Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Great Lines

I read Walter Kirn's novel UP IN THE AIR (the basis for the George Clooney movie) not too long ago and he had some terrific lines of description that I wish I wrote... lines that made me want start writing something, anything, just to be writing. Here are a few of them:

  • Two months ago she teased me into bed, then put on a showy, marathon performance that struck me as rehearsed, even researched [...] Now and then I'd catch her in the middle of a particularly far-fetched pose and see that it wasn't appetite that drove her but some idea, some odd erotic theory.
  • [...] in a suburb that might have been squeezed from a tube.
  • Old tailors love me. They tell me I remind them of men from forty years ago.
  • [...]becoming one of those women who need make-up not to highlight their features but to create them.
  • My call is passed from computer to computer and then to a person who only sounds like one.
  • She looks like a girl in her twenties who's been aged by an amateur movie makeup artist using spirit gum for wrinkles and sprinkled baby powder to gray her hair.
  • His face is soap opera handsome. Full lips. Sleek forehead. A scar on his chin to remind you he's male.
  • I manage to be brotherly to her merely by sitting nearby and shedding heat.
  • He's reading Dean Koontz with a squinting intensity that Koontz just doesn't call for and must be fake.

Coming Soon: Vampire Crimes by Dave Zeltserman

Vampire Crimes has a long history dating back to 1997. Back then I had written Fast Lane and Bad Thoughts and was working with my first agent in the hopes of selling both of these books. This guy gave me a biker vampire screenplay to novelize which I didn't care for, but it got me thinking of some ideas for a very gritty & noirish vampire series, kind of a Mickey Spillane merged with David Goodis with very strong horror elements, and I set about writing my own screenplay for something that I thought would be good and would be something I'd want to novelize. What I came up with was a bit like Sin City with vampires, although I hadn't heard of Sin City back then. This agent didn't like that I did this, and we parted ways, and I put this script aside with the thought of doing something with it someday.

Flash forward to 2006. I'd just finished writing Pariah & the Caretaker of Lorne Field, and my Vampire Crimes script had been on my mind for years and I was itching to do something with it, so this became my next project. The book came out better than I had anticipated, easily the most noir, grittiest (and most violent) book that I'd written, and maybe one of my better written books also. My agent at that time had her hands full trying to sell Pariah, Outsourced & Caretaker, so she didn't want to take this one on also, so I put it aside. I did have my core readers look at it and got a strong reaction from them, although a couple of them found the horror elements very upsetting and disturbing. I also had a fellow Rara Avian (a yahoo group of noir & hardboiled aficionados) who was also a big Charlie Huston 'Almost Dead' fan read it, and he was very excited by this book. I had avoided Huston's vampire series since I had this book in mind for a long time and I didn't want to subconsciously steal from him. The way this Rara Avian described the difference between the two books is that Huston's book is a horror novel with a hardboiled PI while mine is a gritty crime noir novel with vampires.

Flash forward to 2009. I have a new agent now, I send him Vampire Crimes after he sells Essence, and he's excited by it. He thinks it's great and should be an easy sale. He sends it out, and a bunch of young editors are also excited by it, but none of them are able to get approval--either there's a competing vampire novel by a more senior editor, or there's fear that book is too noir and too much of a horror novel. Plus things are starting to go south with the publishing industry and it's getting tougher to sell anything. So Vampire Crimes doesn't sell.

So here we are now. I have no doubt that fans of my other crime novels are going to love Vampire Crimes, as well as fans of Sin City, and and really anyone who likes tough & gritty & violent crime and horror novels, and so I'm going to put it out myself as a Kindle and Nook download, and it should be available later this week.

Marketing copy:

Ultra violent & ultra noir. These are not your Mother's or daughter’s vampires.

Jim is infected. Carol, is not. Together they travel the country hunting down only the worst degenerate predators. After all, Jim has to feed.

Meanwhile Jim's ex Serena and her posse of Eurotrash vampires spend their days snorting heroin and their nights at Manahattan’s trendiest nightclubs. Serena is still seething. Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned? Try a scorned bloodsucker!

Metcalf, author Dave Zeltserman’s scariest psychopathic creation to date, runs a vampire compound in the LA desert and rules it with an iron fist. Metcalf seeks a cure for the vampire virus. Not because he cares about humanity. Metcalf is sick of drinking blood. He wants to eat a cooked steak and down a case of cold beer.

Jim, Serena and Metcalf careen toward their inevitable collision, and when a vengeful biker gang is thrown into the mix, the climax that follows is pure rock ‘n roll violence.

Part Sin City mayhem, part Stephen King terror, Vampire Crimes is a bloodsoaked rampage you won't soon forget.

‘I've just read the manuscript of Dave Zeltserman's new novel, Vampire Crimes. This is one of the few fresh takes on vampirism I've read in years. It's as if Charles Bukowski sat down and said, OK, Bram Stoker, how about this?’ -- Ed Gorman, author of Cage of Night and The Poker Club.

