Saturday, February 24, 2018

2018 Anthony Award Eligible Titles.

By Jay Stringer

Hey all. You know the drill by now. This is a list that will be updated between now and the end of voting. 

(NOTE: These are eligible titles, it's not an exhaustive list. Nominating a title here is not nominating a title for the Anthony, you still need to submit the ballot you received by email.)

Do you want to suggest a book or author for the list? Feel free to drop it in the comments. It can be one of yours. It can be someone else's. Work published in 2017 is eligible, in the various formats. Please include all relevant info with your suggestion (publisher, editor, etc. Don't create more work for me...)

If you're shy of self-promotion and want to suggest it in private, track me down on the social media sites. If you've already suggested a title ad don't see it here, it's probably next on my list, but don't be afraid to mention it again. So...


Blame - Jeff Abbott
The Secrets on Chicory Lane - Raymond Benson
The Savage - Frank Bill
Love Like Blood - Mark Billingham
Dead Woman Walking - Sharon Bolton
Another Man's Ground - Claire Booth
In Farleigh's Field - Rhys Bowen
A Killer Harvest - Paul Cleeve
Give Up the Dead - Joe Clifford
the Late Show - Michael Connelly
Blood Truth - Matt Coyle
The Seagull - Ann Cleeves
Winterlong - Mason Cross
Cottonmouths - Kelly J Ford
A Negro and an Ofay - Danny Gardner
The Long Count - JM Gulvin
The Mentor - Lee Matthew Goldberg
The Chalk Pit - Elly Griffiths
Every Day Above Ground - Glen Erik Hamilton
She Rides Shotgun - Jordan Harper
The Woman From Prague - Rob Hart
The Magpie Murders - Anthony Horowitz
The Weight of This World - David Joy.
Seven Suspects - Renee James
Bury the Past - James L'Etoile
The Last Place You Look - Kristen Lepionka
Insidious Intent - Val McDermid
House. Tree. Person. - Catriona McPherson
Everything You Want Me To Be - Mindy Meija
The Long Drop - Denise Mina
Lightning Men - Thomas Mullen
Dangerous to Know - Renee Patrick
Lightwood - Steph Post
Hellhound on my Tail - J.D. Rhoades
Murderabilia - Craig Robertson
Marshall's Law - Ben Sanders
Dangerous Ends - Alex Segura
World Enough - Clea Simon
City of Lies - Victoria Thompson
The Red  Hunter - Lisa Unger
Protocol - Kathleen Valenti
The Force - Don Winslow
The Corruptions - Vincent Zandri


Double Wide - Leo Banks
Deep Down Dead - Steph Broadribb  
Where The Sun Shines Out - Kevin Catalano
All Things Violent - Nikki Dolson
Heaven's Crooked Finger - Hank Early
Hollywood Homicide - Kellye Garrett
The Dry - Jane Harper
Ragged - Chris Irvin
Dark Chapter - Winnie M  Li
The Irregular - H.B. Lyle
If We Were Villains - M.L. Rio


Hardway - Hector Acosta
Path into Darkness - Lisa Alber
Knuckledragger - Rusty Barnes
The Blade This Time - Jon Bassoff
The Quiet Child - John Burley
Blacky Jaguar Against the Cool Clux Cult - Angel Luis Colón
Desert Remains - Steven Cooper
The Art Of Murder - Casey Doran
Idyll Years - Stephanie Gayle
Reconciliation For The Dead - Paul Hardisty
The Exiled - Kati Hiekkapelto
The Woman in the Camphor Trunk - Jennifer Kincheloe
The Rebellions Last Traitor - Nik Korpon
A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps - Nick Kolakowski
The Soak - Patrick McLean 
Uncorking A Lie - Nadine Nettman
Bad Boy Boogie - Thomas Pluck
What We Reckon - Eryk Pruitt
The Day I Died - Lori Rader-Day
Imperial Valley - Johnny Shaw
Hunger Moon - Alexandra Sokoloff
Blind To Sin - Dave White
Cast The First Stone -James Ziskin


