Monday, December 31, 2007
Sunday, December 30, 2007
And while I'm at it, let me note that Dick Adler has started blogging again, and he has a post in praise of small crime presses, which links to a longer post he wrote at The Knowledgeable Blogger about the same topic. All worth checking out.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Declan Burke’s second novel, The Big O (Hag’s Head Press, 2007), is a comic crime caper that is delivered in short bursts with an emphasis on snappy dialogue. It tells the story of Karen and Ray, who meet when Ray happens to walk into a store Karen is busy robbing. Ray’s more curious than put off, and he asks her out for a drink. He tells her up front that he works kidnapping people and painting murals, although not at the same time.
Burke goes on to introduce other characters, including Frank, a pathetic plastic surgeon and Karen’s boss, and Madge, Frank’s soon to be ex-wife and Karen’s best friend. There’s also Rossi, Karen’s ex and an ex-con, a cop named Doyle and a wolf. With the story told from many different points-of-view, there is the real potential for confusion. Burke handles it well, though. A reader can’t help but be a little confused at the beginning, but the feeling doesn’t last too long. Burke gets setup out of the way in short order.
The book’s plot hinges on a lot of coincidences, but it’s not too difficult to suspend disbelief. The characters are sharply drawn, and Burke keeps thing short, never letting any one scene drag out too long. The real treat in The Big O, is the dialogue, though. Burke has a knack for sharp banter, and it is a rare chapter that doesn’t have a witty exchange between characters.
The Big O has flaws, but Burke is an up and comer. He’s recently made the jump across the Atlantic, landing at Harcourt, the
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Amphetamine Logic-Nathan Cain
The Leap-Charles Ardai
Breaking in the New Guy-Stephen Blackmoore
The Switch-Lyman Feero
Seven Days of Rain-Chris Holm
Shared Losses-Gerri Leen
The Living Dead-Amra Pajalic
For a list of nominees in other categories, along with instructions on how to cast your vote, go here. The deadline is Dec. 30, so you've got 10 days. You can read one story a day and still take two days to make up your mind.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Friday, December 14, 2007
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
" Pulps themselves may have vanished. But the underlying aesthetic of pulp, the moral assumptions they introduced and popularized, have endured. Those assumptions are not just shaping much of our popular culture: today, they are dictating how we understand our world."
Almond asserts that what he calls the "black and white moral universe of the pulps" has infiltrated our popular culture to such an extent that it even pervades out media coverage. With this statement, he shows he does not understand human nature or the nature of the media.
People, by nature, seek out patterns and look for evidence to back up their preexisting beliefs. One of the main ways we do this is by telling stories. Take The Old Testament. It's overarching narrative is that of the triumph of God's chosen people over those who would oppress them and keep them from the Holy Land. Now this is a good story. Large swaths of it are certainly questionable, but it served to unite a people who spent a lot of time wandering around in the desert and getting into fights with other kingdoms. Wandering around in the desert and getting into fights is not terribly inspiring, unless, of course, it's all part of some larger story that provides a "black and white" moral framework for dividing up the world into the Good and the Wicked.
I use the Old Testament as an example not to single out any particular religion, but because it's an example that everyone is familiar with to some extent, and because it makes it easier to make my point, which is that Almond is giving pulp fiction a little too much credit. Pulp fiction does not impact how we see the world, so much as reflect how we see the world. Everyone wants to identify with the good guy. Everyone wants to see justice triumph. Those moral assumptions were not, as Almond maintains, introduced and popularized by pulp fiction. They have existed since time immemorial, and they developed over and over in many cultures. Pulp fiction is just another manifestation of our deepest desire to see everything turn out all right in the end in a world where, no matter how hard you try, things are not going to turn out all right. Pulp fiction is a harmless manifestation of these desires when compared with religion. Unlike The Bible, no one has ever killed someone over differing interpretations of a story in Black Mask.
