Tuesday, October 25, 2011
No Rules: CHARLIE STELLA
Charlie Stella has opinions. That's pretty damn refreshing in this day and age, when everyone is scared to death to upset anyone else's delicate sensibilities. Stella is a honey badger (you know, the animal that 'don't give a shit')in a world of sloths. That he's able to pull that off while still being such a friendly and approachable guy is pretty remarkable-- but make no mistake, we're talking about a serious bad-ass here. He's an amazing writer with a dead-on ear for dialogue, screwed-up criminal protagonists, and break-neck pacing. There's never a single wasted word, let alone wasted scene, in a Charlie Stella novel. Check his Amazon page for titles, and for more information about his fascinating life. Also, swing by Stella's blog, Temporary Knucksline, for his great opinion pieces.
For our very first "No Rules" guest post, Mr. Stella graces us with some opinion-- but also (wait for it...) an exclusive peek at his upcoming novel ROUGH RIDERS.
So, without further bullshit from me, please welcome... Charlie Stella.
Rough Riders, SNHU’s MFA and some other stuff ...
Last year I began my MFA work at Southern New Hampshire University and that has been an absolute blast. Aside from the good people in the program and the staff, I’ve come to read so many authors I hadn’t read before (appalling on one hand, but better late than never on the other). The readings have directly influenced my writing. Not that I’m getting any better at it, but my interests have been refocused.
I have a new crime novel coming out next year that takes place (mostly) where I went to school in Minot, North Dakota. Rough Riders will be a 10 year sequel to Eddie’s World (my first crime novel). I’ve been going through the rewrites the last few months, among several other projects. Stark House Press will be publishing RR. It was originally written almost 9 years ago and updating the thing was mostly fun. I sure hope it makes sense come July ... but I did get to rift on a few issues of our current day (up to 2010--I had to stop somewhere), the revisionism of the tea party, the more than disappointing Obama, and the never ending plight of American Natives who’ve been forever fucked by this government.
Rough Riders features my good and bad guys from Eddie’s World, a few North Dakota law enforcement people and a former Miss North Dakota. It’s another big cast with a lot of subplots (i.e., Johnny Porno). Basically the bad guy from EW was given a new name (Washington Stewart) and relocated by the feds to help with a drug bust. Here’s an unedited scene from Rough Riders (it’s being edited as we speak).
Steward looked out the clubhouse window across the golf course. “That’s a beautiful view,” he said, finally acknowledging the bald man. “It’s hard to figure how a place like this didn’t make it, but I know another one right near here didn’t when it first opened. The Links at Red Mike. I know they were looking for investors there for a while.”
They were sitting in the clubhouse of a recently built golf course that hadn’t survived the bad economy. Stewart told the bald man a lie about how he was considering buying shares in the golf course with some of the money he’d make from their deal that morning.
“But no more than twenty percent,” he said. “A friend of mine told me never take more than twenty percent of a partnership unless you can afford the fifty-one percent gives you control. The problem here, I was told, was the traffic. Rich Canadians come down to play, but not enough of them. Farmers in state here haven’t taken to it yet. Or they scared off when Tiger used to win. Before he got caught with all that white pussy, I mean. You see what I’m saying? They didn’t want to play a game made popular by some brother back then.”
The bald man stretched his skinny arms up and out as he yawned. “I could see how that’d be a problem,” he said through the end of his yawn. “I’ll sink mine in blue chips over time. I already got some real estate down south along the river, but they quit adding casinos. Your guy needs to step to and get people back to work already. Enough with the vacations on Martha’s Vineyard and all the speeches. Two years in and no change anybody can believe in yet. He needs to yes we can it already or step aside and let someone knows what to do take over.”
“Cut the brother some slack,” Stewart said. “Good old boys aren’t used to it yet, black man in the oval office. Even some in his own party sabotaging the man. Plus he still catching flack for Bush. Ain’t his fault the way things are.”
