Monday, May 30, 2011


It's been a mad, emotionally tumultous few days, brothers and sisters. Can't say I've been having a good time, but you know... whoever said it was all fun and games?

While everyone else was eatin' burgers and hot dogs, watching parades and fireworks and what-not, I was working out some personal shit. Things are, at last, on a more even keel. Hopefully they'll stay that way for a little while but I've become a cynical bastard in my dotage.

We do the best we can.

Anyway, out of all this turmoil and strife comes a story, one of those rare ones that pop suddenly into your head, demanding to be written stat. I obeyed.

What resulted is perhaps the most hateful little tale I've ever penned. I don't know. I've said before I'm not the best judge of my own work, so I e-mailed it off to my vetting crew, the Unholy Three: Janine Bealieu, fantasy writer Christian Klaver, and photographer/editor Ron Warren. They've had my back for a few years now, standing guard at the gate to make sure as little shit passes through as possible. If they think it's worthy, then bammo bammo, it gets submitted somewhere. If they don't, well... I may submit it anyway, who knows?

It felt cathartic to write it, though, whether or not anyone else in the world ever sees it.

So I put the question to you, fellow writers, artists, creators, etc... have you ever written or created anything out of sheer anger, pain, or hatred? And was it any good?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trapped!! By the Death Merchant!!!!


Occasionally-- say, about two or three times a year-- I indulge in my dirty little reading secret. That is, I break open the stash of "men's adventure" books from the '70's. I hide it right behind the porno and the ELO collection.

The Executioner. The Death Merchant. The Destroyer. Able Team. Etc...

Most of them are not very well-written, and I honestly can't recommend them (except maybe The Destroyer, which always had its tongue firmly in cheek) but they are so fast-paced, so nicely plotted, that I can't resist taking an evening once in awhile to plow through one.

Did I say nicely-plotted? Well, that's not exactly true. Most of the plots are pretty thin, honestly. So I just told you a lie.

No, the real appeal of these books is the over-the-top violence. It's almost erotic sometimes, the loving detail The Executioner books will lavish upon every exploding head, every bullet ripping into someone's guts, every knife slid across a throat.

And the exclamation marks!! Wow!!!

I think the writers of '70's men's adventure paperbacks used up all the exclamation marks, just like the baby boomers used up all the social security. That's why we have a shortage of punctuation these days.

Here's a sample, from one of the Death Merchant books:

"Trapped!... Another snarl of shots. More messengers of death drumming close to Camellion's head! More brick splinters stinging his cheeks!

...The Browning in his hand may as well have been a toy pistol!"

Exciting, isn't it!!!

I actually learned a bit about violent detail from these books when I was a younger writer. "I shot him in the head. Bone and bits of brain matter blew out the back of his skull." Yeah, I wrote that, several years ago, stolen almost line by line from the Executioner.

But I left out the exclamation marks!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall

Happy birthday, Bob Dylan.

Still the best lyricist popular music has ever seen...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Jailbait Justice, by Danny Hogan

... and speaking of the End of the World...

There's something awful alluring about the post-Apocalyptic novel, isn't there? It's a great tradition, and one that opens up to all kinds of possibilites, serious and comic.

Danny Hogan's third novel, Jailbait Justice, takes place in such a world, populated with gunslingers, mutants, roving bandits and general ne'er-do-wells in a decidedly Old West-style.

Strutting through this world is Jezebel St. Ettienne, a misfit in a world of misfits, her only friend Comeuppance, the big-ass .44 she wears at her hip.

Against her better judgement (which is not that reliable anyway) Jezebel agrees to act as bodyguard for young, lady-like Alice on the dangerous journey from Austin to Houston, a perilous undertaking wrought with danger and weirdness at every turn. Waiting at the end of the journey: revenge against the powerful fella who killed Alice's family, and lots and lots of money.

