Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Start of Something New

Scott D. Parker

I start a new day job on Monday. I bring that up only because it pertains to my “night job” of writing. You see, I’m gonna have to be a lot more diligent and efficient with my time because I’ll actually have less of it.

My now former job allowed me to work from home. I had my home office all decked out with work equipment on a dedicated work desk. My fiction writing was done on my writing desk, a nice wooden desk my dad made for me. Each day this summer, I still woke up at 6am and wrote until I had to report to work--i.e., walk down the hall and turn on the work PC.

Starting Monday, I’ll be having to get to work between six and seven. It’s a 9/80 job so I’ll have every other Friday off but the morning free time will be gone. Part of my challenge in the coming weeks is to find those new times to write. And, more importantly, when those times arrive, I need to be as efficient as possible. I’ve a good idea how to improve my efficiency. I just need to adjust to the new daily routine.

When y’all have a change in your daily routine, how do y’all work in the writing time? Do you see obvious disruptions or does the flow still go?

Album of the Week

Is there any other when it's a new record from my favorite band? “NOW” Chicago XXXVI (a convoluted title, to be sure) was released digitally this week. This is the first new album of all original material since 2006’s Chicago 30 (notice I didn’t use the Roman numerals there; don’t want this post to be blocked) and it’s a good one. I’ve only listened to the whole thing twice, but what I heard I really liked. It seems, with their realization that radio is not the way to get their music to listeners, they were free from the burden of doing what might sell and instead focus on songs they liked. The difference shows. Sure, there are some typical pop/rock songs from this four-decade old band, but there are some good moments of experimentation. The thing I always loved about the shelved-for-over-a-decade Stone of Sisyphus (1993) album was the band’s realization that they had, within their members, a good number of possible instrumentations: all saxes, all pianos, different types of drums and guitars. Same here. It’s refreshing to hear them stretch their creative muscles when the only people they’re really playing for is themselves. There’s a writing lesson there, too.

The band’s website has all you need to listen to previews and pay only $6! for this great new album.

Friday, July 4, 2014

AJ Hayes Winners -- Colon

In case you missed the first post for the AJ HAYES MEMORIAL WRITING CONTEST results, head to this post or this next one.

Thanks again to all who donated, submitted, and otherwise supported this nod to AJ Hayes.

Congratulations to first place winner, Angel Luis Colon.

1st Place: Angel Luis Colon SHOTGUN WEDDING
3rd Place: Jen Conley THE REPAIRMAN


By Angel Luis Colón

Something Old

Hank and Annie were about as good a pair as lit dynamite and an orphanage. They met at dirty little rub and tug just outside Dallas. He was tired after a long day of drug slinging. She was wearing a Walmart kimono and enough pancake makeup to kill a man twice her size. Only thing they loved more than pawing at each other was that damn methamphetamine—and maybe good old fashioned violence.
Old Nelson Hauer found out about the violence first hand with a rock to the side of the head. He made the mistake of being the Good Samaritan for what looked to be a nice, young couple hitching on the side of Interstate 15, a few miles south of Las Vegas. Last thing he saw was those two kissing the way teenagers would and speeding off in his ’62 Chevy II Nova.

Something New

“There’s Vegas up ahead, baby.” Hank ran his arm under his nose—narrowed his eyes at the red streak running from wrist to elbow. “Excited?”
“We’re getting married,” Annie sing-songed.
“We need some money.” He looked over to his lady love. “That old man have anything in the glove? Revolver or something?”
Annie kicked the compartment open and shook her blonde mop. “Nothing but maps and bullshit pamphlets.” She lifted one of the pamphlets and grimaced at the title, Chlamydia: Do’s and Don’ts.
“Gotta make a pit stop, then. Buckle up.” Hank took his own advice—for a change—kept that pedal down like he was trying to touch the asphalt with his boot.
Two lefts and a right outside of town and he found what he was looking for. Big old sign said ‘Gun Garage’. “Hold tight, lover.” That Nova bull charged into the storefront. Wasn’t a soul in the store, so nobody was hurt—not like Hank would have cared. “Stay in here and give a holler if the law shows up.” He booked it out of the car.
Annie nodded and lit a smoke.
Hank was back lickety-split with twin shotguns—one pink—“For my lady-love.” He offered it like a bouquet.
Annie was all smiles. “That is so god damn cute.”
Back on the road they went.
“So we get money…” Hank paused to light a cigarette. “…then we hit up that fancy chapel you talked about.”
Annie bounced in her seat. “The Little Church of the West Wedding Chapel? Oh, you’re the best.”
“Like I said; we need to hit an ATM.” He pulled the wheel hard and came to a skidding stop in front of a local bank, the lights popping to life inside. “Man the fort. I’ll be out in two minutes.”
Annie loaded her shotgun and winked. “I’ll keep the motor running, baby.”