Vampire Crimes includes as bonus material ‘More Than a Scam’ from 21 Tales, first chapter from Fast Lane, first chapter from Bad Thoughts, first section from the Shamus-award winning novella ‘Julius Katz’, first chapter from The Walk by Lee Goldberg and the prologue and first chapter from Dead and Gone by Harry Shannon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Top Suspense Group Video

Introducing our newest member: Lee Goldberg

Top Suspense Group is thrilled to introduce our newest member, Lee Goldberg.

Lee is a two-time Edgar Award nominee whose many TV writing and/or producing credits include Martial Law, SeaQuest, Diagnosis Murder, Hunter, Spenser: For Hire, Nero Wolfe, Missing, Monk and The Glades. His many fiction and non-fiction books include The Walk, My Gun Has Bullets, Successful Television Writing, The Man With with The Iron-On Badge and the Diagnosis Murder and Monk series of original mystery novels. As an international TV development consultant, he's worked for production companies and broadcasters in Canada, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands. He currently serves on the board of directors of the Mystery Writers of America and is the co-founder of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers.

Visit Lee's website at www.leegoldberg.com

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Lee: I’ve always been one….it just took a while for everyone else to notice. When I was ten or eleven, I was already pecking novels out on my Mom's old typewriters. The first one was a futuristic tale about a time-traveling cop born in an underwater sperm bank. I don't know why the bank was underwater, or how deposits were made, but I thought it was very cool. I followed that up with a series of books about gentleman thief Brian Lockwood, aka The Perfect Sinner, a thinly disguised rip-off of Simon Templar, aka "The Saint." I sold these stories for a dime to my friends and even managed to make a dollar or two. In fact, I think my royalties per book were better then than they are now.

I continued writing novels all through my teenage years. Some of my other unpublished masterpieces featured a hapless detective named Kevin Dangler. Being a packrat, I still have most of those novels today in boxes in my garage (some were destroyed in flooding a few years back).

By the time I was 17, I was writing articles for The Contra Costa Times and other San Francisco Bay Area newspapers and applying to colleges. I didn't get a book published, but my detective stories got me into UCLA's School of Communications. My grades weren't wonderful, so I knew I had to kick ass on my application essay. I wrote it first person as a hard-boiled detective story in Kevin Dangler's voice. The committee, at first, had doubts that I actually wrote it myself -- until they reviewed articles I'd written for the Times, including one that used the same device as my essay. Once I got into UCLA, I put myself through school as a freelance writer...for American Film, Los Angeles Times Syndicate, UPI, Newsweek. Anybody who would pay me. I had a girlfriend at Playgirl and she got me a gig writing sexually explicit Letters-to-the-Editor at Playgirl for $25 each.

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Lee: Ruggedly handsome, lethally talented.

TSG: Your influences?

Lee: There have been so many... but when I was a kid/teenager/college student, the big ones were Robert B. Parker, Stephen King, John Irving, Ross H. Spencer, Larry McMurtry, George V. Higgins, Richard S. Prather, Ed McBain, Elmore Leonard, Charles Willeford, Leslie Charteris, Rex Stout, Agatha Christie, and the three MacDonalds (Gregory McDonald, John D. MacDonald, Ross MacDonald). In screenwriting, I'd have to say Michael Gleason, William Goldman, Stirling Silliphant, Steve Cannell, Ernest Wallengren, Roy Huggins, Glen A. Larson, Richard Levinson & William Link, Steven Bochco, and Richard Maibaum. I'm sure I'm leaving some people out.

TSG: Your muses?

Lee: My Visa, American Express, and mortgage bills. You may think that’s a joke, but I make my living as a writer. If I don’t stay focused, I don’t get paid and my family doesn’t eat.

I'm influenced by good writing, whether it's on TV or in books. I find reading a Robert B. Parker novel can get me into the "rhythm" of writing, then again, so can watching an episode of Justified or Dexter. I do notice, however, that my writing is always better if I am reading a novel at the same time that I am working on something. But when I am on a deadline, I feel guilty if I am reading a book, because that's time I should be spending at the computer. So I often have to force myself to read in the midst of writing.

TSG: Your first sale?

Lee: You mean my first book sale? As I mentioned before, I put myself through school writing freelance articles. And that's sort of how my first novel came about.

I had a journalism advisor at UCLA who wrote spy novels. We became friends and talked a lot about mysteries, thrillers, plotting, etc. One day in the early 80s his publisher came to him and asked him if he’d write a “men’s action adventure series,” sort of the male equivalent of the Harlequin romance. He said he wasn’t desperate enough, hungry enough, or stupid enough to do it…but he knew someone who was: Me. So I wrote an outline and some sample chapters and they bought it. The book was called .357 Vigilante I wrote it as “Ian Ludlow” so I'd be on the shelf next to Robert Ludlum and had plenty of Letter-to-the-Editor-of-Playgirl quality sex in it.

The West Coast Review of Books called my literary debut "as stunning as the report of a .357 Magnum, a dynamic premiere effort," singling the book out as "The Best New Paperback Series" of the year. I ended up writing four books in the series. Naturally, the publisher promptly went bankrupt and I never saw a dime in royalties.

