Week in Review of Small Press Crime Fiction for September 18-24, 2017
My head swelled a bit this week when crime fiction curmudgeon Sam Belacqua asked to interview me for the blog Do Some Damage. What I wasn’t ready for was the reception the interview would receive. I feel a bit like Sally Field. If you haven’t had a chance to read the interview, please do. And, seriously, thanks very much to all you who in the crime fiction community that have welcomed me. Before we get to the regular scheduled programming, one more thing.
A few weeks ago, I reviewed Gabino Iglesias’ Zero Saints (Broken River Books) which by the way is fantastic. Part crime, part horror, part coming of age story, it’s the bees knees as the grandparents would say. Though Iglesias might be living on the mainland of the United States, his family is from Puerto Rico. Iglesias is donating all the money from his book as well as his freelance writing and editing to his family in Puerto Rico. It might not be much, but it’s something. So if you haven’t picked up Zero Saints yet, what the fuck? Go buy it now. Here is Iglesias’ Facebook post. I know it’s kind of long, but deal with it.
Imagine your country is devastated by a hurricane the likes of which the world has rarely seen. Imagine you’re a thousand miles away, living in a different place and you feel like worry is going to drown you. Imagine you suddenly realize that while prepping for past storms and then waiting for the country to get back in shape was a long, tedious, hot, uncomfortable process, not being there now is somehow worse. Imagine for a second you were one those people who thought about getting the fuck outta there and not being able to because the place is 100 miles long by 35 miles wide and there’s nowhere to go. All island people know that feeling because we’ve been there before. Imagine staring at your phone, waiting for it to ring with good news because you fear for the safety of loved ones. Imagine that those daily calls to tell your mom “I’m okay. I’m not going hungry and I’m not in jail, viejita” are gone and all you can do is wonder if she’s okay. Imagine an entire country plunged into the humid, impenetrable, mosquito-infested darkness that only Caribbean folks know and not knowing how many months it will take for power to be restored. Imagine calling friends time and again despite there being no signal. Imagine worrying about your family having enough food and drinking water to ride out the whole mess. Imagine your country under water and mud and broken pieces of buildings and displaced sand and trees and collapsed power lines. Imagine folks losing it all to the storm and some of your favorite places under a few feet of brackish water that refuses to disappear. Imagine assholes taking advantage of the situation to steal shit and roam the lawless streets to get whatever they can get their hands on. Imagine the government putting a curfew in place to try to solve things. Imagine rivers erasing communities you’ve been to and streets you walked/hung out in/visited plenty of times looking like a bomb was dropped on them. Imagine the airport is closed and the hotels are destroyed and schools are closed and entire offices blew into wind. Now let me ask you this: what do you do? Do you donate to folks you don’t trust? Do you give in to despair? Do you drink until you forget the whole thing happened? Do you keep reading and watching obsessively as videos and news appear chronicling the devastation? I don’t have an answer for that because we’re all different. All I know is what I do. I worry and keep trying the phone. I cling to every slice of good news, like a friend calling me at 1:00 a.m. just to say “I’m good, brother.” And above all, I send my love out. I send my love to Puerto Rico, patria querida, and to mis hermanos en Mexico. I send my love and keep hustling. Every cent I make from Zero Saints and my freelance writing and editing will go back home to help rebuild, to help mi islita bounce back. For now, that is the only thing I can control, and controlling one little thing is enough.
Near to the Knuckle is now open for submissions for flash fiction and short stories.
We are looking for bank robberies gone bad, double crossing bastards going at it, serial killers with a heart (maybe literally), redemption and revenge. We like it violent, thoughtful and well written. We will consider other genres such as western, science fiction and maybe fantasy, as long as they fit in with the grit theme we are looking for. Please take the time to edit— look over your story for spelling, grammar and flow. We want to publish you. If it’s good but needs work we’ll let you know.
There’s another thing going on at Near to the Knuckle, a competition of sorts. Check it out.
It’s competition time, and all you need to do is write 1000 words. We’ll need your entries in by the 20th October 2017 and they can be in the form of a .doc file or something I can open up with Microsoft Office.