“Well, I’ll stick with the blue chips in the meantime, until he figures it out, what he’s doing in the White House besides having parties. Although I did find me a few guys I’m involved with from Vegas, investment bankers. They have some investment ideas, you’re interested.”
Stewart said, “There’s nothing like clean money.”
“Besides,” the bald man said. “You sure they’d even let you in on a place like this? Being a minority and all, I mean. They don’t much care for Indians up here, that goes without saying, but I’m not too sure they’d be thrilled sharing ownership of some private club with an African American. No offense intended, but you should check that out before you make an offer, get turned down, get yourself upset for something you could’ve avoided.”
Stewart smirked. “African American, huh?” he said before lighting a cigarette. Ofay motherfucker, he was thinking.
The bald man yawned into a fist. “That’s the problem with today, you ask me. All the political correctness. Be a lot less tension between people, they dropped the bullshit and called a spade a spade.”
“Kind of what the tea party doing, right? Calling Obama a spade.”
“Hey, you can’t blame them for wanting their country back.”
Stewart had had enough. He leaned forward, both elbows on the table. “You talking about Native Americans or the white man want they country back?” he said, laying on the street lingo this time. “Tea baggers get that confused all the time, about whose country this is. Native Americans, the ones you still calling Indians like John fucking Wayne, they the ones fucked over from the get go.”
“Shit,” the bald man said. “I didn’t take you for a radical. Indians seem to be doing okay to me. Free land, casinos, all the wampum they want, they way I hear it. Don’t even pay taxes, some of them.”
Stewart shook his head.
“What?” the bald man said.
“No, offense, but you one ignorant motherfucker,” Stewart said. “Wampum. That like watermelon?”
The bald man looked confused. “Hey, all I’m saying is the tea party wants to return to what the founding fathers originally set up. That’s all. Got nothing to do with the Indians.”
Stewart was shaking his head again. He said, “Got nothing to do—the white man took it from Native Americans in the first place, you dumbass. They want it back now? From who? They the ones made the mess it is now. Never bothered paying the bill either. Native dude I listened to on some reservation here said the federal government never honored a single goddamn treaty since day one. Not a single one. If they wanted land, they pushed natives out the way. Natives put up a fight, government went genocide on them and gave out blankets with small pox. Killed off most the natives without blinking an eye, then pushed them onto reservations, fed them booze and whatnot to keep them in a stupor, same way drugs were let loose in the ghettos, and what land the government didn’t build on wasn’t there’s in the first place they stripped the natural resources from. Now they got natives bottled up and shit, they find themselves in trouble, natives get the same treatment niggers do. Government throws their asses into jail and for longer stretches than the average white boy. Or the ones can’t handle it, they off themselves. Suicide rate just like the prison population. Same as for blacks in most states, way higher for natives than whites. Take our country back my ass. That tea party crowd got some American history to research before they spout that shit. Shame is, nobody calls them on it. All those cable news programs, all the so-called liberals out there on the networks, not a one has the balls to tell it like it is.”
The bald man put both hands up. “Hey, sorry I brought it up, the tea party.”
“You didn’t,” Stewart said. “You were taking shots at Obama. I brought them up, the tea party.”
“Then I’m sorry for Obama. That help?”
Stewart shrugged. “It just a little hard to take these tea bagging, peckerwood motherfuckers with their take our country back signs serious is all.”
The bald man forced a smile. “Tea baggers,” he said. “Good one. What’s a peckerwood?”
Stewart winked at the ofay. He was about to explain it to him when someone behind them yelled, “Counts good.”
I also wrote a crime novel around the MFA program; a guy in witness protection is discovered in an MFA program on Star Island (it’s where SNHU’s program has its summer residency--where I got the idea, of course) ... that one will also be a sequel; this time to my second crime novel (Jimmy Bench Press). I’m currently flirting with the title: Jimmy Mangino. Hopefully, Stark House Press will stick with me and that can’t be my third crime novel with them. We shall see. Jimmy (Bench Press) Mangino was arrested for murder at the end of the original book and now he’s done his time, he’s out and he wants what he’s owed from the mob for being a stand up guy.
