Thursday, December 1, 2016

Andrew Nette's Gunshine State

Australian crime novelist Andrew Nette has a new novel out, his second (the first, Ghost Money, was excellent), and I recently had a chance to review it for Criminal Element. Gunshine State is Nette's take on a heist novel, and a sharp piece of work it is, put together by a writer who knows his heist fiction inside and out.  My full review of the book is here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Authors On Air Talk

Well, I've been away from this blog for awhile, devoting my blog writing time to my weekly Tuesday slots over at the Do Some Damage site.  But even though I'll continue to post regularly at DSD, I also want to get back to posting stuff over here. I mean I should. It's my own site.

To that end, here's a little something to listen to, for those so inclined.  Host Pam Stack had me on her Authors on Air radio show last night, and we had an enjoyable 45 minute talk. We touched on writing and real life, travel and creative inspiration, social media, switching between writing fiction and writing non-fiction, and a number of other things.

Give a listen:

Saturday, April 30, 2016


I have a new 13k-word story out called SUMMERFIELD"S FILM.  It's a story about film obsession set in New York City.  It's up on Amazon now, and I may as well let the description of the story that's there do the talking:

Now that he's a stay at home father in New York, taking care of the baby while his wife works, Tyler can't get out to the movies often. On one of his rare theater outings, something unexpected happens.  He stumbles across the famous director K.M. Summerfield.  Once prolific, now a recluse, the filmmaker vanished from public view years ago after he went blind.  No one knows where he's been living, and nobody knows what happened to the legendary film he supposedly made just before he lost his sight.  It's said he made a horror film, but nobody can be sure.

Thrilled about the encounter, Tyler hatches a plan.  If he can get his hands on that unseen film, if he can release it to the world, he'll be a hero to film fanatics everywhere.  Still, something seems off to Tyler.  Is he playing Summerfield as he thinks, or is the once great director, for reasons of his own, playing him?

Amazon e-book link.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

THE CONJURE-MAN DIES by Rudolph Fisher

Before Walter Mosely and before Chester Himes, there was Harlem Renaissance author Rudolph Fisher and his 1932 novel, The Conjure-Man Dies: A Mystery Tale of Dark Harlem.  It's a book set in Harlem with an all-black cast, from the NYPD detective investigating the case to the physician assisting him to the suspects to the victim (who's a Harvard-educated African!).  It's well-written, full of twists and great characters and came as a total surprise to me when I read it recently.  It's a book more people should know about and read.  To that end, I wrote a piece about it for the Los Angeles Review of Books, a piece you can check out right here: The Conjure-Man Dies.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers by Max Booth III

There are authors whose work, even if enjoyable and topnotch, has a similar feel from book to book. They may have a certain tone they carry from work to work or they may write a series.  You may be able to identify them easily as a writer of private eye novels, cozies, international thrillers, horror, science fiction, whatever.  Not so, Max Booth III.  So far, through the three books I've read by him, Booth has established himself as a writer who's unclassifiable.  In both Toxicity and The Mind is a Razorblade, his previous two books, he showed an assured ability to mix crime fiction with black humor with speculative fiction with a healthy dose of satire and outright slapstick comedy.  For all the frenetic activity in his books, though, he also was able to keep things emotionally grounded, never losing sight of the yearnings, the need for connection, among his most central characters.  Above all, one gets from Booth the definite sense that he wants to entertain.  He's a showman, and I mean this in the best sense of the word.  Booth is freewheeling in how he approaches genre and not afraid to go over the top and far afield in his subject matter, but there's nothing aloof or preening or snarky in his tone.  He'll do what he wants to do in his fiction - and conventional story expectations be damned - but his goal clearly is not to shove weirdness down the reader's throat for the sake of weirdness. He simply wants to take the reader along on a wild, fun, exciting ride.

With, his most recent book, How to Successfully Kidnap Strangers, Booth does not disappoint. Again, as the title indicates, there is crime at the center of the story, but here the tone is decidedly satirical.  You don't have an investment in the characters as much as you do in some of the characters in his other books, but that's only as it should be in a satire.  Booth knows just how to set the reader at the right distance from his characters, neither looking down at them nor especially caring all that much about them.  Satire is very much about deriving enjoyment in the kind of way you might take pleasure from watching an ant colony at work, and that's pretty much how I viewed this tale, which involves kidnappings, robbery, shootings, serial killing, and beheadings.

But what exactly is Max Booth satirizing?  Nothing less than the indie lit scene now booming, and Booth, who runs an indie press when not producing his own novels, knows this world cold.  He gives us a nasty blogger, an indie press publisher and his motley staff, a prolific bizarro lit hack who turns out titles like The Cumming of Christ. Indeed, all the titles Booth mentions in the book sound ridiculous (Attack of the Chlamydia Kamikazes, Cunnilingus is Close to Godliness), but they actually aren't much more outrageous than a lot of indie lit titles that exist in the real world. Throw into this mix a ferocious serial killer, a cop who loves the stuff the indie press - BILF Publishing, meaning Books I'd Love to Fuck Publishing - puts out, and an overweight guy desperate to work as an editor for BILF; and you pretty much have the cast of characters for this novel.  I won't go into detail about the plot because the less said about it the better.  Why ruin the surprises?  I will say it's lightning fast, gleefully blood-soaked, absurd, and filled with twists. Booth's satire, like a lot of the best satire, is very focused and specific, not broad; he keeps his eye on the target and picks away at it.  He also knows that one key to comedy is to make the characters themselves serious.  They don't know how silly and idiotic they often are.  While they strive and screw up, you laugh. True, the more you know about the indie lit scene, the more you'll recognize in the book and the more you'll laugh at what's presented, but I don't think a reader's enjoyment will be dependent upon knowing this world well. After all, the follies of ego, resentment, insecurity and envy are universal, common to every artistic and professional scene.  And in the midst of it all, during a brief respite from the shenanigans, Booth shows us his earnest side, the side that tells us something about him as a writer:

