Archive for February, 2013

Now that the copyediting for Deep Blood is done, and I’m awaiting proofs, I’ve had a little time to regroup and think about what’s next, as far as writing goes.  I do have a short fiction piece out now, under consideration by a crime noir journal, and I’m working on another.

And in the process of doing so, I’ve come across some really good noir journals and zines of late. It’s good to see a revival of the noir/pulp fiction genre, updated for our time, of course. It never really went away, but for a time Sam Spade got replaced by Thomas Magnum, Columbo and McGarrett. But now pulp fiction, noir, hard-boiled, whatever you want to call the genre, it’s back with a vengeance. The journals I’ve checked out are true to the source: they’re saucy and clever, action-packed guns-n-dames tales. True, it’s a genre not for everyone, but for die-hard pulp fans (and a new generation of fans), there are still plenty of writers following the paths of Raymond Chandler, James Cain, Mickey Spillane and John D. MacDonald.

For your reading pleasure, here’s a quick roundup of some of my recent favorites:

ThuglitThug Lit: Writing about Wrongs. The title pretty much says it all. It’s available at Amazon, where the description reads: “Like a shotgun blast of harsh words and mean intentions right to the eyeballs, THUGLIT is back once again to fill your face with white-hot pellets of today’s best crime fiction.”

PWG-Fall2012---author-bios_02Plots With Guns: “An online literary journal for noir and transgressive fiction, as long as it has a gun in it, somehow, some way.” The website looks like poster for a ’70s drive-in movie (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

Beat to a pulpBeat to a Pulp: This one comes with a warning, right off the bat: “This site contains mature themes and adult language.” Like all the newsrooms I worked in. Features a “Pulp of the Week” and publishes one new story a week online.

zen_logoDarkest Before Dawn: An online journal,  with free downloadable e-book versions,  — for mystery and crime fiction. Also features a long list of good links to other noir sites.

Temp-logo-288x300Crimefactory: an Australian noir/pulp fiction site for its print publications. According to the site, “Now, in 2013, Crime Factory are attempting their most ambitious year yet. The start of March sees to simultaneous launch of two books. LEE, an anthology of fiction based on the life of legendary Hollywood actor Lee Marvin, that features stories by internationally acclaimed writers such as Scott Phillips, Johnny Shaw, Jake Hinkson, Heath Lowrance, Roger Smith and many more.”

Now, go get your pulp on and enjoy.


Slide1Very soon, our winter of discontent will be over. That’s because baseball season is right around the corner. The reawakening of America will begin with the sounds of horsehide slapping leather, the crisp of report a double to the gap off a wooden bat, and a Bob Uecker interview. As pitchers and catchers find their grooves this month and spring training begins in earnest next month, we, the disciples of this most American of games, feel the pull of the ball park, the hope of spring, the dream of a World Series and of course, the team’s look this year — batting practice caps, new uniforms, etc.

OK, maybe that’s just me. But it gives me a good excuse to showcase one of the most important elements of the game — the team logo. I’m a confessed “uniphile,” so I pay a lot of attention to logos. So much attention that I’ve assembled a collection of what I think are the best in professional baseball.

The criteria are, of course, subjective — if I like it, it’s good. If not, it’s bad. So personalDiamonbacks taste leads that list, but I also look at how clever the logo is. One of my favorite logos isn’t on the list because it’s not an official logo. I’m talking about the Arizona Diamondbacks sleeve logo (shown at right). The “d” and the “b” combine to make the head of a diamondback rattlesnake. Cool, huh? Works for me. Other criteria include recognizability — is the logo instantly associated with a long-standing or storied team? Does it “feel” like baseball? Whether the team is any good (Cubs, I’m looking at you) doesn’t matter in this case.

So, with that, here’s my list of the best logos in professional baseball (both minor and major leagues). Think I missed one? Let me know in the comments section below.

burlington bees#13, Burlington Bees: At first, naming a team the “Bees,” doesn’t sound like a good idea. Sure, they sting and all, but you can defend against a bee relatively easy. But when your logo is a buff bee with a snarl and an apparently bad attitude, then your team might have a little swagger. And this logo incorporates an almost natural-looking bee to boot. Strong colors, easy to read.

Sand-Gnats-ok#12, Savannah Sand Gnats: If bees work, then sand gnats do, too. Savannah gets extra credit for one simple, effective addition. I was given a Sand Gnats hat the first year they played (they were a Dodgers affiliate at the time). The front sported this very cool logo, and on the back was stitched, “Bite Me.” Like the Burlington insect, this one looks like he came to play, not make friends with the preschoolers. The colors are awesome, too.

