Monday, October 31, 2011

Why a Zombie story?

photo by Ron Warren

Everybody likes zombies. This is a true-ism if ever there was one. Why? Because they are the multi-purpose monster, the Big Blank that can represent almost anything that scares us.

A long time ago, Clive Barker said something like, “Zombies are the liberal’s worst nightmare,” because, to him they were the symbol of mindless Right Wing conformity. Maybe there’s some truth to that, but then why do conservatives also enjoy a good zombie story? What do the undead mean to the G.O.P.? The loss of individualism, maybe?

For me, zombies work best as a commentary on single-minded consumerism. We live in a world that is increasingly obsessed with a selfish desire to own, to have what the neighbors have or what the television insists we wouldn’t be complete without. And the fact that so many of our celebrities now are nothing more than walking billboards for excess and greed confirms that. Rappers put out new songs celebrating a lifestyle devoted to nothing more than making money. The Kardashians have replaced Paris Hilton as the new benchmarks of hip conformity and bland mediocrity. And what about poor ole’ Paris Hilton? Like all commodities, she was eventually tossed away when a shinier model emerged.

I used to have nightmares about zombies. Whenever I found myself in a stressful period, or depressed, the undead would shuffle into my bad dreams. And here’s the weird part: these dreams always seemed to be part of the same big, over-arching scenario. They seemed to be actually moving forward, from one mind-searing encounter to the next.

So I wanted to write about them, to translate some of the nightmares into a manageable story.
For a long time, I resisted the urge. The world really didn’t need another zombie story, I figured. I decided that, if I could ever think of a new twist on zombie mythology, maybe then I would do it.

But after a few years I had sort of an epiphany—a new twist wasn’t what I needed.
Every single good zombie story has the exact same plot: zombies invade, group of survivors interact and try to stay alive. Bam. That’s it. That’s the formula. Oh, sure, someone may occasionally tweak the zombies a bit (in their origins and in their behavior) but the formula remains the same.

So why do we continue to watch/read them? Because we are interested in the characters. If we don’t care about the protagonists, then the whole story is a wash.

And so… with DEADLAND USA, I shifted focus away from trying to add a new element to the mythology, and focused instead on presenting a narrator and a set of characters the reader could care about, or be interested in. Maybe some human-types that you haven’t seen in a zombie scenario before.

The narrator, Sam Lynch, is a young punk—a kid who was lazy and shiftless before the zombies came. He suffers from depression (has to take pills to keep himself going), is haunted by bad decisions before and after the world ended, and is constantly close to suicide. But he has to keep all that to himself, because the small band of survivors he’s with have taken to looking to him for leadership. It’s a role he isn’t suited for, but… he’ll have to grow into it.
DEADLAND USA is a coming-of-age story. A story about sacrifice, and suppressing one’s own fears and doubts to serve the greater good.

And it’s also a story about massive zombie carnage. And punk rock.

I hope you check it out.


In the last few years, Anthony Neil Smith has emerged as one of the most unique and unpredictable voices in dark, twisted crime fiction. His books include PSYCHOSOMATIC, HOGDOGGIN', CHOKE ON YOUR LIES, YELLOW MEDICINE, and THE DRUMMER. His newest, ALL THE YOUNG WARRIORS, will be one of the first releases from the brand-new publisher, Blasted Heath.

His books are beautifully sleazy sometimes, with expertly constructed, labyrinthine plots, and I can tell you without hesitation that he is one of the finest writers on the scene these days. I'm very honored to have him here at Psycho-Noir.

Please welcome ANTHONY NEIL SMITH, with a few choice words about the boob tube...


Here’s the thing: I get bored with movies. While I love good, stylish, over-the-top directors and such, I get so bored with the stuff I’m “supposed” to like as a crime fan. I don’t know why. I just...get so bored.

But not so much with good TV. I love TV. Not just crime stuff, but nearly all of it. I really cringe whenever I hear some snob from the literary set sniff and say, “I neh-vah watch TV. We don’t even oooown one.” Fuck you, you disconnected, self-congratulatory fuck.

I watch crap reality shows. I watch all the good stuff like Louie and Archer and The Wire. I watch cooking shows. I watch sitcoms like The Middle and Modern Family (you’re supposed to like Family, but the other is off-limits, apparently). And I watch some crime shows. But the deal is that the best crime shows are few, far between, and the most popular ones suck.

I actually thought Criminal Minds was not-half-bad the three or four times I watched it, but I don’t need to see every episode. There’s no need to follow the character arcs. There’s no real cohesive story, just cases of the week. Same with CSINCISLAL&O.

And while I really loved The Wire (another snob fave), I actually preferred The Shield, which was thrilling, pulpy, and when it was all done, it felt like a real fucking novel. The last ep was perhaps the finest ending to a series I’ve ever, ever, ever seen. Perfectly pitched.

Also, let’s just say The Wire had two really amazing seasons (Three and Four), but, I loved those two seasons.

(You know what else I love to watch that’s not “crimey”? The Amazing Race.)

Some other shows that never worked for me: Torchwood, Terriers, Chicago Code, NYPD Blue, on and on and on...

