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!
Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Rick Ollerman will be joining us for our Noir At The Bar tonight at Threadgill’s South. Rick has a voice that has one foot in the modern and one in paperback classic. His latest, Mad Dog Barked, introduces us to PI Scott Porter who becomes the caretaker of a first edition of Murder In The Rue Morgue that draws all kind of disaster. We caught up with Rick to talk about the book and his writing.
MysteryPeople Scott: Mad Dog Barked is such a distinctive title. Did it come before or after finishing the book?
Rick Ollerman: It’s actually part of a line from a Jack Kerouac poem. I’d just started writing Mad Dog Barked and I knew the sort of character Scott Porter was going to be. When I read that poem, that particular line stood out, not just for being such an interesting phrase but for all the sort of meanings and complexities that reflected what I wanted to do with Porter. Was Porter a “mad dog” making noise? Was he driven to behave in a certain way? The title actually helped me shape the character and in the past, my titles have always been determined after the books had been written. This was more fun.
Mike McCrary is an author that neither ceases to entertain and surprise. His latest, Genuinely Dangerous, is about a failed writer-director who decides to restart his career by embedding himself with a gang of bank robbers. It is a wild ride of sex, violence, and dark humor. He will be reading a piece of it at our Noir At The Bar on Tuesday, September 20th. Noir at the Bar takes place at Threadgill’s South and begins at 7 PM, Tuesday September 20th. We caught up with him to ask him a few questions.
Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
MysteryPeople Scott: Genuinely Dangerous delivers a lot of vitriol at the movie business. What did you want to get across to the reader about it?
Mike McCrary: I don’t think there are too many people out there that think that the movie business is a kind and / or sane industry. With that said, I also think sometimes people only hear about the successes or see the finished, polished product after someone has spent years of getting their brains bashed in by the biz. Failure is far more common than success and even when someone has some success, failure is always five minutes away. Having experienced some of those things, what I really wanted was to take all that and use it as the backdrop for a character. The book isn’t really about the movie biz, per se, but it is the thing that ignites the insanity of the story and drives the main character to do the things he does. It’s his failure after his success that won’t let him go. The failure of his second movie sucks away his Hollywood life and itís his desire to get it all back that causes him to take the risks he does.
That, and it’s damn good fun to watch out-of-control characters act on bad ideas.
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.
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.”
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.
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 Whispererthat 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.
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!
Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Andrew Hilbert’s latest novella, Bangface And the Gloryhole, starts out as a hard-boiled if absurdist private eye novel. Our detective has just survived being shot in the face over pickled eggs, and goes into sleaze-meets-Vonnegut territory with a case involving holes in public places for anonymous sex. The novella comments on everything from prejudice to consumer culture. Andrew was kind enough to take some questions from us about the book and writing.
MysteryPeople Scott: Which came first: the character of Bangface or the idea with the glory holes?
Andrew Hilbert: Bangface definitely came first. I had an idea for him years and years ago but in his original iteration, he just wasn’t interesting besides the fact that he got shot in the face. The glory hole idea came later and it was only when I figured out that the two ideas should come together did the ideas get interesting.
Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
CB McKenzie’s latest novel, Burn What Will Burn, feels is very different from his debut, Bad Country. With more of a Jim Thompson feel, it follows the ne’er do well with a dark past, Bob Reynolds, as his small town purgatory becomes Hell after he discovers a dead body. Yet Burn What Will Burnshares the same literary DNA as McKenzie’s first, unwilling to pass judgement upon its characters, and featuring a hero who lives on the margins.
Mr. McKenzie was kind enough to take some questions from us through e-mail while on tour, which includes a stop at our upcoming Noir At the Bar next Monday, July 25th, at 7 PM. Noir at the Bar is hosted by Threadgill’s off of Riverside. McKenzie joins Peter Spiegelman, Andrew Hilbert and Jesse Sublett at the event. Copies of each author’s latest will be available for purchase at the event.
MysteryPeople Scott: Bob Reynolds is not your typical protagonist. How did he come about?
C. B. McKenzie: Not sure Scott, if you mean that “your” in a specific-2-me sense or a Universal sense.
Since I only have the one novel published previously, Bad Country, and the protagonist in that noir novel, Rodeo Grace Garnet, PI, is, let’s say, “sensitive macho like Lew Archer”, it might be assumed that that prototype is “my typical protagonist.”
Introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
We had a great time two weeks ago with Joe Lansdale when he attended our Noir At The Bar and we couldn’t be happier with his recent successes, both with his books and with the new Hap and Leonard TV show on Sundance Channel. If you haven’t gotten enough Lansdale (and how can you?), he puts up a new story each week on his website, free to all his fans. This week’s story is a chilling blend of crime and horror, based on an incident us Austinites will always remember.
“There are no leaves left on the trees, and the limbs are weighted with ice and bending low. Many of them have broken and fallen across the drive. Beyond the drive, down where it and the road meet, where the bar ditch is, there is a brown, savage run of water.
It is early afternoon, but already it is growing dark, and the fifth week of the storm raves on. I have never seen such a storm of wind and ice and rain, not here in the South, and only once before have I been in a cold storm bad enough to force me to lock myself tight in my home.
So many things were different then, during that first storm.
No better, but different.
On this day, while I sit by my window looking out at what the great, white, wet storm has done to my world, I feel at first confused, and finally elated.
The storm. The ice. The rain. All of it. It’s the sign I was waiting for…“
Joe R. Lansdale’s Hap & Leonard Now Have Their Own TV Show!
We were happy to have one of our best Noir At The Bar events to date a couple weeks back. Joe R. Lansdale read from his latest book, Honky Tonk Samurai, featuring his East Texas ne’er-do-well buddies, Hap & Leonard, and we celebrated the release of a new collection of Hap & Leonard stories, hot off the press. His first book in the series, Savage Season, will be part of a six episode run with an impressive line-up of talent, including Christina Hendricks, Michael Kenneth Williams and James Purfoy. The first episode airs this Wednesday, March 2nd, at 9PM Central on the Sundance Channel. Here’s the teaser trailer, below!
Congratulations to our friend, Joe, and if a new novel and a TV show aren’t enough to satisfy your need to read about the exploits of the boys, a collection of all the short stories and novellas, aptly titled Hap & Leonard, has just been released.
Recently, NPR’s Steve Inskeep interviewed two of our favorite figures in the mystery world: author and literary critic Megan Abbott, and editor and author Sarah Weinman. In the interview, they discuss the role of women in crime fiction as readers, writers, and characters, and work to solve the mystery of all those thrillers with “girl” in the title. It is a fascinating talk – you can read the highlights, or listen to the full discussion. You’ll also find a list of recommended recent reads from Abbott and Weinman.
Sarah Weinman is the editor of the two volume Library of America collection, Women Crime Writers Of The 40s and 50s, a must for crime fiction fans. Volumes are available together or individually. The collection comes with a brilliant set of essays on each classic work, which you can find online. Look for Megan Abbott’s latest novel, You Will Know Me, out this summer.