The Throes of Crime with Erik Arneson

I'm thrilled for my good friend and all around great writer/editor/comic writer/boardgamer/dude, Erik Arneson, and the recent release of his debut short story collection, THE THROES OF CRIME. the-throes-of-crime-finalCalculating hitmen. Corrupt politicians. Sociopathic rock singers. Incompetent private investigators. Sword-wielding orangutans. You'll find them all in THE THROES OF CRIME, a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays by Derringer Award finalist Erik Arneson.

Arneson's stories, which flow effortlessly from dark noir to wicked humor, have been published by Thuglit, Needle, Otto Penzler's Kwik Krimes, Akashic Books' Mondays Are Murder, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter Online, and more. THE THROES OF CRIME also features seven brand-new short stories, never before published anywhere.

All proceeds from THE THROES OF CRIME benefit the James & Jeanne Arneson Memorial Scholarship Fund, which provides financial support to graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota, who display an aptitude in creative writing by authoring a short story. The goal of the scholarship is to encourage students from Wilmot to continue writing fiction well beyond high school, to tell the stories that only they can tell. Powerful stories and funny stories and magical stories - stories the world is waiting for, even if it doesn't realize it just yet.

THE THROES OF CRIME is your debut collection. Congrats! Give me the quick pitch!

Thanks! The Throes of Crime is a collection of 26 short stories and six true-crime essays. Some of the stories are brand-new; others were previously published by Thuglit, Needle, Shotgun Honey, Out of the Gutter Online, Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine, and more. The essays were first published in Duane Swierczynski’s great comic book The Black Hood.

All proceeds from the book go to a scholarship fund set up in memory of my parents to benefit graduates of Wilmot High School in Wilmot, South Dakota.

Did you notice any themes emerge over the course of putting the book together?

Some themes definitely emerged even though the stories cover a variety of times, from the mid-19th century to the present, and locations, from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Superior, Wisconsin. The table of contents is split into categories like crimes of vengeance, crime in the workplace, and partners in crime.

There’s also -- despite there being some pretty dark, noirish stories in the collection -- a good amount of humor to be found in the book.

Given your background in government, have you worked politics into your fiction?

How could I not? One of my favorites (“Twitter and Coke”) is a story written entirely in the form of tweets about a politician who really, really should not be allowed to use Twitter unsupervised.

Another (“All Alone”) is set in 1951 Philadelphia, a time when the city was embroiled in a vast web of corruption by public officials. It was so bad that at least six city employees wound up committing suicide.

What draws you to writing crime?

The fact that the stakes are so high for everyone involved. And it usually doesn’t matter if the crime seems silly on the surface, like stealing used french fry grease. If someone commits a crime, there’s probably something going on that’s worth exploring. Desperation, jealousy, greed, fear -- those are powerful things and endlessly interesting to write about.

I especially enjoy stories that touch on how the human spirit can continue to shine in life’s darkest moments.

Favorite Shotgun Honey memory?

Shotgun Honey is an amazing website. As editors, we received so many great submissions. I always loved opening a story from an author I’d never heard of before and being blown away. But my favorite memory is easy: Hanging out with you, Jen Conley, and our fearless leader Ron Earl Phillips at Bouchercon in Albany, New York.

If you could turn one of your stories into a board game, which would it be? Why?

I love this question. I’m going with “Dairy of Destruction” because the idea of a board game about a gang of barnyard animals plotting to take over the world delights me.

Top 5 board games?

My list of favorite games is always changing because there are so many great games available today. It’s a fantastic time to be a board gamer!

Pandemic Legacy is at the top of the list. Brilliant and compelling. The gameplay is superb, and the storyline that evolves over the course of repeated plays is unlike anything I’ve experienced before in a board game.

Other current favorites include Ticket to Ride: Pennsylvania (building train routes in my home state -- hard to get better than that!), Codenames (a truly genius party/word game), and America (an excellent party/trivia game). Finally, it’s been far too long since I’ve played Betrayal at House on the Hill; there’s a new expansion called Widow’s Walk that I’m looking forward to playing.

Thanks, Erik! Check out THE THROES OF CRIME on Amazon.

Erik Arneson lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and editor, Elizabeth. His first book, THE THROES OF CRIME, is available now. He hosts the Title 18:Word Crimes podcast. His comic book FORTUNE is available from Comixology, Indy Planet, and NoiseTrade. Find him at ErikArneson.com.

