Author Archives: mysterypeoplescott
- Post by Molly
In 2004, Akashic Books published Brooklyn Noir, their first collection of original noir short stories, set in Brooklyn and written by a combination of local authors and writers from all over. Since that time, Akashic has released collections for almost every major American city and region (including, for Texas, Lone Star Noir and Dallas Noir) and, after covering much of the United States, has moved on to collections set in cities around the world.
Akashic’s motto is “Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World.” Some collections profile the fraught and violent underbellies of some of the world’s most prominent centers of tourism and business. Others focus in on the humanity and humor within a place already possessing a reputation for violence. Whatever the setting, Akashic, in their noir series, succeeds admirably at this goal. Akashic releases new collections faster than I can read them, and alas, I am now woefully behind on my world noir anthologies, but two recent releases from Akashic particularly stood out to me: Belfast Noir and Singapore Noir.
Belfast has always had a rather noir reality, but over the past decade or so, Northern Ireland has also become known for an incredible outpouring of noir fiction, dubbed the “new wave” of Irish crime fiction. Belfast Noir draws upon two of my favorite authors from the region in editing the collection: Adrian McKinty, author the Troubles Trilogy and many other novels, and Stuart Neville, author of The Ghosts of Belfast, Collusion, Ratlines, and most recently, The Final Silence, and includes original crime fiction from many more.
McKinty and Neville, as editors of the collection, have crafted a fine introduction, distilling the past several hundred years of bloody history and a relatively recent economic resurgence down to three pages and a minimalist map. They chose to organize the collection into four sections to reflect Belfast’s changing narrative, post-Troubles: City of Ghosts, City of Walls, City of Commerce, and Brave New City. Each section includes stories by authors as varied as the times and city they represent.
It would take far too long for me to write and you to read a description of what I liked about each story, so I’ll describe just a few. “Taking It Serious,” by Ruth Dudley Edwards, tells the story of a young boy whose mental illness leads him to embrace the motto “Free Ireland” to dangerous levels after his uncle spends a little too much time telling his nephew about the glorious old days of the IRA. In “Belfast Punk Rep,” Glenn Patterson teaches us that not only is Belfast the noirest city in the world, but even the punks of Belfast are a bit more hardcore than anywhere else as well. “The Reservoir,” by Ian McDonald, blends ghost story, murder mystery, and cross-generational smack-down at a wedding for a perfect Northern Irish celebration gone awry.
Steve Cavanagh‘s “The Grey” uses electric meters to tell us a story of love, revenge, and consequences, while Claire McGowan, in “Rosie Grant’s Finger,” writes about teenagers reenacting the high drama of the Northern Irish Troubles in a very, very petty way. Eoin McNamee, in “Corpse Flowers,” structures the story of a young girl’s murder entirely through images seen through cameras, a poetic twist on the surveillance state. Each story, layered on top of the rest, provides another nuanced viewpoint with which to construct a portrait of Belfast today – perhaps not a complete portrait, but a beautifully complex and ever-growing one.
Belfast, with it’s long history of violence and division, and its more recent history of capitalism run rampant, seems to be an obvious setting for Akashic to have chosen. Singapore’s darkness, however, rests a little more below the surface. As S. J. Rozan writes in her story “Kena Sai,” “Singapore, it’s Disneyland with the death penalty. Jay-walking, gum-chewing, free-thinking: just watch yourselves.”
Many of the stories in Singapore Noir structure their narrative around this contrast between appearance and reality, particularly emphasizing the contrast of luxurious and poverty-stricken settings; the corruption and organized crime behind the facade of democratic government; the city of expats and migrants within the city of Singaporeans. Singapore Noir is edited by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Singapore native and current New Yorker, who describes Singapore as “the sultry city-state,” and if this description brings to mind the cutthroat Italian city states of the Middle Ages, you’re not far off.
