Archive for August, 2013

Ok, people, you gotta work a little to get a free signed copy of Deep Blood. It’s as easy as posting a picture on the Deep Blood Facebook page here.

So far, we have three candidates. More updates as they come in. So put down that bottle of rye, strap on that gat, crawl into the jalopy and tumble for it.

I the Jury#1: the cover for Mickey Spillane’s classic, I, The Jury. Submitted by John Stevens: “And judge. And executioner. Someone is going to pay for killing Hammer’s best friend. The hard way.”

Guns n Dames#2. More guns, dames and fedoras. And that’s a telephone, for you youngsters out there. Submitted by Cat Van Zyl: “Cool! I like the scar on his face.”

Maltese Falcon#3. Bogart. Maltese Falcon. No further explanation needed. Submitted by WIlliam Fischer: “Sex ,lies, and money…..It does not get any better”

Available from Roundfire Books via Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Available from Roundfire Books via Amazon and Barnes & Noble

For a limited time only, you can download the e-book version of Deep Blood for only 99 cents. It’s available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I know, what are you waiting for?

curvydameOK, here’s the deal. To mark the occasion of the 100th “like” on my Deep Blood Facebook page, I’ll give away a free copy of Deep Blood. All you have to do to win is post your favorite pulp fiction picture in the comments section of the post announcing the giveaway. The photo doesn’t have to be from the movie Pulp Fiction, just your favorite picture that represents the pulp fiction genre.  Who knows, maybe you have a badass picture of Mike Hammer or Travis McGee in mind. Or a dangerous dame. Whatever. Add a sentence why it’s your favorite picture. I’ll select the winner.

Mockingbirdcover Mockingbird, by Chuck Wendig. I don’t know what to think of a novel that begins with the word “boop” –     but I think I like it. I downloaded a sample of this book after reading this hysterical blog post by Wendig. Bonus: it mentions Die Hard.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to check Wendig out, give it a shot. Granted, it’s NSFW, but he’s usually good for a shot in the arm when your day, or week, is going straight to hell. Or maybe that’s just me.

I’m also reading yet another J.D. Rhoades thriller, this one titled Broken Shield.

Los_Angeles_Dodgers_Team_Logo_Poster_la27_small_4222Baseball: the Dodgers keep winning, and I keep smiling. It’s still a long way to the World Series, but I’m enjoying the Dodgers like I haven’t since I lived in Long Beach and “dem bums” won it all. To wit: over last weekend, LA manhandled the Tampa Bay Rays, one of the better teams in the majors, outscoring them 20-8 over three games. And scoring 20 of the last 22 runs in the series. And, as of this writing, have taken two in a row from the Mets. Think Blue.

It’s good for what ails you: Gumbo. That is all.

Drudge_siren_offMatt Drudge sucks. This is probably not news, since there is a multitude of reasons to utter this sentiment. Just one (more): Earlier this week, Drudge ran the headline, “Americans renouncing citizenship at record levels,” as his lead shocker. This has to be Obama’s fault, right? Well, yeah, it kinda is. The link led to a Wall Street Journal story, which carried the original headline, “U.S. Expats Balk at Tax Law, Reconsider Citizenship.” A different thing entirely, unless you’re a fringe lunatic. Turns out overseas Americans who are getting by without paying taxes are worried about new measures by the government to tighten up some of the tax loopholes that let the rich get richer.

TheWarriors_30x40-4The Warriors: Caught this on IFC this week. This cult flick is still a fun movie to watch. The version I watched was the original theatrical release, but I have Walter Hill’s director’s cut on my shelf. That version realizes his original vision for the film. Hill, a comic book fan, intended to shoot the film as a series of “chapters,” with comics-style “splash panels” separating the chapters. He was unable to do this due to the low budget, but the movie still comes across as a series of chapters. The director’s cut has those panels, along with a whole lot of other “extras.” More trivia:

  • David Patrick Kelly plays “Luther,” the Rogue who shoots Cyrus then blames the Warriors. He also played a character named Luther in 48 Hours, also directed by Walter Hill and also starring James Remar (who plays “Ajax” in The Warriors).
  • Thomas G. Waites, who plays “Fox,” was such a pain in the ass that Hill fired him early on in the shooting. Hence, Fox’s demise in the movie. Also, the rift between Waites and Hill was so deep that Waites was uncredited when the movie was released in 1979.
  • The movie has grossed more than $22 million in the United States.
  • Hill loosely based the screenplay on Xenophon’s “Anabasis.” Really.
  • Robert de Niro turned down the role of “Cowboy,” played by Tom McKitterick (whose entire movie resume consists of this movie. He became a successful tennis photographer, beginning in 1981).
  • Likewise, Tony Danza was asked to play the lead eventually taken by Michael Beck (“Swan”), but turned it down, due to his commitment to the TV show, “Taxi.”
  • Hill originally planned to have the movie narrated by Orson Welles.
  • A very young Samuel L. Jackson has an uncredited cameo as a gang member. See for yourself.
  • Legend has it a very young Debra Winger also has a cameo as a passenger on the subway near the end of the movie. I’ve watched that scene numerous times, and it’s too close to call.

