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Blood & Sawdust by Jason S. Ridler

October 31, 2012 by  •
Jason S. Ridler“Shouldn’t we both be afraid of something badass enough and strong enough to scare her?” – Milkwood

It’s a very perceptive question Francis “Milkwood” Mace poses to his young friend, Malcolm Tanner. After all, the her in question is Lash, one of the few surviving members of an ancient bloodline and the vampire who turned Milkwood. But let’s back up for second…

Thirteen-year-old Malcolm (first introduced in Jay Ridler’s short story “Blood & Sawdust” in his collection, Knockouts) and his older brother make their meager living betting on the underground fight circuit. His brother’s in it strictly for the money, but Malcolm is a true fan who knows all the fighters. At least he thought he did.

That was until the night he saw Milkwood fight for the first time. Short, pudgy, with a face only a mother could love – and that’s before taking a beating – Milkwood was utterly annihilated in his fight, a human punching bag who absorbed an inhuman amount of punishment. Dragged out the back door of the fight club and left for dead, Malcolm figured he’d seen the first and last of Milkwood.

So imagine Malcolm’s surprise when only a few hours later he runs into a Milkwood who is not only conscious and vertical, but who looks like no one’s ever laid a finger on him, much less a beating of epic proportions. Malcolm begins to piece things together when he realizes he actually has seen Milkwood fight before, except it was as a masked character billed as Stretch Armstrong…who was also beat to hell and back. In fact, those in attendance that night four months ago were sure Stretch had suffered a broken neck.

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The Devil Doesn’t Want Me by Eric Beetner

October 31, 2012 by  •
Eric BeetnerWho ever thought killing two girls would be less of a cock-up than keeping one alive? – Lars

Most people would certainly think killing two people would cause significantly more problems than not killing one. Then again, most people aren’t 47-year-old mob hitman Lars. Killing’s what he does, and he’s damn good at it. Well, he was until recently anyway.

For the past seventeen years he’s been on the trail of Mitchell “Mitch the Snitch” Kenney, an accountant who turned on Lars’s employer, Nikki Senior, resulting in half a dozen members of “the family” going to prison. Mitch got the Witness Protection treatment from the feds, and at Nikki Senior’s behest Lars has been patiently hunting Mitch down ever since.

Time’s a bastard, however, and both Lars and Nikki Senior are getting old. This doesn’t cause too much grief for Lars, who’s settled into a life of isolation, yoga, and listening to 70′s hard rock while moving throughout the Southwest in his quest to find Mitch.

Nikki Senior’s having more of an issue, specifically with his issue, Nikki Junior. Seems Junior’s ready to take over the family business, and he’s not keen to wait until the old man actually shuffles off this mortal coil. Junior’s making a power-play, and one of his first orders of business is to tie up loose ends…namely, “Mitch the Snitch” and Lars. Junior thinks Lars is a relic, and decides the best way to kill off the old blood is with new; enter hotshot up-and-comer wannabe hitman Trent.

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Fight in the Lonesome October: This Ain’t Your Sister’s Vampire Novel! by Jason S. Ridler

October 30, 2012 by  •
I guess it’s only appropriate that as Halloween approaches The Ridler is back to take over my site for yet another guest post. Hell, the guy’s been around so much between guest posts and my reviews of his work I’ve had to give him his own section in the site’s archives! So, please allow The Ridler to explain how he came to write a vampire story, despite the fact he hates vampire stories.

Jason S. RidlerVampires. How the hell could I write about vampires? It was a challenge I’d set myself back in 2002, just three short years after I started writing. They were and remain the most popular and pervasive horror trope on the planet. In high school, I had friends who loved Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Paranormal Romance was taking over the planet!

But as far as I was concerned, vampires sucked donkey shit. At least how they were presented in the sampling I’d seen. They were like elves, a glorified aristocracy. They actually were stronger and faster and more deadly by virtue of their existence; they were, if you will, born better than you! And the image of the romantic vampire, or repentant kind, with distant stares and brooding intensity? Snore . . .