Almond also tries to tie pulp fiction to the state of the media today. While I tend to agree that news coverage today isn't what it ought to be, it's hard to blame that on Raymond Chandler. The news is a business, and the market dictates what you get. Again, people want to hear stories. Almond uses the Clinton impeachment as an example, calling it "a classic pulp fiction." Clinton, Almond states, is the corrupt pol and Ken Starr was the crusading hero. It's just as easy to cast Clinton as the hero and Starr as the tool of corrupt, jealous Republicans who were looking for something-anything-they could use to strike back at an immensely popular leader. Anyone who was paying attention to the Clinton story could have come away with either interpretation. So, the media did not package and sell a story. They packaged and sold a set of facts, which people were free to interpret as they saw fit. You can place the blame for the Clinton saga where it really belongs, either on Congress for trying to bring down a president out of spite, or with Clinton, for not keeping it in his pants. It all depends on what story you want to tell yourself.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Saturday, December 8, 2007
If you're like me, you loved Ken Bruen and Jason Starr's last collaboration, Slide. So you'll be thrilled to see thatThe Max, the third novel in their ongoing series, is up on Hard Case's Web site. It's slated for a September 2008 publication. Just check out the cover. You know the book is going to kick ass.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Sunday, December 2, 2007
One of the cardinal rules of storytelling is that the characters must do something. Having characters who sit around doing nothing worked out for Beckett in one instance, but it is not generally a good idea. Robin Llewellyn, the alcoholic, terminally ill, homeless, Welsh private detective at the center of Robert Lewis’ Swansea Terminal, (Serpent’s Tail, 2007) is hopelessly passive. He lives, if it can be called that, only for his next drink, and he doesn’t have any real desire to change. As such, he does not make a very interesting protagonist.
For the first three-quarters of the book, the story involves Llewellyn staying drunk, getting involved with some small time gangsters, and ending up with a job sitting in the dark babysitting a warehouse full of smuggled booze. Although this is clearly a setup of some sort, Llewellyn is more than content to sit in the dark, drink warm lager and wallow in self pity and degradation. It’s difficult to care about someone who does not care about themselves, and Llewellyn doesn’t give a damn. Even his pitch black observations about life don’t make him any more interesting or sympathetic. By the time he finally gets off his ass and decides to do something about his situation it is too late for him to fully engage the reader.
Lewis is a young, promising author, and unlike his protagonist, he has a future to worry about. He might want to consider creating a character with a little more to lose.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
'Now that I've slept on it, an idea that someone brought up over on Sarah's blog makes a lot of sense to me: if an author qualifies for MWA membership, then his or her books should be eligible for the Edgars regardless of publisher. This would disqualify most of the truly self-published and vanity press books, while allowing authors like Charles Ardai and myself, who easily qualify for MWA membership because of our other publications, to submit books like SONGS OF INNOCENCE and DUST DEVILS for consideration."
The reason I think this idea is a good one is because it takes into consideration the fact that distribution methods are going to change. The MWA already allows ebooks into consideration, which is a smart move, considering how things are changing, but let's say an established author wants to pull a Radiohead, and make their work available on the Internet on a pay what you want format, or they have a work that a they have trouble finding a big publisher for. What then? Authors who qualify for membership in MWA are unlikely to turn out crap, even if it is published by a very small press, or even self published. If a pro wants to take a try at something unconventional or outside the mainstream that's no reason to exclude them.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Bitter Lemon Press; Europa Editions; Hard Case Crime; Poisoned Pen Press; and Text Publishing
Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime; Stacia Decker, Harcourt; Alison Janssen, Bleak House; Barbara Peters, Poisoned Pen Press; and Dave Thompson, Busted Flush
I am also thrilled to note that James Reasoner's novel Dust Devils has been nominated for Novel of the Year in the Legends category.
Suffice to say, if you don't vote for Mr. Reasoner's book, I will punch you or at least make fun of your clothes and haircut.
I also note, with a certain degree of humility, that my story, Amphetamine Logic, is up for Best Short Story on the Web. The competition is stiff in that category. Charles Ardai has a story in that category, and he's already won an Edgar. I won't threaten you into voting for my story, the same way I'm threatening you to get you to vote for James Reasoner, because that wouldn't be kosher, but I'd appreciate the vote.
How do you vote, you ask? Well, I'm just going to let Sandra Ruttan, who organized this whole enterprise speak to that:
Voting is open. ONE E-MAIL PER PERSON ONLY. You cannot send another vote in, even for a different category – multiple votes from the same sender will not be counted. Take the time to consider your votes carefully. E-mails must be received by December 30, 2007 - authors, if you're putting this in your newsletter make sure you are clear about the deadline for voting. Many recommendations were not considered in the first round because they were sent late.You may vote for one winner in each category as long as all votes are submitted in one e-mail. Simply state the category and your chosen winner for each of the eight categories. Any votes that contain more than one selection per category may be removed from consideration completely. No ties. Send your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with AWARD NOMINATIONS in the subject line. It is not necessary to explain the reason for your vote.
