Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Movies; Mystery Scenes Free

Sarah Weinman linked to this interesting storyin The Boston Globe:

Waiting for Scorsese
Or Spielberg. Or Soderbergh. Or anyone to make the movie based on their book.

Will Smith starred in the 2004 movie "I, Robot," which was written 54 years before the film's release. (20th Century Fox)

By David Mehegan

Jonathan Kirsch, a Los Angeles author, agent, and publishing lawyer, is blunt about the odds against any one novel making it: "Infinitesimal," he said. "If it were one out of a thousand, I'd be shocked." Of the 500 to 600 movies, counting art-house films, that are made yearly, only a fraction of those are based on novels, Kirsch said. And there are more than 50,000 works of fiction published each year, according to W.W. Bowker, publisher of "Books in Print."

Said Boston literary agent John Taylor Williams: "An author shouldn't be surprised if, after a movie option is sold, the movie is never made."

Ed here: I was reminded of this today because I got a call about a pen-name book I wrote in 1983. The guy has a great idea for adapting it. Etc and etc. Long long ago I used to get excited about Hwood calls. The higlight was when the woman who produced The Shawshank Redemption won the Oscar and annouced at her press conference that her next project was Moonchasers by Ed Gorman. How could this miss? Well as my friend director Nathaniel Gutman has said many times (we worked on the screenplay together) we could have written a movie about all the things that got in the way of getting the damned thing made. I believe that Moonchasers has now been optioned nine times since 1993. I've made more money on the options than I have on any book I've written. Two months ago I got a frantic call--please tell me it isn't optioned--from a guy who sounded as if we'd start shooting the ext day. I never heard from him again.

Right now I have three books under option but I know better than to get excited. I'm waititing to see how The Poker Club, the film based on my novel, has turned out. I've seen clips and they look good.

But as far as getting my hopes up about any other movie project...

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dick Lochte

Dick Lochte

Born in New Orleans in 1944, Dick Lochte worked several years as a magazine writer, film critic and theater reviewer in Los Angeles before publishing his first mystery novel, "Sleeping Dog," in 1986. It was nominated for an Edgar Award, and won the Nero Wolfe Award; and, in 2000, "Sleeping Dog" - which featured the innovative teaming of a veteran gumshoe named Leo Bloodworth with the smart if obstreperous 13-year-old Serendipity Dahlquist - was named "one of the best 100 mysteries of the twentieth century" by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.

The book's successor, "Laughing Dog," followed in 1988. Since then, Lochte has written several more novels, including four in collaboration with attorney Christopher Darden.

Readers and reviewers have praised Lochte's deft combination of humor and serious detection. Critic Sharon A. Russell cited the author's ability to "combine interesting technical innovations in the genre with a careful exploration of some of its more traditional elements." Lochte, she said, writes "with a style that acknowledges the past. At the same time he develops his own voice, combining wit and insight in his depiction of the present."

Modern hard-boiled, with a wry sense of humor: a mixture even the hard-to-please Raymond Chandler could admire.

1 Tell us about your current novel.

My current novel, Croaked!, which is actually over a year old now, is a semi-autobiographical comedy-thriller set in a men's magazine in the mid-1960s. I spent a good portion of my youth working at Playboy during its go-go years. It was part goofy fun and part serious business and sex was a key element in both. I tried to put all that into the book, along with several murders and what I think is a tricky, but very fair play who-done-it finale.

2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?

I can't say too much about it, not merely because I'm paranoid. I can say it's a comedy-thriller and the start of a new series, written in collaboration with a very entertaining gent (who shall be temporarily nameless). He knows considerably more about the locale and the milieu than I. But I think I probably know more about the villain, a world class assassin, than he.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

In the two decades or so since I wrote my first book there have been many changes in publishing that have undercut the pleasures of the writing life. One pleasure that remains is the joy I get from putting words on paper (or more precisely on the monitor) that say exactly what I wanted them to. Maybe it's dialogue that has the right ring, or a description that does the job in a unique way. Or a chapter that ends on precisely the right note.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?
I'm not comfortable with the non-writing aspects. I have a great agent, which means I don't have to deal with the peddling of the manuscripts. But it's some of the post-publication chores that get me down. I like to appear on panels and to show up for events like book fairs. Store visits are hit-and-miss. If readers show up, great. If they don't, it's downright painful. Most painful of all for me is self-promotion. I'm not lacking in self-confidence, but doing a sales pitch for your book, and consequently, yourself, seems cheesy. I've friends who are better salespeople than they are writers. More power to them. I'd rather put my efforts into the writing. It's one of the things that makes collaboration so appealing.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Considering the recent spate of consolidations and firings, it seems as if current business practices aren't working. Maybe it's time to return to the grand old days when quality trumped quantity and a strong editorial staff was held in higher regard than bottom line accountants.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in
print again?

At least three. Craig Rice would be at the top of my list with her fast and funny adventures of Jake and Helane Justice and John J. Malone. The books were popular enough for Rice to have been the first mystery writer to appear on the cover of Time. (Have there been any since?) Frank Gruber's tales of book salesmen and con artists Johnny Fletcher and Sam Cragg are clever mixtures of fast patter, fair play detection and unique backgrounds. Each novel involves a specific enterprise, from Las Vegas casino operation to comic strip syndication to shoe manufacturing. Of the endless number of private eyes following in Philip Marlowe's footsteps, none comes closer to filling them than Howard Browne's Paul Pine. Browne wrote the first three Pines under the pen name John Evans, but for the forth and last he used his own name. That should tell you that it was the best of an excellent quartet, all of which deserve to be back in print.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that

I was very, very lucky. I'd quit Playboy and traveled west in search of movie gold. While panning for those elusive nuggets, I fended off starvation by writing freelance reviews -- a theater column in Los Angeles magazine, films in the L.A. Free Press and books in the L.A. Times. The Times liked to identify writers with a one-line description. "Just say I'm working on a screenplay," I suggested to the then-editor of The Book Review, Digby Diehl. He replied that everybody was writing a screenplay. This was The Book Review. Wasn't I working on a book. "Sure," I lied, and because the scripts I'd been struggling with were all crime-based, I added, "I'm writing a mystery novel." That misinformation ran almost every week in the paper. A few months later, I received a phone call from Ashbel Green, Ross Macdonald's editor at Knopf. He was in town meeting with Macdonald and wanted to see my novel. I told him it still needed a little work. I replaced the phone and began writing my first book, Sleeping Dog. Six months later, I sent the ms. to Mr. Green. He sent it back, saying it was too talky. Three days later, my agent sold the book to the first publisher on his list.

8. What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far?
I suppose it had to be the success of that first book. Sleeping Dog went into three printings in hardcover, two in paperback. The reviews were absurdly good. Publisher's Weekly said it surpassed the California novels of Chandler and Macdonald. I wasn't delusional enough to believe that, but it was lovely to see. The book was nominated for all of the awards and won the Nero Wolfe. It was picked up by publishers throughout the world. And now, twenty-three years later, it's still in print, here and in Japan.

9. How about the low point?

That involved Sleeping Dog, too. The movie. When the film companies came calling, against the advice of agent, editor, just about everybody, I signed on to adapt the screenplay. Five versions and fifteen months later, the movie hadn't come together. And I was way, way past the deadline for the literary sequel. By the time I'd finished the ms for Laughing Dog my original publisher had been gobbled up by Morrow. New publisher. New editor. New publicists. New attitude. Because of the three-year interval, the good will and positive reaction to Sleeping Dog had dissipated. I was back at square one. Laughing Dog received good notices and, because its initial print run was larger, sold more copies in hardcover than Sleeping Dog. But the script-writing diversion, in spite of its financial rewards, took its toll on my literary career.

10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?

Sleeping Dog should be the pick, especially since it's still in print. But The Neon Smile is my most ambitious book and my best, I think. It contrasts the New Orleans of the turbulent 1960s with the city in 1995, when the novel was published. I liked the idea of seeing how the city and a set of characters changed over a thirty-year period, with the link being the detective, Terry Manion, re-examining a series of murders that took place when he was a little boy. Every now and then I wonder what happened to Manion when Katrina struck. Maybe I'll find out some day.