The voices included in this collection are as diverse as the residents of Singapore itself. Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan’s story, “Reel,” tells a story of heat and lust set in the kelongs, old fisheries on stilts, while Colin Goh’s tale “Last Time” takes place in the glittering high rises of the city and involves international pop stars, corrupt businessmen, and powerful mafiosos. Simon Tay, writing as Donald Tee Quee Ho, in his story “Detective in a City with No Crime,” tells the story of an ordinary policeman stuck in a world of interchangeable people, where he can aspire only to lust, and never to love.
Philip Jeyaretnam’s “Strangler Fig” uses the natural environment of Singapore to structure a story of obsession and possession, while Colin Cheong’s “Smile, Singapore” uses a murder mystery to represent all of the frustrations of modern Singaporean society, and also fufill’s Chekov’s adage that if you introduce a gun in act 1, you had better use it by act 3. Each story is more poetic than the last, and Singapore Noir, like Belfast Noir, once again proves that Akashic Books’ noir series is better than any travel guide.
You can find copies of Singapore Noir and Belfast Noir on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
This weekend many of us crime fiction fans are in Long Beach, the site for the 2014 Bouchercon, the international mystery conference. This Crime Fiction Friday gives a nod to the conference with this story set in Long Beach by L.A. writer Gary Phillips. Phillips is one of our favorite writers here at MysteryPeople. The story first appeared in Akashic’s Mondays are Murder series.
“You’re it, Hank. Who the hell else could I lay this burden on?”
Mark coughs up more blood and I do my best to comfort my dying friend. He’s dressed in a suit I’m quite sure costs more than my parish generates in two months. His leaking blood creates a Rorschach test gone awry on his light blue shirt.
“The ambulance is coming.” I say this even though I don’t hear a siren. Which is ironic, given there’s always a peal around here, in the neighborhood where Mark and I grew up.
He smiles up at me with his red-stained teeth. “We both know that they’ll be too late. Sit me up, will you, and reach into my pocket.”
John Connolly comes to BookPeople Tuesday, November 18, at 7 pm, and we’re looking forward to having him back at the store. His latest Charlie Parker novel, The Wolf in Winter, has the Maine PI tracing a missing woman to a town with a dark secret. We talked to John about the book, myth, history, and some of his favorite writers.
MP: A town with secrets seemed perfect for you, since it is an archetype for both detective fiction and horror. What did you want to do with the idea?
JC: I’m not sure I think of ideas in those terms. It suggests that I’m much more organized than I actually am! I suppose the starting point was really the Green Man mythos, which is very European in origin, and has ties to folk and pagan beliefs. (For those not familiar with the Green Man, it’s the name given in Britain to a face formed of leaves and branches that adorns some very old churches, a link between the new Christian religion and a much older mythology.) Then a lot of stuff encroaches in quite random ways: the proliferation of gated communities, which keep the wealthy separated from the poor, both in the US and, for example, South Africa, where my other half is from, and the mindset that goes with that kind of separation or exclusion. And you’re right: there is a point at which that notion of an enclosed community lashing out against its enemies, perceived or otherwise, offers a point of crossover between the mystery novel and supernatural fiction, and that blurring of the lines has always interested me, especially because the two genres have much more in common than conservative commentators on both sides – but the mystery side in particular – might care to admit.
MP: Several homeless characters play an important part in the book and you depict their lives in an honest way. What did you want to get across to the reader about people who live on the street?
JC: I had no interest in preaching. No reader wants to hear the sound of the apple crate being drawn up, and the author clearing his throat. But mystery fiction does have an engagement with the real world, and I was conscious that in Portland, Maine – which provides a focal point for many of the books – there was a debate going on about the city’s obligations to its homeless people and whether, by providing them with shelter during winter, the city was in some way encouraging homelessness, which is a very odd way to look at the situation. The reality in Maine is that if you don’t give the more vulnerable people a place to sleep during winter – even if it’s just a chair in a lobby, as is sometimes the case in Portland – you’ll find them dead on the streets the next morning. Now there are those who seem relatively content to let that happen – to discourage the others – but I certainly don’t want to live in that kind of society, and nobody I respect wants to either.