While I'm at it I should note that it seems that Ardai's novel Songs of Innocence, seems to be ineligible for and Edgar because it is, under the MWA's new rules, "self-published." Sarah Weinman broke the story, and has an interesting discussion about the topic. I can see both sides, myself. I suspect that what it boils down to is the MWA is afraid that allowing Ardai's novel in will open the door for anyone to join, and that would pretty much make the MWA's existence moot. The entire point of clubs is to exclude people. Of course, Ardai's already got an Edgar, so it's not like he can't slap "From Edgar Winning Author" on everything he writes from here on out.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Saturday, November 10, 2007
The October Soho Crime newsletter is available.
The comic books series, which I wrote about here, has been optioned by Paramount pictures. The movie will be directed by David Fincher.
Thuglit's new issue is a good one.
And, have you ever wondered what it would be like if Renfield and Igor teamed up to work as private eyes in 50's LA? Neither have I, but you can find out here. (You have to click on channels and then select Strange Detective Tales. I can't figure out how to directly link to the episode.)
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Die With Me (Macadam Cage, 2007), by first time novelist Elena Forbes, is a competent, but hardly compelling, thriller. It focuses on
Even if you just chalk up Tartaglia’s patience with what goes on around him to a preternatural tolerance for annoying, selfish women, it’s still too much. Forbes juggles too many subplots and too many points-of-view. She never does it poorly. It’s always easy to tell what’s going on and whose perspective is being presented, but it all takes away from the central plot. Despite repeated chapters presented from the killer’s point-of-view, the murder mystery almost feels like an afterthought. The result is that the killer, when he surfaces in the investigation, is easy to spot, unless the reader is just not paying attention. Forbes would have been well served to have spent more time cultivating suspects and leading her characters down convincing blind alleys than dwelling on their personal lives.
Forbes could have also crafted a more compelling villain. His motivations are textbook (he had a less than ideal childhood, don’t you know) and his choice of victims and method of killing are not exactly terrifying. Tossing Emo kids to their deaths might, in some circles, be considered a public service. The fact that Forbes ends her book with a setup for a sequel featuring the same killer, does not bode well for the next installment in the series.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
The recent arrival of Dead Street, the latest Hard Case Crime release, and the final crime novel by writer (not author) Mickey Spillane, has got me wondering, exactly what is the appeal of the man's work? I intended to write a review of Dead Street, but I don't think I'm going to be able to finish it. It's too corny. This isn't my first attempt at reading Spillane. I've tried a couple times before and always given up. I'm beginning to think it's him, not me. I posed a similar question on the mailing list Rara Avis, and no one has yet to offer a real defense of Spillane's work. There has been a lot of talk about how successful he was, and there's no arguing with that. He was a one man publishing phenomenon, and one of the most successful writers of the 20th Century. Still, he's not any good. His characters are all the same-psychopathic thugs. His dialogue is stilted and ridiculous (Was there ever a time when men called women doll?) and his plots don't exactly leave room for shades of gray. Violence is always the answer. In Spillane's world there's no problem that can't be solved with a gun. It's always the first resort. In Dead Street, in a particularly stupid scene, the protagonist fantasizes about shooting a veterinarian in the face. A veterinarian who bought him coffee and wanted to talk to him. The veterinarian's mistake is bringing up a traumatic event from the protagonist's past. That's all it takes to set this guy off. That's not tough. It's pathetic. But Spillane doesn't present him as the damage case he obviously is. No, there's nothing wrong with this guy. Now, I like a tough guy protagonist. Take Westlake's Parker, for instance. He's a guy for whom violence is always the answer. But he's a crook and a psycho. Westlake doesn't hold him up as a hero. Violence also causes Parker as many problems as it solves. In Spillane's world violence only solves problems. Is that what made him so popular? Is there really a longing deep in the hearts of men to shoot every guy who says the wrong thing and every woman who does them wrong? If so, Spillane's success says a lot about human nature, none of it good.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Reasonable Doubts (Bitter Lemon Press, 2007) by Gianrico Carofiglio and translated by Howard Curtis, is a thinking man’s legal thriller. The third novel to feature defense lawyer Guido Guerrieri, Reasonable Doubts centers on Guerrieri’s efforts to clear a man convicted of drug trafficking after having been caught entering Italy with a car packed full of cocaine. Complicating matters is the fact that Guerrieri’s new client may or may not be a former fascist thug who once beat up his new lawyer for wearing the wrong color coat, and the fact that Guerrieri finds himself hopelessly smitten with his new client’s wife. His client, called Fabio Rayban, because of the brand of sunglasses he used to favor, might also be guilty.
