BURN CARDS Goodreads Giveaway

280 Steps is kicking off March with a Goodreads Giveaway for BURN CARDS

BurnCards_books**Hot off the Press**


Mirna Fowler believes she has been cheated in life, growing up in a broken home alone with a drunken and gambling-addicted father. Now she works at a small hair salon in Reno, doing her best to survive while she saves money for school. Hoping to get a degree that will take her places.

But in the wake of her father's death, Mirna inherits his extravagant debt, an amount of money she can never repay. As her fractured world begins to crumble, the search for the truth sets her on a path where life hangs on her every move.

Advance Praise for BURN CARDS:

“With a character you care about and a momentum you can't avoid, BURN CARDS is aces. This fast-moving novella pulses with enough energy to power all the casinos in Nevada.” - Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball

"the shit-kicking streets of a dead end desert town have never been meaner." — Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation

"This bare-knuckle noir pulses with energy and punches hard." — William Boyle, author of Gravesend

"Irvin illuminates the city of Reno itself, casting the flickering glow of his sharp observations into every dark corner of the city and bringing forth a rogue’s gallery of gamblers, dreamers, and burnouts who are all heading for the same bitter end." — John Mantooth, author of The Year of the Storm

Feeling lucky but still want to pre-order? GOT YOU COVERED

Stay tuned for information on upcoming events & thanks for your support!

Pre-order BURN CARDS

BURNCARDSComing April 14th from 280 Steps in paperback and e-book.

Advance praise for BURN CARDS:

“With a character you care about and a momentum you can't avoid, BURN CARDS is aces. This fast-moving novella pulses with enough energy to power all the casinos in Nevada.” ---Steve Weddle, author of Country Hardball

"the shit-kicking streets of a dead end desert town have never been meaner." --- Joe Clifford, author of Lamentation

"This bare-knuckle noir pulses with energy and punches hard." --- William Boyle, author of Gravesend

"Irvin illuminates the city of Reno itself, casting the flickering glow of his sharp observations into every dark corner of the city and bringing forth a rogue’s gallery of gamblers, dreamers, and burnouts who are all heading for the same bitter end." --- John Mantooth, author of The Year of the Storm

Pre-order is live on Amazon!

Friday Listen - CRIMINAL WORDS

Sure, you've got your Friday Read, but how 'bout a Friday Listen?

criminalwords4Enter Erik Arneson and Scott Detrow with CRIMINAL WORDS, an audiobook full of crime fiction short stories — written by the likes of Joe Clifford, Jen Conley, David Cranmer (writing as Edward A. Grainger), Chris Holm, Erik Arneson, Tom Pitts, Steve Weddle, and me [woo!].

Download away [for free!] HERE. You've earned it.

Needle Magazine - Spring 2014


The latest issue of NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir is now available. Featuring crime fiction from some of the best -- Heath Lowrance, Rob W. Hart, Patti Abbott, Taylor Brown, Jen Conley, Stephen D. Rogers, Court Merrigan, Sandra Seamans, Trent England, Christopher Irvin, William Boyle, William Dylan Powell, and Tom Joyce. Cover art by Scott Morse.

My story, "Union Man," is my favorite story that I've written. It's a story I wrote when my son was around ten months old - a story I'm not sure I could have written without the experience of being a father. I had the chance to read a short snippet last November at the Noir at the Bar 'panel' at Bouchercon.

I hope you'll pick up a copy - not only for my story, but for the powerhouse lineup featured in this issue. It's guaranteed to be a knock out.

NEEDLE: A Magazine of Noir - Spring 2014 (LuLu Marketplace)

Grubstreet Slaying Genre: Chris Irvin's Federales

grubstreet-logoTalking noir, violence and Mexio with KL Pereira for her column Slaying Genre at GrubStreet. Thanks to KL for a great interview!

AND - New England/Boston area folks, check out KL's upcoming classes at GrubStreet. She's an excellent instructor and you are guaranteed to come away improved and inspired to write.

a book a week 1.8

In what may be the last 'a book a week' of the year, I give you a smorgasbord of goodies. And keep your eyes peeled for a little Black Friday giveaway. (Pssst - if you want a head start on the giveaway, 'like' my author page and follow my blog by typing in your email in the box to the upper right of this post.)

Country Hardball

Country Hardball by Steve Weddle

A novel-in-stories, COUNTRY HARDBALL explores the happenings and relationships in a rural small town. It's the story of Roy Alison, a young man with a checkered past who returns home to a community on the brink after the economic downturn.