MP: This book has some of the best Louis and Angel dialogue in the series. What has made you keep them as supporting characters?
I think they’ve become more important to Parker as the books have proceeded, and therefore their presence is more obvious. At about the time of The Black Angel Parker was presented with a kind of choice between domesticity and a new family, represented by his girlfriend Rachel and their daughter Sam, and being able to confront wrongs and evils – and to release some of his rage, all of which was represented by Angel and Louis. The two urges are incompatible, and so he chose the latter, and they came more to the fore as a consequence.
MP: One of the things I admire about Charlie is he seems to have carved out a life with all of the tragedy and darkness around him. What allows him to cope and live?
JC: Ultimately these are novels about hope, particularly the belief that by acting in the service of good, the world can be improved slightly, even if it is at some personal cost. The Irish writer Edmund Burke once said that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The kind of mystery fiction that I read, and write, examines the implications of that statement.
MP: Like with a lot of your books, The Wolf In Winter, the story is connected to an involved history. Are most of these histories based on something factual?
JC: Well, the Green Man mythos is real and, of course, the idea of people of a particular religious persuasion fleeing to the New World to escape persecution. But, as with the line between mystery and the supernatural, I find it interesting to blur the distinctions at the edges, so people aren’t entirely sure what is real and what is invented, which I hope adds an additional element of unease to the books.
MP: In Books To Die For you wrote an essay on both Ross MacDonald and Michael Connelly. Is there any traits from those authors’ works you’d like to have in your own?
JC: Well, Macdonald is the great poet of empathy in the genre, and he was also a gothic writer at heart in the sense of his novels being examinations of family histories, so I see his influence in my own novels. Michael does something very different from me, and I wrote that essay primarily as a fan, although we have a point of connection in that we are both outsiders writing about an adopted place – his is Los Angeles, mine is Maine. I just think The Black Echo may be one of the finest first novels in the genre. He was brilliant from the start.
John Connolly will speak and sign his new book Tuesday, November 18th, at 7 pm, on BookPeople’s second floor. You can find copies of The Wolf in Winter on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Can’t make it to the event? Pre-order a copy to be signed and we’ll get it signed for you!
Syndicate Books is a new independent publisher, dedicated to bringing back the works of great and influential crime authors back in print. They started this fall by bringing out British author Ted Lewis’ hard as nails Jack Carter Trilogy. Jack Carter And The Mafia Pigeon, the third book in the trilogy, appears in the U.S. for the first time. We talked with Syndicate head and founder Paul Oliver about his endeavor, Ted Lewis, and legacy publishing.
MP: How did the idea for Syndicate books come about?
PO: It goes back to when I owned a bookstore in the Philadelphia area. We sold used books as well as new and in the process of handling all of those second hand books you encounter some interesting things. It could be an author you’ve never heard of and is utterly out of print, yet they have a run of blurbs from incredibly famous writers on the dust jacket. Or recognize that the translator is someone who worked on the most imminent books of the day. Little things like that. I’d take those books home and give them a read. Sometimes they were out of print because they weren’t very good or were particularly dated. But sometimes, not often, I’d read something really good that for whatever reason had slipped through the cracks. I wanted to publish those books.
2. Was there a particular reason Ted Lewis’ Get Carter Trilogy came out first for Syndicate?
PO: I learned about Ted Lewis from Max Allan Collins. At the time, in a former life, I was working on the reissues of Derek Raymond’s excellent Factory Novels and I thought they might be up Max’s alley. I wrote to him and somewhere in my email I described Derek Raymond as “The Godfather of British Noir.” All caps. Max was gracious enough to write back and explain to me that if I wanted to talk about “The Godfather of British Noir” then I needed to be talking about someone named Ted Lewis. Ted’s books were thoroughly out of print and very expensive, a hundred or so dollars for a mass market paperback, and knowing two of the three movies (yes, there is a third movie—titled “Hitman”—starring Bernie Casey and Pam Grier) I thought it was worth investigating. I was in the process of reading Lewis and scheming about starting Syndicate when I moved to Soho Press. It didn’t take long before Stuart Neville, one of our most acclaimed authors at Soho, shared that he was a huge admirer of Lewis. I knew I had to do it.
