Our Favorite MysteryPeople Moments

mysterypeople panel
From the left, Scott Montgomery, Jesse Sublett, Hopeton Hay, Meg Gardiner, Mark Pryor, Janice Hamrick, and Molly Odintz.
  • Introduction by Scott Montgomery

This past weekend, MysteryPeople celebrated our fifth anniversary, with a panel discussion featuring local authors Mark Pryor, Jesse Sublett, Meg Gardiner, and Janice Hamrick, and local critic Hopeton Hay. Molly and I moderated the discussion. Afterwards, we all enjoyed celebratory cake, beverages, and most importantly, trivia with giveaways.

After our anniversary party on Saturday wrapped up, we decided to share some of our favorite event moments throughout the history of MysteryPeople. Below, we’ve shared our favorite memories of the fantastic authors who came through and the fun times we’ve had with them during and after our events. Molly and myself picked six standout moments each. As you will learn, Craig Johnson in particular has gotten to be an important part of our store.

Read More »

Bouchercon 2015: Southern Comfort in Raleigh

Scott Montgomery and Allen Eskens
Scott Montgomery and Allen Eskens

Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery gives us the low-down on this year’s Bouchercon, THE mystery convention. 

I met Dashiell Hammett’s granddaughter. That will be my takeaway from this year’s Bouchercon. It made sense to meet her at this conference, held in the scarily clean city of Raleigh North Carolina. Organizers seemed to be interested in crime fiction’s past, present, and future.

Ali Karim should get credit for some of the best panels ever put together at a B-con. Reed Farrel Coleman was moderator for The Private Sector, a discussion of the PI genre that became a discussion about reality versus fiction when it came to the audience Q&A. Michael Koryta, a former private investigator, said he knows a writer is doing their work when they get surveillance right. He also suggested to research the job as if you were going into it as a profession. As detailed as it got, J.L. Abramo, author of the Jake Diamond series, put it all in perspective when he said, “Herman Melville wasn’t a whaler.”


Read More »

Happy New Year with Noir at the Bar!

Noir at the Bar

Help MysteryPeople kick off the new year with our famous (or infamous) Noir At The Bar! Join us on January 5th when we will have Noir at the Bar regular Jesse Sublett and two gritty up and comers, Josh Stallings and Daniel O’Shea, at Opal Divine’s on South Congress to read from their new work.

one more body

Author Josh Stallings has given us one of the best damaged anti-heroes to come down the road in a long time, Moses McGuire. In his latest, One More Body, McGuire, an ex-mob enforcer and strip club bouncer, gets the opportunity to expunge his criminal record if he rescues a police woman’s niece from the L.A. sex trade. If you haven’t read Josh Stallings, he’s like an unholy child of James Crumley and Andrew Vachss. Definitely an author not to be missed.


Though Detective John Lynch works on the right side of the law, it’s a blurry one. In Dan O’Shea’s debut novel Penance, we followed Chicago detective John Lynch as he uncovered the shooting of an elderly woman outside a church and it’s connection to a CIA cover up in the Seventies involving his father’s murder.  In his latest novel Greed, Lynch is in the middle of dirty politics and a high body count again, but this time connected to the world of blood diamonds. O’Shea’s action and his use of Chicago and its people make you feel like you’re right in the middle of your favorite cop movie. To put it simply, it’s epic.

So come out this Sunday, January 5th at 7PM at Opal Divines on 3601 S. Congress for Noir at the Bar. Jesse Sublett will be playing some great music, everyone we’ll read, and we’ll have all of their books available to pick up and have signed. So come on out, have a drink and kick off the New Year, noir style.

~ Scott

Crime Fiction Remembers Lou Reed

lou reed 5

When Lou Reed died on October 27th, not only did musicians feel the loss, but just about anybody who has fearlessly created since the 1970s. He brought a darker, literary sensibility to rock n’ roll, as he explained in this interview on Night Flight:

It’s no surprise he had a lasting impact on those who write crime fiction.

On the day of his death, Reed Farrel Coleman, author of the Moe Prager series, posted this on facebook:

“Lou Reed taught me a lesson about art, though we never met. It was the mid-70s and I had played the shit out of Transformer and Rock and Roll Animal. I could not stop listening to the latter and thought that I had to go and see Lou Reed live and hear that kickass band of his. Well, when tickets came on sale to see him at what was then the Academy of Music on 14th Street, I got tickets with my friends. The concert was the most disappointing concert I had ever seen and, to this day, is the most disappointing. Lou Reed had completely changed his band. In Steve Hunter’s place was a sax player, not even another guitarist. Reed played almost none of his old music–his own or from the Velvet Undergound. What he did play was all slow tempo and utterly downbeat. Frankly, I hated it, but have thought more about that show than any other concert I have ever been at. I guess in some ways, it is the most memorable show I have ever been at. Art is not always meant to be pleasing to the audience.”