CANNIBALS: STORIES FROM THE EDGE OF THE PINE BARRENS with Jen Conley

I've gotten to know Jen Conley over the past few years through conventions and working alongside her at Shotgun Honey, and as a big fan of her work, I'm very excited to see her debut collection, CANNIBALS: STORIES FROM THE EDGE OF THE PINE BARRENS, hitting shelves this May. It was a pleasure catching up with Jen and discussing the book. Check out the pre-order via the stellar cover image below. Jen Conley_Can

Chris: You are well known in the short crime fiction world, but for those who don't know, who is Jen Conley and what's CANNIBALS all about?

Jen: I write crime fiction, usually peppered with a bit of horror. Most of my fiction takes place in the Ocean County area of New Jersey, where I grew up and still live. For a few years I’ve been one of the editors of Shotgun Honey, a flash fiction site that publishes crime fiction. In my other life, I have a fourteen-year-old son and I teach seventh grade Literacy, otherwise known as English.

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Chris: Many of your stories are set in or around the Pine Barrens. I don't know too much about New Jersey and its geography, but I found this setting to be fascinating. Can you talk a bit about it? What draws you to it? What does it mean to you?

Jen: The Pine Barrens is a large region of forested land in central and southern New Jersey. Because of the sandy soil, or “sugar sand”, it wasn’t great for farming so it’s been pretty much been left undisturbed. It became protected land in 1978 under the Pinelands National Reserve, which also protects the watershed areas. (Although, sadly, a gas line was just approved to run through part of it.) Anyhow, in the 1700s and 1800s, there was some industry--sawmills and iron--but it was a difficult place to live, so towns would pop up and go abandoned. Today, it’s the largest body of protected area in the mid-Atlantic states. The trees are scrub pines, which are pygmy pines, and that, with the sugar sand and the lack of development, give the area a ghostly, desolate feel. Especially at night, when you can hear all sorts of wildlife--several types of frogs, toads, insects, owls. It’s really a great place to visit, just bring your bug spray. The mosquitoes and pine flies, especially the pine flies, are downright relentless. Those things hurt.

I guess I’m drawn to it because of the spookiness--lots of “ghost” towns of abandoned settlements. This area used to have a pretty strong iron industry until it moved to western Pennsylvania, so, like I said, it’s pretty desolate. I’m also attracted to the drabness, too, because it’s not pretty forest at all, but it makes for a wonderful setting for crime fiction. The people who live in this area are usually not wealthy, it’s pretty middle class and working-class, and for someone who likes to write about ghosts and working-class people, it’s perfect for me. Plus, it’s where I grew up, so I tend to be sentimental even if it doesn’t come completely across in my stories.

Oh, one more thing--the famous Sopranos episode, “The Pine Barrens,” that wasn’t filmed in the Pine Barrens. It was filmed in upstate New York. It’s a fantastic episode but the first time I saw it, I was really pissed. I could tell it wasn’t filmed in the Pinelands because the trees were wrong, and when the camera panned out, there were large hills in the background. There are no large hills in the Pine Barrens. It’s mostly flat.

Chris: Your stories featuring your character Officer Vogel are some of my favorites. In the past we've talked about you doing more with her. Any plans?

Jen: I’d like to because I love her character but I don’t have any definite plans yet. She’s a very reticent person, compassionate on the inside, but cold and tough on the outside. It’s a good mix for a character of a crime novel but I need a plot and I haven’t wrapped my head around an idea yet. I’m working on it.

Chris: I love how you tackle trust/mistrust in your stories featuring Vogel, and even more so in "Pipe" and "June." What draws you to these stories?

Jen: I’m a big fan the theme of betrayal. I guess that’s why I love The Godfather I and II, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos. Even my all-time favorite, Mad Men, works on this theme because Don Draper spends his entire adult life betraying himself.

But in both “Pipe” and “June,” we’re dealing with kids, kids who are betrayed by adults. There is another level of tragedy in that and I think it breaks my heart--I like to write stories that break my heart on some level, even if I’m ending it on an upswing. I also like writing about kids but I’m aware that creating sympathy for them is an easy gig, because everyone feels bad for a kid in trouble. So I have to tone down my kid story ideas, not write so many.

Chris: Talk about the process of forming the collection, the selection of stories, etc. Any must-haves? Anything not make the cut?

Jen: It took me a long time to put a collection together. I tried before but I found I was writing stories to fill the collection and they weren’t all up to par, so it’s almost as if I had to wait until they all came to me. Until I was happy with each and every single one.