That’s the long answer. The short one is: GET CARTER. There’s not many cooler book/movie combos going.
MP: For those who only know Jack Carter from the Michael Caine film, what are they missing that are in the books?
PO: I think the Carter in the novels is a little more human. Caine’s Carter is colder, if not more ruthless, but in the end as much interested in preserving his own name as he is avenging his brother. I think Caine’s Jack Carter evolves in the final scenes where his fiery need for personal satisfaction burns off his own ego and leaves a genuine need to avenge his brother’s death. The Jack Carter of Lewis’ novel has sincere misgivings about how he was with his brother from the start of the story. Notice that I didn’t say he has misgivings about who he was or who he had become. Carter is a villain. He is a gangster who is proud of what he has achieved but at the same time very much in conflict over how he treated his brother in life. Some of the novel’s best writing occurs in an extended flashback of Jack and Frank as kids and the moment where they went down separate paths.
MP: What makes Ted Lewis’ books important to crime fiction?
PO: He is uncompromising. It’s the most remarkable trait among his many gifts. Lewis wrote incredible dialogue and described the English postwar society with remarkable nuance and, well, disdain. But his characters were all villains and that’s what is really neat to me. In his most notable novels they are not merely people on the wrong side of the law but thoroughly bad people. Jack Carter is a high level enforcer for a London-based organized crime family (read: Kray Brothers) and he is very good at his job. These are hard tales about bad people doing bad things to other people to maintain their standard of life. In a word: crime. A lot of writers want to do this but either come up short on experience or nerve. It takes a lot of both to write a character like Jack Carter or George Fowler (the protagonist of the forthcoming novel, GBH).
If you wanted to find a literary blood brother to Jack Carter you’d only find a handful. Maybe only one: James Ellroy’s Pete Bondurant from the USA Underworld Trilogy. As Max Allan Collins writes in the introduction to Jack Carter’s Law, “Carter makes Parker look like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.” And it’s true. Donald Westlake’s Parker would despise Jack Carter and that’s why Ted Lewis created something remarkable and, for lack of a better word, true.
MP: Each Carter book has an intro by a filmmaker or author who admired the author. Do you plan to do that for all Syndicate Books?
PO: I do. When you’re making the argument that a writer that has fallen out of print or somehow slipped out of the crime fiction canon deserves to belong there, you need a spokesperson. It’s also a very sincere process. Sometimes blurbs or intros are about money or currying favor. Ted Lewis is dead. The people who wrote those intros and blurbs stand to gain very little by doing so and I think that makes the whole thing a little more interesting.
MP: I also love the covers, they draw a nice connotation to the period in which they were originally published without being anachronistic. Can you tell us about the artist and how you both approached the look?
PO: Thanks for that. I love them too. The artist is Katherine Grames and she was incredible to work with. Carter is a very stylish man. He’s kitted out in a mohair suit and monogrammed cufflinks, and very detailed about his gear. This is the height of the Mod 60s and Carter is kind of a Mod superman. Katherine loves fashion and loved the idea of designing these books. You’ve seen her design on some of Soho’s most prominent titles: Timothy Hallinan’s Junior Bender series, Kwei Quartey’s Murder at Cape Three Points, and one of my favorites, the redesigned Station Series by David Downing. Basically she’s great.
MP: It seems lately that legacy publishing has been reserved for online publishing, but there’s been some resurgence this year of bringing some of the authors back into physical print to be sold in stores as well. What makes you see the larger market for them?
PO: It’s not that ebooks are regressing, because they’re still an incredibly large portion of a publisher’s business. But two years ago on a subway car in New York you saw a lot of tablets and reading devices. These days you’re seeing books again. Books are a rugged technology that will be hard to replace and it will be even harder for electronic books to replace the alchemy that exists between the design of a book, its contents, and a reader.