Carofiglio, a former mafia prosecutor in
The book is slow at points, however, and may be a bit underwhelming for readers whose tastes run to two-fisted action or sensational crimes. It’s truly a novel of the legal system, and most of the action takes place in offices and courtrooms. The denouement is also a little too convenient. The protagonist, after having brought unwanted attention to some organized crime elements while trying to clear his client, has all of the impending danger disappear through a stroke of coincidence. After a long story about how easy answers aren’t easy to come by, the ending is a little too convenient, but then again, it’s fiction, and if we are to be denied easy answers in real life, shouldn’t we be able to find them somewhere?
Thursday, October 18, 2007
And, in case you missed it the first time, Mr. Smith has a killer Flickr feed of paperback covers. (via)
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
(P.S. Hollywood Producers: Feel free to use my story idea for your next summer "blockbuster." All I ask is 20 percent on the back end and a co-producer credit.)
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Monday, October 8, 2007
Saturday, October 6, 2007
The story follows
Kill Clock moves quickly, but it’s such a short story that it has to. It takes place after the events of Hard Man, but they are alluded to only in a vague way. The lack of background is understandable because of the nature of the writing Guthrie is doing, but Pearce is becoming problematic. He’s been through a lot. He found his sister dead of a drug overdose. His mother bled to death in his arms, and he watched a man get crucified. Through it all, he has remained the same hard headed tough guy. It’s beginning to stretch credulity. If Guthrie is going to carry on with Pearce, as seems likely, the character is going to have to grow and change to stay viable. In Kill Clock there are hints that Pearce may take. Hopefully, Guthrie will expand on those hints the next time he brings his fans another Pearce story.
The Killer (Archaia Studio Press, 2007) by writer Matz and artist Luc Jacamon, is a not terribly original story about a hitman who is struggling to stay sane while he tries to retire in peace. Crime fiction is full of hitmen who suffer existential crises and try to get out of the business only to find out it’s not easy to quit. The Killer would be boring if it weren’t a graphic novel. Comic books have a tendency to be over the top, which is only natural given that most of the characters in comics wear tights and have superpowers. It’s an over the top premise. The problem comes when comic artists and writers try to tell a story that should be done in a realistic fashion, but can’t leave the visual and verbal hyperbole behind. The Killer doesn’t have that problem. It’s subdued in it’s presentation, for a comic book. The title character isn’t some sort of super killing machine. He’s a man. A lonely man, and the violence, while graphic isn’t over the top. Aside from Ed Brubaker’s Criminal series, there isn’t a lot of crime fiction being published in graphic novel format these days, and for that reason, The Killer is a welcome volume.If you're interested in The Killer, be sure to check out the online Flash version of the comic book, here.
Friday, October 5, 2007
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Okay people, I have now received three, count em, three copies of Reasonable Doubts by Gianrico Carofiglio. This book, put out by Bitter Lemon Press, is a legal thriller, and the author is a former organized crime prosecutor in Italy.
Since I only need one copy, I'm passing the other two copies to you. If you want to win one, just shoot me an email with contest in the subject line. Include your name and address. It's the same old story: I'll number the emails in the order they're received and then use a random number generator to pick the winners. The deadline is Sunday, Oct. 6.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
The latest installment in the planned trilogy follows Max, who is busy reinventing himself after losing everything, and Angela, who is busy in
Slide begins with Max Fisher at rock bottom. He wakes up after a world class drunk in a hotel in
The authors’ aim, however, is not to make a point. They are out to have fun. Max was not created to make the reader contemplate the evils of capitalism or the insidious distortion of values that celebrity culture produces. Bruen and Starr set out to see how far they could push a stereotype. Max’s story not only satirizes American culture, it also satirizes noir. In noir, a character is usually undone by his desire. He wants money. He wants the woman. He wants peace of mind. When a noir character goes after those things, breaking society’s rules in the process, he is destroyed. In that sense, noir is a very conservative genre. The protagonist must suffer for his misdeeds. Not so with Max. He is greedy, gluttonous, slothful, lustful, prideful, wrathful and envious, and he still he slides by. People die because of his actions and he feels nothing. His existence a testament to the absurdity of the idea of justice.
