're traveling to your city from Chicago, Indianapolis and even Melbourne, Australia to help you get your rocks off.

In alfa-beta-call orders:

Jedidiah Ayres - A F*ckload of Shorts - That's right, I'm promoting my own shit at this event. Deal with it. This will be the first St. Louis event that my book's been available for... And you should buy it... twice.

Sonia L. Coney - Noir at the Bar Vol. 2 - The former St. Louisan returns for another shot at the shock title. Her debut N@B reading made the whole room squirm, and her story Dead By Dawn from the new N@B2 is her first published fiction. Damn proud to say that I got to be the first to unleash her on the unsuspecting public. This will also be the first St. Louis event with N@B2 available for purchase and signatures. Bring some money.

CJ Edwards - Uncle B's Drive-In Fiction - Edwards is a police officer in Indianapolis who writes kick-assedness from both sides of the legal line. He might give us a Blue Christmas or go beyond the pale with keen insights into criminal logic gleaned from his day job. You want a taste? Check out his live reading as recorded by Booked podcast a couple weeks ago in Corydon, IN.

Kent Gowran - Shotgun Honey Presents: Both Barrels - I've been trying to get Kent's ass down here for a N@B event for... Since the damn thing started four years ago. So, I'm bloody excited to finally shed his friggin prom dress and get the goods. Nice timing that now he's got his own book to pimp which features a lotta N@B alum like Glenn Gray, Cameron Ashley, Frank Bill, Matthew C. Funk and Dan O'Shea.

Kevin Lynn Helmick - Driving Alone - Kevin's making his second appearance at N@B, this time in support of his brand spankin' new novella Driving Alone. I read this sweaty, bloody, road noir in a single sitting, and you can too. It'll be available to the public for the very first time at the event.

Liam Jose - Crime Factory - Liam is one of those Australian fellas responsible for re-animating David Honeybone's cult magazine Crime Factory - which, as a free digital zine (also available in print in exchange for currency), has championed a lot of fine fiction writers as well as given critical attention, and provided keen insight to some seriously undersung heroes of our brand of dirty crime books and film. Oh yeah, Liam writes fiction too.

Matthew McBride - Frank Sinatra in a Blender - McBride's debut novel is finally available in paperback, and lemme tell you, it's a fuckin nut-wringer. This will actually be Matt's third appearance at N@B (fifth if you include two in Corydon, IN.) and there's a good reason he keeps getting begged back. Not only can this guy fuckin write, he can fuckin read that shit too. Booked podcast just reviewed FSIAB - give it a listen. And hell, listen to THIS EPISODE for a taste of Matt reading his story The Tar Hole from N@B2.

And our host: Scott Phillips, who wrote one of my all-time favorite holiday tales, The Ice Harvest will be there to lead the parade and take the rap.

So be the hell there, or be the fuck sorry you missed this sweet-ass, crime fiction throw-down.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Liquor Affront, Poker in Arrears

Forgive me, I've had a few drinks and I'm feeling a bit... typey.

So... Skyfall opened this week and I'm placed in the uncomfortable, but familiar position of needing to see it even if I don't particularly want to. Each time a Bond movie comes along with its promise of escape into masculine fantasyland, oh boy, I'm ready. I'm ready for the mayhem, the intrigue and sure, the sexual supremacy waiting for me like a custom-built inadequacy-maker-up-for.

What a sap I am. The morning after most any 007 flick I feel so used and dirty. I feel, frankly, like Charlie Brown having fallen once more for the run-and-kick-the-football game. Having been lured by a sure thing, I get the tables turned on me - these damn movies are laughing at me (especially Die Another Day which starts off with a sweet premise - 007 fails and is captured and tortured for two years and when he's exchanged for another prisoner M is pissed at him for not committing suicide - love that opening, but by the end of the picture he's driving an invisible car through an ice castle while avoiding the melt-ray from the huge fucking magnifying lens in space - I am being mocked).

After most, I say. There've been a handful of Bond flicks that have done well for me, and those few (From Russia With Love, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, even Tomorrow Never Dies and The Living Daylights - which I haven't seen in twenty-some years, so don't bust my chops) keep me returning to the franchise for damn near every outing. When Daniel Craig's go-round began with Casino Royale, I was fucking pumped. Loved the action sequences, the angry, un-sexy sex, loved the Bond-as-a-dead-eyed-thug angle, and loved the vulnerability and hurt his failed relationship brought out in the character. Quantum of Solace immediately squandered the buzz Casino had built, but Skyfall... I kinda need to give it a shot (and not just because Javier Bardem seems to be channeling Christopher Walken's View to a Kill hairdo).