But New World Pictures bought the movie rights to .357 Vigilante and hired me to write the screenplay. I didn’t know anything about writing scripts…luckily, I had a good friend who did, William Rabkin. We worked together on the UCLA Daily Bruin. So the two of us teamed up. The movie never got made, , but I enjoyed screenwriting. So Bill and I wrote a spec episode of the TV series Spenser For Hire. Much to my shock and delight, the producers bought the script and shot it as written…and then hired us to write three more episodes. My TV career took off after that.but we had so much fun that we were writing partners for over 20 years…and remain best friends to this day. (He writes the novels based on the TV series Psych). The Vigilante books are out now as ebooks under my own name and retitled as "The Jury Series"... Judgment, Payback, Adjourned, and Guilty.

Around the same time, I sold a book to McFarland & Co. called Unsold Television Pilots (I guess I should use the term "sold" loosely, since McFarland didn't pay advances). It was an encyclopedia of every TV series concept rejected by the networks from the dawn of television up to 1989. I started writing the book when I was nine years old. The book was an immediate hit, stayed in print for over a decade, led to a paperback abridgment (now available on the Kindle), and was the basis for two network TV specials that I wrote and produced -- The Greatest Shows You Never Saw for CBS and The Best TV Shows That Never Were for ABC.

TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?

Lee: Still getting paid for it. Think about it. I am actually getting paid to sit around and make stuff up. It doesn't get any better than that.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tied in For Suspense

TiedInCover2Jon Breen at Mystery Scene Magazine gave a rave review in this month's issue to TIED IN: The Business, History and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing, edited by Lee Goldberg and featuring a chapter by Top Suspense author Max Allan Collins. The review says, in part:
If this is the Golden Age of anything in the popular fiction field, it may be the tie-in novel [...]There have always been formidable writers doing tie-ins, but they have generally been dismissed, not unreasonably, as quickies tossed off for a fast buck. That image has been improved somewhat by the quality work of editor Goldberg, the late Stuart Kaminsky, Max Allan Collins, and some of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers members contributing to this volume. [...] With it's helpful how-to tips and articles, the book is primarily directed towards other writers, and established pros at that. But many fans and scholars will enjoy the inside-the-business stuff.
Breen goes on to praise a chapter by Collins, who regales readers with his unbelievable experiences novelizing the movies DICK TRACY and ROAD TO PERDITION. Check it out!

Introducing Dave Zeltserman

Dave lives in the Boston area with his wife, Judy, and writes crime, mystery and horror novels. Dave won both the Shamus and Derringer awards for his novella, Julius Katz. His crime novel, Small Crimes, was named by NPR as one of the 5 best crime and mystery novels of 2008, and his novel, Pariah, was named by the Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009. His horror book, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, received many rave reviews, including a starred review from Publishers Weekly, who called it "a superb mix of humor and horror." His upcoming novel, Outsourced, is currently in development by Impact Pictures and Constantin Film.

Visit his website at www.davezeltserman.com

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Dave: Growing up I was very strong in math and computer science, and that was my interest and my area of focus. But I always read a lot, everything from the classics to fantasy to sci-fi to mysteries and crime fiction, often times reading a book a day, and often found myself drawn to writing short stories. Even in college where I was majoring in applied math and computer science and could take precious few English course, one of the courses I took was in creative writing, but being more of a math guy I never really thought I had the right to be a writer.

In high school I discovered Ross Macdonald and quickly devoured all the Lew Archer books. I loved the sins of the father themes that he used with all this guilt and darkness hiding in suburban America, and when I tried writing short stories I wrote really bad Lew Archer-type stories. Fortunately I possess one of the most critical skills a writer needs, and that’s recognizing when my writing is bad, and I knew all these early stories were awful so I never sent any of them out. Later when I was working as a software engineer I discovered Jim Thompson’s Hell of a Woman, and that was like a religious experience. Not just that he wrote from the mind of a crazy killer, but in how he seduced the reader into wanting to believe that this cold-blooded killer has some hope for redemption, and also in the chances Thompson took with his writing. The two schizophrenic streams of consciousness at the end of Hell of a Woman were mind-blowing, Reading Thompson made me realize a writer could break any rule and do what they wanted as long as they made it work. This had me rewriting one of my bad Lew Archer-like efforts, but going at it from a different direction, and writing what would become Fast Lane. At times I was aping Jim Thompson, but mostly I was finding my own voice, and a crazy fever took over while I was writing this book, something that had never happened before, and there was no turning back after that.

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Dave: Story is everything to me. I want to give my readers a fast-paced involving story with plenty of twists and surprises and a satisfying ending. And I guess I want to also challenge my readers at times, take them places they haven’t been before, turn the traditional tropes on their heads. My latest crime novel, Killer, certainly challenges readers with their perceived notions of their crime fiction heroes that they want to root for, as does Pariah. My novel, The Caretaker of Lorne Field, appears to be a deceptively simple horror novel, but challenges the reader with its themes of sacrifice vs. selfishness, belief vs. logic and cultural tradition vs. modernity. Even my first book, Fast Lane, suckers the reader into believing they’ve picked up a standard hardboiled PI novel before dragging them into a psycho noir hell that’s also every bit as much a deconstruction of the hardboiled PI genre.

