Saturday, December 21, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 51

Scott D. Parker

I think we all know what event sucked the air out of everything this week: The premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

My family and I caught the 6pm showing on Thursday night. The theater wasn't packed, but there was a sizable audience. My one-sentence blurb is this:

"Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is a rousing, joyful, exuberant, and emotional film that not only successfully brings to a close the story of one family, over nine movies, and 42 years, but does so in a manner that is both nostalgic and fresh."

I'll have more thoughts after I spend more time thinking about it and seeing it again.

The event also prompted me to write an open thank you letter to George Lucas, because without him, none of this exists.


This "Year of an Indie Writer" series has been a fun experiment. I have one more week, but this will be the last here at DoSomeDamage. The series has changed and morphed over the year, as I expected it would. I didn't do all that I wanted to this year, but that's what 2020 is all about. I also accomplished things I never would have expected. I'm looking at you, Kevin Smith films and the start of a new book series.

It's been a fun year here at DoSomeDamage. We celebrated our tenth anniversary. Hard to believe on some days, but a quick glance at the Blog Archive over there on the right says it all. Man, am I honored to be included among all the writers who have contributed here.

But without readers and the larger community, we're just talking among ourselves.  Thank you, readers, for your continued support, reading, commenting, and the overall community

I gave some thought to what I should do next year as a series--or to leave altogether--and decided I'll keep to the Indie Writer theme with something extra: Detailing how I'll be opening an online bookstore.

Have a safe holiday season, and, on behalf of everyone here at DoSomeDamage, see you next year!

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Cottonmouths, A Southern Gothic Queer Masterpiece

We all have them. I consider myself ,rather humbly, a connoisseur of crime fiction. I read everything from English drawing room mysteries(even though I still don't really know what a drawing room is) to hard-boiled American noir to intricate Japanese cozy mysteries to the cold and clinical plethora of Norwegian thrillers to....well you get it. But for all my varied bibliography in respect ot what kind and how many books I have read I have to admit I have had a pretty glaring blind spot. 
  I have not read a lot of LGTBQ crime fiction. 
It isn't that I had any type of ridiculous aversion to LGTBQ crime fiction. I honestly wasn't aware of how much was out there and how much I was missing. And since we are being honest here I hadn't really done the work to search it out. I'd read a little over the years. Vermilion by Nathan Aldyne which tells the story of two semi-professional detectives gay bartender Daniel Valentine and unemployed real estate agent Clarissa Lovelace chasing a murderer through the streets of Boston. I'd read a few of the Pharaoh Love novels by George Baxt featuring gay black New York city detective Pharaoh Love. But on the whole my knowledge of a very important part of the crime fiction world was minuscule at best. Both the authors I have mentioned are fine writers and the books they have written are enjoyable and interesting windows into a world that is fascinating when seen through the prism of crime fiction. But if you know me and I feel like by now you know I'm a huge proponent and fan of rural crime fiction. 
  There is a long and tangled history of queer themes and stories in southern literature going back to Suddenly Last Summer by Tennessee Williams , Dress Gray by Lucien Truscott IV ,even some allusions in the work of William Faulkner. 
   Kelly J. Ford has bigger cojones than them all. 
Full disclosure I met Kelly a few months ago at Bouchercon in Dallas. I was lucky enough to be on a panel with her and so I got to see up and close and personal her brilliant and piercing wit and insights. I ordered her book Cottonmouths immediately after the panel was over. 
    By the time I got home from Dallas Cottonmouths was waiting on my doorstep. 
Cottonmouths is many things. A Southern Gothic crime story. A treatise on the reality of rural living in  a country that continually tries to lie to itself about poverty and race and prejudice. A love story.  And queer novel that treats its protagonists as characters not caricatures. 
  Cottonmouths tells the story of Emily Skinner. Emily is like a lot of folks I grew up with in my own small southern town. She saw college as the promised land. A balm that would heal the emotional sores that fester in her soul growing up poor in a town so closed off and  narrow minded it might as well be another country. After flunking out Emily returns home and immediately finds herself swimming against the tide of the expectations of her community while struggling to find out who she is and what she is going to do with her life. 
    Into this existential morasss comes her childhood friend and former crush Jody Monroe. Despite promising herself to keep her distance from Jody time and circumstances force her and Jody together. Jody is the whiskey you know is too strong for you. She's the pecan pie you know is bad for your sugar. She's that ghost pepper that's hot enough to bring tears to you face but leaves that taste behind that you can't seem to forget. We watch helpless as Emily keeps circling around the fire that is Jody. We watch knowing she is going to get burned.
 When Emily discovers a meth lab on Jody's property and finds herself as Jody's de facto live in babysitter the various and disparate threads of her heart begin to unravel. 
     Kelly J. Ford is similar to her book. She is a masterful storyteller, a hilarious raconteur and a fearless woman who refuses to live in any way except truthful to who she is. The writing in Cottonmouths is extraordinary in it's apparent simplicity. The story is fairly straightforward but much like Stevie Ray Vaughn playing guitar what looks simple is infinitely complex. Just like the blues Cottonmouths takes familiar themes of heartbreak, longing and the ever present threat of violence and distills them down until they come out as pure and potent as a mason jar full of corn liquor. Ford adroitly dismantles the hypocrisy that is often the sustenance that feeds the beast that is a small southern town. Where Christianity is a perversion of it's own tenets and  anyone deemed as the "other" is ridiculed and ostracized in the name of Family Values.
    When I closed the cover of Cottonmouths I felt like I had been sitting at the knee of a wise sage in blue jeans with a sassy accent that made me proud to be a southerner because only southerners have the insight and courage to stare at our  rolling hills and cornfields  and see the ugliness that lives there along with the beauty and tell the truth about both.
   Cottonmouths is available on Amazon and where every fine books are sold. Do yourself a favor and pick it up right goddamn now son