King Shot Press is accepting submissions for their anthology Engage.
Here are the submission guidelines for ENGAGE!, an anthology of anti-fascist literature, dropping next spring from your friends at King Shot Press.
I am seeking fiction or creative non-fiction/memoir that rejects racism, nationalism, authoritarianism, etc. as well as the various strains of fascism, from the alt-right to blackshirts and beyond. Stories of solidarity, atrocity, resistance, satire, even revenge. From Casablanca to Green Room to Inglourious Basterds to Cobra, from V For Vendetta to It Can’t Happen Here to The Wave to Distant Star. Antifascism isn’t just “a couple anarchists in masks,” as some in the media try to frame it, rather, it’s also historically been a coalition across the political spectrum, across national and racial divide. This anthology aims to honor that unity.
100% of publisher proceeds will be going to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an American “non-profit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation.”
Word count between 2000-8000 words. Deadline is January 1, 2018. Payment is $100 (with the option of donation to the SPLC) and a Contributor Copy.
Send stories to: engagestories [at] gmail dot com
Subject Line: Engage! Anthology Submission
Attached file should be .doc(x) or .rtf; no crazy fonts or formatting please!
A submission confirmation email will be sent within a week of receipt. Acceptances and rejections will be sent by January 15, 2018. If you have not heard from us by January 20, 2018, then do please follow up with us.
Okay, not crime fiction, but the publisher sci-fi/fantasy publisher Angry Robot is cool enough, so they’re open for submissions. The caveat, unpublished works by unrepresented authors. More here.
Falling Too by Gordon Brown is the follow-up to his 2016 Falling both published by Down & Out Books. The Fallings series follows Charlie Wiggs, an accountant (as you normally picture accountants) helping friends in trouble and finding themselves in a world of crime and danger where they are out of their league. You can get Falling Too from the publisher or your favorite retailer. Falling, the first in the series, is on sale for .99¢ for you Kindle.
Bloodhound Books released two books: Tony J. Forder’s Degrees of Darkness, a tale about a police detective tracking down a serial killer, and AB Morgan’s A Justifiable Madness about a young man trying to prove he is sane while being kept in a mental hospital. Sarah Hardy writes that A Justifiable Madness is “very different from other books in its genre of which will make it stand out from the crowd. Highly recommended.”
I missed Bookoture’s release two weeks ago The Missing Girls by Carol Wyer about a serial killer loose in the Midlands of England. This week the publisher released Robert Bryndza’s Cold Blood where the tale begins with a suitcase full of a dismembered body.
Quick note: All four of these books from Bloodhound Books and Bookoture area ll going for .99¢ each which is a pretty good deal.
As part of Shotgun Honey’s imprint deal with Down & Out Books, they are slowly re-releasing their catalog. This week the release is Marie S. Crosswell’s Texas, Hold Your Queens that Joe Clifford calls “a smoldering, hardboiled novella with a unique mix of violence and tenderness, identity, revenge, and fate.”
The machine we fondly call James Patterson has released Haunted written by Patterson and James O. Born. It’s about a family about to be haunted . . . . . . by a father’s worst nightmare! Get it? Get it?
Beau Johnson’s A Better Kind of Hate (Down & Out Books) is hanging around on my TBR and that us until I read his story Of Dream, Scenarios, and Plans on Flash Fiction Offensive. Great, fun story which will now force be to read his book. Also at FFO is Bill Barber’s Duke City Getwaway, a story about what happens when you kill a drug dealer and steal all of his money.
Brian Panowich has finished up his six-part serial on Shotgun Honey. If you haven’t been keeping up, just start at Part One and you’ll keep on reading.
Beat to a Pulp published their monthly story, Jerry Bloomfield’s Home Is …. Filled with bikers, cops and a prodigal son, Bloomfield’s story has heart and is damn well written.
I didn’t get to check out a lot of the longer stories from the last two weeks, but read Greg Barth’s Weatherman, a story about a man who becomes a hitman, and Eric Westerlind’s ELC: The Universal Flood, a strange story about a failed poet on the first human colony on Mars.