Roja Muerta - Hector Acosta - Killing Malmon
Name That Killer - J.D. Allen - The Carolina Crimes
How You Did It - Eric Beetner - Killing Malmon
Home is..... - Jerry Broomfield - Beat To A Pulp
Trial Of Madame Pelletier - Susanna Calkins - Murder Most Historical
Episode Four: Raven and The Cave Girl vs. Dan Malmon! - Dana Cameron - Killing Malmon
Love That Dirty Water - Matthew Clemens - Killing Malmon
God's Gonna Cut You Down - Jen Conley - Just To Watch Them Die
Missouri Waltz - Sarah M. Chen - Just To Watch Them Die
Masterpiece - Sarah M. Chen - Killing Malmon
Blacky Jaguar Might Avengue You, Dan Malmon - Angel Luis Colón Killing Malmon
My Side of the Matter - Hilary Davidson Killing Malmon
The Unseen Opponent - P. A. De Voe - Mystery Most Historical 
Ice Cream, Dan? - Cory Funk - Killing Malmon
Straight Fire - Danny Gardner - Killing Malmon
Millions of Hungry Mouths - Paul J. Garth - Killing Malmon
Crazy Cat Lady - Barb Goffman - Black Cat Mystery Magazine
Whose Line Is It Anyway? - Barb Goffman - 50 Shades of Cabernet
The Hug - Rob Hart - Killing Malmon Killing Malmon
To the Moon and Back - Kristn Kisska - DAY OF THE DARK 
Send 'im A Chicago Sunset - Nik Korpon - Hard Sentences
Rose of my Heart - Nik Korpon - Hard Sentences
The Nebbish - Ed Kurtz Killing Malmon
25 Minutes To Go - S.W. Lauden - Just To Watch Them Die
Reunion - S.W. Lauden - Killing Malmon
The Many Deaths of Dan Malmon - Russel D. McLean
The Last Issue - Jeff Macfee Killing Malmon
Smiling Gnome - J. Michael Major - Mystery Weekly Magazine
Tuesday - Erin Mitchell Killing Malmon
Laundry Day - Erica Ruth Neubauer - Killing Malmon
Malmon's Last Moments - Brad Parks - Killing Malmon
Truth Comes Out of her Well to Shame Mankind - Thomas Pluck - Alive in Shape and Color
Deadbeat - Thomas Pluck - Down & Out: The Magazine
Russian Roulette - Tomas Pluck - Killing Malmon
The Nicest Guy in Town - Bryon Quertermous Killing Malmon
I Know They're In There - Travis Richardson - The Obama Inheritance
Studs Winslow and the Karate Island of Emperor Malmon - Todd Robinson - Killing Malmon 
Master Pandemonium - Alex Segura - Killing Malmon
Streak - Jeff Shelby - Killing Malmon
Good Evening, Pigtown - Nathan Singer - Killing Malmon
Guardian of Galaxy Street - Josh Stallings Killing Malmon
How To Not Find Somebody In Houston - Liam Sweeny - Betrayed
The Panda Heist - Jay Stringer - Killing Malmon
Well Dead - RD Sullivan - Killing Malmon
Fairy Tales - Art Taylor - Black Cat Mystery Magazine 
A Necessary Ingredient — Art Taylor — Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea
Kill Malmon - Bryan VanMeter - Killing Malmon
Money For Nothing - Holly West - Killing Malmon
Don't Want The World To Burn - Dave White - Killing Malmon


From Holmes to Sherlock: The Story of the Men and Women Who Created an Icon - Bostrom, Matthias

Manderley Forever: A Biography of Daphne du Maurier - de Rosnay, Tatiana
 Murder in the Closet: Essays on Queer Clues in Crime Fiction Before Stonewall - Evans, Curtis
Killers Of The Flower Moon - David Grann
American Fire - Monica Hesse
Chester B. Himes: A Biography - Jackson, Lawrence
Rewrite Your Life - Jess Loury
Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes - Sims, Michael
The End of Policing - Alex Vitale


Just To Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired By The Songs Of Johnny Cash - Ed Joe Clifford 
Meat City (And Other Assorted Debacles) - Angel Luis Colón 
Nothing You Can Do - Ed Kurtz
Killing Malmon - Editors Kate & Dan Malmon 
Hard Sentences - Ed David James Keaton and Joe Clifford
Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea -ed by Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks
Passport To Murder - Ed John McFetridge
The Obama Inheritance - Ed Gary Phillips
Betrayed: Powerful Stories of Kick-Ass Crime Survivors - Ed Pam Stack
Killer Women: Crime Club Anthology 2: The Body


BOLO Books 
Carstairs Considers
Do Some Damage 
Dru's Book Musings
The Rap Sheet
The Reading Room
Sirens Of Suspense
The Thrill Begins 
Two Crime Writers And A Microphone 
Unlawful Acts
Writer Types 

BILL CRIDER AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL IN A CONTINUING SERIES(Part of a series having published at least three books, one of which must be in 2017)

