Sunday, June 17, 2018

Alfred Hitchcock Anthologies

                                                      The Alfred Hitchcock anthologies

     There were celebrity film directors before Alfred Hitchcock, but none quite captured the popular imagination-- especially in America-- as much as this portly, droll Brit. After a successful career in his native England, Hitchcock made the transition to the States, where his reputation sky-rocketed, and his name came to be closely linked to tales of suspense, murder, and intrigue.

     Little wonder then that book publishers would seek his input-- or at least seek to appropriate his name and image-- for anthologies of suspense stories.

     Hitchcock was happy to accommodate them, apparently, because during a short period in the late '40's and another, much longer period beginning in the late '50's and lasting decades, the Hitchcock anthologies became a virtual cottage industry.

     The first anthology Hitchcock was reputedly involved in was a collection of novels by Eric Ambler called Intrigue (as an Ambler fan, I actually own this volume, from long before I developed an interest in the Hitchcock anthologies). The introduction is credited to him, and if he indeed wrote it, it's very likely the only time he ever did so. The first general anthology release was The Pocketbook of Great Detectives, in 1941, from Pocket Books. I’m not sure how much Hitchcock was actually involved in it (probably not much). I'm not counting it for our purposes here regardless, as it was a much more specialized volume and not in keeping with the format established after that, although the stories included in it are by some very well-regarded detective story writers and it's probably worth reading.
     In truth, Hitchcock himself had little or nothing to do with the any of the volumes over the years. He didn't select the stories, he didn't edit them, he didn't even write the introductions attributed to him. Most of that work, at least in the early period, was done by writer Robert Arthur. Hitchcock merely lent his name and image. And that was plenty to sell books.

     Arthur did an amazing job. His taste in stories was diverse, and his ability to select just the right tales to compliment each other in each volume was quite expert. He also did a pitch-perfect impression of Hitchcock in the wry, self-effacing introductions he wrote. Arthur’s stories would even pop up in the anthologies from time to time, and he would eventually create the "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators" series of books for younger readers.

     Many of the later volumes here were edited by Eleanor Sullivan or Cathleen Jordan, long-time editors at Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine—they also had very good eyes for solid stories, although somewhat more oriented toward mystery as opposed to suspense in general as they moved into the 80’s.

     The publishing format changed dramatically around 1980, eventually losing the remarkable cover designs, the artifice of being selected and introduced by Hitchcock himself, and yes, even the (admittedly often cringe-worthy) titles. You may notice on this list that even by the late ‘70’s, the presentation and image of the books had begun to change, gradually going exclusively to hardcover.

     All of the hardcover releases (save the first two) were published by Random House until 1979, and the paperbacks by Dell. For me, the Dell paperbacks with the goofy titles and stylish, sometimes garish covers hold a great deal of appeal as a collector. Don't misunderstand, however. The covers and titles would mean nothing if the short stories collected in them weren't consistently entertaining. And they are entertaining indeed. The earliest volumes feature stories from a very wide range of sources, and often contain classic short stories by the likes of Brett Harte, Ambrose Bierce, and even H.G. Wells. As they went on, more and more stories from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine were used until eventually AHMM became more or less the sole source. Some of the greatest suspense writers of their times were featured fairly regularly: Robert Bloch, Henry Slesar, Donald Honig, Jack Ritchie, C.B. Gilford, Hal Ellson, Fredric Brown, Donald Westlake, Lawrence Block, and the great Fletcher Flora, to name just a few.

     I researched this list primarily to help myself as a collector sort it all out, as the publication history was pretty convoluted, but if it winds up being useful to anyone else, well, it will have been worth the time. There was a bit of online detective work involved, but I had a solid starting point: I owe a great debt to my friend Todd Mason for his knowledge and insight on the subject, the Hitchcock Zone, and especially the website Casual Debris in putting this together. My goal was to make it as simple and easy to understand as possible, but if you’re looking for more details about these anthologies, I recommend those sites.

     Comments, criticisms, and corrections are more than welcome.

The Dell Paperback anthologies

Dell was the sole paperback publisher of Hitchcock anthologies in the US from the beginning to the end. Several of the titles were reprinted over the years with new covers; I’m not going to go into all the reprint history, unless a book was reprinted with a different title or there is some otherwise notable detail.

