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"We need to make books cool again. If you go home with someone & they don't have books, don't fuck 'em."--John Waters

I'm the author of more than twenty novels including SHADOW SEASON, THE COLD SPOT, THE COLDEST MILE, THE MIDNIGHT ROAD, THE DEAD LETTERS, and A CHOIR OF ILL CHILDREN. Look for my next one THE LAST KIND WORDS due out May '12 from Bantam Books. Contact: PicSelf1@aol.com

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hard Eight


So as of May 27 I’m now I’m 44–a hard eight as you craps shooters say–and another year closer to 46, which is something of a benchmark as it’s the age my father was when he died. Who knows if I’ll make it (place your bets, everyone). My mid-life crisis started a couple of years ago. I’m not sure when it’s supposed to end. With the advent of classmates.com and Facebook, clearly I’m not the only one suffering through severe bouts of sentimentality and romanticized youthful times. I suppose it’s just a part of what everyone goes through. We’re just louder about it because we all fucking blog.

So, some news:

You can find my article on Korean crime/horror films in the latest issue of Asian Cult Cinema (#62), including my reviews of Our Town, Dream, The Chaser, and Open City among others.

The cover for SHADOW SEASON has been finalized. It’s a bit tweaked from the previous images I’ve posted (now with "Edgar Award nominee" listed among my attributes). I think it’s a real grabber and hopefully it’ll pop nicely on the shelf. The book is due October 27 but of course you can pre-order now from Amazon or B&N.com. Also remember to spread the love and support your independent bookstore.

I recently placed my first script with Marvel. I’m playing it close to the vest for the time-being until all the paperwork is signed, etc., but this is a real dream come true. Comics have been a big part of my life, both personal and creative, since before I could read. I clearly remember my brother handing me issues of Daredevil #4 (1st app. of the Purple Man) and Avengers #5 (first app. of the Lava Men) when I couldn’t have been older than two or three. Although my collection has thinned considerably over the years, at one point I owned about 8k comics, all properly backboarded, bagged up and boxed. The collector’s bug, that need to own every issue of every series that came out every month, eventually left me and I sold off about half my comics. Which means I currently own about 4k, including DD #4 and Avengers #5 (though not the same copies my brother gave me).

From the You’ve Got to Check This Out Dept:

Gillian Flynn’s second novel DARK PLACES is out now. Her brilliant SHARP OBJECTS was an Edgar Award nominee and DARK PLACES might even be more twisted, naughty, and noir-stuffed. It follows the story of the lone survivor of a family slaughter, alternating between the narrative of that emotionally screwed-up young lady and flashbacks of her murdered mother and her brother, the supposed killer. A real grabber of a novel that is mysterious and haunting in the best ways.

Also, out now on DVD is J.T. Petty’s THE BURROWERS. A horror-western film that is gripping, realistic, grueling, and genuinely disturbing. The story focuses on a posse hunting after a missing family believed to have been taken by renegade Indians. But soon it becomes apparent that something else, something inhuman, has stolen the folks. There are scenes that won’t be leaving your mind anytime soon. This is one unsettling, nihilistic gut-stomper the way great horror fiction/film is supposed to be.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Brotherhood of Inspiration

You've heard the line so much that it's almost become a mantra: Writing is a lonely business. But the truth is that most writers hold down day jobs, travel for business, and have families that they have to make time for. Most writers can barely find any free time to write, much less time to become lonely. But for the professional author who's sitting in front of the screen with nothing but himself and his own thoughts, the process can become particularly wearying. Especially if he's working on something that draws heavily from his own life and keeps him locked inside his own past as well.

So it's good to get out and see friends and meet fans and discuss process and let the thoughts that are generally bouncing around inside your skull fly free. At last weekend's Mo*Con in Indianapolis we got a chance to hang with good friends (including Gerard & Linda Addison, Wrath James White, Alethea Kontis, Kelli Dunlap, the "Mo" himself Maurice Broaddus, and a slew of other buds), fun fans, and folks who are interested in all aspects of the writing life. Just being among other folks who understand where you're coming from, what challenges you face, what bars you set for yourself is inspiring. It can recharge the batteries.

So a big shout-out of thanks to everyone who attended Mo*Con and helped my flagging will. The past few months I've felt like Chev Chelios from Crank 2, running out of energy and being forced to stick my finger in a car lighter outlet or rub up against old ladies to build a static charge. Thanks for juicing my heart, people.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What is Noir?


