MysteryPeople Q&A with Anonymous-9

At our last Noir At The Bar, Anoymous-9 (aka Elaine Ash) wowed the crowd, including her fellow authors, with her reading from Hard Bite. This story of Dean Drayhart, a paraplegic who gets revenge on hit run drivesr with the help of his trained monkey and runs afoul of the Mexican Mafia, was a download sensation, earning tons of awards and great word of mouth. As a result, our friend Jon Basoof printed it as a NewPulp Press title. We talked with Anynmous about the the book.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did the idea of Hard Bite come about?

ANONYMOUS-9: HARD BITE came about when I adopted the pseudonym “Anonymous-9.” Up until then, when I was writing I had the sneaky feeling the “brakes” were on. The minute I took another name my imagination and subconscious went into overdrive. Ideas I’d never dreamed of started flying in. HARD BITE was one of the very first ideas and began as a short story. When it won Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Short Story on the Web 2009 competition, I started expanding it into a novel. I don’t really need the pseudonym anymore but I’m stuck with it.

MP: How did you approach writing a lead who is so different from you?

A9: Dean isn’t so different from me in a few aspects. We all find life overwhelming sometimes. We all have moments of frustration where we’d “like to kill somebody” but of course we never do it. Dean is my id let loose with no restrictions or supervision—running wild in print. In terms of the technical aspects of writing about a paraplegic man with a helper monkey the answer is research, research, research. Writing 101 says “write what you know.” I knew nothing about paraplegics, helper monkeys or police procedure. Doh! But I had this first person voice for a character living in that world. So I spent time and money learning what I didn’t know.

MP: Do you have anything in common with Dean?

A9: Yes. Dean never gives up. No matter how bad the odds or how steep the obstacles he throws himself at goals with no fear of failure. Unlike Dean I feel lots of fear (but do it anyway). My goal is to write balanced on a razor’s edge of risk, originality, and craft. I’m not interested in playing it safe. The downside is possibly missing the mark—spectacularly. Wow, look at her—CRASH! I care about that but I can’t stop myself either. I’m proud that Ray Garton, the 1990 World Horror Grand Master Award recipient, said HARD BITE was the best, most fiercely original crime novel he’d read in a long time. “Fierce” and “original” are my favorite review adjectives.

MP: It being your first novel, did you draw from any influences?

A9: Full disclosure: it’s not my first novel. I had another one many years ago under another name that is best forgotten. But because of this technicality I disqualified myself from any best new novel awards (which hurt like hell). All was not lost, though. HARD BITE has been nominated for a 2014 Thriller Award as Best Paperback Original. It also won a Readers’ Choice Award in 2012 from The House of Crime and Mystery (Canada).

Back to your question about influences… JAMES M. CAIN blew me away by tackling verboten topics and exposing the dark sides of “nice” people. TOM ROBBINS is unequaled for intense energy, imagery and magical realism. He’s all about voice. T. JEFFERSON PARKER wowed me with L.A. Outlaws and set the bar for crime characters, action and adventure. TOM WOLFE defined “unflinching observer” for me and pioneered The New Journalism. JOHN BURDETT invented the most original detective I’ve ever read with Sonchai Jitpleecheep of the Bangkok series. RAYMOND CHANDLER pioneered his own genre. Those are big influences.

BP: Like many crime novels, you also give us a look at LA. What did you want to say about the city?

A9: Los Angeles is noir. Underneath the bright California sun and behind the beautiful people with sparkling teeth there is a double streak of corruption and decadence that never improves, it just evolves—pure cocaine to a writer of hardboiled crime. It’s always been like this, it’ll always be like this. I moved to Los Angeles fifteen years ago not for the weather and not for the beauty but because I needed freedom to write whatever I damn well wanted in a city crawling with talent and great writers. Los Angeles is like a cruel lover that gave me what I desired most and stripped me of anything that wasn’t. One day I’ll move somewhere kinder and more sensible. But until I’m done writing about Los Angeles it gives me what I need.

BP: Hard Bite is such a fun read, what was the most fun about writing it?

A9: Thank you! The most fun was writing Dean’s searingly honest, hopelessly politically incorrect voice. I also had a ball with Sid who gets away with truly outrageous antics and people love him anyway because after all, he’s just a monkey. It’s such a blast hearing that people laugh reading the book. The story called for a writing style that was hilarious, heartbreaking, and hardboiled all at the same time. How much fun is that?

Finally, Scott, I want to say how much fun it was coming to Austin and reading a bit of HARD BITE at your Noir at the Bar held at Opal Divines. It was a big deal to finally meet The BookPeople guy who is always mentioned at writing conferences and on panels, and who does so much to promote crime writers. Thank you.