Where the Mission Impossible franchise has gone in a far more exciting direction - making it a director's series, as in: here's our stock set-up, let's see what you, oh action/suspense auteur, can do with it, and the Bourne flicks have been an exploration of a national crisis of conscience, Matt Damon (and presumably Jeremy Renner, but I haven't seen Tony Gilroy's The Bourne Legacy yet) was the US given a second chance - the super power with a blank slate and a chance to prove it can be badass and wear a white hat too, the Bond franchise has always been about making the talent submit. Hit these marks, say these lines, execute - don't play with - these tropes like a good boy/girl and we'll all get along just fine. Therefore, the most exciting moments in Bond flicks, for me, are when you have a star or a director, a writer or even a musician (how badass was the Jack White/Alicia Keys theme song for Quantum of Suckass?) trying to get away with something a little Bond-subversive - see everything I liked about Casino Royale. Which is admittedly weird considering that it was partially penned by the heavy hand of Paul Racism-is-Bad Haggis (I did like In the Valley of Elah, but wish to shit that we could erase Crash from our collective subconscious and instead make The Next Three Days his exploration of racism by simply making Russel Crowe and Elizabeth Banks a black couple - ooh, and maybe reverse the gender roles and perhaps keep the "innocence" issue a little more murky, as it hardly factored into the husband's decision... yeah, now we're talking. How would audiences receive a movie about a black woman deciding that the system isn't working for her and saying 'fuck it' busting her convicted-killer husband out of prison? Hmmm...) 

But I digress.

Haggis's script for Casino Royale was fine, but he shit the rug and very nearly screwed the whole pooch with one sequence. Can you guess which? Yeah, the uh, Casino one. That poker game is the worst. 

Casino Royale's been adapted... thrice - as the pilot for Climax!, the unsuccessful television incarnation of Ian Fleming's spy guy, then in 1967 as a comedy starring David Niven and Woody Allen among others - Four times if you include Kaleidoscope, the 1966 Warren Beatty picture that bears some um, similarities - including a big poker sequence - without a really good card playing scene yet. There's nothing exciting about two (even less,  four) titanic hands going up against each other (and in betting order worst to best, no less) when dramatically, folding isn't an option. Honestly, it's as interesting as a game of War or... a raffle. Hard to wag your cock in victory when you win the lottery. Blind, stupid chance is the only factor. 

I get that it has to be heightened - it's a movie - hell, it's a Bond movie, but wouldn't the real drama be getting somebody to fold a superior hand, or even laying down a good one of your own when you spot a trap. Or even... dare I say it, losing? 

Which is why The Cincinnati Kid is my favorite poker movie. You know Sam Peckinpah was fired from this picture? I love Peck and his explorations and subversions of masculine ideals and I'm damn sorry we didn't get a glimpse at his gambler picture, but Steve McQueen and Norman Jewison gave us winner of a loser flick. 

And let's face it, losing is what most gamblers do most of the time - poker, pool, roulette, Monday Night Football, the stock market - losing is everything.

I dig the flicks that explore the gambler as philosopher/addict like, uh, The Gambler with James Caan. Owning Mahowny with Philip Seymour Hoffman is alright too. Hell, Factotum with Matt Dillon as Charles Bukowski's alter-ego Henry Chinaski has some good gambling life insights. Paul Thomas Anderson's Hard Eight rocks, and Jean-Pierre Melville's Bob le Flambeur is good shit. Even the remake - Neil Jordan's The Good Thief with Nick Nolte - has a great lose-big or die vibe that I've yet to tire of.

The Hustler with Paul Newman and even Martin Scorsese's The Color of Money (script by Richard Price, kids) are less about hustling, the con, getting one over on some sap, than they are about that need to prove you're not the rube, that all-consuming insecurity that won't let Eddie rest, and rules and ruins his life is what they're really about. I love the Walter Tevis books and Color is a great sequel to a story that begs not to have one.

I like all the cool, cynical atmosphere, the slang and the fantasy of being so ridiculously good at this shit that I could make a living showing up everybody else just as much as the next guy, but when that's all you've brought to the table you make a movie like Shade instead of Rounders, or think of the difference between Poolhall Junkies and Chris Eigman's Turn the River. If you haven't seen Famke Janssen overcoming the cringe-worthy title, and you enjoy this kind of flick, please do give Turn the River a chance. It's a solid movie about someone who happens to be a hustler and every sequence of her plying her trade - card playing, pool shooting - reveals character and serves the story rather than feeling like a music video interrupting a drama.

