Friday, December 31, 2010

Book of the Day: One of the Wicked by Harry Shannon

Book of the Day: One of the Wicked by Harry Shannon

Mick Callahan is doing a pal a favor. Bud Stone owes money to a gangster named Big Paul Pesci. He’s worried about his ex-girlfriend and asks Mick to keep her safe. But when Stone rips off a drug dealer to pay Pesci, the situation explodes. The girl disappears and Mick finds himself caught between the police and the Russian Mob.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lee in a Nutshell


There's a nice article about me and my latest MONK novel in The Acorn, my local community newspaper. Here's an excerpt:
In his latest book, “Mr. Monk on the Road,” Calabasas author Lee Goldberg takes a brilliant but obsessive-compulsive detective on a new adventure to the open highway where “crime is a hitchhiker that won’t be ignored.”
Goldberg, 48, wrote numerous scripts for the “Monk” television show starring Tony Shalhoub. His novel for the complementary Penguin Group book series will be released Jan. 4.
“Books based on television shows do well because people enjoy reading about familiar characters,” Goldberg said.
Although Adrian Monk’s phobias and tics leave him incapable of handling the simplest aspects of day-to-day life, the detective is able to solve baffling murders.
“People love the character of Monk. He’s funny and everything works out in the end. People want that, especially in this economy,” said Goldberg, whose credits include “Monk,” “ Diagnosis Murder,” “ Baywatch,” “ Spenser: For Hire” and “The Cosby Mysteries.”
Goldberg also has produced shows and written dozens of novels and nonfiction books.
Goldberg said he works in an array of genres, including science fiction, crime, the occult, comedy and mystery to stay competitive in his trade.
 “As a professional writer, I can’t wait for inspiration to strike. I go where the work is. I’m an artist, but at the same time I’m practical,” he said.

Book of the Day: Florida Gothic Stories by Vicki Hendricks

Book of the Day: Florida Gothic Stories by Vicki Hendricks

One of my favorite collections of the year. Noir and horror at it's most primal level.--Dave Zeltserman

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Still time for the Top Suspense Story Contest

There's still time to enter the TSG story contest. You want free books, don't you? Bragging right? Here's your chance!

Book of the Day: Black River Falls by Ed Gorman

Book of the Day: Black River Falls by Ed Gorman

Festival Bound

REMAINDERED ARTICLE_crop
Lee Goldberg here...

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reported this week that REMAINDERED, a movie that I wrote and directed from one of my stories in the ebook Three Ways to Die, has been chosen as a finalist in two film festivals so far. The article said, in part:
"Remaindered," written and directed by veteran television writer Lee Goldberg, has been selected to be screened at the Derby City Film Festival, which is Feb. 18 to 20 in Louisville, and the Beaufort International Film Festival, which is Feb. 16-20 in Beaufort, S.C.
The film premiered in mid-October at Bouchercon, an internationally known mystery convention that attracts mystery writers, fans and others in the mystery world.
"It's gotten greater feedback than I ever anticipated," Goldberg said. "Greater positive feedback."
"Remaindered" was shot over a September weekend at locations in Owensboro and Henderson. Daviess County residents Rodney Newton, a producer of the film, and P.J. Starks, the film's photography director, did most of the editing on the project.
Most of the crew were local residents, and the cast was composed of local and regional actors. Newton said he was pleased that the movie has been selected for film festivals.
"We put a lot of work into this," he said. "It's good it's going to get out there to a wider audience (more) than anything else."
The cast and crew plan on attending the Derby City Film Festival. It will be the first time they seen a screening of their movie together.
Newton said he was thankful to the people who made the film possible, including the RiverPark Center and the individuals and businesses who provided places to shoot scenes.
[...]Goldberg filmed "Remaindered" in Owensboro after participating in the 2008 and 2009 International Mystery Writers Festivals at the RiverPark Center.
Goldberg called "Remaindered" a great calling card for the mystery festival. The festival was canceled in 2010 because state funding came through too late for RiverPark officials to raise matching funds. The RiverPark Center hasn't decided if it will host the festival in 2011.
Goldberg said another city will decide to host the festival if Owensboro doesn't.
"This film is like a Goodwill ambassador for Owensboro and the mystery writers festival all around the country," he said. "I just hope that the folks in Owensboro continue to support the festival."
Goldberg said he's been flattered by the film's reception, not just for himself, but for the cast and crew as well.
"I was just lucky to be the captain of the ship," he said.
Many thanks to reporter Beth Wilberding for the great article.

"A Host of Shadows" collection by Harry Shannon is Kindle Boards "Book of the Day"

http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,32691.0.html


Twenty-five short horror and crime stories by Harry Shannon, with an introduction by Rick Hautala. "A Host of Shadows" is available for $4.99 at Amazon.com, B&N, or just via the link on the Kindle Board site.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Critics Bruce Grosssman's and Chauncey Mabe's Best of Year


Bookgasm book critic, Bruce Grossman, announced on Facebook his two top reads of 2010.

#1 The Caretaker of Lorne Field by Dave Zeltserman
#2 Killer by Dave Zeltserman

Book critic Chauncey Mabe also picked The Caretaker of Lorne Field as one of his favorite books of 2010, saying:

If H.P. Lovecraft collaborated with Jim Thompson, the result would be something like this foray into horror from a writer best known for noir crime fiction. Dread, suspicion, paranoia and a completely new variety of monster combine in a highly original effort.

Ebooks Are the Future...and the Future is Now

Author Joe Konrath  made the front page of The Los Angeles Times in a story with the provocative headline "Authors Writing Off Publishers" (the headline makes a curious shift in focus in the online edition: "Book Publishers See Their Role as Gatekeepers Shrink"). Here's an excerpt:
Joe Konrath can't wait for his books to go out of print.
When that happens, the 40-year-old crime novelist plans to reclaim the copyrights from his publisher, Hyperion Books, and self-publish them on Amazon.comApple Inc.'s iBooks and other online outlets. That way he'll be able to collect 70% of the sale price, compared with the 6% to 18% he receives from Hyperion.
As for future novels, Konrath plans to self-publish all of them in digital form without having to leave his house inSchaumburg, Ill.
"I doubt I'll ever have another traditional print deal," said the author of "Whiskey Sour," "Bloody Mary" and other titles. "I can earn more money on my own."
For more than a century, writers have made the fabled pilgrimage to New York, offering their stories to publishing houses and dreaming of bound editions on bookstore shelves. Publishers had the power of the purse and the press. They doled out advances to writers they deemed worthy and paid the cost of printing, binding and delivering books to bookstores. In the world of print, few authors could afford to self-publish.
The Internet has changed all that, allowing writers to sell their works directly to readers, bypassing agents and publishers who once were the gatekeepers.
It's difficult to gauge just how many authors are dumping their publishing houses to self-publish online, though for now, the overall share remains small. But hardly a month goes by without a well-known writer taking the leap or declaring an intention to do so.
It is certainly the hot-topic of discussion whenever I get together with my writer-friends. I even had a long talk about it with my publisher during Bouchercon, who seemed honestly stunned by the money I was making off my backlist, particularly THE WALK.

In fact, my wife was looking at my Kindle royalties the other day... which have hit an all-time high and are paid within weeks... and asked me why I even bothered continuing to write my MONK novels. Even the CreateSpace print-on-demand paperback edition of THE WALK is selling surprisingly well (If sales continue at the current pace, I'll sell 150 copies of the paperback this month, with a royalty of $4.04 per book). All of that is gravy...remember, these are out-of-print books of mine that we are talking about.