Monday, December 29, 2008



Check out the beautiful photo of beautiful Judy Crider on Bill’s website tonight. Bill himself looks like the kind of young man every parent would want for a son-in-law. Seriously.


In a private text message obtained by The Daily Beast, Mickey Rourke bashes Sean Penn--his chief rival in the Oscar race--as a "homophobe" and an "average" actor.

Whistleblower has learned from several entertainment industry sources, that Mickey Rourke--whose extraordinary comeback performance in The Wrestler is garnering him early praise as a shoo-in for a best actor Oscar nomination--is trash talking his likely toughest competitor, Sean Penn, whose acting in Milk has earned rave reviews.

After his December 23 appearance on David Letterman, Rourke told someone backstage that he was surprised that so many people seemed to think that Penn was his Oscar competition since "I'm not even sure he'll get a nomination."


Longtime fan and writer George Kelly has started his own website. His first post takes up the case for E.C. Tubb’s long running Dumarest series. While it was never as innovative or influential as anything by Leigh Brackett or Edmond Hamilton, I somehow managed to read every one of the twenty-some books. He took basic pulp sf tropes and gave them new life by making his protagonist both forlorn and humane.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dave Zeltserman

"I a lot of hours as a kid watching old movies with Hitchcock, the Marx Brothers, and film noir being my favorite, especially The Roaring Twenties, The Third Man and The Maltese Falcon. I also always read a lot, everything from comic books, Mad Magazine, pulps (Robert E. Howard was my favorite), and science fiction. When I was 15 and spending a few weeks during the summer at my uncle's house in Maine, I picked up a dog-eared copy of I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane, and from that point on was hooked on crime fiction. From Spillane, I moved on to Hammett, Chandler, Rex Stout, Ross Macdonald, and lots of other crime writers before eventually discovering Jim Thompson and Charles Willeford in the early 90s. Thompson, in particular, had a big impact on my writing, not only in the way he got into the heads of broken psychopaths and had you rooting for them, but in the way he took chances in his writing. For years before I read my first Jim Thompson novel, Hell of a Woman, I was trying to write what amounted to bad Ross Macdonald. Once I started reading Thompson, it opened my eyes to how I could break every rule I wanted to as long as I could make it work, and this led me to finding my own voice. My first book, Fast Lane, was probably equally inspired by Macdonald and Thompson--it had the sins of the father theme that Macdonald did so well, but written from the unreliable narrator and mind of the killer that Thompson excelled at. Years after writing Fast Lane, I read about Macdonald's last unfinished Lew Archer novel, and was amazed to find that it had a major plot-point in common with Fast Lane.

"A kind of crazy creative fever took over while I was working on Fast Lane, and when I was done I had something that I knew could be published someday, as well as a book that crime noir readers would enjoy. It turned out that day was 12 years after I wrote it, and I first sold the Italian rights to Meridiano Zero before Point Blank Press published it. During those 12 years I had a lot of ups and downs, mostly downs where I'd quit writing to focus on my software engineering career. It's been a long road but things are now looking up. I've had stories published in a lot of places, including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock, as well as a 3-book 'man just out of prison' noir series that is being published by the prestigious UK publisher, Serpent's Tail (Small Crimes, Pariah, Killer), as well as books Fast Lane, Bad Thoughts and Bad Karma (Five Star Mysteries). And while it took a while, I know from the letters I get from noir fans who discover Fast Lane that I was right about it. These days I'm spending my time writing crime fiction and studying martial arts (I hold a black belt in Tiger-Crane style of Kung Fu), and enjoying every minute of it."

Ed here: I just finished reading Dave's new novel Pariah. It is one of the most crazed, hilarious, bitter, brutal novels this side of those composed on violent wards. The relationship between the brothers is one of the most powerful in all of noir. The attack on our media world, which shouldn't fit in here at all, works with devastating truth. I have never read its likes before and I have to say that at certain moments I doubted I ever wanted to read its likes again. The sociopathic narrator is almost too beleivable at points. He is people like OJ Simpson writ large--what is good for him is good for the world. That's how he sees things and nothing is going to change his mind. I literally winced at several points. And frequently wanted to kill the bastard telling the story. He is that richly detailed. This fusion of hardboiled and bitter satire is brand new territory for noir and I suspect that it will be one of the most talked about novels of 2009. As Ken Bruen said of Pariah "If every writer has one great book in them, then Dave Zeltserman can rest easy."

1 Tell us about your current novel.

My second “man out of prison” crime novel, Pariah, is being published by Serpent’s Tail in the UK in the next couple of weeks, and will probably be in the States sometime around June. Pariah is on one level a fierce crime novel about a top guy from the South Boston mob out for revenge and to reclaim his former glory, and on another level, a satirical look at the celebrity culture in our country. This is a book I’m very excited about, as is my publisher.

2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?

I’m trying something different for me, and I’m writing a high-concept commercial thriller, tentatively titled “Dying Memories”. It’s basically a “breathless” thriller, where a guy finds himself caught up in the middle of a nasty government conspiracy, and things just keep getting worse for this guy. While I’m going commercial here, I’m trying to keep the book smart and strike a balance between “relentlessly commercial” writing and something I’m not embarassed to have my name attached to.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

The creative process. It’s really quite a high when the book takes shape and starts approaching your original vision for it.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

The rejections. There are so many, and they can be so unrelenting, and the worst are when editors tell you how much they like your book but give you some bullshit excuse, like they’re afraid it’s too dark or not formulaic enough for their readers.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

They need to start respecting their readers more, and they need to go back to publishing what they feel are the best books they can find instead of worrying whether the books are formulaic and mainstream enough or are written enough in a dumb-downed “relentlessly commercial” style.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in
print again? James. M. Cain, Charles Williams and Jeremiah Healy’s “John Cuddy” series.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that

My first novel sale was the Italian rights of Fast Lane to Meridiano Zero. They’re a good house, translating people like Harry Crews and Derek Raymond, and one of their translators got his hands on the manuscript and talked the publisher into reading it. The publisher, while surprised no US house had published it yet, liked it enough to want to publish it even though it was unknown. So there you have it, my first sale was to an Italian publisher.

8. What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far?

Having NPR select Small Crimes as one of the 5 best crime and mystery novels of 2008.

9. How about the low point?

Having just about every NY house reject Small Crimes. I had reached a point where I was going to quit writing when Serpent’s Tail called to tell me they wanted to publish Small Crimes.

10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?

For a novel, Small Crimes. For short crime fiction, I’m offering a free PDF collection, titled Seven, which readers can download from my web-site:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Anne Frasier

Anne Frasier's novels have spanned the genres of mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, paranormal, science fiction, and horror. Garden of Darkness continues a dark tale started in Pale Immortal of a spooky Wisconsin town. In Before I Wake, a secret government medical experiment goes wrong. Play Dead plays out amid the voodoo scene in Savannah, Georgia. Sleep Tight, a traditional police procedural, is set in Minneapolis. Publishers Weekly says Frasier "has perfected the art of making a reader's skin crawl." The Minneapolis Star Tribune calls her a "master."

Frasier is a USA Today bestselling author of nineteen novels. Her books have been printed in both hardcover and paperback, translated into twenty languages, and featured in Mystery Guild, Literary Guild, and Book of the Month Club. She won the RITA for romantic suspense, and the Daphne du Maurier for paranormal romance. She was a best hardcover judge for the Thriller presented by International Thriller Writers. This summer she was the guest of honor at the Diversicon 16 conference held in Minneapolis. Anne spent twenty years living on a working apple farm, and now divides her time between St. Paul, Minnesota, and a century-old Gothic church in rural Wisconsin.

Anne Frasier----------

2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?