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Sticking It to the Man

This will be my last post on Do Some Damage for 2019 -- I'll be back next year -- so I figured I'd wrap up by taking the opportunity to mention a recently released book I'm happy to be part of.  I'm talking about Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980, a book published by PM Press and co-edited by Andrew Nette and Iain McIntyre.  It's the follow up to their 2017 book, Girl Gangs, Biker Boys, and Real Cool Cats: Pulp Fiction and Youth Culture, 1950 to 1980.  While the previous book was about, well, what it's title describes, the new one covers different territory, tracking the ways in which the changing politics and culture of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s were reflected in pulp and popular fiction in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. 

Quite a countercultural melange is covered.  There are pieces on books as disparate as Barry Malzberg's 1970s vigilante novels and the novels that in pulp fiction form portrayed Aboriginal Australians.  Gary Phillips contributes a couple of pieces, one on the archetypes of black male characters in crime novels, another on the mysterious author Roosevelt Mallory, who for Holloway House wrote about the black hit man for hire, Radcliff.  Michael Gonzalez writes about Shaft and Shaft's creator Ernest Tidyman, and Maitland McDonaugh about gay adult pulp of the 1970s.  Authors such as Iceberg Slim, Donald Goines, Joseph Hansen, Alice Walker, Judith Rossner, Brian Garfield, Rita Mae Brown, and Joe Nazel are covered.  Do you like the movie Across 110th Street, with Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn?  This book has a piece on the author of the novel the movie is based on, the New York City television news cameraman Wally Ferris, whose only literary success (indeed, he never had another book published) came from this novel.  

I could go on. Sticking It to the Man has much more from a slew of terrific writers, about a wide variety of pulp fiction topics relating to a heady time in the US, Britain, and Australia.  My piece in the book is a detailed one on the crime fiction of Chester Himes.  I look at the Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones books and Himes' standalone novel about a murderous white New York City cop, Run Man Run.  All in all, Sticking It to the Man is a book that I think I can fairly say will keep you reading for days, in whatever order you want to read the pieces, and you'll be sure to discover authors and books you never knew existed.

