Crime Fiction Friday:”The Black Bird Heist” by Jesse Sublett

Thanks to everyone who came out to Noir at the Bar on Tuesday night and helped make the night something truly special. The following piece, read by Jesse Sublett as the last reading of the night, is a good example of the astounding creativity that has an opportunity to make its way into the world through our MysteryPeople programming. Thanks to Jesse for sharing this original short piece, “The Black Bird Heist,” with us for this week’s Crime Fiction Friday. It stars Austin’s favorite bird – the grackle.

You can find signed copies of Jesse’s latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Our next Noir at the Bar won’t be till Texas Book Fest weekend – keep an eye on our blog for more details!

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Photo shared from KUT Website, Photographer: Nathan Bernier

The Black Bird Heist

by Jesse Sublett

Three birds on a wire

Middle bird says

I’m nervous.

 

He’s the New Bird.

 

Bird on the Right says

It’s simple. Stick to the plan

We rush the bank & say

We’re grackles! Nobody move!

 

Bird on the Left says

Two minutes to go

everybody set?

Right: Locked & loaded.

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Adding Mystery to the Story: Guest Post from Rick Ollerman

Rick Ollerman will be one of our authors at our upcoming Noir At The Bar, an event celebrating the magical mixture of author readings and brews. Noir at the Bar takes place at Threadgill’s South and begins at 7 PM, Tuesday September 20th. Ollerman will be joined by Jesse Sublett, John Lawton, and Zoe Sharp. We’ll have giveaways galore for those who attend – come by Threadgill’s South, Tuesday, September 20th, at 7 PM!

 

NOVELS AND SHORT STORIES: Advice and Opinions On Two Forms of Writing

by Rick Ollerman

A friend of mine recently asked me about a problem she’s having writing a novel. She writes mostly short stories and I write mostly novels and while she says she has the ending “set” and a solid beginning, she’s struggling with what comes between. Endings aside, she wanted to know if I ever struggled with the last two thirds of a novel.

The short answer is no, I don’t, but that’s because the process of writing a novel is different than writing a short story. A short story should be something that you can hold in your head in its entirety. You can’t do that with a novel, it’s just too damned big.

When I write a short story I need to know the point I want to make before I begin. I need to know what I’m writing to, what the thing is I want to say. It could be the expression of a mood or an emotion, the consequence of an action, or the classic twist the reader shouldn’t see coming. In the case of a forthcoming anthology based on the music of The Replacements (Waiting To Be Forgotten, 2016?), the point was derived from one of their songs.

This is not so for a novel. When I begin a new book-length project I start with a concept that usually comes from asking “what if” or “how come” sorts of questions. Those answers give me the characters. Put them together and I can write the opening. When people ask the seemingly eternal but silly question about what’s more important, characters or plot, there’s no real answer because both are needed to write a good book. In fact, I’d offer the formula “characters + plot + setting = good book,” assuming of course that the book is well written in the first place.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Zoë Sharp

Zoë Sharp will be one of our authors at our upcoming Noir At The Bar, an event celebrating the magical mixture of author readings and brews. Noir at the Bar takes place at Threadgill’s South and begins at 7 PM, Tuesday September 20th. Her latest book features Kelly Jacks, a former Crime Scene Investigator turned crime scene cleaner after being framed for murder. Meike Alana caught up with her for this interview bout her latest, The Blood Whisperer.

 

Meike Alana: At one point, a character tells Kelly Jacks that she may not have a dick but she certainly has balls (a great line, by the way). Can you tell us a little bit about how you developed a character as complex as Kelly?

Zoë Sharp: Well, I’ve written eleven novels in the Charlie Fox series, but there are other stories I want to tell that wouldn’t be a good fit in Charlie’s world.

The idea for The Blood Whisperer came about because I was intrigued by the idea of writing a series of standalones⎯which sounds like a contradiction, I know. They would be individual stories, with different main protagonists, but all strong female characters who were, for whatever reason, slightly on the wrong side of the law. So, where the first reaction of a ‘normal’ person when confronted with the kind of danger Kelly faces would be to go to the police, for her that isn’t an option. She has to rely on her instincts to keep her alive.

Kelly very much evolved as I wrote the book, which is how I like to develop characters. I know some people write complicated biographies before they begin, but until a person walks onto the page for the first time, they haven’t really taken shape for me. Her interest in free-climbing, for instance, began as a method of escaping from the four walls of her home, a way of finding an additional sense of freedom having endured being in prison, but it quickly became an integral part of the story.

“The idea for The Blood Whisperer came about because I was intrigued by the idea of writing a series of standalones⎯which sounds like a contradiction, I know. They would be individual stories, with different main protagonists, but all strong female characters who were, for whatever reason, slightly on the wrong side of the law.”

 

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Noir at the Bar Gets Continental

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Noir At the Bar will be back in action Tuesday, September 20th at Threadgill’s South. Along with local author, musician and man-about-town Jesse Sublett, we have two authors from outside the state and one from Britain. This could be the closest we come to being classy.

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From Left: Zoe Sharp, John Lawton, Rick Ollerman, & Jesse Sublett

Rick Ollerman hails from Florida, where his latest book, Mad Dog Barked, takes place. Rick has his feet firmly planted in the hard boiled tradition to tell his two fisted tales. Mad Dog Barked gives us hard drinking and harder living private detective Scott Porter, who becomes the caretaker of a first edition copy of Poe’s “The Murders In The Rue Morgue” that draws the attention of old school gangsters and several other nefarious types.

