I Could Fit Five Bodies in the Trunk of My Sedan: MysteryPeople Q&A with Patrick Millikin

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The Highway Kind is a collection of short crime fiction, dealing with cars, driving, and the road. It features crime and general fiction and even a singer/songwriter. Authors include the likes of Joe Lansdale, Ace Atkins, and Michael Connelly. We talked to to the editor Patrick Millikan about cars and crime.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did the idea of The Highway Kind come about?

Patrick Millikan: My original thought was that it would be cool to have an anthology of crime stories in which each author chose a particular car and wrote a story about it. The cars would be prominently featured. I was surprised that there hadn’t been (at least to my knowledge) a collection like it. Over time the idea morphed into something, at least in my opinion, much more interesting. As I mention in the preface, when I commissioned the stories I left the guidelines pretty open – the pieces would simply be about “cars, driving and the road.” As the stories started to come in I was surprised and intrigued by how personal, almost confessional, many of them were.

MPS: How did you go about choosing the authors?

PM: I wanted a mixture of different styles and approaches, and I didn’t want all of the pieces to be “noir” (the term has been so co-opted as to become almost meaningless). I put together a kind of dream list of writers and just went for it. The early commitment from Gary Phillips, Michael Connelly and Diana Gabaldon gave me the confidence to put together an official proposal. I started with a core list of about twenty five writers, realizing that they all wouldn’t be able to come through. I couldn’t be happier with the final roster. It was a real honor to work with them.

MPS: You have a few authors who never wrote crime fiction before. How did you know they were up for the task?

PM: Ha, good question. There are several such writers in the book. Willy Vlautin was way up high on my list of potential contributors. Although he doesn’t write crime fiction per se, his work really captures the atmosphere I was looking for, and I must say, I think his story is one of the finest in the collection. Willy actually put me in touch with Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers. I admire Patterson’s songwriting and was eager to see what he’d come up with story-wise. I was really impressed…! He’s a damn good writer and I think we’ll be seeing a novel from him one of these days. I was hoping to get a story from Jay Farrar from Son Volt, another writer whose work I admire, but I couldn’t get in touch with him.

MPS: Which author surprised you the most?

PM: Probably Patterson Hood and Kelly Braffet. I hit up Kelly because I loved the voice of her novel, Save Yourself, and knew she would write something interesting, but I had no idea if she was up for a crime story. Boy did she deliver…

MPS: Outside of this book, what is your favorite story involving a car?

Tough, tough question. I can’t pick a favorite but I love Donald Hamilton’s Death of a Citizen (which I think very underrated), Theodore Weesner’s The Car Thief, Bezzerides’s Thieves’ Market, Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, and more recently, Duane Swierczynski’s The Wheelman and James Sallis’s Drive and Death Will Have Your Eyes. There are loads more that I’m forgetting. One of the weirdest I’ve come across is Harry Crews’s Car.

MPS: For you, what would be the best automobile to commit a crime with?

Probably the most innocuous car that nobody would remember, like a tan Ford Taurus.
Then again, I could probably fit five bodies in the trunk of my 1960 Cadillac Sedan Deville…

You can find copies of The Highway Kind on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

Crime Fiction Friday: “Kay Chart” by V. P. Chandler

MysteryPeople_cityscape_72 Introduced by Scott Montgomery

We’re happy to have an original story from Austin crime writer V. P. Chandler to share with y’all this week.  The tale below might be in the Western category of fiction, but its’ content is plenty murderous enough to be featured on Crime Fiction Friday. Chandler’s short story “Rota Fortunae” is included in the Austin Mystery Writers’ short story collection Murder on Wheels, which you can find on our shelves or via bookpeople.com


“Kay Chart” by V. P. Chandler

“Hurry up with them biscuits and gravy, old woman!”

Cooter laughs and wipes brown spit from the corner of his mouth. Damn if we wasn’t having fun. Things have been going our way since we left San Antone last week even though folks warned us not to venture so far west. Said the Comanche were still riled up after skirmishes with the Rangers.