Something Borrowed

Elena stripped off her wedding dress.  A bright pink shotgun between the eyes was all the provocation she needed.
“Thank you, sweetie.” Annie lowered her aim and clenched the dress in her hand, her press-on nails raking against the delicate polyester mesh of the hem. “Give it right back when I’m finished.”
Hank took hold up duties with his own double barrel while Annie stripped. He took a second to admire that well-rounded derriere of hers and licked his lips. “Hurry on up—need to get out of here and get you into a hotel. Some place higher end like that Days Inn a few miles out.”
“You spoil me.” Annie forced the dress over her waist. She had a full head height over Elena—who stood there mouth agape and shaking like a lapdog.
Her fiancé, Bill, was busy nursing a shoulder full of buckshot—Hank’s way of telling him to stop being a fucking hero. Hank gave him a little kick and smiled. “Fucking flesh wound, champ. Man the fuck up.”
The dress on, Annie lifted her shotgun and aimed it over at the Reverend Joseph Love Parrish IV. “Alrighty—get started, Rev.” She turned to Elena. “You think you and your boyfriend can sign the license as witnesses?”

Something Blue

Two “I do”s, forty miles and thirteen squad cars later—there they were—surrounded on all sides by the boys in blue with a score of gun barrels trained on their sweaty heads.
It was easy enough to find the newly christened Mister and Misses Kapowski. One dead senior citizen, an obliterated store front, five bank tellers and a crying bride in a stretched out dress led the coppers towards I 15 South. No telling the tax payer dollars wasted in all that time.
“Shit.” Hank dumped a sloppy rail on the quivering skin between his thumb and index finger. He brought it to his nose and snorted. Sweat beaded across his brow and made trails down the side of his face. “Shut up,” he muttered.
The police were very insistent the pair came on out with hands up, but truthfully, not a one of them really wanted that to happen. That many itchy trigger fingers needed work to do.
Annie—well—Annie was a little too preoccupied covering up her half naked body and coming down from her high. “Maybe we should listen to them.” She tossed that one into a suggestion box had a hole in the bottom.
“No.” Hank’s eyes were saucer wide. He raised the shotgun. “I’m sorry lady-love, but I ain’t going back.” He turned the barrel, slid that bad boy between his lips and leaned his fingers down against the trigger.
Boys in blue would later argue over whether the sound of that gun popping Hank’s head like a zit was louder than Annie’s screams.
Poor Annie Kapowski—alone, bloodied, and with a ringing in her ears that would take weeks to leave. She raised both hands and a few deputies did her the favor of escorting her out that ruined Nova.
A few steps towards the waiting squad cars and she stopped short with a wince. “Damn, wait a sec. Think I got something in my shoe.”



Angel Luis Colón has landed ass first into crime fiction and is taking a shine to it. His work  has appeared in WeirdYear, Red Fez and Fiction on The Web with forthcoming work due out in Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, All Due Respect and Big Pulp. He hails from the Bronx and works in NYC, but is currently exiled to the wastelands of New Jersey with his family—thankfully; he has access to good beer and single malts. 

You can follow his grumblings on Twitter @HeckChoseMe or be audience to his useless ranting over at

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

AJ Hayes Winners - Nessly

In case you missed the first post for the AJ HAYES MEMORIAL WRITING CONTEST results, head to this earlier post.

Thanks again to all who donated, submitted, and otherwise supported this nod to AJ Hayes.