The best crime television series of all time: Cracker. And let’s all forget that they tried an American version of that, please. Robbie Coltrane’s portrayal of “Fitz” is one of the best things ever put on TV, bar none. A far genius like Nero Wolfe (hey, sounds familiar), Fitz has a bad marriage (cheats a lot), bad habits (smokes, gambles, drinks, lies) and is smart enough to know he’s in the wrong but still justify his behavior in infuriatingly complex yet logical ways. He can make his wife feel like she’s the one responsible for his awfulness. He can talk a timid policewoman into bed because, well, he knows how to push the right mental buttons. He only takes police work to make some extra dough, but then becomes an animal. He loves the chase. He loves baiting the cops. He’s the real modern Sherlock Holmes (not that prissy high-tech new BBC series)—smarter than everyone around him, and still a huge mess. I’ve never seen a better TV show. And it’s a tough one to re-watch because of that. I like the memories I have of it. No need to go back and mess around with them by having another run.

Really, as a guy who loves novels—reading and writing them—more than any other form of entertainment, it seems to me the closest equivalent to that experience is a really good TV series. Why the hell do people think a feature film can do justice to all those fucking pages? The pacing is all wrong. The characters are never deep enough. The story has to be hacked to the lowest common denominator. Why not adapt more novels as TV series and leave the features to screenwriters who understand that they’re kind of going for the feel of a short story or novella instead? At least, that’s my two cents.

Other shows you won’t believe I like: Kitchen Nightmares, Hoarders, Work of Art (The Search for the Next Great Artist), Good Morning America, Top Gear (UK), Teen Mom, Judge Judy...

Don’t judge me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


The first installment in my ongoing zombie saga, DEADLAND USA, is out now on the Kindle machine. Meet Sam Lynch, the messed-up nineteen-year-old punk rocker who finds himself thrust into a leadership role when the zombie plague happens. But does having seen hundreds of zombie flicks prepare one to survive them?

Ehh, probably not.

In "Mindless Consumerism", you'll be thrown headfirst into this Grave New World, right in the middle of the action. Bring shotguns, samurai swords, and your i-pod (if the battery hasn't already died).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Zombies and Punks for Halloween

Just got the good word that the first episode of my punk rock/zombie saga, DEADLAND, USA, will be out just in time for Halloween. Which is the timing I was hoping for. Like "That Damned Coyote Hill", the first Hawthorne story, DEADLAND USA is from the remarkably scrappy Trestle Press.

I'm grateful to Giovanni Gelati for taking the time to put it all together so well, considering all the other great stuff coming from Trestle these last few weeks. Col Bury, Angel Zapata, Darren Sant, Luca Veste, McDroll, and well, lots of others have brand new releases from Trestle right now, and Giovanni juggles them all with admirable skill.

Anyway, Happy Halloween, everyone. And, in the words of the vegetarian zombie... "GRAAIIINNNSSS!"

Friday, October 28, 2011

(Hollow-nosed) Bullet Points

Just some things I wanted to mention before we go into the weekend, since I don’t do much internet-related stuff on Saturdays or Sundays.

1. The “No Rules” guest posts are coming in steadily now, so starting on Monday I’ll be ramping them up to three a week. Next week, it'll be the one and only ANTHONY NEIL SMITH, book cover/photographer RON WARREN, and the funny-as-hell KIMMY DEE. And we’re only getting started…

2. In other news, I have a new e-short series starting soon from Trestle Press called DEADLAND USA. It’s a zombie serial. Yeah, that’s right. Because the world needs more zombie stories, wouldn’t you agree? I haven’t re-invented the wheel with DEADLAND (the zombie story formula works just fine as it is, I believe), but I think you’ll like the characters. They add a fresh perspective to the formula, and I also happen to think it’s some of my best writing to date.

3. Another HAWTHORNE tale is on the horizon, also, from Trestle. David Cranmer, a.k.a. Edward A. Grainger, made my day when he said, “Hawthorne with his "dull white scar in the shape of a cross cut across his forehead" may just be the most exciting antihero of the year.” Coming from the author of the critically-acclaimed Cash Laramie stories, I find that very, very pleasing.

4. If you weren’t already aware, I have a story in the brand-new issue of Crime Factory, called
“Blood Relations”. It’s surrounded by a bunch of great stuff from some brilliant writers, so I mention it in case it gets over-looked amidst all that coolness.

5. In early November, I’ll have a story at Shotgun Honey. And in December, Luca Veste’s OFF THE RECORD will be released—again, a bunch of excellent writers involved. My story is called “I Wanna Be Your Dog”.

6. I was also happy to see a handful of new reviews of my work. Mike Dennis gave a very kind review of “That Damned Coyote Hill”. Seth Lynch, Michelle Peden Vasquez and Benoit Lelievre all reviewed DIG TEN GRAVES and had nice things to say, and Katie Moore at The Legendary shared some thoughts about THE BASTARD HAND. Thanks, friends.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Stop by Monday for a very interesting post by the hugely talented Anthony Neil Smith!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I made the acquaintance of Katy O'Dowd just recently, and was impressed with her wit and style. A visit to her webpage, A IS FOR..., confirmed my suspicions that she was an up-and-comer and also cemented for me the fact that she is one to watch. She has TWO books coming out next year, and I for one will be all over them. She (along with Danny Bowman) helped come up with the title of one of my stories, and so was forever memorialized in it as a very strange child...

May I introduce to you-- Ms. Katy O'Dowd, with an introductory piece that has me frantic to see where it goes.

