Safe Inside the Violence nominated for an Anthony Award


In a bit of belated blogging news...SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE has been nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection! Couldn't be more thrilled, humbled and honored to see it listed alongside such a fantastic line up of nominees - especially Protectors 2, which features my short story, "Snapshots."

BEST ANTHOLOGY OR COLLECTION Safe Inside the Violence - Christopher Irvin [280 Steps] Protectors 2: Heroes-Stories to Benefit PROTECT - Thomas Pluck, editor [Goombah Gumbo] Thuglit Presents: Cruel Yule: Holiday Tales of Crime for People on the Naughty List - Todd Robinson, editor [CreateSpace] Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015 - Art Taylor, editor [Down & Out] Jewish Noir: Contemporary Tales of Crime and Other Dark Deeds - Kenneth Wishnia, editor [PM]

Protect-heroes-Ingram-coverfront1 Jewish Noir cruel-yule-cover COVER_Murder Under the Oaks_x2700

Check out Bouchercon 2016 for the full list of Awards.

Art Taylor quickly pulled us together last week for a little chat on short fiction. Check it out at SleuthSayers and give these books a look!



See you in New Orleans!

Protectors 2: Heroes

PROTECTORS 2: HEROES is now available for pre-order. I'm proud to be a part of a project supporting such an essential organization.


I hope you guys check it out!

From editor, Thomas Pluck:

Here’s the full table of contents, from legends to rising stars to emerging writers, all who support PROTECT’s cause, protecting children from all kinds of abuse and exploitation. 100% of the proceeds are donated to Protect’s lobby. If you’re unfamiliar with PROTECT, they are the political lobby of the National Association to Protect Children, whose victories include the Circle of Trust act and the HERO Corps, which hires wounded veterans to assist law enforcement in hunting online predators.

Table of Contents: When!? by Linda Sarah The Questions by Alison Arngrim City Water by Allison Glasgow Black and White and Red All Over by David Morrell Silvia Reyes by P.J. Ward Plan B by Andrew Vachss Gatekeeper by Richard Prosch The Night Watch by Susan Schorn One Night in Brownsville by Gary Phillips Silverfish by S.J. Rozan Parental Guidance by Scott Adlerberg Superhero, With Crooked Nails by Rachael Acks Angel by Terrence McCauley Mr. Nance by Linda Rodriguez Something I Said by Bracken MacLeod El Puente by Rios de la Luz Mesquite by Graham Wynd Level 5 by C.R. Jahn On the Road to La Grange by Karina Cooper Reprisals: Enmity by John A. Curley The Whistler in the Graveyard by Chad Eagleton (illustration by Dyer Wilk) Solar Highway by S.A. Solomon Jibber Jabber by Reed Farrel Coleman Doll: A Poem by Jyl Anais Ion (illustrations by Jyl Anais Ion) Doggone Justice by Joe R. Lansdale The Occurrence of the Black Mirror by Teel James Glenn Sister Cecilia by Hilary Davidson Croatoan by Harlan Ellison® Little Howl on the Prairie by Thomas Pluck Things Held Dear by Neliza Drew 49 Foot Woman Straps It On by Laird Barron Moon Over the Midwest by Elizabeth Amber Love Sixth Floor by Albert Tucher Adamsville by Clare Toohey Point of View by Will Graham High Meadow Storm by Wayne Dundee Out of Context by Joelle Charbonneau Lone by Alex Segura (illustrations by Dennis Calero) Love and Valour on ‘the Victorian Titanic’ by Gill Hoffs Just Pretend by Martyn Waites Freak by Charles de Lint The New Heroes of the Old Fairgrounds by K.L. Pereira When the Hammer Comes Down by Josh Stallings Stretching Fifteen by Angel Luis Colón Bounty by Jerry Bloomfield Light-Bringer by Laura K. Curtis Hercules and the Spawn of the Titans by Michael A. Black How to Paint Your Dragon by Andrew D’Apice Don’t Fear the Ripper by Holly West Two Views by Tim Daly A Hundred Pearls by Errick Nunnally Snapshots by Christopher Irvin Deceit by Joyce Carol Oates The Perfect Weapon by Zak Mucha An Open Letter to the Children of the Secret by Dionysios Dionou Behavior is Truth by Gwyndyn T. Alexander Pigeons for Protect! by Linda Sarah

Winter Animals - Spring Thaw Sale!

