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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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spinetingler Raves...

Thought I'd share this extremely generous and thoughtful review of my noirella EVERY SHALLOW CUT written by Nik Korpon (author of STAY GOD and OLD GHOSTS) over on the illustrious Spinetingler Magazine.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bye Bye, Baby by Max Allan Collins



Mark your calendars, kids. Nate Heller, "PI to the stars" and the hero of Max Allan Collins’ historical mystery series, returns on August 16, 2011 with BYE BYE, BABY.

The novel is vivid, rich, evocative, and atmospheric. You feel L.A. here, the classic L.A. era as it was in the early 60s, just before MM’s death and JFK’s assassination ushered the innocent days out and the age of Viet Nam in.

As Marilyn Monroe goes to war with her studio, fighting off a smear campaign by the powers that be who want to leverage the control of her career, she hires Nate Heller, her friend and occasional lover, to bug her phone. She wants proof of what’s being said by the likes of studio head Darryl Zanuck as she counters reports that she’s been addled by drugs and alcohol. Heller does as he’s asked but soon discovers that Marilyn’s house is already being bugged by a colleague, under orders from Jimmy Hoffa...and perhaps others as well. Turns out that Marilyn’s become a chess piece among powerful political opponents of JFK and Bobby Kennedy, both of whom have been among her lovers. Nate knows big trouble is right around the corner for Marilyn, though he’s unable to truly break through to the still somewhat naive girl who still resides within the heart of the most fabulous sex symbol of all time.

Soon Marilyn is found dead of an overdose, an apparent suicide. But Nate knows that there’s a lot more that’s gone on behind the scenes, and he launches his own investigation into Marilyn’s death, hoping to make someone pay. Collins has put a mind-boggling amount of research into this work. It reads with an authenticity that is rare among mysteries that deal with historical subject matter as mythic as Monroe, Sinatra, Sam Giancana, Joe DiMaggio, Peter Lawford, Jimmy Hoffa, Bobby Kennedy, and JFK. Their literary versions are almost never humanized, but Collins’ has gone to extremes to give us not only an informative and entertaining account, but also a realistic one, walking a narrow and neutral line so we see our legends in a genuine light.

Another thing I appreciated in BYE BYE BABY is just how long Marilyn is in the novel. From the synopsis you might think that she’s only in the story for the opening chapter, nothing more than a catalyst for action. But Collins isn’t satisfied with just providing impetuses–he gives us full flesh and blood characterizations.

Another excellent entry in the Heller series. In fact, I think it’s my favorite to date. A gripping and fascinating read that takes us from the bright lights of Hollywood and deposits us in the alleyway shadows of shattered dreams.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

All My Crushes Are Dead

We live and die by our great and minor loves. Our lifelong obsessions and our constantly changing compulsions. Our new favorite songs, movies, books. Glimpsed faces on the street, hopes in the night. Some of which stay with us for decades, and some of which drop away after a few days or weeks, only to be replaced by others that will drop away in days or weeks. We love. Sometimes forever, sometimes for a little while. We crush.

We find ourselves overcome by that profound burning delirium and adoration for whoever...whatever. A carefully stored moment. A scene, a lyric, a verse. Rock stars, movie stars, literary legends. Flavors, colors, dynamics, touches, textures. We lose ourselves in daydreams. We run the clip over and over.

You shut your eyes and you’re there again, in your place of safety, exchanging the same dialogue you’ve exchanged before. Maybe only twice, maybe ten thousand times. The voices are clear in your ear. You tell your dead father the things you never got to tell him before. He reacts. You see him smile. He holds that smile like a yellowing photograph framed on your night stand. He’s been holding it for about forty years. He’ll be holding it until the end of time. Until the end of you, the end of me.

I need him to hold it. I won’t ever not need him to hold it.

And it’s a bright hot summer day with only the barest breeze. It takes us back to another summer. To a street whose name we don’t recall.

To talk to a poet who wrote something that lives inside you like another chamber of your heart. The poet is long gone. Perhaps because of love. The kind of love we’re talking about. The kind of love that feels as if it will never dissipate, even though it sometimes does.

