Saturday, June 29, 2013

New Books: Grind House by Dana King intro. by Charlie Stella

Introduction by Charlie Stella


The first time I read Dana King’s work, I thought the publishing world was fast asleep. It wasn’t the work of some untested wannabe. Quite frankly, it was brilliant writing. I had the pleasure of reading one of his early drafts to Grind Joint, and I couldn’t have been more impressed. It was more than obvious this guy had slipped through the publishing cracks. I distinctly remember turning to my wife while reading in bed and saying, “This guys is terrific... Jesus Christ, this is good... how is this guy not published?”
Flash forward a year or two and I’m still in disbelief that this guy hasn’t found a publisher. Enter Ed Gorman, a guy who can’t do enough for others. Ed did me the favor of handing Johnny Porno to Greg Shepard a few years earlier, and a new relationship was born. I’ve never been happier with a publisher. Mutual respect, amici, is a beautiful thing. Ed convinced Greg to open the door to original publications and now Stark House Press has a true gem—Grind Joint, by Dana King.
Forget the industry mantra about mob fiction being dead. That’s just bullshit. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right set of eyes to bring a project to fruition, but over time great writing will not be denied.
Dana King’s debut, Grind Joint, is wall to wall great writing—fact.
No need to shock with gore and senseless brutality, or rapes or brutal murders, as way too many in the world of noir seem to depend on for shock value. Dana King does it the old fashioned way, with writing so good it reads like a documentary; narrative that sparkles, and dialogue as good as any in the game. My favorite mob fiction writers ultimately make a novel read like a documentary, and from the very first paragraph of Grind Joint, I’m hooked as if I’m watching it unfold on a 60” television screen.

The building used to be a mini-mall. Penney’s on one end, Monkey Ward’s on the other, with a handful of little local shops in between. Nail salon, barber, wing joint, liquor store. They closed years ago, boarded up the windows. The Blockbuster in an outbuilding went tits up last summer. The toy store next door saw half a dozen re-inventions before it managed to scrape by as one of those operations where everything was five bucks or less. That and the bank were all that were left. Kenny Czarniak would have thought it ironic, how only the bank and the discount store survived amid the shells of failure, but any sense of irony had left him long ago.

In that paragraph I not only see what is being described, I can hear Morgan Freeman providing the voiceover. And is there any doubt about the setting? It’s all there in one neat and tidy paragraph—a town down on its luck, one that is ripe for the picking.
And if you’re unsure of the title, Grind Joint, the author’s clever dialogue makes it easy.

... The bartender came by. Nick asked what was available in bottles and ordered another draft. “What’s up with this casino bullshit? Are they serious?”
“Oh, yeah. Not only will it make the owners rich, everyone in town is going to get well. Be the new Atlantic City.”
“AC’s a dump.”
“Then we have a head start.”
Nick thanked the bartender for his fresh beer. “Seriously. That casino in Pittsburgh is supposed to be really nice.”
“You ever hear of a casino that wasn’t supposed to be really nice?”
“Point taken, but it’s no grind joint, not with the kind of money they put into it and who’s behind it. I drove by this place yesterday. It looks like an old Sears.”
“Uh-uh. Monkey Ward’s and Penney’s.”
“Even better. I’m not knocking Sears. I buy a lot of stuff there. It’s not my first choice of venue for an upscale entertainment experience.”
“That’s where your big city uppity-ness loses touch with the real world. They’re not looking for an upscale experience. This is a grind joint, pure and simple.”
“A casino for the working man.”
Doc flashed to Kenny Czarniak, getting up at four AM to turn on the heat for people who actually did things. “Just what the working man needs.”

A casino in Penns River is the start of trouble for local law enforcement. Russian mobsters and gangbangers, and what’s left of the Pittsburgh Italian mob are fighting over turf. Local politicians and a real estate mogul also have an interest. And then there’s infighting among the cops. Mostly there’s Ben “Doc” Dougherty, the man readers will take a quick liking to and stay with throughout this wonderful novel. Doc looks out for his friends, as well as the poor schmucks just trying to make it day-to-day. When all is said and done, you’ll love Doc, and you’ll look forward to more of him in the future.
Mob fiction is dead? Really? Me thinks the rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated. The addition of Dana King to this particular niche in the literary world is a wonderful breath of fresh air all readers of fine writing will appreciate. For me there’s simply nobody writing better mob fiction in the industry today, and that includes the master, Elmore Leonard.
Dana King’s Grind Joint does for mob fiction what prohibition did for organized crime—it provides the juice for it to flourish in a world consumed with special effects and cartoons; graphic novels and journalists turned private investigators turned vigilante killers. Grind Joint is a touch of reality in a world dizzy with a glitz de jour.
A huge hat tip to Stark House Press for recognizing Dana’s writing, for putting him in print, something long overdue for someone this good.  The premier publisher of classic crime novels in the industry today has gone rogue yet again, publishing another original crime novel, Dana King’s Grind Joint, and we the readers are very grateful beneficiaries.
Listen to me: Dana King is already one of the great ones.

—Charlie Stella
Dana King has worked as a musician, public school teacher, adult trainer, and information systems analyst. His short story, "Green Gables," was published in the anthology Blood, Guts, and Whiskey, edited by Todd Robinson. Other short fiction has appeared in New Mystery Reader, A Twist of Noir, Mysterical-E, and Powder Burn Flash. Dana's first two novels, Wild Bill and Worst Enemies have received praise from authors such as Charlie Stella, Timothy Hallinan, Adrian McKinty, and Leighton Gage. The author lives in Laurel, Maryland.

  • Grind Joint
  • 978-1-933586-52-6
  • A brand new Mafia crime thriller by the author of Wild Bill and Worst Enemies, both of which received profuse praise from authors like Charlie Stella, Timothy Hallinan, Adrian McKinty and Leighton Gage, plus a lot of great online reviews. As Charlie Stella says in his introduction, Grind Joint does for Mob fiction what prohibition did for organized crime. Due in November 2013

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