This past week I reviewed Michael Kazepis’ Gravity (Broken River Books) and John le Carré’s Call for the Dead (Penguin) where I found out that the rumor is true, John le Carré is a damn fine writer.
Janice Law reviews two anthologies of 40s and 50s women crime writers, Golden Age Mysteries, Female Version, over at SleuthSayers. Law focuses on two Library of America releases, Women Crime Writers, Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940’s and Women Crime Writers, Eight Suspense Novels of the 1950’s.
Things must have been even harder back in the day, and so a lot of fine work, even work that resulted in famous films like Vera Caspary’s Laura, was neglected and good authors subtly squeezed out of the mystery canon. Fortunately, thanks to the enterprise of editor Sarah Weinman, who, as she wrote, recently realized “…that the most compelling and creative American crime fiction was being written and published by women,” and decided to look into the women who preceded the best sellers of today (and paved the way for a great many more of us).
Kristofer Upjohn reviews the upcoming Stark House Press release of James McKimmey’s Perfect Victim / Winner Take All. Who is McKimmey? Crime fiction author Jason Starr writes in a 2014 article for Los Angeles Review of Books:
[He] was a prolific pulp writer who had his biggest successes during the 1950s and 1960s. The author of 17 novels and hundreds short stories, he wrote several outright masterpieces including The Perfect Victim, Cornered!, and Run If You’re Guilty that were on the level of, or even better than, the works of better-known crime writers of his era, such as James M. Cain, David Goodis, and John D. MacDonald.
If you think you read a lot then you haven’t been paying attention to Colman Keane’s blog Col’s Criminal Library. One of his most recent posts recounts all the books he read in August and his pick for best of the month. I’m not going to tell you, you’ll have to go and read it. Keane also reviews the latest book by Graham Smith, The Kindred Killers. At Dead End Follies, Ben Lelievre reviews Thomas Mullen’s Lightening Men (Atria / 37 INK) which is a continuation of his critically-acclaimed 2016 novel, Darktown. At Black Guys Do Read, Richard Vialet reviews Cody Goodfellow and J. David Osborne’s The Snake Handler (Broken River Books). Vialet begins his review, “Although the narrative lacked the momentum I was hoping for, this book is nowhere near safe or formulaic.” And he finishes with a truism, “This is yet another brave and unique piece of work from Broken River Books, one of the best publisher’s out there.”
It can’t come to anyone’s surprise that Marietta Miles loved Tom Leins’ Skull Meat. From her Do Some Damage review:
I couldn’t put it down. Tom’s writing is kinetic and fast-paced, perfectly suited for the break-neck feeling of this novelette. Start reading a few lines and the next thing you know it’s well past the witching hour. SKULL MEAT delivers dirty, British crime at its best. Descriptive. Violent. Bloody. Grotesque. Wait until you meet ‘Swollen’ Roland. I loved it!
Katherine Tomlinson reviews Attica Locke’s Bluebird, Bluebird (Mulholland Books) and it is looking like a book I might want to read. Here is Dwyer Murphy’s interview with Locke in Lit Hub. In Los Angeles Review of Books, Rob Latham kind of likes Ryan Gattis’ Safe (MCD). Crime Fiction Lover reviews George Mann’s Wychwood (Titan) saying that it “is a good contemporary murder mystery, and an intriguing beginning to a new series.” Here’s an excerpt from Wychwood. Jenny Maloney reviews Terrence McCauley’s A Conspiracy of Ravens (Polis Books) and says that it “ will fill a few page-turning hours with some fast-paced action and spy intrigue.” Jodem Vandersteen reviews the first issue of the Down & Out magazine.
I don’t know if I have pushed hard enough for people to buy and read Winnie M. Li’s Dark Chapter (Polis Books). I have reviewed it and mentioned Li in two Incident Reports, No. 7 and No. 6. Make that three. In Writing My Trauma with a Little Help From a Jason Bourne Car Chase, Lie writes about writing the horrific rape scene in Dark Chapter.