"Genre exists to limit writers, okay?  You gotta break these walls down.  Don't let stereotypes and fictional guidelines silence your originality.  Too many writers kill their inner desires to write whatever they want in fear of upsetting potential readers because you didn't follow the exact guidelines of your usual genre.  These fears want you to die. Chuck them into a fire and be done with them.  There are no rules here.  Your main characters do not have to end up together happily ever after in your romance story.  The scientist does not have to be mad in your science fiction series. Your male protagonist does not have to ruin your female protagonist's face with cum in your latest erotica.  Everybody does not have to die in your horror novel.  In fact, nobody has to die.  There are no rules in fiction.  There is only you and the story. Write from your heart and keep the words true and forget about everything else."

Well said, and, to judge by his books so far, words that Booth himself tries to follow.  I'm confident he'll keep following them.  I'm also fairly sure I'll read his next book.  But I can tell you this: I have no idea what his next book will be about and  I don't know what genres and tones he'll be playing around with.  Can't predict with this writer.  Love that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Vol. 1 Brooklyn on Graveyard Love

"There are a few crime authors walking the dividing line between literary fiction and noir, but Scott Adlerberg's Graveyard Love is the kind of text that could easily become canonical when it comes to defining what that line looks like.  At once elegant, dark, and mysterious, this relatively short novel offers readers a love story wrapped in a bizarre secret and sprinkled with sexual tension and unexpected violence.  The result is a narrative that's as hard to define as it is to put down."

Crime author and book reviewer Gabino Iglesias reviewing Graveyard Love for Vol. 1 Brooklyn. The full review you can read here.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Criminal Element on Graveyard Love

"Adlerberg's storytelling is reminiscent of Julio Cortazar conjuring up the befuddled photographer in "Blow Up" (1959) or Vladimir Nabokov's unhinged chocolate factory worker, who erroneously believes he's found his doppleganger, in Despair (1934).  Both represent unreliable narration from a first-person psychotic point of view - doing their best to convince us they are 100% sane.

Oh, and that ending!  A bookend of horrifying excellence that exists as a kind of homage of sorts to Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

David Cranmer reviewing Graveyard Love for Criminal Element. You can read the full review here.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Good Reviews for Graveyard Love

Well, it's been awhile since I posted here so I was thinking this might be a good time to mention what's been going on of late.

The main thing is that my new novel , Graveyard Love, came out at the beginning of February, and I'm happy to say that the reviews for it have been good.

There have been a number of good reviews for the book so far - one from Angel Colon at My Bookish Ways, one from Benoit Lelievre at Dead End Follies, and another from Out of the Gutter Online.

I also did an interview talking about Graveyard Love, the pitfalls of publishing and genre fiction with Benoit Lelievre at Dead End Follies, and I chatted with crime novelist Alex Segura for a talk over at The Los Angeles Review of Books.

It's been a heady and enjoyable couple of weeks.

Now....back to the novel in progress.

Monday, January 18, 2016

HURT HAWKS by Mike Miner

In his novel Prodigal Sons, Mike Miner captured the many complexities inherent in the dynamic among three adult brothers. In his follow up book, Hurt Hawks, Miner again explores the bonds between a band of brothers, but this time, the fraternal ties are not based on blood. Or, at least, not blood in the familial sense.  When an Afghan War veteran in Dorchester Massachusetts is killed by a local thug who collects shakedown money for the area's local gangster, an ex-soldier whose life the vet once saved calls together his old unit to find out what happened to the vet and who killed him. To say that Captain Patrick Donavan, the unit commander, has led a morally checkered life since leaving the service is an understatement, and in fact none of the members of his old four man unit has had an easy time of it in civilian life stateside. But the chance to reunite for a righteous cause, and to defend the victim's imperiled widow and son, is something that re-energizes these men and makes their lives worth living again.

Hurt Hawks calls upon a number of familiar tropes.  You have a revenge story that wouldn't be out of place in a Western - the way the young boy Andrew looks up to Donovan clearly has echoes of Shane - you have the war vets in a crime story back home trope; you have the morally compromised individual searching for something, a defining act, that will give him a measure, however small, of redemption. What makes Hurt Hawks work is the purity with which Miner tackles his subject manner.  A story doesn't have to be brand new to work if the execution clicks. And here, yes, it clicks. The writing is direct, clear, and fast. Every character in the book, major and minor, is vividly etched.  The tone is serious and morally ambiguous, the narrative compelling. You care quite a bit about what will happen to Patrick Donavan, his crew, and the widow and boy they're defending, and Miner ends things in the best way possible - by following through without false sentiment on the initial premises he laid out.

Mike Miner has a gift for creating real, complicated people on the page, characters with weight, and now that I've read two of his books, it's safe to say I'll pick up quickly whatever he turns out next. 

Hurt Hawks is published by One Eye Press, by the way, which continues to put out really good novellas and short novels.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

THE DEAD MOUNTAINEER'S INN by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky

Russian science fiction masters the Strugatsky Brothers (Roadside Picnic, Definitely Maybe) wrote one detective novel.  Just that one, but the book is a weird funny ride way more inventive than most mystery novels.  It's subtitled One More Last Rite for the Detective Genre, and, among other things, it is in fact a send-up of the classic locked-room, isolated country house murder mystery.  Well, it's that, and much more. I took a look at the novel over at Criminal Element.