When Max is hustled into a cop car, headed for a jail cell, he contemplates giving the cops a lock of his hair to sell on Ebay. Prison’s going to be great for his career, he thinks. He’s driven away with a grin on his face. He’s grinning at you, dear reader, because the joke is on you, and it’s pretty fucking funny.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
(Thanks to (Gonzalo Baeza)
Saturday, September 22, 2007
The setup is simple. Cody, a private detective, is hired by the stepmother of a missing college student to find her. It seems like an open and shut case of elopement, until the girl’s finger shows up, along with a demand for ransom. Has she really been kidnapped? Are she and her boyfriend trying to get some money from her family? Or, is she dead? Finding the answer will bring Cody face to face with the mob, and the consequences of young love gone wrong.
Texas Wind is not as polished and perfect as Dust Devils, but that is understandable, considering Reasoner had 27 years between books to hone his skills. Still, Wind is well crafted, and there is no waste. In fact, the book is so economical that a subplot involving Cody and his admirer Janice seems squeezed in. The couple goes from first date to professions of love in no time flat. It’s a minor complaint. A fast moving, focused story is better than a bloated, turgid one any day. In writing, knowing what to leave out is just as important as knowing what to leave, and Reasoner knows.
Texas Wind is not as engaging as Dust Devils, but that does not really matter, since very few hardboiled crime tales can rise to the level of Reasoner's most recent effort. Texas Wind is still well worth reading.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Also, HCC has announced two new titles. The first, by Max Allan Collins, is called The First Quarry, and will presumably be about the first adventure of the titular hitman. The second is The Max, the final installment in the Starr/Bruen collaboration that includes Bust and Slide. The Max will take the characters from the first two novels and drop them in prison, which is where they belong really.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
What we generally think of as crime fiction started in the first half of the 20th Century. You can trace the genre back to Poe, sure, but most people would classify Poe as a horror writer. Even "Murders in the Rue Morgue" could be called a horror story. Sure, it featured a detective trying to solve a crime, but the killer was an orangutan with a straight razor. An orangutan with a razor is scary, but he's not exactly Professor Moriarty is he? In the 20's and 30's you had locked room mysteries and Agatha Christie, who topped Poe for half-assed endings and implausible scenarios with Murder on the Orient Express, where everyone on the train was guilty. It makes a homicidal orangutan seem plausible.
At roughly the same time as Agatha Christie and her contemporaries were writing about well heeled detectives and murderers Dashiell Hammett was, as Raymond Chandler put it, [giving] murder back to the alley, and the kind of people who do it for a reason." One only needs to read Red Harvest to know that Hammett's early efforts were not necessarily any more believable than Christie. Unlike Christie, however, Hammett's work changed over time, and he eventually wrote some believable stories.
And there you have it. The two schools of crime fiction: Cozies and Hard boiled. Not much has changed in crime fiction since the 1930s. As such, it's not hard to see why crime fiction fans may tend to skew old. My recent experiences tend to bear this out. Over Labor Day I went to the Decatur Book Festival where I attended a panel with three mystery writers. I'm 30, and I was, by far, the youngest person in the room. The next day I stopped by Dragon Con, a huge science fiction and fantasy convention, where I attended a panel on podcasting. The room was packed with young people, and Scott Sigler, an author/podcaster, was greeted like a rock star. So was the founder of Podiobooks.com, who wasn't even on the panel. He was just in the audience, but when someone pointed him out, the crowd burst into applause.