Even though the MONK books sell very well, in hardcover and paperback, my royalty rate is substantially less than what I earn on my out-of-print work on the Kindle.  And it can take more than a year, often much longer, before I see any royalty checks, particularly on my early, three-book deals that were cross-collateralized (on those, I don't get paid until all three books earn out my advance). And then, of course, there's the commission my agent takes from every check (and I am not begrudging her that at all, she worked very hard for it).

So yeah, self-publishing is looking very good to me. Something that would have been inconceivable to me as recently as two years ago. Here's more from the article:
Authors typically get 10% to 25% of the proceeds of digital sales if they go through a publisher, compared with 40% to 70% if they self-publish.
For Konrath, the math made his choice easy. He said he earned $1.17 in royalties for each digital copy of "Whiskey Sour" sold by Hyperion. That's roughly 25% of the sale price of $4.69.
When he self-publishes on Amazon, Konrath prices his books at $2.99 and earns $2.04 a copy, or just under 70%.
"If a traditional publisher offered me a quarter of a million dollars for a novel, I'd consider it," he said. "But anything less than that, I'm sure I can do better on my own."
He makes a good point...one readers of this blog have heard repeatedly. The publishing world has changed dramatically in the last twelve months and so has my thinking about my own future as an author.
I will keep writing the MONK books as long as they continue being successful...but I honestly don't know whether I will take my next original novel to publishers, unless my agent can convince me it's a game-changer that will be a break me out of the mid-list.

For an established mid-list author like myself, I can't say that working with publishers really makes much financial sense any more...it certainly doesn't to my wife, whose opinion carries a lot of sway with me.
But how do you get readers to find your work amidst the tsunami of sludge...all the hideous, not-ready-for-primetime swill that's being sold by aspiring writers? Here's what the article had to say about that:
With millions of titles potentially flooding the market, readers will have to rely more on external cues to guide their purchases, whether it's a favorable review from a celebrity, a tip from a social-media contact or the backing of a major publisher.

"Until someone comes up with an algorithm to sort the good manuscripts from the bad, publishers and their human network of agents and editors maintain an advantage," McQuivey said. "But sooner or later someone will create a new way for readers to find the books they most want to read, and that someone may or may not be a traditional book publisher."

It may not even be human.

Amazon, Apple Inc., Netflix Inc., Pandora Media Inc. and other technology companies use software that analyzes consumer behavior to recommend choices in music, movies and other products.

Indeed, the challenge in a world where anyone can publish a book is getting people to pay attention.
To that end, in my our own small way, I've banded together with Max Allan Collins, Vicki Hendricks, Harry Shannon, Joel Goldman, Dave Zeltserman, Ed Gorman, Paul Levine, and Bill Crider to create Top Suspense, a place where readers can find ebooks by estalished, acclaimed, award-winning writers whose work they can rely on to deliver the goods in a variety of genres...horror, westerns, mystery, thrillers, and crime. It's a small step...but it could blossom into something more. At this point, everything in the digital book world is an experiment of sorts...but exciting and full of possibilities nonetheless.

Book of the Day: Just Before Dark by Jack MacLane (Bill Crider)

Book of the Day: Just Before Dark by Jack MacLane (Bill Crider)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Book of the Day: Riptide by Paul Levine

Book of the Day: Riptide by Paul Levine

Introducing our newest member: Paul Levine

Paul with Elmore Leonard

A former trial lawyer, Paul Levine is the award-winning author of the "Jake Lassiter" thrillers. To Speak for the Dead, the first of the series, was named one of the top ten crime novels of 1990 by the Los Angeles Times and was adapted into an NBC World Premiere movie.

Levine is also the author of Solomon vs. Lord (nominated for the Macavity), The Deep Blue Alibi (nominated for an Edgar and the James Thurber humor prize), and Kill All the Lawyers (a finalist for the International Thriller Writers award). He also won the John D. MacDonald Florida Fiction Prize for the Lassiter series.

A linebacker-turned-lawyer, Lassiter is a tough guy with a tender heart, a guy with "old friends, old habits, and old values." Or, as Jake says:

"I don't drink fizzy water from France or booze in fluorescent colors. I don't have a life coach or an aroma therapist, and I'm not into tweeting, sexting, or spinning. I'm polite to cashiers and bartenders and the paperboy — okay, the illegal alien in the Ford pickup — who tosses the Herald into my bougainvillea each morning. I still help little old ladies cross the street, and sometimes, tall, pretty ones, too. In short, I'm a regular guy. A carnivore among vegans, a brew and burger guy in a Chardonnay and paté world."

Levine also wrote two critically acclaimed stand-alone thrillers: Reversal and Illegal. The Supreme Court thriller Reversal was the inspiration for "First Monday," the CBS television drama co-created by Levine and starring James Garner and Joe Mantegna.

Illegal is set in the world of human trafficking and was termed "timely, tumultuous, and in a word, terrific" by the Providence (R.I.) Journal.

Levine also wrote more than 20 episodes of the CBS military drama JAG. His next book will be Lassiter, a Bantam hardcover scheduled for September 2011.

More information at www.paul-levine.com

TSG: How'd you become a writer?

Paul: I was practicing law in Miami and woke up one day to discover I didn't like my cases, my clients, and even my partners. There were some judges I wasn't too fond of, either. At the time, I was an avid windsurfer. On a vacation to Maui, I got injured so I took out a legal pad and started writing my first novel. Somewhere, I still have the pad, smeared with suntan oil and speckled with sand. I didn't know it at the time, but writing the book was my therapy. Instead of seeing a shrink to talk about my mid-life crisis, I created Jake Lassiter, the linebacker-turned-lawyer, a tough guy with a tender heart. He could do things I couldn't -- like get in a fistfight with a witness and gladly go to jail for contempt.

TSG: Describe yourself as a writer?

Paul: I'm 6' 2", 180 pounds. Oh, that's not what you mean? I write crime fiction. Often legal thrillers, often with humor. Jake Lassiter is a hard-boiled guy but with a wry edge, a "carnivore among vegans, a brew and burger guy in a Chardonnay and paté world."

He's realistic about lawyers: "They don't call us sharks for our ability to swim."

Lassiter knows how the game is played. “A good lawyer is part con man and part priest, promising riches if you hire him, threatening hell if you don't."

In many ways, he's just a regular guy. "I don’t drink fizzy water from France or booze in fluorescent colors. I don’t carry a Blackberry, a Bluetooth, or a purse, and you won't find my mug on My Space or Facebook. I don’t have a life coach, and I’m not into tweeting, sexting or spinning. In short, I’m not a yuppie, a metrosexual or Generation X, Y, or Z. I have old friends, old habits, and old values. If I had to describe myself in one word, “throwback” comes to mind."

I've written seven Lassiter novels with the eighth due out in September 2011. It is titled, cleverly, "Lassiter." I've also written four "Solomon and Lord" novels, featuring a pair of squabbling lawyers, Steve Solomon and Victoria Lord. They've been nominated for an Edgar, a James Thurber humor prize, and the International Thriller Writers award. My border thriller "Illegal," which was published last year in hardcover, will be out in paperback in January. So save some money, and buy it then.