Let us imagine a man, a well-dressed, polite man, at the theatre with his sweetheart. He pulls her chair out for her, provides her with candied violets during the interlude, and hands her his handkerchief, washed and pressed, naturally, when she becomes upset at the sad part of the play. He takes her hand, to comfort her, and then lets it go – this is only their tenth date, and mores of the time dictate that it is too early for hand-holding.

After a late supper, the man gets his driver to take them to the young lady’s home, where she resides with her parents. On arrival at said destination he opens the door of the carriage, takes her gloved hand in his and helps her to alight. Standing behind her, he settles her cape more snugly around her shoulders, whispers a sweet nothing into her ear, and then takes his length of piano wire, and garrottes her, watching as her velvet slippered feet leave the ground, kicking at first with great force, as mewling sounds issue from her throat. Then feebly, and the kittenish cries cease.

Her body comes to rest and he lets it fall, gently, softly to the leaf-strewn ground, steps around her, climbs into the carriage, closes the door and raps on the roof to let the thug/driver know that he has said his goodbyes. As they turn the corner and out of sight, cries rent the otherwise silent night asunder – her parents have found her broken body.
He then goes home and takes tea with his mother and sister, settling aforementioned snowy white napkin ‘pon his spotlessly trousered lap.

If we were to mark our polished psycho out of ten, what would we give him? Being strict, he would certainly have to lose points for taking his sweetheart’s hand at the theatre.
What about the bit where he leaves his sweetheart’s head nearly sliced clean from her creamy shoulders, wound gaping and glistening with gore?

Oh, you silly! This is Etiquette for Eviscerators, Manners for Murderers if you will, not a chapter from Sense and Sensibility or some other worthy tome.
You can meet our Dapper Dispatcher, currently starring in a novella which is swiftly being turned into a series, in 2012.

For more about Katy O’Dowd, please read Heath Lowrance’s rather marvellous ‘That Damned Coyote Hill’. Her evil twin has two other books out in 2012, ‘The Scarlet Ribbon’ a medical historical sort of bodice ripper (as Derry O’Dowd) and ‘The Lady Astronomer’ a steampunky YA tale of adventure and derring-do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Deadland USA

It's all over now. The world as we knew it is gone forever and there will be no future generations to read this. One ugly day in March the undead came and none of us were ready. How could we be? Within months, the entire planet was one writhing, bloody infestation, and all the governments, all the churches, all the great men of power and insight and wisdom, became as meaningless as the tinny tune of a broken music box.

So why do I bother to keep this journal? Good question. If there is no hope for tomorrow, why chronicle these events as I see them? Well, I'll tell you why.

It's the only thing that keeps me from going completely ape-shit insane.

So to you, welcome. To my Fictional Future Generation, my scores of happy safe delusions, welcome. Welcome to Deadland, USA.

Coming soon, from Trestle Press.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


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)?”

Monday, October 24, 2011


I’m very happy to tell you that, over the next few weeks, Psycho-Noir is going to be the most interesting place on the inter-webs. Why? Because I’m going to shut up for the most part and allow a bunch of far more fascinating people to take over.

I’ve extended invitations to a whole slew of my favorite writers and/or bloggers to swing by and just… do what they do. It’s “No Rules”, which means I haven’t prompted anyone, I haven’t specified subject matter or word count or anything like that. These guest posts aren’t meant to conform to what I do here at this blog—they’re meant only to showcase the guests. They can promote their work, or they can go off on a rant, or… whatever they want.

A lot of them, you already know. Some of them will be completely new to you, probably. The thing they have in common is that they are uniformly cool. I’ve gotten the first few in my in-box already, and will do my best to parcel them out two or three a week, depending on how quickly the rest come in.

And to kick things off, tomorrow, will be none other than CHARLIE STELLA. Yeah, that’s right. Charlie-fucking-Stella. Why? ‘cause we don’t do things half-ass here at Psycho-Noir.

If you’re a writer and/or blogger and I haven’t contacted you yet, please don’t hesitate to get with me, okay? Because honestly, if you’re a friend of mine I want you here. Don’t be shy. I’d like to see this continue on until the end of the year.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Strange Facts Concerning Memphis


I lived in Memphis for about five years.

Five of the strangest years of my life, and believe me, that’s saying something.

Most of that strangeness came from the city itself, the way it operated, the odd position it held somewhere between worlds. On one hand, it was completely modern, a hub of industry and commerce and so on. It had street gangs. Modern architecture. One of the best zoos in the country. Insane crime rate.

On the other hand, there were ghosts on every street corner, ghosts of rockabilly wannabes and blues warblers, even less substantial phantoms of slavery in the old cotton warehouses, lingering around the now-invisible blood-and-tear-stains of Front Street. On the Bluff, over-looking the Mississippi River, you could still pretend that the shimmering glass Pyramid wasn’t there and see instead the steam-boats, the sweating black bodies unloading crates, the finely-dressed landlords and cotton barons walking the promenade before retiring back to their massive homes on Adams Street.

It was a city that wore sins and accomplishments on its sleeve and didn’t bother to distinguish between the two. What would be the point, after all?