Why the young, enthusiastic crowd at the panel composed mostly of science fiction podcasters and the sedate, older crowd at the crime fiction panel? The answer, I think, is that science fiction has to reinvent itself every few years. The genre is based largely on technological developments, and, must stay fresh. Now that we've sent probes to Mars, little green men aren't really plausible anymore. Hell, with the advent of human/animal embryos, The Island of Dr. Moreau no longer seems all that far fetched. My point is that young people can see their world reflected in science fiction. With crime fiction, authors are still working largely off templates drawn up before the Second World War. The genre deals with actions and motives that are as old as Cain and Abel. Not a lot has changed since then. One thing that Seth Harwood said when I interviewed him him really stuck with me: "When kids stop reading Harry Potter they have to read something else. Hopefully we can get them to read crime fiction." To me, that seems like an optimistic statement. I'm not sure crime fiction is in a position to do that at the moment. Sure, it appealed to me when I was in high school, but I'm fully prepared to admit that my tastes aren't exactly mainstream. If I really like something that's a good indication it will never sell ten million copies. So, how do you make crime fiction appeal to younger readers? The answer is simple: Make it reflect the world around them. How, exactly do you do that without resorting to gimmicks or obscuring the essential truths crime fiction touches on? I wish I knew.
Monday, September 10, 2007
I always have fun checking out Hard Case Crime's Web site every month to see what their latest title is. Their June 2008 offering will be a reprint of Donald Westlake's Somebody Owes Me Money. The Hard Case cover, I think, represents a great improvement over the original, which is very 1969.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Podcaster and novelist Seth Harwood was in town last week, and he took the time to sit down and talk a little about his work. Seth is currently in the middle of podcasting his second novel, This is Life, featuring washed up actor Jack Palms. He has podcasted Jacks first adventure, Jack Wakes Up, which will see print in March from Breakneck Books. He's also podcasted a collection of non-crime short stories called A Long Way from Disney.
What made you decide to go the podcast route, as opposed to what David Wellington did with putting his horror novels up on the ‘net?
I got really interested in the net about a year and a half ago. So first it was all about short stories for me. I published like a dozen short stories in small literary journals. They’re not crime, and it’s like I get my two copies and tell my friends about it and they say great, but no one can ever read it because no one can find it. There’s no distribution with them. Then I got a story accepted by this online place and all of a sudden everyone was reading it, and I could tell my friends go to this site and read it and I was getting a lot of feedback from that, so I got the idea to start my Web site and put my stuff there, and I wanted to put Jack Wakes Up there. When I started thinking about that I was in
What made you want to move into genre fiction, as opposed to staying with the short fiction?
I was working on writing a novel, and I was doing my best to read literary novels, and I started trying to write a literary novel and I didn’t know what to write it about. I got to a point where I was like, let me write a novel I’m going to have fun with. It’s going to have action. It’s not going to be 100 percent character driven. It’s going to have plot points. Things are going to happen. People are going to have guns. This is the type of stuff that excites me, so I said, ‘let me do something and have fun with it.’
Jack Wakes Up is getting published. How did that work? Did the publisher come to you? Were you shopping it around while you were podcasting? How did that come about?
I've been shopping this book around before, during and after I podcast it. My initial idea was that someone (an agent or an editor) would appreciate this initiative and my audience when I told them about it in a cover letter. That never happened. Bascially, I've come to see that they want something they can trust--an Amazon sales rank is what they feel they can trust. As a result of this, having the book published and selling it becomes a necessary part of marketing it. Seems odd, but what you're really marketing is yourself as a writer and a "brand." So be it. With that in mind, I started contacting smaller publishers, knowing that my own marketing through the podcast would be what sold the book anyway.
Luckily, Jeremy Robinson of Breakneck Books, a guru and a veteran of online independent publishing, realized that the audience I've created can translate immediately to selling books. Now we're working together: he's doing all the book-side stuff that I don't know about and I'm rolling out the podcast audience promotion. The listeners have already named the plan: it's called "Shake 'Em Down on Amazon.com!" after Jack Palms' fictitious big action movie, Shake 'Em Down. And with Jack Palms being the protagonist, there's no better day for the book to come out than Palm(s) Sunday!
How involved are fans of your podcast?
All my artwork is from my fans. Most of my cool marketing ideas come from my fans. Some of the fans are doing voices on the podcast. That’s another cool thing about podcasting. There’s so much back and forth with them (fans). The relationship with the fans is one of the best things about it (podcasting).
Do you write from an outline?