With signs pointing to the arrival of spring... (rain!)

Winter Animals

Beginning today through the first week of May, Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.ORG is shedding the fat and going on sale! Get the best the Mad Dogs have to offer for $0.99, half the price of that Dunks you'll be enjoying on your morning commute, with 100% of the proceeds going to the charity, PROTECT.ORG.

Get some!

Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.ORG

Winter Animals Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT.ORG is out and available for purchase on Amazon.

WINTER ANIMALS bark less and bite more!

This chapbook anthology collects four stories from the members of The Boston Mad Dogs writing group meant to give you a little extra chill this winter and bring a touch of warmth to others left out in the cold. Christopher Irvin, Errick Nunnally, KL Pereira, and Bracken MacLeod have crafted tales of December creatures in styles ranging from noir, fantasy, magical realism, and crime thriller, all for a single cause. 100% of the author proceeds from the sale of this chapbook will be donated to PROTECT.ORG, to support the mission of lobbying for effective legislation to protect children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Featuring cover art by Joe DellaGatta and a Foreword by Thomas Pluck, author of Blade of Dishonor.

Help PROTECT.ORG fight and WIN for kids who need it and treat yourself to four stories with bite from a pack of Mad Dogs!

A HUGE thank you to those involved with the project - Errick Nunnally, KL Pereira, Bracken MacLeod, Joe DellaGatta, Thomas Pluck, and Ron Earl Phillips - as well as you readers who have supported us over the past month.

Please check out the e-book on Amazon and help support PROTECT.ORG.

Winter Animals: Round #4

Winter Animals Today, Bracken MacLeod brings WINTER ANIMALS home with his wonderful story, "Can I Whisper It?"

Drop over to his blog for the story and to learn a little more about PROTECT and why we choose to support their mission.

And stay tuned for the full e-book release of Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT on December 30th.

Until then - Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and thanks so much for your support over the past month!

Winter Animals: Round #3

Winter Animals Welcome back for WINTER ANIMALS Round #3.

As before, here’s a little background to get you up to speed:

Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Each Monday in December will feature a new festive short story from our writing group – Errick Nunnally, Bracken MacLeod, KL Pereira and me – hosted on the respective author’s blog. On December 30th, the stories will be published together in a collection entitled, Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT, with foreword by Thomas Pluck, cover by Joe DellaGatta and produced by Ron Earl Phillips. All proceeds from the e-book are going to benefit PROTECT, a pro-child, anti-crime lobby whose sole focus is making the protection of children a top political and policy priority.

This week with have "The Child of Midwinter Eve," a wonderfully dark tale from KL Pereira. Hop on over to her blog and give her some love!

Stay tuned next week for Bracken MacLeod and “Can I Whisper it?”

Winter Animals: Round #2

winter_animals_cover_type Welcome back for WINTER ANIMALS Round #2.

If you are new, here's a little background to get you up to speed:

Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT

Each Monday in December will feature a new festive short story from our writing group - Errick Nunnally, Bracken MacLeod, KL Pereira and me - hosted on the respective author’s blog. On December 30th, the stories will be published together in a collection entitled, Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT, with foreword by Thomas Pluck, cover by Joe DellaGatta and produced by Ron Earl Phillips. All proceeds from the e-book are going to benefit PROTECT, a pro-child, anti-crime lobby whose sole focus is making the protection of children a top political and policy priority.