1st Place: Angel Luis Colon SHOTGUN WEDDING

3rd Place: Jen Conley THE REPAIRMAN


By Ray Nessly

For Bill (AJ) Hayes & Thury Hayes

See a little town in southern California, not far from the border, December, 1964. That bank on the corner? Inside, a bunch of folks are waiting in line. But the only ones that matter are Mr. and Mrs. Bill ("don't ask him his real name") Hayes.
Good looking couple. Young, ambitious. Newly wed in '62. And smart. They understand the opportunities inherent in a bank managed in absentia by a lard ass bozo who loves three-hour lunches.
Bill believes in practice runs. The books he loves preach it hard. The movies too. First step, the stakeout.
"See, hon? Manager's gone," Bill says, a trace of Virginia in his voice, sweet n' smoky. He tilts his head, indicating the security guard. "And the guy catnapping on his stool? Manager's cousin. Big butts run in the family!"
"Keep it down," she whispers. She's not so sure about this. They've knocked off filling stations, mom and pop stores, lemonade stands. But a bank?
"Okay, T, we've seen enough." He calls her "T"—or better yet, "hon" or "toots"—if he calls her anything at all. If he blurts out her real name during a job, they're goners. The only girl in the world with that name.
Sometimes she calls him "Billy." Usually, it's just plain "Bill." Lots of those around. The country is lousy with Bills.
He hates the name on his birth certificate. No wonder.
Go ahead, press him. All you'll get are initials.
Time to practice the getaway now. (Can't practice the holdup itself, right?) Bill opens the door for her, and they step outside.
Wasn't raining before. It's capital r Raining now.
"Good omen!"
"Okay, I'll bite," she says. "How so?"
"Two things. One, it hardly ever rains around here, right? So bet you anything it won't be raining come curtain time!"
"And . . . ?"
"Two, we gotta practice running down the street to the car, right? Well, nobody's gonna wonder what we're up to. It's raining! Hard!"
They bolt down the street to the '39 Chevy, green. The corner of a tarp hangs from the trunk, just enough to obscure the rear license plate. They hop in; the rain stops. Another omen, she supposes.
Bill in the driver seat, T riding shotgun. "Okay, let's take the first right," he yells. "Way I figure it? We'll clear this corner before Big Boy gets his second cheek off his stool. Ha! I like that. You?" He turns on the radio. "Music, hon?"
It's Johnny Cash, mid-song. The Ballad of Ira Hayes. Big hit that year.
"Any relation?" she jokes.
"Could be. I have some injun in me. Who doesn't? . . . Hey, let's practice some alleys!" He yanks the steering wheel, tires squealing like Virginia hogs. "Okay, let's open 'er up"—stomping the throttle—"Whoa, move yer tail, mister kitty cat!"
Is the cat okay? she wonders.
More important, that funny feeling . . .
Eyes. Following their every move. As if a movie camera's in the backseat, poking the back of her head, hard as a shotgun barrel.
She turns around.  Nothing on the backseat but pulp novels. And on the floor, empty beers and crumpled packs of Winston reds.
He's up to three beers and one pack a day lately. Not too bad. No call for concern.
Johnny on the radio: drunken Ira Hayes . . .
"Billy, did you know Peter La Farge wrote that song?"  
"Oh sure. Met him, in fact."
 Johnny's done singing. A Winston ad comes on. She turns the radio off.
"Gotta tell you, Bill, I just had this weird feeling. It was like that movie we saw. Newlyweds rob a bank. They're in their getaway car, and—"
"Oh sure. Gun Crazy. 1950. John Dall and Peggy, um . . . don't tell me. Cummins."
She laughs. "Is there anybody on the planet with a better memory than yours?"
"Oh, probably. Okay, that's enough alley practice for—oh shit, another cat?!" He brakes, the Chevy fishtailing, the right rear fender like the open fist of God, slapping down trash cans. The Chevy slides to a stop. Engine's stalled.  
Bill rolls the window down. A couple of barking dogs is all. "Nobody's come a-runnin. Good."
 He turns the key. Sucker won't start.
"Great," she says.
"It's another omen, Thur—" He almost blurts it out.
"It's God—or something—telling us we need a backup car!"
"Car trouble insurance. Case in point right here. Plus, when you hop in your backup car? The heat's still looking for the first one!"
"Where do we get another car?"
"Your mom's'll do nicely."
"You're outta your mind."
"No. Am. Not."
"Bill? We're not getting my mom involved!"