As for selecting stories, I wanted to pick the stories that actually took place in the area I was writing about. I have stories that take place in London, in New York City too, and those didn’t make the cut because they didn’t take place in Ocean County, NJ, which is part of the collection’s signature. In addition, some of my Pine Barrens stories didn’t make the cut because their themes were too close to something I’d already chosen.

I also made a point to bookend the collection with two stories: “Home Invasion” and “Angels.” In my first story, “Home Invasion,” the main character is haunted by a devil. In the last story, “Angels,” the main character is haunted by angels. So those two were definite picks. I suppose I was going for the classic ying/yang idea.

Chris: "Pipe" might be my favorite of the collection. How did this story come about?

Jen: Back when I was in high school, there was a small skinny kid who was bullied by some of the older boys. One of the older boys told the kid he was going to beat the shit out of him the following day. So the kid came to school with a pipe and hid out in the bathroom. I think he was caught before anything went down. I don’t remember much else about the incident, none of the names, etc., which is good because then I could write the story as fiction. Yes, there was a movie from ‘87 called “Three O’Clock High” with a similar premise, but that was comedy, and bad comedy at that because it wasn’t a good film. The real story from my school was very sad, and this sad, desperate image of going to school with a pipe to defend yourself against boys who were the size of fully-grown men just hung out in my head for years.

Chris: "Home Invasion" is another favorite, in which I get a strong "A Good Man is Hard to Find" vibe. Who/what do you see as your influences?

Jen: Definitely Flannery O’Connor. That has to be one of the best stories ever written, by the way.

I’m a big fan of the short stories by Annie Proulx. I also love the short stories by Edward P. Jones and Ron Rash. I think those three writers are my biggest influences, none of which are actually “crime” but there’s a sense of place and people who struggle constantly, which is what crime fiction should encompass, or at least, I think so.

But as for writers, or collections of stories that made an impression on me when I was young, I’d have to say the stories by Langston Hughes. One of my college professors had us read them and I remember I enjoyed the tales everyday people just trying to get by but more so, I was influenced by his style. His characters jump off the page, as do his descriptions. But his descriptions aren’t overblown, just very simple. One sentence and you can see everything. That’s what I like.

One collection that has stayed with me over the years is Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behavior. She’s a beautiful writer but boy, does she hit you in the gut and that collection is relentless. I haven’t read everything she’s written although I read Veronica a few years ago. It’s gorgeously written (and I took some notes on her style) but that book depressed me for weeks. Hell, I think it stayed on my mind for almost a year. There are so many painfully beautiful images on those pages that to this day are forever planted in my brain. But the bottom line is that I was bugged out by that book. I don’t know why I’m telling you this. Maybe I’m just impressed by her power and as a writer, that’s a bar I’d like to reach.

One other thing--although I love my mob movies and TV shows, I’m not a fan of too much blood. I like stories about people’s lives, about what’s going on inside and around them, about how they got to the violence. Not so much the violence itself.

Chris: How has your work with Shotgun Honey influenced your writing?

Jen: I think so. Not everything that comes through the submissions process is successful and I think that’s what really hits home with me--sometimes I’ll read a story and start reworking it in my head and then I realize I can’t do that for every writer. What Shotgun Honey has also taught me is draw it tight. One or two scenes, one to three characters, one problem. And because we only accept 700 words per story, it’s very, very important to make sure every single word counts. Leave out the backstory--and I love backstory-- but you can’t do that in flash. So your backstory has to be a sentence or two and then your character in action has to show the rest.

Chris: Any plans for a book launch or readings around release this year?

Jen: June 3rd, I’m having a book event at Mysterious Bookshop in Manhattan. Hopefully I’ll have more events. I’m new at this promotional stuff.

Chris: What's next?

Jen: I’ve decided to take a break from short stories. They’re my great love but I’m never going to get anywhere if I just write short stories. So I’m working on a thriller/horror book. It’s about a woman who gets involved with a bad guy--I know that’s vague--but she’s in transitional point in her life, she’s restless and also desperate to have a family, and he’s good-looking, cool, and all that good stuff. It’s got a horror touch so there’s more to it but I guess I’m going for a thread of reality--what happens when you land a guy who seems perfect for you, accepts you as you are (my main character has some horrible scars from a dog attack) but as the relationship evolves, he becomes darker, almost abusive, then abusive, and you have come to the realization that you have extricate yourself from it all. Of course, it takes place in Ocean County and I’ve got the “first draft” written but I’m in the process of slowly and methodically going through each chapter, rearranging, cutting, expanding, rewriting. My writing MO is this: blow through the first draft, then go back and do the “decorating” as I like to call it. This method works for me only because of computers--you never really have to write new drafts, do you? You just improve on the first. I have no idea how anyone wrote in the old days, before computers, before you could cut and paste and then cut and rewrite… what a pain in the neck.