Our first author from across the pond is Zoe Sharp. She is best known for her series character, Charlie Fox, who is often described as the female Jack Reacher. Her latest is a standalone, Blood Whisperer that deals with a wrongfully-imprisoned-crime-scene-investigator-turned-crime-scene-cleaner who is framed for murder. Zoe doesn’t tour the States often so catch her while you can.

John Lawton is an American who writes about Britain. The Unfortunate Englishman is his second book to feature Joe Wilderness, an agent for MI6 (or so we think, it’s a little complex). Come out and see why he is a MysteryPeople customer favorite.

We will have each author’s latest for sale at the event, as well as some from our own stash to give away. Jesse Sublett will be providing music as well as reading from 1960’s Austin Gangsters, a history of the Overton Gang and one of the best true crime explorations of Austin out there. Join us at Threadgill’s on Riverside, Sept 20th, at 7PM, and keep a good thing going.

Noir at the Bar takes place at Threadgill’s South (off of Riverside.) Our next Noir at the Bar is Tuesday, September 20th, at 7 PM. Recent books by each author will be available for purchase at the signing. We’ll be giving out books left and right, so come prepared for wonderful readings and some free reads! 

Guest Post: Jesse Sublett on Texas Legends and Landmarks

Continuing our series of Texas crime fiction writers on their home state, we next have a piece from Noir At The Bar cohort Jesse Sublett. In his piece Jesse looks at how Texas legend, history and violence shapes our state’s art and culture.

Jesse will be at tonight’s Noir at the Bar – this Thursday, May 12th, at our new home at Threadgills downtown. Jesse is joined by Con Lehane, Jordan Harper, and Les Edgerton. Each author’s latest title will be available for sale at the event. Readings begin at 7 PM. Booze, books, and bars – what’s not to love?

Guest Post by Jesse Sublett

When I was researching 1960s Austin Gangsters, I visited many Texas landmarks that had been devastated by greed and avarice over the past several centuries. Gun-toting thugs, pimps, petty thieves, and wisecracking roughnecks were not the ones who devastated these places. The culprits were corporations, land barons, bankers, and other would-be empire builders.

Take the upper Panhandle town of Mobeetie, for example. Texian settlers came through in the early 1800s and began killing off the nomadic Plains tribes. By the last quarter of the nineteenth century, it proved more efficient to kill off the buffalo herds on which the Plains Indians were so dependent for their lifestyle and culture. During that time, also known as the Buffalo Wars, the town of Mobeetie became a thriving city, an economic crossroads. After the bison herds had been slaughtered, the land barons moved into the Panhandle and West Texas and ran cattle for a couple of decades. After beef industry took a steep dive in the late 1800s, the landowners subdivided and town-promoted. After Spindletop, there were oil boom towns. They erupted across the state like festering blisters, places as crazy, cash-drenched, and vice-ridden as any Wild West movie you can imagine. Most of those boom towns are gone now.

“After Spindletop, there were oil boom towns. They erupted across the state like festering blisters, places as crazy, cash-drenched, and vice-ridden as any Wild West movie you can imagine.”

Today Mobeetie (which is more or less the same as New Mobeetie, just around the bend… long story…) is a stark, lonely little outpost of 200 or so people. Not much to look at and far less to do there. The population is unchanged since the Overton Gang came through in the spring of 1966 on a bank-burglary spree. Around one a.m. on the night of March 17, gunfire interrupted (the deputy shot out the tires of their getaway Cadillac parked on the road to the dump) the work of quintet of characters at the First State Bank and they scattered across the snow-dusted plains in all four directions. The ensuing fugitive manhunt for them encompassed thousands of square of miles of the shockingly empty landscape. Hundreds pitched in: deputies, rangers, G-men, and volunteers. They spread out on foot, in cars, on horseback, in airplanes, in helicopters, trailing bloodhounds. By the end of the week, all five were in jail.

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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

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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! 

MysteryPeople Q&A with Jesse Sublett

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The essential Jesse Sublett – writer, musician, and Austin institution – will be joining us again for tomorrow’s Noir At The Bar at Opal Devine’s, where he will read from his latest, 1960s Austin Gangsters, and perform some deliciously creepy murder ballads. Thanks to Jesse, John Schulian – sportswriter, screenwriter, and now, with his debut novel A Better Goodbyecrime writer – will be joining us as well. 

 Noir at the Bar starts at 7 PM at Opal Divine’s at Penn Field. This event is free and open to the public, and we will have copies of each author’s latest for sale at the event. Joe R. Lansdale, author of the Hap & Leonard series, and the best thing to come out of East Texas since Janis Joplin left Port Arthur, will be reading from his latest Hap & Leonard, Honky Tonk Samurai. Local author George Wier will also be joining us to read from and sign his latest novel, Errant Knight, set in downtown Austin.

We caught up with Jesse to see how things were going with his latest book, 1960s Austin Gangsters: Organized Crime That Rocked the Capitol, his music, and life in general.

“My favorite expression is “It sure beats working.” That’s how I feel about music, writing, and art, even though a lot of labor is involved—suffering and frustration, too—but the love of doing it removes the sense of it being work. I’ve always said that criminal characters and musicians (and other artists) are alike in that they just can’t see themselves going the day job route.”

MysteryPeople Scott: 1960s Austin Gangsters was released last year, and interest in the novel is still going strong. What has the book brought to you after its release?

Jesse Sublett: It’s astonished me that a book published 11 months ago still has momentum and still brings people to me, telling me how much it means to them, that they just bought a copy for their dad, or they bought ten copies for the family. People keep bringing me new stories about the Austin crime and vice scene of the 1960s. I’ve been meeting retired cops, children of notorious gangsters and thugs, who are proud that their family members have been authenticated by my book.

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