Jailbait Justice is paced crazy-fast, the characters are all straight-out bizarro, and there's not a boring moment. But the real strength of the novel is Jezebel herself-- Hogan could easily have made her a more typical "hot chick with a gun", but instead he chose to make her a short, "curvy", foul-mouthed little roustabout with a green-double mohawk and a mouthful of chew. Jezebel has a strong sense of justice which seems inherent in her, but at the same time she won't hesitate to unload a few rounds from Comeuppance into your belly if the fancy strikes her. She's an all-around engaging heroine, and one I sincerely hope Hogan brings back in a sequel.

Lest you think I'm just gushing, I will point out that some of the editing is a bit loose, especially toward the end. Misspellings, typoes, what-not. I reckon that's just part of the deal with Kindle sometimes, though. It didn't effect my enjoyment of the novel.

At .99 cents on the Kindle, I almost feel like I should send the author a few bucks to make up the difference, for all the fun I got out of the book.

Okay, no, I'm not going to send Hogan money. But I am going to BEG for more Jezebel...

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Final thought on the Final Times

So another Doomsday has come and gone, and here I got myself all dressed up for nothing.

Probably a lot of you are already bored with the whole Rapture Day thing, but me... man, I was just getting started. I think I'm gonna miss it come tomorrow. One thing's for sure: those handful of hardcore "End Times Christians" have gotta be feeling pretty idiotic right about now-- either that, or seriously pissed.

Will they henceforth abandon their silly notions about Kingdom Come? Eh, I doubt it. It's just too bitter a pill to swallow. They'll mark it down to a miscalculation, or they'll say that God deliberately threw a spanner in the works just to keep us on our toes.

Maybe a few of them-- a VERY few-- will actually stop to re-think the bizarre turn their lives have taken. Maybe they'll actually get on with things and stop fantasizing about some Make-Believe Fantasy Kingdom where the scales balance at long last and start living in THIS world, trying to make it a little better whenever possible.

I say MAYBE. But maybe not.

I get it, I really do. Sometimes this world is very nearly unbearable if you're someone who really feels and thinks. It can be overwhelming. In the darkest moments, who hasn't longed for another world? One where good is rewarded and there's no more pain or suffering and Mercy and Justice are sancrosanct? All the things that don't really exist here... but man, we can THINK of them, so therefore they must exist somewhere, right? Not just in our fondest desires...

But the problem with End Times advocates is a simple one and one that should seem obvious-- it's not just about going to a better place. It's also about an unspeakable cruelty. It's about taking comfort from the agony of others-- that is, all those "non-believers" who'll be left to suffer out the End of the World while all the believers go to join up with the J team.

So it's not just an escape fantasy. It's a revenge fantasy. And a particularly cruel one.

But let's be honest. It's kind of a cruel religion anyway. The entirety of the Old Testament is one long revenge fantasy.

Anyway. It's over, for the time being. Until the next Doomsayer arises to get everyone's hopes up, everyone's fears bubbling, everyone's sense of humor peaked.

So, considering all the awful stuff I just said about the End Times Folks, why did I get so excited about it? Obviously, I don't believe in it. But you know... I've always been a little in love with chaos and destruction. I can't help it. The Rapture Day gave me a great opportunity to have a little fantasy of my own.

I had that in common with the End Times Christians, anyway. Let's do it again, okay? Next year. I vote that we have Rapture Day on May 21 every year, just to reflect a little on our own darkest desires.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I'm over at Criminal-E today, doing my best to get you to buy my book. Check it out.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

All Time Favorite Book Titles

A catchy title can make a world of difference, can't it? How many times have you skimmed the aisles at your local book store, your eyes glazing over boring, typical titles that told you nothing about the book or did nothing to intrigue you at all?

It's a shame, because sometimes really good books can hide behind mundane titles. But half the time you'd never know it, cuz you skipped right over it.

Here are some of my personal favorite book titles. By coincidence, every one of them also happens to be a kick-ass novel.

CivilWarLand in Bad Decline-- George Saunders
I keep pushing Saunders on all my friends, and they keep pushing back. I'm telling you, the guy is the best surreal satirist since Vonnegut, and this collection of stories is one of his best.

One Monday We Killed Them All-- John D. MacDonald
One of MacDonald's best thrillers. And honestly, how could anyone resist that title?