Thanks for having me Chris! It’s been a lot of fun.

April/May Noir Catch-All

It's been a busy couple of months! Between travel and scribbling away furiously as deadlines approach, the blog has taken a backseat. Here's a short recap: Noir at the Bar Crew[Left to Right - Dale Phillips, Connie Johnson Hambley, Errick Nunnally, Chris Irvin, Tony McMillen, Bracken MacLeod, Mike Miner, Stona Fitch, Patrick Shawn Bagley]

Noir at the Bar Boston II was a great success. Nine authors read some stellar fiction in front of a big crowd. Beers were drank, books were raffled, good times were had. Here's a recap courtesy of Dale Phillips. Stay tuned for news on the next event - June 15th, 6-8pm at Trident Booksellers & Cafe.

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Speaking of fun, Independent Bookstore Day at Papercuts J.P. was a blast. Paul Tremblay and I read some of our favorite fiction by other writers that has inspired us (Shirley Jackson, Nathan Ballingrud) and had a great chat about crime and horror. Be sure to snag Paul's A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS when it drops in June!

Here's a shot Paul took of me talking to myself...err...my doing my thing..

Papercuts

Essay

Write The Individual - a short bit on me writing from a female first person POV, the Andrew Smith debacle and advice from Kelly Sue DeConnick.

Interviews

Terribleminds: Five Things I Learned Writing BURN CARDS

One Bite at a Time - Twenty Questions

Chatteriffic

Reviews

My Bookish Ways: Read This

Bracken MacLeod - I like my Noir dark, thank you very much!

Just A Guy That Likes To Read

Chris Dikes - Despair runs deep...

Goodreads

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Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels 3

The third volume from Shotgun Honey is out! This baby was a ton of work and took a couple of delays to come together, but I'm proud of how it turned out. Give it a look - there is some fantastic stuff within.

Featuring 25 stories of crime:

“A Boy Like Billy” by Patricia Abbott “Border Crossing” by Michael McGlade “Looking for the Death Trick” by Bracken MacLeod “Maybelle’s Last Stand” by Travis Richardson “Predators” by Marie S. Crosswell “Twenty to Life” by Frank Byrns “So Much Love” by Keith Rawson “Running Late” by Tess Makovesky “Last Supper” by Katanie Duarte “Danny” by Michael Bracken “The Plot” by Jedidiah Ayres “What Alva Wants” by Timothy Friend “Time Enough to Kill” by Kent Gowran “Copas” by Hector Acosta “Yellow Car Punch” by Nigel Bird “Love at First Fight” by Angel Luis Colón “Traps” by Owen Laukkanen “Down the Rickety Stairs” by Alan Orloff “Blackmailer’s Pep Talk” by Chris Rhatigan “With a Little bit of Luck” by Bill Baber “As Cute as a Speckled Pup Under a Red Wagon” by Tony Conaway “Chipping off the Old Block” by Nick Kolakowski “Young Turks and Old Wives” by Shane Simmons “The Hangover Cure” by Seth Lynch “Highway Six” by John L. Thompson

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Bouchercon!

It's official - I'll be crashing Bouchercon 2015 in Raleigh, NC come October. AND my buddy Joe Clifford is up for TWO Anthony Awards - LAMENTATION (Best Novel) and TROUBLE IN THE HEARTLAND (Best Anthology or Collection) - the latter of which is extra-awesome as it features my story, "Death to My Hometown." Hope you see you there.

Until next time...thank you to everyone for your support of BURN CARDS. Can't wait to announce what's coming next.

BURNCARDS

 

 

MysteryPeople & My Bookish Ways Interviews

Federales_BookPeopleNot one but TWO new interviews popped up this week. Over at My Bookish Ways, I discuss my writing process, short stories, Mexico and editing for Shotgun Honey.

The interview with MysteryPeople digs into the meat of FEDERALES, including the end of the book (beware of some spoilers.) It was a challenging interview that forced me to reflect on the book in ways that I hadn't necessarily focused on in the past (in other words, it was a great interview and I hope readers find some value in it.)

The interviews were a lot of fun and I think both are worth a read for different reasons.

Also, if you're interested in picking up FEDERALES, BookPeople (photographed above) have it in stock. Check out the paperback and help support independent bookstores.