LansingLugnuts_PrimaryLogo#11, Lansing Lugnuts: When you call  your team the “Lugnuts,” you have to smile. It’s a funny kind of name. Can you imagine being on this team and being interviewed by a local reporter: “So, tell us, Jimmy, what do you and your fellow Lugnuts have in store for us tonight?” Hilarious. So it’s no surprise that the logo makes you smile, too. I love this one. But then again, I used to be a part-time cartoonist. Side note: The ‘Nuts are a Class A club, but their stadium is top-notch. When I took in a game a few years ago, I marveled at the elegance of the park.

Mariners#10, Seattle Mariners:
It took the Mariners a long time (and a few iterations as a Major League club) to finally get their look right, but when they did, it really worked. Kind of like the NFL’s Denver Broncos. This logo cleverly incorporates the Mariners’ “ocean” colors with a compass rose and a baseball. In case you’re a landlubber, you’ll find a compass rose on a map — or chart, as they are known at sea — that a mariner would use. See? Clever.

Rangers - Logo#9, Texas Rangers: Usually, I’m not a fan of Texas teams (Cowboys) or their looks (Astros, circa 1970s), but this logo always draws my eye. Simple, expressive, wry, it sums everything that comes to mind when you think of Texas — one big-ass state and a cowboy hat.

chicago_cubs_logo-19533#8, Chicago Cubs: Yes, they’re cursed. Yes, they’re lovable. No, they can’t win consistently to save their lives. But they do have a classic logo. It’s simple, bold and says “Chicago baseball.” You really don’t even need to spell “cubs” out in the logo for this one to be recognizable. And the “bull’s-eye” design looks great on the uniform — as well as possibly symbolizing one the team has on its back for more than 100 years.

St_Louis_Cardinals_1998-present_logo#7 St. Louis Cardinals: Another classic. The Cards have had the same basic logo for over a century. You can see why — it does everything a logo needs to. It’s instantly recognizable as being representative of a baseball team named the Cardinals. Any questions?

detroit-tigers-logo#6, Detroit Tigers: Classic designs show strong in this list, and Detroit is another reason why. This very traditional, old-school logo is bold and elegant. The Tigers have several different variations their logo (and their Old English “D”), but this one is by far the coolest — and fiercest. And the clever little twist of having the tiger coming through the bars of a cage is a very nice touch. I just wish it didn’t remind so much of LSU.

Dodgers#5, Los Angeles Dodgers: You didn’t really think I’d put together a list that didn’t include the Dodgers, did you? When the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn, they kept the name,  and, pretty much, the logo. The cursive “Dodgers” has stood the test of time and remains, with its “LA” cap insignia, one of the most recognizable logos in all of baseball.

yankees_logo_stencil#4, New York Yankees: As a die-hard Dodgers fan, I hated to rank the Yankees higher than the Dodgers, but the reality is the Yankees’ “NY” is nearly universal. Remember when we snagged Saddam Hussein in his hidey hole? What was he wearing? A Yankees cap. Yeah, that thing is everywhere. And it hasn’t changed much through the years or the championships. The Yankees definitely believe that nothing succeeds like success.

CarolinaMudcatsCap#3, Carolina Mudcats: Remember when I said personal taste plays a big part in my criteria for a badass logo? This is that time. I love this logo. It screams “Minor League Baseball” (and I mean that in a good way), and perfectly represents the team. The red and black are among the best colors for baseball teams and work perfectly here.

lookouts#2, Chattanooga Lookouts: Again, a minor-league team scores a home run (excuse the pun) with a clever, smile-evoking logo. And the eyes work with all elements of the Lookouts’ uniform — cap, jersey, sleeves. Even the stadium cups and scoreboard. This was one of the very first minor-league logos I ever came across and it was an instant favorite. Still is. It appeals to my cartoonist past and the eyes work as an integral part of the “C.” And the red and black combine again to make a killer logo.

Mikwaukee Brewers Glove-400x400#1, Milwaukee Brewers: My all-time favorite baseball logo. Why the current Brewers went away from this logo, I’ll never know. But this logo is the one I always associate with the Brew Crew. It’s the one I remember from the ’70s, sure, but the beauty of this logo — the genius of it — is that the “M” and the “B” form a baseball mitt — with a ball in the pocket. I don’t know who came up with this one, but I hope he got a nice bonus for his effort. Normally, I’m not a fan of blue and yellow as team colors, but this is a case of very bold, primary colors complementing each other and producing an energetic, stylish look.