What makes COUNTRY HARDBALL and Weddle's writing so strong is his ability to pull out and focus on such vivid details. A single father just barely holding things together with his young son, and their focus on a walking stick. Picking purple hulled peas in a field. Parents who deal with their own internal struggle while watching their son play baseball. The generational gap between a hardworking father and his entitled son. Weddle breathes life into these characters and makes you care deeply for their story, no matter how uneven or difficult a road they travel.

COUNTRY HARDBALL is one of my favorite reads of the year and has found a permanent spot on my shelf alongside the works of John Mantooth and Frank Bill.

Day One Kenyon

Day One by Nate Kenyon

A thriller outside the books I usually read, DAY ONE sucked me right in with its contemporary and very present, almost in-the-news plot. It follows John Hawke, a hacker journalist formerly associated with the hacker group Anonymous, in pursuit of a story to save his career and family from financial ruin. A software giant is on the cusp of a breakthrough, and Hawke is determined to be the first to break the news.

Immediately the reader is thrust into total chaos in the heart of New York City. All technology has been taken over and Hawke is on his own, desperate to get back to his family. Great pacing, twists and turns drive the book, but the scary heart of the matter is how close we are (in real life) to having something like DAY ONE as a real potential crisis.  A compelling book that pushed me to read non-fiction about the current state of artificial intelligence.

The Inner City

The Inner City by Karen Heuler

I love the cover of THE INNER CITY. Chizine used the image for their banner at this year's Readercon and when I saw it I was instantly pulled in. While I read a lot of crime, weird fiction is probably my second favorite genre/sub-genre. (I've got the Vandermeer's immense THE WEIRD sitting on my shelf, begging to be read.) Heuler's work in this collection is excellent. I'd recalled reading two of the stories ("Fish Wish" and "Landscape, with Fish") in Weird Tales (2011 and 2008 respectively) and it was of note that they had stuck with me for so long.

Heuler's characters, while sometimes cold and detached, immerse the reader in their worlds, often making the very odd normal and acceptable when it is dangerously not so. My favorite story is "Thick Water," whose sci-fi/horror twists gave me chills in the vein of ALIEN, D.O.G.S. OF MARS and DEAD SPACE. As it states on the back cover, "Everything is familiar; everything is different." If you are in search of unique weird fiction with a good mix of light and heavy stories, look no further than THE INNER CITY.

The Last Porno Theater

The Last Porno Theater by Nick Cato

New York City, 1989. Times Square is being sanitized and The Metro is the last theater to show adult films... wait a minute - what's that breast doing growing out of the wall!?

THE LAST PORNO THEATER (a bizarro work, I might add...) is a hell of a lot of fun. Cato lures you in with Herschell, a hardworking, if a bit naive protagonist, and the next thing you know, [spoiler alert!] you're knee deep in clones with a giant fifty-foot tall clown breathing down your neck. TLPT is my first venture into bizarro territory, and while I've heard a lot of the genre features over-the-top craziness with little connection to the story, Cato's left turn to crazy town fits right in line with his themes and his character's attempt to hold on to their ideal image of a Times Square that is quickly evaporating before their eyes.

The Thicket

The Thicket by Joe R Lansdale

I must confess that when it comes to Lansdale I am criminally under-read - especially since his short story, "Santa at the Cafe," moved me to write crime/noir. THE THICKET is brilliant, just brilliant. Truly, I could sit and read endless pages of banter between Shorty, Eustace, Jack and Jimmie Sue. (Oh, and hog, of course).

THE THICKET follows a party made up of the son of a slave, a dwarf, a former prostitute, a giant hog, a former bounty-hunter-turned-lawman, a janitor, and the narrator, Jack, whose sister was kidnapped by a group of foul men no better than monsters. Needless to say, the posse maintains some interesting personalities. Eustace, a giant of a man, with his 4-gauge shotgun and abilities to track (sometimes). Shorty, the well-spoken dwarf with a thirst for knowledge feels tailor-made for Peter Dinklage (fans of Game of Thrones, especially the television show, will fall in love with this book). Jimmie Sue, the former prostitute, is a hoot, always chiming in at the right moment. And Jack, the narrator who fills the boots of a young naive boy and grows throughout the novel.

You might say it is a 'western' but it is more than that; an adventure full of wit and humor, both light and dark, and doesn't shy away from the horrors of the time.


Well, that's all I've got. I hope you enjoyed my reviews over the past year and maybe even picked up a book or two. There is a lot of excellent fiction out there, and I count myself lucky to have stumbled upon (or in many cases, been recommended) some of the best.