LOCKED & LOADED - Shotgun Honey open for submissions

OEPSubmissions are now being accepted for Shotgun Honey’s third anthology, Locked and Loaded: Both Barrels Vol. 3, which will be published by One Eye Press later this year. We’re looking for great crime fiction stories between 1,500 and 4,500 words long. If you’re interested, check out the complete submission guidelines. The deadline for submissions is May 11, 2014.

 

Sunday News Clippings

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Pour that cup o' joe and get reading.

The ShortList Crime Challenge - new flash fiction from Frank Bill, George Pelecanos, Joe R Lansdale, Daniel Woodrell, James Sallis, John Connolly, and many more. Shotgun Honey is waiting...

...and speaking of Shotgun Honey - we've got a new look! Still a WIP (adding more author pages from past contributors daily) but it is looking mighty nice. Ron Earl Phillips is a pro.

What do readers want from an author? - Steve Weddle discusses author appearances/readings over at Do Some Damage.

Clayton Lindemuth shares his experience of using social media to promote his novel, COLD QUIET COUNTRY.

Laird Barron on the resistance writers receive in pursuit of their craft.

Jessica Bell on Why Literary Journals Should Accept Reprints and Simultaneous Submissions.

Weird Fiction Review hosts an interview with Nathan Ballingrud. (Have I mentioned how much I enjoyed NALM? Yes, you need it.

Daniel Menaker on publishing industry insanity. What Does the Book Business Look Like on the Inside?

Meghan Arcuri gives a great recap of this year's Anthocon.

AND...last but certainly not least, I give you three wonderful stories that are FREE to read.

PUSH WITH ALL YOUR LOVE by KL Pereira @ The Golden Key

SWIM WANTS TO KNOW IF IT'S AS BAD AS SWIM THINKS by Paul Tremblay @ Bourbon Penn

SALVAGES by Gabrielle Hovendon @ Whiskeypaper

Enjoy this little roundup? Let me know and I'll keep 'em coming.

Interview with Terrence McCauley

Most of you who visit this site know I do a little 'book a week' post each month to review/promote writers and their work. For a few months I've had plans to follow up some of those reviews with author interviews. Alas, life got busy (as it tends to do) but here we are (better late than never) kicking it off with SLOW BURN crime/pulp author TERRENCE MCCAULEY.

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Winner of the 2013 Stalker Award for most Criminally Underrated Author, McCauley is the author of two novels,  PROHIBITION and SLOW BURN, as well as numerous short stories in THUGLIT, THE CRIMSON MASK, NOIR NATION, ATOMIC NOIR, THE KENNEDY CURSE, THE BIG ADIOS, and SHOTGUN HONEY, among others. He also is an editor for the FIGHT CARD series and GRAND CENTRAL NOIR, a charity anthology.

Prohibition     Grand Central Noir     Slow Burn

What kinds of fiction did you read growing up? What grabbed you and still sticks with you today?

Growing up in the 80s (I'll be 40 in February), I actually hated to read. I was more of a movie/tv kid. I'd fall asleep trying to read, even if it was necessary for school work. But I was fortunate enough to come from a family of story tellers, so I was surrounded by plot development and characters, though I didn't even know it at the time.

In high school, I had to read THE SHINING and my love of reading grew from there. I gravitated to action books like CATHEDRAL by Nelson DeMille and epics like TAI PAN by James Clavell. TAI PAN was the first book that made me want to take a shot at writing a story on my own. It took a while for me to actually do it, but the seed was planted.

As for the genres I read now, I'm all over the place. I read westerns, spy thrillers, pulp stuff and even zombie novels. I try not to get stale with my writing or my reading.

Much of your writing takes place in the 1920's and 30's. What about this time period keeps bringing you back?

I enjoy writing about the 1920s and 1930s because it's a simpler time in which to tell a crime story. I can focus on telling a story without worrying about describing modern crime techniques and technology. All of that is important and can lead to great stories, it's just not the kind of story I want to tell. I enjoy writing about that period of American history following the horrors of World War 1; a war we've unfortunately forgotten about in part because there isn't as much footage available about it as World War 2 and subsequent wars. World War 1 is also a very difficult war whose origins are difficult to understand. That war deeply affected the psyche of an entire generation of people throughout the world. I'm not talking about the supposed Lost Generation like Fitzgerald and Hemingway and others. They were drunks and flakes and bullies looking for an excuse to get drunk and would've found it even in the best of times. I'm talking about the regular people who came back from the war or lived through it here at home and had to rebuild their lives. The impact of the war and the resulting economic boom led to a dynamic time - Prohibition, The Roaring 20's (in spite of Prohibition) and The Great Depression. The era is filled with interesting characters in turmoil which makes for a great dramatic setting.