The Tennessee-Mississippi border is only minutes away, so close that Memphis is often referred to as the capitol of North Mississippi. And while that might be a lie geographically, it’s the gospel truth culturally. My time in Memphis included countless visits to the outskirts of Holly Springs, where Junior Kimbrough or R.L. Burnside would play raw, sinister N. Mississippi blues (and don’t mistake it for Delta blues, cuz that ain’t what it is) and if you and yours were the only white faces in the joint no one cared, man. Not the guy in the parking lot selling vicious little bottles of moonshine or the fat black woman doing a bump-and-grind against your leg or the pool-player stopping long enough to straighten the velvet painting of Oprah Winfrey on the wall.

We’d also head down to Oxford sometimes, see the home of William Faulkner, visit the alley he used to throw up in just outside the bar on his way back home.

Something about this bizarre place-- one part David Lynch, one part John Waters-- struck me somewhere deep in my guts. I fell in love with Memphis for a while, this place that I would never fully understand, where I met so many strange and wonderful people, where I almost got killed at least twice (those are other stories…), where past and present did a dirty little voodoo, and I knew that this would be the place where my first novel would be set. If I could capture some small fragment of Memphis and North Mississippi I would have something unique.

That’s how The Bastard Hand started. With a place.

As it happened, around the same time I was discovering Memphis, I was reading a lot of three different writers: Charles Willeford, William Faulkner (since I lived in Memphis, I felt it my duty) and Shelby Foote (a writer most associated with his brilliant three-part Civil War narrative, but also for a stunning crime novel about kidnapping and race relations in Memphis called September, September).

Oh, yeah, and I was also reading the Old Testament, for various reasons that are too complicated to go into here… maybe another time.

Regardless, all these ingredients went into the sorcery, along with heavy quantities of beer, crawfish, mean blues and raucous rockabilly.

What came out was The Bastard Hand.

I left Memphis a long time ago, made my way back to Detroit.

Do I miss Memphis?

Yeah, sometimes.

Hell, I miss it all the time.

They say it’s changed a lot in the thirteen years since I lived there. Maybe it’s for the best.

Friday, October 21, 2011

All the Robert E. Howard you can stand

This year marked what would have been the 105th birthday of Robert E. Howard, arguably the single most important literary figure in the evolution of heroic fantasy. He took his own life on June 11, 1936, leaving behind a staggeringly huge body of work, published and unpublished.

In a span of ten years, Howard wrote something like 800 stories, in every market conceivable, and in almost every story he wore his own darkest dreams and desires on his sleeve.

He was a man half in love with death, and completely under the thrall of entropy. Civilization teetering on the brink, rotting from within, seemed to be a recurring theme in his work. The corrupted Hyborian world of the Conan tales, the decayed lost cities encountered by Solomon Kane, the vanished kingdom of Atlantis that Kull once called home… these images of dying empire were a backdrop and a commentary on how Howard viewed the so-called march of progress.

His work has gone in and out of print countless times over the years, but ’06 saw the first attempts to catalogue and organize his writings in various projects from a variety of publishers. Following is a sort of guide to the available volumes; read these, and you will have read just about everything you need to read from REH. Fantasy, horror, Westerns, and historical adventure… it’s all here.

Dell Rey Ballantine Books

The first of three volumes that make up the complete stories of everyone’s favorite barbarian. The publishers wisely chose to present them not in chronological order but in the order in which Howard wrote them. There’s plenty of bloodshed and swordplay; just look to some of the highlights here for evidence of that. “The Phoenix on the Sword”, “Queen of the Black Coast” and “Black Colossus” are stories set at different periods in Conan’s life, but all are creepy and action-packed.

This second volume finds Howard truly hitting his stride as a storyteller and expanding on the strange world Conan occupies. It includes three longish stories, novellas really: “People of the Black Circle”, “Hour of the Dragon”, and “A Witch Shall Be Born”.

Wrapping up the complete stories of Conan with a bang, not a whimper, this volume, like the others, also includes fragments and summaries for the tales that Howard sadly never wrote. It includes the classic stories “Red Nails”, “The Black Stranger”, and “Beyond the Black River”.

Before he ever wrote a Conan tale, Howard honed his craft for this series of stories featuring Puritan adventurer Solomon Kane. Kane is a grim, dour man who views himself as a sort of ‘sword of God’, meting out justice and retribution wherever he goes… and he goes everywhere. The bulk of the stories, however, take place in darkest Africa, and are still some of the most exciting stories ever written. Some of the best: “Red Shadows”, “The Moon of Skulls”, and “The Hills of the Dead”.

Every story, published and unpublished, about Howard’s warrior Pict hero, fighting to rescue his heritage from Roman and Celtic invaders. Great battle sequences and bloody action. Highlights: “Kings of the Night”, and “Worms of the Earth”.

King Kull is seen as a sort of proto-Conan, but these fast-paced stories reveal that he is a unique character, quite apart from the traits he would share with the Cimmerian later in Howard’s career. Best stories? The only two that were actually published during Howard’s lifetime: “The Shadow Kingdom” and “The Mirrors of Tuzun”.

University of Nebraska Press
(This publisher has performed the great service of putting out a wealth of Howard material, much of it out of print for decades, that is unrelated for the most part to his more famous series characters. Thanks, U of N!)

These are some of the best and most memorable of Howard’s stories. He was a tremendous reader of history, and it shows in this collection of adventures that take place in “the Orient”—the Near East, really, in the time of the Crusades. Christians battle Saracens in a series of wars that no one can win, and Howard’s cynicism about civilization is readily apparent here. Also, as in the Bran Mak Morn tales, he displays very admirably a gift for huge, vivid battle sequences. Favorites: the title story, “Lords of Samarcand”, as well as “Red Blades of Black Cathay” and “Shadow of the Vulture”.