Stylistically my writing tends toward lean and sparse, and no matter how dark the material, humor seeps in, even if it’s pitch black humor.

TSG: Your influences?

Dave: I’m sure at some level I’ve been influenced by every writer I’ve read, as well as the 1000s of comic books I read in my youth and 1000s of hours of Twilight Zones and similar shows that I watched. My Shamus-award winning novella, Julius Katz, was clearly influenced by Rex Stout, whose Nero Wolfe books I love. Fast Lane was influenced equally by Jim Thompson and Ross Macdonald, and years after writing it I found out that the plot has strong similarities to the last Lew Archer book Ross Macdonald had been working on. NPR when picking Small Crimes as one of the five best crime and mystery novels of 2008 talked about what they saw as a James M. Cain influence, which I won’t argue with since Double Indemnity is one of my favorite crime novels, although after picking Small Crimes up years after writing it, I saw more a Dan Marlowe influence that I hadn’t been aware of when writing the book. Although The Caretaker of Lorne Field isn’t a crime novel, Library Journal wrote of a Dashiell Hammett influence in their review, which I’ll also take since Hammett is my favorite crime writer—I marvel at the 5 books and Continental Op stories that he wrote.

TSG: Your muses?

Dave: They’ll all over the place. With Fast Lane, it was from listening to a radio show where a PI talked about a case that went badly. With The Caretaker of Lorne Field it was these very persistent weeds growing in my front yard. With Small Crimes, it was reading two different newspaper stories—one about a corrupt cop who committed a crime similar to my noir hero, Joe Denton, the other about a very corrupt Sheriff’s office in Denver in the 60s. With Pariah it was being fascinated by stories of Whitey Bulger and the South Boston mob for years and then being pissed off enough at NY publishers for giving these mobsters big book contracts to write their tell-all books. For anyone who hasn’t read Pariah, while at one level it’s a dark crime novel, at another level it’s a satire on the NY publishers. There was no way any NY publisher would've ever touched Pariah, but fortunately a London publisher, Serpent's Tail, was only too happy to publish it!

TSG: Your first sale?

While I was in my crazed fever writing Fast Lane, the owner of Spenser’s Mystery Bookshop gave me this flyer from a new startup magazine called New Mystery, where they were looking for tough crime fiction. I wish I still had this flyer. They were asking for stories that were like a shot of bourbon instead of a swig of Maalox, stuff like that. Anyway, when I got home I spent a couple of hours writing the type of story they were asking for, which became A Long Time To Die. I sent it in, and they bought it for $35. So I sold the first story I submitted. My second sale was harder where I kept sending Gary Lovisi at Hardboiled stories until I wore him down and he bought one. After that it was all downhill until I sold Fast Lane, almost 10 years later, and that was sold first to an Italian publisher, Meridiano Zero.

TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?

Over the last few years a lot of good stuff has happened to me. I’ve sold four book to Serpent’s Tail, which is a publisher I’ve had great admiration for for years. I just won the 2010 Shamus Award for my novella, Julius Katz. I have a film deal for Outsourced where the script has been approved and the financing is set. Small Crimes was named by NPR as one of the 5 best crime and mystery stories of 2008. Small Crimes and Pariah made the Washington Post’s best books list for 2008 and 2009, respectively. I’m getting great reviews from major newspapers and am starting to get a good number of foreign deals for my books. All of this has been very exciting, but none of it matches the thrill I got from that first sale to New Mystery Magazine for $35.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Introducing Ed Gorman

Ed Gorman is an award winning American author best known for his crime and mystery fiction. He wrote The Poker Club which is now a film of the same name directed by Tim McCann.

He has written under many pseudonyms including "E. J. Gorman" and "Daniel Ransom." He won a Spur Award for Best Short Fiction for his short story "The Face" in 1992. His fiction collection Cages was nominated for the 1995 Bram Stoker Award for Best Fiction Collection. His collection The Dark Fantastic was nominated for the same award in 2001.

He has contributed to many magazines and other publications including Xero, Black Lizard, Cemetery Dance, the anthology Tales of Zorro, and many more.

Visit his blog at newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Ed: Writing fiction is all I ever wanted to do. I read Ray Bradbury in fourth grade and was hooked. I didn't quite understand everything in the stories but I got enough from them to realize that I wanted to do what Bradbury was doing.

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Ed: Character and story come first. And style should serve story not the other way around. I appreciate stylish writing when it is used to embellish a strong story. People such as Megan Abbott and Jason Starr are good examples of melding style and story.

TSG: Your influences?

Ed: I see myself as the much less talented grandson of the writers I grew admiring. The list is too long to go into but would include everybody from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Mickey Spillane to Ray Bradbury to John O'Hara.

TSG: Your muses?

Ed: I don't know that I have muses per se. I have friends who can sit down and come up with half dozen good ideas in less than an hour. I really have to work at ideas. I get flashes and get excited but all too often they don't lead anywhere.

