Saturday, January 27, 2018

Who Writes Books Inspired by the Golden Age of Detective Fiction?

Scott D. Parker

I can’t recall why I bought P. D. James’s slim volume TALKING ABOUT DETECTIVE FICTION but I’m sure glad I did. It’s been on my shelf, unread, since 2014, but as part of my mindful reading regimen—to say nothing of my lovely new commute here in Houston—I knocked out the audio in record time.

As James points out in her introduction, this book resulted from a request to speak about the history of detective fiction. She takes us through a history of the genre, starting mainly with Sherlock Holmes and Father Brown, with a nod to Edgar Allen Poe’s C. August Dupin. Most of this section of the book covers ground I pretty much knew, but I appreciated James’s viewpoint.

After a necessary but brief examination of Dashielle Hammett and Raymond Chandler, it is when James migrates to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction (i.e., between the world wars) that the book really took off. I’m not as familiar with stalwarts like Agatha Christie or Dorothy L. Sayers so I soaked in as much as I could. I find myself actually wanting to read a book or two from these expert practitioners.

And that is where yall come in.

I’m mostly familiar with crime novels. You know the ones: Lehane, Connolly, Pelecanos, and the other folks here at Do Some Damage. In addition, with the true Golden Age of Detective Fiction nearing the century mark, those author names are pretty well known.

But what about nowadays?

Who are the authors who have picked up the baton of the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and are carrying it into the 21st Century? Who are the big names? Who are the new indie names? I want to expand my reading in 2018 and I want to read more of this type of fiction.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The End.

Is there any more frustrating experience for a reader than loving a book, being totally engaged and excited, and then hitting a terrible, ridiculous ending that feels tacked on and robs all the previous weight from the novel?

You know what I'm talking about - the trick endings.

It was a dream the whole time!

Ha! Actually this book is science fiction!

There's a twist - she's really a ghost!

I'm not talking about purely bad books. Bad books don't fool a seasoned reader. You read for awhile, understand that it is bad, and you make the choice to be a completist and finish, or set it aside and read something else from the TBR pile that's threatening to take over your home. But a good book that turns bad fools you. It steals time. You make excuses to turn one more page, to stay up five more minutes, you fall asleep with the book in your hands and it hits you in the face. You lug the heavy thing around, all so you can get to the end of this amazing book! You feel so lucky to have it!

And then, you start to notice things change. You note spots where the writing doesn't quite make sense, or the protagonist starts to behave out of character. You understand what is about to happen, but you hope against hope that you're wrong.

I have to believe these books are the result of a pantser writer getting to a spot where they don't know where to go next and just running with the first idea that comes to mind. I also have to believe that there is a large number of people who enjoy these cheap "twist" endings, otherwise so many of these books wouldn't get published.

But please, I am begging you, if you write, don't be that writer. I feel betrayed every time. I'm still pissed off about a bad "surprise" ending I read on January 2nd.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Pod Tide Challenge

By Steve Weddle

Let me challenge you to add some podcasts to your life.

In fact, many new podcasts have been washing up here on the beaches of the DoSomeDamage HQ. Must be the old pod tide we've been hearing about from the kids.

Yesterday, the lovely and talented S.W. Lauden stopped by the DSD studios to pimp his latest podcast project, Books on the Bus. This will be Lauden's solo project, and you already know the work he and Eric Beetner have been doing with the Writer Types podcast.

Earlier this week, Ben LeRoy and Amphetazine droped the 14th episode of the American Trash podcast, featuing an interview with Liberty Hardy of BookRiot.

If you like books, this has been a great week for podcasts.

You already know about The Defectives, hosted by Jay Stringer (DSD's co-founder) and Chantelle Aimée Osman, of Quick and Dirty fame.

And don't forget the true-crime podcast The Long Dance, from Eryk Pruitt and company.

In addition to those, here are some other podcasts I subscribe to and would suggeset for your earholes:

Back to Work, with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin
Back to Work is an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more. Hosted by Merlin Mann & Dan Benjamin.

KCRW's Bookworm with Michael Silverblatt
Intellectual, accessible, and provocative literary conversations.
Silverblatt is an impressive, insightful reader, often surprsing the author by noticing elements just under the surface or themes running through the book that the author hadn't consciously considered.

Darknet Diaries
Darknet Diaries explores true stories from the dark side of the Internet. Stories about hackers, infosec, online security, and the Internet.