Also, did I mention all the reproductions of paperback covers that are in the book? There are about 300 in all, covers it's unlikely we'll ever see anything quite like again.

Happy holidays...

Sticking It to the Man: Revolution and Counterculture in Pulp and Popular Fiction, 1950 to 1980 is a beautifully produced book, and it's available here.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 50

Scott D. Parker

The NaNoWriMo novel continues apace. My goal is to complete it this year and start 2020 fresh with new tales to tell.

Not sure about your Christmas/holiday time, but I enjoy reading specific Christmas stories in this time and listening almost exclusively to my Christmas CDs. Ever since 13 November--when I broke the seal on the newest album from Chicago, a Christmas one--that album has been spun numerous times. It's a wonderful collection of songs from a veteran music group using the vocabulary and trappings of Christmas to craft what is likely my favorite album of the year.

Spinning my own tunes has album kept me out of Whamageddon (so far.) Whamageddon, if you don't know, is a fun game where you are in the game as long as you don't hear "Last Christmas," the  really good Wham song.

Anyway, back to reading, I have a box of books that I break out every year. Most are Christmas-themed anthologies and I read a few stories each year. Granted, when one of those books is The Big Book of Christmas Stories, it'll take more than a few years to get through it.

Well, this year, there is something better.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch and WMG Publishing has done something wonderful this year. They have created what is essentially an Advent calendar with short stories. You know what Advent calendars are: Starting on 1 December, they are calendars where you get a prize each day leading up to Christmas Day.  Sometimes it's chocolate. Sometimes it is Legos.

Well, via a Patreon subscription, they are releasing a short story per day from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. And it's been so fun! She curates all the stories, giving introductions via email where you get the link to the stories. If it's a particular day--like 6 December, St. Nicholas's Day--she selects a story about that day. Ditto for Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

I'm having a blast getting a new story each day. You can still sign up. Give yourself the gift of stories.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Beau picks up JAR OF HEARTS

Today it's Beau Johnson on Jennifer Hillier's JAR OF HEARTS

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who's been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong's remains are discovered in the woods near Geo's childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he's something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo's first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela's death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Get your own

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Mystery Tribune Talks to Parnell Hall

Mystery Tribune, that excellent magazine both in print and online, has just done its first video production - an interview with veteran mystery writer Parnell Hall.  Hall has written a slew of novels, not to mention the screenplay to the 1984 horror film C.H.U.D. (which stands, as anyone who has seen the film knows, for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers).

Hall's 50th book, as he says in the interview, will be coming out soon.

The idea behind this talk is to create an oral history of the crime fiction writing world, and there will be more conversations to come.

You can watch the interview here on You Tube:

Monday, December 9, 2019


Chanel Miller’s 2019 memoir, KNOW MY NAME, describes the events following her sexual assault by rapist Brock Turner.

In the early morning hours of January 17, 2015, at Stanford University in California, nineteen-year-old Brock Turner raped Chanel Miller behind a dumpster near an on-campus fraternity house. Twenty-two-year-old Chanel was unconscious. Incapable of fighting back. 

The attack was stopped by two foreign exchange students passing by. The intoxicated Turner ran, but was tackled by one of the students. The attacker was arrested, and later, indicted on five sexual assault charges. He pleaded not guilty. He was convicted of three of the charges and sentenced to six months in prison, of which he served only three months. 

When Judge Aaron Persky served this lenient sentence, he cited Turner's age, the fact that both he and the victim were drunk and that prison time could have a "severe" impact on Turner's life as the reasoning behind the soft six-month sentence. He was swayed by the offender’s outstanding character and bright future, all pleadings for gentility given by his family and friends. After two years of anger, outrage and debate, Judge Persky was recalled from his seat on the court.

