Archive for May, 2013

mqdefaultThe release date for Deep Blood is still a few weeks away, but if you want to whet your appetite, check out the just-released trailer for the novel here.  Feel free to leave whatever thoughts you may have in the comments section below.

The video will eventually have a home here on the blog, along with a little behind-the-scenes commentary. But I must note up front a special thanks to musician, friend, journalist, new dad, noir aficionado and fellow movie-phile Stephen Losey for the original music. This thing was just a bunch of video clips until his banjo made it all come together.

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patchIf you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I have a particular reverence for Memorial Day, which I detailed in last year’s entry, “It’s Not National Grilling Day.”

This year, I had an opportunity to participate in an event that really brought home the sacrifices made by the men and women who fight and die in our wars — and the legacy they leave behind.

The motorcycle group I ride with, the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (Virginia Chapter 27-2), was part of the annual Frazier-Mason Some Gave All benefit ride Sunday, 19 May. This year marked the seventh that riders gathered at Spotsylvania (Va.) High School and rode the 30 miles to King George High School. Weather affected the turnout, but somewhere around 600 or so bikes (that’s purely a guess on my part; CVMA 27-2 was at the front, pulling road guard duty) of all types showed up, along with a Marine Corps color guard and a USMC LAV-25, which followed us the whole way, and a police escort.

Along the route, under cloudy skies that threatened rain the entire trip, we didn’t ride a single mile without encountering well-wishers on the side of the highway, waving flags and signs, cheering, even — in the case of a few stalwart veterans — saluting the entire column as we rode by. In King George, a huge crowd welcomed us to the turnoff to the school, with flags, cars honking horns, music blasting and even a fire truck with a large American flag draped from its extended ladder.

Why these two high schools and why the outpouring of support? Not because there were bikers in town. Because of two sergeants, one Marine, one Army. Sgt. Josh Frazier, USMC, graduated from Spotsylvania High; Sgt. Nick Mason, USA, graduated from King George.

The following bios are from the Some Gave All website, as are the photos of Frazier and Mason.

Josh Frazier

From the Some Gave All Foundation website

Joshua James Frazier was born in his beloved community of Spotsylvania County on June 28, 1982.

After graduating from Spotsylvania High School in 2000, he struggled to determine what came next in life. When terrorists attacked the country on September 11, 2001, Josh enlisted as a Marine and found his true calling.

Josh often visited Spotsylvania High School on his trips home. He encouraged at-risk students to stay in school and get an education.

After graduating Boot Camp in February 2003, Josh was deployed to Okinawa, Korea, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Josh received several merit-based promotions in his time as a Marine, and was awarded the Bronze Star with Valor after saving lives in Iraq.

When his tour of duty ended in April 2006, Josh was determined to return to Iraq because, in his words, “the job was not finished.” The thought of sending young men into combat with no experience broke his heart. Josh knew his knowledge and experience could make a difference in the fight. He lobbied for a second deployment, transferred battalions, and even extended his service in order to return to Iraq in September 2006. When he had the opportunity to return home from his second deployment to Iraq, Josh volunteered for another extension because his men did not have that choice.

Josh died on February 6, 2007 while serving in Iraq. His eagerness to help his fellow Marines exemplifies his personality. He was compassionate, caring, and willing to put the safety and wellbeing of others above his own. Josh was always the first to help his family and friends in a time of need. He was a strong man in body, will, spirit, and personality. He had a firm handshake, a warm smile, a hearty laugh, and a hug that gave the sense of protection. His only fear was that someone might get hurt when he had the ability to save them.

Josh was quiet about his kindheartedness. He did not boast when he helped a homeless man find a place to stay, or gave money to a young mother in need. It was only after he was gone that so many “Josh stories” were told about his compassion. It is Josh’s benevolence that inspired his family and friends to continue his efforts.

nicholas_mason

From the Some Gave All Foundation website.

The Sergeant Nicholas C. Mason Memorial Scholarship Fund was organized by his family in his memory. This Fund is intended to promote, perpetuate and encourage the qualities Sergeant Mason exhibited as a citizen. Scholarships will be awarded to graduating King George High School Seniors with plans to attend colleges, universities, junior colleges, community colleges, business or vocational schools. The annual sum of all scholarships granted will be at least $5,000.00.

SGT Nicholas C. Mason Memorial Scholarship Fund
P.O. Box 101
King George, Va. 22485
c/o Jack Billingsley, 540-775-3133
Tax ID #20-2127026

Glad I had the chance to participate. All gave some, but some gave all.

Strange goings-on abound at the Bates Motel

Strange goings-on abound at the Bates Motel

A&E’s first-season Bates Motel is daring to be different, much like Alfred Hitchcock dared with Psycho.

