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The Culture Must Change to End the Slaughter – An Interview With James Thompson

March 18, 2013 by  •
In what has become something of a custom, I’m pleased to welcome James Thompson to the blog to celebrate the latest release in his Inspector Kari Vaara series, Helsinki Blood. As usual, Jim was incredibly frank with his answers, and covered everything from his writing routine to his recent dustup with Finland’s extreme right-wing party to his thoughts on violence in entertainment and gun control. Thank you, Jim, for proving once again that you’re not just an incredibly talented author, but also an incredibly interesting person.

James ThompsonWhen we last talked, at the time of Helsinki White’s release, you had finally struck upon a mix of medications that allowed you to control your debilitating headaches to an at least tolerable level. However, you also said that during the time leading up to that discovery–when you were having problems to the point you were literally going to hospital via ambulance–you had an added incentive to write; that you felt the need to produce as much as possible when you thought you may literally be at death’s door. Has that sense of urgency about your writing changed any now that your health situation is more under control?

No, the sense of urgency remained, and the routine I developed during that time stayed with me. I continue to start working as soon as I wake up and don’t stop until I fall asleep, reading books for research or review. Seven days a week. Of course I have to stop and do those things we do to get through life: shower, clean house, shop, eat, and so on. And if my wife asks me to stop and do something with her, I will. But otherwise, I do little but work. Luckily, I enjoy it. I think that you’ll find if you ask a few, that successful authors in general have my work habits. The more authors accomplish, the more people want and need from them. To get it all done, work requires constant focus and dedication. It’s not a job, it’s a way of life.

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All the Wild Children by Josh Stallings

March 15, 2013 by  •
Out There Bad by Josh Stallings“I don’t believe some higher force is planning this life for me. If I did, I’d give up, lay down and die right now. Because it would be clear, that fuck in the sky hates my ass.” – Moses McGuire

When Moses McGuire expressed that sentiment in Out There Bad, the second in author Josh Stallings’s series featuring the hard-drinking suicidal strip club bouncer, I thought it was pretty cool. So much so, I started my review of the book by quoting it. That there was a little bit of Stallings in McGuire—ok, maybe more than a little—was never really in doubt, but I didn’t realize exactly how much of an outlook on life they shared until I read Stallings’s memoir, All the Wild Children.

You see, by all reasonable measure, Stallings shouldn’t be alive. Between the obstacles and circumstances life threw at him and some epically bad choices he made on top of them, Stallings has led the most charmed cursed life in history to still be walking the planet. And he could easily be forgiven for thinking, like McGuire, that fuck in the sky hates his ass.

Plunging headlong out a window into a patch of thorny shrubbery, having your stomach pumped (three times), and driving a truck head-on into a tree would make for an impressive resume of misadventure for anyone during their lifetime—Stallings accomplished it all before his fifth birthday. Yeah, you read that right. And he was just warming up. Welcome to Stallings’s world…this is the new normal.

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Penguins & Vomit by Josh Stallings

March 14, 2013 by  •
It is my extreme pleasure to welcome Josh Stallings, author of the Moses McGuire series, to the blog today to talk about his amazingly frank and powerful memoir, All the Wild Children (Snubnose Press).

Out There Bad by Josh Stallings“I like your word choices and the metaphors.” My mother said that as a way to try and talk about my crime books. “Honey, why do you think people like your writing?” She doesn’t like it and is truly baffled that others do. I get that. Fucked in the head violent drunks ain’t everybody’s idea of a hero.

But what made me smile was a mother’s need to find something to like. My metaphors? I’m not a fan of metaphors; this may be driven by my suspicion that all life is a metaphor for something deeper. Maybe I just didn’t take metaphor 101 so I don’t get them. And so, contrary son of a bitch that I am…

Penguins.

Huddled in a huge mass of black and white sits a fledgling. When the mothers go off to hunt up some fish, the young must be accepted by the flock or get pushed out and freeze. So far it seems clear, fit in or die. But when the mother penguins return the fledglings all cheep or chirp or whatever sound it is they make. This is where it gets tricky. If their chirp isn’t unique, if their mother cannot differentiate its baby from the masses, the baby starves.