He hasn't said a word for three minutes! He's shooting for the record, she figures.
"You're not cut out to be a bank robber."
A dog barks. Barks again.
Dog's done. Bill's quiet. She's quiet. It's uncommonly quiet inside their Chevy.  
"This car's been good to us," he says at last. "But I've got my eye on a new El Camino. Wanna know why?"
"Okay," he says, opening the door. "Guess I'll have to fix this one. Again!"
Hood goes up. Couple minutes later, he's back inside, about to turn the key.
"Hold on," she says.
"Give up this bank robber shit. Get a job fixing cars. Stick to the theoretical side of robbing stuff."
"Just write about it. Stories. Like those pulps in the backseat."
Shrug. "Meh. I dunno."
"Tell you what. Turn that key. If the car starts up? Get a job. If it doesn't? Knock off that bank. Deal?"
Is he stalling? Or thinking it through?
"On three, Bill?"
He nods his head, then,
 "Ready, hon? One, two . . . "    


Ray Nessly hails from Seattle but since '82 has parked his butt in a little town east of San Diego. Whilst butt-parking, he pounds on a computer keyboard as music plays in the background and two cats fight over lap rights. 

AJ Hayes Winners - Conley

Earlier this year, we lost a talented writer and magnificent crime fiction community member. When AJ Hayes passed away, we wanted some way to honor his memory, so we came up with a flash fiction challenge in his name.


Holly West, Eric Beetner, and I put out the call and read through many, many submissions.

The winners were announced at the recent Noir at the Bar in LA. Read more (with pics!) here.

We had, as I mentioned, dozens and dozens of submissions, thanks in large part to the love and admiration folks had for AJ Hayes and for the generous donations people made for the prize money.

Today and tomorrow, we're running the three winners of the contest so that you can enjoy their fantastic prose.

Thanks again to all who donated, submitted, and otherwise supported this nod to AJ Hayes.

1st place $100, 2nd place $50, 3rd place $25.

