a book a week 1.3

Officially making this a monthly post. On to Round Three of mini-reviews: Fags and Lager Booze and Burn

Fags and Lager (retitled Booze and Burn) by Charlie Williams

"Royston Blake don't wipe arses for no fucker. I'm just being meta...you know, meta...I'm just saying like." BOOZE AND BURN has solidified the Mangel Series as some of my favorite books. I spent far too much time away after reading DEADFOLK (read my review here.) But I'm happy to say that BOOZE AND BURN held it's own and I'll be reading the next three books before the year is out. In BOOZE AND BURN, another outsider has arrived in the city of Mangel and kids are causing all kinds of disorderly mess. As Blake says so eloquently, "I'm Royston fucking Blake, and every cunt knows where I stands on outsiders. They don't scare us and I ain't fooled by their ways." The book takes place a couple of years after DEADFOLK, and Williams does a brilliant job making it stand on its own without dumping information about the events in DEADFOLK on the reader. Readers interested in a truly unique voice and a heavy dose of black humor should look no further.

Choke Hold

Choke Hold by Christa Faust

The sequel to Faust's Money Shot, CHOKE HOLD catches up with Angel Dare after the previous book's events wrap up - or so you think. CHOKE HOLD succeeds because of its believable characters and story. This isn't just an episodic series where characters heal and get a fresh restart. There are real consequences for Angel's actions and it's been great to watch her grow (and survive) over two novels. Hoping for a third!


Junkie Love by Joe Clifford

JUNKIE LOVE is a compelling wild ride in which Clifford lays his soul bare and pulls no punches. I think another reviewer may have described it best as "making you feel like you're rubbernecking a multi-car accident on the highway." To me, it felt like watching a swimmer come up for a little less air each time before dunking their face back in to take another stroke. A fascinating story and one hell of a gutsy book.

A Wind of Knives

A Wind of Knives by Ed Kurtz

Having enjoyed Kurtz's action-packed entry in the Sam Truman series, I was eager to pick up his latest novella. I'm a big fan of Westerns, though more through film and television than in print. I've read a lot of Western short stories but nothing novella/novel length. I went into A WIND OF KNIVES without reading the back cover blurb or any reviews, and I was pleasantly surprised with the direction Kurtz took with his tale of revenge. A WIND OF KNIVES is a story about love and revenge, but also about change. The novella takes place during the Civil War. A time of great upheaval when men were being conscripted into the Confederate Army and law enforcement spread thin between common crimes, deserters and the 'Indian threat.' It's during this time that the protagonist, Daniel Hays, finds his ranch hand (and lover) tortured and hanged by a gang of hateful men. What follows is a fast-paced tale full of memorable characters and events that will stand up well next to any Western piece of fiction.


Baby Juice by Brian Panowich

Being a fan of Zelmer Pulp, how could I not snap up a kindle single with a title like BABY JUICE? Panowich's sample of the upcoming Zelmer Pulp weird west collection introduces Harmon Brown, more beast than man and haunted by his past. BABY JUICE contains a lot of background on Brown that I hope Panowich delves into in future tales. BABY JUICE is an action-packed romp through 1880's Dodge City, teeming with weird western flair that made me wish I still had my old Deadlands books. Looking forward to more Weird Westerns.

asylum front 2013 new

Asylum - 13 Tales of Terror by Matt Drabble

I'm a sucker for asylum horror. From Dennis Lehane's Shutter Island to House on Haunted Hill (yes, I'll admit even the remake possessed a few parts I enjoyed). So Matt Drabble's ASYLUM - 13 TALES OF TERROR was right up my alley. The book follows Martin Parcell, former writer turned janitor at the Blackwater Heights hospital. I enjoyed the stories from Martin's perspective and learning about the patients and staff at the hospital, how they came to be there and why they remain. A few of the stories contained truly chilling moments and were just the right length to keep me coming back for more.

a book a week

For 2013 I made a resolution to read a book a week and review at least two a month. While I'm lagging a bit on reviews, I've done fairly well at keeping pace with my weekly reading. Here are a few of my recent favorites I think you'll enjoy... Crimes in Southern Indiana     Donnybrook

