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A Short Anatomy of My New Short Story Collection by Ed Lynskey

March 25, 2013 by  •
I’m pleased to welcome Lake Charles author Ed Lynskey back to the blog today to talk about his latest release, the short story collection Smoking on Mount Rushmore.

Ed LynskeyPutting together a short story collection is a little more complex than just binding together a bunch of short stories. I have done three story collections (the first two used the tales from my private detective series). I took some time deliberating over which of my yarns to include in my new Smoking on Mount Rushmore. In the end, I opted to go with a little variety (soft-boiled, medium-boiled) rather than concentrate on the narrow scope of hardboiled/noir short fiction I like to work in.

Moreover, I also wanted to use those stories previously selected and published by the different editors at the crime and other ezines. I had the privilege to collaborate with such first-rate editors as Al Guthrie, Sarah Weinman, Anthony Neil Smith, Todd Robinson, and others.

Next came the editing stage. I wondered if I was alone in my thinking about doing that. My online research indicated short story collections typically undergo a rigorous editing process. After all, you are presenting the best of your short fiction. I also discovered short story collections are expected to offer bonus stories previously unpublished for readers to enjoy something new. I did not know that.

So, I inserted a pair of them to round out mine and identified Smoking on Mount Rushmore as being a New and Selected Stories. The most colorful title of its 16 short stories also became the collection’s title. Why re-invent the wheel, as they like to say? I’ve often heard readers’ comments made on how their reading short stories ends too soon for their liking, so I included several longer stories, including the title yarn from Smoking on Mount Rushmore.

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Better Supercop than Superbabe: Meet Carla Windermere (Again) by Owen Laukkanen

March 21, 2013 by  •
Owen Laukkanen’s debut, The Professionals, announced itself with authority in 2012, garnering praise from the likes of Lee Child, John Sandford, and Jonathan Kellerman, and landing on more than a few “Best of” lists at the year’s end. Now Owen returns with Criminal Enterprise, in which he expands the role of characters who were secondary in his debut outing. He’s particularly glad he had the chance to do so when it comes to his female lead, Carla Windermere. You see, he didn’t exactly get her right the first time around. I’ll let him explain.

Owen LaukkanenOne of the really fun things about writing a series is having the opportunity to revisit one’s characters, to pry open their lives and explore their personalities a little more with each book. Or in some cases, to write them the way you should have done the first time around.

THE PROFESSIONALS, my first novel, was published a year ago this week. It’s the story of a group of twentysomethings who turn to kidnapping when their college degrees don’t land them any kind of a living. If you’re a regular reader of Elizabeth’s blog, you might remember the column I wrote to mark the book’s release, wherein I explained how circumstance and an utter lack of planning landed me a deal for a series about Minnesota state policeman Kirk Stevens and his FBI counterpart, Special Agent Carla Windermere.

Basically: I’m not one for outlining my novels. I sat down to write The Professionals with an idea about a group of nomadic young kidnappers, and a few chapters into the story their path took them up to Minnesota, where Stevens cottoned on to their scheme. Stevens partnered with Windermere, the kids fled the state, and by the end of the caper I had an unlikely partnership ready to take on their next adventure.

Stevens is a family man. He’s middle aged, kind of paunchy, bad hairline—he’s your average fortysomething desk jockey cop. Wicked sense of humor and a hardass when he has to be, but he’s never going to win any beauty pageants. Windermere, on the other hand…


Helsinki Blood by James Thompson

March 20, 2013 by  •
James Thompson“Forgive me, Father, for I am about to sin oh so grievously.” – Milo Nieminien

Things were pretty grim when we last saw Finnish Inspector Kari Vaara and his crew at the end of Helsinki White. Though they’d brought the high profile Lisbet Söderlund case to a conclusion–more or less–it was not without great cost, both personally and professionally.

Already physically battered from previous years on the job (Snow Angels, Lucifer’s Tears) and emotionally numb as a side effect of surgery to remove a brain tumor, Vaara once again suffered debilitating gunshot injuries to the knee and jaw. His right-hand man, the über intelligent if slightly unstable Milo Nieminien, was also left crippled by a gunshot to the wrist, while Vaara’s wife, Kate, was forced to take an action so extreme it has left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The only one who escaped relatively unscathed was the team’s third member, Sulo “Sweetness” Polvinen, though Sweetness was already carrying around a drinking problem, one which hasn’t gotten any better in the aftermath. Of course, the team also managed to make ten million in ransom money “disappear,” and that’s going a long way toward easing their respective pain.

Until, that is, Kate finally snaps and runs off back home to America, and the people Vaara and his team have made enemies of–and their numbers are legion–decide it’s time to start pushing back. Now Vaara must once again rally his dysfunctional team around him, this time with the goal of getting out from under the sword hanging over their heads once and for all…whatever it takes.


Heroin, Love, Bank Robberies, Dysfunctional Relationships, and Jail: Hold-Up, a memoir by Patrick O’Neil

March 20, 2013 by  •
It’s not Patrick O’Neil’s fault I haven’t read his memoir, Hold-Up. You see, despite the fact Patrick is about as punk rock, red-blooded American as you can get, his memoir is only being published in France…in French. I’ve gotten to know Patrick well enough over the past couple of years through social media (you absolutely need to follow him on G+ and/or Facebook–his ongoing “battles” with the TSA alone are worth the price of admission) and his Los Angeles and San Francisco essays, however, that even without having read it I felt very strongly about giving him a platform to talk about Hold-Up, the story behind its publication, and his continuing search for a US home for his story. Patrick, the floor is yours…

Patrick O’NeilI was that kid from a decent yet dysfunctional nuclear family: father a professor, mom a social worker, three children, and nobody communicated. We traveled the world, living abroad. I was always the new kid on the playground, the one that looked different and didn’t speak the language. Finally the wheels fell off and my parents separated.

Along the way a sense of alienation and not belonging became part of my psyche, which readily parlayed into an easy admittance to art school. Four years later I emerged with a budding heroin habit and what looked like a promising career in the music industry.

A quick segue ahead (eighteen years) and believe it or not my life was out of control as a result of said heroin habit. I’d gone from a contributing card carrying member in high standing of San Francisco’s punk rock movement to so strung out I couldn’t even hold down a menial labor job. My girlfriend (who I call Jenny to protect her identity) and I had ended up homeless. In an attempt to save me, my mother rented us an apartment in her upscale Marina district neighborhood. A neighborhood, with the help of my friend Sal (another pseudonym), I begin systematically robbing.


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.


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.


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…


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.

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.


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.