Monday, January 31, 2011

After Innocence

We watched a documentary last night called After Innocence. It was about men who’d been falsely convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, and were only exonerated later by DNA evidence. In some cases, they spent well over twenty years behind bars before being released.

The reticence to even hear new evidence or to re-examine old evidence on the part of the judicial system was startling… in some cases, it was clear that the finality of the conviction was far more important to the court than the fact of the accused man’s innocence. And even in the cases where the prosecutors and judges admitted to their mistake, no recompense was offered. In some cases, not even a simple apology.
The documentary focused mostly on the exonerated men’s lives afterwards-- how they went about trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, get jobs, co-exist in the world. No easy task.

What amazed me most about all of them was their capacity for forgiveness. None of them seemed particularly bitter. That absolutely blew my mind. You can’t help but imagine yourself in that situation, and how you’d react, but something tells me I wouldn’t be anywhere NEAR that magnanimous.

On the court steps, immediately after his release, one man was asked by a reporter, “So what are your plans now?” to which the man responded, “I’m going to go home to my family and try to live my life.” And I knew, I just KNEW, that if that was me in that position and the reporter asked me the same question, my answer would be, “I’m going home to begin plotting my diabolical revenge!”, followed, of course, by an evil laugh.

If ever something cried out for vengeance, this situation would surely be it, wouldn’t it?

But I suppose that’s the writer in me. Even while watching the documentary, something in the back of my brain began working out the revenge scenario: who would be targeted and how.

I don’t know about you, but I love a good revenge story. Count of Monte Cristo, anyone?

And who knows? Maybe, somewhere in the back of their minds, these innocent victims of the justice system DID have revenge scenarios. They were just too decent to play them out. Good for them. And revenge would, no doubt, be a bad idea anyway.
That’s why we have revenge stories. We all know it’s a bad idea to actually DO it, to actually turn the tables on the ones who wronged you and exact fitting retribution. But there’s no harm in a good tasty story of vengeance.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lou Boxer on David Goodis

I don't normally do links here, but this one is too good not to share. Paul David Brazil interviews NoirCon head honcho Lou Boxer about the brilliant David Goodis...

You Would Say That, Wouldn't You?

Bravo, Paul, for this excellent interview!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Poor Judge

You ever look at something you wrote, say, a year ago, something you thought at the time was pretty good, and realize it kinda sucks?
Ain't that a drag?
Conversely, do you ever re-read something you wrote a while back that you thought sucked at the time, but it turns out it was actually not bad at all?
Not so much of a drag.
But I swear, I'm the absolute worst judge of my own work sometimes.
I was looking over an old story I wrote-- in fact, it was the first story I ever sold, a peice called Battle of the Carson Hotel... started cringing because, well, it's not a bad story but man there are bits that are just sloppy ane embarrasingly amatuerish.
And then I started going over this novel I had begun a couple years ago called The Scarab. It was something I'd given up on almost 300 pages into it, because it felt awkward and pointless... but, reading it now, with all the fine details gone from my memory, I found myself actually enjoying it. Turns out it's actually pretty damn good.
Does this happen to anyone else?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Reverend Childe is a terrific pulp creation..."

You know what's awesome? When a writer you admire greatly says something this cool about your novel. I think everyone knows by now how much I like Dave Zeltserman, so getting this feedback was especially gratifying:

Dave Zeltserman says: "Reverend Childe is a terrific pulp creation, and this wild, crazy book could've sat next to the Gold-Medal pulps of Charles Williams and Harry Whittington if those two were only popping LSD back then."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hate & Empathy

I have, on occasion, been accused of being a misanthrope. No reason, really, other than the occasional observation that people are idiots, or that the human race is long over-due for extinction. Or that, in my stories and novels, anything with a pulse has a tendency to die horribly.

But I don’t hate people, I really don’t. Sure, I get frustrated by them very often, I rarely want to spend any time with them, and once in awhile I’ll even get the overwhelming urge to start breaking noses. But that doesn’t mean I HATE them. In fact, I quite LIKE people.

Let me put that another way: I EMPATHIZE with people. I’m sympathetic to the pain and suffering that seems to be our lot here on this mortal coil. It distresses me to see another human being in pain, physical or psychological.

Honestly, I don’t think you can be a good writer and actually HATE other people (and of course there are bound to be exceptions to that rule-- I just thought of Patricia Highsmith, a misanthrope if ever one existed, and there are probably others I’m not thinking of, but…).

To write effectively about human beings, you gotta understand them, yeah? And it’s impossible to hate something that you understand.

Yeah, people are still idiots, and still over-due for extinction. But you know what? The dinosaurs were idiots also, and their extinction was a long time coming.

That doesn’t mean I HATE dinosaurs, does it?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

...battered and bruised at the Gates of Hell...