It's being described REBECCA meets VERTIGO. Much of it is based on a specific period of my own life, and oddly enough it has kind of a REBECCA feel to it. I've taken real events and added some fiction to bump up the plot. A totally new thing for me, and definitely more literary. My new agent plans to submit a partial in January, so I'm full of anxiety right now! This is something I'd planned to write when I was semi-retired since it's such a long shot, but because of the way certain things played out in my life I decided to go for it now. And I'm sweating bullets.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?
I think the highlight has been all of the great people I've met. That's something that never entered my mind when I started writing, but it's a bonus that has definitely enriched my life.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure? Not really a displeasure, but it's incredibly hard to accept that we have no control over our books once they're written. I've tried all of the things suggested by publishers and editors in order to boost sales. Now I'm trying to focus on the one thing a writer can control – the story.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?
Please don't expect the writer to market her own book. I know you're in trouble, but self-promotion doesn't work for so many reasons.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that
I got that call in 1986. Pocket Books published a book that sparked a small cult following. The book had a tiny print run and zero backing, but people started talking about it, especially editors. No internet then, so I had no idea anybody was even reading it because family and friends across the country couldn't find it. I would go to bookstores expecting to see it on the shelf, but it was nowhere. That was my introduction to the strange world of publishing.

8. What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far.

Wow, that's tough. I haven't had one big highlight, but instead a lot of small ones.

9. How about the low point?

Low points come again and again, because unfortunately if you stay in the business long enough you will fail over and over. Sometimes you can see the crash coming years in advance, but you still have contracts to fulfill, and you still have to keep going and act like everything is fine. The periods of unemployment that follow are devastating and they crush the creative spirit at the very time we need to be producing our best stuff.

10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your
work? I would probably suggest PLAY DEAD. Not as well written as HUSH, but more fun.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dave Stevens

A really fine portrait of the late Dave Stevens, who died last year of leukemia. I still remember my first glimpse of The Rocketeer. Stunned. I was ten again and in a theater watching some wobbly old Blackhawk serial from Republic Pictures. Here's Arnie Fenner, who co-edited Brush With Passion, The Life and Art of Dave Stevens. Read the whole thing. Stevens was a fascinating if sometimes frustrating guy.

"While extremely popular with comics fans and followers of pin-up art, Dave Stevens was hardly a household name and mentioning him in a casual conversation would usually be answered with silence or a blank stare. And yet literally millions have enjoyed Dave’s work in one form or another through the years without ever knowing he was the visionary behind those wonderful entertainments. Perhaps best known as the creator of short-lived Rocketeer comic—which Disney adapted into the film starring Billy Campbell and Jennifer Connelly—Stevens also was a storyboard artist for Raiders of the Lost Ark, concepted the cryogenics chamber Mel Gibson was awakened from in Forever Young, updated the costume of The Flash for a TV series, and was responsible for the look of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller“ video and Victory concert tour.

"He drew 1950s model Bettie Page as the Rocketeer’s girlfriend in his comic and as a result was largely responsible for the renewed interest in Bettie—which prompted her reemergence after 40 years of seclusion. Dave became her close friend and protector and saw to it that she benefited financially from the plethora of products various entrepreneurs had been producing without her permission for decades.

for the rest go here:

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


(First of all belated congratulations to Dave Zeltserman for having his novel Small Crimes selected by both the Washing Post and NPR as being one of the ten best crime novels this year.)

There's been some discussion lately about backstory in fiction. In the age of streaming it's gotten a bad name in some quarters. A few sentences, nothing more, anything more is excess.

I'm influenced by the trend myself. In most cases two pages of densely packed type discussing the arc of a character's life makes me leery. Or even flip ahead a few pages.

But there are writers such as Elmore Leonard who make backstory as lively as the frontstory.

I thought of this today as I was rereading The Great Gatsby for probably the twenty-fifth time in my life. Nick has just escaped the living room where Gatsby and Daisy come together for the first time in five years. The whole situation is awkard, almost physically painful and Nick wants to be away from it. So he stands on the lawn and stares at Gatsby's house and gives us a little gem of local history.

"A brewer had built it early in the `period' craze a decade before, and there was a story that he'd agreed to pay five years' taxes on all the neigboring cottages if the owners would would have their roofs thatched with straw. Perhaps their refusal took the heart out of his plan to Found a Family--he went into immediate decline. His children sold his house with the black wreath still on the door. Americans, while willing, even eager, to be serfs, have always been obstinate about being peasantry."

Gatsby's house has a backstory. And a weird wonderful one.

Also I was struck by Nick's last remark. I can't believe it's wisdom escaped me all these years.

I frequently quote H.L. Mencken's remark that "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people." I always feel a bit uneasy about saying it because it's arrogant. The hell of it is I agreee with it. Yes, Mencken was a prosperous snob but he was right about masses of people--not just Americans. We all want certainty in our lives and so we willingly hand ourselves over to tyrants and buffoons wth alarming frequency. Look how long it took most Americans to catch on to George W. Bush. If Katrina hadn't happened one of his daughters might be running for president today.

But I like Fitzgerald's ironic distinction between serfdom and peasantry. I think he brought our lemming-like attraction to bullshit artists into much sharper focus than Mencken did.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Robert J. Randisi

From Saddlebums:

Robert J. Randisi is the author of more than 400 novels—some 300 are in the western genre. He is the creator and writer of The Gunsmith series, which is published under his J.R. Roberts pseudonym, as well as numerous westerns under his own name and others. He is the co-founder of, with Ed Gorman, Mystery Scene magazine, and he is the founder of the Private Eye Writer’s of America (PWA). He also created the PWA’s Shamus awards, as well as the “Eye”—which is the PWA’s Life Achievement Award.

Mr. Randisi is a versatile writer who has written in the mystery, thriller, horror, adventure, and western genres. He received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly for his excellent mystery novel Alone with the Dead, and he has been called the “next Louis L’Amour” by author Jake Foster. He is prolific; he has published one novel a month since 1982, and if that isn’t enough, he has also edited numerous anthologies, including the First Cases series of crime anthologies.

Robert J. Randisi

1 Tell us about your current novel.

The Current book is HEY THERE, YOU WITH THE GUN IN YOUR HAND, the third in my Rat Pack series. This one features Sammy Davis Jr. in search of a photo he's being blackmailed with. Frank Sinatra asks pit boss Eddie G. to help Sammy get it back.

2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?

Just finished the screenplay for the first Rat Pack book, EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOME TIME. Shooting is planned for Jan. 2010. Also just finished the fourth Rat Pack book, YOU'RE NOBODY TIL SOMEBODY KILLS YOU. in which Dean asks Eddie G. to help Marilyn Monroe. There's more about Eddie G., though, as he must go back to Brooklyn for a family funeral.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Seeing a project like these Rat Pack books come to fruition. I've wanted to do these books for a long time. Finally, they're here. And then seeing the reviews--the best of my career--and making the movie deal. It's all pure pleasure.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

Seeing what's happening to publishing these days, on both sides. To go into what I mean by this would take a whole column. Let's just say that people without talent are showing up on both sides of the book. The inmates are running the asylum.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Get a grip.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in
print again?

If I named personal favorites they'd be writers lots of people may not have heard of: Ralph Dennis, Jeff Jacks, Marvin Albert. If I were to name three authors whose names would be more recognized I'd say: Thomas B. Dewey, Howard Browne and William Campbell Gault.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that

I sold it over time, starting with tending bar at MWA parties and meeting authors and editors. I met my first editor that way, over time sold him on the idea of a 4 book P.I. series, but when he was suddenly told not to do any multi-book contracts for a while he bought the first book. he said by the time he'd bought all 4 that way, the publisher wouldn't know they'd published a new series. But nothing happened after the first book. That was what was supposed to be the "Henry Po" series.

8. What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far?

These Rat Pack books. As I said above, they've garnered the best reviews of my career. And the first Joe Keough book, ALONE WITH THE DEAD, which was the first time I ever really used my 8 years of experience with the NYPD.

9. How about the low point?

Lots of low points. Every rejection, every book that failed to sell, every time I was let go by a publisher, every time I was told that private eye books don't sell, anthologies don't sell, westerns don't sell . . . I could go on.

10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?

