A (Partial) Atlas of Texas Crime Fiction

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

A hard land with a difficult history, Texas has always lent itself well to crime fiction. From the crime fiction greats who helped define the genre to those writers shaping the landscape of crime fiction today, Texas has a long tradition of social critiques and sendoffs of hypocrisy (the hallmarks of Texas crime fiction, in my opinion) delivered via murder mystery. Tales of Texas history may gaslight their audiences into believing in the state as a land of triumph, but we crime fiction readers know the dark, murderous truth about the land we call home….

Below, you’ll find an incomplete (of necessity) guide to Texas crime fiction, brought to y’all in honor of Texas Mystery Writers Month (that is, May). Emphasis is placed on well-known classic writers and the wide array of new crime fiction released in the past few years. We know we’re leaving out quite a few of the Texas mystery writer greats, and many of the good one-off novels. Some have gone out of print; others have simply dropped off our radar as we find new voices to champion.

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George Wier Joins Us in Person At Hard Word Book Club

One of our favorite Austin authors is George Wier. He always puts a good dose of pulp fun and Texas flavor to his books. To help celebrate Texas Mystery Writers Month, he’ll be joining us for our Hard Word Book Club discussion of Cold Rains.

Cold Rains is a throwback to those Gold Medal paperbacks of the Fifties and Sixties, featuring Texas bounty hunter John Rains. His latest skip is Melissa Sossville, a pretty lady who proves more of a match for him than her ninety-five pound frame would suggest. Filled with sexual tension, reversals, and a few dead bodies, it makes for an entertaining read.

George is just as fun as his books. Meet him at our discussion at 7 PM, Wednesday, May 25th on BookPeople’s 3rd floor. The book is 10% off in-store to those who attend.

Coming Up on May 21st: Our Annual Free Crime Fiction Workshop!

 

Presented by Sisters in Crime and MysteryPeople

Our annual free workshop to celebrate Texas Mystery Writers Month with Sisters In Crime will start at 9:15, Saturday May 21st. Throughout the morning and afternoon Texas writers will share their knowledge. It is great for aspiring authors in any genre and for readers curious about the author’s process. This year we have a broad range of criminal wordsmiths. Our schedule is below:

9:15 AM

Orientation

Meet the authors and get a brief overview of the creative day to come!

9:30 – 10:30 AM

George Wier On Action Writing

George Wier, author of the successful Bill Travis series, puts you through the paces of a fine tuned action sequence and shows you how to ratchet up the tension.

11:00 AM- Noon

Terry Shames On Character And Setting Interaction

Terry Shames’ Samuel Craddock novels have been praised for their depictions of small town life. The award winning author shows how to make setting another character with whom your protagonist has a relationship.

Noon – 1:30 PM

Lunch Break

Don’t just use this time to eat. Ask a fellow attendee you don’t know to join you and start networking.

1:30 – 2:30 PM

Brent Douglass & James Dennis On Collaboration

Brent and James make up 2/3rds of the pen name of Mile Arceneux with their friend John Davis. They will show you how to write about murder without killing your partner.

3:00-4:00 PM

Panel Discussion With Authors

Is there something the authors didn’t cover or was there a subject we didn’t hit upon? Here’s your chance. After a quick Q&A with the authors by MysteryPeople’s Crime Fiction Coordinator, Scott Montgomery, the authors take questions from you.

Attend which topics you’d like or stay all day. It is completely free. Books by the authors will be on sale. Bring, paper, pen, and your criminal mind.

Our February 16th Alibi: Noir at the Bar Round-up!

  • Post by Molly O.

We had one of our most enjoyable Noir at the Bar events to date this past February 16th, both in terms of great stories and good company. We started off the evening with a set of murder ballads from Austin legend Jesse Sublett, then moved from there to a reading from Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, quickly followed by a toast in honor of Scott’s birthday.

Our next reading came from George Wier, who read a selection from his new vigilante noir, Errant KnightNext up, screenwriter and sportswriter John Schulian read from A Better Goodbyehis debut novel, a hard-boiled tale of down-and-out boxers in backstreets LA.

Schulian was followed by horror and mystery superstar Joe R. Lansdale, reading from his new Hap & Leonard novel, Honky Tonk Samurai, his East Texas accent matching the comical violence on the page perfectly.

Jesse Sublett finished out the night with a reading from his true crime history of the Overton Gang, 1960s Austin Gangsters: Organized Crime That Rocked the Capitol

noir at the bar group photo
FROM LEFT: Authors John Schulian, Joe R. Lansdale, and George Wier, bookseller Molly Odintz, author and Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery, and author and musician Jesse Sublett

Thanks to everyone who was able to attend this wonderful event! Our next Noir at the Bar will take place May 12, and will feature authors Paul Charles, Les Edgerton, and Jesse Sublett, with one more to be added to the lineup.

More details to come closer to the date of the next Noir at the Bar event! 

An Extra-Special Noir at the Bar with Joe R. Lansdale

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott  Montgomery

For the second year in a row, I’m celebrating my birthday with a Noir At The Bar. We have a line up of locals, a Los Angelino, and the legendary Joe R. Lansdale, with music as always by Jesse Sublett. I may get into the act and read myself, but I’m going first. No way am I following these guys.

