DARE ME Optioned by Fox

Congratulations to our friend Megan Abbott. Her recent book (and our Pick of the Month), Dare Me has been optioned by Fox 2000. It’s no surprise that her noir novel, which takes cheerleading rivalries to the level of Shakespearean backstabbing, caught Hollywood’s eye. I’m sure many young actresses will be fighting for parts, much like the characters in the book fight for rank in the squad.

A shot from our event with Megan & Sean Doolittle.

Vengeful & Apocalyptic Private Eyes and Flesh Eating French Kissers: Another Noir at the Bar

On August 16th we had our second Noir At The Bar over at Opal Divine’s with special guest Michael Koryta. It was a great night, and great to see as many writers in the audience as we had on stage. Two of the three authors who make up the pseudonym Miles Arceneux showed up. Their book, Thin Slice Of Life, is a fun thriller set along the Gulf. They’ll be here at BookPeople October 1st. Lee Thomas and Ed Kurtz, part of Austin’s horror scene, also dropped in.

Scott M. & George Wier

Jesse Sublett kicked things off with tunes from his stand-up base, proving my claim that he’s the coolest guy in Austin. George Wier, known for his story “Duck Weed” in the collection Lone Star Noir, scarred us for life with his story “Death Kiss” about a serial killer’s disturbing use of flesh-eating bacteria. Michael Koryta read a passage from his current book, the acclaimed The Prophet, which sobered us up no matter what we were drinking. Jesse returned to close the night with an enthusiastic and funny performance from his work in progress, Grave Digger Blues, which follows a PI during the end of the world.

Michael Koryta reading from THE PROPHET
Jesse Sublett giving a rip-roaring reading from his latest work-in-progress.

A side note – legendary singer-songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard invited Michael Koryta and me to his show at Shady Grove later that night. Apparently these things happen when you’re standing next to Michael. Michael was excited since he played a lot of Ray’s music while working on his book The Ridge. We caught the tail end of the performance. Right after Ray played “Screw You We’re From Texas” he said to the crowd, “You all need to go over to BookPeople and get The Prophet.”

Michael turned to me and asked “Can I come back?”

Any time, Michael. For anybody who loves noir, there’s always a place at The Bar.

Noir at the Bar Continues

We kicked off Austin’s Noir At The Bar at Opal Divine’s last June with a strong start. Our mix of readings from hard boiled writers, music, and drink proved to be fun for both customers and fans. Tonight we continue the party.

Michael Koryta’s publisher told us he’d be a perfect fit for our Noir Bar. His award winning Lincoln Perry series was a mix of classic PI plotting with a realistic and moving central character. After moving to a series of acclaimed supernatural thrillers, like The Cypress House, he gives us his best book to date with The Prophet. The story focuses on two brothers, estranged because of their sister’s twenty year old murder, who have to face their demons and each other when another killing occurs. This book made my top 10 list of books for the year so far and I wont be surprised if it will be on my year-end list, as well.

I’m also happy to have my buddy, George Weir join us. He came to the attention to many with his short story, Duck Weed, that appears in Lone Star Noir. He will be reading a story titled Death Kiss. He told me it is “very noir and very Austin.”

Jesse Sublett returns providing both song and spoken mayhem. As well as playing a few tunes, he’ll be reading  from his work in progress, Grave Digger Blues, an apocalyptic private eye novel. His mix of words put to music brought down the last Noir At The Bar.

So join us tonight, Thursday, August 16th, 7pm, at Opal Divine’s on 6th and help us continue a tradition. There will be time to drink and mingle with the authors and I’ll be hanging around if anybody wants to talk crime fiction. Spend a good night with great writers.

The Best of 2012 So Far….

2012 is proving to be one of the best years in crime fiction. There are already five books that would have been at the top of my list any other year. Stunning debuts introducing new voices and the proven pros pushing their talent have made the last seven months exciting and engaging, With books by Dennis Lehane and Reed Farrel Coleman coming in the next few months, it seemed like a good time to give some of the best out now a shout out.

1. The Kings Of Cool by Don Winslow

Winslow takes the idea for a prequel to Savages and creates an epic crime novel that looks at forty years of Southern California culture, the morality shift in the baby-boomers, and the jaded offspring they produced. Signed copies available.


2. Dare Me by Megan Abbott

This book goes into the locker rooms of a high school cheer leading squad, creating a fresh take on noir as it deals with American competition and conformity. It’s my MysteryPeople Pick of the month for August. We had a great time hanging out with Megan when she was here with Sean Doolittle earlier this month. Signed copies are available.