*Suspense Stories: Collected by Alfred Hitchcock (1945)
     (reprinted with one story replacement in 1964 as 14 Suspense Stories to Play Russian Roulette By)
*Bar the Doors! (1946)
     (Reprinted in 1962 under the same title, except without the “!”)
*Hold Your Breath (1947)
*Fear and Trembling (1948)
*Suspense Stories Selected by Alfred Hitchcock: Thirteen Tales of Tension (1949)
     (Reprinted in 1963 as A Baker’s Dozen of Suspense Stories. Not to be confused with
      Suspense Stories: Collected by Alfred Hitchcock, from 1945, despite the nearly identical title.)

There were no more Hitchcock anthologies after that for ten years until the "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" television show began in 1955. It was a hit show, and a couple years later they began marketing anthologies again to capitalize on the program's success.

Note: In 1961, A Bouquet of Clean Crimes and Neat Murders was released. I mention it because it’s sort of the odd man out here. First, it was the only single author collection released under the Hitchcock banner, devoted exclusively to the stories of frequent AHMM contributor Henry Slesar. Second, it wasn’t published by Dell, but by Avon Books. Despite the fact that it doesn’t quite fit into this list for those reasons, I highly recommend it. Slesar was a terrific writer.

*12 Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV (1958)
     (Reprints part of Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV hardcover)
*13 More They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV (1959)
     (Reprints rest of Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV hardcover)
*14 of My Favorites in Suspense (1960)
     (Reprints first part of My Favorites in Suspense hardcover)
*More of My Favorites in Suspense (1961)
     (Reprints remainder of My Favorites in Suspense hardcover)
*12 Stories for Late at Night (1962)
     (Reprints first part of Stories for Late at Night hardcover)
*More Stories for Late at Night (1962)
     (Reprints remainder of Stories for Late at Night hardcover. Reprinted in 1977 as Skeleton Crew)
*Bar the Doors (1962)
     (Reprint of 1946 title of same name, only dropping the “!”)
*A Hangman's Dozen (1962)
*16 Skeletons from My Closet (1963)
*A Baker’s Dozen of Suspense Stories (1963)
     (Reprints Suspense Stories Selected by Alfred Hitchcock, from 1949)
*14 Suspense Stories to Play Russian Roulette By (1964)
     (Reprints Suspense Stories: Collected by Alfred Hitchcock, 1945, except the replacement of
      “Leiningen Versus the Ants” by Carl Stephenson with “Never Kill for Love” by C.B.Gilford)
*Once Upon a Dreadful Time (1964)
*Stories My Mother Never Told Me (1965)
     (Reprints first part of Stories My Mother Never Told Me hardcover)
*Witches' Brew (1965)
     (Not to be confused with Witch’s Brew, 1977 hardcover release*note the different spelling of
*Anti-Social Register (1965)
*More Stories My Mother Never Told Me (1965)
     (Reprints remainder of Stories My Mother Never Told Me hardcover)
*Stories Not for the Nervous (1966)
     (Reprints first part of Stories Not for the Nervous hardcover)
*Noose Report (1966)
*More Stories Not for the Nervous (1967)
     (Reprints remainder of Stories Not for the Nervous hardcover)
*A Hard Day at the Scaffold (1967)
*Coffin Corner (1968)
*Games Killers Play (1968)
*Skull Session (1968)
*Death Bag (1969)
*Happiness is a Warm Corpse (1969)
*Murders I Fell in Love With (1969)
*Murders on the Half-Skull (1970)
*Get Me to the Wake on Time (1970)
*Scream Along with Me (1970
*This One Will Kill You (1971)
*Slay Ride (1971)
*I Am Curious (Bloody) (1971)
*Down by the Old Bloodstream (1971)
*Rolling Gravestones (1971)
*Dates with Death (1972)
     (Reprints A Month of Mystery hardcover)
*Terror Time (1972)
*Death Can Be Beautiful (1972)
*Happy Deathday! (1972)
*A Hearse of a Different Color (1972)
*The Best of Fiends (1972)
*Death-Mate (1973)
*Let It All Bleed Out (1973)
*Stories to Stay Awake By (1973)
     (Reprints first part of Stories to Stay Awake By hardcover)
*More Stories to Stay Awake By (1973)
     (Reprints remainder of Stories to Stay Awake By hardcover)
*Boys and Ghouls Together (1974)
*Coffin Break (1974)
*Bleeding Hearts (1974)
*Behind the Death Ball (1974)
*Grave Business (1975)
*Murderer's Row (1975)
*Murder Racquet (1975)
*Speak of the Devil (1975)
*Stories to Be Read with the Lights On, Volume One (1976)
     (Reprints first part of hardcover of Stories to Be Read with the Lights On hardcover)
*Stories to Be Read with the Lights On, Volume Two (1976)
     (Reprints remainder of Stories to Be Read with the Lights On hardcover)
*Don't Look a Gift Shark in the Mouth (1976)
     (Reprints 14 of My Favorites in Suspense from 1960)
*I Want My Mummy (1977)
*Stories to Be Read with the Door Locked, Volume 1 (1977)
     (Reprints first part of Stories to be Read with the Door Locked hardcover)
*Stories to Be Read with the Door Locked, Volume 2 (1977)
     (Reprints remainder of Stories to Be Read with the Door Locked hardcover)
*Skeleton Crew (1977)
     (Reprint of More Stories for Late at Night, from 1961)
*Having a Wonderful Crime (1977)
*Murder-Go-Round (1978)
*Killers at Large (1978)
*Breaking the Scream Barrier (1979)
     (Reprint of paperback Stories to Be Read with the Lights On, Vol 2, from 1976, inexplicably)
*Death on Arrival (1979)
*Alive and Screaming (1980)
     (Final Dell paperback)