TSG: Your first sale?

Ed: I was nineteen and sold to a bottom-dwelling men's magazine.

TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?

Ed: I'd have to say it's when I got the call from St. Martin's telling me that they'd bought my first novel. All the years of pounding out stories for very minor literary magazines and some low-ball men's magazines and suddenly I was accepted by a large NY house. My wife and I celebrated the entire weekend.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ebook Sales Bright Spot

As sales in the traditional trade segments plunged in September, e-book sales jumped 158.1%, according to the monthly sales estimates released by the Association of American Publishers. Sales for the 14 publishers that reported e-book sales hit $39.9 million in the month, and were up 188.4% in the first nine months of the year to $304.6 million. In contrast, sales in the three adult trade segments, adult hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback, all fell by more than double digits with the adult hardcover segment experiencing the biggest decline with sales down 40.4% at the 17 publisher who reported sales to the AAP of $180.3 million. The only other segment to post a significant sales gain in September was downloadable audio with sales from the nine reporting companies up 73.7%, to $7.7 million. Sales of audio CDs fell 42.6%, to $11.6 million, in the month at the 22 reporting companies.
-Publisher's Weekly

Publishing Industry is Shaken and Stirred

The Ian Fleming Estate has realized what we here at Top Suspense already know -- that if you own the digital rights to your backlist, it makes more financial sense to publish the ebooks yourself than go with a publisher.  So the Fleming estate is publishing the digital versions of the Bond novels themselves, cutting out Penguin, which still has the entire series in print. The London Telegraph says that this move could be the beginning of a wave of established authors choosing to self-publish the digital versions of their highly successful franchises.
The books industry could lose out on millions of pounds because publishers have failed to sign up the digital rights to authors, who are expected to bypass traditional publishing houses in favour of Amazon or Google.
Industry insiders suggested that blockbusting authors including JK Rowling, Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie would be looking at the deal closely.
The digital versions of the 007 books will be published by Ian Fleming Publications, which administers the rights to the Bond books.
[...]There are many authors still working that have not signed away the digital rights to their books, allowing them to cut out their traditional publisher if they chose to. Agents said they had grown increasingly irritated by the low royalty rates offered by publishers for digital rights.
This development doesn't surprise me at all, especially in light of the sobering news from Publishers Weekly this week about the plunge in "paper" sales and the incredible surge in digital in September.
As sales in the traditional trade segments plunged in September, e-book sales jumped 158.1%, according to the monthly sales estimates released by the Association of American Publishers. Sales for the 14 publishers that reported e-book sales hit $39.9 million in the month, and were up 188.4% in the first nine months of the year to $304.6 million. In contrast, sales in the three adult trade segments, adult hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback, all fell by more than double digits with the adult hardcover segment experiencing the biggest decline with sales down 40.4% at the 17 publisher who reported sales to the AAP of $180.3 million. The only other segment to post a significant sales gain in September was downloadable audio with sales from the nine reporting companies up 73.7%, to $7.7 million. Sales of audio CDs fell 42.6%, to $11.6 million, in the month at the 22 reporting companies.
Established authors with a large back-list, whether the titles are in print or not, could see significant increases in their revenues putting the digital versions of those books out themselves. We here at Top Suspense certainly know that...and the news is getting around. Look for a surge in 2011 of established authors self-publishing the digital versions of their backlists.

This has agents scrambling for an approach on how to get a share of this potential income. I've already heard that some agents are talking about inserting clauses in their new agency agreements with authors that grant them commissions on the digital self-publication of any books for which they negotiated the original print deals. It will be interesting to see how that goes over.

Introducing Max Allan Collins

MAX ALLAN COLLINS has earned an unprecedented fifteen Private Eye Writers of America "Shamus" nominations, winning for his Nathan Heller novels, True Detective (1983) and Stolen Away (1991), receiving the PWA life achievement award, the Eye, in 2007.

His graphic novel Road to Perdition (1998) is the basis of the Academy Award-winning 2002 film starring Tom Hanks. It was followed by two acclaimed prose sequels, Road to Purgatory (2004) and Road to Paradise (2005), with a graphic novel sequel, Return to Perdition, forthcoming. He has written a number of suspense series, including Quarry, Nolan, Mallory, and Eliot Ness. He is also completing a number of "Mike Hammer" novels begun by the late Mickey Spillane, and collaborates with Matthew Clemens on the J.C. Harrow serial killer novels.

His many comics credits include the syndicated strip "Dick Tracy"; his own "Ms. Tree"; "Batman"; and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, based on the hit TV series for which he has also written video games, jigsaw puzzles, and ten novels that have sold millions of copies worldwide. His tie-in books have appeared on the USA TODAY bestseller list nine times and the New York Times list three times. His movie novels include Saving Private Ryan, Air Force One, and American Gangster, which won the Best Novel "Scribe" Award in 2008 from the International Association of Tie-in Writers.