Crimes in Southern Indiana and Donnybrook by Frank Bill

Frank Bill has quickly become one of my favorite writers. CRIMES is a dark and twisted ride, dripping with authentic voice. It's a book that you should let sink in and take your time with over multiple sessions. It's easily one of my favorite short story collections, one that I'll continue to return to reread over the years. And given my praise for CRIMES, how could I not enjoy DONNYBROOK? Like a story from CRIMES, stretched to novel form, once DONNYBROOK gets hold of you, there is no putting it down. I read the book on a flight from Boston to Las Vegas in one sitting. Put these two in your library.

The Year of the Storm

The Year of the Storm by John Mantooth

A terrific debut novel from John Mantooth. Read my review here and pick up a copy when it's released on June 3!

The Hard Bounce

The Hard Bounce by Todd Robinson

Well written and fast paced, Robinson's tale of two bouncers on the trail of a missing teenager in Boston is hard to put down (especially since I live in Boston). The book feels historical in a sense that it captures a gritty part of the city that is all but gone (strange coincidence just before I read THE HARD BOUNCE, The Boston Phoenix shut down). Another great debut novel that I highly recommend.


Needle Fall/Winter 2012 edited by Steve Weddle

Worth it for Dan O'Shea's story, "The Shroud of Turin," alone. I rarely (and I mean rarely) have to put down a book, but this one got to me. If you are a father (especially a relatively new one such as myself), O'Shea's tale of a father struggling to take care of his son will break you heart.

I'm Not Sam     The Passenger

I'm Not Sam and The Passenger by Jack Ketchum

I've recently been on a bit of a novella kick. I won't venture into the plot of either - as with much of Jack Ketchum's work, the less you know the better, and doubly so with I'M NOT SAM. THE PASSENGER was included in one of the paperback editions of Ketchum's novel RED (one of my favorite books). I'M NOT SAM is new and available solo. Both of these stories will horrify and continue to lurk in your brain.

Fierce Bitches

Fierce Bitches by Jedidiah Ayres

I'm a fan of the guys at Crime Factory and as soon as I saw the blurbs for FIERCE BITCHES, I knew I had to pick it up. Ayres brutal novella is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino - a kind of Pulp Fiction meets Django Unchained. Lightning fast pace combined with an interesting structure that will keep you glued to the page. The book felt partly experimental, and if so, it was a resounding success.

Catch My Killer

Catch My Killer by Ed Kurtz

Kurtz knocks it out of the park with the first of the Sam Truman series. Enjoyable characters (especially Sam) and a great sense of humor. Reminded be a bit of Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series. Ron Earl Phillips has an in depth look at the Sam Truman series here. Looking forward to reading book two - The Last Invasion by Brandon Zuern.

Thuglit Issue 4

Thuglit Issue #4 edited by Todd Robinson

Because it's a crackin' good issue and I've got a story in there to boot!

What about you, readers? What's on your nightstand?

Next on deck:

Penance  Broken Branch  The Street  Choke Hold  Fags and Lager  Capture  Lush Situation  Abyss

Penance: A Chicago Thriller by Dan O'Shea

Broken Branch by John Mantooth

The Street by Ann Petry

Choke Hold by Christa Faust

Fags & Lager by Charlie Williams

Capture by Roger Smith

Lush Situation by K.A. Laity

Staring into the Abyss by Richard Thomas

The Next Big Thing makes another stop in Boston

A few weeks ago, my good friend and top-notch writer, Bracken MacLeod (Check out his Next Big Thing - It's preparing to dish out serious bloody noses), asked me if anyone had hit me up for The Next Big Thing yet. At the sight of my blank stare he exclaimed, "HA, you're mine!" and it was on. I continue the chain below, turning a tiny spotlight on my work-in-progress and passing the torch to five writers who will post next week. Without further ado, I present my Next Big Thing: 1. What is the working title of your book?