We dream about dancing with and fucking our imaginary lovers, sitting and drinking top shelf whiskey with our rugged heroes, coming face to face with our long-gone parents or high school sweethearts. Our biblical myths. Our faces for God. Our perfect selves, where we’re younger and trimmer and much more beautiful, and we know the right thing to say all the time, and the right things are said to us, all the time. We live inside songs. We live within frames of film. We live between lines of books.

We sometimes die but we die performing brave and lasting actions. Gorgeous, sweet girls shed tears for us. Handsome men make gestures of brotherhood and pride as we sink beneath the water, fall into cracks in the ice, burst into flame, drift away from pulsing chest wounds, die on the cross.

I’ve died for my crushes. And they’ve died for me. Right now, as I write this, they’re all dead. I crush on matinee idols no one remembers, I read books no one else owns. I play songs over and over that no one else remembers the words to. Maybe I’ll resurrect them with this sentence, or the one after it, or in my next story. Because they’re trapped in me, protected for now. And new loves are always waiting somewhere on the street, in the park, in the next bookstore aisle, or in that slim volume of poetry on the shelf.

Another night’s dream, another wild obsession that brings me this much closer to edge of the big ledge. The thing that dooms and damns and kills me by inches, and yet is somehow also the thing that, at least so far, has always kept me alive.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Getting Off: A Novel of Sex & Violence by Lawrence Block



Lawrence Block has written it all. Just check out his website for more than 50 years worth of material in a wide array of genres under a whole helluva lot of pseudonyms. Noted primarily as a crime writer, and voted a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America, Block is one of the most beloved and highly awarded mystery authors in the world. Hard Case Crime even started its line off with the first-class Block reprint GRIFTER’S GAME, which remains a favorite title among HCC fans. With another bestseller on the shelves at the moment, the latest in his long-running Matt Scudder series A DROP OF THE HARD STUFF, the author seems busier than ever. Also, for a guy who just celebrated his 73rd birthday, he’s utterly at ease with the inner works of social media. Just check out his Facebook, Twitter (@LawrenceBlock), newsletter, and brand new blog. It’s safe to say that Lawrence Block hasn’t slowed his step up in the least.

GETTING OFF is the first new novel Block has written for HCC and its first hardcover release. It revives his "Jill Emerson" pen name from his lesbian porn-writing past, and follows the bloody swath made by Kit Tolliver, the beautiful and psychotic anti-heroine of the novel. Kit has some impulse control issues thanks to the early trauma from advances made by her child molesting father. Now Kit has become a chameleon, whose identity is always changing but whose compulsion remains the same: she needs to have a lot of sex, and she needs to kill the men she sleeps with.

When the narrative begins Kit is already a wily, self-reliant killer who’s chalked up a lot of victims, but as they say, too much is never enough. Kit soon becomes obsessed with the five men she slept with who, for one reason or another, managed to get away alive. Now she’s on a mission to hunt each of the five down and scratch them off her list. Along the way she revisits an early boyfriend, finds herself the plaything of a murderous couple's sex game, and possibly even discovers true love.

This is racy, raucous, highly readable, and just plain fun naughty material that is as much a blazing satire of sexual dynamics as it is an over-the-top actioner of a serial killer stalking victims. Various chapters read like self-contained short stories (and according to the copyright page, some sections have appeared as complete tales in a couple of anthologies). You can practically hear Block chuckling as he tackles such scenarios and topics as married businessmen on the prowl in hotel lounges, slipping roofies to unsuspecting dates, sneaking out of bed before your one-night stand awakens, conjugal visits with the dame who set you up, the proper technique to snap somebody’s neck, and of course, how to clean blood off your icepick and whether to dispose of the body or just leave it where it lies.

So go and make room on your bookshelf now. Block is back, Jill Emerson is back, HCC is back, Scudder too is back, and the sexual revolution is back. And it’s a killer.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Camouflage by Bill Pronzini




Every time I finish off a Bill Pronzini novel I proclaim that it’s one of his best. And I do not lie. There’s a reason why he was elected a Mystery Writers of America Grand Master a couple of years back. The man raised the bar on himself and crime fiction decades ago and keeps it as high today as he ever has. Case in point, his latest Nameless Detective novel CAMOUFLAGE.