But I got plans. Plans for me and Becky. And I can’t wait any longer to get money. When I heard she was engaged to that son of a bitch Whitney, it took the wind right outta me. So Cooter and me have been working our way west, raiding homesteads as we go. Since the Comanches have been hitting the farms, we thought we’d do some raiding of our own.

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A new book about the infamous yogurt shop murders

Attention, true crime aficionados, long-time Austinites, and cold case questioners everywhere: Beverly Lowry comes to BookPeople to speak and sign her new history of Austin’s infamous 1991 Yogurt Shop Murders, WHO KILLED THESE GIRLS, tonight, at 7 PM.

BookPeople's Blog

2016 is not only the year that true crime enters the mainstream with several documentary series and podcasts devoted to the subject, it is also an anniversary year for more than one of Austin’s own community-shattering hometown murders. August 1st represented the 50th anniversary of the Charles Whitman UT sniper spree, and on August 28th we hosted Monte Akers, Nathan Akers, and Roger Friedman, authors of The Tower Sniper: The Terror of America’s First Active Shooter on Campus9780307594112.

December 6th represents the 25th anniversary of the Yogurt Shop murders and on Tuesday, October 18th, we will welcome Beverly Lowry to talk about her new book Who Killed These Girls? Cold Case: The Yogurt Shop Murders.

Examining this unsolved murder, Lowry goes into detail about what we know versus what we thought we knew. The book’s title and cover design reflect the famous billboards featuring black and white school…

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Crime Fiction Friday: “A Tricky Situation” by Lisa Gray

 

MysteryPeople_cityscape_72

  • Selected and Introduced by Scott Montgomery

Thank you Shotgun Honey for introducing us to another fantastic new author. Lisa Gray is a talented author from across the pond. We’ve decided to link to her story “A Tricky Situation” for this week’s Crime Fiction Friday – it has a well crafted opening sentence, keeps you hooked, and shows you Gray can deliver more than one twist in flash fiction. Here’s hoping we this will be far from the last time we read her.


“A Tricky Situation” by Lisa Gray

“Carol Turner did not know she was claustrophobic until the day she found herself bound at the wrists and ankles, and locked in a box.

Her prison was a cheap, wooden structure that fit snugly around her body. Stretching her bare foot as far as the restraints allowed, her big toe nudged plywood, and rough wood grazed her bare arms on either side…”

Read the rest of the story.

Dr. Pepper, Gators and Snapping Turtles: MysteryPeople Reviews Bill Crider’s SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN

  • Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9781250078520The opening chapter of Survivors Will be Shot Again, the latest book featuring Clearview, Texas Sheriff Dan Rhodes, encapsulates the book and series in its tone and approach. The opening sentences are “Sheriff Dan Rhodes was standing at the back of the Pak-a-Sak looking at the Dr. Peppers in the big cooler when a man with a gun came inside. Rhodes hadn’t had a Dr. Pepper in years, and he’d missed the taste a lot.”  We spend two paragraphs about Rhodes being tempted to lift his boycott on the soft drink for not selling the ones with real sugar on line, before the lawman assesses the situation and disarms the robber with a loaf of bread. The clerk realizes he went to school with the robber. The three have some fun banter before Dan slaps the cuffs on the culprit. Like the rest of the book, this first scene is entertaining , doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is more interested in the characters than crime.

After the Pak-a-Sak arrest, the main story kicks in. Rhodes goes out to investigate the latest in a rash of burglaries in town. This one is at bank loan officer Billy Bacon’s ranch, where there are two signs on the fence gate, TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT  and SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN. As Rhodes pokes around the property, he finds the body of Melvin Hunt, a fellow burglary victim. Soon Rhodes is entangled in a case involving a marijuana patch guarded by a gator, a snapping turtle, and a few more murders.

Crider is a master craftsman. His plotting is strong, allowing for an easy-going pace that still has forward momentum. He creates a strong narrative line for him to carry what he is really interested in – hanging out with Dan and the rest of the Clearview crowd and delivering laugh-out-loud moments. Much like the tales of Dan’s Wyoming counterpart, Sheriff Walt Longmire, it is about the relationship between a lawman and his community.