Path into Darkness - Lisa Alber
Everglade - Greg Barth
Blessed Are the Peacekeepers - Kristi Belcamino
Love Like Blood - Mark Billingham
The Lost Woman - Sara Blaedel
The Ghost of Christmas Past - Rhys Bowen
Murder in Shadow - Anne Cleeland
Give Up the Dead - Joe Clifford
Blood Truth - Matt Coyle
Garden of Lamentations - Deborah Crombie
The Deep, Dark Descending - Allen Eskins
Marathon - Brian Freeman
The Blood Card - Elly Griffiths
Woman From Prague - Rob Hart
City of Saviours - Rachel Howzell Hall
Prussian Blue - Philip Kerr
Remo Went Down - Mike McCrary
Imperial Valley - Johnny Shaw
The House of Unexpected Sisters - Alexander McCall Smith
Silent Rain - Karin Salvalaggio
Dangerous Ends - Alex Segura
An Unsettling Crime for Samuel Craddock -Terry Shames
Flashpoint - Derek Thompson
Murder in the Bowery - Victoria Thompson

The Shadow: The Black Falcon

Scott D. Parker

THE BLACK FALCON is not only the fourth Shadow novel I’ve read in 2018 but my fourth one overall. And, to date, it might be my favorite for all the action, mystery, and zeal of the storytelling.

As the story opens, Rowdy Kershing is at a poker game amongst his criminal brethren. When he loses his winnings, he needs to buy more chips. He does so with a fat wad of money he makes sure all around him see. What he hides is the presence of a falcon’s feather, dyed black. For Rowdy has been assigned a task: recruit some “gorillas” to be of service to the super criminal, The Black Falcon, who has already kidnapped one millionaire and taunts the police that he’ll do it again.

But as gruff a talker as Rowdy is, he pales when the Knight of Darkness enters the room. They all do. Action ensues and Rowdy squeals like a rat.

The next set piece is the preparations the police deployed to protect Elias Carthers, the next millionaire on The Black Falcon’s list. This is a great action sequence mainly for how it plays out and the clues it reveals. I know that in the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, authors frequently left clues for the readers to draw their own conclusions. Pulp fiction was not too known for that, but the clues in this sequence are plain to see.

It is after these scenes where The Shadow, in disguise as millionaire Lamont Cranston, takes action not in Shadow garb. Again, I’m too new at reading these stories to know if this is normal or special, but I’m guessing it’s likely normal, seeing as how The Shadow inserts himself as Cranston into the action.

And by poking his nose into the action gets Cranston in hot water. You see, he’s a millionaire and he walks directly into the clutches of The Black Falcon. From here to the end, the action is fantastic, the revelations are eye-opening, and the ending is outstanding in a “how will he get out of this” manner.
Perhaps the reason I like this one so much is the similarities to the villains of Batman. The Joker or The Riddler rarely commit their crimes without letting everyone know ahead of time, and The Black Falcon is right in that wheelhouse. Surprisingly, the Falcon makes some deductions of his own, and that got me to worrying for The Shadow’s safety. This novel is from February 1934 so I needn’t have worried. There was still going to be another fifteen years of stories, but still.

At one point, The Shadow reveals his true face to another character…and author Walter Gibson doesn’t describe the face! He only describes the reactions of the other character. I found that simultaneously great and frustrating. Who really is The Shadow? And what must his visage look like to bring such dread?

Of the new productions by Audible, THE BLACK FALCON is not a full-cast recording but a single narrator. Thankfully, it’s the same narrator as the full-cast versions so there is continuity.
For those of y’all who have never read a Shadow novel, here is a good one with which to start. It’s got all the pieces in place for a rip-roaring pulp adventure tale.

Partners in Peril
The Shadow Unmasks
The Romanoff Jewels

Friday, February 23, 2018

Ain't No Party Like A Book Store Party

Switchblade Magazine is one of the coolest new crime fiction mags out there right now, and Book Show is one of the coolest indie book shops out there right now - so it only makes sense to smash them together and have a good time.

I've attended a handful of events at Book Show, and recently was part of the Just To Watch Them Die: Crime Fiction Inspired by The Songs of Johnny Cash launch there. It's a killer little shop with a ton of amazing books, cool knick knacks, and zines I haven't seen anywhere else. It's totally worth a visit, and a Switchblade reading is the best excuse I can think of.

If you're in Southern California, you should come see us and buy some stuff from Book Show!

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Welcome Danny Gardner!

I apologize that there was a mix-up and we had dead air yesterday.

I bite off more than I can chew a lot, and with Holly West stepping down, I thought a post a week would be easy. Not when you're working full-time and writing a novel, it ain't. So I reached out to a couple of writers who have a lot to say, who could use this spot to get it heard.

Danny Gardner, author of A Negro and an Ofay, was the first to come to mind. Danny's posts on social media and articles are always worth reading, and both funny and important.

Next week, I hand the mic to the author of a great debut, and a rising star in the genre. We'll be sharing duties on Wednesdays from now on.

If you don't know Danny, this is his debut-- a powerful novel set in the '50s in the Chicago area, showing a side that gets short shrift in the mobster narratives about the city and its environs.