1st Place: Angel Luis Colon SHOTGUN WEDDING


3rd Place: Jen Conley THE REPAIRMAN


The Repairman 
by Jen Conley

On a November afternoon, when Erin Lewis was on maternity leave, a repairman arrived on her doorstep holding a large gray tool bag. She was expecting him because her husband had arranged for the dishwasher to be fixed. His dirty white truck sat in her driveway under a heavy gray sky.
“I’m a little late,” the repairman explained and although the voice was perfectly normal, something about it nagged at her.
“It’s fine,” she said and stood back to let him in.
“Just in there?” he asked, nodding towards the kitchen down the hall. When he passed by, his scent made Erin shudder. She couldn’t place it, but somewhere deep inside a dark bell went off.
In the kitchen, the repairman placed his bag on the floor next to the dishwasher. She asked if her husband had described the trouble.
“Yep.” He swung around and underneath the roughened skin, the graying beard and balding head, underneath the girth of his large body, she suddenly saw who he really was: Bill Vinson. She was thirty-eight years old, lucky to have gone through therapy and lucky to have pulled her wrecked mind together and lucky to have met Kevin on a train to New York and set up this life: a nice marriage, a decent colonial house to live in, and a healthy two-month-old daughter.  I was worried about you but you did good, her mother said often.
Now this man, Bill Vinson, stood in her kitchen with his tool bag and his repairman’s clothes, smelling slightly of stale alcohol. He must drink at night before bed, Erin thought.
“Cooking dinner?” he asked, eyeing the raw chicken next to the cutting board. An onion and two carrots lay next to it.
“Yes,” she said.
“Well don’t let me get in your way. Just tell me to move. I’m easy as a summer breeze.”
He turned and bent down in front of the dishwasher. She had a sudden urge to kick him.
But then, from the sound of the baby monitor, Erin heard her sleeping daughter move.
“Let’s see…” he said.
Erin walked to the far counter and withdrew the long knife from the holder. The knives were new and sharp. She returned to the cutting board and began to chop the carrots which had been peeled earlier. She went down hard, making little dents in the wooden board. Her daughter moved again but Erin continued cutting.
“This is an easy fix,” the man muttered.
Erin picked up the onion, hacked off the sides, and ripped off the outer layer. Within seconds, she was chopping it to pieces.
“Now don’t cry,” she heard him say.
She stopped cutting. He was standing behind her.
“Onions,” he said.
Her bones rattled.
“I gotta get something in the truck.”
Erin said nothing.
When he was gone, she looked up and stared through the kitchen window. The backyard trees rocked in a gentle wind. The memory returned: she was fourteen, locked in a room with Bill Vinson, a twenty-year-old, still hanging out at high school parties. She’d told her mother that she had gone to her friend Jamie’s house and Jamie had told her parents they were going to the movies. There was liquor and Bill was cute and he was talking to her about the band Molly Hatchet and soon they were in a room, her shirt undone. Then it went bad. She was too small to fight it off. She cried and asked him to stop but her head was spinning from the booze. To make things even more horrid, when he was done, someone popped out of the closet and snapped pictures of her on the bed. She never did figure out who took the photos for the room was dark and the flash popped three times, brightening the walls for each wretched moment, Bill and the mystery guy snickering. They left her there in tears. She managed to get out and get home, her mother finding out days later when Erin confessed she was worried about pregnancy. It turned out she was lucky.
Now Bill was whistling. Erin lifted the plate with the raw chicken and slid it onto the wooden board. She began slashing through the meat, piece after piece. Her daughter moved again and let out a brief whimper. Erin looked at Bill, crouched like a gopher, fiddling with the dishwasher. She returned her focus to the chicken and began to hack at the meat. Years of pain. Embarrassment. Kids had found out, had seen the photos, and she’d been teased and labeled a whore. “It’s nothing new,” her mother had said sadly when Erin cried to her. “It has always happened to young women.” Life had been thrown off, as if she were kicked off the paved road, thrown to the side. She suffered.
Now she could slice his throat. Stand behind him and take her knife and cut straight through. Blood would spurt against the open dishwasher, gush to the tiled floor. His body would droop, slip down, die.
How she had been shamed and had lived with it. He deserved this death, she thought, standing behind him, the knife in her hand. He deserved it.
Bill scratched the back of his head. Muttered to himself.
She stepped closer. How she had wished for this moment. How she had sat with her tears, her fury, all those years ago. I want him dead. Dead.
She moved closer. The hair thin on his skull.
Her daughter moved.
Erin licked her lips, gripped the knife’s handle.
There was a little murmur from the monitor, a little cry.
Then Bill Vinson slowly turned his head and saw Erin holding the knife. His big body fell back against the counter and he sat cornered, his hands up. “Whoa, whatever I did…”
His eyes flickered and she knew he recognized her.
And that was good enough.
She put the knife down.
Her daughter’s wail bellowed through the monitor.


Jen Conley's stories have appeared in Thuglit, Needle, Beat to a Pulp, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter, Grand Central Noir, Big Pulp, Literary Orphans, All Due Respect, Protectors, Plots With Guns, Yellow Mama, All Due Respect and others. An editor at Shotgun Honey, she’s been nominated for a Best of the Web Spinetingler Award and shortlisted for Best American Mystery Stories 2012. She lives with her son in Brick, New Jersey. Follow her on twitter @jenconley45

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Canada Day

In typical Canadian fashion we snuck this holiday in a few days before the Fourth of July so you wouldn’t really notice.

Of course, we all remember the exciting battles of the Canadian Revolution, the high seas adventure as the British Navy and the Canadian forces fought for…

Oh, right, Canada wasn’t born out of a great victory over the forces of an oppressive foreign monarch. Canada was born out of boring meetings and dull negotiations by these guys:


Look at them, I think some of them are nodding off. And Sir John A. MacDonald could only get through the meetings if he was drunk.