I'll name one of each. Book: ALONE WITH THE DEAD (1995), the first Joe Keough book, which received a starred review from PW. Shory story: "Upon My Soul" from the anthology GREATEST HITS (2005) which, to that point, I believe to be my finest story. I'm not a very good short story writer, so this one was a turning point for me.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pro-File: Lee Goldberg

From Lee Goldberg's website:

Lee Goldberg writes books and television shows.

"His mother wanted him to be a doctor, and his grandfather wanted him to go into the family furniture business. Instead, he put himself through UCLA as a freelance journalist, writing for such publications as American Film, Starlog, Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times Syndicate, The Washington Post and The San Francisco Chronicle (He also wrote erotic letters to the editor for Playgirl at $25-a-letter, but he doesn't tell people about that, he just likes to boast about those "tiffany" credits).

"He published his first book .357 Vigilante (as "Ian Ludlow," so he'd be on the shelf next to Robert Ludlum) while he was still a UCLA student. The West Coast Review of Books called his debut "as stunning as the report of a .357 Magnum, a dynamic premiere effort," singling the book out as "The Best New Paperback Series" of the year. Naturally, the publisher promptly went bankrupt and he never saw a dime in royalties.

"Welcome to publishing, Lee.

"His subsequent books include the non-fiction books Successful Television Writing and Unsold Television Pilots ("The Best Bathroom Reading Ever!" San Francisco Chronicle) as well as the novels My Gun Has Bullets ("It will make you cackle like a sitcom laugh track," Entertainment Weekly), Beyond the Beyond ("Outrageously entertaining," Kirkus Reviews), and The Man with the Iron-On Badge ("as dark and twisted as anything Hammet or Chandler ever dreamed up," Kirkus Reviews).

"Goldberg broke into television with a freelance script sale to Spenser: For Hire. Since then, his TV writing & producing credits have covered a wide variety of genres, including sci-fi (SeaQuest), cop shows (Hunter), martial arts (Martial Law), whodunits (Diagnosis Murder, Nero Wolfe), the occult (She-Wolf of London), kid's shows (R.L. Stine's The Nightmare Room), T&A (Baywatch), comedy (Monk) and utter crap (The Highwayman). His TV work has earned him two Edgar Award nominations from the Mystery Writers of America.

"His two careers, novelist and TV writer, merged when he began writing the Diagnosis Murder series of original novels, based on the hit CBS TV mystery that he also wrote and produced. And he also writes novels based on Monk, another show he's worked on.

"Goldberg lives in Los Angeles with his wife and his daughter and still sleeps in "Man From UNCLE" pajamas."


1 Tell us about your current novel.

My latest book is my seventh original MONK hardcover mystery, "Mr. Monk is Miserable." It's set in Paris, which makes it a very personal book for me. My wife Valerie is French, born and raised in Paris, and we go there each year to visit my in-laws. On our last visit, I took our 13-year-old daughter Maddie to The Catacombs. She took one look at the millions of bones stacked underground and said "Can you imagine Monk here?" Yes, I could. We both could. And from that moment on, I couldn't stop seeing Paris through Adrian Monk's eyes. And neither could she, which turned this book into sort of a family affair. As familiar as I am with Paris, I still had to do a lot of research into the sewer system and, on a subsequent trip, scout locations for the book. The hotel, the restaurants, and just about every other setting in the book actually exist. I also named many of the characters after my French family and friends, so that made it fun for me.

2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?

I had a little window of time between finishing my last MONK novel ("Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop") and starting my next one ("Mr. Monk in Trouble") so I wrote 200 pages of a crime novel that's been percolating in my mind for some time now. I've given those pages, and an outline of the rest of the book, to my agent to shop around after the holidays. I would have liked to have finished it, but I don't have the time to gamble on writing a novel without a contract. I'm also develo ping a TV series for a major studio. If it goes, I'll produce it with actress Kathryn Morris (star of "Cold Case") and director David Barrett. I've also got a new, spec screenplay making the rounds.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

It's exactly that -- having a writing career. I get paid to sit at my computer and make-believe. People pay me to share my fantasies. It doesn't get any better than that.

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

The opportunities for writers in book publishing and episodic TV are shrinking every day. It's a scary time to be a professional writer if you aren't already a bestselling author or an A-list screenwriter/TV showrunner.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Pay me more.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in print again?

Richard S. Prather, Harry Whittington, Dan J. Marlowe...and, from more recent times, Richard Barre, Jeremiah Healy, and Doug Swanson.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that moment.

My first novel under my own name was "My Gun Has Bullets" (I'd written four others under the pseudonym "Ian Ludlow"). I wrote it out of frustration. I was stuck in Canada working on a terrible syndicated action show starring a compete imbecile. Instead of getting into arguments with the so-called star, I went back to my hotel room and took my anger out at the keyboard. The book was a broad satire on the TV business. The tagline was: "The Mob is bringing their style of doing business to TV. They don't cancel series. They kill them." It was great fun to write.

8. What do you consider the highlight=2 0of your career thus far?

In publishing, it would have to be writing "The Man with the Iron-on Badge," which didn't sell well but it was very well reviewed, was nominated for the Shamus, and is probably my best book. I am very proud of it and wish it had been successful enough for me to still be writing about that character.

In television, it was the three years I wrote and produced "Diagnosis Murder" with William Rabkin (whose original "Psych" novel "A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Read," comes out in January). We knew even as we were doing it that things would probably never be as good again, which somehow made the experience even sweeter.

9. How about the low point?

In publishing, it was the commercial failure of my book "The Walk," which also didn't get any critical notice one way or the other. In TV, it was writing for "The New Adventures of Flipper," starring a teenage Jessica Alba and a dolphin.

10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?

My best book is "The Man with the Iron-On Badge," but it's pretty hard to find. Otherwise, I'd recommend the DIAGNOSIS MURDER novel "The Past Tense" (the darkest entry in that series) or any of my MONK books, all of which are light-hearted mysteries that I'm proud of.

Thanks very much, Ed

Friday, December 19, 2008

Pro-File: Trish MacGregor

Names are tricky little things. T.J. MacGregor was born with one name (Patricia Janeshutz), got nicknamed (Trish), then changed her name when she got married (MacGregor). She published her first two novels as Trish Janeshutz, a last name that few could pronounce or spell. So her editor at that time asked her to come up with a simpler name that contained initials – i.e., an androgynous name, because suspense novels by men were selling better at that time than suspense novels by women.

T.J. has written 28 novels, which include two different series – the Quin. St. James/Mike McCleary and the Tango Key series, as well as four stand-alone thrillers -The Seventh Sense, Vanished, The Other Extreme, and Out of Sight, which won the Edgar Allan Poe award for Best Paperback Original of 2002. As Alison Drake (we still don’t know where she came from) she wrote five novels and as Trish Janeshutz she wrote two. Her most recent books, Kill Time (October 2007) and the sequel, Running Time (November 2008) are time travel novels. As Trish MacGregor, she has written 15 nonfiction books that reflect her interests - astrology, the tarot, dreams, and yoga. In 2003, with the death of renown astrologer Sydney Omarr, Trish took over the writing of his astrology books. Confused yet? Check out the bibliography.

Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, she’s bilingual and has an ongoing love affair with South America. Before she sold her first novel in 1984, her jobs were all over the map. She taught English to Cuban refugees, Spanish to hormonal teenagers, was a social worker, and a librarian and Spanish teacher in a correctional facility for youthful offenders. Her best job was leading travel writing trips with her husband, writer and novelist Rob MacGregor, to the Peruvian Amazon.

She lives in South Florida with her husband and their teenage daughter, Megan, and a menagerie of pets.

1 Tell us about your current novel.

Running Time is the continuation of the story that began with Kill Time. The premise is that for thirty years, the government has had the secret to time travel and has used it to “disappear” political dissidents and subversives into the past. The protagonist, Nora McKee, lost her mother in this way 23 years ago and in Running Time, she and her lover, Alex Kincaid, try to find her. They now know she was disappeared to Blue River, Massachusetts, 1695, so they travel back to this dark period in the town’s past, when several women were tried for witchcraft, and battle religious fundamentalism in its most vile form.