I spend a fair amount of time — ok, too much time — commuting, and I try to use some of that time to catch up on my reading when I can:

GQGQ: The August issue has an engrossing — and disturbing  — story of convicted Swedish serial Sture Burgwall, aka Thomas Quick. The lede: “In a remote psychiatric hospital in Sweden, there is a man known as Thomas Quick who has been convicted of unspeakable crimes. Over the course of multiple trials, he would tell his brutal stories—of stabbings, stranglings, rape, incest, cannibalism—to almost anyone who would listen. Then, after his eighth and final murder conviction, he went silent for nearly a decade. In the last few years, though, he has been thinking about all he has said and done, and now he has something new to confess: He left out the worst part of all.”

blood landBlood Land, by R.S. Guthrie. “Crime’s an ugly constant in the big city. L.A. Chicago. New York. But when a savage murder brutalizes a small town and neighbor turns on neighbor, a tough-as-nails cop is essential to restoring order. Blood Land is a gritty, emotional saga set in the Wyoming badlands with both greed and vengeance at its core.”

Sheriff James Pruett struggles with the bottle, the murder of his wife and a town full of miscreants and connivers. Guthrie’s pace is deceptive. He brings you along through the story comfortably and easily without letting on about the mayhem unfolding. First time I’ve read the Colorado author, but it won’t be the last. Also, get the e-version free while you can.

discount noirDiscount Noir, edited by Steve Weddle and Patricia Abbott. I was recently introduced to Weddle, originally from Louisiana, graduated from LSU (I try not to hold that against him), now living in Virginia. Discount Noir is a snappy anthology of crime noir with a theme. From the book description on Amazon: ” If you thought standing in line at your local megastore was murder, then you haven’t been to Megamart. These flash fiction tales of superstore madness and mayhem will make you think twice the next time you hear “clean up on aisle 13.”  This collection of more than 40 stories, including those by Weddle and Abbott, are all under 1,000 words, and all about “Megamart.” Fun stuff.

storm surgeStorm Surge, by J.D. Rhoades. “For beautiful waitress Sharon Brennan, the luxurious Pass Island resort is a place to make a living for herself and her daughter Glory. For amiable handyman Max Chase, it’s a place far away from his past. But there’s a lot more to Max than meets the eye. And as a Category Five hurricane bears down on Pass Island, some very bad people arrive with a plan to use the cover of the storm to steal a mysterious object, an object that powerful people want desperately enough to kill for. ”

I’ve been reading Rhoades’ excellent thrillers for a couple of years now, and haven’t found one yet I don’t like. This one, by the Shamus Award nominee North Carolina attorney/author, takes place on a Carolina barrier island with a dual threat: an mercenary hit squad and a raging hurricane.

Yellow MedicineYellow Medicine, Anthony Neil Smith. “Deputy Billy Lafitte is not unfamiliar with the law—he just prefers to enforce it, rather than abide by it. But his rule-bending and bribe-taking have gotten him kicked off the force in Gulfport, Mississippi, and he’s been given a second chance—in the desolate, Siberian wastelands of rural Minnesota. Now Billy’s only got the local girls and local booze to keep him company. Until one of the local girls—cute little Drew, bassist for a psychobilly band—asks Billy for help with her boyfriend. Something about the drugs Ian’s been selling, some product he may have lost, and the men who are threatening him because of it. Billy agrees to look into it, and before long he’s speeding down a snowy road, tracking a cell of terrorists, with a severed head in his truck’s cab. And that’s only the start.”

This is badass stuff, top to bottom. Smith, a Mississippi Gulf Coast native, writes like a street fighter — hard, sneaky punches to the throat. If you like your anti-heroes completely tarnished, Billy Lafitte’s your guy.

becomign quinnBecoming Quinn, Brett Battles. “Most careers begin with an interview and a handshake. Others require a little … something more. Meet Jake Oliver. The day will come when he’s one of the best cleaners in the business, a man skilled at making bodies disappear. At the moment, however, he’s a twenty-two year old rookie cop, unaware his life is about to change.”