“I discovered Lou Reed as a teenager in a kind of backwards way, through R.E.M.’s covers of Velvet Underground’s ‘Femme Fatale’, ‘Ill Be Your Mirror’, and ‘Pale Blue Eyes’,” said Megan Abbott (Dare Me). “That sent me on a multi-year fixation with Lou Reed and VU–a writer’s dream, those albums, because they evoke whole, shimmering worlds. You listen to those albums and you are transported, in the truest sense. Every time, over the years, that I have listened to those songs, however dark (maybe especially the dark ones), I wanted “in.” His stories always felt true, earned, and beautiful.”

Josh Stallings, author or the Moses McGuire series, came of age during Reed’s rise as a solo artist. “As a teenager, Reed convinced me I could write about the world around me, the junkies and transvestites I knew had a place to be heard. He did for music what Mean Streets did for film. They spoke directly to me and said it was ok to tell the truth.”

Chandler wrote about LA in the ’30s and ’40s; Lou Reed’s territory was the New York of the ’70s and ’80s. The dangerous New York. Any of the people he sung about could have been questioned by Matthew Scudder, Lawerence Block’s private eye from that era. While using the same style and attitude as Chandler, it could be argued his influence had the inverse effect (like many original artists do). While Chandler looked under the the glossy sheen of his city, Reed looked at the damage and decay that littered New York and saw the poetry in it’s dark misfits.

“Lou Reed was the patron saint of freaks and weirdos. The poet laureate of those who walk margins and push boundaries,” said Chris F. Holm, author of The Collector series. Holm’s work is greatly influenced by the books, movies and music of Lou Reed’s era.

“I came to him from punk, following the smoke back through the decades to the folks who lit the spark.” Holms explained. “But discovering Reed’s work wasn’t a history lesson, so much as a revelation. He was more than simply a precursor or progenitor; his songs painted pictures of a world no one else dared sing about — pictures at once beautiful and grotesque, biting and achingly sympathetic. Reed had the rare gift of being able to simultaneously convey affection and contempt, honesty and artifice. His songs taught me how much weight a single phrase can carry. And they taught me there’s no subject matter so dark, something beautiful can’t be made of it.”

Tim Bryant, a Texas musician, publisher and author of the Dutch Curridge PI series, respected his clarity in the bleakness. “Lou became his character and spoke in a clear voice. You didn’t have to read between the lines or guess what he meant. I heard him mention at least once that he was attempting to bring a novelist’s eye to songwriting. I think he very much succeeded. (Only Warren Zevon comes anywhere close to matching him in this regard.) I likewise took his fearlessness, his willingness to look straight into the dark and not blink as a lesson in my fiction writing.”

Scott Adlerberg (Spiders and Flies) said, “He was fearless in what he chose to write his songs about, something to be admired and emulated. You know that he wrote songs he cared about and wanted to write, audience reaction be damned (a good lesson for writers ideally), and he developed the material in a lot of his songs as narratives, with an emphasis on the telling detail. Also, there’s emotion in his songs but not sentimentality, a distinction always to be remembered, I think, when writing.”

“I don’t know if you ever noticed, but Lou never sang. He spoke his lyrics as though they were short stories.” Tom Pitts (Piggyback) commented. “A song like ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ is a great example of encapsulating characters and delivering them with tight poetic verses. But for me, no song /story of his is as great as ‘Street Hassle’. Especially the version on Take No Prisoners. When he talks about dropping the overdose victim in the street, it pulls you right in to a place in time like no other .”

Jon Steele, author of the Angelus series agreed. “‘A Walk On The Wild Side’ is a novel”

Others mentioned their favorite song or record, as well.

“‘The Gift’ is a great horror story.” Liza Lutz said. “I loved Waldo Jeffers, but maybe because he sounded like John Cage. Now I have to listen to that again.”

Todd Robinson (The Hard Bounce) played him while writing, at times. “I wrote the entirety of my short story Peaches listening to Lou Reed and Velvet Underground to get my mind in a specific New York time and place.

“I did the same with my book The Forty-Two,” said Ed Kurtz. “Loads of Lou, especially New York and ‘Set the Twilight Reeling.'”

The person I knew I absolutely had to ask about Lou Reed was musician and hard boiled author Jesse Sublett, whose book Grave Digger Blues has the edges, satire, darkness, and don’t-give-a-damn attitude of Lou Reed’s work.