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Copies of Hard Bite are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com

CORROSION: Faulkner’s Southern Gothic Meets Psycho Noir

Jon Basoff is probably best known as the founder of New Pulp Press. which has given us books like Jake Hinkson’s Hell On Church Street and Matthew McBride’s Frank Sinatra In A Blender. One of the first books from New Pulp was his own, under the name Nate Flexer, a pitch black novel called The Disassembled Man. He somehow finds a way to go even darker in his second outing, Corrosion.

The story looks mainly at two characters. Joseph Downs is the main lead. An Iraqi war veteran disfigured from an IED blast, he gets stranded in a southern mountain town where his past seals his fate after he gets involved with a dangerous bar fly. All seems to go down an entertaining, if familiar, noir road, until we’re introduced to Benton Faulk. Raised in a home of twisted religion that makes a Flannery O’Connor character seem secular, he escapes his circumstances into obsessions with a violent comic book character and a woman. Both men have their share of secrets that unravel into a night of violence inside a mountain cabin.

Even though it relies less on shock value than Disassembled Man (though there are still quite a few shocks), the book’s questionable narrators create a much darker mood. Violence hangs in the air even when there is no obvious threat of it. These damaged men are missing a piece of themselves that make them outcasts, driving them to be both resigned to their fate and taking desperate means to be a part of it.

Basoff has given us a hybrid of Faulkner Southern Gothic and Jim Thompson psycho noir with a story both timely and timeless about war and poverty’s damage on society and the individuals it hurts the most. Here we see painful and frightening ways those individuals lash back.

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Copies of Corrosion are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Hard Word Book Club Goes Completey Dark with THE DISASSEMBLED MAN

The Hard Word Book Club is ending 2013 with possibly the darkest book we’ve ever discussed. The Disassembled Man by Nate Flexer (AKA New Pulp Press founder, Jon Basoff) is considered one of the roughest reads in neo-noir. Even the reviews that rave about it feel the need to give warning.

Frankie Avicious is a slaughterhouse employee with a checkered past, living in a small town that could be described as Norman Rockwell “…if Norman Rockwell had been an unemployed drug addict.” His boss is his father-in-law, his wife is a shrew, and his mistress is a stripper with a psycho boyfreind. She may have two psychos if you count Frankie, and you probably should.

We learn more about Frankie’s dark past after a mysterious salesman sets him on a path to a violent future. Frankie decides to get his step dad’s money, his stripper’s love, and get out of town. Can you even imagine a happy ending to this?

If you dare join us for the discussion on Wednesday, Oct 30th, 7pm, your copy of The Disassembled Man will be 10% off here at BookPeople. Jon (or Nate) will be calling in to explain himself. You can meet him in person November 7th when he performs at our next Noir At the Bar at Opal Divine’s, along with Anonymous 9, Nate Southard, and Jesse Sublett.

The Hard Word Book Club will be taking a break for the holidays, but use that time to read our January book, the epic noir The Twenty Year Death. It is a novel comprised of three books each written in the style of a different master of crime fiction.

Get to Know Tony Black

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Most crime fiction connoisseurs who prowl for new authors like a junkie for a good fix have a foreign author we hear about, wishing they would get reprinted here for easier access and for a cheaper price than an imported book. For many of us, that author has been Scottsman Tony Black. Just look at the guy – doesn’t he look like he can write hard boiled crime fiction?

We’ve heard many of the greats like Ken Bruen and Irvine Welsh rave about him. We’ve been able to get small a taste of his talent through short work that has appeared online. Finally, our good friends at NewPulp Press are serving up a couple of full meals with Black’s first two Gus Dury books, Paying For It and Gutted.

When I asked Tony what it meant to him to have his books in The States, he said “A great deal, more so because I’m delighted with the publisher and the fabulous job they’ve done on the books. Most of my influences are American – Thompson, Goodis, Cain and outside the crime genre people like Hemingway and Steinbeck. So, to get a toehold there is really a big deal to me. I have a few of people who follow what I do in America and it’s great for them to be able to pick up the books now.”

“I was contacted by his agent, Allan Guthrie.” said NewPulp publisher and author, Jon Basoff. “While Tony’s books have done very well in the UK, they were looking for a good match to put his books in print here in the US, and the truth is, there aren’t that many American publishers willing to put out really dark crime fiction. I’ve always been a huge fan of Tony’s so I jumped at the opportunity.”

The match between publisher and author is perfect.