A few years ago we had a TV show to name the “Greatest Canadian.” You know who won? The guy who came up with Medicare.

We also had a contest to name the greatest wonders of Canada. Which was won by the canoe. Yeah, that’s right, the canoe. Probably because it’s used in our official Canadian joke: “Why is American beer like making love in a canoe? Because it’s fucking close to water.”

Actually what the contest said about the canoe was: “Early explorers and voyageurs took their cue from the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, utilizing the canoe as the most versatile and reliable mode of transportation. We received many nominations making this important historical link between the establishment of European culture and industry in Canada, and the canoe.”

That sounds about right, Canadians trying to make a link between people.

So, today’s a good day to read some Canadian crime fiction like Hilary Davidson or Owen Laukkanen or Mike Knowles or Dietrich Kalties or Vicki Delany or Linwood Barclay or Howard Shrier or, sort of, Sean Chercover.

Some of those you probably didn’t even know were Canadian. Don’t worry about it, that’s the plan. We’re slowly taking over. This documentary spilled the beans a while ago but luckily, like most things from Canada, no one took it seriously.

Happy Canada Day.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Upcoming releases

Here are some of the upcoming releases I'm looking forward to.

The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past... while a world goes to war with itself.

In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy.

Stretching from desolate tundra to steamy, semi-tropical climes seething with sentient plant life, this is an epic tale of blood mages and mercenaries, emperors and priestly assassins who must unite to save a world on the brink of ruin.

As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked with holding together a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father's people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Through tense alliances and devastating betrayal, the Dhai and their allies attempt to hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

In the end, one world will rise - and many will perish.

The Mad and the Bad  by Jean-Patrick Manchette:

Michel Hartog, a sometime architect, is a powerful businessman and famous philanthropist whose immense  fortune has just grown that much greater following the death of his brother in an accident. Peter is his orphaned nephew—a spoiled brat. Julie is in an insane asylum. Thompson is a hired gunman with a serious ulcer. Michel hires Julie to look after Peter. And he hires Thompson to kill them. Julie and Peter escape. Thompson pursues. Bullets fly. Bodies accumulate.

The craziness is just getting started.

Like Jean-Patrick Manchette’s celebrated Fatale, The Mad and the Bad is a clear-eyed, cold-blooded, pitch-perfect work of creative destruction.

Perfidia by James Ellroy:

The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor. The United States teeters on the edge of war. The roundup of allegedly treasonous Japanese Americans is about to begin. And in L.A., a Japanese family is found dead. Murder or ritual suicide? The investigation will draw four people into a totally Ellroy-ian tangle: a brilliant Japanese American forensic chemist; an unsatisfiably adventurous young woman; one police officer based in fact (William H. "Whiskey Bill" Parker, later to become the groundbreaking chief of the LAPD), the other the product of Ellroy's inimitable imagination (Dudley Smith, arch villain of The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, White Jazz). As their lives intertwine, we are given a story of war and of consuming romance, a searing exposé of the Japanese internment, and an astonishingly detailed homicide investigation. In Perfidia, Ellroy delves more deeply than ever before into his characters' intellectual and emotional lives. But it has the full-strength, unbridled story-telling audacity that has marked all the acclaimed work of the "Demon Dog of American Crime Fiction."

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell:

An elegant conjurer of interconnected tales, a genre-bending daredevil, and master prose stylist, David Mitchell has become one of the leading literary voices of his generation. His hypnotic new novel, The Bone Clocks, crackles with invention and wit—it is fiction at its most spellbinding and memorable.

Following a scalding row with her mother, fifteen-year-old Holly Sykes slams the door on her old life. But Holly is no typical teenage runaway: A sensitive child once contacted by voices she knew only as “the radio people,” Holly is a lightning rod for psychic phenomena. Now, as she wanders deeper into the English countryside, visions and coincidences reorder her reality until they assume the aura of a nightmare brought to life.

For Holly has caught the attention of a cabal of dangerous mystics—and their enemies. But her lost weekend is merely the prelude to a shocking disappearance that leaves her family irrevocably scarred. This unsolved mystery will echo through every decade of Holly’s life, affecting all the people Holly loves—even the ones who are not yet born.

