Author Archives: mysterypeoplescott

MysteryPeople Q&A with Kim Zupan

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.


Kim Zupan’s latest novel, The Ploughmen, is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. You can read our review of the novel here.

MysteryPeople Loves This Article from Joe R. Lansdale

 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.

Also, is you haven’t read Joe’s novel, The Ticket, it just recently came out in paperback. Copies are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

 

MysteryPeople Q&A: Jonathan Woods talks New Pulp Press

jonathan woods

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.

MysteryPeople International Crime Fiction Review: MURDER AT CAPE THREE POINTS, by Kwei Quartey

murder at cape three points

-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.


Kwei Quartey comes to the Texas Book Festival this Saturday, October 25. Check out their website for more details! Copies of Murder at Cape Three Points are available via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Review: THE GOLEM OF HOLLYWOOD, by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman

golem of hollywood

-Post by Molly

Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman have just released The Golem of Hollywood, a novel of epic proportions and many genres. This is a truly a novel that could only be written by two people, yet the collaboration is so successful that the reader feels little dissonance between the parallel narratives. The book is organized into two main plot lines. In one, written by Jonathan Kellerman, a modern-day detective, Jacob Lev, is assigned to a case involving a head with no body and the Hebrew word for justice scrawled in ash on a countertop. As he works to solve the case, he must travel to Prague and London, and, along the way, strengthen his connection to his Jewish heritage and faith. In the other, Jesse Kellerman takes an unorthodox approach to the story of Cain and Abel, and, along the way, introduces an entirely new origin story for the ancient figure of the Golem.

Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman both have impressive writing resumes prior to this collaboration. Jonathan Kellerman has written dozens of New York Times-bestselling crime novels and has won many of the industry’s most prestigious crime fiction awards. Jesse Kellerman has a longtime career as a playwright, and has written five novels. The two also practice Orthodox Judaism, and the beliefs and practices they follow in their own lives come across beautifully in the narrative. During the High Holidays, I set out to read as many Jewish-themed books as possible, and The Golem of Hollywood, along with David Liss‘ recently released Day of Atonement, are my top mystery picks to enjoy as 5775 gets going.

The Golem of Hollywood is a detective story. It is also, in many ways, a horror story, and readers who like the supernatural side of a murder investigation will enjoy this book thoroughly. The Kellermans, together, have seamlessly integrated Jewish theology and history into genre fiction, making this a perfect choice to start out the New Year. This may be the most entertaining work of Jewish-themed speculative fiction since Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and a comparison between the two is particularly apt given that each novel completely restructures the narrative of the Golem to fit in with the American Jewish experience.


Copies of The Golem of Hollywood are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Recommends: Five of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins Novels

On Wednesday, October 22, at 7 pm, we will have the pleasure of hosting Walter Mosley at BookPeople. He will speak and sign his latest, Rose Gold, the thirteenth book featuring Easy Rawlins. It made us want to go back and pick five of the detective’s best cases.

devil in a blue dress1. Devil In A Blue Dress

The one that started it all. Getting laid off from the aircraft factory gets Easy pulled into being a P.I. when he’s hired to find a white woman known to frequent black clubs. This book announced a new voice to the genre with jazz-style prose, violence, and racial themes popping off the page. It is also has one of the best character arcs as Easy comes into being his own man.

 

 

red death2. A Red Death

Easy is forced by the FBI to ferret out communists. His infiltration of a union gets him involved with murder and the moral dilemma of setting up a person and ideal he’s come to respect. This is the book where Easy becomes keenly aware of the world outside his own.

 

 

white butterfly3. White Butterfly

This is Mosely working perfectly on all cylinders. When a white college girl is murdered in Watts in the same fashion as two black women, the police become interested and ask Easy for help. The color of place and period are incredibly vivid, plot, character, and them are vividly woven together.

 

 

little scarlet4. Little Scarlet

Easy is once again asked to look into a matter. This time, he’s been hired to search for a white suspect in the murder of a black woman during the Watts Riots. Mosley completely plugs in to the aftermath of the riots in vivid detail and emotion. One passage alone that deals with a group of scared white folks and their perception of Rawlins as a black man makes the book worth reading.

 

 

little green5. Little Green

Mosley resurrects Easy and treats him like Rip Van Winkle as Easy takes a trip over to the psychedelic Sunset Strip, looking for a young Compton man known to drop out with the hippies. Easy comes back full force with an engaging mystery that provides a great backdrop for his changing life and changing LA.

 

 


Please join MysteryPeople on Wednesday, October 22, at 7 pm, for an evening with Walter Mosley. He will speak and sign his latest novel,  Rose Gold, available now on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. This is a ticketed event. You will receive a ticket upon purchase of Rose Gold. The speaking portion of the event is free and open to the public. The event will take place on BookPeople’s second floor.

Crime Fiction Friday: First Installment of THE DIXON FAMILY CHRONICLES – SINK MAN, by Gary Phillips

crime-scene

Gary Phillips has been a favorite of ours for quite some time, and we are happy to present his work as part of our Crime Fiction Friday series. This week we’re doing something a little different for Crime Fiction Friday. We’re providing a link to Capitol & Main’s site that features the first part of Gary Phillips’ The Dixon Family Chronicles, an online serialized novel in the tradition of Dickens. The story looks at a working class family in South Central, dealing with life and issues of the day, something Gary has written about for close to two decades. You can go to Capitol & Main next week for the next chapter…

The Dixon Family Chronicles, by Gary Phillips

“You don’t know what the hell you sayin’,” the red-eyed man blurted. He came off his barstool too fast, knocking it over as he did so. Drunk, he teetered over to Hank Dixon, who’d turned on his stool toward him but remained sitting.