Like many of the previous Dan Rhodes books, Survivors Will Be Shot Again serves as literary comfort food. It delivers everything you want in an enriching, flavorful, and willing way. I look forward to the next helping.

You can find copies of Survivors Will Be Shot Again on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

On Alternative History and Historical Amnesia: MysteryPeople Q&A with Simone Zelitch

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading Simone Zelitch’s Judenstaata brilliant and complex merging of the strange histories of Israel, East Germany, and Birodbidjan (Stalin’s bizarre attempt at a Soviet Jewish state). Judenstaat takes place in the late 80s, in an alternative history where post-WWII, the Soviet Union has created a Jewish state in the German region of Saxony. Zelitch was kind enough to take some questions about the book and its inspirations. 

Molly Odintz: Judenstaat brings together threads from the history of several regions and peoples – you weave together the history of East Germany, Birobidjan and Israel/Palestine for a many-layered alternative history of Saxony as a Jewish state. How much did you draw on real history for your narrative? How did you create a story that functions on so many different levels? 

Simone Zelitch: Probably the one thing that weaves all these histories together is the way that nation-states tell stories—and what gets left out of those stories.  In the case of Judenstaat, my own reading about Zionism and my time in the Peace Corps in post Cold War Hungary led me to think about the way that “narratives” are constructed, but as I pursued the idea of a Jewish State in Germany, I was lucky enough to find some books that complicated my own preconceived ideas and really enriched the novel.   Three books that come to mind are:   Amos Elon’s The Pity of It All a marvelous account of the history of Jews in Germany, Nora Levin’s two-volume The Paradox of Survival: the Jews in the Soviet Union Since 1917, and Mary Fulbrook’s The People’s State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker.  They all made me consider a specific legacy (Jews in the tradition of the very German Moses Mendelson), a specific dilemma (how Jews survived or didn’t survive in Stalin’s Soviet Union and the countries under its domination), and a specific location (a German state which—much like East Germany– constructs its own origin story as a response to fascism, with its borders, and, of course, its wall).   I think these different layers do challenge readers, particularly as I overlay an imaginary history.   My hope is that my focus on Judit, the archivist, and her own struggle to make sense of all these layers, gives readers a chance to struggle along with her.   

“But here’s the real key to Judenstaat:  Nineteen-Eighty Four.   I recently wrote that my novel is Orwell Fan Fiction.   I borrowed Orwell’s structure—from the Ministry of Truth where history is rewritten, to a Leon Trotsky-like bogey-man who challenges the Great Leader, to the hidden, secret book/manifesto.”

 

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Alison Gaylin

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Alison Gaylin’s What Remains Of Me is one the year’s best novels. What Remains of Me follows protagonist Kelly Michelle Lund in two different timelines: an Eighties setting leading up to the murder of a director and Lund’s arrest; and a present-day setting wherein once again, Lund becomes the suspect in a murder following the death of her father-in-law, a famous actor and once the best friend of the murdered director.  The novel takes a fascinating and engaging look into celebrity and celebrity crime.

Alison will be joining William Boyle, Bill Loefhelm, and Megan Abbott tomorrow, Tuesday, August 2nd, at 7 PM, for a discussion of the new noir. We were able to get some answers out of her earlier.

MysteryPeople Scott: What drew you to celebrity crime and scandal?

Alison Gaylin: I’ve been drawn to both for pretty much my whole life! I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles called Arcadia. My parents had no connection to the movie industry, but my mom was a big pop culture follower and a huge reader of everything. She subscribed to Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, so I was reading Army Archerd’s column as a young kid, scanning for bold-faced names. I sneaked dishy books like Miss Rona, and loved celeb autobiographies (Lauren Bacall’s was a favorite)  At 10, I found and read a copy of Helter Skelter — in which the darkest of crimes occurs in the most glamorous of settings — and I was fascinated, terrified, hooked… That fascination has stuck with me as an entertainment journalist,  but even more so in the fiction I like to write.

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