Terrific stories, tied together by the American setting they all have in common. Atmospheric horror is the main theme here, something that Howard did every bit as well—perhaps better—than Lovecraft. Stand-out stories: “Pigeons From Hell”, “Black Canaan” and “The Horror from the Mound”.

Howard wrote some of his darkest, grimmest work for Western pulps like Cowboy Stories. This volume collects the very best of them, and a bleaker collection of stories would be harder to find. Some of the more outstanding tales: “The Vultures of Whapeton”, “The Man on the Ground” and “Judgment of the Desert”.

And the flip side of those grim Western stories: Howard displays his sense of humor. The stories in this volume are tall tales in the tradition of Pecos Bill, the majority of them featuring the tank-like Breckinridge Elkins, a hero who isn’t very bright but doesn’t really need to be. Funny, violent, and over-the-top. Most hysterical: “A Gent From Bear Creek”.

Aside from history, Howard’s one other great passion was boxing, and he made a point of writing as much as he could for the sports pulps. These were adventure stories with many different ports of call, but the boxing theme ran through all of them. Sailor Steve Costigan is the central character in most of the stories, a rowdy roughneck who never finds himself in any jam that his fists can’t get him out of. Manliest stories: “Fists of the Desert”, “The Bull Dog Breed”, and “Iron Man” (that last being a pretty somber little story).

Wildside Press
(Probably the most ambitious Howard-related project ever, Wildside Press is in the process of publishing every single story Howard ever wrote for Weird Tales magazine, and a few for some related mags as well. Ten volumes when all is said and done. As of this writing, seven are available in very handsome hardcover editions, and the first three are out in affordable trade paperback.

There is some overlap from the collections described above, but not as much as you might think).
The available volumes are as follows:
--Shadow Kingdoms
--Moon of Skulls
--People of the Dark
--Wings in the Night
--Valley of the Worm
--The Garden of Fear
--Beyond the Black River

And that’s probably enough REH to keep even the most die-hard fans busy for quite some time, don’t you think? So until our civilization begins to crumble and decay (or am I too late?), enjoy this nearly comprehensive selection of stories by the great Robert E. Howard.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I’ve been really surprised and pleased by the response to “That Damned Coyote Hill”. In its first week, it got as high as #23 (very briefly!) over at Amazon.UK’s short horror story sub-category, and in the States made it up to #44. And the reviews have been positive right across the board. Not bad for something that was put together on the fly, huh?

I didn’t have a master plan about Hawthorne, the anti-hero of the story, when I started. I just wanted to do a mysterious, taciturn and bad-ass protagonist, an uncomplicated character that exists solely to dole out brutal punishment to wrong-doers. I gave him the ugly cross-shaped scar on his forehead without knowing how he got it (I know NOW, though, no worries). I decided he wasn’t a lawman or a bounty hunter or a gunfighter. He was instead a force of nature.

I borrowed his name from another character I tried to make a go of as a series hero, Grey Hawthorne (wrote two stories about THAT Hawthorne, both published at The Nautilus Engine). No, it’s not the same guy. Maybe this new Hawthorne is the other one’s uncle or something. Or maybe they just exist in two different worlds. It doesn’t matter.

But anyway, in the week since “That Damned Coyote Hill”, I’ve had occasion to think about his future. He has an origin of sorts now, although it’ll be a long time before I tell that one, I think, as it really isn’t important. I’m about half-way through his next adventure, tentatively titled “Long Black Train”, and have another two or three taking shape in my head. What will the readers learn about the mysterious avenger Hawthorne in these new stories? Very little, actually. But the bad guys, victimizers, killers, rapists… they’ll learn what it feels like to be on the other side of the equation.

And there will be no shortage of bizarre creatures and supernatural evil.

Thanks, everyone, for giving me the chance to write this stuff. And if you really dig Hawthorne, tell a friend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

SEEING BLUE, an exclusive story by Paul D. Brazill!

Quite some time ago, back when THE BASTARD HAND first came out, I did a guest post over at Paul Brazill's blog, You Would Say That, Wouldn't You? and I managed to coerce him into doing an all-original story here at Psycho-Noir whenever he had the time.

Well, time is scarce for Mr. Brazill. He's a hard-work drivin' man. We waited a while for this story from Paul, but damn... I'll think you'll find it was worth the wait.

It's my pleasure to give to you an all-new, never-before seen short story from Paul Brazill...

Paul D Brazill

First, it all turns red. And then it goes black for a very long time. After that, everything is a searing white. Until I see Blue.

Then everything hurts. Everything.

Blue reaches into a rusty tool box. Takes out a hammer. Snorts some Charlie from the window ledge. Pops a duck egg. And walks toward me.

Black, again.


Now, the room is a muddy brown. Early evening or late morning. An old transistor radio on the mantelpiece leaks out hits of the ‘80s.

I can make out Blue Dobson’s massive frame in the corner of the room. He is naked. His jigsaw of tattoos exposed. His long red hair tied back in a ponytail.

He’s doing press ups. And repeating a mantra, ‘Fuckemall, Fucke em all, Fuckemall, Fuck em all.’