Noir at the Bar Tips

By Sam Belacqua

So last weekend we had two east coast Noir at the Bar events. I don't know if there are any scheduled this weekend, but people don't always tell me everything, so fuck if I know.

If you've never been to one but you want to go, just go. Show up and enjoy. If you want to read, I've got some tips for you.

1) Wait until the night of the event to tell the host that you want to read. Chances are the organizer has spent the last few months making sure all the right folks are coming to read, that all the bios are correct, that the venue is prepared. It's been a busy time. Why burden the organizer with more? Just find the posts on FB and Twitter talking about the upcoming Noir Bar and post something like, "Looks good. Not sure why I wasn't invited." Honestly, they probably didn't invite you because they're jealous of your talent and didn't want to be shown up. Writers are sensitive souls.

2) Make sure to list all of you publications in your Noir Bar bio. It's possible that some people at the bar haven't heard of you. While highly unlikely, you should prepare for this just in case. Of course you want to mention the novels and collections you've published, but also any story in the last, say, 20 or 30 years that you've published in a 'zine or online. List them all. If you have fewer than a dozen publications, you may want to post some on your own blog before the reading so that you can mention those, too.

3) Be sure to read something involved, preferably with at least 10 characters. Most readers will try to focus on a tight, active story with just a couple folks in there. This is your time to shine. Think Faulkner on speed. Remember that moron in the Mozart movie who said his song (I don't remember which one.) had too many notes? Oh, how we laughed at the little moron. You need to add notes. More people. Think you have enough? Add more characters. And settings. How dull is it to have a story with just a couple characters in one place? More notes!!

4) In case adding more characters doesn't do this automagically, be sure that your story is longer than the suggested five minutes. Look, these people drove out to the bar for some high shelf fiction. When else will you have the chance to share your work with this many people? This might be the most people who have ever been exposed to your fiction. Make yourself hard to forget. Give them at least a 10,000 word story. Your reading will be the only one anyone talks about. Guaranteed.

5) While most people will read a self-contained short story, make sure you stand out by reading a chapter from your work in progress. And not something from the beginning, where you're introducing characters, either. No. Give them the good stuff. Pick one of the chapters from near the end of your novel, where all the characters and plots and subplots are coming together. What you want is for people to come out of there thinking about your fiction, asking questions. You want to be the talk of the night. Make people think.

If you follow these tips, you'll be remembered and talked about for years to come. Also, when you're at a bar or restaurant for a Noir at the Bar, the last thing you want is to be drunk or end up with a runny bottom. So, be sure not to eat or drink anything at the bar. You'll want to concentrate on your reading, not on trying to stand up straight. Focus on your story. Remember, tonight is all about you. Nothing else matters.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Slaughterhouse Blues

At the end of Nick Kolakowski's first book, A Brutal Bunch of Heartbroken Saps, we left the less than respectable but true to each other couple of Bill and Fiona on the run.  They were survivors, barely, of all manner of dangers.  Bill had ripped off a New York City outfit called the Rockaway Mob to the tune of several million dollars, and not surprisingly, the outfit sent people after him.  Bill is best at talking himself out of perilous situations, but he can handle himself physically when he has to, and Fiona is extremely adept with weaponry.  Of the two, she is the one with a lethal skill set and who's comfortable in the ways of violence, a fact Bill accepts.  Their exploits, and Bill's larceny, don't leave them many places to remain in the United States, and so when Slaughterhouse Blues begins, they have left the States behind.  Like many outlaws, they've fled to Cuba, ostensibly off the American radar.  But it can't be that much off the radar because a weird and bland couple (Ken and Barbie bland) are tailing Bill around Havana, and even their designer clothes and perfect Waspy looks can't disguise how menacing they look.  It's obvious the Rockaway Mob have found him again and that they've come to Cuba with bad intentions toward Bill.  To make matters worse, he and Fiona recently quarrelled, and he doesn't have her there in Havana to plot and fight alongside him.  She's in Nicaragua where she has a job to do - a job that fits her peculiar talents that always shine when the going gets bloody.