This week with have "Recovery," a stellar tale from Errick Nunnally. Hop on over to his blog and give him some love!

Stay tuned next week for KL Pereira and "The Child of Midwinter."

Winter Animals: Stories to benefit PROTECT


I've got a thing for holiday-themed fiction. I blame Joe R. Lansdale and his top notch noir tale, "Santa at the Cafe." Needless to say, I'm stoked to be involved with such a cool project as WINTER ANIMALS, especially with three others who are not only great friends, but excellent writers as well.

Bracken MacLeod, Errick Nunnally and KL Pereira are a wonderfully diverse group of writers and I'm very proud to be a part of our little 'Mad Dog' collective. I've learned a lot about myself and my writing over the past couple of years and I owe much of my progress to them.

Which brings us to WINTER ANIMALS. Each Monday in December will feature a new festive short story from the group, hosted on the respective author's blog. On December 30th, the stories will be published together in a collection entitled, Winter Animals: Stories to Benefit PROTECT, with foreword by Thomas Pluck, cover by Joe DellaGatta and produced by Ron Earl Phillips. All proceeds from the e-book are going to benefit PROTECT, a pro-child, anti-crime lobby whose sole focus is making the protection of children a top political and policy priority.

We hope you enjoy the short stories, and if so, support the e-book and PROTECT. Without further ado...



by Christopher Irvin

Randy felt the squelch of his tennis shoes as he stepped around the slush-drowned sidewalk in front of Doyle’s Tavern. The depression near the entrance flooded with the least bit of rain, and in the winter, as soon as the salt trucks made their first run. It had been that way for decades and always would be, giving the locals something to bitch about while Tom poured their first round.

Randy clutched his hat to his chest as the wind picked up, ruffling his long white beard. The falling temperatures stung his cherry-red cheeks and nose, near matching the color of his suit.

Just one drink. Just one drink to warm up.

Forecasters had repeated their call for a Nor’easter throughout the day, promising a white Christmas after several snowless years of drab browns and roads slick with ice. It was the constant talk of mothers waiting in line at the mall. Nostalgic excitement dashed with frayed nerves at even the mention of travel plans. They kept their young ones in tow, plying them with treats to keep them occupied until a brief moment on Randy’s lap. Smile, FLASH, and it was over. Off with memories in hand and onto the next one. He missed years past when he could spend a moment or two with a child, get a glimpse of the innocent wonder in their eyes. Nowadays parents were too busy to wait for a conversation with Santa, too worried about what Santa might say or worse, do. And so was Corporate. One complaint and you were kicked to the curb, replaced by a fill-in forty-something-year-old administrator with a fake beard.

Randy wiped his shoes against the stone steps, slick from early customers. The broken bell above the door clanked once when he entered.

“Well look what the reindeer dragged in.” Tom grabbed a remote off the bar and turned down the volume on the hockey game. Like his father before him, Tom knew every face that walked through the entrance. “Merry Christmas Eve, Randy.”

“Yeah, yeah. Ho, ho, ho.” Randy nodded toward the small television wedged in the corner near the ceiling. “How we doing?”

“Replay from last night. A wicked mess, but the B’s pulled it out.”

Though Randy loved all Boston sports, football was his game. But the Pats were having a rare difficult season and a series of losing Sundays had left him depressed and dreading the playoffs.

“Doug moving my stool again?” The stool three in from the right wobbled when he pulled it away from the bar.

“I’ll tell him to knock it off.”

“Tell him to fix it,” Randy said, replacing the broken stool with the one on its left. His stool, the one on which he’d scrawled his name in black marker underneath the seat. “He’s the one who knocked it over and gave it the limp.”

“Well it’s the holidays, right? Maybe I’ll wake up in the morning to a brand new set.”

“And Brady will run for a touchdown.” The men shook hands. Randy leaned his backpack on the stool beside him and laid his cap on top. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

“Keg just kicked. I’ll be right back.”