Over on Shocklines, uber-horror writer Douglas Clegg and I have been discussing fiction/film noir a bit. He says, "It seems to me that in noir, there is a sort of Fata Morgana or Lorelei aspect -- in that a woman leads men to their doom at the center of the story, whether she wants to or not. " He goes on to ask, "If I'm wrong let me know -- my reading and movie-viewing in noir has been limited. Has there ever been a noir where a man lead women -- or a woman -- to her doom, and still could be called noir? Are there specific parameters to noir in fiction? How would you define it?"
Here's my shot at an answer:

Well, in film noir the Femme Fatale is certainly a central figure. More than anything, I think that noir can be defined as a "date with doom." Characters know that they're making mistakes, missteps, tempting fate, but for whatever reason they're drawn to doing so anyway. Usually by a woman but not always. They step out of the average life and step into another life that they seem to have been destined for, a kind of surreal or hyper-real existence.

Take for example my fave noir SUNSET BOULEVARD. William Holden is an average joe just trying to escape from the repo man when he drives into the world of Norma Desmond, who lives in that bizarre mansion where she watches only her own old films, holds a funeral for a dead monkey, has her own ex-husband/former director for a man-servant. Even when Holden has a chance to escape and find true love with his best friend's girl he gives her up because he knows she's better off without him, and he re-enters Norma's world to find only sorrow and death. There's no way out. He was fated to meet his demise, and he more or less knew it.

Another great noir is ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW starring Harry Belafonte and Robert Ryan. Ryan is a vicious racist who's thrown together with Belafonte to pull a bank heist. Belafonte is deep into debt with the mob so even though he knows he shouldn't be working with this prick, he's forced to do so. The entire movie he's aware that the score isn't going to work out. But he has to go forward. And of course, things end...explosively.

Step by step characters knowingly move to their own demise.

Charles Willeford wrote a fine noir novel called PICK-UP. I don't want to give the twist away but it's about a woman who falls for a guy and she eventually is led to her doom. He loves her, and she loves him, but for a twist reason (that you don't find out until the last line of the book...it's really just a big shaggy dog story) they're fated for destruction.

Jim Thompson's THE KILLER INSIDE ME can certainly be considered noir, full of nihilistic despair. Lou Ford is a sociopath deputy sheriff, a genius pretending to be a bumpkin. His "sickness" as he calls it forces him to murder. Two women love him and, as you might guess, two women end up doomed, as does Ford himself.

Cornell Woolrich wrote THE BLACK ANGEL, about a woman who's husband is leaving her for another woman. When the other woman is found murdered, the husband is found guilty. The wife believes he's innocent and searches for the real killer, invading several men's lives, making them fall in love with her, and then shattering them and casting them aside when she gets whatever information she needs. In point of fact, she's the femme fatale, but it's her blind love for her husband that sets her on her mission. So in one regard, she's as much a victim as the others.

In BORN TO KILL Lawrence Tierney plays a homicidal psychopath who murders his casual dates when he finds out they're seeing other men. Claire Trevor finds one of the victims and boogies out of town on a train, the same train that Lawrence happens to be on. When he figures out that she's a witness and she realizes he's a murderer they do what comes naturally...fall in love! They have a hot and heavy relationship even after she brings him home to her wealthy family. Of course, the inevitable happens and they kill each other and die in each other's arms.

That sense of fate, inevitability, highly romanticized-energized living before tragedy, the flame burning brighter before it burns out is the essence of noir, I think.
So how about you folks? How do you define noir?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Update & Spreading the Love

Just found out I was nominated for a Macavity for "Between the Dark and the Daylight" (EQMM), which is also up for a Thriller Award. Sweet. For the full list, check HERE.

New interviews with Lawrence Block and David Morrell can be found at THE BIG ADIOS. Larry discusses his memoirs STEP BY STEP and David explains just where he got some of his ideas for his latest thriller THE SHIMMER.

From the YUMPED UP YIMMINY YEESUS YOU NEED TO BE READING THIS Dept.:

If you're not already a hardcore fan of ED BRUBAKER then you need to jump on board now. This minute. Get thee to a comic shop or start picking up his graphic novels off Amazon. Read his CRIMINAL graphic novels and follow the brilliant INCOGNITO. Ed is deservedly the hottest writer in comics right now, due in no small part to his edgy noir underpinnings. CAPTAIN AMERICA, DAREDEVIL, IRON FIST, every series he touches he transcends. SLEEPER is in development with Sam Raimi and Tom Cruise attached.

From the THANK KEERIST IT'S FINALLY OUT ON DVD Dept.:

Well, not quite yet, but in under two weeks we finally get a Criterion edition of THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, the gritty and gutwrenching film based on the brilliant novel by George V. Higgins. And yes, it really IS Robert Mitchum's best performance.

From the ED GORMAN IS THE MAN YES HE AM Dept.:

Our good pal, the incredible writer Ed Gorman informs us on yesterday's blog that FOOLS RUSH IN, his latest Sam McCain mystery, is out now in trade paperback. Do yourself a favor and scarf this baby up now. All the McCains are terrific novels and FOOLS RUSH IN might be his best yet.