“Best slow your roll, Al,” the one-handed bartender Pierre Gaston said languidly. He took hold of an empty glass between the pincers of his prosthesis. Behind him and above the bottles on a flat screen TV, played a near mute newscast about a truckers’ job action at the port…

Click here to read the full story.

MysteryPeople Recommends: Five Jim Thompson Novels You Need To Read

Recently our friends at Mulholland Books have acquired the novels of noir master Jim Thompson, and are now reprinting his works in beautiful trade paperbacks, many with forwards from Thompson fans like Stephen King and Daniel Woodrell. Most know him for his truly chilling novel, The Killer Inside Me, but he put out several must-read novels through a lifetime of writing. Here are five more which I would put up there.

pop12801. Pop 1280

Thompson’s other psycho lawman novel. Set in the deep South of the 1910s, this tale of a corrupt, philandering small town sheriff’s manipulation of events through murder is wild, funny, and bluntly violent. The author is working at the top of his game in style and voice.

 

 

after dark my sweet2. After Dark, My Sweet

Possibly Thompson’s most accessible book. A punch-drunk ex-boxer with a few other issues gets drawn into a kidnapping scheme with a former cop and alcoholic femme fatale. Thompson is not always known for pathos, but it comes across here for the reader willing to look.

 

 

nothing more than murder3. Nothing More Than Murder

Thompson takes the James M. Cain lovers-murder-for-money set-up and makes it completely his own. Thompson uses the backdrop of a small town movie theater perfectly and even gives a self deprecating cameo to himself. An often overlooked book, well worth picking up.

 

 

4. The Grifters

As much sordid family tale as sordid crime novel, but really, really sordid. The story follows the power plays of a short-con artist, his mother, who’s also on the hustle, and his girlfriend with her own history of larceny. About as fun as seedy gets.

 

 

the getaway5. The Getaway

This reads like a solid heist novel with touches of Thompson quirkiness. Then you get to last chapter. It is so dark and atmospheric that is reads like something out of a horror novel. Both film versions were afraid to tackle it.

 

 

 


All books listed above are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Presents Shotgun Blast from the Past: GET CARTER, by Ted Lewis

get carter

Ted LewisGet Carter, originally known as Jack’s Trip Back, was a turning point in British crime fiction. At the time of its publication, the U.S. was known for the tough, hard boiled style, while English crime  was associated with the more genteel drawing room side of the genre that Agatha Christie made popular. Lewis put a shotgun in Jack Carter’s hand, blowing away the Venetian vases and the stereotype.

To call Jack Carter an anti-hero is putting it mildly. Both calculating and reckless, violence is often a convenient tool for him and he makes the Mad Men guys look like feminists. Carter works as an enforcer for a London syndicate run by Gerald and Les Fletcher. He is also involved with Audrey, Gerald’s wife, who he plans to run away with, along with a chunk of the Fletcher Brothers money. He is somewhat of an English cousin to Richard Stark‘s Parker, with less distance from the reader.

In Get Carter, Jack goes back to his home in middle England, to attend the funeral of his brother Frank. Frank died in a drunk driving accident, though he wasn’t known to be a heavy drinker. This puts Carter on the road to answers and revenge, running up against the town fixer who is connected to the Fletcher Brothers.

The book gives a bleak look at England. The pretty countryside, associated with those English cozies, is populated and polluted with smokestacks. Most of the denizens of the town are rough, ugly, and seem to have a touch of inbreeding to them. It’s no wonder Carter would do anything, including crime, to get out. Yet we see how it is a part of him. Much like Hammett and Cain, Lewis used the hard boiled novel to make subtle social commentary on his country. Despite his many dark qualities, we follow Jack Carter because of his willingness to be his own man in both the criminal and British class system.

Get Carter proved that while the U.S. may have invented hard boiled crime, they didn’t have a patent on it. One can’t help but wonder how this book hit British readers in the late Sixties. A new publisher, Syndicate Books, has released Get Carter, following it with the two others in the Carter trilogy, Jack Carter’s Law and Jack Carter And The Mafia Pigeon. I can’t wait to spend more time in Jack Carter’s world.


Get Carter is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

 

MysteryPeople Review: THE LIFE WE BURY, by Allen Eskens

life we bury

For the past few years, Seventh Street Books has had an incredible knack for finding new talent. Terry Shames and Mark Pryor are just two names they’ve introduced to the genre. With The Life We Bury, Seventh Street introduces a new author to watch, Allen Eskens.

The plot of The Life We Bury is something akin to a good Grisham-style thriller. Joe Talbert, a poor Minnesota University student with an autistic brother and alcoholic mother from hell, is assigned to do a biography on someone for his English class. To make the piece stand out, he chooses Carl Iverson, a man living the last days of his life in nursing home with pancreatic cancer after being imprisoned over thirty years for the rape and murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. Joe is skeptical about Carl’s claim of innocence, although the old man admits to have both “killed and murdered” in his life, but with the help of Virgil, Carl’s buddy from Vietnam, and his inquisitive neighbor, Lila, he uncovers truths that could both substantiate those claims and cause considerable danger for Joe and his friends.

In his debut, Eskens shows his skill as a storyteller. The pacing could be set to a metronome and the style is clean and accessible. He finds fresh takes on puzzle pieces for the story and knows when to present them.

More than anything, he gets us involved his characters, not just Joe and Carl, but those around him. He even brings life to the victim. He is unafraid to take time from the plot and look into the lives of his people, realizing they will be dealing with the messiness of their day to day and past  as well as mystery. It makes the reader truly care for them when those lives are threatened.

Allen Eskens is a perfect fit for Seventh Street. He writes a smart, fresh mainstream thriller that knows how to grab a reader. He also knows that character is key. Looks like they found another good one for us.


The Life We Bury is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

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