2. Can you give us a sense of what you're working on now?

I just finished a novel called Esperanza. It’s different from anything I’ve written before. A man and woman meet on a bus in the Andes, bound for an Ecuadorian town – Esperanza – that neither of them has ever heard of. They fall in love, but are constantly threatened by Esperanza’s brujos – hungry ghosts who terrorize the town by seizing the living so that they can become physical again. The man and woman discover that they have stumbled into an ancient battle between brujos and cazadores del luz, light chasers, evolved souls who guide the dead and the nearly dead in the afterworld. They learn that not only are they somehow central to this battle, but that they are both in comas, separated by forty years in time. If they choose to die, they will be together in Esperanza, but not as physical beings. If they return to their physical bodies, they will be separated forever. If they return to their respective lives with full memories of what has happened and try to find their way back to Esperanza, then there’s a chance they might be together. Big problem: the woman returns to 2008 with no memory of what has happened and the man returns to 1968 with nearly all his memories intact and the brujos have followed them back.

3. What is the greatest pleasure of a writing career?

Being able to do it full-time!

4. The greatest DIS-pleasure?

Considering the alternatives, no DIS-pleasures at all.

5. If you have one piece of advice for the publishing world, what is it?

Walk in a writer’s shoes for a day. A month. A year.

6. Are there two or three forgotten mystery writers you'd like to see in
print again?

Bari Woods. Her book The Killing Gift was brilliant. Anything by Cornell Woolrich or Dashiell Hammett.

7. Tell us about selling your first novel. Most writers never forget that

Miami Vice had just premiered. The man who would buy my first novel, In Shadow, loved the show and on that following Monday made an offer on my book. Later on, he admitted that he’d been influenced by the premier of Vice because the novel featured a black and white cop team and was set in Miami. The book had been rejected 24 times. I quit my part-time job teaching, let my teaching certificate lapse, and never looked back.

8. What do you consider the highlight of your career thus far?

There have been a lot of highlights – winning the Edgar for Out of Sight, connecting with other writers whose work I admire, walking into a bookstore and seeing any of my books on the shelves. That feeling really is indescribable.

9. How about the low point?

The death of my first editor, Chris Cox. He was a smart, quirky guy with a heart of gold who I got to know well when he made several trips with my husband and I to the Amazon. Chris went as a travel writer. When you drink Pisco sours sit on the open deck of a an old rubber hauling ship that plies 350-miles of the Amazon, when you catch piraña that you later eat for dinner, swim with dolphins the color of bubble gum, and swing from Tarzan vines in the middle of the jungle, your perspective on your editor goes through a major shift. Wow, he’s an adventurer, he’s funny, he’s fun. I felt privileged to speak at a memorial service that was held for him in New York after his death. Susan Sarandon, who had known him for years, opened the service with a moving tribute to him. I later learned that she had paid for a private nurse to be with him during the final weeks of his life. He was that kind of person, someone who connected people.

10. Which book or short story would you recommend to readers unfamiliar with your work?

The two time travel novels, Kill Time and Running Time.

Dudes don't read

On the Huffington Post Chris Goldberg, who describes himself "as a guy who has worked in the book world for several years," writes about the notion that fiction is for women.

Chris Goldberg:

When I talk to book editors they repeat the mantra almost religiously: "Dudes don't read." They've all resigned themselves to the fact that women buy most of the books -- especially novels -- and so it's become a self-fulfilling prophecy. They're right. Dudes aren't reading. But is it our fault? Or have publishers just given up trying to publish and market books that we'd want to read?

Just glance over a list of book deals on Publisher's Marketplace and you'll see houses acquiring the same stuff day in and day out -- almost all of which fits into pre-existing niche categories dominated by female readers.

A good example is Jane Austen-related books. In three years in my current job I've seen The Jane Austen Book Club, Jane Austen's Guide to Dating, Jane Austen in Boca, Jane Austen in Scarsdale, Austenland, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen: A Novel, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, Lost in Austen: A Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure, What Would Jane Austen Do? and, appropriately, Jane Austen Ruined My Life.

I joked with my cubicle-mate when Twilight became big that it was only a matter of time before we had a Jane Austen vampire book. It didn't take long. In June Publisher's Marketplace announced Jane Bites Back, pitched as "the humorous, sassy account of Jane Austen as a modern-day vampire," to be published by Del Rey Books.

After The Devil Wears Prada there were dozens of "assistant lit" books. After The Nanny Diaries there were dozens of "nanny lit" books. As the former assistants and nannies get married and have kids there are now "mommy lit" and "divorcée lit" books.

Meanwhile, it's gotten to the point where a lot of the more business-savvy literary agents won't even bother to represent a young male novelist anymore. If they do actually sell a guy-centered book, it's usually a direct-to-paperback deal with practically no publicity budget. (Something like I Just Want My Pants Back by David J. Rosen.)

for the rest go here:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You CAN go home again

I have several Stephen King books on my keeper shelf. For sheer storytelling power he's extraordinary in every way that matters.

I still read just about every book he publishes and enjoy most of them. In the last three months or so I reread Salem's Lot, Misery, The Mist and From a Buick 8. And last night, for no particuar reason, I picked up his first collection Night Shift.

Yes, he got better as a writer, much better in fact. But I tell you this book has a mesmeric hold on me. I don't exaggerate when I say that I've read some of these stories twenty times. They're almost like saying the rosary for me.

Graveyard Shift still creeps me out; I Am The Doorway is an acid nightmare; Sometimes They Come Back is an Evan Connell-like portrait of personal and professional failure tucked inside a stunning horror tale; Strawberry Spring and I Know What You Need presage the later, more sophisticated work; The Ledge and Children of The Corn demonstrate his mastery of pulp tropes; and The Woman in the Room is the sad, gripping masterpiece of the collection.

This is one of those books to keep permanently on the nightstand. Whatever kind of fiction you like, you'll find an example of it in Night Shift. It's a special treat for writers. Nobody in popular fiction has ever equaled King's rolling thunder approach to the job of telling a story. He's like a prize fighter who can hit you three times before you get your guard up. These stories have the effect of blunt force trauma on me. I think they'll have the same effect on you.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bob Clark's Taleof Two Christmases

Director Bob Clark's "A Christmas Story" has become such a holiday icon that TBS plans to run it for twenty-four hours straight. I've come to prefer it to "It's A Wonderful Life." As I get older I find Wonderful a little treacly to my taste. There was a fatuousness in Frank Capra's populism that's come to irritate me. A Christmas Story on the other hand is a masterful depicition of an era and a family.

Of course Bob Clark did a Christmas film earlier in his career, one that likely influenced John Carpenter and his Halloween a great deal (though over the years I interviewed Clark two or thre times and he wouldn't talk about that, on or off the record). I watched it again the other night and it's as good in its way as Christmas Story. This is one you should definitely see--the original and not the remake.

From Wikipedia:

Black Christmas is a 1974 Canadian horror film, directed by Bob Clark, which has a very large cult following. It was written by Roy Moore, and based largely on a series of real-life murders in Montreal, Quebec, around Christmas time. Black Christmas stars Olivia Hussey as a young college student who must deal with a deranged killer lurking in her sorority house. It also features Margot Kidder and Andrea Martin, before either had gained fame in the United States, John Saxon and Keir Dullea round out the cast. The film's score is by Carl Zittrer, and was marketed with the tagline "If this picture doesn't make your skin crawl... It's on too tight!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

Isn't it romantic?

For those of us who can remember the gothic boom of the Sixties and early Seventies it's always been difficult to imagine that one genre would ever again dominate paperback sales the way the gothics did.

But my friend Paula Guran was quoted today on Mediabistro about fantasy and romance and I have to say I think these figures best (per centage-wise) even the days of gothic dominance.

Posted by JasonB | 04:03 PM | Email this post | 0 Comments

Not Everybody's Sales Are Going Down
Juno Books editor Paula Guran (right) digs into the Nielsen Bookscan numbers to find some encouraging news about genre fiction sales:

"Fantasy mass market paperbacks sold 102,660 units last week," she reports. "A year ago, in the 49th week of 2007, fantasy mass market paperbacks sold 62,761 units... Romance, always the industry leader in [mass market paperback], sold 202,667 units for the week in 2007 and this year: 310,689."