3. Last Call For The Living by Peter Farris

A great rural hard boiled novel about an Aryan Brotherhood bank robber and the teller he takes hostage. Fully of earthy characters, hard core redemption, and bad-ass shoot outs (one in a church of snake handlers).


4. The Prophet by Michael Koryta

A new murder in a Rustbelt town brings together two brothers estranged from their sister’s killing twenty years ago. Emotionally charged with great believable twists, this novel looks at family, justice, and redemption. Michael Koryta will be reading at our Noir At The Bar at Opal Divine’s August 16th.


5. Edge of Dark Water by Joe R Lansdale

This is one of the books Joe was born to write. It follows a group of depression era teens traveling down the Sabine River with their murdered friend’s ashes and money from a bank robbery that puts some bad men on their heels. Funny, gothic, and full of Lansdale’s great dialogue, this book demonstrates Lansdale’s original voice. Signed copies are available.

6. When It All Comes Down To Dust by Barry Graham

Graham follows the trajectory of a criminal released from prison and his victim.An unflinching, unsentimental, yet highly emotional meditation on justice and mercy. Just try to shake this one.


7. Lullaby by Ace Atkins

Atkins takes on Robert B. Parker’s Spenser character with confidence and ease. He captures the white knight detective’s voice without coming off as a mimic and uses the established characters to view heroes and villains in changing times. Signed copies available.


8. Lake Country by Sean Doolittle

A great cast of colorful characters collide, with many getting killed, when a kidnapping for revenge scheme gets way out of hand. While it serves as a satire on media, ideas of heroism, and today’s America, Lake Country never loses it’s intimacy or edge. Signed copies available.


9. Kings of Midnight by Wallace Stroby

The second book featuring heist woman Crissa Stone has her out for the remaining loot stolen from the infamous Lufthansa robbery. The action and plot in this one rival Richard Stark, and the wiseguy dialogue conjures up memories of George V Higgins.


10. As The Crow Flies by Craig Johnson

Our put upon Wyoming sheriff, Walt Longmire, has to contend with his daughter’s wedding and a murder both on the Cheyenne reservation where he has no jurisdiction. Johnson’s western wit, regional flavor, touches of tough guy action, and true emotion have made his series literary comfort food that sticks with you. Signed copies available.

Since R.J. Ellory’s A Quiet Vendetta, a moving mix of thriller and sweeping historical fiction concerning the mafia, was published a few years ago with it’s US release being this year, I felt it technically couldn’t make the cut, but deserves mentioning. Books that I went back and forth on including that almost made it where Jonathan Woods’ A Death In Mexico (with his wonderfully hero Inspector Diaz), Jeff Abbott’s kick ass thriller, The Last Minute, Janice Hamrick’s fun light mystery Death Makes The Cut, and Ace Atkins’ second Quinn Colson novel The Lost Ones. Also in all fairness, I haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, Alex Grecian’s The Yard, and Lindsay Faye’s The Gods Of Gotham, books that have earned a lot of raves.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Michael Koryta

Michael Koryta has given us one of the the best PI series with his wounded detective Lincoln Perry. He took a break from straight up crime with a group of supernatural thrillers, like The Cypress House. He’s come back to crime now with a moving novel, The Prophet. Michael will be joining us for our Noir At The Bar this Thursday, August 16th at 7pm, at Opal Divine’s on 6th St. As you can tell from our recent interview, he is as smart as his work.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: While The Prophet definitely has your voice, it’s a bit different from your Lincoln Perry series and the five other thrillers you wrote. How did it come about?

MICHAEL KORYTA: The Prophet is a book I’d wanted to write for a long time, actually, and I couldn’t find the right way in. I knew the starting point – a kid who was supposed to get his sister home from school safely and didn’t. She was abducted while walking a short distance home, killed by a guy who was supposed to be in jail and had skipped out on bond. As an adult, the older brother is a bond agent, he’s made his life a mission of atonement for something he can never set right. But I wanted to pair him against another brother who had gone another way. At first I started with a minister. That didn’t take, though, it was too on-the-nose, I think. So it wasn’t until I found the other brother, Kent, as the high school football coach and community hero and who has involved himself with prison outreach programs that I really got the story rolling. I needed that dramatic tension between the two of them.

MP: What I love about the book is that the emotions of Adam and Kent ring true for the violent situations they have to deal with. How difficult was it to deal with such sobering subject matter?