I expected the TV tale of Norman Bates – The Early Years to be just that: a lot of back story how our favorite shower stalker came to be … well, psycho.

And there’s plenty of that, to be sure, with plenty of satisfying nods to Hitchcock’s classic – the uber creepy house on the rise by the motel, the regular appearance of a large butcher knife as the weapon of choice, even little snippets of dialogue that echo the movie (“Mother,” in particular).

Freddie Highmore, who is 21, plays 17-year-old Norman with an elegance and even a tenderness that is startlingly disarming. It would have been easy – and banal – to portray him as Nerdy McNerd, but Highmore makes Norman not that much different from any 17-year-old struggling with the threshold of life: girls, identity, independence, loneliness, alienation, adult morality and childish wants. Even though Highmore clearly studied the late Anthony Perkins’s curiously odd portrayal of Norman (and even bears a faint resemblance to a very young Perkins) and has the mannerisms and the aura down cold, he plays that curious oddness exclusively within the confines of a teenager, one who hasn’t fully developed into the sexually and morally confused misogynist killer – yet.

But the show’s genius – and not to take anything away from Highmore – is that the show is terrifying, creepy and heartbreaking all at the same time. Vera Farmiga’s Norma is a barely constrained lunatic, part Lady MacBeth and part unhinged nut job, who heartlessly traumatizes her gentle son and manipulates everyone with whom she comes into contact.  And her gentle son is creepy enough as it is, with an affection for this morally flawed, delusional woman that regularly makes the viewer uncomfortable. And his tender years and gentle nature can instantly flash into a frightening rage or a moment of despair so heartbreaking it’s hard to watch.

Through a slowly yet compelling evolution of incidents and events, we are getting much more than a simple back story about a killer with a Mommy complex. We’re seeing the unfortunate derailing of a life, young and promising, into a terrifying monstrosity. Not since Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon (the book, not the movie) has this been done so skillfully.

It’s also compelling storytelling, and why it’s worth watching. Bates Motel is the latest in a line of TV series that, if not re-inventing our concept of a TV show, is certainly making watching the magic box more worthwhile. Maybe it’s the backlash to the reality-TV dreck that smothers network television and a response to an audience hungry for solid characters and stories. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Sons of Anarchy, Justified, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Downton Abeey, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, et al, all have impressive ratings and die-hard fans.

Bates Motel may soon join them.

Dead Mule 2Got the word yesterday that The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature accepted my story, “Kenny’s Saturday Night Cake Walk,” for its July issue. Very excited to be a part of this year’s Mule for a couple of reasons.

For starters, as the name implies, it’s a place for Southern writers — and all the peculiarities that goes with that. But, to quote the folks at The Mule, “Remember please, we are not simply a bunch of back-ass swamp-dwelling moonshine-drinking coon-hunting mother f’ers. We are — arguably — the last true bastion of individuality left in the U.S.” Indeed they — we — aren’t.

The Mule publishes fiction, poetry and essays. One of the unique — and entertaining — things about submissions at TDMSSL is the requirement to submit a “Southern Legitimacy Statement” with your submissions. When I first saw this, I did a double-take, but after reading several on the website, I was laughing so much that I knew I wanted to take a shot at this part. Here’s mine:

I didn’t have a “grandmother” or a “Nana.” I had a Granny. She wore red lipstick, always carried a pistol, drove fast, smoked cigarettes, believed in the Good Lord, cooked with lard (in which everything was fried — chicken, okra, corn, you name it), took all 10 grandkids fishing and was capable of slapping the taste out of your mouth if you sassed her (not that you ever would). She didn’t say “sweet” tea because there’s only one kind of tea in Mississippi (that’s spelled M-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-humpback, humpback-I), and if you ask for “sweet tea,” you’re clearly a damn Yankee. Or a carpetbagger, take your pick. She had more grandkids than she had room, so we stayed outside a lot in the summer — shirtless, shoeless, sweaty and loud and buying Co-Colas at Bubba Cox’s store or playing in the bed of Granddaddy’s dump truck. If we behaved, we could come in to cool off and listen to “Ode to Billie Joe” on the record player. She said things like “that boy’s as crazy as a junebug” and “bless her heart.” From the South? Hell, she was the South.

Available in July from Roundfire Books

Available in July from Roundfire Books

The second reason for excitement is that, by pure coincidence, the story will not only run a few days ahead of the release of Deep Blood, but it also has a tie-in to the novel. Consider it a preview to Deep Blood and an introduction of sorts to Colt Harper. So check out the Mule, get yourself a taste and get ready for Colt Harper this summer.