“For me, writing and music have always been jumbled up together, so from the first pages of the first detective story I ever wrote, Lou Reed was in there. For starters, there’s the alienation thing, where the detective or the criminal or the victim, take your pick, feels outside of the everyday world, like a fugitive or a stalker or the tarnished knight on everybody’s hit list. And for that, you don’t have to be on drugs, or a criminal, you just have to have stumbled out onto the twilight edge of experience. Since Lou died, I’ve heard from a number of people who knew me right after my girlfriend was murdered in 1976, and they remember me playing Lou Reed’s Transformer 24/7. When I was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer in 1997 and also, one morning after sitting with my dad in the hospital as he was dying and he had morphine hallucinations and said, “The ceiling is on fire, flames shooting out of the wall, and it’s dripping down on your head,” I walked outside, as I have many times in such situations, and the birds are singing and leaves on trees are glowing with chlorophyll, and I’m thinking, Wow, the world is so beautiful. That’s what I mean by the twilight edge of experience. Lou got that so well. If you’ve been there, you understand. I’ve played “Sister Ray” probably 500 times on stage, “Waiting for my Man” even more, and a dozen other songs. Lou’s songs aren’t all about transvestites and shooting drugs any more than Raymond Chandler is about murder and perversion. And by the way, LouReed was a big Raymond Chandler fan, and when I saw Lou saying something about that, then I saw Bryan Ferry say the same thing, I said to myself, I ought to check out this Chandler guy. Goodnight, Lou. Goodnight.”

Get to Know Josh Stallings

When I met Josh Stallings at the Cleveland Bouchercon, I found him to be a warm guy, full of life. This made his down and dirty crime fiction even more amazing. To borrow from Waylon Jennings, his books are “lonesome, on’ry, and mean”.

Those three traits could also describe his series character, Moses McGuire. McGuire is an ex mafia enforcer now working as a strip club bouncer. He earned his skills as a Marine in Beirut and inmate in the California penal system. He has the look of a Viking in biker leather with an attitude to match and a flaw of romanticising women to an unrealistic point they can never meet.

He goes after the killer of one such woman in his debut, Beautiful, Naked, & Dead. With the blind purpose of Mike Hammer, McGuire trudges along a trail of violence and vengeance that takes him to San Fransisco and brothels outside Las Vegas. He gets involved with the mob, porn, an FBI sting, and a sister who may not be completely trustworthy. The story is told with a heart as hard as concrete, but it beats with longing and lament.

The McGuire books echoe the work of James Crumley, Newton Thornburg, and other crime novelists of the ’70s. Stallings deals with damaged characters pushed to societies’ edges, trapped in the hypocrisy. McGuire and his ad hoc family are far from saints and many would consider his allies enemies, but all carry a code that keeps them from falling over that edge into the dark abyss they’re standing over.

You can see how some of Josh’s life informed the McGuire novels in his memoir, All The Wild Children. He applies his punchy style to memories of growing up in California where he and his brother practically raised themselves. Stories of the life they lead involve the management of a teen club, forays into drug use, and acts of petty crime, all of which can be both funny and frightening. The book also sees McGuire confront this past as an adult, partially through writing the books. His unique voice is filled with raw emotion and steers clear of the self indulgence that traps some memoirs.

Like Andrew Vachss, Josh Stallings takes a hard look at people on the fringe, with a pulp edge. He captures both the loneliness and hard fought hope of the outsider. Whether through the Moses McGuire books or his own life, his work is an ode to the people he refers to as “the children of the battle zone”.

L. A. Comes to Austin Noir at the Bar

los angeles

If noir had a capitol it would be Los Angeles. It’a town that draws people to it with dreams that glitter on the surface, supported by a history of corruption in it’s underside. It’s glamour and grit, romance and rotten humanity. This Saturday, July 20th at 7pm at Opal Divine’s (3601 S. Congress), we will be doing an L.A. themed Noir at the Bar with Marcia Clark (Killer Ambition), Timothy Hallinan (The Fame Thief), and Josh Stallings (All The Wild Children). To keep some local flavor, we’ll have author and musician Jesse Sublett (Grave Digger Blues) there to read and play some tunes. All of our L. A. authors show the range of dark deeds in their town and the stories those deeds inspire. It made us ask our crime author friends what their favorite L.A. crime books are.

It’s no surprise that Raymond Chandler, who put L.A. on the noir map, was the most popular.