Fit in or die. Primal shit.

Be seen as unique or die. Equally primal shit.

“Penguins?” you are thinking. “Has Josh gone soft and all Nat-Geo? What the fuck do penguins have to do with his memoir?”

I am 50, and I am sitting in the dayroom of a mental hospital is how All The Wild Children begins, but it isn’t how it started.

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The Big O by Declan Burke

March 12, 2013 by  •
The Big O by Declan BurkeJust a quick public service announcement to let you know that The Big O by Declan Burke is now available as an e-book at both Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Karen can’t go on pulling stick-ups forever, but Rossi is getting out of prison any day now and she needs the money to keep Anna out of his hands. This new guy she’s met, Ray, just might be able to help her out, but he wants out of the kidnap game now the Slavs are bunkering in.

And then there’s Frank, the discredited plastic surgeon who wants his ex-wife snatched – the ex-wife being Madge, who just happens to be Karen’s best friend. But can Karen and Ray trust each other enough to carry off one last caper? Or will love, as always, ruin everything?

Here’s what a few pretty damn accomplished authors themselves have to say about The Big O:

“Declan Burke’s THE BIG O is one of the sharpest, wittiest and most unusual Irish crime novels of recent years … Among all of the recent crop of Irish crime novelists, it seems to me that Declan Burke is ideally poised to make the transition to a larger international stage.” – John Connolly

“A plot that takes off at a blistering pace and never lets up. The writing is a joy, so seamless you nearly miss the sheer artistry of the style and the terrific, wry humour.” – Ken Bruen

“With a deft touch, Burke pulls together a cross-genre plot that’s part hard-boiled caper, part thriller, part classic noir, and flat out fun. From first page to last, THE BIG O grabs hold and won’t let go.” – Reed Farrel Coleman

So, what are you waiting for? Go grab a copy! Amazon US | Amazon UK

Declan Burke has published four novels: Eightball Boogie (2003), The Big O (2007), Absolute Zero Cool (2011) and Slaughter’s Hound (2012). Absolute Zero Cool was shortlisted in the crime fiction section for the Irish Book Awards, and received the Goldsboro / Crimefest ‘Last Laugh’ Award for Best Humorous Crime Novel in 2012. Slaughter’s Hound was shortlisted in the Crime Fiction category for the 2012 Irish Book Awards. Declan is also the editor of Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (2011), and the co-editor, with John Connolly, of Books to Die For (2012). He hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction called Crime Always Pays, and can also be found on Twitter @declanburke.
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Keep Your Hands Off My Power Supply: Heavy Metal Noir by Warren Moore

March 11, 2013 by  •
Being a fan of both crime fiction and metal, I was obviously quite intrigued when I heard about Broken Glass Waltzes (Snubnose Press), the debut novel from Warren Moore, which is a crime thriller set in the heavy metal club scene of the late 80s/early 90s. The book hasn’t made it to the top of my monstrously out of control TBR stack quite yet, but I’m pleased to be able to go ahead and give Warren some space today to tell everyone a little bit more about the book…and the importance of heavy metal. \m/ \m/

Warren MooreWhen I was shopping Broken Glass Waltzes to agents, I told them it was a heavy metal crime novel. At least one agent replied that people who listened to heavy metal didn’t read, and vice versa. Similarly, when I was working on my Master’s, I had a creative writing prof express consternation about all this hard rock stuff I was listening to and writing about, in my fiction and in reviews and such as well. “What’s the deal with all this heavy metal stuff?” he asked.

“I like it,” I said. “I’ve played it in bands and I listen to it and enjoy it.” All of which was true, although I listened to a lot of other stuff too. The year before, I had a front-row seat to see Miles, and I had seen Bill Monroe at a grungy little place in Nashville. But having spent my teens in the Cincinnati burbs in a pre-Internet era, metal was the most common form of loud, fast, technically challenging music, and I liked it. So I wrote about it.

After the professor walked away, my officemate looked at me and said, “You blew it. Now [the prof] is going to think of you as that guy who listens to stupid people music.” And maybe he did – I know he wasn’t real pleased with the fact that I wrote genre fiction, either.