And that's ultimately the goal, yeah? Reveal character? How about Bruce Dern in Silent Running, Elliott Gould and George Segal in California Split, or hell, Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn in Swingers - exactly how much would we know about those characters from that blackjack scene alone? Just about everything.

So, yeah. Skyfall. I need to see it because Casino Royale was good enough... but man, it really bugs me that a film that played more interesting notes in the ballad of Bond than any since... Dr. No? squandered the opportunity to put another intriguing texture on the icon in that poker scene, opting instead to remind us that he's a lightning-struck son of a bitch on top of everything else. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

N@B - Corydon

My (ahem) handy emcee set list & notes 
You wanna know, don't you? Well, N@B - Corydon was a blast. Got to spend the afternoon with Frank and Jenn and a neverending supply of black coffee and fried chicken products. Frank made the mistake of leaving me alone with his manuscript for the evening and an ARC of Donnybrook - neither of which did I deface... in any way.

The event itself was a beast - eight (8!) readers - eight books for sale (including early copies of Frank Sinatra in a Blender, which evapofuckingrated), three states, two podcasts and a shitload of beer, wine and minors. Yes, indeed, because they apparently didn't learn last year or perhaps because they just grow em thick of skin in the Hoosier State, there was, yet again, a handful of young ones in attendance at our tawdry, foul-mouthed literary event that was full of violence, drugs and what my unsuccessful home state representative Todd Akin has coined - legitimate rape.

Don't worry. We powered through and didn't let the youngsters censored. I hope they grow up to love books. Actually, they've probably got a better chance of it than the kids of folks who keep their little ones sequestered away from salacious materials.

Because I'm such a swell host and ice breaker, I read first - a quick selection from my story The Whole Buffalo.

Next up, Carrie Gaffney from the Indianapolis group Second Story read an essay about writing noir, and why she feels she comes up short... something about ideas N@B alum Richard Thomas put in her head. Tricky Dick strikes again. You do just fine, Carrie.

Next up, Matthew McBride read the hell out of his fine, fucked up story The Tar Hole from Noir at the Bar Vol. 2. Kids, if you've never read McBride, this is a damn fine place to start, and if you've read everything he's written, you still haven't read anything quite like this. Fucking lovely. (And where can you get your hand on N@B2? Right here, and no place else).

Trust me, nobody wants to follow McBride at a live reading, but if anybody were up for it, I figured hometown hero and the bloody amazing and gracious Frank Bill was up to the task. No suspense - he was. Frank read a selection from the follow-up to next year's Donnybrook. You think times is hard now? You ain't seen nothin yet, kids. Speaking of new Bill - Louisville Magazine has got a brand new story from him called Life of Salvage. Pick one up, if you're a completist. It's a great story. And if you feel you've missed out on your chance to preview Frank's future books by skipping the Corydon event, well pick up N@B2 which features a slice of his Viet Nam novel called Devil Dog. Again - Right here is the only place to get that.

Another Second Story reader, Lou Perry, read next from a piece titled something along the lines of Things That Are Awesome. And, would it be gratuitous to suggest that the story itself belongs on the list? Well, it does... along with tits and Mastodon.

For the final night of the orgy of reading, writing and paper-grading that had been his honeymoon week, David James Keaton graced us with the complete and unabridged version of his story Burning Down DJs which originally appeared in a short version at Tony Black's Pulp Pusher. The good news for those of you who missed the fleshed out reading - Keaton's short story collection Fish Bites Cop will include the full-length story and about fifty others. I'm reading that beast now and, holy shit, it's ridiculously good. Anyhow, DJs is another story of a cop's bad luck with the perp they pulled over - something of a theme in Keaton's work.

Somebody who knows of this theme is the evening's final Indianapolis reader, officer CJ Edwards who stepped up to represent the brethren in blue with an officer down story that ought to be available in the next issue of Plots With Guns whenever that goes up. You don't have to wait for that to go live to read some kick-ass Edwards though. Uncle B's Drive In Fiction is now available featuring six novellas of decidedly questionable taste from Edwards, Keaton, Jimmy Callaway, Alec Cizak, Matthew C. Funk and Garnett Elliott. I got mine.