Hardcover anthologies

**Fireside Book of Suspense Stories (1947)
     (From Simon & Schuster. The introduction and some of the stories originally appeared in 1945’s
      paperback Suspense Stories: Collected by Alfred Hitchcock)
**Stories They Wouldn't Let Me Do on TV (1957)
     (Second and last release from Simon & Schuster)
**My Favorites in Suspense (1959)
     (first release from Random House, which would remain the hardcover publisher for the next 20 years)
**Stories for Late at Night (1961)
**Haunted Houseful (1961)
     (for “young readers”)
**Ghostly Gallery (1962)
     (for “young readers”)
**Stories My Mother Never Told Me (1963)
**Monster Museum (1965)
     (for “young readers”)
**Stories Not for the Nervous (1965)
**Sinister Spies (1966)
     (for “young readers”)
**Stories That Scared Even Me (1967)
**Spellbinders in Suspense (1967)
     (for “young readers”)
**A Month of Mystery (1969)
**Daring Detectives (1969)
     (for “young readers”)
**Stories to Stay Awake By (1971)
**Stories to Be Read with the Lights On (1973)
**Supernatural Tales of Terror and Suspense (1973)
**Stories to Be Read with the Door Locked (1975)
**Witch's Brew (1977)
     (not to be confused with Witches' Brew from 1965*note the different spelling of “Witch’s”)
**Stories That Go Bump in the Night (1977)
**The Master's Choice (1979)
     (Final hardcover release from Random House)
**The Best of Mystery (1980)
     (Hardcover release from Galahad Books, edited by Harold Q. Masur)

The 1980s saw the Hitchcock anthologies go exclusively to hardcover releases, published in the US by Davis Publications, which had acquired Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine in 1975. Beginning in ’76, with “Tales to Keep You Spellbound”, Davis published a total of 27 hardcovers collecting the best stories from that magazine. They overlapped with the final few Random House publications. The quality of the stories remained high, but it was the end of an era of remarkable packaging. In 1989, the Davis Publications hardcovers ceased; the final three anthologies listed here, in the early ‘90s, were all published by different houses.

Following are the Davis Publications hardcover releases, edited by Eleanor Sullivan or Cathleen Jordan (listed here separately for the sake of clarity):

