Saturday, April 30, 2022

Remembering Neal Adams


Scott D. Parker

There are weeks in which I prepare my Saturday posts, letting them gestate and allowing me time to hone the words. Then there are other weeks in which Friday afternoon arrives and I don’t have hook. Well, unfortunately, this afternoon, I do.

Famed comic book artist, writer, promoter, businessman—Neal Adams-passed away on Thursday, 28 April 2022. He was 80.

It is difficult to overstate how big an influence Adams was in the comic book industry. His art alone ushered in the Bronze Age of comics (more or less 1969ish to 1985/1986). After the bright version of Batman that existed in the comics and TV screens for the 1960s, Adam, along with writer Dennis O’Neil, brought the shadows back to the character.

Those stories again took place at night, and the grittier outlook of the 1970s pervaded in many of the Adams and O’Neil tales. The pair co-created Ras Al Ghul, the villain from 2005’s Batman Begins and, arguably, Batmans’s most equal adversary.

I couldn’t name Adams as the key artist when I got into comics, but I knew his work because it was everywhere in the 1970s. Naturally, his Batman and Joker became as iconic as this cover.

He also drew one of the more famous Superman poses.

He re-designed Green Arrow’s costume shortly before he and O’Neil sent both green heroes—Arrow and Lantern—across America to face real-world challenges.

And then there is this glorious wraparound cover for a treasury edition I still own. One of my all-time favorite Batman sagas.

He also lent his talents to a series of cover illustrations for the 1970s-era Tarzan reprints.

Standing Up for the Rights of Others

I met Adams at Houston’s Comicpalooza a few years ago. He was an insatiable salesman who genuinely seemed to love the convention scene. And before his illness, he would often go live on Facebook and I’d tune in. He was good and he knew it, but he could also back it up.

As good an artist as he was, however, he was not afraid to use his bully pulpit to help others. It’s partially because of him modern comic book artists can get their original artwork returned to them.

But if there is one thing he should always be remembered for, it’s this: he made sure the world knew and remembered that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster created Superman. He spearheaded the effort for DC Comics to recognize Siegel and Shuster’s contributions, including paying them a pension and forever promising that whenever you see Superman in any media, it will always have his creator’s names right there.

There are a ton of other stories and all you have to do is Google them today and through the weekend.

And if you haven’t in a while, find a comic as illustrated or written by Neal Adams and give it a read. You’ll instantly see why he deserves a place on the Mt. Rushmore of comic history.

Friday, April 29, 2022

2022 Edgar Winners Announced

 via Mystery Writers of America

Watch Thursday night's ceremony


Five Decembers by James Kestrel (Hard Case Crime)

Deer Season by Erin Flanagan (University of Nebraska Press)

Bobby March Will Live Forever by Alan Parks (Europa Editions – World Noir)

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder 
in Queer New York by Elon Green (Celadon Books)

The Twelve Lives of Alfred Hitchcock: 
An Anatomy of the Master of Suspense by Edward White 
(W.W. Norton & Company)

“The Road to Hana,” Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
by R.T. Lawton (Dell Magazines)

Concealed by Christina Diaz Gonzalez (Scholastic – Scholastic Press)

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley 
(Macmillan Children’s Publishing – 
Henry Holt and Company BFYR)

“Boots on the Ground” – Narcos: Mexico, Written by Iturri Sosa (Netflix)

“Analogue,” Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine by Rob Osler (Dell Magazines)

Clark and Division by Naomi Hirahara (Soho Press – Soho Crime)

Runner by Tracy Clark (Kensington Books)

Laurie R. King

Lesa Holstine – Lesa’s Book Critiques; Library Journal Reviewer

Juliet Grames – Soho Press – Soho Crime

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

COMING SOON - The Low White Plain by Paul J. Garth

"The Low White Plain", my entry in Frank Zafiro's longrunning A GRIFTER'S SONG series, will be coming from Down and Out Books on June 1st, and, today, I get to share the cover, description, and the first blurbs. 

In the coming weeks, I'll be on here talking about a few things related to the book, but the first thing you need to know is what the hell this thing is even about, so here's the back cover copy:

Terrified and on the run after a disastrous con in Dallas, grifters Sam and Rachel find themselves trapped by a blizzard in Nebraska. Low on cash and nerve, they find a local job that seems easy enough: orchestrate the fake kidnapping of a down-and-out academic, then split the ransom with the "victim."

But underneath all that open space, malice and hate breed quickly. Sam and Rachel soon discover everyone is lying, and that this simple job is a lot more complicated - and dangerous - than either of them expected.

Trapped by circumstance and need, the grifters find themselves hunted by occultist Neo-Nazis, extravagantly armed private security, a crazed art dealer with cartel connections, and some of the most powerful institutions in the state, all while another blizzard bears down.