Now as a general consumer of culture, I’d seen loads of film and TV scenes where characters are raped. I’d also read a number of books where the crime happens. But when it happened to me in real life, I realized all those numerous portrayals were nothing like the actual experience. What bothers me about screen depictions of rape is that you never get the interiority of characters involved in the crime. You’ll often get a close-up of the victim, you may even get her point-of-view, but you’ll never get her subjectivity, her thought process. And when an assault like that is happening to you in real life, there is no exteriority, you have no body: all you are is a jumble of thoughts and emotions.
S.W. Lauden interviews one of my favorite authors Paul Heatley. If you are unaware of Heatley’s work, fix that and fix it now. I’ve reviewed Fatboy and one of my favorite books from 2016, The Motel Whore. Anywho, Lauden’s interviews are always good and I especially liked the bit where Heatley talks of how he goes about improving his writing:
As for the evolution of my writing, I’d like to think I’m getting better. I write every day, so hopefully with each word, each work I edit, each publication, I’m learning and growing and getting better. It’s one of those motivational sayings that kind of gets thrown round so much it’s becoming almost a cliché, but I didn’t come this far to only come this far.
The Writers’ Passport series continues over at The Thrill Begins. This time S.J.I. Holliday interviews the award-winning Alexandra Sokoloff. Battles with anxiety are real and quite often debilitating. Just because a public reading might be easy for you, doesn’t make it so for everyone. At The Thrill Begins, Kathleen Barber, author of Are You Sleeping has a fantastic article about such issues. I am beginning to wonder if Scott Alderberg can write a crappy post at Do Some Damage? With his most recent article, A Dangerous Book, the answer is a resounding no. I’m definitely looking for his new book in 2018 on Broken River Books titled Jack Waters.
Tony Knighton writes about the influences of his wonderful hard-boiled novel Three Hours Past Midnight (Crime Wave Press) at The Writers Thread. Did I say Knighton’s book was wonderful? It fucking is. At Shotgun Honey’s website, Nick Kolakowski interviews Marie S. Crosswell. They talk writing process her book, Texas, Hold Your Queens. Paul D. Brazill interviews Nigel Bird on the release of his latest Southsiders book, By the Time I Get to Phoenix. There is that Chris Pratt meme called “Afraid to Ask Andy” and if you were afraid to ask about bizarro fiction, no worries, Gabino Iglesias tells all in Lit Reactor’s The Little Genre That Could: Why Now is the Time to Read Bizarro.
Jedidiah Ayers at hardboiled wonderland does it again with his remembrance of Harry Dean Stanton, “ Those soulful eyes set deep and resting atop often un-shaven jowls (jowls – on a skinny guy) could convey hardness and cynicism as effectively as bottomless wells of tender-hearted warmth and vulnerability.” David Cranmer writes that Nicholas Ray’s Lonely As Hell, starring Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart, is “a film of such immense, staggering depth is bound to elicit more treasures on repeated dives.” Over at SleuthSayers, Paul D. Marks put together a list of neo-noir films to watch. I’m watching Narcos and so is Holly West at Do Some Damage. At least she tells you why you might want to watch.
Chris Rhatigan, freelance editor and publisher of All Due Respect Books, gives us a free, short master class in writing based on some words and sentences by Elmore Leonard. If you are a beginning writer or maybe you’ve had a novel or two published, there are lessons for everyone in Rhatigan’s Write It Like Elmore Leonard: Ditch Formal Language. The article begins with Leonard explaining that he doesn’t want the reader to be aware of his writing. Rhatigan writes, “Here’s one of the greatest crime writers saying that he doesn’t want you to be aware of his writing. A little weird, no?” Rhatigan gets into specifics and it is well worth your time.
I came across this article the other day called The Radical Copyeditor’s Style Guide for Writing About Transgender People. The post goes into some detail on Correct/current usage of transgender-related language, Bias-free and respectful language in reference to transgender people, and Sensitive and inclusive broader language. There are two updates as well, all of which you can find at the blog The Radical Copyeditor.