TSG: Your influences?

Paul: Mainly Clase Azul tequila. Sometimes Jack Daniels. Oh, you mean writers? John D. MacDonald. Raymond Chandler. Elmore Leonard. Scott Turow. Outside the genre, Tom Wolfe. As I was beginning to write, I also was influenced by Carl Hiaasen's ability to express a strong, significant theme with humor in "Tourist Season."

TSG: Your first sale?

Paul: "To Speak for the Dead," the first Lassiter novel was sold in 1988 and published in 1990. I was trying a case in Islamorada in the Florida Keys when I got word from my agent. No cell phones in those days. I remember calling from a pay phone outside the courthouse. You could see the Gulf of Mexico from there, and it was just surreal. I'm up to my ass in alligators in a trial, and I'm on the phone with a guy in Manhattan who is about to change my life. Bantam offered a two-book, hard/soft deal. The feeling was indescribable, which for a writer, is tough to admit. I went back into court and said to the judge, "May it please the court: I'm a novelist." I finished the trial and won. True story.

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

Paul: I think the answer to the previous question might do here, as well. One more thing, too. I'm not a big believer in awards to measure a career, though I suppose if you win the "Cy Young," you're a pretty good pitcher. Early on, I was honored with the second John D. MacDonald award for Florida fiction. The first winner was Elmore Leonard, one of my heroes.

TSG: What new books are on the horizon?

Paul: I’m out this week with the e-book edition of “Riptide,” a Jake Lassiter thriller. Here's the setup. A professional windsurfer and his girlfriend rip off Jake’s favorite client for $2 million. Jake chases the pair from Miami to Maui where he gets in way over his head. The woman is beautiful, a modern-day femme fatale who's a great athlete. The windsurfer is stone cold killer.

TSG: So “Riptide” doesn’t take place in the courtroom?

Paul: More like blue skies and turquoise waters, a jungle on Molokai, and a helicopter that flies over an active volcano with three men aboard and returns with only two.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Remembering Richard Jessup

Ed Gorman here...

I played The Cincinatti Kid the other night and as I watched I thought about what a hard mile Richard Jessup, the author of the novel, had walked before hitting it big before his novel became a major film.

We first see Jessup in the early `50s when Gold Medal was promoting him as their own angry young man. The books were thick and dealt with social themes such as race and juvenile delinquency. I haven't read them in years but I remember liking them a great deal. His mainstream work always had a hard edge. And somewhere in here he wrote radio and live TV including the science fiction series Tom Corbett. I believe that he also wrote some juvenile sf as well. Two of his long Gold Medals became movies.

His next incarnation, after the angry young man phase ended, comes in the middle to late period of that decade. Jessup, under at least two pen-names, writes crime novels and westerns. After the James Bond boom he creates a spy series that people seem to love or despise. He had a good time kidding the form. Having never cared much for Bond in any form, I appreciated the joshing. 

But then...

Jessup wasn't a one-hit wonder because he wrote three or four moderately successful novels after Kid. His publishers were careful to disassociate him from his genre work. I recall seeing an edition of Kid that gave the impression this was a first novel.

But he never came close to achieving another huge seller or one as culturally important as Kid. So what if he took The Hustler as his template and used poker instead of pool? Kid was indeibly Jessup just as Hustler was indeliby Walter Tevis. 

It's difficult to learn what he did exactly after the success of Kid. There were the books I mentioned but as an old paperback original writer he seemed to have a lot of time on his hands. He'd done a fair share of TV work early on, maybe he went back to that, though IMDB doesn't show much.

In the early eighties he wrote two door-stopper size suspense novels both of which were damned fine novels. My sense is that they were moderately successful. Jessup was a fine craftsman who worked comfortably in at least three different genres. 

I think what we're looking at here is the career of a working writer who got awfully lucky with the best book of his life but still was never recognized for much of the memorable (memorable to me, anyway) work he did early on.

Most of his books are great reads--he was a hell of a good western writer; and his Gold Medal Wolfcop is a fine hardboiled novel. He brought a precise, evocative style to all his books and at least once a novel he fried your brain. I'm thinking here of Wyoming Jones when Jones is caught with a young Indian woman who is betrothed to the Chief. Jones is tied to a post and prepared for being burned at the stake if the young woman doesn't prove to still be a virgin. An old Indian woman is to examine her. Chandler always said that you needed to work inside the formula, give it touches that only you could bring. Jessup did that frequently. 

He died way too young of lung cancer. It made me remember all those dramatic author photographs of him with a cigarette between his fingers.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

TSG's Best Reads of 2010

Top Suspense members were asked to come up with their best reads of 2010 from non Top Suspense authors. Here's what we came up with:

Vicki Hendricks' picks:

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin
Johnny Porno by Charlie Stella
Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott

Ed Gorman's picks:

The Amos Walker Collection Loren D. Estleman
The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard
What The Night Knows by Dean Koontz

Bill Crider's picks:

The Gentleman's Hour -- Don Winslow
When We Get to Surf City -- Bob Greene
The Quartzite Trip -- William Hogan

Harry Shannon's picks:

The Passage by Justin Cronin
The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke
Collusion by Stuart Neville

Paul Levine's picks:

Innocent by Scott Turow
A Bad Day for Sorry by Sophie Littlefield
The Given Day by Dennis Lehane

Dave Zeltserman's picks:

Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith
Next Stop Till Wonderland by Paul Tremblay
Galveston by Nic Pizzolatto

Max Allan Collins picks:

Note: I read very little fiction in 2010 because my reading time was eaten up by research for the upcoming Nathan Heller novel on the JFK assassination...upcoming as in I haven't quite started the writing of it yet.

1. I STILL DREAM ABOUT YOU -- Fannie Flagg. Probably my favorite living novelist. All of her novels have a strong mystery element, though the mystery community has never noticed.

2. SUMMER, FIREWORKS AND MY CORPSE by Otsuichi, translated by Nathan Collins. A very creepy Japanese horror collection translated by my son.

3. DEATH OF A DOXY by Rex Stout. My wife Barb and I love to listen to Wolfe/Archie/Stout on audio book. We're about to start our fourth pass through. This is a very interesting Wolfe set in the swinging '60s.

Pariah Blast From The Past: Washington Post

In 2009 the Washington Post picked Pariah as one of their top books. In an earlier review, they wrote:

What a sick puppy of a writer Dave Zeltserman is! I didn't think a suspense story could get any more dark and twisted than Zeltserman's pulp masterpiece of last year, "Small Crimes." In that nasty little immorality tale, a crooked ex-cop bent on redemption gets released from prison and finds out that nobody -- not his ex-wife, not his young daughters, not even his elderly parents -- wants him back. The kicker is that they're right. By the end of "Small Crimes," I was wrung out thanks to the ingeniousness of Zeltserman's nonstop plot twists and the stark meanness of his universe. Now comes "Pariah," a doozy of a doom-laden crime story that not only makes merry with the justice system, but also satirizes those bottom feeders in the publishing industry who would sign Osama bin Laden to a six-figure contract for his memoirs, if only they could figure out which cave to send their lawyers into. If there's any other young writer out there who does crime noir better than Zeltserman, I don't even want to know. As it is, I can barely handle reading him without altogether losing whatever faith I've got left in humanity.

Read the complete Washington Post review here.