And then I start to panic. I try to drag myself free from the rocking chair but I’m still strapped in. A pool of piss below me, splashed with blood. I scream but my jaw is broken and the movement hurts so much that once again it all fades to black.


Some people never learn from their mistakes. And I suppose I’m one of those people.

Just over a year ago, Natalie, my girlfriend, got a job as a receptionist at the Health Centre. After a few drinks she liked to unburden herself. Tell me all the sob stories she heard all day. It was the old dears she usually felt the most sorry for. Living alone. Abandoned by their family.

I usually zoned out; I never had a thing for other people’s problems. But when she mentioned that Mrs. Barker had just died, I had an idea. Later that night, I sneaked into Mrs. Barker’s house and looked for whatever loot I could find. I got a decent wad of cash and jewelry, too.
I paid more attention to Natalie after that.

But about a fortnight ago, I was almost caught by a neighbor who’d stopped crying crocodile tears and obviously had the same idea as me. I saw him rummaging under the bed, fat arse in the air. I scarpered pretty sharpish.

So, I thought I’d leave it a bit.

And then Natalie mentioned that Mrs. Dobson had snuffed it. She was the grandmother of Blue Dobson, who had once committed a string of post office robberies and killed three people while he was on the run. Blue was eventually caught and given two life sentences but the loot from the robberies was never recovered. This seemed like a window of opportunity well worth jumping through.

I wasn’t to know that Blue had escaped from prison when he’d been notified of his nan’s death. That he’d go back to her home.


Sunlight peeks through the lace curtains. Blue is in the corner of the room, gurgling, puking, grasping his heart with his baseball mitt of a hand. After some time, he stops moving. As the day becomes brighter, it becomes clear that he’s croaked. Brown bread. Heart attack, maybe. Overdose. Whatever.

I wriggle around enough to topple the rocking chair over. It hurts. It hurts so much that I black out again. When I come to, I struggle free from the shattered chair. Crawl over to Blue.

And the suitcase full of money. My jaw hurts as I grin. I untie my ankles. Get to my feet.

The sun has risen over the tower blocks. The day is bright. The skies are blue. And the copper on the balcony, pointing a gun at me, smiles.

The end.

© Paul D Brazill 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kindle Review: LIVERPOOL FIVE, by Luca Veste

Luca Veste has been a long-time supporter of other writers with his remarkable blog Guilty Conscience, but LIVERPOOL FIVE is his first outing as a writer of fiction himself. I gotta say, he acquits himself quite nicely.

This is a brief collection, five short, sharp tales seeped in heavy irony and a sort of wry dark humor.

The first story, “Dreams”, is maybe the hardest to define, as it’s basically a simple set-up: a young man enjoying daily conversations with an old man, until the little knife twist of remorse at the end.

“Model Behavior” also has a nice twist; the narrator strikes up a renewed friendship with a girl he knew in school who is now trying to break into modeling, but doesn’t really pursue the friendship—much to his later horror. The end of this one actually gave me a bit of a chill…

In “Heavy Sleeper”, a man’s tendency to sleep through anything turns out to be his undoing. Clever little piece.

“Peeling Spuds” is a mean little story about a much-abused wifey finally snapping. It’s my favorite in this collection.

And Veste leaves us with “He Ain’t Heavy”, a dark tale about family, and the possibility that we don’t really know our loved ones as well as we think.

Over-all, the stories in LIVERPOOL FIVE are solid and compelling, and Veste’s voice as a writer is remarkably self-assured, considering that he only just started doing this stuff. I have every confidence that he’s going to get better and better. LIVERPOOL FIVE is recommended.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Kindle Review: ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE & GIDEON MILES V. 2, by Edward A. Grainger

The Western is alive and well, as evidenced by the work of Edward A. Grainger, better known ‘round these parts as one Mister David Cranmer. A few months back, he released THE ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE & GIDEON MILES, a short story collection of remarkably thrilling tales—see my review here. Almost instantly, we readers were harassing him for more, and he’s delivered, in spades. THE ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE & GIDEON MILES VOLUME II is, believe it or not, far, far better than the first volume. The action scenes are cleaner and there’s more emotional depth. It’s clear that Grainger-Cranmer has evolved as a writer, gotten closer to perfecting his craft. Maybe this comes from the deep understanding he seems to have of his hero, Cash Laramie.

The collection starts with “The Origin of White Deer”, the almost novella-length story of young Cash (before he was Cash), his last good-byes to the Arapahoe family who raised him, and his first violent encounter with the white world that set him on his path as a seeker of justice.

The very short “Maggie’s Promise” is a scathing, heartfelt indictment of racism—a theme that runs through a lot of the Cash Laramie stories.

“Miles In Between” shifts the focus to Cash’s sometime partner, Gideon Miles, and it’s the only story in the collection this time to feature him (aside from a very brief cameo later on). Gideon hasn’t been nearly as fully developed as Cash, and I hope in the next volume we get more about him.

“Cash Laramie and the Painted Ladies” is a very clever mystery story in which our man Cash displays some knowledge of Lepidopterology that comes in remarkably handy.

“Gun Justice” is probably my favorite this time out—Cash is out for vengeance against the lowlife who killed a beloved friend of his, and the fact that the killer has retreated to a town where everyone is on his side doesn’t change a thing. Cash faces off against the lot of them in a brilliantly crafted action scene.