And that ghettoizing attitude is part of why I left the academy for a while. But in some ways, it’s also why putting Broken Glass Waltzes in the world of heavy metal’s minor leagues made so much sense to me.

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Evil in All Its Disguises by Hilary Davidson

March 5, 2013 by  •
Hilary Davidson“Lily, by now you’ve learned people never really know someone as well as they think they do, right?” – Bruxton

If travel writer Lily Moore didn’t understand that reality after her adventures in the first two books in author Hilary Davidson’s award-winning series, The Damage Done and The Next One to Fall, the situation in which she finds herself in the series’ third entry, Evil in All Its Disguises, will make it painfully, unquestionably clear.

Initially Lily’s latest assignment, an all-expenses-paid trip to the upscale Hotel Cerón in Acapulco with a small group of fellow travel writers, seems like the perfect getaway. A fan of all things from Hollywood’s Golden Age, Lily is excited to be headed to the place many of that era’s biggest stars made their personal playground. Upon arrival at the beautiful, if extremely remote resort, Lily meets up for a drink with Skye McDermott, one of the other writers on the trip.

Lily finds herself slightly concerned by Skye’s behavior, which swings from acting upset and on the verge of tears to raging about getting vengeance on an ex-boyfriend via a devastating exposé about his business practices. Lily’s concerns shift into high gear, however, when Skye excuses herself from the table for a moment…and never returns. Even more concerning, Lily can’t get the hotel staff to take Skye’s disappearance seriously, even though she points out that Skye left all her personal belongings, including passport and medication, behind.

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Traveling Ghosts by Hilary Davidson

March 4, 2013 by  •
I’m incredibly pleased to welcome the extremely talented Hilary Davidson to the blog today. In addition to talking about the latest in her award-winning Lily Moore series, Evil in All Its Disguises, Hilary gives us a peek inside the world of a travel journalist, where “the unspoken rule of the travel-writing business is that you don’t talk about bad things.” Hilary found a way around that of course, by channeling the bad into her fiction.

Hilary DavidsonWhen I started writing crime fiction at the end of 2005, I thought of it as a stark departure from the journalism that had been my full-time job for, at that point, seven years. While some high-profile journalists have been caught making stuff up, seeding their articles with characters that only existed in their heads, I never took that route. That was what fiction was for, after all.

So it’s been a surprise to come full circle and realize that, in my fiction, I’m talking about all the stories I was never allowed to tell as a travel writer. By “allowed,” I don’t mean that any editor or tourist rep tried to bar me from telling the truth. It was just that, if I wanted to make a living at journalism — and I did — I had to play by certain rules.

This hit home a few years ago, when I was writing a travel feature about Easter Island for a glossy magazine. While I’d been on the island, traveling with a group of journalists, our shady tour operator got greedy and demanded a cash payment from each member of the group, telling us that they wouldn’t take us to the island’s major sites if we didn’t pay. Disgusted with this lame attempt at a shakedown, another journalist and I rented a jeep and took our own tour. I saw the spectacular sites, took photos, and got what seemed like a great story out of the experience.

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Juárez Dance by Sam Hawken

February 18, 2013 by  •
Juárez Dance by Sam Hawken“You are a killer. Here’s a man I want you to kill. I’ll pay you. What else is there?” – Lorena Ruiz

For American hitman Cooper Townsend, there actually was nothing else for many years. A man with a healthy dose of moral apathy, Townsend settled in Juárez, Mexico after a brief apprenticeship with an older assassin and set about making a fine living as a contract killer, primarily for one of Juárez’s largest crime organizations.

The book opens with Townsend taking care of a job back in the States before heading home to Juárez, where he’s met with an interesting job opportunity from his main employer, Señor Barriga–work close protection for the man during a week of negotiations with one of the organization’s biggest competitors.

It seems that depending upon how successful the negotiations are, Townsend may be needed to make a hit on the man, and posing as Barriga’s bodyguard is the best way for Townsend to get inside the gated community and the man’s home for the recon that will be needed should the hit be green-lit.

While spending time at the potential target’s estate, Townsend meets an alluring young woman, Lorena Ruiz, who kindles feelings in him he wasn’t aware he was capable of. When Barriga tells Townsend to stand down on the hit, Lorena approaches him with a proposal of her own, one that sends Townsend down a deadly path from which there will be no turning back.