**Tales to Keep You Spellbound (1976)
**Tales to Take Your Breath Away (1977)
**Tales to Make Your Blood Run Cold (1978)
**Tales to Scare You Stiff (1978)
**Tales to Send Chills Down Your Spine (1979)
**Tales to Be Read with Caution (1979)
**Tales to Fill You with Fear and Trembling (1980)
**Tales to Make Your Teeth Chatter (1980)
**Tales to Make Your Hair Stand on End (1981)
**Tales to Make You Weak in the Knees (1981)
**Tales to Make You Quake & Quiver (1982)
**Your Share of Fear (1982)
**Death-Reach (1982)
**Fatal Attractions (1983)
**Borrowers of the Night (1983)
**A Choice of Evils (1983)
**Mortal Errors (1984)
**Crime Watch (1984)
**Grave Suspicions (1984)
**No Harm Undone (1985)
**Words of Prey (1986)
**A Mystery by the Tail (1986)
**A Brief Darkness (1987)
**The Shadow of Silence (1987)
**Most Wanted: First Lineup (1988)
**Shrouds and Pockets (1988)
**Murder & Other Mishaps (1989)

At the end of the ‘80s, Davis Publications stopped releasing the Hitchcock anthologies. The final three hardcover anthologies, released in the early 1990s, were published by other publishing houses. They were:

**Home Sweet Homicide
     (1991, Walker & Co Publishers)
**Tales of the Supernatural and the Fantastic
     (1993, Smithmark Publishers)
**Fun and Games at the Whacks Museum and Other Horror Stories
     (1994, Simon & Schuster, a collection of stories from AHMM and its sister publication Ellery Queen
      Mystery Magazine)

Following are releases from UK publishers, paperbacks unless otherwise noted. Most of these are reprints of the American editions, but the few that are “original” are marked as such in bold font. Pan Books was the primary publisher in the UK, with Four Square in 1966, ’67, and ‘68 putting out seven originals. As far as I’ve been able to determine, these original titles were edited by Peter Haining:

**My Favourites in Suspense- Part One (1962)
     (Hardcover reprint of first part of American edition. It appears a Part Two was never published)
*My Favourites in Suspense- Part One (1963)
     (Paperback reprint of first part of American edition. It appears a Part Two was never published)
*Stories for Late at Night- Part 1 (1964)
     (Reprint of first part of American hardcover edition, in paperback)
*Stories for Late at Night- Part 2 (1965)
     (Reprint of second part of American hardcover edition, in paperback)
*Haunted Houseful (1965)
     (Hardcover reprint of American edition)
**Ghostly Gallery (1966)
     (Hardcover reprint of American edition)
*Guaranteed Rest In Peace (1966)
     (Four Square Publishing, original paperback release)
*Ghostly Gallery (1966)
     (Paperback reprint of hardcover published earlier that year)
*This Day’s Evil (1967)
     (Four Square Publishing, original paperback release)
*Behind the Locked Door (1967)
     (Four Square Publishing, original paperback release)
*Meet Death at Night (1967)
     (Four Square Publishing, original paperback release)
*Anyone for Murder? (1967)
     (Four Square Publishing, original paperback release)
*The Late Unlamented (1967)
     (Four Square Publishing, original paperback release)
**Stories That Scared Even Me (1968)
     (Hardcover, reprint of American edition)
*Stories Not for the Nervous- Book One (1968)
     (Reprint of first part of American hardcover edition, in paperback)
*The Graveyard Man (1968)
     (Four Square Publishing, original paperback release)
*Stories Not for the Nervous- Book Two (1969)
     (Reprint of second part of American hardcover edition, in paperback
*This One Will Kill You (1972)
     (Reprint of American Dell edition)
*A Month of Mystery- Book One (1972)
     (Reprint of first part of American hardcover edition, in paperback. It appears a Book Two was never
*Get Me to the Wake on Time (1974)
     (Reprints American Dell edition)
*Stories to Stay Awake By- Part One (1974)
     (Reprint of first part of American hardcover edition, in paperback)
*Stories to Stay Awake By- Part Two (1975)
     (Reprint of second part of American hardcover edition, in paperback)
*Grave Business (1977)
     (Reprints American Dell edition)
*Witch’s Brew (1977)
     (Reprints American Dell edition)
**Witch’s Brew (1978)
     (Hardcover version of paperback from previous year)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Speaking of movies...

... I could be wrong, but I think my generation may have been the last one to have any deep appreciation of films that came before we were born. That's not meant as a disparaging remark about younger people; it's just that the options for discovery aren't there anymore. You can't really thumb through the channels and just stumble across some old black & white flick now. Yeah, there's TCM, and probably a couple of others, but that's it. And the thrill of "accidental discovery" is long gone. Quite literally hundreds of channels to choose from, and still so little in the way of old movies.