Book of the Day: Voluntary Madness by Vicki Hendricks

Book of the Day: Voluntary Madness by Vicki Hendricks

Capsule review:

Voluntary Madness is a loosley updated and modern Bonnie and Clyde story taking place on the Florida Keys. This is a masterfully written novel, a noir erotica classic! The writing is tough, gritty, graphic, and leaves you disoriented. This is one of those books you can't put down, and it takes you on one hell of a ride.--Dave Zeltserman

Noir 13

Ed Gorman here:

The blog Pulp Serenade just gave NOIR 13, a collection of thirteen of my short stories, a rave review.

There isn’t a bad story in the bunch. Delicately crafted and emotionally perceptive, these stories capture the best qualities of Gorman’s prose. A desolate spirit pervades the book, as does Gorman’s characteristic unflinching but empathetic eye for human tragedy, folly, and misery. The stories aren’t without humor, and the occasional, fleeting platonic warmth shared between two characters, but on the whole these stories pack an even bleaker wallop than some of Gorman’s full-length novels.

Never one to confine himself to a single genre, Gorman opens with a daring, unexpected choice. “The Baby Store” is a distopic science-fiction tale about the emotional and psychological weight of a child’s death in a world in which children can be customized and made-to-order. It may be set in the future, but the reality is wholly recognizable, and the parents’ trauma relatable.

“A Little Something to Believe In,” co-written with Larry Segriff, follows two lost kids whose belief in a fantastic, alternate existence is the only hope in their day-to-day lives. The conclusion offers a chilling twist to the title, making it one of the coldest stories in the collection. Contrasting this is “Flying Solo,” about two geezer vigilantes who use their last days alive to right the wrongs they see around them. It’s a touching relationship, and a moving reflection on mortality and the necessity of human connection, two of Gorman’s most important themes that he returns to time and again.

In “The Long Way Back,” Gorman revisits another important theme in his work: a man who seeks atonement for failing his family in the past. In this story, successful businessman Giff Bryant returns to his hometown to try and help his alcoholic brother and his struggling family. It’s a beautiful but haunting story, words that could describe many of the stories in this collection. Another standout is “That Day at Eagle’s Point,” which chronicles the life-long tension between childhood friends – two boys in love with the same girl – that culminates in an event as ironic as it is tragic.

Closing the collection is one of the best, “Such a Good Girl,” another title that is given a dark twist by a shocking conclusion. This one is about a daughter who sacrifices everything for her cocaine-addicted mother. Here, Gorman shows that the darkest aspects of noir have nothing to do with trenchcoats and fedoras, and that the worst crimes are committed within the home by those closest to you. It’s heartbreaking and all-too believable.

As despondent as the stories may be, I’d rather end this review on one of the more hopeful notes in the collection. It is a quote from “Flying Solo” that says a lot about Gorman’s insight and his faith in people’s good nature

“There isn’t much to say when you get to this point (cancer). You just hope for as much decent time as you can get and if you’ve been helping people here and there you go right on helping them as long as you can.”

Noir 13 is available here from Perfect Crime Books.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book of the Day: Goodnight Moom

Book of the Day: Goodnight Moom by Jack Maclane (Bill Crider)

Unsung Director -- John Flynn

Ed Gorman here:


I believe that Don Westlake said that the characterization of Parker in John Flynn's The Outfit (here called Macklin) is the closest to the novel Parker. Robert Duvall is excellent. You buy him as a tough amoral guy because he doesn't play him as a tough amoral guy. He's just going about his business. I dubbed this off on tape years ago and I still watch it two or three times a year. Karen Black is sexy and sad; Robert Ryan lends his usual melancholy to the action film; Joe Don Baker is in his prime here and particularly strong--and as if he he wants to salute the crime film in general Flynn uses many familiar actors for some of the smaller roles, among them Jane Greer, Richard Jaeckel, Sheree North, Marie Windsor and even Elisha Cook, Jr. Duvall's intelligence and mystery carries the film. Flynn' direction is absolutely on the money. This should have been on tape and/or DVD years ago.

I've always considered John Flynn's Rolling Thunder to be one of Paul Schrader's finest scripts. This is one of those films you don't watch--you inhabit it, sometimes against your will. The star is William Devane . He plays a returning Viet Nam vet with only one thing on his mind, revenge. This and most of Karl Reisiz's Who'll Stop The Rain are the two best films I've ever seen about the era of Viet Nam played out on the American streets. The rage, the dislocation, the sucker's game fate of so many of the characters, Schrader and Flynn really give us the bleeding wound of that time. An amazing, disturbing movie.

My choice for Flynn's third best movie would be Best Seller, a starring vehicle for both James Woods and Brian Dennehy. Woods plays a hit man who wants to get back at an old enemy. To do it he needs the help of widower Dennehy who wrote a bestselling book about a murder investigation he was involved in as a detective. Unfortunately he's stalled on a second book and running out of the funds he needs to support his teenaged daughter and himself. Dennehy loathes Wood and doesn't trust him when he says that he knows who killed Dennehy's old police partner. He also claims that this will give Dennehy the biggest best seller he can imagine--killer and scandal are one and the same. There is a particularly moving and very strange scene where Woods takes Dennehy back go the small town where he grew up. Larry Cohen's script is excellent and Flynn's direction is flawless.

Rolling Thunder and Best Seller are easy and inexpensive to come by. And the Outfit is just out on DVD as well. Finally.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Killer shown on CBS Sunday Morning

CBS Sunday Morning's story 'Judging Books by Their Covers' gave Killer some very nice exposure. Check out at 1 minute and 40 second into the video.

Judging Books by Their Covers

Killer Blast from Past: Boston Globe

Dave Zeltserman is at it again writing about ex-con antiheroes with the kind of panache that would make Jim Thompson, king of the psycho killer novels, proud. In fact, there’s more than a passing resemblance to Thompson’s classic, “The Killer Inside Me.’’

Read the Boston Globe review of Killer here.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Chase -- Completed + Contest Rules

All 12 story segments for the The Chase are posted below, with each original Top Suspense author (Max Allan Collins, Vicki Hendricks, Ed Gorman, Bill Crider, Harry Shannon and Dave Zeltserman) writing two of the story segments. The rules we had for writing the story were that there would be no planning, no coordination, no safety nets. Each day one of us wrote up to 250 words of The Chase and passed it onto the next writer. The only leeway was the last writer got to go past the 250 word limit to try to finish up the story, and the only editing done was for consistency errors.

We're offering free books and bragging rights to the first 5 people who can match each story segment to the author who wrote it. You can enter the contest by sending an email to dave.zeltserman@gmail.com with your picks. Entries must be received by Dec. 30th, and one entry per person. We'll be announcing the winners on Jan. 3rd.
_____________________________________________

The Chase

Part 1

Lauren Blaine didn’t know who was in the car behind her, and she didn’t know when they’d picked up her trail. She looked over at the man in the passenger seat. He looked back, his face a blank. He had nothing to say. He seldom did.

“I don’t think I can lose them,” Lauren said.

The man’s head moved a fraction of an inch in what might have been considered a nod.

“I’m going to try, though.”

Another slight movement, which Lauren took for assent. She pressed down on the accelerator and the Cadillac CTS-V surged forward. They were on a little-used farm-to-market road, a curvy, hilly two-lane blacktop that Lauren had turned onto from the Interstate. She’d planned to cut over to the state highway to the west and follow that to their destination. Now she wished she hadn’t taken the shortcut.