Through the entire process the survivor, Chanel, was called Emily Doe. This anonymous signature the only bit of privacy or privilege she was afforded throughout this traumatic time.  Immediately after the attack hospital officials and police knew what happened to Chanel, yet they were hesitant to tell her. 

In her book, she tells of waking up on a gurney in the hospital hallway and being told that she had been assaulted. But she learned the details of what had happened to her the way the rest of the world did — reading the news on her phone while at work. Investigators had taken pictures of her partially dressed, unconscious body for the investigation. These pictures were displayed in court during the trial. In front of her family. There was little dignity given to Chanel.

She heroically reclaimed her worth when she wrote KNOW MY NAME, published in September of this year. She writes about being defined only as the anonymous victim of something terrible that happened to her. Turner, on the other hand, was often characterized as a deep, talented young man with great potential. She talks about what it was like to endure a high-profile trial but it also gives her the chance to present herself not just as a victim but as a person. A strong, amazing person.

This book is emotional, thorough, and difficult to read, but it is an important read. KNOW MY NAME is sad and horrifying, yet somehow written with beauty and care. The book is a requiem for Chanel’s lost innocence. Innocence lost, not just at the hands of her attacker, but by the levels of bureaucratic manhandling after the damage was done. KNOW MY NAME is a song for so many others who lost their naiveté, their security or hopefulness

Sunday, December 8, 2019

We're Next

Fast-paced meeting photo taken at high shutter speed in order to capture all the action.
Bouchercon 2020 will be held in Sacramento, Calif. next October. The local organizing committee have been working on this event for years. We’ve had numerous planning meetings, but yesterday’s felt a little different now that the 2019 Dallas Bouchercon is in the books. Now we’re up to bat.
Bouchercon is the annual world mystery convention where readers, writers, publishers, editors, agents, booksellers and other lovers of mystery and crime fiction gather for a four-day weekend of panels, book signings, entertainment and education.
Check out our lineup and click here for more information and to register


Saturday, December 7, 2019

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 49

Scott D. Parker

You know what you get when you write a book outside of November and NaNoWriMo? Nothing special. Just writing a book.

So, as of last Sunday, it is now December, but the novel I started on 1 November as part of National Novel Writing Month was not complete. I kept writing, as an author does. Because, you know, the novel's not finished.

I had expected to be finished by yesterday--my birthday!--but I'm still not done. Good thing, though. The story's taking on a life of its own, jetting into a direction I didn't anticipate.

But already, my mind's sifting through the possibilities. All during this writing process, I'm literally writing into the dark, experiencing the story as future readers will. But my mind keeps looking ahead, and in yesterday's session, it took a turn I never expected.

Which is what making writing stories this way so fun for the author.

Knives Out

As part of my birthday celebration, I saw the new Rian Johnson movie Knives Out yesterday. Our own Claire Boothe reviewed it last Sunday. I intentionally stayed away from it (I've now read it) and everything before I saw the movie. Didn't want even a hint of a spoiler.

Boy, is that one delightful film. I knew going in there would be many a clue and we viewers would be able to sift through the evidence on our own to see if we could guess the ultimate solution. Well, I had a theory...that proved false. But I caught a few things, even tapping my wife's arm (more than once) and say this or that.

I really enjoyed it. The film was a nice 21st Century twist on the traditional murder mystery whodunit. Ain't gonna say more about it other than the cast was fantastic. Daniel Craig, however, was really, really good. Bravo to Rian Johnson who wrote and directed this film. He's now put his unique spin on time travel stories (Looper), Star Wars (The Last Jedi), and whodunits (Knives Out). I enjoy his take on stories, and he's now one of those writer/directors that I'll always watch, no matter the genre.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Beau on Zero Saints

Today, Beau Johnson takes a look at Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias.