MK: I appreciate hearing that, because it was certainly the goal. I told my editor early, this one has to hurt, it has to cut to the bone, or I didn’t do it right. If people ask me my favorite of my own work I’d probably say The Cypress House, and then I’d say that The Prophet is the best, and the reason would be that I think it does have a higher level of emotional reality and depth. Though you know an author is the worst judge of his own work. It was a damn sad book to write, though, it really was. I remember commenting on that a lot to the people close to me. I’d finish a writing session feeling wrung out and exhausted in a way I never had with a book. It wore on me emotionally and I was surprised by that. My emotional investment with Adam was very deep, and as you can imagine, that made it a painful story most of the time. He’s a pretty wounded guy, he’s very damaged. In this really bizarre way, I kept wishing I could save him, that I could force him to make different choices. Now, of course I could, I’m the writer. But it doesn’t feel like that. It feels as if the characters have free will and you’re narrating a drama that you can’t stop.

MP: You last three books had an element of the supernatural to them. Did it seem much of a change dealing with more banal or “real” evil?

MK: Well, because I’d started my career with straight crime fiction, I don’t think it was as much of a shock to the system. I originally anticipated the killer’s voice would be used more than just in the prologue and that would provide almost a support system for the creepiness I was losing by giving up the supernatural edge. But that didn’t hang together. In the end I felt as if I wanted him to be the guy who walks us around the town and introduces us. And we know he’s there, but the town doesn’t, and then he smiles and winks at us and he’s gone into the fog and we’re waiting to see him again. And knowing that we will.

MP: Both with The Prophet and your Lincoln Perry books, you appear to use the characters as the source of style and mood. How do you approach creating them when they dictate so much?

MK: Yeah, that’s a fair observation, though I can’t explain much about the process. Their moods feed the narrative, and the atmosphere of the books build from the inside-out, but that’s not something I can sit back and assess at the start. It just develops as I get to know them better.

MP: One rule some writers follow is never to discuss politics and religion, but you explore Kent’s faith very deftly. Did you find it a challenge?

MK: No, and I don’t get the idea that you’d never discuss those things — unless you wanted to avoid making a point and thus limiting your audience, in which case you’re writing with marketing in mind. Dangerous ground to tread. But I’m not making a point, I’m trying to turn them into real people as much as possible. And real people have religious and political views, you know? To real people, those things tend to matter a great deal, no matter what camp they are in. So I’d feel odd hiding those traits away. I’d feel odder still writing about “good people” who have to be in one camp or the other, that’s the sort of cable-news world I have no interest in exploring. I’m interested in flaws and struggles. So in this one I’m writing about two brothers who had to cope with intense grief. I considered the ways in which people do cope, in real life, and I landed in a place where one brother would have gone down the road of faith and forgiveness and a desperate need to believe that this happened for a reason, that sort of assurance against a random act of violence, while the other believes the only thing that can possibly be done to set it right is to kill the killer. Revenge, blood for blood. And I think we see a lot of the latter in crime fiction but not much of the former, perhaps because it seems such a passive route to take? I don’t know. But I thought back to my days working as a reporter and a PI and observing how people dealt with tragedy, and those were the two paths that seemed most dominant. So I sent one brother down each path with the idea that they’d meet along the way.

MP: I found out that you’re contributing a piece on Scott Smith’s A Simple Plan for Books To Die For, a collection of essays from crime fiction authors about one of their favorite crime novels. What do you want to draw from that book for your own work?

MK: Oh, wow, so much. He’s a master. That book certainly informed The Prophet because I think it’s a great novel about brothers, dark though it may be. What Smith does there is create a wonderful character arc in that when we meet Hank, we not only understand his decisions, we can buy into them. Is he making the right choice? Well, no. But is he making one we might just possibly make ourselves, given the same opportunity? Sure. And then we watch it play out from there, and it is all the more intense because throughout the story you have that uneasiness that stems from the sense of “I am not so far from this…” I think about it a lot watching BREAKING BAD, I would be stunned if Vince Gilligan did not read that book. If he didn’t read it, he’d enjoy it. Because there is a shared sensibility at play there. I just love that book. Adore it. One of the greatest debut novels in crime fiction history.

MysteryPeople will host Michael Koryta in another round of Austin’s Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s Thursday, August 16 at 7p. He’ll be joined by George Weir and Jesse Sublett. Crime fiction, music, beer & good times. All are welcome.

MysteryPeople Review: THE PROPHET by Michael Koryta

Meet Michael Koryta at Austin’s next Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s Thurs 8/16 at 7p.

Michael Koryta has moved from sub-genre to sub-genre, building his reputation along the way. He splashed onto the scene with his PI novel, Tonight Said Goodbye. After following detectives Lincoln Perry and Joe Pritchard for four books, he wrote several acclaimed supernatural thrillers, including The Ridge. Now with The Prophet, Koryta delivers a book with an emotional and social depth that puts him in the company of Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos.