The car behind her was gaining, which seemed impossible. The Caddy was the fastest production sedan made in the U. S. But maybe the car behind had been made elsewhere.

Lauren risked another glance at the man beside her. He unfastened his seatbelt, reached inside his jacket, and pulled a Kimber 1911 .45 from a shoulder holster. Lauren didn’t think a gun was going to be any help, but seeing it did make her feel a little better. The man refastened his seatbelt.

Lauren didn’t feel better for long. As the Cadillac crested a hill, she saw a slow-moving farm combine not a hundred yards ahead. It was so wide that it took up most of the road.

"Uh-oh,” the man said.

Part 2

Lauren’s heart was in her throat, her pulse pounded, its pace steadily increasing as they raced closer to the combine. It went from an metal insect on the ribbon of road to a behemoth of mud-splattered steel in a terrifying span of seconds. She looked at the man seated next to her for guidance, but his eyes told her everything she needed to know. They said, whatever you do, don't slow down...

POP! Lauren heard a flat, harsh sound, remembered getting so angry at a man for cheating she'd slapped him across the face; it was that kind of sound but smaller somehow, more compact. The wind screeched into her face. With a feeling of dread she located the tiny spider web shape in the safety glass inches from her headrest. A bullet hole. The men in the other car were shooting at them. One round had come within inches of erasing her life. The sound came again.

She panicked a bit and their car fishtailed down the highway, an accidental but effective evasive maneuver. Lauren slid from the road and danced along the embankment, flattening wheat. She briefly wondered if she should gun the engine and try her luck in the fields. But they had no idea what was out there in the rows and rows of wheat, ditches and sink holes and rocks perhaps, scores of ways to stall the car. On the other hand they would be free to run on foot and covered by the seemingly eternal ocean of tall wheat?

Part 3

The combine driver leaped from the machine and Lauren jerked the wheel left, crossed the road, bounced the car into the field. Her sense of direction was nearly always wrong and she was counting on that, heading opposite of what felt right to get to Kansas City. For over ten years, the darkness of LA clubs had replaced the open sky bordered by glistening grain, beauty she still hoped to reclaim.

Paolo turned. “Shit!”

Her lip curled and trembled. “You’re the one insisted on coming.”

“I saved your ass!”

She clenched her jaw and checked the road. No car on the hill. Ahead, one hope for cover, a sloping barn against the blue.

What had she been thinking? After two years of marriage, watching Jimmy’s drug money grow and keeping her Kansas roots secret, she’d sacrificed her lead time. Her little farm, the herb garden, dogs, chickens, the pot-bellied pig . . . all her dreams traded for a one night stand. Now up to three nights. If she’d known that Jimmy was so well-connected—but no, it was her stupid drinking that got her into trouble again.

She glanced out the side window. The other car still hadn’t crested the hill. Christ, yes! A few more seconds! She glared at Mr. Smooth-face-square-jaw, his wide eyes shifting between barn and highway—what the hell was his last name? She should be sick of those thick lashes and muscular lips, finished with all six foot three of him, but she still felt the warm sting, making her want it again—if only she could find the fucking highway.

Part 4

“Pull into that barn,” Paolo said.

She shot him a glare. “What the hell else did you think I was going to do?”

But she did it anyway, sliding through the open doors that seemed to be waiting for her. She didn’t wait for the jerk’s help – she scrambled out, shut the barn doors, the scent of hay strangely comforting. In some weird way, she was home.

“We’ll wait it out,” she said, and turned, and the handsome prick was grinning at her, the Kimber pointed right at her.

“Fuckin’ funny,” he said.

“I was just thinking that.”

“You figured they were after you. No. Me.”

“They’re not Jimmy’s people?”

“No.”

“Who are they then?”

“Does it matter? You knew I worked with Jimmy. You knew I swam in those waters.”

Talkative now, all of a sudden. Why hadn’t he shot her?

Of course. The farmhouse. A shot might bring Farmer Brown. But this move – pulling the gun on her – it spoke volumes: he was stupid. He could have picked the right moment to show his hand. Too early in the game....

“You don’t need that,” she said, gesturing toward his gun-in-hand. “We’re in the shit now. Together. I’m helping you. Why — ”

“That’s the funny thing. Jimmy hired me to take care of you.”

The prick had picked her up in that bar and screwed her silly for how long? And his end game was a bullet?

“Sit over there.”

Apparently he didn’t see the pitchfork leaned against the post.

Part 5

She knew she had only seconds to fill her fingers with the pitchfork handle then turn and stab him before he could get an accurate shot off. She remembered how he'd complimented her after their fourth round of lovemaking. She obviously inspired him. Now she hoped that doing a slutty walk in her tight red skirt and sweaty white blouse could distract him from the Kimber in his hand.

She might have been a stripper strutting her stuff as she walked away from him and toward bale of hay where he wanted her seated. Subtle he wasn't. In the dusty confines of the barn, lazy dust-filled sunlight streaming through the shattered windows, his breathing became loud and short. Horndog.

As she approached the post the pitchfork leaned against she put her hand to her backside and rubbed, as if giving herself pleasure.

Harder and harder came his breathing. That wasn't the only thing that was harder no doubt.

God could she actually pull it off? Suddenly the whole plan seemed absurd. He'd kill her right here and right now. What had she been thinking of.

But wasn't he going to kill her anyway? What did it matter where she died?

At times in her life she'd been so frightened that she seemed to be watching herself from a distance. A woman who was her twin sister would be trying to extricate herself from a dangerous situation. But Lauren Blaine had the easy part. All she had to do was watch.

Part 6

“Drop it.”

She turned toward him still holding the pitchfork. Fuck, she was angry. She wasn’t sure if it was at this prick or at Jimmy, but her rage was near choking her. “Why don’t you just shoot me already?” she demanded.

He scratched lazily along his jaw with one hand as he trained his .45 toward her chest with his other. Showing a thin smile, he said, “I’m not done with you yet.”

“What do you mean not done with me? In helping you get away from those men or in fucking me?”

“A little of both.”

The prick! Those words were like pouring gasoline on her rage as it exploded within her. She charged him then without realizing it, and when he fired a warning shot Lauren threw the pitchfork as she dove to the ground. Something wet and sticky hit her. When she looked up, she first saw the blood spray, then him, his eyes confused, the pitch fork sticking into his thigh and blood spurting from the wound. She had hit an artery and he was bleeding out fast. The confusion drained from his eyes as they became cold and reptilian. He shot at her to kill but he was too woozy to see straight, and the bullets bit into the barn floor next to her. He fired off two more shots as he fell backward. After a few twitches he stopped moving.

It became deathly quiet inside the barn. She heard a car pull up and held her breath as the engine was killed, then doors opened and closed.

Part 7

Lauren didn’t waste any time looking for a place to hide. She scuttled over to Paolo and jerked the .45 from his cold dead fingers. Okay, so they weren’t cold. What the hell.

Paolo had fired three shots. How many were bullets were left in the magazine? Four? Ten? A hundred? Lauren didn’t have a clue. She pointed the pistol at the doors.

One of the barn doors opened. A man poked his head inside.

Lauren pulled the trigger. The .45 slug tore through the wooden door about three feet to the left and a foot above where the man’s head had been. Lauren wasn’t much of a shot.