MP: Is there anything you can tell us about future endeavors for Syndicate?
PO: I’m thrilled to say Syndicate has its second project. There’s still plenty to be done with the rest of Ted Lewis’ novels, including the publication of what many consider his final masterpiece, GBH, but I’ve also gone ahead and lined up our next project. And it is a coup. In 2015 Syndicate Books will publish the complete works of Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster and crime fiction legend, Margaret Millar. Millar was a two-time Edgar-winner (literally receiving the honor of “Grandmaster”) and a Los Angeles Times “Woman of the Year.” In life she was more famous than her fellow crime author husband, Kenneth Millar (aka Ross Macdonald) but for one reason or another her books have fallen out of print. She’s tremendous and like Lewis (or any great crime writer) she was interested in the bad wood beneath the veneer of society. It just so happens that she was writing about the so-called “Greatest Generation.”
Paul Oliver is founder and head of Syndicate Books. They have so far released all of Ted Lewis’ previously out-of-print Jack Carter Trilogy, and their upcoming releases include Lewis’ novel GBH and the complete works of Margeret Millar. You can find all volumes of the Carter Trilogy on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The White Van, Patrick Hoffman‘s debut novel, is hard to define in subgenre. It shares the pace and plotting skill of a Jeff Abbott or Meg Gardiner thiller, but has a grittier style. Both heroes and villains in Hoffman’s masterful work would feel comfortable in the worlds of James Crumley or Andrew Vachss. One thing is certain, this is one effective book.
In the first chapter we’re introduced to Emily, a somewhat functioning drug user in San Fransisco. Her addiction leads her to follow a man to his hotel for a hit. The drug she takes knocks her out. When she awakes, others are in the room.
We feel Hoffman’s skill immediately, through a series of lucid moments Emily has between black outs. Hoffman keeps us in suspense; we are as off balance as the character. Her captors attempt to manipulate Emily into partaking in an identity theft scheme in return for a cut. It’s too late when she learns it is a bank robbery and she’s been framed to be the suspect. With money in her hand,having come to her senses, Emily takes off.
We then meet Leo, a cop with more than questionable ethics. After his behavior gets him and his partner into a jam that only a lot of cash can solve, he hears of the robbery and Emily’s description. Now she has the honest cops, the outlaws, and the corrupt cops all after her.
Hoffman could have titled the book ‘desperation.’ Every character is in over their head. When we learn the circumstances of the people who set up Emily, we even feel for them a little. If the definition of ‘noir’ is one bad decision leading to a series of other decisions that are even worse, then The White Van is the epitome of noir. For Hoffman, a fast pace isn’t a goal for turning pages but a way to immerse us in the relentless situation his characters are in.
Like the rest of the novel, the ending has a unique feel. We take inventory of the people we’ve gotten to know through their trying and violent time. We are not sure if we have changed our minds about them, but we feel a deeper connection. Like Elmore Leonard, we have gotten to know Patrick Hoffman’s shady characters. Through these people we get the chance to see a shadow San Fransisco; one which rubs up against the work-a-day one. Will Patrick Hoffman’s next novel take the same approach on an international level? Wherever he wants to take the reader, I’m ready to go.
Copies of The White Van are available on BookPeople’s shelves and via bookpeople.com.
For this month’s Murder In The Afternoon Book Club, meeting Tuesday, November 18th, at 2 pm, we get to discuss the book with the author. Janice Hamrick is one of our favorite writers. Her series featuring Austin high school teacher Jocelyn Shore consistently entertains us with light, humorous mysteries. Hamrick’s novels avoid being cute with with a truthful look at human nature and a bit of an edge. We’ll be reading the first book in the series, Death On Tour.
Death On Tour introduces us to Jocelyn and her extroverted (to put it mildly) cousin, Kyla, as they take a vacation on a discount tour to Egypt. When a member of the group falls to her death from a pyramid, Jocelyn is swept up in a plot involving an old necklace, a new love, and murder. The book has the plot of a mystery, the pace of a thriller, and the style and approach of a good romantic comedy.