Free Agents
David Sparks and Jason Snell spent their careers working for the establishment. Then one day, they’d had enough. Now they are independent workers, learning what it takes to succeed in the 21st century. They are… free agents.

I Have to Ask
As Slate’s resident interrogator, Isaac Chotiner has tangled with Newt Gingrich and gotten personal with novelist Jonathan Franzen. Now he’s bringing his pointed and smart interview style to the new podcast “I Have to Ask.” Isaac will talk one-on-one with newsmakers, celebrities, and cultural icons to help us better understand them and our world.

Men in Blazers
We discuss football. And wear blazers. Usually at the same time. Men in Blazers is driven by the belief that Soccer is America’s Sport of the Future. As it has been since 1972.

Part-Time Genius
Tune in each week to learn whether you should be washing your bananas (you should), whether freezing your body is a better value than freezing just your head (it isn't), and what James Bond has to do with tax laws (everything!) in this podcast from HowStuffWorks.

Reply All
Reply All is an American podcast from Gimlet Media, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. It features stories about how people shape the internet, and how the internet shapes people.

Sports? with Katie Nolan
Sports? with Katie Nolan is a weekly show about sports and all the things tangentially related to sports. Its friends would describe it as "curious," "fun," and "a podcast." Weekly guests will include sports fans from all sorts of industries: comedy, film, television, science?

The Sword and Laser
The Sword and Laser (a.k.a. Sword & Laser) is a science fiction and fantasy podcast, video show on YouTube, and book club founded by Tom Merritt and Veronica Belmont in October, 2007.

The Tony Kornheiser Show
This show stinks.

Unregistered with Thaddeus Russell
A show about what you're not supposed to say. Thaddeus Russell, author of A Renegade History of the United States, interviews people who break the rules of conventional discourse and expand the realm of the possible.

Writing Excuses
Now in its 12th season, Writing Excuses is a podcast hosted by authors Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal and web cartoonist Howard Tayler. Promoted as "Fifteen minutes long, because you're in a hurry, and we're not that smart," the four hosts and guests discuss different topics involved in the creation and production of genre writing and webcomics.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Rock, Reading... and Podcasts

Guest Post by S.W. Lauden

It happened in the early 80s. I was a pre-teen, heavy metal dirt bag-in-training when some forward-thinking neighborhood teens played me a few songs from "In God We Trust, Inc." by Dead Kennedys. It may not have been the exact moment when everything changed for me, but it was pivotal. Music became my identity soon after that, for better and for worse.

I continued listening to the 70s rock and glam metal my older brothers fed me, easily floating up and down the radio dial from classic country to new wave and everything in between, but punk rock really captured my imagination. It was the springboard into a universe of art, culture, and ideas that I never knew existed.

Even when my tastes evolved and I followed my ears into glam rock, alternative rock, and grunge, punk rock continued to inform my worldview. A lot of that is on display in my Greg Salem punk rock P.I. trilogy including BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION (2015), GRIZZLY SEASON (2016), and HANG TIME, which was released last week.

I've blogged about my musical background and tastes in previous posts, but I haven't explained how punk rock also led me to read for pleasure. I don't know about you, but the two are inextricably linked in my mind. Black Flag and Kurt Vonnegut go together like peanut butter and jelly. Coffee and cigarettes!

I spent countless after school hours bouncing between a fantastic used record store run by some of the same punks I read about in Flipside magazine, and a hippie-dippy bookstore a couple of blocks from the beach (with a cat in the window, duh). My mind had been blown open, creating a gaping counter-cultural wormhole that led me to writers like Jack Kerouac, Raymond Chandler, William S. Burroughs, Dashiell Hammett, and Charles Bukowski.

By the time I got to college, I discovered spoken word performances by former Black Flag frontman, Henry Rollins, and Dead Kennedys founder, Jello Biafra. I also saw writers like Spalding Gray, Jim Carroll, and Michael McClure. It blew my mind that musicians were making words and that authors could perform their works like musicians.

Rock and reading have long been two of my biggest obsessions, but I have discovered a third in the last few years—podcasts. Radio shows like Somewhere Out There with Joe Frank, This American Life, and Radiolab were my gateway drugs. Once in the podcast universe, I quickly expanded to WTF with Marc Maron, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Cracked, Re:sound, Freakonomics, and Snap Judgement. Lately, I’ve been digging Desert Oracle Radio, Kurt Vonneguys, and The Hilarious World of Depression. And you better believe I grab tickets when I hear my favorite podcasts are doing live shows around LA.