The door opened all the way, and the man stepped inside. He didn’t seem afraid. Lauren didn’t blame him, but she fired the pistol anyway. And missed again, still wide left.

The man didn’t even blink. “You’re wasting your time,” he said. “My friend’s waiting outside, so even if you get me, which I doubt you will, he’ll come in and take care of you.”

Lauren pulled the trigger. The bullet went wide to the right this time. Over-correction.

“That pistol’s a Kimber,” the man said. “I heard four shots before, so that means you got one left. Wanna try again, or you just wanna come with me and Frankie? Jimmy wants to see you. Says you got something belongs to him.”

Lauren heard a low rumble. It was getting louder. She looked at the Kimber. It might as well have been a water pistol for all the good it did her. She dropped it to the dirt floor.

Part 8

"Why did Jimmy send three, for insurance?"

That rumbling sound. Hadn't he noticed? No. He was too busy studying her breasts. The man nodded. "We gave Paulo his space until you two took off. It looked like he was more up for dipping his wick than carrying out orders. So we lit out after you." He looked at Paulo's corpse, skin so waxen, the dirt and straw darkly stained. "Thanks. You didn't waste him, we would have had to."

And then he finally heard the noise. Stiffened.

"Is this some kind of convention?" Lauren asked. The stranger moved from registering the rumbling sound to something else, something more sinister. Lauren could see his mind struggling. Jimmy wants it back, but he also wants the bitch dead. What do I do now? Now that there's some other car?

"Hustle up, dude!" The guy outside. The one he'd called Frankie. High voice, California accent. "We got company!"

The guy facing Lauren moved his eyes. They dropped down to his own weapon. Armed it with a slide and a click. Lauren acted without thinking. She bent down, scrambled to grab the Kimber, lined up on his groin and fired. Her aim was as terrible as usual, up and a bit to one side, but this time her last slug took off part of his skull in a spray of blood and bone. He dropped. She ran over, pried the 9mm Glock from his hands. Lauren felt giddy. Yawn. Another body, another gun.

Part 9

The engine cut off and she heard a car door open and close. No voices. Nothing. A shot! Two! Three! Four! How many guys out there? The doors would burst open any second and she had to be ready. She'd seen it on TV a hundred times. She got against the front wall, took a sturdy stance, holding the Glock with both hands. Which side of the door would open?

She widened her legs and held her breath. Waited. Panted. Her arms shook. She propped her elbow on her hip and struggled to keep her trigger hand steady. Sweat ran between her breasts.

After two lifetimes, her arm dropped to her side. All dead? Doubtful. Just waiting for her head to appear.

She glanced around. Light slanted from above, gleaming on Paolo's tan forehead. Other than the sagging roof, the barn seemed sturdy. Odd timing, but she remembered a similar barn. Darrell, unsnapping his overalls. Mmm. He was a hot treat, but being a country wife hadn't appealed to her, stoking the wood stove and snapping beans, chasing after grubby kids with their green-snotted noses. Church on Sunday. Hell, maybe coming back was all a mistake, not just the way she'd done it. There was life in LA.

She gave the door a kick, knocking it open a few feet. Nothing. She charged through and stopped fast in front of a rusty pick up with huge muddy tires. The windows were half down, a collie whining inside. “Sweet baby,” she said.

Part 10

The collie was docile enough. Even more docile was Frankie, sprawled in the late model job alongside the pick-up. Frankie was a little guy who’d splattered a lot of blood onto the driver’s side window; he’d taken three hits, two in the face, one in the throat. The latter wound was gurgling a little.

Looked like the pick-up truck’s driver had slid up to a stop next to the newer vehicle and just started firing away through his open window.

Somebody didn’t like intruders....

Yet no sign of the driver. And that fucking collie hadn’t shot anybody. Lauren looked all around – the day had died on her, but visibility was fine in a clear blue dusk long with shadows. She circled the barn, gun in hand, till she came back to where she started.

Nobody.

If Frankie’s killer was the occupant of that farmhouse (where a couple lights were on), she’d need to hustle. She quickly returned to the barn, opened the trunk of her car, got rid of the extra suitcase – like Paolo himself, excess baggage – and gave the brown carry-on filled with Jimmy’s money a loving little pat.

She was just about to go up to open the barn doors and drive the hell out, hoping for room to squeeze past the two parked vehicles out there, when the rugged-looking Marlboro man with the plaid jacket and blue baseball cap and double-barrel shotgun stepped inside.

“Hold ‘er right there, missy,” he said, face blank as a hay bale.

Part 11

“Oh, thank God,” Lauren said. “I never thought I’d live through it. I'm so grateful you killed him."

"Never mind that. What's your connection to them?"

She knew better than to tell him anything. She had a bad girl/good girl switch somewhere in her brain. Good girl was in charge now. Sobs. Tears. The stereotypical hysterical chickenshit woman.

"What the hell's wrong with you?"

Fucking good girl switch. It must not be feeding her full power. She had to make the good girl switch work. She went back to sobbing. Then she pretended to start to faint.

He was right there to save her and right there to listen to her after he carried her over to a hay bale and set her atop it. The story he got should have made him sympathetic—bad guys chasing her and almost killing her—but she could see that he, looming over her, remained skeptical.

Then she stood up and fell into his arms, her fingers nimbly finding his crotch. Hard already. So he had been paying attention like a good dogie. Then why did he push her away?

“I want the truth. Now.”

“All right. You’re a fucking cynic, here’s the deal,” she said. Then she told him about the big pay day he’d get if he’d move the cars so she could get out and not call the cops on her for four hours. “That’s a lot of money.”

He was obviously thinking it over. What was he going to say?

Part 12

As it turned out he didn’t have to say anything. The nasty smile and hungry look he flashed her answered her as well as words. Lauren started to unbutton her blouse, but Marlboro man turned her around and shoved her against the hay bale. There was a moment where he must’ve been fumbling with his pants, then her skirt was pushed up and her panties yanked down. He was rough as he entered her, his fingers digging into her thighs. Once again she was being used. Just like all those men at the club where she danced before she met Jimmy, and then Jimmy in those early days. How he’d trick her out so he could bust in and rob the sap while they were screwing. And later what Jimmy used to make her do with his business associates.

She caught his reflection in a glass pane, and she knew this time was different. Not just with how he was keeping his shotgun at arm’s length, but from the cruel twist of his mouth. She realized something else also.

“That guy in the tractor who ran me off the rode. You look like him. A cousin of yours? A brother?”

He didn’t say anything. Just pounded harder into her like she was nothing but meat.

“What’s your game? You run rubes off the road, so you can rob them of their cars and money?”

“Shut up!”

“How many rubes you got buried out here?”

He grunted as he pulled out of her. “I’ll shut your mouth for you!” She didn’t fight him as he grabbed a fistful of her hair and guided her toward him. She went willingly. As far as she was concerned she was only going to be biting a sausage in half.

Marlboro man let out a scream. Lauren spat out a lump of flesh and scrambled to the shotgun while he stumbled backward a step while clutching his bloody stump. His eyes grew wide for a brief moment, then the shotgun blast obliterated them, as well as the rest of his face.

Lauren decided she was sick of Kansas. She adjusted her panties and skirt, then fished a set of car keys from Marlboro man’s jacket. With the money she had she was going to leave an ocean or two between her and Jimmy. No one would use her again. She couldn’t help smiling at what happened to the last few men who tried.