“In 1987 I left my Austin music career Behind and moved to Los Angeles because of Raymond Chandler, aspiring to become something like the rock n’ roll Raymond Chandler,” Jesse Sublett told us. “I would love to list a dozen or so super cool obscure titles about LA here, but instead will go with the one that set my brain on fire, captured that city like lightning in a bottle and, like almost every sentence he wrote about it, still feels eerily true every time I’m there in that poisoned paradise: The Big Sleep.”

Chandler’s The Long Goodbye got the most mentions. Reed Farrel Coleman (Onion Street) describes the book as “Drunken writers, deadly blonds, friendship, betrayal, and murder set against the lights of the city of angels.”

“This book breaks the mold of previous Phillip Marlowe stories and carries the reader into the realm of mystical noir.” Explains Jon Steel (Angel City). “More than that, the book is literature disguised as ‘detective fiction.’ ”

Dare Me author Megan Abbott‘s choice the second Marlowe book, Farewell My Lovely. “Yes, the choice may seem too easy, too obvious, but that’s become the perennial LA of my imagination. Tracking Marlowe from downtown to the Santa Monica pier to every far corner, it’s LA at its most glamorous, its most haunted, its darkest.”

Bill Crider (Compound Murder) chose what I thought was his funniest. “The Little Sister has one of the all-time great rants about LA. Check it out.”

Chandler’s influence can be seen in a lot of favorite authors who came after him, as well:

Keith Rawson (editor of Crime Factory Midnight Shift): “L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy. Because there’s no crime writer who better describes the bad old glamorous days of Los Angeles better than Ellroy.”

James Grady (Mad Dogs): “Not one novel, but James Ellroy’s “L.A. Quartet” — The Black Dahlia, L.A. Confidential, Big Nowhere, White Jazz. I’d say Chandler and Ross McDonald, too, but Ellroy’s savagery captures the monsters in the sunshine of L.A. as wonderfully as anyone else, including Nathaniel West.”

Reed Farrel Coleman:Die A Little by Megan Abbott. Fixers, fakers, femme fatales, drugs … A fresh kind of noir/hard-boiled with Megan’s unique voice.”

Tim Bryant (Southern Select): “After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson. I love Thompson’s writing because he gets into the mind of the protagonist better than most. Therefore, he gets into the mind of the reader.”

Bill Crider: “Ross Macdonald’s The Chill: Lew Archer, Oedipal madness, the past smacking the present in the face, and a great climax.”

Tom Pitts (Piggyback) “Just to upset the apple cart, I’ll throw in Get Shorty. Can’t have LA without picking on Hollywood. And as a side note, I’m reading Point Doom by Dan Fante right now. It’s a good LA crime story. HeJohn Fante’s son. Ask the Dust’s John Fante, speaking of great books about Los Angeles.”

Thomas Pluck (editor of Protectors): “I’m a big fan of Robert Crais, and I like Elvis & Joe Pike too much to choose just one, so I’ll go with a standalone – The Two Minute Rule, which really stuck with me.”

Court Merrigan (Moondog Over The Mekong): “For me it’s The Grifters. My first & still favorite Thompson.”

Barry Graham (When It All Comes Down To Dust): “Larry Fondation has written about how few great contemporary novels depict LA. I would say the perfect exception to that is Bangers by Gary Phillips.”

Lynn Kostoff (Late Rain): “While not a novel, Richard Lange’s story collection Dead Boys does a fine job of capturing a lot of contemporary LA.”

And then there are our Noir At The Bar Performers:

Tim Hallinan: “There are so many great ones. For now, I’m going with Edward Wright’s Clea’s Moon. Set in 1949 or thereabouts, it follows a skip tracer who was once the star of a grade-z western serial before he was thrown in jail. I think Wright writes L.A, in the 40s/50s better than anyone else who didn’t actually write then.”

Jesse Sublett: “Another one about old LA that’s a little off the beaten track that captures the mist at night and the twisted glories is A Fast One by Paul Cain. I swear when I’m sitting in my friend’s back yard near Whitley Heights where the book starts, you can still feel it.”

Josh Stallings:Devil in a Blue Dress. Walter Mosley nails the hard side of LA, and the transient feeling that we all came from some place else and this was the last stop before hitting the sea. Yes Chandler, yes Elroy but also yes Mosley.

Marcia Clark:The Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler, L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy, and Blonde Faith, by Walter Mosley. I know they get mentioned by everyone, but there’s a reason for that. That said, I love Jim Thompson (especially The Grifters and After Dark My Sweet), but he never felt LA-specific.”
Come out this Saturday to Opal Divines and experience LA in Austin.

(A note to those attending. We will have the latest title of each writer on sale at the event, but a limited amount of room for their backlist. We have most of the titles on the shelves at BookPeople, so stop by there if you want a favorite signed.)