Iwo Jima: Uncommon valor was a common virtue

Iwo Jima: Uncommon valor was a common virtue

My good friend, former colleague, combat correspondent and Trivial Pursuit savant Rob Colenso did all Marines — past and present — a good turn today with a Facebook post that commemorates the Corps’ most famous battle, Iwo Jima.

Eight years ago this month, the nation marked the 60th anniversary of that struggle. Rob and I worked for Army Times Publishing Company then, along with a team of extraordinarily talented reporters, editors, photographers and graphic artists.

I got the assignment to travel to Iwo to meet up with some veterans of the battle, some of whom hadn’t been back to the island since they left in 1945. I was accompanied by one of the most talented photographers with whom I’ve ever worked (and there were quite a few), Scott Mahaskey. The trip took us to Okinawa for a few days, then on a flight to the sullen rock that is Iwo Jima. We were there most of a day, interviewing veterans, shooting video and photos — and remarking over and over at the awe we felt standing among these men who, as boys, accomplished the impossible.

When we returned, I wrote my story, and Mahaskey edited his photos and together we finished editing the videos we’d shot. And we knew we still could do more.

Chris Broz & John Bretschneider, Army Times Publishing Co.

Chris Broz & John Bretschneider, Army Times Publishing Co.

Enter the “graphic artist ninjas,” as Rob so aptly described them. Chris Broz and John Bretschneider, whose handiwork you see here, blew us away with what I consider to be the best depiction of the Japanese defenses on Iwo Jima you’ll ever see. Click here to see the full-size image. You don’t want to miss this.

And the story I filed is reprinted below. It first appeared in Marine Corps Times in February 2005, not long after Marines fought their way through another bloody place, Fallujah.


Uncommon valor: 
Iwo Jima was the ultimate test of leathernecks’ mettle

By Phillip Thompson
Marine Corps Times Staff Writer

It’s OK to say 60 years later: Iwo Jima was it. There’s never been anything like it. Hopefully, there never will be again.

No battle says “Marine Corps” like Iwo Jima — not Inchon or Khe Sanh, Hue, Beirut or Fallujah. Not even Tarawa or Guadalcanal. In the bloody chapters of the Marine Corps’ story, Iwo Jima stands alone.

Sure, you’ve seen the picture. You might even remember the quotes you learned to repeat from memory in boot camp or Officer Candidates School, the one about uncommon valor being a common virtue and, if you really paid attention, the one about the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi ensuring the existence of the Marine Corps for the next 500 years (and you’ve still got 440 years to go).

But what exactly was Iwo Jima? And, for today’s Marines, caught in a nasty, smash-mouth throw-down in Iraq and a complicated insurgency in Afghanistan, what difference does it make?

For starters, Iwo Jima and its horrors and glory and élan, are the Corps. As one bumper sticker says: “When we do our job, people shoot at us.”

Iwo Jima is the Corps, and the Corps is Iwo Jima.

Today, in a world of media saturation and short attention spans, the story of Iwo Jima gets lost, or worse, diminished. Television pundits and newspaper columnists call Fallujah the Iwo Jima of today’s generation. 

Granted, it’s meant as a compliment, and nothing can deny the ferocity and valor of the Marines who ripped through that city, proving that the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction just might be a lance corporal with a bad attitude and an M16. But in an era when hyperbole is used to make a point, that same hyperbole also insults.

By way of comparison, look at Fallujah against Iwo Jima.

•Fallujah covers about seven square miles of urban terrain, indisputably the most difficult in warfare; Iwo Jima is eight square miles of barren rock and ash.

•Six battalions of American troops — four Marine, two Army — assaulted Fallujah, roughly 10,000 troops. Three divisions of Marines hit the beach at Iwo — upward of 80,000 troops.

•It took U.S. forces 10 days to “subdue” Fallujah, with less than 40 killed in action. Marines — and a Navy corpsman — raised the flag on Mount Suribachi after four days of fighting and about a thousand killed. It took another four weeks on Iwo to end the fighting. And when it was done, only 212 men from a garrison of 22,000 Japanese soldiers were left alive. American casualties numbered 6,821 killed or missing; 19,217 wounded; and 2,648 lost to combat fatigue.

•Twenty-seven Marines and sailors received the Medal of Honor for heroism on that piece of sulfuric rock, nearly the number of dead suffered during the assault on Fallujah.
Iwo Jima wasn’t just another battle in Marine Corps history. It was the battle.