###

Friday, December 17, 2010

Where Zeltserman interviews Zeltserman

It's my turn over at Nigel Bird's Dancing with Myself feature.

The Chase--Part 12

As it turned out he didn’t have to say anything. The nasty smile and hungry look he flashed her answered her as well as words. Lauren started to unbutton her blouse, but Marlboro man turned her around and shoved her against the hay bale. There was a moment where he must’ve been fumbling with his pants, then her skirt was pushed up and her panties yanked down. He was rough as he entered her, his fingers digging into her thighs. Once again she was being used. Just like all those men at the club where she danced before she met Jimmy, and then Jimmy in those early days. How he’d trick her out so he could bust in and rob the sap while they were screwing. And later what Jimmy used to make her do with his business associates.

She caught his reflection in a glass pane, and she knew this time was different. Not just with how he was keeping his shotgun at arm’s length, but from the cruel twist of his mouth. She realized something else also.

“That guy in the tractor who ran me off the rode. You look like him. A cousin of yours? A brother?”

He didn’t say anything. Just pounded harder into her like she was nothing but meat.

“What’s your game? You run rubes off the road, so you can rob them of their cars and money?”

“Shut up!”

“How many rubes you got buried out here?”

He grunted as he pulled out of her. “I’ll shut your mouth for you!” She didn’t fight him as he grabbed a fistful of her hair and guided her toward him. She went willingly. As far as she was concerned she was only going to be biting a sausage in half.

Marlboro man let out a scream. Lauren spat out a lump of flesh and scrambled to the shotgun while he stumbled backward a step while clutching his bloody stump. His eyes grew wide for a brief moment, then the shotgun blast obliterated them, as well as the rest of his face.

Lauren decided she was sick of Kansas. She adjusted her panties and skirt, then fished a set of car keys from Marlboro man’s jacket. With the money she had she was going to leave an ocean or two between her and Jimmy. No one would use her again. She couldn’t help smiling at what happened to the last few men who tried.

###

Scandal on the Sand

Ed Gorman here:

John Trinian's SCANDAL ON THE SAND (1964) and offers just about everything I ask for from a novel. A unique story, a strong voice, a definite worldview and several compelling characters, most notably the rich young woman at the book's center, Karen Fornier.

A dying killer whale washes up on a stretch of deserted Southern California beach. Karen, hungover and dismal that she finally gave into the childish wanna-be macho man Hobart, the one her parents would like her to marry...she leaves their beach motel hoping to lose him. Wandering along the beach she finds the whale and for her its appearance is almost religious. The way she bonds with it is moving and is a credit to Trinian's skill. 

Hobart insists that the whale is dead and should be cut up for cat food. He finds a sinister, arrogant young cop, Mulford, who agrees with him. Mulford orders a tow truck to come in and drag it away. He then orders Hobart and Karen to leave the area. Hobart sees in the harsh machismo of Mulford everything he's secretly wanted to be, that not even his considerable inheritance could buy him. He sides with Mulford and tries to drag Karen away. But she defies them both and stays. Not even when the whale proves to be alive will Mulford stop the tow truck. He says he'll shoot the whale.

All this is being observed from close-by a hood named Bonniano who is to meet a runner who will give him enough money to escape to Mexico. Bonniano is in the news for being a hit man who last night iced a prominent mob figure. Everybody's looking for him.

These and others play into the story of whale on the beach. The character sketches show the influences of Sherwood Anderson and John O'Hara and the cutaways to life on the beach bring the 1964 era alive. Boys wearing white clam digger pants--girls lying about in pink bikinis with transistor radios stuck to their ears--and just about everybody managing to grab themselves a little marijuana whenever the opportunity comes up...all this being the lull before the flower power storm that was less than two years away.

A cunning little book. Trinian was the real deal.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"The Pressure of Darkness" by Harry Shannon

            So there I was, parked in my personal darkness. Stuck, facing an empty white screen and a blinking cursor…
After three horror novels and two Mick Callahan mysteries (‘Memorial Day’ and ‘Eye of the Burning Man’) I’d decided to try my hand at a thriller. The initial steps were easy. My protagonist would be a young black-ops guy named Jack Burke, whose back story allowed him to work for both the mob and the government. Burke’s two best friends, former Delta soldiers, also lived in Los Angeles. All I needed was a big enough canvas, an enticing world-class mess for them to clean up. Unfortunately, my muse has a way of playing hooky at crucial moments. This time, she left for another dimension. Needless to say, substantial anxiety ensued.
When darkness strikes, I generally look for an answer in the junkyard of my mind. Like most authors, I’ve worked at a lot of professions, pursued a lot of hobbies. What interests could I draw on for this one? I came close to praying about it. And that’s when the dimmer switch cranked up a notch.
            Although I’d never claim to be an expert, I’m intrigued by comparative religion; eastern religions in particular. The ball finally started rolling when I remembered a lecture on something a Professor euphemistically referred to as the ‘theodicy trilemma.” He said to imagine a triangle that cannot be reconciled into a straight, logical line of cause and effect. At the top, the human need to believe in a Supreme Being or force, something thing that is present in all cultures. At the left end of the base, the familiar idea that this central power is essentially beneficent.  Now, at the right end of said base parks the ageless human question: Why are we suffering? These three points cannot easily be reconciled.
            Thus, dogma: One group holds that God is a jealous deity and punishes us for breaking His rules. Others see a pantheon of deities, who play with us for their own amusement. Some believe we sinned in the Garden of Eden and it’s due to beautiful, seductive Eve and a damned snake. Or perhaps it’s that we have lived and died before, and it’s all for growth; that’s why we’re suffering. And so it goes. In the end, all religions struggle to make sense of what Joseph Campbell referred to as the “cosmogonic cycle,” a numbing awareness that life is fatal. It will always end in death. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Every marvelously engineered living thing will ultimately collapse and rot, its eternal spark unaccountably removed by an unseen hand. Our little minds have a problem wrapping around that very spooky fact. And that darkness pressures the hell out of us on a daily basis.
            Ahem, you say—very interesting. But what the heck does any of this have to do with plotting a thriller?
            Well, the day my darkness lifted, I was discussing such fascinating, if somber, truths with a young woman who had spent a great deal of time in India. During the conversation, she reminded me of an obscure Hindu sect called the Aghora, part of the left-hand path of Tantra. They hold that one should befriend what others consider unacceptable as a way of removing dualism; to join the divine as a unified “one,” see nothing in creation is ugly or repulsive. Adherents will sit on rotting corpses to meditate, eat excrement, or visit funeral pyres to remove tiny pieces of charred human flesh. Some gentle teachers carry this flesh in bags around their necks. They nibble on it when feeling too removed from universal truth.
            A little spark like that can turn out to be a bonfire. I’d read about this sect in the past, and had a couple of tattered books at home. I studied them again, and was gripped by an idea. What if a new cult evolved, similar to the peaceful Aghora, but far beyond the doctrine of acceptance; in fact, one so twisted it actually worshipped death and decay? They’d be apocalyptic, of course. And only my former D-boy could save the day.
            In keeping with that theme, protagonist Jack Burke soon became older. He’s in the grip of a personal crisis, a man with The End on his mind. Someone he loves is gravely ill. He’s torn between personal demons and professional obligations, his love of youth and his fear of the rapidly approaching unknown. Like all of us, courageous and frightened, smart and foolhardy, dreaming big and just trying to get by. Wishing time would slow down. But the clock just keeps on ticking…
I found my title when I remembered something Victor Hugo once wrote, “There is such a thing as the pressure of darkness.” 
When Burke comes to terms with his own fears, he’s given an opportunity to redeem himself, and just maybe save the world. In short, inventing that new cult allowed me to explore richer themes, scare the hell out of myself with an all too plausible doomsday device, and even riff on the relationship between three aging men who saw inglorious combat together back in Somalia in the early 90’s.
And that anxious writers block, my personal darkness? Gone!
…Well, until the next time.      