George Weir is one of our local authors, best known for his Bill Travis series. His latest book, Errant Knight, is something completely different. It involves a disgraced cop framed for murder. To stay in Austin to hunt down the real killers, he takes the guise of a costumed vigilante, The White Knight. George has a lot of fun with downtown Austin and comic book mythos.

John Schulian dives deep into his own town with A Better Goodbye. The book looks at the hangers on in the City of Angels, including a former boxer, the massage parlor worker he is hired to protect, the has-been actor they work for, and his criminal friend as they head for a violent confrontation. The result is a moody, poetic, and moving character-driven L.A. Noir.

If John brings you down a little, we have Joe R. Lansdale to pick you back up. Joe is back with his heroes Hap and Leonard in his latest continuation of the series, Honky Tonk Samurai. This time the boys are up against a used car and prostitution ring and a tribe of inbred psycho-assassins. It’s always an experience to experience Joe.

Jesse Sublett will wrap up the night by reading from 1960s Austin Gangsters, his true crime book about the Overton Gang. Then, feel free to mingle with the writers and get a book signed. We will only have their current titles, so feel free to run by BookPeople to grab their earlier wok if you want it autographed. Join us starting at 7pm on Tuesday, February 16th, at the 3601 South Congress Opal Divine’s. If anybody wants to buy me a birthday drink, my choice is Jack and Dr. Pepper.

Come by Opal Divine’s at Penn Field on Tuesday, February 16th for an evening of booze, books, murder ballads from Jesse Sublett, and readings from Joe R. Lansdale, John Schulian, George Wier, and Jesse Sublett. The event starts at 7 PM. 

Crime Fiction Friday: “The Loser” by George Wier

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George Weir will be joining us again for our Noir At The Bar February 16th, along with Jesse Sublett, John Schulian, and Joe R. Lansdale. Noir at the Bar meets at Opal Divine’s at Penn Field and starts at 7 PM. George will be promoting his latest, Errant Knight. At his first Noir At The Bar, he read this piece that was both dark and gross. For some reason we kept asking him back.

“The Loser” by George Wier

The Loser had the kind of face that made tougher guys want to use it as a punching bag, and his face bore the evidence that a series of such men had been unable to resist the temptation to do so in the past. His acne scars didn’t help matters, either.

He leaned with his backside against the chalk table and held an arm extended parallel with the plank floor of the place to grasp the cue stick held at perpendicular such that he could have been doing an audition for the part of Pharaoh in some local theater troupe, except for the fact ‘loser’ was practically written on his face. One corner of his mouth turned up to give him a know-it-all, sardonic, self-satisfied grin.

Erica saw him standing there like that, surveying the lay of the billiard balls before him, and was instantly drawn to him. That was Erica all over again ― always going for the losers.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with John Schulian

Sports columnist, screen-writer and now crime fiction writer John Schulian will be reading from his debut noir, A Better Goodbye, at our Noir At The Bar on February 16th. Noir at the Bar meets at Opal Divine’s at Penn Field and starts at 7 PM. John Schulian will be joined by authors George Wier, Jesse Sublett, and Joe R. Lansdale.  John was kind enough to take a few questions from us.

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

MysteryPeople Scott: Do you remember the first seed of an idea that A Better Goodbye turned into?

John Schulian: I gave up my career as a newspaper sports columnist to come to Hollywood in 1986, but I remained a faithful reader of the sports page. One day I came upon a story that touched me deeply because I had written so much about boxing: A fine young fighter from the San Fernando Valley named Gabriel Ruelas had walked away from his cruel sport after fatally injuring an opponent. His decision to quit struck me as extremely brave, maybe even braver than if he had kept on boxing. I knew of other fighters who continued to fight under similar circumstances – great ones like Sugar Ray Robinson, Emile Griffith and Boom-Boom Mancini – and I had always wondered about the ghosts that haunted them. But in the case of Ruelas, the ghosts won. Not only had they ended his career, but I imagined they would cast shadows over his dreams for the rest of his life. To me, that was the stuff of potentially powerful fiction. I carried it around with me for nearly twenty years before A Better Goodbye began to take shape in my imagination. It would have a beautiful young woman working her way through college in the sex trade, and a failed TV star finding a second career as a pimp, and a bloodthirsty sociopath menacing everyone who crossed his path. But the central figure in my first novel would be a former middleweight named Nick Pafko, who one fateful night let anger turn him into a killer in the ring. Ever since then, he has done hard time in the prison of his own mind.

“Athletes in other sports are coddled, pampered, treated like he golden children they are. Boxers are just the opposite. They grow up just as poor as many athletes in other sports do, but they do so tough and hard, often in trouble with the police as well as their enemies on the street. Many know first-hand about street fights and shots in the night, botched crimes and the inside of jail cells. And if you are a writer with questions, they will answer every one of them for you. In the process, they will be honest, forthright, funny and achingly human.”

 

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