Guran adds that the top seven fantasy paperbacks are Charlaine Harris novels, followed by urban fantasists Kim Harrison and Jim Butcher. In the romance category, Nora Roberts is at #1, but some of the other big sellers also have strong fantasy components; see Sherrilyn Kenyon, Heather Graham, and Katie Macalister.

But what about year-to-date sales, you ask? Overall, fantasy sales are down 18 percent compared to the first 49 weeks of 2007, but mass market paperback sales are up 14 percent—and overall romance sales are up 83 percent, with mass market paperbacks alone experiencing a 50 percent boost. And that's not even considering how many romance books might, in a different climate, have been categorized as fantasies...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Popular Fiction Peridodicals

This is a pre-review of Jeff Canja's forthcoming "Collectors Guide To Vintage Pulps, Digest and Magazines" entitled Popular Fiction Periodicals.

In more than 350 tightly packed pages, Jeff reprints covers of everything from slicks such as Cosmopolitan to the men's magazine such as Rogue and For Men Only to the pulps such as Doc Savage and Thrilling Wonder. The gallery of covers spans most of last century and includes, in a following section, not only more covers but lists of writers and artists associated with particular publications. And all this is introduced in a rich and fascinating article by Jeff on the history of magazines in America. He couples this with recommendations on collecting the magazines.

This is a true spellbinder, a lavishly illustrated history of magazines of every kind, from the demure Redbook of the early Forties to the `spicy' girl magazines of the Thirties to the hardboiled bastions of Black Mask and Manhunt. Science fiction and fantasy is represented in page after page of covers that track the field from its `scientifiction' days to the rise of the great Galaxy.

This is a mandatory purchase. No collection of popular fiction--for collector, reader or library--will be complete without this exhaustive and dazzling book.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I'll have to start a list of things I'm Not Supposed To Like But Do Anyway.

The movie (and novel) Derailed would be near the top. Now I'm willing to admit that there are certain plot points that seem a mite far-fetched but overall this story of two married people who meet each other on a commuter train and embark on a few adulterous hours of fun in a dusty downtown hotel works very well for me. Not so well, alas, for them. Just as they are getting all snuggly a thug breaks in on them and beats both of them savagely. He also photographs them. Soon after the the blackmail calls begin.

My favorite kind of suspense fiction involves average people turned desperate by events. Which explains my fondness for Hitchcock and several of his imitators.

Derailed isn't a great movie but for me it's got three great plots twists and several sturdy if not quite memorable performances, not least by the star Jennifer Anniston who'd previously never done much for me. Here she's playing a woman of intelligece and sensitivy. She's also a lot sexier than in her Friends-type roles.

The reviews I've seen have been savage and I'm not sure why. No, it's not art; it's not even commercial film making. But it's a cunning, suspenseful movie that keeps dopes like me content for the full length of its running time. So what the hell more can you ask for?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Robert Bloch

On The Rap Sheet tonight writer John Peyton Cooke makes the case for The Scarf and not Psycho being Robert Bloch's true masterpiece. I'm not sure I agree but since they're both fine books what the hell.

Cooke's excellent review reminds me of another overlooked Bloch novel, the one that came right after Psycho and that nobody much seemed to care for, namely The Dead Beat. What I've always liked about it is the way Bloch took a sleazy no-good bastard and set him right down in the middle of a Midwestern family that could have doubled as sit-com people. Bloch really makes you care about these folks and how they are so slow to catch on to the psychotic jazz musician they make the mistake of trying to help.

The title signals the era, the early sixties when the beats were so much in the news. He shows us a kind of faux beat existence with the musicians we meet early on. Bloch gets the one night stand life (in both meanings of that phrase) down just as well as he gets the middle-class days and nights of the family the musician will ultimately turn on.

Reviewers of the time didn't like the relatvely slow pace. They also complained (as I recall) that the novel didn't offer the shock or sass of Psycho (I say sass because the novel is very funny in places--something Hitchcock picked up on immediately). While it's certainly not Bob Bloch's masterpiece, it's a novel that shows him in a more expansive mood, showing an interest not just in the story but in showing us life as it was lived back in the day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Max Allan Collins along with Lee Goldberg is one of the founders of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. I'm also a member even though I've only one tie-in to my credit. But here's a letter Al (Max) put on line today that shows how serious the tie-in business has become and how many good writers are doing such fine work in the genre. Tie-ins are no longer thriwaways--in case you had noticed.


There's a very good and respectful piece on horror movie novelizations -- with lots of discussion about tie-ins in general, defending them -- in RUE MORGUE #85 (December). It's a good, slick horror mag from Canada (this time it has a fairly explicit article about horror porn spoofs, which I found a little surprising).

On another subject, I appreciated Karen's comments, re: her own specialization in the tie-in racket, er, I mean, medium. For me the rewards beyond the monetary have been quite the opposite -- I have been able to write all kinds of stuff that I otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to explore. I am a mystery/suspense writer, outside tie-ins, but in our arena I've been able to do science fiction (WATERWORLD, DARK ANGEL), techno-thriller (IN THE LINE OF FIRE, AIR FORCE ONE), western (MAVERICK), outright comedy (PINK PANTHER), fantasy-adventure (THE MUMMY) and on and on.

On the other hand, I got turned down for STAR TREK -- I guess I did: after doing several samples with editorial input, the project just sort of fell away -- and after many months developing an editor-directed fifty page proposal, THE X-FILES bounced me, too...although I had the happy ending of getting the second film novel, which was one of the happiest tie-in experiences of my career (incredible support from Spotnitz and Carter...who'da thunk it?).

I'm not sure there's any such thing as a name-brand writer in tie-in. Some writers who have a track record make choosing them a no-brainer for editors; you can call that lazy editing, or you say that writers like Karen, Kevin. Jeff and Keith have earned their stripes and deserve the work.

Recently I went to a G.I. JOE website (I'm doing the novelization of that) to try to get a feel for the property and saw my name invoked by one fan as "a guarantee that it'll be a phoned-in job." Yessir, my big name goes far....


Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Every few weeks I get a letter from somebody who reads this blog asking about my western novels. As mystery readers they can't imagine reading one. I never know what to say other than they're not shoot-`em-ups but rather suspense novels set in the west, some even in the Midwest. I try to make them realistic to their time. I have a large volume written in the early 1900s compiling profiles of criminals of all kinds in the United States, including the frontier. Things haven't changed much. The weapons are more deadly but the men and women using them are the same. None too bright, most of them. And they were no doubt the same in ancient Greece and down through history.

Ben Boulden just published a review of my second western and I'm publishing it here with his permission because a) who doesn't like egoboo and b) he explains far better than I can what I try to do in my westerns. His website is Gravtapping and it's a damned good one.

Leo Guild is an aging bounty hunter. He is a former lawman, father and husband, but that is all behind him. Now he rides alone. He is melancholy, intelligent and violent; when he needs to be. He also has a past that sticks with him. He killed a little girl. The courts forgave him, but he can’t find the heart to forgive himself.

Death Ground opens on the evening of Guild’s 54th birthday. In lonely celebration he makes a date at the local brothel with a young “straw-haired” girl. Things don’t go as expected with the girl and his birthday truly turns for the worse when he is summoned to the Sherriff’s office.

Two men are dead. One—Merle Rig—hired Guild as a bodyguard and the other—Kenny Tolliver—was technically Guild’s employee. He hired Kenny to protect Rig while he paid a visit to the "straw-haired" girl. As he looks at the cadavers on the heavy mortician’s tables he figures his job is gone and it is time to ride on, but first he pays a visit to Kenny’s mother. A scene that unsettles Guild and also piques his interest; Kenny’s mother knew Rig and Kenny palled around with a couple local deputies.