Enforcer and drug dealer Fernando has seen better days. On his way home from work, some heavily-tattooed gangsters throw him in the back of a car and take him to an abandoned house, where they saw off his friend's head and feed the kid's fingers to...something. Their message is clear: this is their territory, now. But Fernando isn't put down that easily. Using the assistance of a Santeria priestess, an insane Puerto Rican pop sensation, a very human dog, and a Russian hitman, he'll build the courage (and firepower) he'll need to fight a gangbanger who's a bit more than human.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

The Best Go-Kart Ever

It’s that time of year when I think back o the best Christmas gifts I ever got.

This is me, in the late seventies. Re-enacting a scene from “Whatever happened to Baby Jane?” with my father as I drove the Go-Kart I’d gotten for Christmas at him,

Noticeable is the open doors of some of the houses; nobody locked their doors then. Also the almost total absence of cars. I count three, and the sort of red van that was almost invariably used for bank job getaways in British Crime Shows on TV. My dad still lives in the same house, in Dublin, a city that has redefined the phrase upwardly mobile, and faced the terrifying hangover of hubris, but which still, when I return nowadays, finds the entire street seemingly double parked with luxury drives.

I loved that go-kart, and would give the other kids rides – them standing on the rear axle and hanging off the back of the seat. Until the seat snapped off, and the axle started buckling, at which point I was heartbroken.

I guess I should have learned that sometimes, even if it runs the risk of losing you friends, you need to learn to say “No,” before your heart is broken. It would be many more years before I learned that lesson.

But my dad fixed the axle. I think a mallet may have been involved, but since perfectly precise three point turns weren’t the most common manoeuvre in it, the fact that the kart steered “A bit bockety” was never an issue; the lack of a seat, however, was potentially huge, until my dad made a four-sided box from chipboard, lined it with red shag pile carpet (taken, I’m told, from a patch of my bedroom carpet over which he then built a bookcase to hide the gap), and screwed it to the frame, and I had an instant couture kart.

And the fact that I just used the phrase couture kart probably explains why I never had many friends as a kid growing up on the not-so mean (but car-less) streets of south Dublin in the 1970’s.

It wasn’t the best Christmas present ever - picking one from the panoply I have received and continue to receive is an impossible choice. But it hints at the best present ever: Love. Creativity. A family that could fix a broken axle and a smashed seat and get across the lesson: it doesn’t have to be mint condition box-fresh or even cohesive. Whatever it is, it just needs to get you where. You want to be, and to do so in a way that makes you know you’re loved.


Derek Farrell was raised in Dublin (no shit, Sherlock) and lives, now, in London where he writes The Danny Bird Mysteries, “Death of a Diva,” “Death of a Nobody,” “Death of a Devil,”and  “Death of an Angel” can all be purchased from the usual e-stores or directly from the publisher here The fifth, “Come to Dust,” is available exclusively as a free download from his website . The sixth – Death of a Sinner – is a Fahrenheit69 Tete Beche Novella and is published in a joint edition with Jo Perry’s “Everything Happens.” It can be purchased here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Makes Total Sense? No. Enjoyable? Yes.

I'm wondering why exactly I enjoy the series Goliath as much as I do.  I just finished watching season 3 on Amazon, and while I would never recommend it as a show to watch for its verisimilitude, it's a show that over the course of 3 years has only become odder and more fun with each new season.  It started out as a somewhat skewed but still fairly plausible legal thriller style show, yet another from David E. Kelley, but by now, Goliath has morphed into something more idiosyncratic.

Billy Bob Thornton as Billy McBride holds it all together, of course, and this year he features in a nutty quilt of a plot that makes a few overt references to the world of David Lynch. Sherilyn Fenn's death kicks off the season, and a casino Billy spends much time in has a lounge singer who croons a tune or two heard in Blue Velvet.  Usually, Lynch references in films and shows make me roll my eyes, but Goliath does it in a clearly playful spirit that brought a little smile to my face.  And in fact, with its group of rich men who gather at times in the casino's secret room to smoke something potent, with its evocation of some odd mental states, with its somewhat jumbled (but for a reason) chronology that creates its own disorientation in the viewer, the season has a slightly hallucinatory character.  Then there's the whole thrust of the central plot, which revolves around water rights.  This is California, and when you think water rights and a crime story, you can't help but think of Chinatown.  But California has water issues now as much as it ever did, so that's a subject that never goes out of style.  