He has written and directed five feature films and two documentaries, including the Lifetime movie "Mommy" (1996) and a 1997 sequel, "Mommy's Day." He wrote "The Expert," a 1995 HBO World Premiere, and "The Last Lullaby," starring Tom Sizemore, a feature film based on Collins’ acclaimed novel, The Last Quarry.

His coffee-table book The History of Mystery received nominations for every major mystery award and Men’s Adventure Magazines (with George Hagenauer) won the Anthony Award.

Collins lives in Muscatine, Iowa, with his wife, writer Barbara Collins; they have collaborated on three novels and numerous short stories, and are currently writing the successful "Trash ‘n’ Treasures" mysteries — their Antiques Flee Market (2008) won the Romantic Times Best Humorous Mystery Novel award in 2009.

Visit his website at www.maxallancollins.com/blog/

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Max: I don't remember when I wasn't a writer. Initially, I thought I would be a cartoonist, and I was primarily known in grade school and even junior high as the kid who was a really good artist. I drew my own comic books and passed them around. In 7th grade I did my own mini-MAD comics and passed those around. But that was the year I really got into Spillane, Hammett, and Chandler, because of the private eye shows on TV. For a while the artwork would be on the covers of my short stories (which I passed around like my comics) and gradually the art slipped away and the writing took over. I started writing mystery novels in the 9th grade. Did them all through high school. Five or so, all rejected of course. But the one I wrote at community college eventually got published, as did everything I wrote at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. That's typical of where my head was at -- I knew as a sophomore in high school that my goal was to go to the Workshop, this famous writing school where Vonnegut taught that was just thirty-some miles from my house. My mentor there, the great mainstream writer Richard Yates, landed me my first agent, Knox Burger. Burger said I was "a blacksmith in an automotive age," which remains the best description of me I can imagine. And I wound up a cartoonist without actually doing art, didn't I?

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Max: I'm a storyteller. I work in whatever medium is available to me -- where the possibilities of getting stories told are. Where the money is.

TSG: Your influences (Harry's question)?

Max: Everybody who knows my work at all knows the answer to that: Hammett, Chandler, Cain, Spillane. But also Jim Thompson, Horace McCoy, W.R. Burnett, Don Westlake/Richard Stark. And a few mainstream writers: William March, Calder Willingham, and Mark Harris. My historical approach comes from Dumas and Samuel Shellabarger.

TSG: Your muses?

Max: I have a beautiful wife. That seems to do the trick.

TSG: Your first sale?

Max: My first published work was a piece about the day Kennedy was shot that I won $25 for in the Iowa Wesleyan College high school writing competition. My novel BAIT MONEY sold in December 1971. I was still at the Workshop in Iowa City. We paid cash for a new car with the advance, which I believe was $2000.

TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?

Max: I can't choose one. The biggies are getting word that my first novel had sold...on Christmas Eve. Being interviewed for the DICK TRACY job and realizing I had landed it. Meeting Mickey Spillane for the first time and really hitting it off with him. Being on the set of ROAD TO PERDITION and watching all those people bringing my work to life, including Tom Hanks and Paul Newman, while I sat next to Richard Zanuck. And seeing my name with Mickey Spillane's on the cover of a new Mike Hammer novel. That's the kind of dream that rarely comes true.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Introducing Harry Shannon

Publishers Weekly has said of HARRY SHANNON "impeccable pacing and an eye for the terrifying will leave the reader shaken and unsettled." He has been an actor, a singer, an Emmy-nominated songwriter, a recording artist in Europe, a music publisher, a VP of Carolco Pictures (“Terminator 2,” “Total Recall,” “Rambo 3”), and worked as a freelance Music Supervisor on films such as “Basic Instinct” and “Universal Soldier.” Harry holds an MA in Psychology and is currently a counselor in private practice. Although primarily a novelist, Shannon has sold stories to a number of genre magazines including “Cemetery Dance,” “Horror Garage,” “City Slab,” “Crime Spree” and “Gothic.net.” He contributed a 25,000 word mystery/horror novella to a Cemetery Dance limited-edition collection called “Brimstone Turnpike,” as well as short fiction to several anthologies including the highly praised “Dark Delicacies II,” “Tales from the Gorezone,” “Small Bites,” “The Fear Within,” “A Dark and Deadly Valley,” “Holy Horrors,” and “On Deadly Ground” — a collection of western noir edited by veteran author Ed Gorman.

Shannon’s first signed limited edition short story collection “BAD SEED” debuted in June of 2001. His debut horror novel “NIGHT OF THE BEAST”—the first in a pulp trilogy set in northeastern Nevada—was released in 2002. The acclaimed “NIGHT OF THE WEREWOLF” won the small-press Tombstone Award for Best Novel of 2003. The final book, a 2005 Delirium Books limited edition of “NIGHT OF THE DAEMON,” sold out in pre-order. These ‘Night” books are currently out of print in the US, but the third, under the title “Daemon,” was released by Delirium Books in 2008.