I mulled on that a bit when someone asked me why I didn’t write about vampires. “They seem popular! Everyone likes them! Why not write about them instead of wrestlers or gutter drunks or junkie musicians?”

Why indeed.


One Hundred Years of Vicissitude by Andrez Bergen

October 29, 2012 by  •
Andrez Bergenvi·cis·si·tude noun \və-ˈsi-sə-ˌtüd, vī-, -ˌtyüd\ 1. the quality or state of being changeable; 2. a favorable or unfavorable event or situation that occurs by chance.

December of 2011 brought me one of the best gifts I’ve ever received, but Santa wasn’t the one who delivered it. No, my personal Kris Kringle was author Andrez Bergen, who was kind enough to provide me with a copy of his book Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. I thought the title and cover intriguing, and set about reading. Damn! Not only did TSMG end up being one of my Top Reads of 2011, it is one of my favorite reads ever.

Naturally, I wondered how he could ever possibly top it. Well hold on, ladies and gentlemen, because with One Hundred Years of Vicissitude Bergen is once again taking readers on a wildly enchanting journey down the rabbit hole to an ethereal world rich with Japanese and pop culture, one which seamlessly melds history and the hereafter.

Though not a sequel in the traditional sense, One Hundred Years of Vicissitude is built around the character of Wolram E. Deaps, last seen in Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat. When we last saw him, however, things weren’t going too well for Deaps, so much so in fact that Vicissitude begins with the following observation on his part: “First up, a disclaimer. I suspect I am a dead man.” He suspects correctly.

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Guilt Edged Mysteries: A Piece of Pulp History by Eric Beetner

October 29, 2012 by  •
I’m happy to welcome author Eric Beetner back to the blog. Eric’s latest book, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me, was recently released by Guilt Edged Mysteries, an imprint whose history Eric’s taking a look back at today.

Eric BeetnerIn 1947 when Dutton needed a place to stash the harder boiled books coming in to their offices, they decided to set up a separate imprint. A tough book like Mickey Spillane’s I, The Jury wouldn’t mingle well with the upper class of Dutton’s roster. This was a new era in tough guy writing, noir with a sharper edge. And Guilt Edged Mysteries was born.

In the nine years Guilt Edged originally existed they published 82 hardcovers, including those first seven in the Mike Hammer series and pulp classics like Fredric Brown’s The Fabulous Clipjoint and The Screaming Mimi as well as Lionel White’s Clean Break which later became the basis for Stanly Kubrick’s film noir classic The Killing.

As a vintage pulp junkie, you can imagine my delight when Guilt Edged was relaunched earlier this year. And my mind was further blown when I got the news that the new Guilt Edged wanted to publish my book, The Devil Doesn’t Want Me. I immediately ran off to learn more about the short-lived imprint.

Not that there was a lot to learn aside from the titles, a chronological list can be found here. In looking at the books they chose to publish it is easy to see that they were rounding up the books with more extreme violence (for the time), pulpier plots and tougher tough guys. Female authors were few and far between and often used the time-honored trade of disguising their gender with initials, like with the book Murder At Drake’s Anchorage by E. Lee Waddell. The E. stood for Eleanor.

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NYPD Red by Marshall Karp*

October 26, 2012 by  •
*OK, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first. Yes, I know James Patterson’s name is on the book too, first no less. However, with no disrespect intended to Mr. Patterson, I read this book because of Marshall Karp, whose writing I was familiar with from his own, outstanding Lomax & Biggs series. Having read all four of those, I can assure you that Marshall’s tone and influence shine through in this novel. So, onward.

NYPD Red by Marshall KarpNew York, New York. If you can make it there, the saying goes, you can make it anywhere. The political big wigs of the city would love for the LA entertainment industry put that theory into practice, and as such have rolled out the red carpet for a huge, weeklong “Hollywood on the Hudson” event intended to lure West coast producers, directors, and actors to the Big Apple for their future film projects.