I have to admit I’m spending much more time and having much more fun attempting to write short stories without any crime or elements of crime in them. It’s been a cathartic journey since I dumped the literary novel I was trying (for years) and focused on the shorts. My mentor in the program, Mitch Wieland, has been a wonderful find himself. He founded the MFA program at Boise State in Idaho 15 years ago. Mitch is also a terrific novelist (with starred reviews and very positive NY Times reviews). I’ve read both his books and they are wonderful (although his second, God’s Dogs, completely blew me away). I can’t tell you how helpful he’s been in guiding my naturally unliterary ass in a better direction (for me). His reading suggestions alone have turned my head ... Richard Bausch’s short stories, especially. Other writers I really enjoy reading this semester include Richard Yates, Frederick Busch and Andre Dubus.
On the employment front, it appears I’ll be working full-time again. I’ve been offered a position at a firm I’ve been temping at the last few months. A four day week will be a nice break in the current pattern. I’ve been up at 3:30 a.m. in the morning (some mornings 3:00 a.m.) to do the writing work and 3 weeks ago I secretly began to train for one last power meet (although it’s been a hush-hush deal from the spouse--by the time she reads this it’ll be too late, the entree fee check will have cleared). I expect to get my ass whipped as usual, but this meet will serve as a last attempt to see if I can ever break the 4 bills mark on the bench again (it’s been a very long time since I did that--27 years. I just missed on my 50th birthday when I tore my shoulder up). Last year I did my best to try all three lifts again, but really screwed up both my knees and my back (first the knees, got them somewhat back to normal, then blew out my back during warm-up squats). I can’t afford to be sidelined for 2-3 months at a time anymore so I’m going to have to live with ignoring those lifts ... although I have been flirting with squats again.
Exactly, I’ve never been accused of being the sharpest knife in any drawer.
And it’s not that I was any good at squats. Frankly, my 3rd attempts at most meets in the squat were warm-ups for the guys who won the totals. I’m like the kid who sits the bench at most weight lifting meets when it comes to squats and totals ... I just wanna play.
The blogging continues to act as some form of cathartic release for me, as well as a great break from the other writing I do. I’m sure I bore the living daylights out of some with some of my political rants, but that’ll have to continue so long as the only choices people have are Republicans and Democrats. I do get to do some fun reviews on the blog, as well, and I really enjoy watching foreign films and briefly reviewing them. This morning I just watched for the 4th or 5th time, a great German-Turkish film called Head-On (Gegen die Wand). It’s now one of my top 10’s of all time.
Then there are the book reviews where I get to help spread the word on reads I enjoy. If I review it, I like it. I’ve only featured one or two bad reviews on my blog and those were books I gave 2 or 3 reads to and just didn’t like them ... and both authors were deceased. I’m not concerned about author backlash (who’d know me anyway?). I just figure this business is tough enough for authors without knocking a book. If I don’t like a book, I won’t review it. I have a tremendous backlog of reads but that has more to do with the MFA program (I read whatever my mentor suggests plus another one or two of the same authors’ works--I am an anal MF’er that way).
I occasionally torture two blogs pretty consistently. J.D. Rhoades (What Fresh Hell Is This) with attacks on the defense of Obama and the Democrats and then there’s the other side of the scam, Stand Up For America, a conservative site where I’m known as the Sage of Wisdom (sarcasm intended). I despise both parties and will never understand how the people of this country continue to play this back and forth game while the money that owns both parties heart and soul continues to laugh at us all.
My beloved New York State Buffalo Bills are now good enough to give me stomach cramps ... it was so much easier when they completely sucked. I hope it’s growing pains I’ll soon get over.
It’s back to school early January for our low residency at a neat place in the mountains of New Hampshire. I look very forward to that, plus my wife is tagging along for a semi-vacation.
And then there’s the opera ... February 3rd in Princeton ... Tosca ... the wife and I look very forward to that.
Like we used to say on the street when somebody came across some good fortune. “Who’s got it better’n you (me)?”