“Cash Laramie & the Masked Devil” is also a bit of a mystery tale, with a satisfyingly Scooby-Doo-like ending.

And finally, the somber “Reflections in a Glass of Maryland Rye” finds Cash drunk and lamenting a horrible mistake in a story that examines the high cost of violence, and how the quest for justice can sometimes lead to monstrous tragedy.

THE ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE & GIDEON MILES VOL. II is a top-notch collection, not just for Western fans, but anyone who appreciates solid stories told with emotional resonance and total conviction. I hope Grainger never stops writing them.

Kindle Review: SMOKE, by Nigel Bird

If you’ve read BEAT ON THE BRAT or DIRTY OLD TOWN, you know already that Nigel Bird is one of our most skillful and insightful short story writers. He’s able to flesh out a character and make him seem real in a few short paragraphs, and no matter how awful or violent the events of the story, Bird always maintains a strong sense of compassion and humanity.

This is all doubly true in his new novella from Trestle Press, SMOKE. It’s Bird’s longest published work to date (that I know of) at about 53 pages. It’s a beaut.

A duel narrative fuels this tale—in the first, a teenager named Jimmy gets himself involved with a bunch of bad sorts planning to rip off a load of cash gathered from illegal dog fighting. In the parallel thread, wheelchair-bound Carlos tries desperately to win back his girlfriend (Jimmy’s sister) from the thug she’s involved with, going to extreme measures to do so. The two stories intertwine through supporting characters and it all comes to a brutal head that not everyone will survive.

I was surprised at Bird’s willingness to go to some very nasty places in SMOKE. He doesn’t flinch from ugly violence. But really, the violence isn’t what his stories are about. SMOKE, like all of Bird’s work, is really about the strength of the human will.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"That Damned Coyote Hill" now on KIndle

My e-short from Trestle Press, "That Damned Coyote Hill", is now available on Kindle. It's .99 cents for a story jam-packed with Western action and weird horror, featuring a mysterious protagonist called Hawthorne.

Let me know if you enjoy it, okay? And the standard leaving of reviews is always appreciated. If enough of you dig Hawthorne, I have a few more of his tales to tell...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Kindle Explosion

Hoo-boy, there’s lots of good short story collections and novellas just out at the moment, aren’t there? It seems that we’ll have a dry spell of a month or so when nothing of note comes out, and then—whammo—all the stuff we want to read hits at once and next thing you know you’ve fallen waaay behind.

Here are some superior collections that have seen the light of day just in the last few weeks. I’ve tried to be very selective here about the ones that are absolute must-reads. Let me know if I’m missing any gems, okay?

A few weeks ago, Keith Rawson released his collection THE CHAOS WE KNOW. Brilliant and brutal stuff. My review for it is here.

Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan edited the comprehensive PULP INK, which I only just reviewed a couple days ago. That’s here.

And speaking of Nigel Bird, his new one is called SMOKE. Haven’t read it yet, but looking forward to it. Nigel is one of my favorites.

Luca Veste, the fella putting together the upcoming anthology OFF THE RECORD, has just released LIVERPOOL FIVE.

The long-awaited collection from Patricia Abbott, MONKEY JUSTICE, is out as of today.

Edward Grainger (David Cramner) has just released the second volume of killer Western tales featuring Cash Laramie and Gideon Miles in, appropriately enough, THE ADVENTURES OF CASH LARAMIE AND GIDEON MILES, VOLUME TWO.

The always concise and remarkable Katherine Tomlinson hits us with her new collection JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE.

The latest in Paul D. Brazill’s DRUNK ON THE MOON series comes from Richard Godwin, and it’s called GETTING HIGH ON DAISY.

And Jason Michel of PULP METAL has put together a “best of” from that twisted e-zine, called LAUGHING AT THE DEATH GRIN.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Anybody else? Regardless, I can tell you that each one of these is bound to be well worth reading. Enough good stuff to see you right through the Halloween season, at least…

Monday, October 10, 2011

Kindle Review: PULP INK, ed. by Nigel Bird & Chris Rhatigan

PULP INK is probably the short story bargain of the year so far, if you consider sheer volume of stories as well as the quality of those stories. It’s jam-packed, and every entry is AT LEAST very good. More than three-fourths are downright brilliant.
But you know, it was bound to be great, wasn’t it? Look at the editors: Nigel Bird and Chris Rhatigan. Two fellas who know a thing or two about what makes good stories work, yeah?
The connecting theme to PULP INK has something to do with the film “Pulp Fiction”—there are allusions to the movie here and there, and several story titles are tied directly to it. But you get the sense that PULP INK quickly outgrew its inspiration. These are all writers who aren’t going to be constrained by the likes of Tarantino, man. Don’t get me wrong; I like “Pulp Fiction” as well as anyone does, but if you wanna compare Tarantino’s vision with the visions conjured by the writers in this anthology, well… Tarantino is left in the dust.
I was ready to do a little bit on each story in this collection that impressed me, but honestly, man, it was damn near every one of them. You’ve got Reed Farrell Coleman. Hilary Davidson. Allan Guthrie. Patricia Abbott, Paul D. Brazill. You’ve got Kate Horsley and Jimmy Calloway and David Cranmer. Matthew C. Funk. Honestly, it’s pointless for me to list each writer in PULP INK who turns in a killer story, because what it comes down to is a sort of “who’s who” of immense genre talents.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t dig Tarantino. If you want the low-down on what noir/dark fiction/hard-boiled writers are shaking things up these days, PULP INK is the collection to get.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