I grew up in the '70's, before the dawn of cable, and we had four or five channels to choose from. And I was a fairly obsessive television watcher. Cartoons, of course, and cop shows and syndicated sit-coms. But it was MOVIES that always gave me a thrill, movies usually made long before I was born, that gave me weird, tantalizing peeks into exotic and mysterious worlds.

In the Detroit area, the 4 O'CLOCK MOVE happened every weekday, coinciding perfectly between the time you finished your homework and the time dinner was ready. They would often have "theme weeks"-- "Elvis Week" was always something to look forward to, and "Godzilla Movie Week" was extra-special.

In the summer time, or on those days you stayed home from school, there was BILL KENNEDY AT THE MOVIES. Bill Kennedy was a bit player in Hollywood back in the day, and mostly showed classic flicks from the '40's and '50's. It was through his show I had my first glimpse of actors like Bogart, Mitchum, Jane Russell, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, etc, etc.

Black & white. Loved it.

Saturday afternoons: SIR GRAVES GHASTLY. A cheesy horror movie host in the grand tradition, Sir Graves showed me the old Hammer Horror-- Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing-- as well as Roger Corman's Edgar Allen Poe adaptations, all in glorious blood red color.

If you forced yourself to get up early on Sunday morning, your day would start at 8 with an Abbot & Costello movie. Then some shorts, like Laurel & Hardy or Our Gang. After that, Tarzan would usually swing in, although sometimes it would be Shirley Temple instead (always a massive disappointment to me at the time) or a Blondie & Dagwood movie with Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake. I liked those, but mostly because I had a crush on Penny Singleton. If you were really lucky, you'd catch a Thin Man movie, because Myrna Loy was even more alluring than Penny.

Sunday afternoon was CHILLER THEATER time. The credits started with that creepy interlude from the Led Zepplin song "Whole Lotta Love" (I wonder if they had permission to do that?) and showed a lot of horror/sci-fi from the '40's and '50's, movies about giant ants and flying saucers, as well as the Universal Studios monster movies.

And in the evenings, there would almost always be a movie showing at some point, usually a drama or period piece. Late nights, if you managed to stay up, would be poorly-preserved flickering black & white images of places and things that seemed so alien-- men with guns and fedoras and dangerous slinky females and big black cars and rain and street lamps and one-room apartments-- that they were like artifacts from ancient times. Film Noir, although at the time I had no way of knowing that.


In my teens and early 20s, I developed a special affection for horror films, old and new, and was more than a little obsessive; I'd even venture to say there isn't a horror film made before around 1987 I haven't seen. But eventually I outpaced that hang up, fell in love with the aforementioned film noir, transferred my obsession to that.

In my late 20s, I discovered Buster Keaton and fell in love. Buster is STILL my go-to when I'm feeling depressed. His films always cheer me up.

In my 30s, I discovered the joys of foreign films. The Japanese stuff, like Kurosawa, of course, but also the great Italian neo-realists like Fellini and Antonioni. The French as well, especially Jean Renoir. The great stuff from the Golden Age of British crime movies, in the late 60s and early 70s. Not long after that, I became obsessed with westerns and WWII movies.I would never have thought twice about any of that if I hadn't developed a deep love of film from an really early age.

The jist of all this is, because our young brains were exposed to all this great cinematic art, we developed a specific set of references that went far beyond our own experience and our own lifetimes. When I talk to someone now in their teens or twenties, and they have no idea who Buster Keaton is, or the Marx Brothers or William Powell or Vincent Price or Greta Garbo, it makes me a little sad. It's not their fault; they missed out. They missed it all. So many viewing choices now, and yet the options have never been fewer.

I know there are plenty of young people out there now who have a deep appreciation of old movies, and again I want to stress that I'm not being dismissive of newer generations. But they're sort of a specialized little group, removed from the mainstream. But when I was coming of age, this sort of thing was probably a bit more of a given. It was just always there.

I think I was really lucky to just catch them, those last few years before it got late and the station played the National Anthem and signed off.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Look up here, I'm in Heaven. Goodbye, David Bowie.

In the early 80s, MTV didn’t have a whole lot of videos in their catalogue, so if you had that station on for more than say six hours, you’d wind up seeing the same stuff over and over again. That’s really how I first came to be aware of David Bowie.