A Cambridge scholarship boy grooming himself for wealth and influence, a conflicted father who feels alive only while reporting on the war in Iraq, a middle-aged writer mourning his exile from the bestseller list—all have a part to play in this surreal, invisible war on the margins of our world. From the medieval Swiss Alps to the nineteenth-century Australian bush, from a hotel in Shanghai to a Manhattan townhouse in the near future, their stories come together in moments of everyday grace and extraordinary wonder.

Rich with character and realms of possibility, The Bone Clocks is a kaleidoscopic novel that begs to be taken apart and put back together by a writer The Washington Post calls “the novelist who’s been showing us the future of fiction.”

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes:

Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit's standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams?

If you're Detective Versado's geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you're desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you're Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you'll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe--and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world.

If Lauren Beukes's internationally bestselling The Shining Girls was a time-jumping thrill ride through the past, her Broken Monsters is a genre-redefining thriller about broken cities, broken dreams, and broken people trying to put themselves back together again.

Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg:

Sal Cupertine is a legendary hit man for the Chicago Mafia, known for his ability to get in and out of a crime without a trace. Until now, that is. His first-ever mistake forces Sal to botch an assassination, killing three undercover FBI agents in the process. This puts too much heat on Sal, and he knows this botched job will be his death sentence to the Mafia. So he agrees to their radical idea to save his own skin.

A few surgeries and some intensive training later, and Sal Cupertine is gone, disappeared into the identity of Rabbi David Cohen. Leading his growing congregation in Las Vegas, overseeing the population and the temple and the new cemetery, Rabbi Cohen feels his wicked past slipping away from him, surprising even himself as he spouts quotes from the Torah or the Old Testament. Yet, as it turns out, the Mafia isn't quite done with him yet. Soon the new cemetery is being used as both a money and body-laundering scheme for the Chicago family. And that rogue FBI agent on his trail, seeking vengeance for the murder of his three fellow agents, isn't going to let Sal fade so easily into the desert.

Gangsterland is the wickedly dark and funny new novel by a writer at the height of his power – a morality tale set in a desert landscape as ruthless and barren as those who inhabit it.

Echo Lake by Letiitia Trent:

30-something Emily Collins inherits her recently murdered Aunt's house, deciding to move to Heartshorne, Oklahoma, to claim it and confront her family's dark past after her dead mother begins speaking to her in dreams, propelling this gothic, neo-noir thriller toward terrifying revelations of murderous small-town justice when a horrible community secret is revealed through the supernatural pull of Echo Lake.

Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll:

In Jonathan Carroll's surreal masterpiece, Bathing the Lion, five people who live in the same New England town go to sleep one night and all share the same hyper-realistic dream. Some of these people know each other; some don’t. 

When they wake the next day all of them know what has happened. All five were at one time “mechanics,” a kind of cosmic repairman whose job is to keep order in the universe and clean up the messes made both by sentient beings and the utterly fearsome yet inevitable Chaos that periodically rolls through, wreaking mayhem wherever it touches down—a kind of infinitely powerful, merciless tornado. Because the job of a mechanic is grueling and exhausting, after a certain period all of them are retired and sent to different parts of the cosmos to live out their days as "civilians." Their memories are wiped clean and new identities are created for them that fit the places they go to live out their natural lives to the end.

For the first time all retired mechanics are being brought back to duty:  Chaos has a new plan, and it's not looking good for mankind...

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce:

David, a college student, takes a summer job at a run-down family resort in a dying English resort town. This is against the wishes of his family . . . because it was at this resort where David's biological father disappeared fifteen years earlier. But something undeniable has called David there.

A deeper otherworldliness lies beneath the surface of what we see. The characters have a suspicious edge to them . . . David is haunted by eerie visions of a mysterious man carrying a rope, walking hand-in-hand with a small child . . . and the resort is under siege by a plague of ladybugs. Something different is happening in this town.

When David gets embroiled in a fiercely torrid love triangle, the stakes turn more and more menacing. And through it all, David feels as though he is getting closer to the secrets of his own past.