Leo Guild decides he can’t leave town until he figures who really killed the pair and why. He has a feeling it is not the violent mountain man being blamed by the Sherriff, but he doesn’t have many suspects. He doesn’t have anything but a hunch, really.

Death Ground isn’t a traditional Western. It, like all of Gorman’s Westerns, is a noir mystery wrapped in the trappings of the Old West. That is not to say that the historical element isn’t accurate or interesting, because it is. It is also central to the story, but an Ed Gorman Western is more of a historical mystery than anything else. A hardboiled historical mystery at that.

The prose is tough and tender in varying shades. It defines the story, action, and protagonist with a lean, smart and melancholy and literate style:

“Then he started digging snow up with both hands, and he covered them good, the two of them, and then he stood up and looked out on the unfurling white land. There was blue sky and a full yellow sun. Warmer now, there was even that kind of sweetness that comes on sunny winter days. It made him think of pretty women on ice skates, their cheeks touched perfect red by the cold, their eyes daring and blue.”

Leo Guild is an everyman. He is the man who does what needs to be done. He isn’t a hero, or a villain, but rather he is simply a man; a man who has seen much, done much, and lost much. Guild is an example of what makes Ed Gorman’s fiction so damn good: characters that are measured and three-dimensional; characters that act, feel and sound real. His male characters are strong and pitiful, lustful and scared, vain and dangerous, lonely and weak—generally all at the same time—and more importantly they are recognizable. And his female characters exhibit the same steady qualities. Neither wholly good nor bad, just human.

Death Ground is a Western that should have wide appeal. It will please the traditionalist with its rugged description of frontier life and the people who settled it. It will also introduce readers of hardboiled crime fiction to a new genre, but mostly it will please any reader who wants something tangible and meaningful mixed into a well-told, excellently plotted and immensely entertaining novel.

This one is well worth searching out.

Death Ground is the second of three novels to feature bounty man Leo Guild. It was originally published by Donald M. Evans in 1988. The other two are: Guild (1987) and Blood Game (1989). I have also read Blood Game, and it is every bit as good as Death Ground. I can only imagine that Guild holds it own as well.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Editors & Writers

Well-known science fiction editor Lou Anders recently guest blogged about the relationship between editors and writers. While I'm basically a writer, I've worked three times as an editor so I have some sense of the give and take involved. Most of the writers I worked with while buying books were bright, friendly, cooperative. And, as Anders points out in his own case, a number of them became friends. But there were a few who came at it ready for combat, something I never quite understood. Of course as a writer I once ran into an editor who seemed profoundly displeased that I existed at all. And let me know it at every opportunity. I wish Anders had acknowledged that there are a few editors who aren't all that easy to get along with, either--though I have to say with that one exception years ago I've been damned lucky to work with smart, competent and helpful people.


""Where's my check?" was probably not the most tactful response to my effusive welcoming email, an email praising a new author's magnificent manuscript and their powerful storytelling skills, and enumerating all the many reasons I was thrilled to add them to the Pyr roster. Checks are notoriously late in this business, but in this case, the signed contracts back from the author hadn't even reached me in the post; I'm not even sure they were signed as we'd just made a verbal agreement with the agent that morning.

"Uh oh, I thought, this doesn't bode well for the author/editor relationship.

"And it is a relationship.


"Publishing, like the film industry I worked in previously, is a business of friends. Sure, there's jealousies, back-biting, rivalries, hurt feelings, egos, crazy folk, etc... but for the most part, you work with people you really enjoy working with, because if you are going to spend a year or more enmeshed in someone else's imagination, it's a whole lot nicer for both of you if you can get along with them as people too.


"There's a reason why authors follow editors when the latter change jobs, and why conversations with your editor about sporting events, comic books, TV shows, and the price of tea in China are all classified as "working conversations". The editor is your editor because he/she loves your book and picked it out of the hundreds (thousands!) of other manuscript, pitches nd proposals that crossed his or her desk(top) in any given year. Building a relationship with an editor starts with realizing this."

for the rest go here:

Monday, December 08, 2008

Louis L'Amour

Louis L'Amour was more than a writer, he was a phenom. It's estimated that at one time he laid claim to nearly 75% of all available rack space in the western section. There were better western writers to be sure but a combination of luck, pluck and an ability to tell colorful stories in dramatic and uncomplicated ways made him a publishing icon.

As a journeyman pulp writer, L'Amour wrote for virtually every available market, from frontier stories to South Sea adventures to hardboiled stories of the mean streets. The sixth volume of his Collected Stories concentrates on the latter, mixing tales of gangsters, boxers, killers and detectives.

While there are no masterpieces here, L'Amour brought all his skills to the task of pulp crime. For me the run of boxing stories are the gems. L'Amour was himself a former boxer and he obviously had a real feel and affection for fighters and the ring. And the shadowy figures who have always run boxing.

The detetctive stories work both as tales and as snapshots of the big city in the Forties. Like O'Henry and New York, L'Amour understood that cities themselves are characters and he gives us tours of life at the very top and life at the very bottom.

I'd recommend this as a nightstand book. It's a large collection and is best read a few stories at a time. There are some clinkers (I'm not sure why the editors chose to lead with such a poor story) but if you like pulp fiction this is the book for you.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Charles Paris

(Thanks to Sarah Weinman for the link here)

-------------------------CHARLES PARIS
Gillian Reynolds Telepgraph UK

"Charles Paris, the original creation of Simon Brett, exists in 17 novels. Brett was 28, working as a producer at BBC radio, when he first imagined him. Surveying his small pile of unpublished manuscripts he thought he’d try writing something other people might want to read. Up to then he’d been terrified of crime fiction, the perils of holes in the plot, the matching of character to dialogue. From his day job, working with lots of actors, came the idea of a fictional actor, middle-aged, resting more often than working, with a hopeless private life but the kind of cunning that solves crimes."

for the rest go here:

Ed here: F. Scott Fitzgerald once noted that his sometime friend Ernest Hemingway spoke with the "authority of success" while he, Fitzgerald, spoke "with the authority of failure."

I've always imagined that Charles Paris was a background player in Fitzgerald's best work--a man of no particular note who drank at Gatby's mansion, perhaps. A bit old for the rest of the crowd but earnestly pursuing young women who, like him, were of no particular note, either, his charm not nearly as frayed as his suits. A man who knows all about "the authority of failure."

Most of us have favorite fictional detectives and Charles Paris has always been one of mine. He's a decent man adrift in drink and long years, the very things that help him solve crimes. He's drunk it all and seen it all so it's dfficult to deceive him.

Most of the early Paris novels I've read three or four times over the years. The later ones are very good, too, but I'm partial to the first five because Simon Brett was learning about Charles right along with his readers. If Charles was a bit inconsistent from book to book on occasion, that just made him more human.

The books are packed with the lore of theater and radio in particular. Brett is such a deft storyteller that his backgrounds never slow the pacing even though they always play vital roles in the plot itself. Brett obviously reveres working actors like Charles. The pubs where they drink, the dusty offices of their agents, the old friends who still manage to get the kind of work that eludes Charles... Brett makes the workaday world as interesting and entertaining as the murders.

Brett has a good ear and a good heart and it's always amusing to watch him go up against some of the more irritating aspects of modern media culture. God knows he never wants for targets.

It's a funny thing about Charles Paris. Of all the fictional detectives I've encountered over my lifetime he's the only one I imagine to be a real person. Brett has given him vivid life and me a long shelf of excellent mystery novels.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tom Piccirilli; Kris Rusch

Two excellent pieces on writers' blogs today:

Tom Piccirilli discusses eloquently the joys, frustration, heartbreak, terror and joys of writing full-time:

"Crises of faith, rages at peers, editors, and fans, disgust with the quality of work you read and the work you write, bouts of bitterness, thoughts of quitting, it's all a part of doing this insanity we do for a living. It's a part of the process, right up until the day that one of us actually quits and decides to 9-to-5 it and nab some health benefits.

One pal said that writing just wasn't fun anymore. It was a painful experience now having to make deadlines. Picking up the published books and seeing his work in anthologies and magazines didn't give him the same thrill anymore. The overwhelming, profound grandness of literature had downshifted into malaise. Writing had become just a job.