The NYPD Red task force was originally assembled to give special service and attention to the city’s rich and famous, whose money and opinion have tremendous influence on the city’s structure and reputation. Already a high profile, high stress job, the additional influx of all the A-List out-of-towners puts the members of NYPD Red on 24/7 duty to ensure things run smoothly during the “Hollywood on the Hudson” event.

Of course, we wouldn’t have much of a book if things went smoothly.

The first hitch in the giddyap occurs when a famous, and infamous, Hollywood producer keels over and dies during his power breakfast at a crowded, upscale Manhattan restaurant. Though the restaurant owners and city brass would love to write it off as a heart attack, less bad publicity that way, NYPD Red Detective Zach Jordan and his partner, Detective Kylie MacDonald, aren’t so sure. The way the witnesses describe the producer behaving right before his death sounds suspiciously like poisoning, and when another Hollywood icon goes down later the same morning in a spectacularly violent, and public, manner there is no longer any doubt – “Hollywood on the Hudson” is under attack.


Marshall Karp: Murder Suspect

October 25, 2012 by  •
Marshall KarpThe year was 19noneofyourfuckingbusiness, and I was 24, living in New York City, and almost broke, except that my job as an advertising copywriter qualified me for an American Express card. And despite the fact that nobody needs a car in New York anyway, my meager paycheck also allowed me to make monthly payments on a 1964 Mustang convertible — dark blue, white ragtop, white interior. I thought it was super macho, until a few years later when a film company rented it for a week for a movie they were shooting. The film: The Boys In The Band. It doesn’t get any more macho than that.

One day I decided that the Mustang and I had to take the ultimate road trip. A ride along The Mother Road, the world famous Route 66.

I convinced a friend from work to go with me. Her name was Judy, so you get that friend is a euphemism. But we did work together, and if you’re going to drive across country in a small car, Judy was a great choice. Fill in the blanks from your own youth.

A week before we took off, my wallet was pinched from my office. It turned up a few hours later, minus the few bucks I had and my American Express card. No problem. Amex issued me a new card. California here I come.


Dying for Justice by L.J. Sellers

October 25, 2012 by  •
LJ Sellers“The dead are patient. They don’t care how long it takes, but they want justice.” – Detective Wade Jackson

Though Wade Jackson has by far the best clearance rate of any detective in the Eugene, Oregon Police Department, he’s never worked a cold case before, which is what he’s up against in Dying for Justice, the fifth book in author L.J. Sellers’s series featuring the detective.

A handyman who confessed to a double-murder eleven years prior retracts his statement, telling Jackson he was isolated, starved, and tortured for three days by detectives before finally breaking down and confessing just to make it all stop. The handyman is dying of cancer and has nothing to gain by lying, and even shows Jackson the scars from where he was burned with cigarettes.

Investigating an eleven-year-old cold case is hard. Investigating one that apparently resulted in the conviction of the wrong man based on police misconduct is a minefield. Oh, and the victims? They were Jackson’s parents. This is going to get bumpy.

Meanwhile, Jackson’s partner/protégé, Detective Lara Evans, has a cold case of her own. Gina Stahl has been in a coma for two years, one everyone thought was the result of an intentional overdose. When Gina suddenly awakens, however, she declares that she was in fact attacked in her apartment and that the overdose must have been administered by her attacker. Further, though he was wearing a mask Gina is confident her attacker was her ex-husband, who just happens to be a cop… a cop Gina was on the verge of exposing for abusing his authority, actually. Did I mention things were going to get bumpy?

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Skating on the Edge by Joelle Charbonneau

October 24, 2012 by  •
Skating on the Edge by Joelle CharbonneauThis was the second time in my life I’d had a gun pointed at me, and it still sucked. – Rebecca Robbins

Things have been pretty hectic for Rebecca Robbins since she left Chicago and returned to her tiny hometown of Indian Falls, Illinois. She had hoped to make a quick sale of the Toe Stop roller-skating rink she inherited upon her mother’s death, but five months later she’s still stuck in town trying to unload the place. Of course that’s not the only thing that’s been occupying her time.