“Jon’s a publisher I’ve admired for some time, he’s done a great job on some great books like Les Edgerton’s The Rapist and Gil Brewer’s The Red Scarf to name just two that I’ve been blown away by on his lists. He knows what he likes and he puts his money where his mouth is, which isn’t the case with a lot of publishers these days who go chasing trends. I think the most important aspect in any writer/publisher relationship is that the publisher loves the books and I’ve no doubt about that with Jon. He’s a gentleman and very professional which is another bonus and makes the whole process easy.”

“Most of our books tend to be character driven and Gus Drury is a fascinating character–dark and nasty,” says Basoff. “Tony’s books have a nihilistic edge to them and that’s what we’re all about. The truth is, we have a pretty niche audience–mainly very disturbed people–and I think they’ll dig these books.”

Black’s Gus Dury could be considered a Scottish cousin to Bruen’s Jack Taylor. An alcholic, down and out, former journalist hack, raised by an abusive father who was also a professional footballer, he uses his old skills as a half-assed private eye. The character carries a lot of rage at the world and love and loyalty for his friends.

“Complicated,” is how Black describes him. “He’s a man who’s fallen on hard times, he’s lost his job and his wife and to some degree his sense of self-respect but what he’s lost more than anything is a reason to get out of bed in the morning. He’s a former investigative journalist and although the backside has fallen out of newspapers he still has a lot of respect for the skills of the trade. Every now and again he finds himself being asked to utilise the old skills and help someone out and for a little while he manages to raise his head above the parapet. He carries a lot of anger and he doesn’t tolerate fools gladly so more often than not he finds himself getting into trouble with the kinds of people most of us would run a mile from.”

In Paying For It, Gus looks into the murder of and old freind and favorite pub owner’s son, getting involved in human trafficking, an opportunity to settle old scores, and a heart breaking resolution. If for some reason you don’t think it is hard boiled and harrowing enough, Black gives us Gutted where Gus goes up against those in the dog fight game. Both books are an entertaining meeting of character and tone with a great cast of supporting characters, particularly Gus’s psychotic comrade, Mack. Like Lawerence Block’s Matt Scudder, Dury is a flawed hero whose redemption we root for as he guides you through a dark place we find fascinating, but dare not go by ourselves.

“Tony is a great craftsman with truly compelling plots,” Basoff says. “Additionally, in these Gus Drury novels, Tony has done a remarkable job of evoking the gloom and despair of Edinburgh.”

If you like hard boiled fiction and a good anti-hero, Tony Black is for you. The books are tight, yet breath with character and place. He incorporates the dialect of working class Edinburgh into his own voice as a writer, creating a unique style of bleak toughness and hard won heart.

His new publisher says it best: “Tony’s writing will drive you to grab a bottle of booze, and I mean that in the best possible way”.

Right on the money Jon. Thanks for bringing him over.

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: FRANK SINATRA IN A BLENDER

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MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: Frank Sinatra in a Blender by Matthew McBride

Occasionally a debut book comes along that truly announces itself as well as its author. In my time, it’s been Scott Phillip’s The Ice Harvest, Craig Johnson with The Cold Dish, and Die A Little by Megan Abbott. Matthew McBride now tosses a fresh stick of dynamite into the crime fiction fire with Frank Sinatra In A Blender.

Nick Valentine is a down and out PI with an oxy and alcohol addiction, attitude to spare, and a little terrier named Frank Sinatra who is always relieving himself. He also has a keen investigative mind, which is why the St. Louis PD calls him to consult on a homicide that happened on a credit union robbery. Since the robbers got away with the money, Nick also enlists his mobster buddy Fat Tony, proprietor of Cowboy Roy’s strip club and chili parlor, to play both ends against the middle and get the cash, as well.

If you haven’t figured it out, this is not a serious, realistic crime novel in the George Pelecanos vain. It’s not morally sound or politically correct, either. It is flat out fun.

McBride takes those mean streets that Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer strode, that border on the real and pulp fantasy, and does it one better. His St. Louis is populated by the likes of characters like Fat Tony, a smart cop who’s background gives him the name of Amish Ron; Sid, an Irish hood who could be a refugee from a Ken Bruen novel; and Sid’s partner No Nuts. It has tough phrasing that would border on parody if it didn’t fit Nick’s voice so well with great lines that I can’t repeat here. The violence hangs in the air when it isn’t executed and it is pretty over the top. McBride turns it up to eleven and doesn’t stop.

It’s amazing he’s able to keep it consistent at this level. This is mainly done by using Valentine and his cold, decaying Midwest city to ground the tale. The story ends up being about survival and how hope can come out of it. Nick Valentine and his dog, Frank, are the epitome of it.

Copies of Frank Sinatra in a Blender are available on our shelves now and via our website, bookpeople.com.