Luckily I've been able to come up with titles for my short stories, but when it came to the novel I really struggled. I went through quite a few ideas before, two-thirds of the way through the second draft, I came across a word that I think fits the protagonist's life and the action on the page perfectly: BOTTLED.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

In early 2012 I took a class taught by the great Christa Faust called Tough Dames: How to Write Believable Hardboiled Heroines, over at Litreactor. I had just finished an intensive ten week class at Grubstreet and somewhere in my brain I thought it would be a good idea to jump right back into the fire. The Hardboiled Boot Camp, as Christa dubbed it, put me through the ringer. I learned a ton about my writing style in one short month and found the experience invaluable - hell, she critiqued my work. How often does a wee writer like me get that opportunity? For the first week's assignment I was given the Black Widow trope and tasked with turning it into something new. My story, "Birth of a Black Widow," about a woman who begins to murder gamblers for their money in Reno, received praise but failed to really transform the trope. But I loved the idea so I went back to the drawing board and after a lot of massaging, I had a much more developed character and an outline for a novel.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Crime/Noir/Hardboiled. Bottled has become a little more Hardboiled than I initially intended but I think the core tone of the book is Noir.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Jena Malone. Her knack for playing strong rebellious characters would make for a bad ass heroine.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

In the wake of her father's gambling debt, a young woman is forced to confront her past and the bleak reality of her predicament.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I plan to pursue an agency first, but the novel is on the shorter side and may fair better with a small press.  I'm not against self-publishing (there are some wonderful books out there) but I don't have the money, or more importantly the time, to give it the promotional effort it deserves.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A month. I got home from NECON 32 with an overwhelming adrenaline rush to write (somehow eclipsing the hangover and exhaustion from the long weekend). I went through the outline and decided I'd get up at 3:00 AM and write 2,500 words each day until it was finished (cue insanity.) Four months and a lot of coffee later, I'm still in the routine so something must be working. I just finished the second draft and I'm on track to complete it by early 2013.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I'd compare it to Megan Abbott's Queen Pin and Christa Faust's Money Shot.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

Definitely Christa Faust, who gave me the spark in class, but the real push came after NECON. I had the pleasure of meeting many great creative professionals (John Dixon, TJ May, Matthew Dow Smith, Jeff Strand, Linda Addison, Jack Haringa, Jan Kozlowski, Michael Penncavage...to name just a few.) I can't quantify the inspirational effect of being around such a wonderful group of creatives.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Prior to the book I had written very few female characters and I challenged myself to create a layered, believable woman. She is a strong young woman who begins the story believing she has been cheated in life, but when the shit hits the fan and she really loses everything, it forces her to make choices and see the world around her for what it really is: a struggle. She doesn't go around guns-blazing, instead, fumbles her way through the changes in the landscape. It's a dark noir but not without a tiny bit of hope. My overall idea is to write a series of connected books, each told from a different character's perspective. I've outlined the majority of the second novel, which I plan to start after taking a short break once this one wraps.

And now to pass the torch to five other writers who you should be keeping an eye on:

Errick Nunnally - My good friend is on the cusp of something big. A writer (and artist) who you can't pin down to any one genre. I'm picking 2013 as Year of the Nunnally. Keep an eye out for this man's stuff.

Joe Dellagatta - I met Joe at Boston ComicCon in 2011 and have had the great pleasure of collaborating with him on two projects, the most recent of which is Dreadworks Journal. He's an incredible artist and his current project is sure to draw eyes from major players in the comic industry.

Chris Shearer - Another friend I met at this year's NECON. Chris is currently tearing it up in Seton Hill's MFA program (where his novel is getting some serious attention) and reading (and editing!) more in a day then I do in a month. Do yourself a favor and check out his story "Saturday Station" for free over at Big Pulp.

David Price - David recently published short stories in such collections as Dangers Untold and Tales from the Grave. He's currently putting the finishing touches on a massive novel which I can't wait to read.

Carol Borden - I met Carol through her stories in Weird Noir - two terrific reads that caught me totally by surprise. In addition to writing fiction, she is the Evil Overlord at The Cultural Gutter, a website dedicated to genre and comics. Check out her Monstrous Industry Etsy store.