She’s also dealt with a murder in one of the rink’s bathrooms (Skating Around The Law), had an on-again, off-again romance with the local veterinarian, made friends with a hat-wearing camel named Elwood (yes, you read that correctly), been roped into tracking down a stolen car, seen her deadbeat dad blow back into town, been mortified by her grandfather’s Elvis impersonator act down at the Senior Center, and faced menace from a group of mariachis (trust me, read Skating Over The Line if you’ve not already).

You’d think all that would be hard to top in the excitement department. You’d be wrong.

Skating on the Edge, the third book in the wonderfully wacky Rebecca Robbins mystery series, finds Rebecca dealing with a whole slate of new challenges. Things get off to a fast start when a death occurs at the Indian Falls Native American Summer Days festival. Rebecca was supposed to be the “target” in the Senior Center’s dunk tank, but roped someone else into taking her place at the last minute. When her replacement, Sherlene-n-Mean, a member of the roller-derby team which operates out of the Toe Stop, is electrocuted upon being dunked into the water Rebecca is left to wonder who was actually the intended target. And despite her past run-ins with local law enforcement and admonishment from them to stop playing amateur sleuth, Rebecca has no intention of sitting around waiting for someone else to solve the murder.


We’re All Thriller Writers Now by L.J. Sellers

October 24, 2012 by  •
How do you define a thriller? Today L.J. Sellers, author of the award-winning Detective Jackson series, is here to talk about the expanding use of the term in fiction, as well as the reasons behind the increased usage of “thriller” to describe a book. Though not as contentious as defining the term “noir” – an argument that has been known to have ruined friendships and even lead to fisticuffs – there’s no question the parameters of what counts as a “thriller” have been steadily expanding. So, read what L.J. has to say on the subject and then weigh in with your opinion in the comments: how do you define a thriller?

LJ SellersThrilling: adj., producing sudden, strong, and deep emotion or excitement

Doesn’t that pretty much describe all great novels? Yet according to librarians and bookstore owners, traditional labeling defines thrillers as fast-paced, realistic books that focus on plot more than character and have a high-stakes conflict as the heart of the story. And by high stakes they mean a lot more than a single life—or a series of selected lives—must be at risk. Whole cities or ways of life must be in peril.

But now, with many writers labeling their own work, just about any story with a crime or an element of suspense is called a thriller. Just as one example, Amazon’s #1 book on the thriller list is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, a story of a marriage gone bad and a missing wife. It’s all about the characters. Readers love the story and many have labeled it thrilling, and being a fan, I plan to read it.

As a member of International Thriller Writers, I’ve written many features about new releases for the Big Thrill newsletter. With some, I’ve scratched my head and thought: Why is this called a thriller? The stories usually sound terrific, but still, I would call them paranormal suspense or historical mystery.


When the Axe Dropped and the Shots Rang Out by Sabrina Ogden

October 23, 2012 by  •
So pleased to have the lovely Sabrina Ogden here today to talk about her love of short stories, as well as her involvement with Shotgun Honey, both the flash fiction website and their anthology release, Both Barrels.

Sabrina OgdenI still remember the very first short story that ever made an impact on me. I was in third grade and our teacher gave us an assignment to write a short story involving the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday. It wasn’t the first writing assignment we had been given in her class. Mrs. King loved reading books to us and always encouraged us to use our imagination in our writing assignments. But it wasn’t until this particular assignment that I realized just how gifted some individuals could be at story telling.

It was the final day before Thanksgiving break when Mrs. King stood up in front of the class and told us that she had a very special story to read to us in preparation for the holiday. The story was written by my good friend Sara and it chronicled the life of a turkey family living on a ranch with hundreds of acres of roaming space. They were a happy family; a mother, a father, and three little ones, and they lived a perfectly happy life until the father was dragged away by the ranch owner and sacrificed in front of his entire family for Thanksgiving dinner.