No worthless rock
Iwo was viewed by the troops as just another amphibious assault, another chance to get your head blown off if you were a salt or a chance to finally see some action if you were a boot. 

The Corps had leapfrogged across the azure Pacific for three years, starting with Guadalcanal in 1942. Along the way, Tarawa proved the fragility of American doctrine, Saipan and Peleliu showed how hard the Japanese would fight, and Roi-Namur proved the Navy and Marine Corps could get it right.

But none of that really mattered on Iwo.

For one, it was the first direct assault on what Japanese considered sovereign territory. They owned Iwo; they didn’t steal it. For another, it was a god-awful place to fight.

Marines are used to drawing the worst hellhole of the world’s hellholes, but Iwo might beat them all. A black chunk of lava and ash thrust out of the ocean like an offending taste in the throat, Iwo stunk of sulfur. With no vegetation and little relief in the terrain, the island was a shooting gallery for Japanese gunners — and they zeroed in on every inch of the gritty black sand.

But the island was an obstacle to Allied forces carving a path toward mainland Japan from the south. Within 1,000 miles of the home islands and halfway between Tokyo and an American airstrip on Saipan, Iwo sat along a critical bomber route. The island served as an outpost for the Imperial Army headquarters, and its numerous radar arrays gave Tokyo two hours’ warning of approaching attacks. Iwo-based Japanese fighters scrambled to intercept our B-29 bombers, either coming or going, or both.

Also, taking the island would put American fighter planes within range to escort bombers to the home islands. 


Maj. Gen. Harry Schmidt commanded V Amphibious Corps, the largest force of Marines ever committed to a single battle — more than 80,000. More than half had combat experience.

The assault plan was classic Marine Corps: two up, one back. The 4th and 5th divisions would send ashore two regiments each, abreast of each other — 5th on the left, 4th on the right. 3rd Division held two regiments in corps reserve.

The plan: Cut the island in half across its waist, securing the airfield in the process, then wheel left, or southwest, and subdue Mount Suribachi, the extinct volcano that anchored the island and gave thousands of Japanese a line of fire onto the beaches below.

The assault began at 6:45 a.m., Feb. 19, 1945, after weeks of air and naval bombardment. Following another thunderous barrage courtesy of Navy warships, Marines splashed ashore and encountered their first enemy: the island’s soil.

The crusty black sand clung to seemingly everything. More than 6,000 Marines moved ashore within minutes, and about 30,000 would land the first day. The lead elements cleared the beach itself, but men and equipment lurched to a halt in the deep, loose grit.

Then, the Japanese opened up. What started as light resistance swelled into a steady stream of fire that enveloped the Marines struggling through the sand. Mortar rounds dropped among Marine positions like rain, and machine-gun fire cut down anyone careless or reckless enough to stand up.

Not every unit was pinned down at first. 1st Battalion, 28th Marines, reached the western shore of the island, some 700 yards distant, within an hour and a half of landing. But such gains were the exception, not the rule. On the right flank, Japanese fire chopped up the 25th Marine Regiment as it clawed its way forward, advancing only 300 yards in the first half hour.

And it wasn’t even noon. For all the intensity of their initial response, the Japanese guns hadn’t even warmed up. Sometime around 10 a.m., the Japanese swung into action the heavy guns, hidden and embedded in the labyrinthine face of Suribachi and the island’s countless crags. Huge coastal defense guns, heavy artillery, anti-aircraft guns and machine-gun fire poured on the Marines. Those who survived remembered it as the bloodiest episode they’d encountered.

Marines fell in numbers too great to count, often too many for corpsmen to handle.

"Manila John" Basilone received the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Guadalcanal. He died fighting at Iwo.

“Manila John” Basilone received the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Guadalcanal. He died fighting at Iwo.

Commanders screamed for tanks, naval gunfire — anything to quell the murderous barrage. Combat vets kept the boots from panicking and noncommissioned officers worked to get the job done. 

Officers dropped at an appalling rate; no one was immune. A mortar round felled Gunnery Sgt. “Manila John” Basilone, a living legend who’d received the Medal of Honor on Guadalcanal. Basilone died doing what he did best — leading his machine-gun platoon against the enemy.

Schmidt committed his reserves before noon.

The island was a meat grinder, killing Marines in waves and degenerating the simple, carefully scripted battle plan into chaos. By the end of the first day, 3/25 alone lost 22 officers and 500 troops.