“You know, Tom?” Randy sucked on his front teeth, scratched the roof of his mouth with his tongue. “Hold that thought. Gimme’ a coffee instead.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Figure maybe it’s a sign.”

“You got it. Just brewed a fresh pot for myself.”

Tom selected a dull ceramic mug from a mix of drying glassware, filled it to the brim and set it in front of Randy. A bit of the dark liquid sloshed over the side, slowly dripping until it paused near the bottom, lacking the weight to finish the trip. Randy wiped away the bead and licked his finger.


“All set, thanks. I’ve had more than my fair share of sweets today.” He patted his belly for good measure. “No longer a requirement for the job.”

“What, Santa’s Union been hit hard by that diabeetus? There goes your excuse. I’m going to remind you of that, you know.”

Randy chuckled. “Baby steps. I’ll make it my New Year’s resolution.”

Tom pulled a damp towel from his belt and wiped down a section of the bar that he’d already cleaned. It was a habit when talking to customers and not pouring drinks. The man couldn’t sit still.

“Plans tonight for ol’ Santa? Last minute deliveries in that bag of yours?”

“Just my boots.” He patted the backpack. “Gotta keep ‘em in top shape for next year.”

Tom tilted his head and raised an eyebrow as if to say, is that all?

“What’s that face for? I’m one of your best customers.” He lowered his face to the mug, careful not to spill. The hot liquid seared a cracked molar on the left side of his mouth. It was past saving and should have been pulled weeks ago, but the holiday season was Randy’s busiest time of year.

“You should be giving me a gift.” He grimaced as he set the mug down.

Tom leaned over the bar and flicked a bit of pink ribbon that stuck out of Randy’s backpack, exposed between the two zipper pulls.

“Taken a liking to pink then, are you?”

“Ah, that…”

Randy sighed, more ashamed than embarrassed, like he’d been caught with a stolen pack of gum and ordered to return it to the drugstore. He fiddled with the zipper, opening the bag just wide enough to pull out a small package wrapped in pink paper, its edges worn, discolored and creased. The ribbon, once curled with scissors, had since bent and flattened out in places. A corner of the package caught as he pulled it out, a small tear revealing a white box beneath. He pressed the torn wrapping paper closed as if staunching the blood from a fresh wound, and if he pressed hard enough, it would heal. His face bunched up like a child’s who’d fallen, more confused at the sensation than hurt.

He took a moment to himself, cradling the present in his hands before he spoke.

“Same thing every year. It’s for my granddaughter… just haven’t been able to give it to her.”

“What a minute now. You have a granddaughter?” Tom slapped the towel against the taps. “All these years and you never told me.”

“I’ve never met her. You know how it is… haven’t spoken with my daughter since the divorce.”

“That was close to a decade ago.”


Randy sat hunched, so low he could almost press his forehead against the bar. Tom played the bartender, trying to cheer him up, but Randy only listened to the muffled sounds of the television. He’d procrastinated enough, any longer and the depression would sink in. He’d switch to beer and inevitably miss the bus home. The stool rocked beside him as he slipped the present and hat into his pack.

“Well I better get going. Snow’s going to hit eventually.”

“Coffee’s on the house. Go deliver that package, Santa.”

Randy gave him a thankful nod. His shoe squeaked as he turned for the door.


The much anticipated snow storm finally began while Randy waited alone, shivering at the bus stop. The plexiglass housing blocked much of the wind but small white flurries still found their way in, dancing against his face and melting on his beard.

He cursed himself for telling Tom about his granddaughter. The man played Randy’s unofficial shrink, always lending an ear after a tough day. And perhaps after all these years he had a right to be upset at Randy for withholding such an important detail of his life. But some things you keep to yourself, let rattle around in your brain no matter how much it hurts.