Sunday News Clippings


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


SALVAGES by Gabrielle Hovendon @ Whiskeypaper

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

a book a week 1.7

The Horror! Autumn has finally arrived and that means it's time to delve back into one of my favorite genres. Without further ado....


Jack & Jill by Kealan Patrick Burke

As a big fan of Burke's work, I was psyched for the chance to get my hands on an early read of his latest novella, JACK & JILL. Having read four of his novellas (and way past due on the rest) I can say that Burke has mastered this short form - providing tight pacing and plots that pack an emotional punch, along with his style of scares and dread that has become so well known.

The novella follows Gillian, one half of 'Jack and Jill,' as an adult, and deals with her struggle with recurring nightmares/dreams from events of her childhood.

JACK & JILL is one of my favorite reads of the year. The beautifully odd - and sometimes ugly - dream sequences took me back to the opening pages of Burke's novel, KIN, and one of the best scenes I've ever had the pleasure of reading. The images of Gillian's 'dream version' of her father are truly frightening, especially when...well I won't spoil that. Likewise, near the end of the novella (no spoilers) there is a pivotal moment that hangs on one phrase, and just when you might think there isn't enough space to pull it off, you realize Burke had already set the foundation and it makes perfect sense.

JACK & JILL hits the stands (e-book) in November 2013.


Brew by Bill Braddock

Holy smokes... you know when you read, "His eyes focused on her abdomen, just below the floating rib, where several inches of plump, externally herniated intestine shone in the light. He licked his lips. What would it taste like?", in the first few pages, that you are in for a ride. It's the Hell Yeah kind of ride that took me back to what I love about horror, and reminded me why I was so taken by the genre many years ago.

One minute the city of College Heights is party central and the next...well, green ooze dripping psychos are going to town on each other. BREW nails survival horror - tight pacing, blistering action, and well-developed characters (spread throughout the city/campus, natch) who are real and whose decisions throughout the course of the novel make sense (crucial). When done poorly, survival horror boils down to a handful of paragraphs detailing whatever creative deaths the author could conjure up. When done well, or as in the case with BREW, very well, you hang on every word.


Every House is Haunted by Ian Rogers

Some of the best dark/horror fiction these days can be found in short story collections. Ian Roger's EVERY HOUSE IS HAUNTED is no exception.

EVERY HOUSE IS HAUNTED lands smack in the middle of some of my favorite kinds of horror. It's haunting (as the title suggests) but more than that, it carries a ghostly vibe throughout. The stories are moody and thought provoking, odd and sometimes bizarre. The story "The House on Ashley Avenue" was nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award this year. My other favorites were "Autumnology," "The Currents," "Leaves Brown," "The Rifts Between Us," "Hunger," "Inheritor," and "Twillingate."

Rogers has also pulled together a little commentary on the collection. While it didn't make the book, I recommend you check it out HERE after you've read the stories. I'm a junkie for that kind of 'behind the scenes' look - there is always something fascinating behind excellent short fiction, especially when you veer into dark/odd/haunting tales.

Sacrifice Island

Sacrifice Island by Kristin Dearborn

SACRIFICE ISLAND is a novella about a pair of paranormal investigators who head to the Philippines in search of material for their latest book. It's difficult to delve into more of the plot without getting into serious spoiler territory, but suffice it to say, Dearborn does an excellent job of reinvigorating what may seem like an old story and worn tropes. She doesn't waste time with pieces of the mystery that you can put together early on, instead focusing on the characters and their unique traits which are cleverly revealed along the way. Overall, what appeared at first to be an easy trek through the jungle, turned out to be much more and a fun read. Another great example of why I love the novella. Looking forward to Dearborn's novel, TRINITY.

Candy House

Candy House by Kate Jonez

Roland, a brilliant young scientist, loses his prestigious job and is forced to move back home with his parents. If that weren't bad enough, his neighbors are a family of witches, imps and demons.

It has been quite a while since I read any Dark Fantasy, but I'll be seeking out more after reading CANDY HOUSE. I found Jonez's writing to be very engaging, especially the scenes at the neighbors. The vibe of CANDY HOUSE reminded me of Brother's Grimm and Alice and Wonderland - full of odd/bizarre moments, unreliable characters, and dream-like sequences. It took me a little bit to get into the book, but once the full extent/agenda of the neighbors is revealed, I was hooked.