Cyril P. Zurlinden, a salty lieutenant and combat correspondent, described the first night ashore: “At Tarawa, Saipan, and Tinian, I saw Marines killed and wounded in a shocking manner, but I saw nothing like the ghastliness that hung over the Iwo beachhead. Nothing any of us had ever known could compare with the utter anguish, frustration and constant inner battle to maintain some semblance of sanity.” The first day’s cost: 2,420 men — 501 killed; 1,755 wounded; 47 dead of wounds; 18 missing and 99 lost to combat fatigue.

The first flag

Four days later, as the battle raged on, a group of Marines was assigned a mission that must have made it flinch. Lt. Col. Chandler Johnson ordered a lieutenant to take a 40-man patrol to the top of Suribachi and seize the crest.

Nowhere to hide, every inch covered by Japanese gunners.

Nowhere to hide, every inch covered by Japanese gunners.

Before 1st Lt. Harold Schrier stepped off, Johnson handed him a small flag brought ashore by the battalion adjutant. Johnson instructed Schrier to hoist the flag when he reached the summit. Schrier’s patrol reached the rim of Suribachi’s crater about 10:15 a.m., encountering a group of Japanese. Even as a firefight erupted, a few Marines scrambled to find something with which to raise the flag. They found a length of steel pipe, to which they affixed the tiny flag, then raised it at 10:20 a.m.

Far below, thousands of weary and wounded sailors and Marines broke into cheers. Some wept.

The men who raised that flag often have been overlooked in the shadow of Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal’s iconic image of the second flag raising, which came later that day when Johnson decided the first flag was too small to be seen from a distance.

The men who made it to the top with that small flag were Sgt. Louis Lowery — a Leatherneck magazine photographer, Schrier, Cpl. Charles W. Lindberg, Platoon Sgt. Ernest I. Thomas Jr., Sgt. Henry O. Hansen, Pfc. Louis C. Charlo and Pfc. James Michels. Lowery photographed the event.

Back to the fight
The flag raisings didn’t signal the end of battle. Marines would fight another month through some of the war’s most savage combat. In fact, after the flags were raised, nearly 4,000 Marines were killed in action. The island wasn’t declared secure until March 26.

On April 7, 1945, American fighters based on Iwo Jima took off from the runway, refurbished by Seabees. The fighters accompanied B-29s as they made their bombing run to Japan. For the remainder of the war, the island was a place of salvation for crippled and shot-up bombers limping home from Japan. By the end of the war, some 2,200 B-29s — 27,000 crewmen — used the island’s runway.

Phillip Thompson is Lifelines editor.

February is usually a double whammy month for me. Between two birthdays and Valentines Day and our usual bad Virginia weather (not to mention the end of football season), I can’t wait to get to March.

But it’s also a good time to stay indoors and catch up on reading and movies. With the pending release of Deep Blood, I’ve rejuvenated a lot of the connections I let slide while finishing the novel. And thanks to my friends at Goodreads — and an Amazon gift card — I’ve got a lot of new material to read.

14_A Bullet for Cinderella 1955At the moment, I’m reading an early John D. MacDonald novel, A Bullet for Cinderella. It’s one of his early, hard-boiled crime novels, certainly not his best effort. But reading MacDonald is always like running into an old friend — you pick up right where you left off. Next up will be a couple of books I’ve been meaning to get to for a while — Tom Franklin’s Smonk and Ed Lynskey’s Lake Charles (and his new collection of stories, Smoking on Mount Rushmore), both of which promise to be solid redneck noir.

Moviewise, I’ll be checking out Love and a .45 this weekend (you gotta love a title like that). Happened across it on Netflix. It’s an indie film starring Renee Zellweger and Gil Bellows, who play star-crossed lovers whose bungling bank robbery propels them into celebrity as fugitives on the run. I have no idea if it’s any good, but it caught my attention. I also recently watched Killer Joe, starring Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch, Gina Gershon, Thomas Hayden Church and Juno Temple. It’s a movie hard to describe…but the word that keeps coming to mind is “lurid.”

The premise is an old noir one — a not-too-smart drug dealer, Chris (Hirsch) hires Killer220px-Killer_Joe_Poster Joe (McConaughey), a Dallas cop who works as a hitman on the side, to kill his mother for the life insurance policy that, supposedly, names her daughter Dottie (Juno Temple) as the beneficiary. When Chris can’t front Joe the money for the hit, Killer Joe takes Dottie as a “retainer.” Double crosses and mayhem ensue. It’s directed by William Friedkin, and as usual, he pushes the limits of just about everything in movie-making. If you’re the least bit shy about language, nudity, sex and violence, don’t bother.