This is a darkly magic and sexy book that has a strong suspense line running through it. It's destined to continue to pull in a wider circle of readers for the exceptionally talented Graham Joyce.

There are others but this is a good start.

How about you, what upcoming releases are you looking forward to? Have you read any of these?


Sunday, June 29, 2014

The K9 Who Saved My Life

I have a little true crime story for you today.
Once upon a time a police dog saved my life.
It happened shortly after I moved out of an apartment a block from Seal Beach into a house full of artists in Los Angeles.
My new neighborhood was home to one of the nation’s most dangerous gangs, the Mara Salvatrucha. Our house, like every other house on the block had bars on the windows and a barred screen door with double deadbolts.
So, you might think this story about a police dog saving my life has to do with living in the gangbanger neighborhood, where drug deals and police helicopters were part of the landscape.
One Sunday afternoon, I headed back down to the waitressing job I still had in Seal Beach. I needed some money for a road trip I was taking early the next morning. Withdrawing a fist full of cash in my new, gangbanger neighborhood didn’t seem like a smart idea, so I decided to stop at my old ATM in bucolic Seal Beach.
The parking lot of the bank was deserted. As I got out of my car, I vaguely registered the noise of police sirens, but didn’t really pay attention. As I fiddled with the ATM, the sound grew closer.
I looked up. Across the parking lot, a man was running toward me with something in his hand that flashed in the setting sun. A dog with ears bent back, was right on his heels. I didn’t really understand what I was seeing.
In a fog, acting by instinct only, I started walking toward my car, still not comprehending what was going on, only acting on some primal, biological, survival instinct. Everything was in slow motion.
When the man and the dog were about ten feet away from me, I saw the shiny thing in the man’s hand was a knife. Just then, the dog attacked him and in a flurry of snarls and shouts, they rolled on the ground.
At the other end of the large parking lot, a group of police officers rounded the corner on foot, panting. Squad cars with flashing lights and sirens followed. At the same moment, I heard the heart-stopping thump-thump-thump of a low-hovering helicopter before I saw it round the corner above the charging mass.
After what seemed like an eternity of fumbling with my keys, I finally unlocked the door to my car and tumbled in, frantically locking the door behind me. I sat frozen, staring through my windshield at the struggle in front of me.
The man got up and ran toward me in my car. Behind him, the dog lay still, a small bundle of fur that was not moving. About six police officers caught up to the man just as he reached the front of my car. With guns drawn, they made a semi-circle around him and the hood of my car.
Straight across from me, the black muzzle of a gun pointed my way. My only thought was if the man ducked, the officer pointing that gun would accidentally shoot me.
Within seconds, the police had tackled the man in a blur of shouting and motion. When the crowd parted, he was facedown and handcuffed.
Behind me, the helicopter had set down in the parking lot. Everyone was running around shouting. One of the officers ran up to my window and shouted for me to get the hell out of there.
So, of course I did.
The next morning early, I took a planned road trip to Northern California.
A week later, when I got back, I asked my friends if they had heard anything about a police dog getting stabbed. They told me the funeral of the K9 had been all over the news.
I didn't really think about it again until years later.
When I did, it didn't take a lot of online researching to find out more. The dog who saved my life was from the Huntington Beach Police Department. His name was KIM. Many years back, I emailed the police officer who was his handler and shared the story of how I was convinced deep in my bones that his partner, Kim, had saved my life that day.
Here’s an article the LA Times ran about the incident.
Here is what the Huntington Beach Police Department website says about KIM
End of Watch: March 26, 1991
On Sunday, March 26, 1991, shortly after 5:00PM, Officer Jim Weaver and his canine partner were involved in a high speed pursuit into Seal Beach. At the end of the chase, the suspect tried to escape on foot and ignored repeated demands to surrender. KIM was released and chased the suspect overtaking him in a nearby parking lot.
Once on the ground, the suspect stabbed KIM several times causing major injuries to the dog. The suspect finally surrendered to officers and was charged with multiple crimes. Due to his extensive injuries, KIM died a short time later. KIM was 5 1/2 years old and served the HBPD for two years.