Caught between family, faith, money, drugs and power, Sam and Rachel can only rely on their skills, and each other, or see their own blood spread atop the constantly falling snow.

In short, things are not going well for Sam and Rachel, and they're about to get a lot, lot, worse... But I like to think my character's bad times are actually a good time for my readers, and, thankfully, that seems to be the response! 

Here's what the excellent James D.F. Hannah had to say about the book: 

Set against the bleakest snowstorm this side of the Apocalypse, "The Low White Plain" bubbles with white-hot energy and tension that threatens to slit a throat with every turned page. Come for the neo-Nazis, religious fanatics, and gun nuts, but stay for Paul J. Garth's masterful exploration of two desperate criminals on the run. This is what they're talking about when they talk about "noir," and Garth knows its pulsing heartbeat—even as characters bleed out across the barren landscape. 

James D.F. Hannah, Shamus-winning author of BEHIND THE WALL OF SLEEP and SHE TALKS TO ANGELS

Nick Kolakowski (whose seriously good Payback is Forever is out now, which I really encourage you to read) had some really nice things to say as well:

With "The Low White Plain", Paul J. Garth has crafted a lean, mean, bloody machine. It zips as fast as a bullet on a winter's day and delivers all the satisfactions of a con gone wrong.

- Nick Kolakowski, author of "Love & Bullets" and "Payback Is Forever."

 And my collaborator (Yeah, we announced a little something over on Twitter), Dennis Tafoya says: 

In "The Low White Plain", Paul J Garth delivers breakneck action and a taut, razor-sharp plot that pits a couple of savvy con artists against a vicious Nazi cult, murderous hired guns and an old mark out to collect a blood debt. Another excellent addition to the Grifter's Song saga.

Dennis Tafoya, author of "Dope Thief" 

Well goddamn, I think that sounds like a bloody good time, don't you?

But what's it going to look like, you're asking. Well, let's get to that right now. 

Presenting, for the first time anywhere, the cover to "The Low White Plain":

I'm thrilled with this cover, to be honest. The color tones, the key picture. All of it. 

A lot of this book is about anxiety. How something within us drives us to try to control itself, while insisting that our lack of ability to control it is making everything worse. The other thing I was really writing about in this is Nebraska itself. How the land here, the soil, are running their own con on all those who would be hapless enough to stand atop it. This cover captures both those things (in part because we took direct inspiration from the most geographically specific and anxiety ridden album of all time, Springsteen's Nebraska). 

I'll be back next week with something not related to "The Low White Plain" but then, after that, it's probably going to be the main thing I post about for a bit. But for now, thank you for checking out the cover and the blurbs. I really hope you're interested, or even excited, to read it. 

"The Low White Plain" will be available on Kindle June 1st, with paperbacks dropping in early August.


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Borges and the Eternal Orangutans

If you're a person who enjoys reading Jorge Luis Borges, Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft, then Brazilian writer Luis Fernando Verissimo's novel Borges and the Eternal Orangutans will be candy for you.  I know it is for me, a reason why, last week, I picked it up off my shelf for a re-read.

It is 1985.  Our narrator, an obscure Brazilian academic and Borges admirer named Vogelstein — he left Nazi Germany as a baby with two aunts — attends the yearly Israfel convention in Buenos Aires, a gathering of Poe scholars, of which Vogelstein is one. As is common knowledge, or should be, nothing is as cutthroat and competition-filled as academia, and to this convention come three men who hate each other, the German (who lives in Mexico) Joachim Rotkopf, the American Oliver Johnson, and the Argentinian Xavier Urquiza.  All three have specific cultural biases and their own obsessive theories about Poe and Lovecraft's work that have led them to insult each other at past conferences and in the pages of the literary journal they all contribute to, called The Gold-Bug.  Prior to the gathering, Rotkopf has announced that he has come prepared to unmask the "Argentinian, Xavier Urquiza, to ruin his reputation and demolish him intellectually, at the same time pulverizing the American, Oliver Johnson, whom he called 'Lovecrafty', with documentary proof that his theory on the Necronomicon was not only utter nonsense, but plagiarised to boot."  Borges is at the conference as well, merely to mingle and take in the discussions when they get going, but on the very first night, after the opening cocktail party, Urquiza is murdered in his hotel room.  He is stabbed in the throat but not before he manages to drag himself over to the room's large mirror and position his body in such a way that it resembles a V, a dying man's clue to who killed him.  Or is the letter he meant to create an X...or an O...or a W?  Vogelstein, Borges, and their mutual friend Cuervo, yet another Poe specialist, try to figure it all out, discussing the crime in Borges' home in Buenos Aires, and the matter is all the more complicated because, of course, in the tradition of Poe, who wrote the first locked-room murder mystery with "Murders in the Rue Morgue", Rotkopf has been found dead in a room locked in all ways from the inside.