The cover for my new e-short from Trestle Press, "That Damned Coyote Hill". As usual, put together with the mad skills of Ron Warren. At my request, he took an existing image and combined it with an original photograph of his own to produce a very evocative cover. I think it turned out pretty goddamn good.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Me and My Puritan Streak

I have a very pronounced Puritan streak. Talking about “taboo” subjects like sex makes me uncomfortable, as do people who air their personal issues in public. Watching Jerry Springer or any of his imitators makes me blush and get so fidgety I have to turn it off.
I don’t like garish clothing (most of my wardrobe is in black and grays and blues) and I won’t wear a tie unless it’s a solid color—no hula girls or palm trees for me, thanks. When I see a guy walking around without a shirt on, even if he’s buff and can pull it off, I want desperately to tell him to get some damn clothes on, fer Christ’s. People who feel the need to be the center of attention all the time baffle me.
Have a sense of propriety, please, I’m begging you. Before I die of embarrassment.
Yes, deep in the core of this extremely liberal exterior is a stitched-up Puritan.
I don’t know where it came from. Maybe the Southern Baptist faith I experienced growing up? Maybe from my step-dad, who frowned upon any display of genuine emotion? I don’t know. But it’s there and I can’t pretend otherwise.
This is doubly odd considering the nature of what I write, and of what I like to read.
My stories and novels tend to be intensely personal, and they don’t shy away from sex, religion, or any other taboo subject. The characters are often bombastic and colorful. And once I start into a subject through a story, I believe strongly in not flinching, in taking the truth of the matter as far as possible, often into extremely uncomfortably emotional places.
I’m come to realize in the last couple years that’s the only way I have of talking about that stuff. By writing it down, putting it all into the head of a fictional character, I’m able to address it. And I recognize it in other people’s work as well. The unwavering commitment to telling the hardest emotional truths is a beautiful characteristic that our best writers share.
That’s all I got on that subject. Now put a shirt on, will you, please?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Writers from the Dank, Dark Underbelly

Some stuff worth noting:

Jason Michel, the mad genius behind PULP METAL, has put together a 'best of' from that twisted magazine, and it's now available at Smashwords. It's called LAUGHING AT THE DEATH GRIN!, a title that really sums up Pulp Metal's attitude quite nicely. I have a story in it; so does Paul Brazill, Danny Hogan, Ian Ayris, Chris Rhatigan, B.R. Stateham, and seven other messed-up individuals from the dank underbelly of genre fiction. For the first few weeks, it's gonna be a measly .99 cents.

And coming soon, look for OFF THE RECORD, the new anthology of all-original material being put together by Luca Veste. The premise is stories inspired by rock/pop song titles, and the line-up is a who's who of talent from the Noir and Horror Undergrounds. Some of them: Me, Ray Banks (yeah, I said Ray Banks!), Patti Abbott, Court Merrigan, R. Thomas Brown, Nigel Bird, Paul Brazill, Thomas Pluck, Matthew C. Funk, Helen Fitzgerald, and man, the talent just keeps on coming... all proceeds from OFF THE RECORD will be going to charities on both sides of the Atlantic, so keep your eyes open for it.

Aside from the two anthology appearances, I have a couple short stories coming down the pike very soon, if you're interested. More info about them later...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Audio Story done, Voice also done

I'm so naive. I really thought it would be as easy as recording my audio and... I dunno... just sort of POPPING it up here on Psycho-Noir. Bing-o, bang-o. But no, Blogger makes a big production out of it.

But I pulled it off, at long last. My friend Nat Pike (the amazingly talented fella who did the music in my book trailer for THE BASTARD HAND) gave me the low-down on Soundcloud, and that's what I wound up using.

I decided to go with "Incident on a Rain-Soaked Corner", because halfway through reading "It Will All Be Carried Away", my voice started giving out. "Incident" is much shorter.

Granted, my recording isn't exactly pro quality-- you'll here the occasional clicky sound as I navigate through the story-- but over-all it's not too bad.

Here is is:Incident on a Rain-Soaked Corner, read by Heath Lowrance

The above photo, which as usual has nothing to do with anything, is by the award-winning photographer Dawn Sketch.


If you like sharp fiction about bad, bad people doing bad, bad things, man.. there is much to look forward to in the next month or so.

Luca Veste is putting together a new anthology called OFF THE RECORD, a collection of stories inspired by favorite rock'n'roll songs and penned by some of the best underground writers currently working... and me, too.

And Jason Michel, the mad-with-power dictator behind Pulp Metal, has a "best of" in the works called LAUGHING AT THE DEATH GRIN, which will include Paul Brazill, Chris Rhatigan, Ian Ayris, Danny Hogan, and yours truly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Promises to Keep

Man, you folks really rose to the occasion! My goal was to hit 100 followers total (that would've soothed my fragile writer's ego) but in the last couple of days we got to 103! I'm very grateful for the turn-out; it's like throwing a party and having all your favorite people show up.

So, as promised, this coming week I'll post an audio file of me reading one of my stories. Probably "It Will All Be Carried Away", unless ya'll indicate you'd like to hear a different one.

Until then, comrades, cheers.