What do you think makes for compelling noir?

To me, compelling noir is bad things happening to imperfect people. Compelling noir also avoids stereotypes, like the alcoholic, haunted detective. The smoldering bombshell client with trouble in her heart and sin on her mind. The tough, but beautiful government agent. I roll my eyes when I read descriptions of stories like that and tend to buy something else. Of course, the protagonist has to be wronged in some way, otherwise their wouldn't be a story. But the characters themselves can be different and free from old time plot devices that may have worked decades ago, but have become somewhat clichéd now.

As we are nearing the holidays - What are some of your favorite books and short stories from 2013 that you recommend readers check out?

The best thing about being a noir/pulp writer right now, there are so many talented people working out there today - both in the long and short forms. Long form you've got Johnny Shaw's BIG MARIA  and Todd Robinson's THE HARD BOUNCE and Dana King's GRIND JOINT are all winners. Les Edgerton's THE RAPIST is a hard book to read because of the subject matter, but it's still a hell of a tale. Tim O'Mara's CROOKED NUMBERS and Charles Salzberg's DEVIL IN THE HOLE are both great.

As for the short form, damned near anything featured in THUGLIT or SHOTGUN HONEY/BOTH BARRELS are always good places to look for fiction. Stories by you [editor's note: yes... there were bribes involved], Nik Korpon, Jen Conley and Richie Narvaez are examples of some of the finest fiction in the genre. In my opinion, this is a great time to be a crime fiction writer, but an even better time to be a crime fiction reader.

Speaking of short fiction, I'd also ask everyone to take a look at GRAND CENTRAL NOIR, an anthology I edited where every single dime goes straight to a wonderful charity here in NYC called 'God's Love, We Deliver'. It's great fiction for a great cause.

Thanks, Terrence!

a book a week 1.6

Post-Bouchercon review time. A lot of new friends and a few recommendations later, I'm swamped with more books on my plate than ever before. But how can I complain? It only gets better and better. On to the reviews!

Bar Scars

Bar Scars by Nik Korpon

Nik Korpon was one of the usual suspects in the small group I toured with most of the time around the Bouchercon campus. A very cool guy and a fantastic writer. I had a great time talking everything from Baltimore to Pigeon books with him (parents with small children...it happens). So it was cool to see that his short story collection, BAR SCARS, was set in Baltimore.

This collection is DARK. One of my favorite kind of books - that I enjoy even more by putting down after a couple of stories and letting them soak in, rather than reading straight through. My favorite story was "A Sparrow with White Scars," followed by "His Footsteps are Made of Soot," and "Haymaker." Heartbreaking stuff and awesome prose.

Happy to be sharing a ToC with Nik in the newly release NOIR NATION #3.

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Under the Dixie Moon by Ro Cuzon

Ro Cuzon was another cool cat in the small crew I rolled around with at Bouchercon. I was sold the moment another writer deemed UNDER THE DIXIE MOON to be like the television show, THE WIRE, only set in New Orleans. Like some of my favorite books, the setting, New Orleans, plays a huge role in UNDER THE DIXIE MOON - almost a character itself. It took me a few pages to get into the novel, but once I was in tune with Cuzon's style, I was hooked to the finish. Cuzon weaves a gritty, complex tale with compelling characters that I found myself liking more and more as I got to know them (even those 'unlikeable' ones). Solid Noir.

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Blade of Dishonor by Thomas Pluck

Action-packed, pulpy goodness! I met Tom only a couple of times in passing and he's one of several writers I wish I had more time with. I'd been meaning to buy BLADE OF DISHONOR all weekend and as luck would have it, I won it by answering one of Todd Robinson's THUGLIT questions correctly at the "Noir at the Bar" panel. BLADE OF DISHONOR was a lot of fun and you can tell the amount of passion and research that Pluck put into it, especially for the WWII storyline. In a way, this book is like getting two stories for the price of one; the story of Butch, the main character's father, could stand on it's own as an excellent book, and while I enjoyed Rage Cage Reeve's storyline, I found myself looking forward to the next installment of WWII action with each passing chapter. Looking forward to more pulp from Pluck.

Drift

Drift by Jon McGoran

DRIFT had been on my 'to read' list since it was released and received praise from several of my friends. In another case of "wish I had read it before I met the author" (of which I appear to have a chronic condition), I had the great pleasure of hearing McGoran read at the "Noir at the Bar" panel (a great back and forth between the main character, Doyle Carrick, and his partner) and chatting with him again, later that night.