What had it been, five years now since she was born? More? He’d never forget the day he ran into his ex-wife at the grocery store and she dropped the news like checking off an item on her to-do list. Randy had suffered through a lot in life, but nothing took his breath away like that moment. He still felt his chest tighten when he thought of it. His ex would tell him he didn’t deserve their attention, that he’d passed up every chance to earn his way back into their lives after all of his poor decisions. Deep down, a sliver of Randy knew this to be true and it hurt like hell.

By the time the 42 arrived, the ground was covered in white and the snow plows were out in force. The bus was empty except for a young couple at the front. They slumped together, each propped up by the other’s weight, staring out into the blizzard. The snow was so thick it resembled a fog, forcing the driver to slow to a crawl. Randy hugged his backpack against his chest for the duration of the trip, checking every few minutes to make sure the gift was still inside. What should have been a ten minute ride took close to half an hour as winter tightened her grip on the coast.

He couldn’t recall the last time he’d taken the bus out to see his family, but he knew the route by heart. Still he kept watch out the window, training his eyes for street signs and landmarks to make sure he didn’t miss his stop.


When he stepped off the bus the snow was up to his ankles. Close to three inches of powder on the ground and drifts twice as high against the houses. The quiet neighborhood looked like it had just received a fresh layer of frosting with glowing lights sprinkled underneath. How could it be that he was the only witness to such a scene, torn from a storybook? He took it all in, committing it to memory—the hint of pine in the air, the pale moon and its reflection upon the snow, the scent of wood fireplaces warming homes. Snowplows would arrive soon, taking it all away with sand and salt.

He threw his backpack over his shoulder and carved a path down the sidewalk toward his daughter’s home. The fresh snow was quiet underfoot, puffing up around his feet, not wet enough to pack. It was a short walk, only three blocks from the bus stop, two straight and a left. His heart fluttered with each step, the full weight of the evening finally coming to bear.

Three fan-blown snowmen danced in a yard next to a series of wooden reindeer complete with sleigh. Further down the street, two giant nutcrackers guarded a front door. He smiled at the cheesy holiday cheer that never got old, even after spending a dozen holiday seasons in the mall. He could never get enough.

He slowed his pace as he turned onto his daughter’s street, her house the second on the left with the large bay window. The streetlight near the driveway was out, making the house shine even brighter in the dark. The roof was rimmed with icicle lights, bushes along the front of the house wrapped with red and green strands. The blinds had been pulled aside, displaying a large, colorful Christmas tree.

His nerves got the best of him as he approached her driveway, and he grabbed hold of the base of the street light to steady his legs. Inside on the couch sat his daughter, her husband and his ex-wife. The television reflected on their glum faces. Randy slumped against the post. Had she gone to bed already?

Inside the house, the adults’ heads turned, full of excitement. Not one but two little girls crashed into their parents’ arms, the latter needing help onto the couch. Two girls? They each held a package in hand, faces beaming as they showed off their chosen gifts. Always allowed one present on Christmas Eve. A tradition he’d started with his daughter. They tore off the wrapping paper to reveal some kind of doll and tackled their grandmother with hugs and kisses. Their mother and father joined in, and soon they were in a bunch, laughing on the floor.

Randy wiped tears from his eyes. The joy inside the home crushed and melted his heart at the same time, the mix of emotions spilling down his face. This was the joy he’d been in search of, the joy he’d been missing all these years.

He couldn’t intrude and risk tarnishing that perfect moment.

The younger of the two girls pressed her face to the window as he crossed the driveway, retracing his steps to the bus stop. He winked and gave her a little wave as he passed. One day, if they thought of him, this was how he’d like it to be—just a jolly old man passing through the night.

After missing two buses, ‘out of service’ scrolling through their displays, Randy unpacked his boots and slipped them on. It would be a long walk home, but he had all the warmth he needed to get there.


Stay tuned for "Recovery" by Errick Nunnally, dropping next week.

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 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.


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.


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 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.


Shotgun Honey!


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)