Gun, with Occasional Music-- Jonathan Lethem
A sci-fi/fantastical/noir featuring a tough P.I. and talking kangeroos. And a brilliant title.

By Bizarre Hands-- Joe R. Lansdale
My favorite collection of stories from Champion Joe, and-- again-- one of the all-time most intriguing titles.

Ministry of Fear-- Graham Greene
A solid chunk of paranoia from espionage master Greene, and a title that gives me a little shiver of dread.

Shoot the Piano Player-- David Goodis
The original title was "Down There", but since the film version this book has always been referred to by the new title. I like it better.

Here Comes a Candle-- Fredric Brown
If you know the little ditty this came from, you'll know why it's creepy and evocative... " comes a chopper to chop off your head..."

Bury Me Deep-- Megan Abbott
A title that grabs you right away, and fits the emotionally smothering feel of the novel.

Build My Gallows High-- Geoffrey Homes
The basis of a terrific film noir with Robert Mitchum, and the source of that film's most memorable line. The film was called Out of the Past, but honestly, they should have stuck with Build My Gallows High.

City of Widows-- Loren Estleman
A western by one of the all-time masters, this is the title I most wish I'd thought of. Super-evocative.

New Hope for the Dead-- Charles Willeford
Not my favorite book by Willeford, but undoubtably one of his best titles. Typical Willeford-ian smart-ass stuff.

Kiss Your Ass Goodbye-- Charles Willeford
Yeah, Willeford makes the list twice. This is the only one I haven't read, as it's sorta hard to come by, but man... the best title of all time, that one.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Bastardy update

Well, I finally have the computer back, only to discover that I have absolutely nothing to say.

Oh, except that The Bastard Hand is now available on Kindle... dig it. Five lousy bucks. You now have no excuse at all not to get it so that I can buy a pack of smokes or something.

Also, you really need to check this out-- two of my favorite people in one spot: over at Dead End Follies, Ben hosts Paul Brazill, who stops by long enough to pull the rug out from under your preconceptions about Our Noir Thing.

And... there's a newish review of The Bastard Hand at Bookgasm that happened while I was away.

Finally, it seems my story "It Will All Be Carried Away" made the short list (and by short list I mean about one hundred stories or so) over at storySouth Million Writers Award. If you like the story, why not vote for it when the time comes? Although to be honest, there's some goddamn good stories on that list...

Anyway, thanks for waiting, thanks for reading, thanks, thanks, thanks.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

While limping along without a computer, I've at least managed to read a handful of very good books these last couple of weeks. Pike, by Benjamin Whitmer, was a spot-on, nasty little peice of noir with beautifully sleazy characters, excellent pacing, and not a trace of sentimentality. If you want a good example of how powerful modern noir can be, Pike is one you really need to read.

But mostly I've been delving into the Western genre. I have this idea for a novel floating around in my head, one that would probably only work as a Western, but up until now I've never read a Western. I thought it would be a good idea to get more familiar with the genre for that reason.

Cullen Gallagher of Pulp Serande recommended a handful of Westerns for me, but typically I couldn't find a single one of them. So instead I hit the used book store and made some semi-random selections-- a bunch of books by Western writers I'd at least HEARD of. A Louis L'Amour, a Max Brand, a Zane Grey, etc... plus modern selections by Elmore Leonard, Loren Estleman, and James Reasoner.

So far, I've read the Elmore Leonard (Valdez is Coming), and it was, not surprisingly, terrific. I'm reading the L'Amour now (The Burning Hills). Still too early to decide what I think.

I'm sort of surprised, actually, by the similarities in structure and story content between Westerns and the noirs I'm more familiar with. Valdez is Coming could easily have been a modern "small-town noir" without changing much.

Anyway, my next book looks to be moving along the lines of a Western, except minus all the heroics and what-not. I'm thinking I might write the world's first Psycho-Western.

Although Gil Brewer probably beat me to it.

Hopefully I'll have a computer again by the end of this week. Again, I appreciate everyone continuing to check in. I'll do my best to make it worth your while. In the meantime, tell all your friends about The Bastard Hand, okay? Sales have dropped since I haven't been around to promote it.

That's all for now, comrades.