I found DRIFT (an excellent and very appropriate title, by the way...) to be compelling and entertaining on a number of fronts, not the least of which was centering the mystery around GMOs. McGoran successfully instructed me on a foreign subject matter without slowing the pace of the story and/or dumping paragraphs of information. I loved the small town setting and the suspended/powerless cop vs. Sheriff struggle early on, and the transformation of their relationship. Tightly paced, great characters and a fascinating mystery. I'm looking forward to McGoran's next book, the sequel to DRIFT, entitled, DEADOUT, coming summer 2014.

NEXT FROM BOUCHERCON: Looking forward to Johnny Shaw's BIG MARIA, Joe R. Lansdale's THE THICKET, and Ed Kurtz's BLEED.

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Shotgun Honey!

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It goes without saying that one of the best moments of Bouchercon 2013 was getting the Shotgun Honey crew together in person for the first time. Jen, Erik and Ron are wonderful people, and I'm more proud than ever to be in their company.

Not only are they wonderful people, but they produce some excellent fiction as well. Check out their latest works (several of which are available online for free) at the links below:

Ron Earl Phillips - "The Last Shot" (5 Broken Winchesters)

Jen Conley - "Mary Mulligan" (Grand Central Noir), "Kick" (Literary Orphans), "Howling" (Beat to a Pulp), AND her story, "Finn's Missing Sister" (NEEDLE) was shortlisted for BEST AMERICAN MYSTERY STORIES 2013!

Erik Arneson - "Noose of Trust" (GRIFT), "Oh Well" (Flash Fiction Offensive), "All Alone" (RELOADED)

RELOADED!

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RELOADED BOTH BARRELS Vol 2 is out and boy is she a beaut! Available in both paperback and e-book, but with gorgeous front/back cover art from the talented Joe DellaGatta, this is a book you'll want to have on your shelf. RELOADED was a blast to work on, and I hope you all enjoy it. Hats off to fellow editors Ron Earl Phillips and Jen Conley, and a HUGE thank you to all the contributors.

SHOTGUN HONEY, the premier crime and noir flash fiction website, is locked and RELOADED with 25 new stories by some of the best authors in the world. Featuring work from Patti Abbott, Hector Acosta, Erik Arneson, Cheri Ause, Trey R. Barker, Eric Beetner, Terence Butler, Joe Clifford, Garnett Elliott, Rob W. Hart, Andy Henion, John Kenyon, Nick Kolakowski, Ed Kurtz, Frank Larnerd, Chris Leek, Mike Loniewski, Bracken MacLeod, Julia Madeleine, Brian Panowich, Terry Rietta, Rie Sheridan Rose, Ryan Sayles, Richard Thomas and John Weagly.

Available through Amazon.

Kwik Krimes

Kwik Krimes KWIK KRIMES edited by Otto Penzler drops this week, containing 81 short crime stories by some of the best writers in the field - both new and established. Featuring five stories originally published in Shotgun Honey (Erik Arneson, R. Thomas Brown, Matthew C. Funk, Jim Spry, Jim Wilsky) and other fantastic works from Shotgun Honey alum such as Patti Abbott, K.A. Laity, Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Eric Beetner, Dana C. Kabel and more.

Add in the likes of Christa Faust, Ken Bruen, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jim Fusilli, Chuck Hogan, Joe R. Lansdale, Lyndsay Faye, Andrew Klavan, Tasha Alexander and David Corbett, and you've got a must read collection.

Let's keep this series rollin'!

REVIEW: Dead Animals

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C.S. DeWildt's new collection of short fiction, DEAD ANIMALS, boasts a mix short stories and flash fiction - 34 tales ranging from a paragraph to several pages in length. As a fan of his previous work (see my review of his novella, CANDY and CIGARETTES) I'd been looking forward to DeWildt's next release. The 'Rural Noir' vibe of DEAD ANIMALS drags the grit and dust of the Southwestern United States under a magnifying glass. Dark vignettes that make you think and tales with shades of neo-noir that have you cringing as you turn the page to see what's around the bend. DEAD ANIMALS is bleak, twisted, and not afraid to take risks. It's a haunting journey with surprisingly real characters - sometimes wonderfully odd, almost bizarre, but believable. DeWildt's work is a great mix of "writing what you know" and pushing the boundaries of what readers will accept. Overall, DEAD ANIMALS delivers some of my favorites moments in short fiction that I've read this year (and I've read A LOT.) Recommended for fans of dark fiction and neo-noir.