So...what's next? My TBR pile is ever-changing, but with the end of the year fast approaching, these are the five I have my sights on:

Snowblind     The Thicket     Country Hardball     The Inner City     The Last Porno Theater     Day One Kenyon

a book a week 1.4

A little post-Readercon / Necon / Boston Comic con reading this time around: SuperNOIRtural

SuperNOIRtural by Ian Rogers

Ian Rogers knows how to write a Private Investigator. I've read a lot of "Supernatural PI" fiction (both long and short) over the years (from Steve Niles' Criminal Macabre to Jim Butcher's Dresden Files and short stories in collections such as Weird Noir) and what struck me about Roger's novellas is his ability to wrap the mundane PI work around the supernatural. "Real World" PIs work insurance fraud, messy divorces, missing people... did I mention insurance fraud? It's not the most exciting stuff, but in beginning his stories in 'normal' case work and then layering the supernatural over top (along with a great sense of humor), Rogers strikes an excellent balance and delivers on both plot and character development. His "Black Lands" are a great concept and feel natural to the world, never forced into a story. Looking forward to Rogers taking Felix Renn on a novel-length adventure.


North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud

I don't think I can praise this collection of stories enough. Ballingrud's NALM blew me away - from its dark beginnings with, "You Go Where It Takes You," to, "The Good Husband," the bizarre and crushing finale, NALM is filled with incredible stories. I met Ballingrud very briefly at Readercon before he had to run off to the Shirley Jackson Awards ceremony (the novelette, "Wild Acre" included in NALM was nominated) and I wish I'd had more time (and already read the book!) to discuss some of the stories with him. My favorites in the collection are "The Crevasse" (HAUNTING Lovecraftian tale), "Sunbleached" (one of my favorite vampire short stories), and "The Good Husband" (Very unsettling... I just finished the book, and this one will sit with me for a long time.) If you are a fan of dark fiction, this is a must read collection.

Drowing City

Joe Golem and the Drowning City by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola

JOE GOLEM is a book that has been on my to read list since before it was released in early 2012. I'm a big fan of Golden/Mignola collaborations and they continue to impress with JOE GOLEM. While the story is excellent and well paced from the first pages, the true star for me is the the Drowning City (a sunken Lower Manhattan) and it's inhabitants: Felix Orlov's home in an abandoned theater, Church's life-extending steampunkish leaky organs, Dr. Cocteau's rubbery gas-mask men and the Lovecraftian influence throughout. The world of the Drowning City comes alive through the eyes of fourteen-year-old Molly McHugh - the canals, creaking walkways between buildings, the survivors - good and bad. JOE GOLEM is a lesson in world building, one that I'm sure to return to again.

Copper Girl

Joe Golem and the Copper Girl by Christopher Golden and Mike Mignola

THE COPPER GIRL is a short story that takes place prior to the events of THE DROWNING CITY (avoiding spoilers here.) It's a great little tale that centers on Joe Golem and one of his adventures/investigations with Church. I know it's a long shot from what I've heard, but I'd love to read more of these short stories. The world of the Drowning City is just too rich to let go.


Jerks and Other Tales from a Perfect Man by John McIlveen

McIlveen is a master of absurd comedy. From the first page of Jerks (featuring a woman and her... dog of sorts), to Saddled Vengeance (a wild western that will make you itch) and How To Make Sure Your Dream House Is Not Haunted, McIlveen had me laughing out loud. Highly recommended for someone in need of a bizarre/quirky tale or two to brighten their day.


Needle Summer 2013 edited by Steve Weddle

Another fantastic issue of Needle: A Magazine of Noir. Standouts for me were "Satan's Kingdom" by Dennis Tafoya, "Double Shot" by Bruce Holsinger, "Erwin's Main Attraction" by Scott Miles, "A Favor in Paradise" by C.J. Edwards and "Tricks" by Neliza Drew. After the pleasure of reading Summer 2013 and Fall/Winter 2012 issues, I'll definitely be digging into the Needle back catalog. For consistent high-quality crime fiction, Needle can't be beat.


On the Lips of Children by Mark Matthews

Matthews delivers some terrifying moments in ON THE LIPS OF CHILDREN. The novel sucked me in from the first page, continuing to ratchet the suspense on the way to a satisfying conclusion. The scenes inside the tunnels were especially well developed. For horror fans who like their fiction gritty and intense - Matthews does not disappoint.

The Tent

The Tent by Kealan Patrick Burke

Plain ol' nasty monster horror. Burke really surprised me with THE TENT. I approached the book with mild expectations (I'm generally not a creature horror guy - though I love Burke's work) but Burke managed to put me on the edge of my seat from page one. The creature(s) in this novella are so damn nasty and creative they make all others in recent memory down right boring. I won't spoil (I typically don't, but especially in this case where we are talking monsters - it's all about the surprise and reveal) so go pick it up and find out for yourself. A perfect read for the fall.

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