The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club will meet on Tuesday, November 18th, at 2 pm on BookPeople’s third floor. Janice will be joining us through conference call and you’ll find her as funny and as entertaining as her books. Come for the discussion, stay for the laughs.
The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club meets the third Tuesday of each month at 2 pm. Please join us Tuesday, November 18th, as we discuss Death on Tour, by Janice Hamrick and, for this special occasion, with Janice Hamrick. Copies are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. All book clubs are free and open to the public, and book club members receive 10% off of their purchase of their monthly book club title.
Kim Zupan‘s debut, The Ploughmen, has been getting much deserved critical praise and is our MysteryPeople Pick of the Month for October. The story concerns Valentine Millimaki, a sheriff’s deputy in a small Montana town, and John Gload, an old hired killer, who has finally been caught after a half century of murder and mayhem. Valentine must watch over John through the night shift. The book looks at both men as they develop a unique bond. Kim was kind enough to talk about writing, Montana and his first novel with us.
MP: How did the idea for The Ploughmen come about?
KZ: A friend of mine, who just retired from the ATF, had been a Montana sheriff’s deputy in the early 80s. He had many stories to tell, some truly hair-raising—and they clattered around in my head for many years until they demanded to come out as this story, The Ploughmen. There was a character like John Gload roaming around the west in the 60s, 70s and 80s quietly sowing mayhem and my buddy got to know him while the man sat waiting in jail. I tried to put myself in that chair and carry on a conversation through the bars in the late desolate hours.
MP: The book at times has the feel of a classic western in its use of landscape. What did you want to convey about Montana?
KZ: I certainly don’t think of The Ploughmen as a western in the classic sense—Louie L’Amour, Zane Grey, even Ivan Doig—though I know it will be talked about in those terms because of its setting. The landscape, for some, acts as merely a backcloth upon which characters move, but for me it becomes—in that it can move the story forward, affect other characters, affect the outcome of events—another character.
I wanted to convey the sense of this place, or some places in it, as a sort of lethal character, however breathtakingly beautiful. It can still kill you. A month ago, for example, I was fishing on Belt Creek, near where I grew up in central Montana, at a place where the stream dumps out of the Little Belt Mountains. The country there is all steep hills and thick brush and cottonwoods.
I stopped to eat a bit of lunch—some cheese and an apple—and I wound up taking a one of those perfect naps lying on the bank. After awhile I woke up and decided I’d better get back to work, so I crossed the creek and started fishing again and I looked up to see a black bear ramble across the creek and head for the apple I’d just left behind on the gravel. If I’d slept five minutes longer he would have stepped right in the middle of me. Whereas he might have scented me and turned away, he also could have worked me over. So it’s wonderful evocative country that I dearly love, but without much trouble you can wind up dead if you don’t keep your head on straight and pay attention.
MP: John Gload is interesting not only in who he is, but how he’s presented. We want to like him, yet we’re always reminded to know better. How did you approach him?
KZ: John Gload is just another thing out there that can kill you—as if bears and blizzard and snakes aren’t enough. I knew I had to find a flicker of humanity in him or he would have been just a kind of grisly cartoon, a cut-out. That was the challenge. And whereas I hate when writers quote themselves, this sort of sums up how I approached him:
“Perhaps he was somehow exempt from responsibility at all, could no more be blamed than a child born without feet could be blamed for his inability to run. …Gload seemed capable of kindness, but it may have been just a kind of vestigial feature, like the webbed and blunted limbs of thalidomide children—a half developed grotesquery that made him more pitiable for the reminder of what I might have been like to be whole.”
Gload isn’t likeable, exactly (though I’ve developed an affection for him—what that says about me I might not want to know) but I think Millimaki is. And the fact that Gload is fond of Millimaki makes him, sort of by extension, likeable. But then liking him may be a mistake, too.
MP: This being your first novel, did you draw from any authors who inspired you or did you simply expand the voice on your short story work?