Harry Shannon’s first noir effort, “MEMORIAL DAY (A Mick Callahan Novel),” takes place in fictional Dry Wells, Nevada. It was a hardcover release from Five Star First Edition Mysteries in May of 2004. New Mystery Reader called it “brilliant,” also “wry, bittersweet and altogether touching,” Library Journal praised it as “memorable,” and Booklist said of amateur sleuth Mick Callahan “Let’s hope he’s around for a long run.” The sequel, “EYE OF THE BURNING MAN” came out in November, 2005 and was also well-reviewed. A third Mick Callahan novel “ONE OF THE WICKED” was released November, 2008. His new novella "PAIN" was released in 2010.

Shannon’s solo thriller “THE PRESSURE OF DARKNESS” was released in November of 2006. His second collection of short fiction "A HOST OF SHADOWS" was released by Dark Regions Press in August of 2010.

Harry scripted the horror film “DEAD AND GONE” for darkhaze.net fetish photographer/director Yossi Sasson, and played a bit part as the Sheriff. The film was released on DVD via Lions Gate in July of 2008. Shannon’s novel version of “DEAD AND GONE” was published in August, 2008.

Shannon can be reached via his website at www.harryshannon.com or via Facebook.

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Harry: Are we born this way? I don't remember not wanting to write. I used to make my own comic books, and completed my first short story at eleven. My first career was in music, so I gradually drifted into writing song lyrics, and that distracted me from novels for many, many years. But I read constantly, and always dreamed of giving it a good shot, and finally at fifty I published "Memorial Day."

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Harry: I'm a scattered person, always doing several things at once, so I don't write with much constancy or discipline, or even stay in one genre. When I do fall in love with a story, I get obsessed with it, and write in long bursts, generally from before dawn until lunch time. The first draft is always a horrendous struggle, but rewriting is something I can do in bits and pieces, a return to the normal scattershot approach to life.

TSG: Your influences?

Harry: Oh, John D. MacDonald, James Lee Burke, Cormac McCarthy, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. And that's off the top of my head. They are legion.

TSG: Your muses?

Harry: The newspaper. Other novels I've loved, especially dark thrillers. The conflicts between people I know and work with. Somehow some macrocosmic concept like a killer virus connects to dark fiction, and the dilemma a client who is struggling with the loss of his spouse, and the result is a novel like "The Pressure of Darkness."

TSG: Your first sale?

Harry: In prose? $10.00 for a short story. I remember the online zine was called Twilight Tales, but the name of the story has slipped my mind. It was about eleven years ago, give or take.

TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?

Harry: Opening that first box of hard cover books. A novel of mine, with all those copies in print. To this day, there is no feeling quite like it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Introducing Vicki Hendricks

Vicki Hendricks is the author of noir novels Miami Purity, Iguana Love, Voluntary Madness, Sky Blues, and Cruel Poetry, the latter nominated for an Edgar Award in 2008. Her collection, Florida Gothic Stories was published in 2010. Hendricks lives in Hollywood, Florida, and teaches writing at Broward College. Her plots and settings reflect participation in adventure sports, such as skydiving and scuba, and knowledge of the Florida environment.

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Vicki: I became a writer in the dullest way possible: schooling. I always wanted to write, but thought I was a lazy procrastinator because I never got past the first few pages, at those rare moments when I wrote anything at all. Having taught college-level English for ten years, I had settled into writing poetry reviews, literary analysis, and a few non-fiction articles for local magazines when I heard of the new MFA in Creative Writing at Florida International University. It was difficult to be accepted, and is even tougher now because it's such a popular program, but well worth the struggle. Four years later I graduated, and soon my thesis was published by Pantheon for a six-figure advance. I would never have gotten anywhere without learning technique and structure, so I owe it all to the instructors at F.I.U.--and hard work. Dennis Lehane and I were classmates, and I'm sure he agrees.

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Vicki: I would go along with other people and call myself a noir writer. I don't write mysteries, and there is never a detective solving a case because the narrator is the criminal. This is noir in the style of James M. Cain's The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, Serenade, and others. The fun is in watching the person make choices that get him or her deeper into trouble, the hallmark of noir. My characters are not evil, but deeply confused and often psychologically damaged, innocently trying to make their lives work by the only means they find open to them. The narrators of my novels are all women compelled into crime by obsession, my favorite theme, although men often play a similar role in my short stories. Noir is the darkest of the crime genres, and with Miami Purity in '95 I introduced graphic sexual content that Cain was never allowed in his day and that has continued to be popular in the neo-noir world.

TSG: Your influences?

Vicki: Besides James M. Cain, my influences are Harry Crews, Charles Bukowski, and Jim Thompson. Lately, I've heard magical realism and horror both applied to my short stories, so the influences range widely beyond those.

TSG: Your muses?

Vicki: My muses are terrific writers that I happen to be reading. Nothing inspires me as much as seeing technique so beautiful that it brings tears to my eyes. I can't resist parsing it out to see how the writer made it work, then trying to do it myself. When you see the bottom corners turned on a book I've read, you know I'm planning to go back to study.

TSG: Your first sale?