And if I get around to it, I’ll check out Michael Biehn’s latest tribute to the B-movie drive-in flicks of old, The Victim. But that’s another story.

Old_Tombigbee_River_Bridge_at_ColumbusFor those of you who missed this week’s announcement about the release of my latest novel, “Deep Blood,” this summer, see the 7 February post below. And here’s a little more info on some of the characters in the story:

Colt Harper: Sheriff of Lowndes County, Mississippi. Marine Corps veteran. Met John Carver in boot camp; Colt and John became friends and fought together in the Gulf War. When they lost mutual friend “Moonpie” Jones in the war, Colt took out his revenge on the Iraqis on the Kuwaiti border — an event that only he and John discuss, and only obliquely. He’s separated from his wife, Irene and currently seeing Lydia, who lives in an apartment in Columbus. Like most of the things in his life, Colt isn’t putting a lot of effort into the relationship.

John Carver: Chicago native, Colt’s best friend. Made his first trip to the Deep South to serve as Colt’s deputy. Big, strong and black, he doesn’t feel comfortable in Mississippi. He’s perplexed both by a culture he views as mostly white and mostly racist and by his boss’ apparent inability to separate himself from that culture.

Winston Harper: Colt’s father. Marine Corps veteran, too. An unrepentant alcoholic who spent most of his life being thrown into and bailed out of jails in north Mississippi and Alabama. Lives alone in a rented house (that he sometimes pays rent on) and stays in contact with Colt, even though their relationship is damaged beyond repair.

Irene Harper: Colt’s estranged wife. Irene considers herself a “proper” woman and is bitter toward Colt for the failure of their marriage — to which she contributed.

Lydia: Colt’s current girlfriend. A runaway from Houma, La., Lydia survived by dancing in New Orleans and Mississippi strip joints until she wound up in Mississippi, broke from a cocaine habit and looking for way out. She thinks she’s keeping Colt in the dark about her frequent breaking of the law regarding the possession and use of marijuana, but she’s not.

Rhonda Raines: A high school friend of Colt’s and the mother of Clifford, whose body Colt discovers at Lake Lowndes. Rhonda graduated from Ole Miss before returning to Columbus, where she raised Clifford as a single working mother. She and Colt share a deep friendship that each has acknowledged in the past and are still trying to fully understand.

Donelle: A friend of Clifford’s and apprentice hoodlum. Harbors a deep-seated resentment toward Colt and the entire Harper family.

Gideon Hayes: public defender and Donelle’s lawyer. Has known Colt since childhood and  has the ability to get on Colt’s nerves just by showing up.

I’ll be posting updates here, so be sure to check in often. Also, check out the Wade Stuart novels via the “My Books” link at the top of the page.

I’m pleased to announce that my latest novel, Deep Blood, will be published this summer by Roundfire Books. Be sure and check in here often for updates and details, or, better yet, subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter (@olemissgrad38).

For those of not familiar with this project, this novel is a different kind of story from my previous ones. For one, it’s not a Wade Stuart story. It has, I hope, a different feel and “sound” than those. It’s closer to the type of writing I’ve been trying to achieve for a long time — what I’ve defined as “redneck noir.”

Deep Blood is the story of Mississippi sheriff Colt Harper, whose moral compass is slightly askew. He doesn’t care for the mundane parts of his job, he drinks too much, is separated from his wife, and has a former stripper girlfriend who regularly violates the drug laws of the county. Even when the son of a close friend is murdered, he has a hard time concentrating on the subsequent investigation. But when his incorrigible father is arrested again for DUI, he learns a secret of his father’s past — one that threatens his own future.

The story started out as just that — a short story I wrote a few years ago for one of Bob Bausch’s creative writing classes (and if you don’t know Robert Bausch, you should. Check him out at Amazon.) It got pretty good reviews in class (a rarity), and after meeting another writer, Tom Paine (who wrote the hysterically funny Pearl of Kuwait), I submitted the story, titled “Fishing” (at Tom’s insistence) to the Bread Loaf Writers Conference at Middlebury College in Vermont. Much to my surprise, it was accepted.

“Fishing” was critiqued by none other than Tom Franklin, who was then the writer in residence at Ole Miss (yeah, talk about pressure). I didn’t breathe for the entire hour that he and the class discussed it. Tom was gracious, brutally honest and inspiring in a brief conversation after the session.

Thus encouraged, I brought it home and kept working at it. Eventually, it became Deep Blood.

I’ll be posting updates and all the when and where here, so stop by often.