KZ: Certainly a little of both. My short stuff, as I look back at it, dealt with much of what The Ploughmen is attempting to get at: love, loss, the healing power of the human touch or a kind word. Loneliness exacerbated by big open country.
There are certainly authors who inspire me and like all writers—I mean every swinging dick— I borrow from those who’ve gone before, to one degree or another. That’s just how it works. Poe, Hemingway, Faulkner, Walker Percy, Graham Greene, Robert Stone, Cormac McCarthy—I love and admire their work and it’s shaped me as a writer of fiction.
MP: Besides length, what was the biggest change going from short stories to a novel?
KZ: Largely, the difference has to do with a matter of commitment. The novel is more like a marriage than a fling or a dalliance. You have to decide that you’re in it for the long haul and drive on. By necessity, I wrote this book in three-month increments as I was otherwise concerned, for the remaining months, with the problem of making a living. I knew, then, for years that when I shut down my time at the desk that it would be months before I could return in any meaningful, productive way to the project. With a short story, there was a fair chance (no guarantee—I work glacially) I could button something up during my writing period. But with the novel, I knew—and this was a painful thing—that it would take a number of winters to complete.
MP: I already can’t wait for your next book. Can you tell us anything about it?
KZ: Oh, man. I’m kind of superstitious about saying much about it. As Hemingway said, I don’t want to “put my filthy mouth on it”. The setting is a small town in central Montana—I think I can say that without jinxing it. In any event, I’m looking forward to sitting down with it while a blizzard is burying everything outside my window. The way things are looking out there right now, it shouldn’t be long.
Joe R. Lansdale is one of our favorite authors, in and outside of the mystery section. He is the author of dozens of books and stories, including the wonderful Hap Collins and Leonard Pine mysteries. He recently wrote a piece called The Workplace, Wet or Dry on his early days as a writer for the Mulholland Books website. Not only do you get a look inside his writing past, you also get a look at his approach to the craft.
New Pulp, one of our favorite publishers, and source of such modern classics as Hard Bite and Frank Sinatra In A Blender will soon have a new operator. NewPulp author Jonathan Woods has bought the publisher and will be running it with Shirrel Rhoades. We caught up with Jonathan to ask him about his plans for the imprint.
MP: What possessed you to be a partner in New Pulp?
JW: The devil made me do it.
Seriously, Jon Bassoff did a wonderful thing in creating and nurturing New Pulp Press for eight years into a prize-winning, genre bending small press. But he wanted to focus more on his writing. Plus he has a full-time day job as a teacher. So the opportunity was there. Being a student of the literary life, I’ve read about some of the great small presses. The Olympia Press in Paris that published Lolita, Tropic of Cancer, Donleavy’s The Ginger Man and one of the great noir novels, Alexander Trocchi’s Young Adam. The Hogarth Press founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf. And the original Black Lizard Books from Creative Arts Book Company in Berkeley, founded by the inimitable Barry Gifford. So I thought, why not! Something to keep me out of the bars at night.
MP: Where do you hope to take the imprint?
JW: I want to continue to publish fine and edgy crime fiction by writers new and old. Names you may have heard of and new voices. We’re already working hard on the list for 2015 and we’ve got some great books in the line up.
Thriller Award-winning and Edgar-nominated short story writer Tim L. Williams has given us a book of creepy noir tales called Skull Fragments set in the quiet towns and haunted back roads of the coal mining country of western Kentucky.
Lynn Kostoff, author of the noir classics A Choice of Nightmares and Late Rain, has provided another dark and sinister tale. This one, entitled Words to Die For, involves a fixer for a public relations company who sells his soul to protect his clients.
A new writer publishing under the pseudonym Rowdy Yates (and who is an editor at Bull) brings us a tale of gangsters on a quest, called Bring Me the Head of Yorkie Goodman.
Mark Rapacz (author of numerous short stories and the novel City Kaiju) has penned a tale of murder and mayhem, with the tentative title of The Foreigners (or Waeguk in Korean), about American expats and Korean gangsters up to no good in beautiful downtown Seoul, South Korea.