Saved the closing slot for Mr. Kirby Gann, who read a selection from his novel Ghosting. It was a hungover passage which seemed full of foreboding considering its precarious position at the tippy-top of a boozy Saturday night... Wish I could say it hadn't been prophetic, but... Sunday was rough. Even with the extra hour.

Before my midnight drive home, I took the opportunity to fortify myself with coffee, waffles, biscuits and gravy at Waffle Hut with Robb Olson and Livius Nedin from Booked, who also recorded the whole affair and have plans to make it available to you through the magic of the internet soon. I should also mention the pleasure of meeting Dakota Taylor from the Books & Booze podcast at the event. Noir at the Bar... Books & Booze... Sounds like a fit.

N@B will be back in St. Louis Thanksgiving weekend.... Stay tuned for details. A very special N@B with international guests and holiday spirit!

Friday, November 2, 2012


I'm settling into the fourth season of Sons of Anarchy on DVD, and I gotta say - after the giggle-fits the entire Brady Bunch goes to Hawaii-esque Ireland trip of season three sent me into - this show is finally knuckling down and tapping into the promise of its premise.

I admire the pace Kurt Sutter and Co. have stuck to with the Hamlet-on-Bikes aspect, letting it simmer for a few seasons, but it looks like that particular truck is about to go up a gear or two, and it's good and about time. I also dig the nastiness that they're finally letting these guys stew in. The show has always had wild, brutal shit going on, but all that counts for dick if you're pulling your punches with character. Seems to me they've let the core shittiness of these guys out of the box - and I applaud that. Hear me television execs and film producers, the fact that I don't like your characters, as people, does not mean that I will not like your product, but if you insist on playing cute with your audience, cushioning the impact of your badass's badassery in an attempt to make them more sympathetic, you're going to lose me. The Shield, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Brotherhood, Boardwalk Empire - some of my favorite all-time shows - not a likable character in the cast. Compelling characters. Complex characters. Human characters. But pretty much assholes across the board. I'm a big boy. I can take it. I appreciate it when you stop lying to me about what teddy bears these fuckers really are at heart.

Something that continues to bug me? How uptight and squeamish these outlaws are about running drugs... when they're totally fine with running guns. The fuck? On the other hand, I'm loving the supporting characters - Theo Rossi, Dayton Callie, Ryan Hurst, Emilio Rivera, and season guest stars like Ray McKinnon, Danny Trejo, Tom Arnold and fuckin David Hasselhoff - the Hoff in my favorite supporting role since Stephen King in season 3. Also nice to see Sutter throw his Shield soldiers a bone - David Rees Snell, Kenneth Johnson, Benito Martinez, and I still think Jay Karnes had one of the best turns in season 1... They've got a good thing going here, let's hope they follow through.

Speaking of stuff that executives get all chicken shit about, I just caught Morten Tyldum's Headhunters, and one of its chief pleasures was going to those places big productions just won't go to. I'm looking at you, outhouse sequence, and you, dog-fight. In fact, the visual of Aksel Hennie driving a stolen tractor down a twisty, backwood, highway, covered in shit with a dead dog impaled on prong attached to the front is... just about the greatest thing I've seen this month. (Incidentally, how the hell did Rian Johnson and Bruce Willis get away with doing what they did in Looper? So glad that happened in a biggish Hollywood production and with a huge star. Damn, that was cold.) If you, like me, enjoy a shit gets out of hand crime story, this one's for you. I'll add it to a short list of crime flicks that caught me off guard by how much I enjoyed them this year along with Fred Cavaye's Point Blank, Jill Sprecher's Thin Ice and Daniel Monzon's Cell 211. The film is based on a novel of the same name by Jo Nesbo, whose Fart Powder was a big hit with the kiddos. I hope he's pleased with the adaptation...

... 'casue goodness knows, weird shit can take place in the transition from page to screen. I know a little bit about that... annnnnndddd - it's now available to stream or purchase on DVD Julian Grant's F*ckload of Scotch Tape, and included as bonus content on the disc is Paul von Stoetzel's short film Viscosity - which is teh awesomes.

Tomorrow, I'm headed to Corydon, IN. (just outside Louisville, KY) for N@B with Frank Bill, Kirby Gann, David James Keaton, Matthew McBride, Carrie Gaffney, Lou Perry and CJ Edwards. It's gonna be a blast and a half. Lots of books available, bring your cash money. Also looking forward to seeing Robb and Livius from Booked - who will be making a record of the event for posterity.