Some of my favorite stories were: The Bull, Bad Habits, A Favor Returned, Corbin's Dream Takes Flight, The Yard Sale, Tu's Chicken, A Bottle Room Can Save a Marriage.

E-book and soft cover editions of DEAD ANIMALS available here.

RELOADED - Open for Submission

reloaded-placeholder Shotgun Honey is back with RELOADED BOTH BARRELS VOLUME TWO.

Deadline is June 9, so you've got close to 90 days to crank out and send in your best crime fiction.

The Guidelines:

  • Word Count: Between 1500 and 4500 words. 3000 words is the sweet spot.
  • Submissions: No simultaneous submission, no multiple submissions, original stories preferred, but we will consider reprints for stories having been out of print for 18 months or longer.
  • Review Period: Notice of acceptance or rejection will happen within two [2] weeks from the close of submissions
  • Editing: Submit well edited work.
  • Formatting: Indented, double space, single paragraph returns, no special fonts or styling other than bold or italics. We recommend you follow this guide by William Shunn.
  • File Formats: Submit stories as .doc, .docx or .rtf files.
  • Payment: $25 paid via paypal or check within 15 days of publication. A digital copy for either Kindle or ePub.
  • Rights: 12 months exclusive for print and 6 months exclusive for digital. Shared rights for the life of the publication.
  • Deadline: June 9, 2013
  • Publication: September 3, 2013
  • Publisher: Shotgun Honey Books/Bad Rocket Media

Additional details and the form through which to submit are available here.

If you haven't read Shotgun Honey Presents: Both Barrels (Volume 1), I highly recommend you pick it up. It's a great book AND available at a new low price. One-click it.

REVIEW: Candy and Cigarettes by C.S. DeWildt

DeWildt Death is omnipresent to small-town loner Lloyd Bizbang. Today proves no different. Evading tormentors who have targeted him since childhood, Lloyd stumbles upon a sight he wishes he could unsee in the town junkyard. Now as he just tries to live through another day, the bodies are stacking up in the town of Horton, and Lloyd finds himself connected to each of them via the drug-and-drink-addled, unhinging police chief, yet another person who has an old score to settle with Lloyd. A game of revenge and survival is underway, but will there be a winner at the day’s end?

C.S. DeWildt has a bead on small details and setting.  I had the pleasure of reading DeWildt's gritty short story, "Watch Dog Crew" on Shotgun Honey last November and was impressed with his quick development of character and wonderful (in the darkest sense) use of language. When I saw DeWildt had new novella out, I had to pick it up.

As you can expect from the cover and the blurb, Candy and Cigarettes is a very dark tale. You'll get a good idea of what to expect when - not if - you head over to Shotgun Honey for a 700 word appetizer.

The story centers on Lloyd Bizbang, who, through a series of terrible and unfortunate events, has found himself an outcast in a small town where the inhabitants seem to do everything in their power to keep from moving on with the outside world. The characters in the novel range from ugly to nasty - but grounded and not over the top in any sense. It is difficult to root for any of them. This may drag in a full-length novel, but here it works well, keeping the reader tense and questioning whether or not to sympathize with such depressing situations.

DeWildt's decision to use a close third person from multiple POVs (some chapters only a page or two long) worked well to ramp up the tension and give additional insight to the inhabitants of Horton. I'm not always a fan of using many POVs, but each is distinct and DeWildt does a great job of establishing a lot of character within a little space.

Candy and Cigarettes won't leave you feeling good, but that's the way it should be. It's a depressing look at a town plagued with bullies on the brink of disaster - and I mean that in the best sense. I look forward to DeWildt's next book. This one is definitely worth checking out.

CANDY AND CIGARETTES LINKS:     Goodreads     Amazon     Vagabondage Press     DeWildt

Chris Mas Is Here to Stay!

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Merry Day-After-Christmas! My new story, "This Ain't Halloween," is available for *free* on Shotgun Honey. This story was a blast to write and I'm very excited to be able to share it around the holidays. I hope you all enjoy it.

Bracken MacLeod dubbed me 'Chris Mas,' (or is it 'Chris No Mas'?) as I'm now 2/2 on Santa short stories (see "Santa's Bones," written in 2011 and just published in The Undead That Saved Christmas Vol. 3 Monster Bash! - also available in paperback) I think I'll have to make this a yearly tradition.

So if you are standing in line waiting to return that Christmas sweater, or settling down for a first cup of coffee, take five and finish off the holidays with a bang.

P.S. Still hungry? I've got another recent story on Shotgun Honey, "Bessie."