The story centers on two brothers, Adam and Kent Austin, estranged after the murder of their sister over twenty years ago. Adam, the oldest, threw away his football career and became a bail bondsman and PI in their rust belt town. Kent has thrown himself into faith and football as the coach of the town’s winning team.

A teenage girl hires Adam to find her father who just got out of prison. After he gives her his whereabouts, the girl is found murdered and one of Kent’s players is the chief suspect. Kent looks into the murder to help his player. Adam is out to avenge his client in the way he couldn’t with his sister. When an old football card of Kent’s gets sent to him, both are brought together and entwined in sins past, present, and future.

The book’s impact comes from Koryta’s subdued approach. The occurrences are matter of fact. Knowing the power of his characters’ emotions, he simply lets them play out mainly through action and dialogue. There is a banality to the violence, making it even more disturbing as it sends ripples throughout the book.

Koryta never forgets it’s the brothers and their pain that carry the story. Adam is stuck in memories before the murder, not selling the family house and keeping his sister’s room as it was. Kent dove into religion more as a coping mechanism than out of true spiritual salvation. Koryta uses these men as the source to build plot, mood, and style. As always with his work, it comes down to character.

The Prophet is a stunning next step for Michael Koryta. It takes the themes of family, faith, guilt, redemption, and justice and forms a novel that keeps the pages turning and the heart engaged. I look forward to what he writes next.

MysteryPeople will host Michael Koryta in another round of Austin’s Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s Thursday, August 16 at 7p. He’ll be joined by George Weir and Jesse Sublett. Crime fiction, music, beer & good times. All are welcome.

MysteryPeople Review: THE TWENTY YEAR DEATH by Ariel S. Winter

Book: The Twenty Year Death by Ariel S. Winter
Reviewed by: Chris Mattix

Most writers have enough trouble coming up with a solid idea for a first novel that they tend to keep things simple. Most writers are not Ariel S. Winter. A newcomer to the world of crime fiction, Winter has managed to deliver a debut novel that is both broad in scope and painfully simple in message.

As an avid reader of modern and vintage crime fiction I will admit to being a bit skeptical when I read the press release for The Twenty-Year Death, Winter’s first novel for powerhouse publisher Hard Case Crime. The initial press for The Twenty-Year Death heralds it as a masterwork of storytelling that rivals the best crime writing of this or any age, but press releases are designed to do one thing and one thing only, sell books; and all the glowing reviews in the world couldn’t scare away my hesitation.

In The Twenty-Year Death Winter breaks his tale into three separate novels, each taking on the voice of a different master of the genre. The first novel, Malniveau Prison, is done in the style of ’20s writer Georges Simenon, the second, The Falling Star, in the voice on Raymond Chandler, and the third, Police at the Funeral, in the style of Jim Thompson. Winter’s writing is something of a marvel as he is able to capture the essence of the masters he emulates, while also offering a refreshing spin on their styles. If you’ve read anything by any one of those writers you will get a little more out of The Twenty-Year Death, but there really aren’t any prerequisites for cracking into this gem.

Each novel is both uniquely different from and crucial to the overarching plot of the book as a whole. In each novel we are introduced to new protagonists who narrate the story from their own perspective, and each novel satisfies the universal craving for murder and villainy found in fans of the genre. Mainiveau Prison begins with the discovery of a local baker found dead in the streets of a quiet French village, The Falling Star focuses on the brutal murder of a Hollywood starlet, and Police at the Funeral, in true Jim Thompson fashion, deals with the inner dialogue of the man who committed the murder.

While each novel is successful as a standalone story, the really amazing thing about The Twenty-Year Death is how Winter is able to weave them together to tell a single story about the deterioration of man. I’m trying my best not to give anything away, but let’s just say that there are a couple of characters who become more and more prevalent as The Twenty Year Death progresses. In the end this is a cautionary tale about the consequences of our actions, words, emotions, wants, and fears. It’s about the ease of making mistakes, and what those mistakes can drive us to do. I had an idea of the overall theme of The Twenty-Year Death when I began, but it wasn’t until I turned the final page that I truly understood what the title means.

I can’t begin to tell you have much fun I had reading The Twenty Year Death. It’s unlike any book I’ve read before and I am shocked at the skill Winter puts on display, especially considering this is his debut novel. I read a lot of crime fiction this year, but The Twenty Year Death is my hands-down favorite. It’s destined to become a classic, and you have absolutely no excuse for ignoring it. Yes it’s that good: believe the hype.

Copies of The Twenty Year Death are available on the shelves at BookPeople and on our website.