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The Expats by Chris Pavone

February 18, 2013 by  •
Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn HelmickKate was still getting used to the idea of strolling around a foreign city with absolutely no concern that someone might, for any variety of reasons, want to kill her.

When Kate Moore’s husband, Dexter, comes home one day and announces that he’s received an extremely lucrative offer to move the family from Washington, D. C. to Luxembourg for a high profile IT job in online banking security she’s secretly relieved, and not for the reasons one may ordinarily expect. Sure, not having to worry about money anymore and living a posh European lifestyle are appealing, but it’s the life she’ll be able to get away from that’s most appealing to Kate.

Kate has a secret. A big one. Her husband has no idea that when Kate heads off to Atlanta or LA on a business trip, her ultimate destination is more likely to be Prague or Veracruz. Kate, you see, is a C.I.A. agent. In a supervisory position for several years now, she more than had her day working covert ops in the field, and the years of missions and keeping secrets has taken its toll. She’s ready to leave the spy life behind.

Unfortunately for Kate, the spy life isn’t quite finished with her.

Shortly after their arrival in Luxembourg, Dexter begins acting very strangely, keeping both secrets and odd hours. Given all the secrets she’s kept from him, however, Kate tries to give him the benefit of the doubt. But when another American couple shows up on the scene–and shows a little too much interest in Kate and Dexter–her old instincts kick in and Kate begins pulling at threads. The mystery that unravels will change everything she thought she knew, about her husband and herself.

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Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick

February 15, 2013 by  •
Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick“Demons. Yep, they always come when yer drivin alone.” – Feather Dane

Though he doesn’t literally have “Born to Lose” tattooed on himself, Billy Keyhoe would seem to have been given the karmic equivalent of the mark. Twenty-nine years old, his life has been most notable for its failure to launch. The only thing he’s proven himself any good at is smoking, drinking, and beating on his girlfriend.

Even he’s bright enough, however, to realize he’s hit a new low when in a fit of jealous rage he delivers a particularly savage beating one night, so he grabs a few things and hits the road in his beater of a ’66 Caddy. His intention is to put Waycross, Georgia in the rearview and start over somewhere in West Texas.

When he spontaneously decides to rob Earl’s 66 during a stop for gas on the way out of town, that goes about as well as the rest of his life, netting him a whopping $29 and a pissed-off clerk unloading her shotgun at him for his efforts.

Things seem to take a turn for the better when Billy picks up a beautiful hitchhiker named Feather. He realizes it’s kind of odd she was just standing at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, but Billy has no idea how truly odd things are going to get before their journey is over.

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Mannheim Rex by Robert Pobi

February 14, 2013 by  •
Mannheim Rex by Robert Pobi“Don’t worry. Whatever’s out there is going to find us before we find it.” – Finn Horn

Still reeling from the sudden death of his wife a few months prior, bestselling horror author Gavin Corlie decides to get away from it all by moving from New York City to the small town of New Mannheim in upstate New York.

Based on a photo and nothing more, Corlie purchases a huge, old house on the shore of Lake Caldasac, not knowing the reason the property has been vacant for decades is because there are rumors it is haunted.

In fact, Lake Caldasac itself seems to be cursed, with an alarmingly high number of people–both locals and tourists–disappearing while out on the lake. Local fishermen are so wary of the lake, they’ve given up fishing it entirely. All but one, that is.

Thirteen-year-old Finn Horn lives and breathes fishing. He doesn’t let the fact he’s wheelchair-bound slow him down, going out daily in his specially modified skiff. He particularly likes fishing on Lake Caldasac, and doesn’t understand why everyone else stays off the lake–until the day his boat capsizes and he nearly drowns.

Having seen Finn, complete with his trademark bright red sombrero, out on the lake early in the morning on the day of his accident, Corlie takes an interest in the boy and goes to visit him in the hospital when he learns of the near-fatal event. Upon arriving at Finn’s room, he’s surprised to learn that Finn not only knows who he is, but that Finn assumes he’s there because of what happened on the lake…after all, wouldn’t a famous horror author be interested in a real live monster?