CAMOUFLAGE is a spot-on title that perfectly illustrates the theme of the novel’s two side-by-side plotlines. We’re talking about sociopaths who hide their inner evil from the rest of the world beneath a so-called normal exterior.

Nameless and his partner Tamara are asked by obnoxious well-to-do David Virden to hunt down the third of his three ex-wives so he can have the marriage annulled, leaving him free and clear to marry wife #4, an heiress who will set him up for life. However, after wife #3 is found Virden claims that Nameless and co. have made a mistake and he’s never met this woman before in his life. Soon after, Virden disappears, leaving Nameless and Tamara to wonder exactly what’s going on. Is it a case of mistaken identity, identity theft, or something much more sinister?

Meanwhile, employee Jake Runyon is taking care of a personal matter dealing with Bobby, his new lady interest Bryn’s son, who appears to be the victim of abuse. Covered in bruises and with a recently fractured arm, Bobby refuses to discuss the matter with his mother. Jake steps in to offer the kid some much needed guidance that Bobby isn’t getting from Bryn’s ex-husband, and he slowly earns the boy’s trust. Soon Jake is dealing with a psycho with a past full of cruelty and eventually finds himself knee-deep in murder.

The set-ups are relatively simplistic until you realize just how much truth, honesty, and humanity Pronzini has filled the novel with. In an age of thriller material that whips by at bullet train speed, the author purposefully slows the pace of his work in order to concentrate on authentic motivations, reactions, fears, and perplexities. Nameless has never been a brawling, gun-toting superman, and as he’s grown older he’s become even more of a sympathetic understandable everyman kind of character. Therein lies the strength of the series, and our unflagging interest in Bill Pronzini’s discerning, heart-felt literature.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Choke Hold by Christa Faust

In CHOKE HOLD, the follow-up to Edgar Award-nominated and true noir classic MONEY SHOT, author Christa Faust brings former porn star and black angel of vengeance Angel Dare back for another go-round of sex, danger, brutality, and all-around fun pulp nastiness.
After the events of MONEY SHOT, where spitfire Angel wound up cutting a murderous swath through the Croatian mob and testified against the human trafficking ring, she was placed into Federal Witness Protection, given and new identity, and promised complete safety. But black angels of vengeance rarely live the quiet life, and after nineteen months of normalcy, Angel found herself outside her therapist’s door listening to a familiar Croatian voice, and was forced to go on a run again.

Angel finds herself a waitress in an Arizona desert diner, using the outlaw owner to set herself up with a new passport, when in walks "Thick" Vic Ventura, a former lover and fellow star of adult cinema who just so happens to be meeting his eighteen year old son Cody for the very first time. So what’s noir fiction without at least one major coincidence to set the fuse on the whole explosive story? When Vic is blasted in the back by a bunch of punks, Angel promises to help the kid, a Mixed Martial Arts wannabe champion, get to Vegas and an MMA tryout. Along the way they pick up Cody’s trainer, the punchy but good-hearted Hank, and the trio is forced to outrun various killers and high-powered criminals through the desert and along the Mexican border.

Faust knows action; how to start it up and keep it going, and make it burn and jump either with gunfire, asskicking, or raucous sex. Her narrative is lean, readable as hell, and full of humor with just the right amount depth when it comes to her growing feelings for Cody. Angel’s attracted to him even while she’s forced to act as his surrogate parent, which is kind of funky and weird and adds a different kind of spin on the dynamics here. Angel’s also interested in brain-damaged Hank, who may be forgetful and loopy but is also a gentleman, the kind not often found in any of Angel’s previous spheres.

Fast-paced, witty, and engaging, CHOKE HOLD is likely to snap your clavicle or fracture your sternum with its high intensity action, violence, and stylish naughty verve. Also, let's all give it up to TITAN BOOKS for helping to keep our beloved Hard Case Crime going.