Nick Kolakowski wrote an entertaining book with his debut novella, but Slaughterhouse Blues marks an advance. While Saps went back and forth between the first person point of view of a hired killer and Bill's third person point of view story, Blues sticks to a third person telling of its dual narratives, Bill and Fiona's.  The result is a more consistent tone and better narrative momentum.  Without feeling hectic, which Saps at times does, Slaughterhouse still moves at a smooth, brisk clip.  And in terms of tone, Kolakowski is assured. A lot of people try to mix chaos, violence, and dark-edged laughs, but not many writers pull it off well.  Nick does.  He's at home with gory slapstick, delivering brutality with a grim smile.  But he never forgets that human beings are involved, and much as the violence is exaggerated, it never quite becomes cartoonish.  And there is always some emotional tug at the heart of the mayhem; the series isn't called A Love and Bullets Hookup for nothing.  Bill and Fiona are like any other couple dealing with their issues, except they both happen to live outre, dangerous lives. So do the scary Ken and Barbie figures trying to kill them, and they prove to be a kind of distorted mirror reflection of Fiona and Bill.  During the middle of a tense scene where violence can erupt at any moment, Ken launches into a disquisition on the importance of listening to your romantic partner.  It may seem an unlikely time for such a talk, but the revelation that stone-faced killer Ken gives a lot of thought to how to connect with his partner accentuates the basic human truth at the heart of this story.  Whatever profession people have in life, whatever life path they follow, however outside the mainstream they may be, when it comes to relationships, everyone has the same issues to deal with.  You can take a human life in one second - that's easy - but can you be open to hearing what your partner wants from you and can you be flexible enough to respond meaningfully to what you hear?

I have a feeling that the next book in the series, besides having more love and more bullets, will explore these questions.

You can pick up Slaughterhouse Blues at Amazon right here.

Monday, February 19, 2018


Admission, I've fantasized about turning my stories into movies. I don't let myself get too bogged down in the daydreams, yet it is so fun to imagine. Plus, at times, it helps me see my story from different angles, allowing me to create depth or add a little magic. Truthfully, it's just a kick to picture something of your own on the big screen. Or little screen, I'm not fancy.

I don't think I'm alone in these thoughts. So, for fun, I've reached out to my friends who happen to be talented writers and put them to task. Some of these answers are going to surprise you so get ready.

Angel Luis Colón * Jennifer Hillier * S.W. Lauden * Rob Pierce * Tom Pitts * Will Viharo

If you could have one of your books turned into a movie which one would you choose? Who would direct? Who would star?

Angel Luis Colón
If I could have any of my books turned into a movie, it'd probably be the upcoming PULL & PRAY (Summer 2018). It's the sequel to NO HAPPY ENDINGS but can stand on its own and feels a little friendlier to film in my mind.

As for lead Fantine Park, I'd say Jamie Chung (THE GIFTED) fits the mold. In a dream world, a guy like Shane Black would tackle the script and we'd get a solid all-around pulp director like Renny Harling to grind that bad boy out.

Jennifer Hillier
Ooh, I love this question, because I spend at least an hour every day (literally) fantasizing about things just like this! I would choose JAR OF HEARTS. And not just because it's my newest book, but because an editor that read it called it a cross between THE NIGHT OF and SERIAL with a dash of PRETTY LITTLE LIARS.

I'd like to believe JAR OF HEARTS is cinematic, but I can actually picture it working well on the small screen, maybe on HBO or Showtime or a channel that doesn't censor. The story unfolds in a way that I think would suit an eight-part limited series format, as it moves back and forth between the past (being in high school in the 90s) and the present (being a successful executive who gets sent to prison).

I used to imagine Meghan Markle playing the lead, but then she had to go and get engaged to a prince, so I'm guessing she's unavailable now. But it should be a woman of color playing the lead role of Georgina, absolutely. So maybe Olivia Munn. And the director could be Jean-Marc Vallée, who did BIG LITTLE LIES, a novel I liked which turned into a show I loved. Ah, one can dream.

S.W. Lauden
Thanks for having me back, Marietta! If I had to pick one book to turn into a film, it would have to be Bad Citizen Corporation. Not only does that book introduce my punk rock P.I., Greg Salem, but it sets up the seedy Southern California universe for the trilogy (including Grizzly Season and Hang Time).

Given the punk rock backdrop, and since this is all theoretical anyway, I would probably pick Penelope Spheeris to direct. "The Decline of Western Civilization" and "Surburbia" are important films about the early LA/OC hardcore scene. Whoever directed it would need first hand knowledge of LA beach culture and the amazing music it produces. I never really gave casting much thought because I mostly modeled Greg Salem on musicians, but maybe somebody in the vein of Charlie Hunnam would work. I would demand to curate the soundtrack.

Rob Pierce
Since my books other than the short story collection are sequential, the first movie would have to be Uncle Dust, for the sake of the sequels if nothing else.

Preferred lead actor, any era, would be Robert Mitchum. Although I'm sure Tom Hardy could play it. I love both those motherfuckers.

I watch almost no current movies, although I loved what Michael Roskam did with Dennis Lehane's The Drop (and yeah, that starred Tom Hardy: so shoot me). But my first choice would probably be Ernest Dickerson: he directed several episodes of The Wire and Treme, plus Do The Right Thing, plus he was cinematographer on Do The Right Thing and Brother from Another Planet, among others. The guy just knows how to make shit look right.