I mean, I knew who he was before that, sure. His early stuff was a staple of Detroit radio. You’d hear Ziggy Stardust all the time, and Rebel, Rebel, and Panic in Detroit. I liked all that stuff. But I wasn’t really… attached to it.

The David Bowie I saw on MTV, though… it was a different artist. One that really got right into my guts.

I still remember the first time I saw a Bowie video, and man, that’s saying something, considering the shit quality of my memory in general.  It was Fashion, from the 1980 album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and I remember my brain going on the fritz for the duration of that song, my eyes glued to the TV, my stomach doing some weird fluttery shit I didn’t understand at the time.

The song, of course, was amazing, but it was more than that. It was this guy, this Bowie. He was so… odd. And so fascinating. He was beautiful. I’m as heterosexual as they come, honestly, but there was more than a little bit of a sexual response. In later years, it would become kind of a joke: would you have sex with a man? Naw, I don’t think so… unless it was David Bowie, har har har.

But he and his music came into my life at a sort of key juncture, a moment when I was changing into a young adult, on the verge of discovering who I really was. I was a weirdo and an outcast, a freak with a weird eye and zero confidence.

But here was this Bowie guy…he ALSO had a weird eye. But confidence? Damn. An IMMEASURABLE amount. He was clearly weird, and he clearly didn’t give a shit what you thought about that.

This was the same year I discovered punk rock, via my friend Lana, and all of this period of discovery that happened so fast and so intensely shaped who I would be for the rest of my life. I learned to embrace my outcast status and weirdness and it is no exaggeration to say it was because of David Bowie.

When a Bowie video would come on MTV, it didn’t matter what I was doing, everything came to a halt and I was completely committed to it. They played Fashion a lot, but also Ashes to Ashes, Look Back in Anger, I am a DJ, Heroes… he was one of only a few artists with an extensive video backlog, and so appeared frequently.

As I embraced the post-punk lifestyle with more and more enthusiasm, I bought my first Bowie album: Scary Monsters. It’s still probably my favorite. But eventually I possessed his entire discography, and realized that it was his late 70s stuff that really spoke to me. Beginning with Station to Station, then into his Berlin period, and ending with Scary Monsters. This was experimental, vital music from an artist at the top of his game, so moody and so smart, and so committed to a really singular artistic vision. Even at that young age, I recognized what David Bowie was—he was an artist with real integrity, a freak who didn’t care that he was a freak, and who had somehow made the world love him and embrace him for it.

I can’t even begin to tell you how inspirational that was to a young man like me, who wanted to hold on to who he was but who still desired love and acceptance.

And guess what? I followed Bowie’s example. And it worked. My late teen years, I was a different person. I embraced who I really was, I didn’t care anymore what anyone else thought, and because of it I gained friends…. And yes, girls. Mostly other weirdos, but you know… confident weirdos hold a great deal of appeal for the “normals” as well.

In that regard, David Bowie shaped who I would be for the rest of my life. More than any other artist.

In the late 80s, I spent a lot of time in Detroit’s various post-punk nightclubs and bars, doing my best to look and act like David Bowie. I experimented a bit with bi-sexuality, because I wanted to be open to new experiences… like Bowie.

Girls liked my weird eye. I heard many times: “Your eyes are beautiful…. Like David Bowie….”

And he would continue to be there, forever after.

When the album Let’s Dance came out, Bowie’s very deliberate (and highly successful!) attempt to reinvent himself as a pop star, I was on board. I knew what he was doing, as did most of his hardcore fans. He was playing yet another role. And even if we turned our noses up at radio friendly pop, we gave Bowie a pass, because it felt like an infiltration of the mainstream, an art spy in the ranks of our enemy. And besides, it was fucking GOOD pop music.

He masqueraded as a pop star for the bulk of the 80s, with varying results depending on the album, but by the 90s he had shrugged that persona off as being too artistically unfulfilling, and moved on to riskier sounds again. He probably outstayed the pop star thing, but I was all too willing to forgive him that.

In the years since, I’ve always been excited at the prospect of a new Bowie release. His personal re-inventions weren’t as extreme or easy to categorize in the 90s and 00s, but I’m sure that was deliberate. After playing so many roles in his lifetime, I’m sure he was happy to just express himself more directly, without couching it in a character.