“If Michael Herr, David Morrell and Robert Stone wrote a book together, this would be it. ‘The Pressure of Darkness’ is a tremendous novel that works on every level.”
--Ken Bruen
(Author of “The Dramatist” and “The Guards”)
“A blend of horror, Eastern philosophy, Spec Ops thriller, and virus
white-knuckler, The Pressure of Darkness keeps the pages turning as fast as
your hands can move. Strap in and read fast, or this one'll leave without
you.”
--Gregg Hurwitz (Author of the Tim Rackley novels)
     
(First appeared in MYSTERY SCENE magazine 2007)

           

Small Crimes Blast From the Past: NPR

In 2008, NPR named Small Crimes by Dave Zeltserman one of the top 5 crime and mystery novels of the year, saying:

With the world in financial freefall, there's only one type of mystery that captures the anxiety of the times, and that's crime noir: the jittery genre born during the Great Depression about saps, grifters and sad sacks who ain't got a barrel of money. James M. Cain is king of this genre, but there's a new name to add to the pantheon of the sons and daughters of Cain: Dave Zeltserman. His new novel, Small Crimes, is ingeniously twisted and imbued with a glossy coating of black humor.

Read the complete NPR article here.

The Chase--Part 11

“Oh, thank God,” Lauren said. “I never thought I’d live through it. I'm so grateful you killed him."

"Never mind that. What's your connection to them?"

She knew better than to tell him anything. She had a bad girl/good girl switch somewhere in her brain. Good girl was in charge now. Sobs. Tears. The stereotypical hysterical chickenshit woman.

"What the hell's wrong with you?"

Fucking good girl switch. It must not be feeding her full power. She had to make the good girl switch work. She went back to sobbing. Then she pretended to start to faint.

He was right there to save her and right there to listen to her after he carried her over to a hay bale and set her atop it. The story he got should have made him sympathetic—bad guys chasing her and almost killing her—but she could see that he, looming over her, remained skeptical.

Then she stood up and fell into his arms, her fingers nimbly finding his crotch. Hard already. So he had been paying attention like a good dogie. Then why did he push her away?

“I want the truth. Now.”

“All right. You’re a fucking cynic, here’s the deal,” she said. Then she told him about the big pay day he’d get if he’d move the cars so she could get out and not call the cops on her for four hours. “That’s a lot of money.”

He was obviously thinking it over. What was he going to say?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Chase--Part 10

The collie was docile enough. Even more docile was Frankie, sprawled in the late model job alongside the pick-up. Frankie was a little guy who’d splattered a lot of blood onto the driver’s side window; he’d taken three hits, two in the face, one in the throat. The latter wound was gurgling a little.

Looked like the pick-up truck’s driver had slid up to a stop next to the newer vehicle and just started firing away through his open window.

Somebody didn’t like intruders....

Yet no sign of the driver. And that fucking collie hadn’t shot anybody. Lauren looked all around – the day had died on her, but visibility was fine in a clear blue dusk long with shadows. She circled the barn, gun in hand, till she came back to where she started.

Nobody.

If Frankie’s killer was the occupant of that farmhouse (where a couple lights were on), she’d need to hustle. She quickly returned to the barn, opened the trunk of her car, got rid of the extra suitcase – like Paolo himself, excess baggage – and gave the brown carry-on filled with Jimmy’s money a loving little pat.

She was just about to go up to open the barn doors and drive the hell out, hoping for room to squeeze past the two parked vehicles out there, when the rugged-looking Marlboro man with the plaid jacket and blue baseball cap and double-barrel shotgun stepped inside.

“Hold ‘er right there, missy,” he said, face blank as a hay bale.

The Caretaker of Lorne Field making best of year lists


The Caretaker of Lorne Field is starting to show up on people's best of year lists. Here are a few:

Dark Scribe's Black Quill Award nominees for best dark genre book of the year

Reader's Advisor list of Best Horror Books of 2010

Paul Tremblay's Best of 2010

Patricia Abbott's Best of Whatever

Naomi Johnson's Best of Whatever

Kieran Shea's Best of Whatever

The Caretaker of Lorne Field is one of the thrillers that would make former Sun-Sentinel book critic Chauncey Mabe's list (if he makes one out)

Wolf Moon


Ed Gorman here: 



Of my westerns, Wolf Moon seems to get the most response from readers. I suspect this is so because Wolf Moon is a hardboiled crime novel set in the 1800s. I hope you'll give it a try along with all the other great books on Top Suspense Group. Wold Moon in e book form can be yours for $2.99.

Here's a recent review from Pulp Serenade:

"Wolf Moon" by Ed Gorman (Gold Medal, 1993)

I’m a big fan of Ed Gorman’s work, but the opening prelude to Wolf Moon still caught me off guard and left me excitedly wondering what more twists lay just around the corner? Many more, I was pleased to discover. The story is as noir as they come, with a bleak and blistering finale you won’t soon forget. Originally published by Gold Medal in 1993, Wolf Moon is now available for the Kindle via Top Suspense Group.

The novel opens with the story of a wolf cub who was captured, and whose family was murdered, by a man named Schroeder. Gorman then shifts to the story of Chase, who was set-up and sent to prison because of this same Schroeder. When he gets out of jail, he has the chance to reunite with the love of his life, Annie, and start a new life as a police officer – but Chase’s thirst for vengeance threatens to ruin everything.

With its dual story of man and animal, Wolf Moon sometimes has the quality of a fable. It’s an original and innovative spin on the Western revenge novel, and Gorman isn’t afraid to risk taking new paths or going to dark places with this one. The parallel stories of entrapment highlight not only a festering need for vengeance that consumes one’s identity, but also how the loss of one’s family can ignite and exacerbate that all-consuming passion for destruction. Family is an important topic in Gorman’s work, a constant and necessary reminder of humanity, and without that reminder a character drifts away into oblivion. Family offers his characters a moral grounding, a reaffirming sense of the self, and absolution for their actions, whatever they may be.

A reoccurring motif in Gorman’s books is that there no crime is worse than hurting one’s own family, or their loved ones. That single act of betrayal, whether deliberate or accidental, seems to be the most devastating of all. These sorts of stories reappear throughout Gorman’s work, sometimes as the central plot (as in Wolf Moon), and other times as an aside about a minor character. Chandler famously wrote that Hammett “gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse.” Gorman seems to follow in this trajectory, but he takes it in his own direction: he gives back a conscience to crimes committed, a lingering sense of regret that never goes away, and a moral weight that wears away at ones soul.

Wolf Moon is an excellent Western novel thick with noir and suspense overtones. Fans of Gorman’s crime novels shouldn’t miss this one. Wolf Moon is now available for the Kindle via Top Suspense Group.