It was a discussion about our favorite podcasts that compelled Eric Beetner and me to create the monthly crime and mystery podcast, Writer Types. And now my podcast fascination has led me to a new solo project that I’m calling Books on the Bus—a five-part podcast mini-series about the intersection of rock and reading. Each episode features a musician sharing about their favorite books and authors, how books inspire their lyrics, the best rock biographies, and what they like to read on the road—in addition to some unexpected tangents. A new episode will be posted daily between January 29 and Friday, February 2 over on the Rare Bird Radio podcast platform.

To say that this project brings together all of my favorite things would be a huge understatement. My guests include:
  • Jeff Whalen—Tsar
  • Joey Cape—Lagwagon, Me First & The Gimme Gimmes
  • Todd Pasternack—Ominous Seapods, author of LESSONS FROM THE ROAD: MUSICIANS AS BUSINESS LEADER
  • Marko DeSantis—Sugarcult, Bad Astronaut
  • Jim Lindberg—Pennywise, author of PUNK ROCK DAD 

I’m so excited about this project that I’ve prepared a sneak preview for you. Hope you dig it!


S.W. Lauden is the Anthony Award-nominated author of the Tommy & Shayna novellas, CROSSWISE and CROSSED BONES (Down & Out Books). His Greg Salem punk rock P.I. series includes BAD CITIZEN CORPORATION, GRIZZLY SEASON and HANG TIME (Rare Bird Books). He is also the co-host of the Writer Types podcast. Steve lives in Los Angeles.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Topical, Not Topical, Topical

Scott's Note:  Dana King has a new novel out - Bad Samaritan, from Down and Out Books. It's the 5th in his Nick Forte series, and this time the private investigator gets mixed up with the world of men's rights activists.  

You know this is going to be a case that takes some decidedly ugly turns.

Dana has appeared here before, a couple of times, so I don't think he needs much more of an introduction.

Dana, tell me about that book:

It’s foolish for a writer with my footprint in the industry to write anything too topical. Whatever catches my fancy will no longer be topical—possibly not even remembered—by the time I write the book and get it published, which takes close to three years in my case. (A year to a year-and-a-half to write, then working with the publisher, then getting a spot on the schedule.) It’s not like Michael Wolff dishing the dirt on the Trump administration, where the book can be on shelves weeks after he finishes the writing. There’s not that kind of demand.

That’s not to say I don’t write anything topical. I just try to focus more on how the controversy affects the people in the universe I’m writing in. A few years ago I was at a conference when author C. J. Ellison spoke about how many woman writers, especially in her genre, have to not only use pseudonyms but go to some lengths to keep their real names out of the public domain. It’s a safety issue. This struck me as the kind of thing up with which Nick Forte would not put, so notes were made for a story I could write when I finished whatever I was working on at the time.

Men’s rights advocates were all over the news by the time I got around to plotting the book. I honestly don’t remember why they had people particularly revved up that time. Could have been a mass shooting by one of their ilk, or Gamergate. Something smelly like that. It seemed a perfect tie-in to the idea C.J. had generated and allowed me to explore a little of the darkness that had been creeping into the Forte character. Timeliness didn’t enter into it, except for the coincidence of MRAs being in the news when I was casting about for the rug to tie the story together.

The trick of writing a book about something topical—especially something that can be viewed as a “right and wrong” issue—is not to make it into a diatribe. I once read a book by a well-known author that was so heavy-handed in pushing his point of view I almost didn’t finish it. And I agreed with him. It’s okay to have a point of view—all books need a vision—but the author’s job is not to make sure the readers know what he or she thinks. If a writer wants to get a point across, our job is to get the readers to think about aspects of the issue by entertaining them. Don’t shove it down their throats. They’ll gag on it. If you truly believe you’re on the side of the angels, lay out the arguments as even-handedly as you can. Readers will get it.

As fate would have it, Bad Samaritan comes out just as the #metoo movement hits its stride and the kinds of things women are subjected to are brought into the light from a somewhat different angle. I hope the book entertains, and I hope it also gets people to think a little. I don’t care if they agree with me. The best result would be for people to disagree about where I personally stand on the matter based on their own perspectives. Maybe argue about it. Call me names.