And, oh yeah, yours truly has a new novel coming called Kiss the Devil Good Night about…,well, it’s about Bill and Aunt Ida and revenge and Mexican drug lords and William Burroughs’ lost suitcase.
This is just the beginning.
MP: Can you tell us about your partner in the endeavor, Shirrel Rhoades?
JW: Shirrel has had a long and varied career in publishing including a stint as Fiction Editor for the Saturday Evening Post and EVP and Publisher of Marvel Comics. A year or so ago he started an ebook publishing venture based in Key West, Florida called Absolutely Amazing eBooks. AAeB publishes a broad spectrum of books, from mysteries to pulp classics to adventure and science fiction. Shirrel brings to the table marketing and technical know-how that I don’t have. I will be responsible for the editorial side of New Pulp Press and for building and maintaining relationships with authors, bookstores and reviewers.
MP: Will you still be writing for the imprint as well?
JW: New Pulp Press has been good to me, publishing my three books: the award-winning Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem, my police procedural A Death in Mexico, which you, Scott, were kind enough to name one of the five best debut crime novels of 2012 and which Booklist recently compared to Orson Welles’ A Touch of Evil, and my new collection of noir tales, Phone Call from Hell. So, yes, I m going to remain with New Pulp Press. When you’re on a roll…
MP: How will Jon Bassoff still be involved?
JW: Jon is absolutely committed to this transition being seamless and a perfect ten. For a year after the turnover he will continue to be associated with New Pulp in an advisory role as Editor Emeritus. I’m lucky to have his wealth of experience to call on when I get in a tight spot.
MP: What do you think will be the most fun about running your own publishing company?
JW: Cutting the first movie deal for one of our books.
-Post by Molly
For October’s International Crime Fiction pic, I’ve chosen Kwei Quartey‘s latest novel, Murder at Cape Three Points. This is Quartey’s third novel to star Detective Inspector Darko Dawson of Accra and his unique mixture of deductive brilliance and synesthesia-based lie detection (his left hand tingles whenever he hears an untruth, making him excellent at interrogations).
As the novel opens, workers on an oil rig off the Ghanaian coast spot a canoe traveling a bit too close to sensitive underwater equipment. Their initial annoyance quickly turns to horror as the contents of the boat become clear. A man and a woman lie dead in the canoe. The woman has been shot, and the man has been both beheaded and shot, his head stuck onto a pole. The occupants turn out to be Charles and Fiona Smith-Aidoo, a wealthy middle-aged couple with as many enemies as friends. When the local police fail to solve the crime in a timely manner, the dead couple’s relatives file a petition to reopen the case, and Detective Inspector Darko Dawson, with his particular mixture of intuition and detection, gets his next assignment.
Dawson accepts the case with reluctance – his son has just had open-heart surgery, and he would much rather stay home during his son’s recovery than travel to the other side of the country. However, after listening to the couple’s heart-broken neice and realizing how badly the local detectives have mishandled the case, Darko sets out to solve the murders with grim determination. As Dawson first begins the investigation, he looks into numerous avenues, including the possibility of a ritualistic killing by a fetish priest. He quickly realizes that the way to a solution requires stepping on a whole lot of toes, particularly in the oil industry. As he delves deeper into government cover-ups and corruption, the question becomes not can he solve the murder, but will he be allowed to solve the murder, and if so, what consequences will the criminals actually face.
Kwei Quartey was raised in Ghana, then moved to the United States as a teenager, and his crime novels thus far have all taken place in Ghana. Quartey travels to Ghana regularly to research his novels, and the smells, sounds, tastes, conflicts, and diversity of Ghana are present throughout the novel. Murder at Cape Three Points highlights the stark contrast between old and new, between the struggle for basic services and the privileges of the wealthy, between the modern medical technology and animist healing practices, and, in particular, between economic development versus environmental protection. In the context of a world still working on cleaning up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and where oil companies’ main hope of expansion comes from high-risk deep water drilling, Quartey’s message could not be more timely.