I loaded up his last album, Blackstar, the day it came out. I didn’t listen to it that day, because I wanted to wait until I had the time to just sit and do nothing but listen, without distraction.

He died two days later.

I made the time.

Blackstar, if you haven’t heard it yet, is… it’s haunting. It’s beautiful and mournful and even a little playful. It’s the best work he’s done since Scary Monsters, in my opinion. Is that assessment colored by the melancholy of his death? It’s possible. But so what. 

I’ve listened to Blackstar four times now. In-between, I’ve been listening to older stuff, all my favorite Bowie tracks. I suspect I will be doing that for many days to come.

I cried when I heard the news that he had died. I have never in my entire life shed tears for the death of a famous person. But David Bowie was different. He was my role model, and my hero. I would not be the person I am today if Bowie had not come into my life.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dark Corners V. 1, issue 4, and Gideon Miles by Ron Scheer

Dark Corners, if you don't already know, is the creation of my friends Craig and Emily McNeely, a quarterly digest of pulp-style fiction ranging from noir to westerns to sci-fi and everything in between. The new issue is out, and I have a lovely story of domestic bliss in it called "The Good Step-Dad". But don't let that throw you. There are also tales from Ed Kurtz, Will Viharo, Warren Moore, Ryan Sayles, William Wallace, Steve W. Lauden, and more.

One of the highlights is a McNeely-penned tribute to our recently departed friend, the great Ron Scheer, which gives me the perfect opportunity to mention his upcoming book from Beat to a Pulp, MILES TO LOST DOG CREEK. I wanted to mention it because it's a Gideon Miles story. Yep. One of the last things Ron worked on was a tale of our favorite black U.S. Marshall. It's coming soon, so keep your eyes open.

In the meantime, be sure to pick up the new Dark Corners. It's available on Kindle and in paper.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Loving some bad reviews

I don't know, honestly, how much impact reviews have on book sales. But I still like getting them, on Amazon or Goodreads, or personal blogs. A good review always serves as a little ego boost that might make you feel good about what you do for a few minutes or a few hours, depending.

Bad reviews, though they serve no real purpose and I am generally unaffected by them, are sometimes entertaining as well. Once in a while, someone who leaves a bad review will actually make some valid points, but the majority of them are just kinda... well, they are what they are. 

Here's a little collection of  one-and-two-star reviews of my work on Amazon. This is not me railing against bad reviews, I promise; I have enough of an ego that they don't really bother me too much. But if you're a writer disturbed by readers who hate what you do, maybe this will serve as a reminder that ALL of us get 'em, and let's be honest: if everyone enjoyed what you do, odds are you'd be doing something wrong. 


DIG TEN GRAVES-- "Not thrilling or scary, or even remotely shocking.--  I got this book for free for my Kindle, and glad for it. The book seems to be written by a college student going for his English degree."

"I was left with the impression that the author could benefit from counselling."

MILES TO LITTLE RIDGE-- "Not enjoyable.-- the language in this book was offensive and unnecessary for me. often the reviews mention this but I missed it if any did. I didn't compete the book."

"Meh.-- He writes well but he doesn't know his Western history. Get a fact-checker, Lowrance; it would be worth the money."

THE BASTARD HAND-- "Dreadfully dull. Don't waste your time."

"A disappointment. All the characters seem to have an ulterior motive... and none good."


"I'm used to more quality literature. But you can try."

CITY OF HERETICS-- "Read till the end but felt. Bit let down. Ok if there was very little else to read, but not the best I have read."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Noir at the Bar Chicago

I've wanted to make one of these Noir at the Bar events for a long time now, but circumstances haven't permitted until now. I'll be at this one, reading, signing, drinking, etc, along with some of my favorite indie writers: Jedidiah Ayres, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Jake Hinkson, Kent Gowran, and Dan O'Shea.

If you're in or around Chicago on the 30th, swing by. It should be fun.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reading from The Bastard Hand

Last Saturday in Grand Rapids, writer Chris DeWildt had a reading/signing for his new novel, LOVE YOU TO A PULP, and he was kind enough to ask me to be a guest reader. I was happy to oblige. Our friend Mary Alles recorded both of us on her phone. If you're interested, here's me talking a bit about my definition of "noir", and reading the first scene from THE BASTARD HAND.