Tom Pitts
You know … funny you should ask. For the past year I’ve been wrestling Hustle into a screenplay and—over beers with the man who intends to direct—there’s always a lot of talk about casting. It’s a strange thing for me to even entertain because when I write, I don’t think about a specific actor. I have the character sketched out in my head—and it’s usually an ugly amalgamation of terrible people I’ve known, not pretty ones I’ve watched on the silver screen. In fact, when I think of a certain actor filling the role, I find that a bit limiting. I certainly don’t like it when authors take the shortcut of using an actor to describe a character either: the old fisherman walked in and he looked just like Bob Newhart in galoshes—that kind of thing.

Back to your question (and setting aside the blood, sweat, and tears that I’ve poured into the Hustle project) I think I’d like to see my next novel, 101, get made. Why? (Besides making this question an impromptu promo spot.) Because it’s the funniest and has, I think, the most colorful characters—guys like Vlad the Inhaler, Meth Master Mike, Doughboy, and Ripper.

For a Director? Picking a director is tough. There’s a lot of talent out there. I loved The Night Of, but what I enjoy isn’t necessarily the best for what I write. Hmmn, I get my choice huh? The guy who did Killing Them Softly did a great job, but I’m not sure what else he’s done. Well, if I gotta choose, what the hell, I may as well shoot high and pick Shane Black. From Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang to The Nice Guys, he’s proven he’s got a got eye for comic timing and he gets pacing. As for casting? I don’t know. I’d hope Mr. Black would have better minds on it than me. I’m definitely someone who says shit like, “You know that guy, from that movie with the thing, the guy with the hair, you know the guy I mean?”

Will Viharo
This question resonates with my actual experience, since one of my novels, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, was under option by Christian Slater for well over a decade and almost reached fruition - with me in collaboration on the screenplay - before it was suddenly put back on ice, indefinitely. I’ve told this story way too many times, so I won’t recount it here. Just thought I had to at least mention it, since it’s relevant to the topic.

Instead of lamenting my close call with real world success, and since we’re just fantasizing here, I’ll pick another of my books, and in fact my personal favorite, A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge.

This particular novel marked my return to writing fiction after a twelve year, self-imposed hiatus, during which time I was a full time film programmer, which actually paid bills, and developed my public persona of “Will the Thrill,” my lounge lizard doppelganger, via a live cult movie cabaret I produced and hosted with my wife Monica the “Tiki Goddess”, called Thrillville, which became my brand name, such as it is.

Ironically, I was asked to create this show at the behest of the theater’s owners, who had actually published the first edition of Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me via their own brief publishing venture, Wild Card Press, in 1995. They thought I could use this public platform to promote the book. Instead, Thrillville took off as its own unique entity, establishing my professional reputation, but in effect sidelining my true passion, writing. Christian Slater’s option checks continued annually during this period, which kept my dreams of eventual literary success alive, even if I wasn’t actively pursuing it.

Anyway, the theater suddenly folded in 2009, taking my backup career with it. Desperate, I turned back to writing fiction, picking up a type-written manuscript I began in 1997, just before my Thrillville detour launched, called A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge. (Before my show was dubbed Thillville, I called it the Midnight Lounge, since it took place Saturdays at midnight before moving to prime time and being rechristened and recalibrated.)

After years of presenting obscure, vintage grindhouse/drive-in/exploitation movies with live burlesque acts and retro bands to Bay Area audiences, my brain was naturally saturated with lurid imagery. I always gravitated toward sleazy cinema anyway, since my personal life was likewise low budget.

So I dug up the 35 or so pages I’d written back in 1997. I’d started writing a fairly standard crime noir, but since my sensibilities had evolved (or devolved) significantly in the interim, I suddenly took the narrative on a series of sharp left turns, adding in monsters, zombies, explicit sex, graphic violence, and Elvis mythos. It was intentionally cinematic, but surrealistic and stylized, pulpy and poetic, and in fact more of a mediation on loneliness and alienation than sheer sensationalism.

My beloved cat Bubba had just been diagnosed with a fatal form of cancer, and this tragic fact, coupled with my economic dread as a middle-aged man with no formal education, fueled the fast-moving but hard-twisting tale of two lovers, Nick and Dolores, caught up in a whirlwind of nightmarish circumstances across multiple parallel planes of fragile, fragmented existence.

I’ve often publicly acknowledged that my biggest inspiration for my work is filmmaker David Lynch, but I distinguish “inspiration” from “influence,” since his movies don’t consciously inform my creative decisions as an author. It’s more like I’m spiritually in sync with his idiosyncratic vision, which blends dreamy romanticism with erotic horror and macabre mysticism, and that is exactly what Mermaid was organically attempting, My work springs mainly from my own life, but filtered through an admittedly warped imagination.