No. I’m a big believer in a lot of your best writing and material development coming from your subconscious. Whatever you know in your conscious mind there’s other stuff that’s back there and you just have to write it. You have to be writing to access that stuff. If you’re writing you can pull it out of there and it becomes the story. To me it seems like writing is an exploration, and often for me the most exciting stuff that happens are the things I don’t predict. The most exciting days are the days where I sit down and something completely blows me away and surprises me, and I have to stop writng and be like, ‘can this really happen? Am I okay with this? Can I deal with working this in?’ And those things often end up being some of the best stuff.
Talk about Jack a little bit. Where did he come from?
Have you ever seen The Transporter? It's a bad movie right? But here was this guy (Jason Statham) who I had only seen in this serious movie (Guy Ritchie's Snatch) where he was a funny character gets into this movie and kicks the shit out of hundreds and hundreds of guys. To me that seemed utterly ridiculous, and I was like ‘What would happen if a guy who was just a normal actor was in this movie and did huge amounts of ass kicking. What would happen to his life is he was suddenly perceived as this big ass kicker, and he wasn’t doing acting anymore and he had to deal with people on the street.
Who are your influences?
People like Elmore Leonard and Robert Parker. A lot of my early crime influences are people I would listen to. I’ve never read an Elmore Leonard book, but I would listen to them on tape in the car. A lot of my early influences came about from listening to them in the car, and now I’m doing podcasts. It’s sort of come full circle. When I was growing up I read a lot of Michael Connelly. I read a lot of comic books. Stephen King. Now, I’m into
Friday, September 7, 2007
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Monday, September 3, 2007
As I predicted, it was a busy weekend. I went to the Decatur Book Festival on Saturday, where I bought a copy of Wall Street Noir, from Akashic's booth and picked up some vintage paperbacks. I left my credit card at home, fortunately, otherwise I would have likely ended up with first editions of Miami Blues and Night of the Jabberwock. While I would love to have them, they would have set me back a total of $450. Someday.
I also attended a panel with James O. Born, Con Lehane, and a woman whose name I can't remember. It was getting late in the day by that point, and my blood sugar dropped suddenly and I had to get out of there and get some food, so I didn't stick around to make small talk or get a book signed.
On Sunday I went downtown to DragonCon and met Seth Harwood. We had a long, wide ranging conversation about all things crime fiction and podcasting, including Seth's podcast novels, one of which is being published in March. At Seth's invitation I attended a panel he was on about podcasting fiction. It was an eye opening experience. The room was packed. DragonCon is huge, and people have no shortage of choices when it comes to attending panels. A lot of them chose to come to this one, and they were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about podcast fiction, most of which is science fiction and fantasy. Seth is, as far as I know, the only crime fiction writer making a go of podcasting.
Be sure to stay tuned. My interview with Seth will be up soon.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
In the other direction, geographically and intellectually, downtown Atlanta will be host to Dragon Con. I'm not actually going to attend DragonCon because I'm afraid that I might hit the first grown man I see dressed as a Storm Trooper. I am, however, going to interview Seth Harwood, who will be in town for the event. Seth has garnered a loyal following with his Jack Palms podcasts, and recently landed a book deal for his first Palms novel, Jack Wakes Up, which will be published by Breakneck Books next year. Look for the interview here early next week.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The story itself is straightforward, but Chavarria approaches it elliptically, and the constant diversions, detours and asides may try the patience of readers who are used to the more straightforward style of English language fiction. Chavarria’s story jumps around in time, and point-of-view, something that is apparently common in Spanish language fiction. Still, the novel is never too confusing, and if one is patient all will be revealed.
The main weakness of Tango for a Torturer is Chavarria’s naïve worldview. Communism was very 20th Century, and Chavarria, a Uruguayan living in Cuba, is in the awkward position of having outlived his own ideology. The book rightly condemns state sponsored violence, and Aldo’s revenge is certainly just, but the irony of writing a novel condemning such a thing while living in
Bini, the prostitute, is a communist daydream as well. It is made very clear that she whores, not because of economic deprivation, but because she enjoys it. She’s a noble savage, poor, but committed to justice. When Aldo asks for her help in framing Triple-O, she does it for nothing, even though it means she must spend time behind bars. If this has the distinct ring of bullshit, that’s because it’s bullshit. Let’s not forget, however, that Castro has been known to jail people for publishing works abroad without official consent. Of course, if jail is so great in