Vicki: My first sale was my thesis and most successful novel: Miami Purity. I heard of Sonny Mehta's interest in purchasing the novel when I was in the midst of a writing workshop and a phone call came in from "my agent." I didn't have an agent until that moment, and didn't even believe it at the time, but soon a fantasy, beyond anything I imagined, came true.

TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?

Vicki: It's been an exciting process all the way through, finishing the first novel, selling it, taking a book tour with James Ellroy, traveling to London for Serpent's Tail and to France for a noir conference. Being an Edgar Award finalist in 2008 and getting my collection of short stories together has recently kept the excitement going. I'm hopeful that the current film option on Miami Purity will make the leap into production, and that will be another prime moment in my writing life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Introducing Bill Crider

BILL CRIDER lives in scenic Alvin, Texas, near Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast, where he’s suffered the effects of both Hurricane Ike and Hurricane Alicia. He was the Division Chair of English and Humanities before his retirement in 2002.

Bill is the author of more than fifty published novels and numerous short stories. He won the Anthony Award for best first mystery novel in 1987 for Too Late to Die. He and his wife, Judy, won the best short story Anthony in 2002 for their story “Chocolate Moose.” His story “Cranked” from Damn Near Dead (Busted Flush Press) was nominated for the Edgar award, the Anthony Award, and the Derringer Award. It won the latter. He’s won the Golden Duck Award for best juvenile science fiction novel and been nominated for a Shamus. His latest novel is Murder in the Air (St. Martin’s). Check out his homepage at www.billcrider.com, or take a look at his peculiar blog at http://billcrider.blogspot.com.

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Bill: I don’t remember not being a writer. When I was a kid I wrote poems and stories for fun. Mostly I never showed them to anybody. Then I wrote papers for English classes in high school and college. Lots of them in college since I was enrolled for many years. Sometimes I wrote stuff for other people as a favor. Eventually I started doing book reviews and essays for crime-fiction fanzines like The Armchair Detective, The J. D. M. Bibliophile, The Poisoned Pen, and a lot of others. One evening the husband of one of my faculty members asked me if I’d like to try collaborating on a Nick Carter novel with him. We finished it and sold it, and after that I struck out on my own.

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Bill: I’m a seat of the pants writer, which is to say I don’t plan a lot. Nobody ever told me that I was supposed to plan. I thought a writer was just a storyteller and that a storytellers were people who told stories, making them up as they went along. So that’s what I do. I used to be very disciplined, writing a certain number of pages every day of the year. As I’ve aged, I’ve gotten lazy, so I don’t do than anymore.

TSG: Your influences?

Bill: There are really too many to name. At one time or another I wanted to be Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler, Max Shulman, John D. MacDonald, William Faulkner, and a few dozen others. As it turned out, I couldn't be any of them. Finally I had to settle for being me.

TSG: Your muses?

Bill: My ideas come from anywhere I can find them. I've written elsewhere about how I came to write a book called Murder in the Air, but the short version is that my brother said I should write a book about factory chicken farms. Sounded good to me, so I did. One day my sister called me about a story she'd seen in the paper. It mentioned feral pigs. She was reminded of me because I've put feral pigs in a lot of books. They've always played a minor role, but she thought I should do more with them. So The Wild Hog Murders, which comes out in 2011, was the result. The next thing you know, my brother and sister will start wanting a percentage.

TSG: Your first sale?

Bill: My first sale was, believe it or not, a poem. I sold it to a magazine called The Runner, which is now defunct. So this is a highly collectible piece, no doubt worth thousands. There are, as far as I know, no signed copies.

TSG: Your biggest, most memorable thrill as a writer?

Bill: It would be hard to beat the phone call from New York about the poem. I was sitting in my office at school, probably looking out the window, when the phone rang. I couldn’t believe an editor in New York was calling me about my poem, telling me how much she liked it, and offering to pay me $25 for it. That probably figured around 50 cents a word, which is more than I’ve gotten for anything else I’ve ever written. And those were 1977 dollars.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


This year will end with nearly a billion dollars worth of e-books sold to consumers. By 2015, experts predict that the industry will have nearly tripled in size, with sales rising to nearly $3 billion. It's an exciting time, and we've formed the Top Suspense Group to help readers easily find high quality genre e-books.

We're a group of like-minded writers, all of us acclaimed, all of us with our share of fans. Max Allan Collins. Bill Crider. Ed Gorman. Vicki Hendricks. Harry Shannon. Dave Zeltserman. We've already made our mark on genre fiction, whether it's noir, crime, mystery, thriller, horror or Westerns, and in some cases, several of these genres at once. Our goal with the Top Suspense Group is to make it easy for readers to navigate this massive and ever growing sea of e-books, and find some of the best genre suspense fiction out there in one place.

Watch us over the next few months. See what our readers and reviewers are saying about our books. Give them a try. Let TopSuspense.com become your trusted site for noir, crime, mystery, thriller, horror and Western e-book recommendations.

Over the next several week we'll be introducing each of our Top Suspense Authors, and starting Dec. 6th we'll be writing a crime story here in round robin fashion, each of us taking turns without any planning or coordination or safety nets. We'll also be using this blog for book announcements, news, interviews and other features.