It matters far less to me what people think of the book—or of me—than it matters that I get them to think at all. The best books are those that entertain and leave something to think about after the immediate gratification of the entertainment had worn off. That’s a goal worth shooting for.

You can get Bad Samaritan on Amazon here.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Happy 10th Anniversary to Noir at the Bar!

What is Noir at the Bar?

Noir at the Bar functions feature both local and international crime fiction authors reading their work before a live audience. 

Truth be told, my initial attempt to jump into a N@B reading felt very covert. Mysterious. I reached out to a writer - friend I knew had participated in the events. This friend said to message another friend and that friend "might know someone who knows something."

I began to wonder if N@B was actually code for something far more nefarious. "First rule of N@B is never talk about N@B." Would we be expected to beat the brains out of each other in front of sweaty, cheering patrons?  More importantly, would the audience throw money at the winner? Or would the night end with writers taking part in a ritualistic group-branding? 

Fortunately, there were no forced tattoos and the only violence happened in the dark stories told. 

Noir at the Bar is a chance for writers to connect and readers to discover. 

In 2008 Peter Rozovsky organized the inaugural Noir at the Bar in Philadelphia. The idea was a success and soon Jedidiah Ayres, Eric Beetner, Glenn Gray, Scott Phillips and Todd Robinson had taken up the flag, allowing the concept to spread coast to coast.

Ten years later, Noir at the Bar events have been held in cities around the country and world, including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Vancouver, and many more.

Washington D.C. host Ed Aymar and Baltimore organizer Nik Korpon are currently organizing the Second Annual N@B Crawl with reading events taking place on a single weekend up and down the east coast. The Crime-Fiction version of a Phish tour. Maybe.

Events can take place in a bookstore or a pub. Several writers can read or only one. There might be a question and answer component or perhaps it becomes a themed event. Published and unpublished writers gather together to hear new ideas and stories. Fans of the genre meet new favorites. Communicating and socializing, unnatural and disgusting when first considered, can be advantageous, if not pleasant. 

My first Noir at the Bar was Washington, D.C. almost two years ago. E. A. Aymar was the host and organizer. It was a great night and led to Ed Aymar asking me to assist in organizing the first Virginia function. New cities are climbing on board.

Noir at the Bar is one of my favorite events, professionally and personally. I highly suggest all hobbits, I mean writers, budding and otherwise, get involved. 

Upcoming Dates
  • New York City, New York - February 18 
  • Richmond, Virginia - February 18 
  • New Castle, England - February 21
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota - April 15
  • Denver, Colorado - April 21
  • Durham, North Carolina - May 3 
  • Richmond, Virginia - May 4 
  • Washington, D.C. - May 5 
  • Baltimore, Maryland - May 6
  • Wilmington, Delaware - May 7
  • Fredericksburg, Virginia - June 9 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

This Moment in Time

I always read my fellow DSDers posts with interest, but this week something in particular struck me. About how this moment in time is seeping into everything we do, more than it ever has before in my lifetime.
Tuesday, Scott Adlerberg wrote about Haitian literature. Why choose that topic this week? Perhaps you’ve heard about a certain White House conversation where one person used profane, untrue terms and singled specific countries out for derision. Scott, in one gorgeous blog post, swept away that prejudice by pointing out the wealth of Haitian literature (and by extension, the vibrant Haitian culture) that’s out there.
On Wednesday, Holly West delved deeper into a tweet she sent that applauded her gym for turning off cable news on the TVs over the treadmills. What might once have been nothing more than a random business decision now can be interpreted as a political statement.
As for me, I’m curious about how this moment in time will seep into upcoming fiction. What’s on the shelves right now was conceived and written before the current president took office. (Many books are turned in to publishers a year before the publish date. And coming up with the idea and writing it, of course, stretch even further back than that.)
So what is being written right now? And the even more interesting question – how will it be viewed? Will a book that B.T. (before you-know-who) have been an exciting thriller about a hero stopping nuclear war now be considered a political statement? And what about the authors who are deliberately responding to the events at hand, with say, a climate change or illegal immigrant story line? How will those books play out? Will they find only a partisan audience? I hope not. One of the great things about literature is that it has the power to transport people into lives that are not like their own. It is a force for good. At this moment in time and every other moment, too.