Verissimo has a lot of fun with academic pretension, and the way Vogelstein idolizes Borges, who he has tried to make aware of his existence for years until this convention occurred, is amusing.  And the author clearly has steeped himself in everything Borgesian.  As Borges and his friends talk about the crime and the two main suspects, Urquiza and Johnson, not to mention a third possible suspect, the Japanese scholar who Rotkopf twice in one night bumped into and knocked over at the cocktail party, they interpret the clues through a number of topics that are Borges obsessions: mirrors, libraries, language, doubles, writing, detective stories, history and alternate history, the danger and power of mysterious texts -- and on and on.  And there is much discussion of the British magus and cosmographer John Dee, who served Queen Elizabeth I and hung around the court of the occultist King Rudolf II of Bohemia, since Dee is cited by Lovecraft as the English translator of the Necronomicon, which perhaps may have played a part in Rotkopf's murder.  According to Borges, John Dee is also the first person to speak of the so-called Eternal Orangutan, which given all the time in the world, would end up writing all the known books in the cosmos.  Wasn't an orangutan the killer in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue?"  Yes, an orangutan was the killer in that story.  Not that this particular locked room crime Borges and company ponder over will be solved by pegging an ape as the culprit.

Borges and the Eternal Orangutans is a legitimate mystery and a literary lark and it gets everything done in 130 pages. The solution plays fair and makes sense and is completely true to the spirit and style of Borges. I enjoyed it as much the second time through, knowing the solution, as I did the first time through, and I wouldn't be surprised if Borges himself would have got a kick out of it. It's a lot of fun, a tongue-in-cheek game with just enough heft.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Killer Workshop 2022


By Claire Booth 

It’s been a long while since craft and writing workshops have been held. As things start to open back up, two local chapters of Sisters in Crime are back, in killer style.

Sacramento’s Capitol Crimes Chapter is partnering with South Carolina’s Palmetto Chapter to present Killer Workshop 2022. This will be two events, one in-person and one virtual event, each with a great slate of presenters. The keynote speaker for both will be thriller writer Gregg Hurwitz, author of multiple international bestsellers, including the Orphan X series.

The virtual sessions include panels on Shedding Light on Sex Trafficking Through Fiction, Partners in Crime: Mystery Co-Authors, and It’s the Law: Attorneys Writing Mysteries. 

Panelists include Clive Cussler co-author Robin Burcell, Murder She Wrote co-writer Terrie Farley Moran, Eleanor Taylor Bland Award winner Yasmin Angoe, thriller writer EA Aymar, lawyer-turned writer Roger Johns and Wanda M. Morris, the newly crowned Lefty Award winner for best debut novel. Also featured are Charles Todd, Carla Damron, and Debra H. Goldstein.

Panelists include Clive Cussler co-author Robin Burcell, Murder She Wrote co-writer Terrie Farley Moran, Eleanor Taylor Bland Award winner Yasmin Angoe, thriller writer EA Aymar, and Wanda M. Morris, the newly crowned Lefty Award winner for best debut novel.

The in-person event features presentations by writers and experts in fields related to crime, including:

Me, Claire Booth, on True and False: How to Rip True Stories from the Headlines and Turn Them into Great Fiction.

Cara Black on Setting and Place

Kris Calvin on Your First Novel: How to Finish Writing It & Sell It When You Do.

Police psychologist Ellen Kirschman on PTSD for Writers: Lose the Flashbacks—Please.

Eileen Rendahl on Ghostwriting: Now You See Me, Now You Don’t.

Simon Wood on Cut It Short: Writing Compelling Short Stories.

And one I absolutely can’t wait for is Both Sides of the Prison Door, with former associate prison warden James L’Etoile and former prisoner Quan Huynh, who spent 22 years in and out of prisons and now works with the Alternatives to Violence Project.

Then there will be presenters talking about not writing, but things that are just as important—

Karen Phillips on Cover Design: Presentation is Everything.

Ryan Nickel of the Sacramento County crime lab on Forensic DNA Analysis: Everything You Need to Know.

And finally, in a special appearance, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert on The Power of Investigative Genetic Genealogy to Solve Violent Crime.

For more on all the presenters, click here.

If you’re anywhere near Northern California, come to the in-person event:  

Saturday, May 14, 2022

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (lunch will be provided)

Rancho Cordova City Hall (just east of Sacramento)

2729 Prospect Park Drive

Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

If you’re farther away, you still have the great option of the virtual workshop the same day, May 14, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Pacific Time).

And if you register before May 12, you’ll be automatically entered to win a free developmental/line edit for a story of 5,000 words from Barb Goffman, a multi-award winning short story author and editor.

Here I am recording a promo for Killer Workshop 2022 with Terry Shepherd, who's much better at these things than I am.