Here's what Paul David Brazil says about my novel The Bastard Hand:

The Bastard Hand by Heath Lowrance grabs you by the lapels and drags you on a wild, wild bar crawl that leaves you battered and bruised at the Gates of Hell. Like Jim Thompson jamming with Robert Johnson and Nick Cave on the eve of the apocolypse.

Yeah, I'll take it.

Paul runs the terrific blog You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? and has written tons of stories for A Twist of Noir and Beat to a Pulp, among others. His story 'Guns of Brixton' (a Clash fan!) is going to be in the 2011 Mammoth Book of Best British Crime.

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Little Late...

Dear Mr. Lowrance,
We'd very much like to publish your story in the June issue of ___ Magazine.
The Editor

Dear The Editor,
Do you mean the story I submitted to you a YEAR AND A HALF AGO?? Apologies, but that story was purchased and published about eight months ago by a different magazine. However, I thank you for your promptness; I'd forgotten you existed.
Heath Lowrance

Saturday, January 8, 2011

James Ellroy, nightmare dick.

So I had this dream last night that I was at some public function, sharing a table with James Ellroy.
Scary enough, right?
But then Ellroy starts acting like an asshole. He says to me, “I read that piece of shit you wrote. You suck. You’ll always suck.”
So then I said to him something like, “Oh yeah? Well you haven’t written anything relevant in what, ten years? Maybe twenty?” I didn’t know what I was talking about but there was my pride to consider…
And next thing you know I’m having a fistfight with James Ellroy, and both of us are cursing at each other and pounding away. That’s when I woke up.
Ellroy is, of course, a genius writer who has written some of the most important crime novels of all time. I’m a fan of the guy, I really am. But I’ve also heard that he can be a real douche bag. I don’t know, mind you… it’s just something I heard. For all I know, he could be a swell guy.
But in my dreams, James Ellroy is a dick.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"Mean, tough, lurid, intense, and entirely engaging..."

Okay, man, here we go with that self-promotion stuff I was talking about. Once a week, I'm going to be blowing my own horn in an effort to get you to part with your hard-earned clams and buy my novel, The Bastard Hand, coming out in March from New Pulp Press.
Believe me, it's written much better than the above paragraph.
One of the first people in the biz to take a real interest in it-- aside from Jon Bassoff-- was Vincent Zandri, author of Godchild, The Innocents, Moonlight Falls, and well, tons of other books. I was really surprised and gratified by Vin's enthusiasm, and I thank him profusely for spreading the word. He had this to say about The Bastard Hand:

"Only on rare occasions-- say once every ten years-- will I come across a debut novel that will want to make me change my name and start all over again, so that I can write one just like it... Mean, tough, lurid, intense, and entirely engaging, this novel is a must-read for all fans of the hardboiled genre. It will also force you to make room on your bookshelf for a whole lot of Lowrance pulps to come."

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I just read my first issue of Jason Aarons' Scalped, a stand-alone issue, number 43. Jumpin' Jesus on a crutch, it was tight! I can't believe it's been under my nose all this time, a more than worthy successor to 100 Bullets. If you haven't checked it out, waste no time.
The downside is, now I gotta scrape up 60 bucks or so to buy the trades. Damnit! By being so good, other writers are driving me to the poorhouse!

Activist Writers?

Can a writer of fiction be a social activist? I mean, a truly committed one? I wonder.
If our first priority (aside from telling kick-ass stories, anyway) is to tell the truth regardless of consequences, how can we ally ourselves with any single position? Even on the most basic social issues, things are very seldom black and white, right and wrong-- but a real activist is sometimes forced to concentrate solely on ONE aspect of an issue in order to affect change.
Climate change: at this point, the only people really denying climate change are fringe-types, conspiracy nuts. That’s my opinion, and I think the folks who championed the cause, spread the word, about climate change are to be commended. But to comment about the handful of scientists who deliberately left out important information that didn’t support their views is frowned upon.
But if you’re a writer, you’re obligated to point it out. Even if it weakens a position that you believe in.
I tend to be pretty liberal in my politics (and I have numerous issues with Israel), so I was dismayed at the treatment of journalist Helen Thomas when she spoke out against the Israeli occupation. But if I’m going to be truthful, I have to admit that it was equally monstrous what my fellow liberals did to Juan Williams when he made statements that were read as anti-Muslim.
So I can’t take a side, can I? I can’t rally for anyone’s cause. Because my first obligation is to the truth.
Maybe you think I’m making too big a deal out of all this, considering that all these social issues rarely if ever come up in my writing anyway, but I contend that it’s the PRINCIPLE of the thing. By committing to a social agenda, you’re already compromising yourself as a writer, making the next little lie (or lie by omission) that much easier to tell.
Maybe our only activist position should be the one of telling the truth. In this day and age, that’s a pretty radical concept all on it’s own, isn’t it?
Bear in mind this is something I haven’t quite made up my mind about yet, so different points of view on it are more than welcome…