Where Goliath is most fun, though, is with its characters, a gallery of eccentrics, some quite driven in their particular obsessions, some more laissez faire about life.  Each season has had a sexual undertow that's been intriguing, with the season's heavies having decidedly odd sexual preferences.  William Hurt's character had his in season 1, Mark Duplass quite memorably had his in season 2, and in season 3, we get a brother-sister duo, Dennis Quaid and Amy Brenneman, who have enough issues between them, and a love-hate relationship, that should have had them in therapy for years.  Both actors play their roles to the hilt. The show also gives us entertaining turns from Graham Greene -- full of subtle menace here -- Griffin Dunne, Beau Bridges, Paul Williams, and the too rarely seen these days Ileana Douglas, who's funny as a bar fly.   Besides Thornton, the other cast regulars return as well, with Nina Arianda as harried and amusing as ever.

How to say it? Goliath isn't a show I'd recommend to anyone to watch if they want a crime show that's heavy on social realism or airtight storytelling.  But over three years, it's carved out a niche of its own with a distinct flavor, and I find I enjoy going with its flow.  It lets itself be oddball without going overboard about it, and the actors clearly relish the characters they get to play. 

I also have to say I'm glad next season will be its last.  Ostensibly that will bring closure to the series and four seasons of Goliath sounds just about right.  No need to kill the buzz by overdoing it. 


Sunday, December 1, 2019

Review: Knives Out

I went to the movies yesterday and saw Knives Out, the new Agatha Christie-ish murder mystery. It was Thanksgiving dinner for mystery fans—time-honored favorites and those one or two surprises that someone insists on bringing even though you think there’s enough of the traditional stuff.
Let’s start with the favorites. There’s a creaky old manor house, an extended, animosity-soaked family gathered for a special occasion, a famous detective, and a dead patriarch. I’m not giving anything away; the body is shown about 60 seconds into the film. It’s director Rian Johnson saying, “This is what we’re all here for; let’s get right to it, shall we?”
Knives Out: Rated PG-13 for Daniel Craig’s Southern accent, a mask-free Captain America, and an always bad-ass Jamie Lee Curtis.
The surprises to the traditional include Marta Cabrera, a young Latinx nurse hired to help care for Harlan Thrombey, the aforementioned patriarch and an aged mystery novelist. Marta (Ana de Armas) is more than just the help; everyone insists she’s “family.” But she’s not. There’s a scene where family members fall into arguing over politics, pulling Marta into the room so she can self-consciously stand there as they make their points about immigration policy. She’s a human face only when they need her to be. 
I couldn’t help but compare Knives Out with Gosford Park, the Robert Altman’s 2001 masterpiece that had all the same standard elements. The manor house (this time in England), the extended family, the dead patriarch. In that movie, the wine glasses clink gently, the help are ignored (except when they’re being seduced), the accents are proper, and there’s a measured pace to everything.
There’s nothing refined about Knives Out. No time is wasted getting to the death, relatives swear at one another, there’s a fistfight (kind of), and everyone is proudly “self-made.” It is, in a word, American. And it’s a twisty puzzle of a mystery that takes the right things seriously, creates the right hero, and has a hell of a lot of fun with everything else.
*One final thought, without spoilers—the patriarch says something to one of the characters in a flashback midway through the movie. It casts an entirely different light on the ending, something that didn’t occur to me until I was writing this review. If you’ve seen the movie, DM me on Twitter @clairebooth10. I’d love to talk about it. 
 A more refined Knives Out poster and its spiritual twin, the one for Gosford Park.