This is the first Jonathan Quinn novel, and the first of Battles’ titles I’ve read. This one is actually a novella, short and to the point, but thoroughly enjoyable. Normally, you don’t pull for a cop gone bad, especially a rookie cop, but Battles’ excellent writing and character development might change your mind about that.

You probably noticed something’s different…

I’m in the middle of transitioning The Kudzu Corner to a redesigned look and format, with a new name. For now, the web address is the same, so no need to change your bookmarks. Bear with me through the changes…

JoylandI have to geek out over this link I got a few days ago from a friend who geeks out on stuff like this, too.

Stephen King — yes, that one, the master of the creepy story — gave The Atlantic a lengthy interview recently in which he explained the process of starting a novel. And when I say “start,” I mean writing the first sentence. Just read the headline: “Why Stephen King Takes ‘Months and Even Years’ Writing Opening Sentences.”

You can read the entire interview in The Atlantic here, but some of it just really jumped out at me (like a lot of the stuff in his novels).

For one, he talks about his two novels of 2013. Joyland was released in June by Hard Case Crime, and, while it might look like an old-fashioned pulp fiction novel, isn’t quite that. And it’s not quite a King-esque horror novel, either. His next novel, though, Doctor Sleep, is, according to him, a  “return to balls-to-the-wall, keep-the-lights-on horror.” It’s also the long-time-coming sequel to The Shining.

But his discussion about writing a first sentence is what really grabbed my attention — and the fact that he gives a tip of the hat to one of the originators of the American pulp fiction genre, James Cain, who wrote one of King’s favorite opening lines:

“We’ve all heard the advice writing teachers give: Open a book in the middle of a dramatic or compelling situation, because right away you engage the reader’s interest. This is what we call a “hook,” and it’s true, to a point. This sentence from James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice certainly plunges you into a specific time and place, just as something is happening:

‘They threw me off the hay truck about noon.’

“Suddenly, you’re right inside the story — the speaker takes a lift on a hay truck and gets found out. But Cain pulls off so much more than a loaded setting — and the best writers do. This sentence tells you more than you think it tells you. Nobody’s riding on the hay truck because they bought a ticket. He’s a basically a drifter, someone on the outskirts, someone who’s going to steal and filch to get by. So you know a lot about him from the beginning, more than maybe registers in your conscious mind, and you start to get curious.

“The opening line is important to the writer, too. To the person who’s actually boots-on-the-ground. Because it’s not just the reader’s way in, it’s the writer’s way in also, and you’ve got to find a doorway that fits us both. I think that’s why my books tend to begin as first sentences — I’ll write that opening sentence first, and when I get it right I’ll start to think I really have something.

“When I’m starting a book, I compose in bed before I go to sleep. I will lie there in the dark and think. I’ll try to write a paragraph. An opening paragraph. And over a period of weeks and months and even years, I’ll word and reword it until I’m happy with what I’ve got. If I can get that first paragraph right, I’ll know I can do the book.

“A book won’t stand or fall on the very first line of prose — the story has got to be there, and that’s the real work. And yet a really good first line can do so much to establish that crucial sense of voice — it’s the first thing that acquaints you, that makes you eager, that starts to enlist you for the long haul. So there’s incredible power in it, when you say, come in here. You want to know about this. And someone begins to listen.”

King’s discussion about a writer’s voice also is very interesting, at least to me. It’s something I spend a lot of time studying in other writers, like Elmore Leonard, the aforementioned Cain, Larry Brown, John D. MacDonald. 

“So an intriguing context is important, and so is style. But for me, a good opening sentence really begins with voice. You hear people talk about “voice” a lot, when I think they really just mean “style.” Voice is more than that. People come to books looking for something. But they don’t come for the story, or even for the characters. They certainly don’t come for the genre. I think readers come for the voice.

“A novel’s voice is something like a singer’s — think of singers like Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan, who have no musical training but are instantly recognizable. When people pick up a Rolling Stones record, it’s because they want access to that distinctive quality. They know that voice, they love that voice, and something in them connects profoundly with it. Well, it’s the same way with books. Anyone who’s read a lot of John Sanford, for example, knows that wry, sarcastic amusing voice that’s his and his alone. Or Elmore Leonard — my god, his writing is like a fingerprint. You’d recognize him anywhere. An appealing voice achieves an intimate connection — a bond much stronger than the kind forged, intellectually, through crafted writing.”

Available from Roundfire Books

Available from Roundfire Books

And if all this book talk makes you want to read something, try Deep Blood, available in paperback or e-book right here.