The wind had picked up soon as the sun rose, whipping red clay and gravel around. Most of the revelers had just passed out--leaning against storefronts, in the back of trucks, shoved twenty deep into hotel rooms, or just out in the wide open fields. They wouldn’t come to until well past noon.
The bike needed work, Steel God could tell from the engine noise wheezing weaker than a chainsaw motor, as the lone rider eased through the center of town, careful to avoid the other choppers lining the middle of Main in two columns, fifty or sixty thick. He watched, amused, as the guy in his Marlon Brando get-up pursed his lips and did a slow nod at everything around him as if it needed his approval.
He did a circle of the street before coming to a stop in front of Steel God, who was sitting on the front steps of the Virtual Dive Bar eating a breakfast burrito--chorizo, potato and egg.
The guy dismounted the obviously custom-built (Steel God thought thrown-together, but was still impressed) chopper and pulled off his riding gloves. He wore a leather cap on his head and old-fashioned riding goggles. When he turned in a circle, Steel God got a better view of the patch on his back. “The Decapitators”--a fist holding a bloody head by the hair.
The man looked down at Steel God and did that nod again. “You look like a man in charge.”
Funny guy, playing it serious. Steel God kept from laughing. “A little.”
“Hear there’s a rally going on.”
“Looks that way. You bringing in a gang?”
The guy shook his head. “I’m more of, say, an ‘independent’ contractor. In fact, they call me Indy. I pick up strays occasionally. You seen any strays?”
“Only every day. But strays can be a problem. They don’t follow the rules, they jump ship. They’ve got no loyalty.”
“Loyal to themselves,” Indy said. “That’s not so bad. And, you know, I’ve seen plenty of them who followed the rules, did what they were asked, and even brought in some money for the clan, and yet they were still cast out like yesterday’s garbage while the gang lived high on the hog.”
Steel God didn’t like how Indy was talking. Like some sort of revolutionary. But he had nerve, and Steel God admired nerve nearly as much as anything.
He said to Indy, “These Decapitators of yours, then. That’s where all the strays go?”
“No, man, see…I’m more like a gatherer of some kind. I find the lost and help shepherd them to smaller gangs. You know, the ones scattered all over, never going to take on the Angels or the Bandidos…Wait, you’re Steel God, right? You’re an Outlaw, aren’t you?”
Steel God grinned. “Not anymore. I’m one of those small ones you’re talking about.”
“Yeah, you know what I’m saying. You’ve got to do more with less. You take bigger risks, but the rewards are sweeter.”
“Amen, brother. Amen. But…” Steel God pointed a finger in Indy’s face. “You leave my people alone, or we’ll see how the shepherd likes being sheared.”
Indy laughed, put his goggles back in place. “That’s good. But you don’t have to worry. The ones who need me always end up finding me. I just wish we had more MC’s to lead them to.”
He mounted his bike, nodded at Steel God again in that way of his, then kicked off and turned to go. “Off to find strays!”
As he crawled down the street, Steel God watched him go, chuckling deep in his chest. Lafitte stepped out from the Bar and watched the bike fade away.
“Who was that?”
Steel God said, “Said his name was Indy. I’ll tell you for sure, though--that man was a true One Percenter if I ever saw one.”
So crime fiction is supposed to be this big commercial thing, right? That’s where you’re supposed to get famous and make big money, writing detective stories or suspense thrillers.
And in the literary world, there’s a ton of respect for those souls who walk the wild side, publishing on small, prestigious presses. They never have to sell huge numbers to garner legendary status.
Now what happens to those in between? Those who write, say, noir (aka “The Unsellable”), or those working on the fringes of genre? Maybe even a detective who doesn’t fit the cookie cutter image we’ve come to expect (and that definition is “slightly flawed, but it’s usually because he/she “cares” too much, or show some kid who shot them first“)? Or maybe it’s just brutally violent and full of unsympathetic characters, by which we mean “interesting”.
That’s where the independent presses are doing the work of the angels all over the world.
And Nathan Cain is there to shout from the rooftops about it.
Thanks to Cain’s Independent Crime Blog, we get a front row seat to the stuff usually relegated to the back shelves. We also get a sneak peek into his private stash of old paperbacks, which inevitably makes every crime aficionado say “Damn, why don’t they make ’em like that anymore?” and sends us off looking for all the new stuff he pimps.
Like I said, angel’s work. A heavenly look at hellish writing.
Oh yeah, this isn’t just a pastime. It’s a calling. And I’m grateful to Mr. Cain for it, as well as for the support he’s shown to both me and to my publisher, Bleak House Books.
I’ve tried to sell my work to the big dog publishers, of course. Quite a number of times. But it’s always been the indie publishers where I’ve felt most at home and free. Thanks to Pointblank Press, Two Dollar Radio, and Bleak House, I’ve been able to have a hand in steering the ship. I never had to write the dreaded “synopsis” to get “approval” before I start writing the book. I just write it, and then we try to publish it. A staunchly old-fashioned approach, right? But that’s how all my books have been written so far, and I like the way that feels (most of the time. The rest, well, it’s panic-mode and nail-biting).
See if Hogdoggin’ stands up to the best that independent presses have to offer this year. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it does. I think kicks other books in the balls. You won’t want to like it because of that, but you can’t help but be attracted to this bad boy. Admit it.
Next, critic Gordon Harries wigs out on us. All the Needle Scratch Static is driving him nuts!
Tonight on the Main Stage: Thrill Kill Kult, “Sex on Wheels”