It's a lesson we all learn. Some early on and some later in life. I lost a lot of my bushy-tailed and bright-eyed sensility of fun early in the game. It's probably served me well over the long haul."

For the rest go here:

-------The Nature of Heroes

Kristine Kathryn Rusch discusses heroism in the age of summer blockbusters:

"Okay. Explained that way, I understand that the filmmakers made the right choice after all. Just like I understand the machinations that Spielberg and Lucas went through to show us that 66-year-old Harrison Ford can play an action hero. Spielberg, Lucas, and the marketers of the film no longer trust us to recognize a very simple fact:

"A hero is defined by his (or her) actions in a moment in time.

"It took David Mamet to remind me of that fact. In a marvelous essay called, "Film Noir and He-Men," he talks about the way that modern moviemakers no longer trust us to appreciate an uncomplicated hero. "Their films," he writes, "depict the gentle progress of the protagonist toward self-actualization."

Note the words he chooses here: protagonist, not hero; gentle, not tough; and self-actualization, not action. Yet the box office this May (and probably throughout the summer) will yet again illustrate our desire for heroes—not just in our stories, but in our lives."

for the rest go here:

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Short fiction

I've been reading short stories all year in prepartion for the annual collection Marty Greenberg and I do. Because our deadline has been moved up by three months my reading has been intense lately.

I'd need three volumes to reprint all the deserving stories. Every sub-genre from hardboiled to traditional-cozy to paranormal deserves its own book. I have my prejudices, of course. I feel closest to noirish fiction but when I read a Robert Barnard or Nancy Pickard story I get just as excited. I suppose because my generation was raised on realistic fiction I like to see every day life explored and writers like Robert and Nancy do that with poetic expertise.

I've never gotten over my thrill of discovering a story that works perfectly. I was joking with Carol the other night after I read a story in an original anthology--I said I want to call this guy up and tell him how good his story is. It was after two a.m.

I find it impossible to keep up with all the new novelists. But I can at last get a sense of those who write short fiction. And believe me 2008 was a bumper crop.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sam Peckinpah

Ed here: I'm not much for machismo or male swagger. Even the ones who are good at it are often just posing. To some degree drugs have changed this. There were monsters throughout history but today's drug-addled monsters are more numerous and more dangerous. But that don't make them cool.

I mention all this after reading a fine piece on Sam Peckinpah's films over on Cinema Retro. Oddly enough, for all the violence, machismo seemed alien to Peckinpah. His men were not John Wayne conquerors, they were the anti-thesis. Look at the roles of William Holden and Robert Ryan in The Wild Bunch. Or look how he turns macho upside down in Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. Peckinpah's men are generally losers, often forlorn, with no prospects. The more I watch Peckinpah's films the more I realize that his men are as confused and scared as modern men. The neuroses in his only war film The Iron Cross would keep an army of shrinks busy for a decade. I think that's why so much of today's book and screen violence strikes me as showy and empty. The men are like male runways models with guns. Posing.

From Cinema Retro:

"We’re perilously numb to the word ‘violence’ these days – and that’s the very last thing Sam Peckinpah was after. When he started shooting pictures in 1961 with The Deadly Companions (rarely screened since the ‘70s in the UK), Hollywood still had qualms about showing blood. The Wild Bunch (1969) changed everything; it was probably changing anyway – Bonnie and Clyde (1967) paved the way – but Peckinpah’s masterpiece was a seismic event in cinematic storytelling. The director wanted to bring Vietnam into the story, the daily diet of destruction on the TV news, but the violence wasn’t the point. The pointlessness was the point. Desperados who are no good and finally they know it. It’s only when they choose to die in vain that they find some kind of self-respect. But the art of it is how intensely we feel for them, every step of the way, every shuddering bullet wound, and every last breath.

"Though Peckinpah was brutal, cynical, hateful towards women and disgusted by men, in every instance the reverse is also the case. Only a true romantic has so much pain inside. Publicly, Peckinpah aligned himself exclusively with the outlaws and the mavericks, full of conflict and self-loathing; you see him in Dustin Hoffman’s David Sumner in Straw Dogs (1971), in James Coburn’s Garrett in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973) and in Warren Oates’ Benny in Alfredo Garcia – self portraits in which impotence and rage go hand in hand."

For the rest go here:

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Leigh Brackett; YA novels; Ellen Page

From Tom Piccirilii about my post last night re Stranger At Home by Leigh Brackett::

Believe it or not, Ed, STRANGER AT HOME as by Sanders actually is in print. Those Black Mask Online dudes have it available in a POD edition. Stranger At Home: Leigh Brackett, George Sanders: Books


From Galleycat

Twilight Versus Y.A. "Chippies"

"I hate Y.A. novels; they bore me. That's a disappointing fact of my reading life, because never have I had such an intense relationship with books as when I was a young girl," wrote Caitlin Flanagan in the Atlantic--launching a thousand Y.A. blog posts in the process.

Flanagan's essay praises the Twilight series (the second-most popular book among college kids) for its careful treatment of sexuality and relationships. At the same time, she bashes other popular stories like Gossip Girl ("these chippies could make a crack whore look like Clara Barton") and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants ("female empowerment as it's currently defined by the kind of jaded, 40-something divorcees who wash ashore at day spas with their grizzled girlfriends").

Ed here: There's more but why bother. She's so clearly wrong on so many counts a comment isn't necessary.)

-------------------------------Sorry Ellen Page you're not good enough
New York magazine today:

"In an effort to provide the shadowy cabal known as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with some much-needed transparency, AMPAS executive director Bruce Davis agreed to be questioned under hot interrogation lights about his organization's mysterious recruiting methods by the New York Times.

..... AMPAS has gone on the defensive to combat the perception that its voting branch is too old and too conservative. In fact, the opposite seems to be true; the Academy instituted a new, stricter admissions policy way back in 2004 with the intent of making the membership younger, hipper, and more culturally diverse (more Benetton, less Brooks Brothers).

(more) However, it seems that they may have gone too far, as rumblings have begun that the "new" criteria is too strict. No longer is an Oscar nomination sufficient enough to earn you an AMPAS bid (case in point: sexually ambiguous buzz magnet Ellen Page).

...nowadays, potential AMPAS nominees must take to brownnosing current members in order to gain admittance. Namely, The Lives of Others director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's composed this gratuitously treacly ode to the Academy: "Every time I walk through the doors of the academy building, I experience what I would imagine a pious Catholic could feel as he walks through the portal of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome" (ew).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Leigh Brackett

Way back in the Fifties I read one half of an Ace Double mystery novel called Stranger At Home. I really took to it. The writing was swift, dramatic, elegant. Supposedly it was written by the actor George Sanders. But even in my early teens, clueless as I was, I just assumed he hadn't written it. I'd read here and there about "ghosted" books.

The real writer turned out to be Leigh Brackett. I've mentioned this novel before because it's a fine whodunit set in the Hwood of the late Forties. For its time it's a blunt novel. Not even the protagonist Michael Vickers is much of a hero. The story centers on Vickers returning from the dead--one of his three friends (or maybe all of them) pushed him off the boat they were sailing on). Drunk, he nearly drowned. But he survived to return a few years later to find out what had happened to him that drunken night. He doesn't have amnesia, he just can't recall the moment he was pushed off the boat.

For years there were rumors that Brackett had farmed the book out but I don't think so. The writing is purely hers. Those sweeping sentences, those atmospherics, those bitter unhappy people. You find them in her science fantasy, her westerns, her mysteries. If there's an influence here it's Raymond Chandler, one of her idols. The difference is that Vickers, unlike Philip Marlowe, doesn't observe everything at one remove. He goes through the novel trying to find the culprit--and learning in the process what an arrogant ruthless bastard he was to those around him.

The book opens on a party scene that I'd out up against any party scene I've encountered in fiction short of Gatsby. Brackett must have known a lot of drunks because she gets them down just right.

This is a book that should be brought back and put on the Brackett shelf. It's one of her finest novels.