Therefore, even while writing it, I could image Lynch directing it. Because many of its themes and its ambiguous ambience unintentionally or subconsciously echoed films like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, I figured this material would be right up his artistic alley. Plus music plays a crucial part in the creation of Lynch’s world, and since I listen to music when I write in order to maintain a specific mood, I often directly reference these tunes in the work, in effect creating a soundtrack for the reader. A friend of mine, whose musician moniker is Actual Rafiq, actually composed four original instrumentals for a CD collection called Music for a Drowning Mermaid. The rest of the internal “soundtrack” included lots of jazz, lounge and exotica numbers, spotlighting songs by Nina Simone, Sinatra, Bowie, etc., along with several variations of “I Put a Spell On You.”

While working on the book, an old friend of mine, Jim, asked for my address, because he wanted to send me a surprise package. It turned out to be an autographed copy of David Lynch’s hugely impactful book Catching the Big Fish, which I’d already read, along with a signed photograph. Jim, who had attended a few of my Thrillville shows, was engaged to Lynch’s daughter, Jennifer. They are now happily married.

I took this as cosmic affirmation and an omen to persevere and finish the book, which I self-published in 2010, bypassing the system that I’d tried to break through for many years prior to my stint as a film programmer. I’m still very proud of it, and of all my books, it’s the most comprehensive expression of my many strange sensibilities.

The recent revival of Twin Peaks (which I consider to be his ultimate masterpiece) further cemented my belief Lynch would be the ideal and in fact only director suitable for Mermaid, though given its XXX content, I doubt he could get it funded. I’d rather he just do his own thing, anyway, which is one reason I relate to him so much as an artist.

As for casting, I’d leave that up to him. While contemporary, Mermaid is filled with 1950s underground pop ethos. So any modern actors embodying those old school traits, but unafraid to engage in outrageous acts of horror and sensuality, would fit the bill.

This will never happen. Lynch is too old and my work is too obscure and anti-mainstream. Love Stories was probably my best shot at success, since it’s relatively accessible material. But in today’s corporate, calculated, commercialized culture where comic book heroes reign supreme, even that has hit one too many roadblocks on the road to realization.

One last point of irony: the first movie I ever hosted in the Midnight Lounge was Blue Velvet.

 Let's all go to the movies.

Sunday, February 18, 2018


Kristi Belcamino is a DSD alum, an author extraordinaire and one of my best friends. I’m thrilled to have her back today to talk a little about her newest novel, which goes on sale Tuesday. Stick around for the end – and a sneak peek at the first chapter.
Thanks for having me back on Do Some Damage! 
After writing a few crime fiction books from first person, I decided to attempt a different type of book—third person and with multiple points of view.
I’d already written six books so it should’ve been a piece of cake, right?
Not even close.
It was torture. It didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t know how to write multiple viewpoint. And I sure as hell didn’t know how to write in third person.
It was one of those books that made me doubt I should ever write another word again. But it was also one of those books I had to write. I had to get the story out of my head. What happened after that was out of my hands.
It took six revisions and a few left turns, but I did finish the book and am proud of the result.
Early readers have called it my best book yet. If I’m really lucky, others might feel the same.
I hope you like it.
Here is a sneak peek:

April 20, 2017
At first, Timothy McDonald thought he was seeing things. His truck jerked over the potholes, making his headlights bounce erratically, distorting once familiar shapes and shadows. A thick line of trees bordered the old logging road, blocking out the sunrise to the east.
He swiped a beefy hand across his eyes and turned down the thrashing guitar riffs blaring from his speakers as if that’d help him see more clearly. It’d been a long night what with Sandra showing up sloshed, hauling him out of bed for another round of Jack Daniels. He’d offered a feeble protest, but her dimples won him over the same way they did twenty years ago at Sanctuary High School.
As his rusted-out 1986 Ford Ranger slowed, Timothy knew it wasn’t lack of sleep causing hallucinations—there was something crawling on the side of the road, dragging across the pine needles.
Something bloody.
He slammed on the brakes, skidding to a stop.
A pale arm rose from the pile of flesh.
Timothy leapt out of his Ford and was nearly on top of the small form when he drew up short. He yanked off his John Deere tractor hat, tore at his hair, and bellowed into the dark. “Jesus Christ. It’s a goddamn little kid.”
He knelt down. It was a girl, maybe his niece Jeannie’s age, stuck somewhere between a child and a teenager. Other than that, he couldn’t tell anything about her except she had long hair matted with blood. Her head was turned toward him, resting on her arm. His fingers trembled as he lifted a sticky clump of bloody hair away from her face, revealing a large brown eye. His body heaved with relief when a small sound, barely a sigh, emerged from her tiny mouth.
He fumbled for his cell phone before he realized he’d left it in the truck.
“Hang in there. I’m gonna get help.”
Panic flashed across the brown eye and a small sound bubbled out of her mouth. He squeezed her hand softly.
“I won’t leave you. I promise. I’ll be right back.” He tried to sound reassuring.
He raced to the truck. It took three tries for his fingers to stab the right numbers.
“Holy Christ, this is so bad,” he said when 911 answered. “Got a little girl up here on Old Courtemanche Road by Whiskey Flats, just come crawling out of the woods and she’s hurt bad, real bad.”
“What's the nature of her injuries?” The dispatcher sounded bored.
Timothy glanced over at the girl lit up in the halo of his headlights. She hadn’t moved.
“She’s bleeding something fierce. Everywhere. Like a goddamned horror movie. Get someone up here fast. Please. Goddammit, quit asking me questions and get someone up here now.”
March 10, 2017
Roll call tonight was excruciating. Officer Maggie Bychowski felt the glares like small pinpricks piercing her back.
Based on the mumbled insults drifting her way, she wondered if a Sanctuary Police Officer had ever been more despised. Rookie. Boot. Newbie. Lesbian. Cunt.
The words, combined with the overpowering smell of cigarettes and aftershave from the next guy over, sent a wave of revulsion through her.
Maggie shut her eyes for a second. If she could only take a little nap. Just a tiny one. A catnap. Like Yoko Ono and John Lennon used to take. For fifteen minutes. If she did that, she could make it through the rest of the day on the three hours of sleep under her belt. She could park her squad on some shady abandoned street, put her sunglasses on and nap for a few minutes.
Somebody nudged her and her eyes flew open. It was Hendricks, the closest thing to a friend she had in this town. He didn’t look her way, keeping his eyes trained on the lieutenant, but he gave a slow wink. Those eyelashes were such a waste on a man. But Hendricks knew how to work them like nobody’s business.
She thrust her bony shoulders back and stood ramrod straight, pulling herself up to her full five-foot-eight inches. If she showed even a sliver of weakness, she was done for.
Thinking of the stack of overdue bills on her kitchen table, Maggie squeezed her hands into tight fists at her side and pressed her lips together. They could call her all the names they wanted. She’d put up with it all so her daughter could live in the clean, cozy—and safe—care home down the ridge in Apple Valley. Physically, Melody couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, and didn’t seem to notice whether her mother came to the care home every other day or once a month. But she was safe there. And Maggie would do anything to keep her daughter safe. Even if it meant eating ramen every night to pay the bills.
Six months ago, finding this job so close to the care home had seemed like a Godsend. Too bad nobody warned her when she joined the force that she’d be dealing with backward hick bigot cops who got away with the kind of immoral, unprofessional— hell, probably illegal—shit she’d already seen in her few short months with the department.
The lieutenant in the front of the room droned on: another string of car burglaries along Vista Drive; an abandoned meth lab found in the canyon down by Little Falls; and St. Mary’s annual spaghetti dinner was tonight so officers should try to stop in and say hello.
Maggie had taken a spot in the back of the room—to be near Hendricks, but also a strategic move to make a quick exit. It was only when roll call was nearly over that she remembered rookies were supposed to be in the front row. Tomorrow she’d stand front and center.
As soon as the lieutenant finished reading the reports, Maggie was out the door toward the parking lot. Her squad, number 320, was the oldest car in the fleet. And for some reason—surprise, surprise—she was assigned this vehicle every shift. She’d bought half a dozen coconut tree deodorizers, but still occasionally caught a whiff of the sweat and vomit that had permanently seeped into the holding pen of a backseat. She suspected the squad sat empty on the days she didn’t work.
By the time she checked the headlights, siren, emergency lights, and computer, several other officers had trickled into the parking lot. Most officers skipped the required vehicle safety checks and took off, probably heading toward the nearest donut drive-through.
But today three of them remained, clustered by a red mustang, talking in low voices, one guy spitting an ugly stream of chewing tobacco her way every once in a while. Although she was pretending not to pay attention, Maggie slid her eyes their way. They were all in plain clothes. Off duty.
After she couldn’t put it off any longer, she popped the squad’s trunk, reluctantly turning her back to the men’s sneers. Even though she’d worked yesterday and been assigned this same squad, somehow the first aid kit, crime scene tape, fire extinguisher, and road flares that were supposed to be in the trunk were gone.
It meant she had to walk past the group and back into the station to stock her vehicle. She slipped on her sunglasses before heading their way.
To her dismay, as she grew closer to the men, her heart hammered and her palms grew slick. So far, they’d never said anything to her directly. It had always been the same passive-aggressive bullshit whispers she’d heard during roll call. But she had a feeling that was all going to end now.
Want to read more? The book comes out Feb. 20. If you think you might want to check it out, the special 99 cents pre-order/launch price won’t last long.