All Due Respect Books — I’m a co-publisher now

23 Aug

I know I’ve bombarded my small cyber-world with news of this already this morning, but, it’s time for the inside scoop on all this, right?

So, anyway, Chris Rhatigan and I launched a book publishing company today: All Due Respect Books.

We are going to publish books that we like to read: graphic, fast, fun-to-read crime and noir. Or, just books about people being very bad. 

A year ago Chris and I took All Due Respect, a twice-a-month ezine, and turned it into a quarterly crime fiction journal publish as both an ebook and a paperback. We’ve put out three issues and it’s been great fun: wonderful stories, interviews, and reviews. And, it just became an ‘approved publication’ by the Mystery Writers of America, which I found out is a somewhat rare honor. 

Chris and I started talking about launching ADR Books a couple of months ago. We both wanted to do it, but it did seem like a huge task and a lot to take on, but, neither one of us has been able to let the idea go. 

I recently finished my first full-length book (well, it’s 55,000 words), Tussinland. I kept trying to think of what to do with it: self publish? send to indy presses? query an agent? None of these felt right. I sent it to two agents. One of them rejected it/me right away, saying that she ‘couldn’t relate to the characters well-enough to be the advocate the book deserves’ after reading the first chapter. The other agent politely put it at the end of her TBR pile. I also sent it to four or five publishers. I got a nice rejection from one wonderful publisher and when I told Chris he said, “Does this mean Tussinland is going to be an ADR Books joint? If so, I’m happy.” 

That was all I needed. I immediately withdrew the book from the one agent and the rest of the publishers. Chris and I got very serious very fast. We are forming a partnership. An LLC. Getting a bank account. An EIN number. We want to put out a book a month. Novels, novellas, short story collections. Uncensored, gritty, raw shit. We’ll publish my books, Chris’ books and all the other cool books from cool writers we can attract. 

Here is our logo, designed by the great JT Lindroos. He is going to help us with some of our covers as well: 

 

 

ADR-LOGO no border small

Here is our slogan/tagline: Lowlife Literature

Here is our website announcement: 

ANNOUNCING ALL DUE RESPECT BOOKS

 
Logo by JT Lindroos

That’s right, bitches.

The crew that’s brought you oodles of kick-ass short fiction is stepping up its game: novels, novellas, novelettes, short story collections–we’re doing it all.

Alec Cizak founded ADR in 2010 with a single goal: publish uncensored crime fiction. Stories about criminals from the perspective of criminals. That continues to be our goal.

We’re starting right now: you don’t exist, two noir novellas by Pablo D’Stair and ADR co-publisher Chris Rhatigan is out now. (With a mass-market paperback out very soon.) Get it here, now!

To celebrate the launch, issues 2 and 3 of the magazine are FREE starting Sunday for a short time.

And we’ve got a killer lineup of books due out this year, including:

Tussinland by Mike Monson. Trashy noir. A cough medicine addict with a penchant for Frosted Flakes and bad TV is framed for murder. All the excitement of Monson’s fast-paced novellas in his first full-length novel.

Prodigal Sons by Mike Miner. Literary thriller. Matthew Flanagan ditches his perfect life to pursue drinking himself to death in Vegas. But his two brothers back home in Connecticut aren’t having any of that.
At turns funny and moving, this book is a hard-boiled American odyssey.

Two Bullets Solve Everything by Ryan Sayles and Chris Rhatigan. A crime split. Sayles comes out with guns blazing in Disco Rumble Fish, set in the seventies and featuring his badass cop Richard Dean Buckner. Then Rhatigan’s got A Pack of Lies. A sleazy, small-time journalist is blackmailing one source and pumping out all manner of falsities. But before he knows it, he’s in a world of shit–scrambling to keep everything straight and the cops off his tail.

Revenge is a Redhead by Phil Beloin, Jr. Pulp novella. After getting kicked out of the house by his policeman father, a young man falls in love with a red-headed hooker, then a spends a wild night avoiding rape, robbery and murder. He ends up committing quite a few crimes of his own and eventually seeks revenge on his attackers with the help of his new-found love interest.

Plus issues of All Due Respect, a new version of Monson’s short story collection Criminal Love, and more.

 

 

 

Sneak preview of new novella

23 Jul

Untitled psycho noir:

 

Chapter 1

 

Killing her was easy.

The killing was always the easy part. Want to kill a bitch? No problem. It’s just a couple simple steps.  Get a real sharp knife, come up behind her, pull her head back by her hair and then, well, commit. Fully commit to making a deep, long, ear-to-ear cut.

That’ll do it. Every time.

Next, just drop Helen or Amber or Nadine or whoever the fuck, and walk away. Just let go. If you’ve done it right, if you’ve actually fully committed, by the time you’ve walked to the nearest sink and cleaned off your knife, the little cutie will either be slowly bleeding out, or be dead already from lack of oxygen due to a severed trachea.

This is what Lancaster Messier had just done to Florence Hanratty. She never made a sound, which was satisfying because it gave Lancaster the sense that he’d done something right and good. Just because Lancaster was a psychopath didn’t mean he didn’t like to do the right thing—it just meant that maybe his ideas of what was best and right and good might be different from most humans’. He’d read all about what psychopaths or sociopaths were supposed to be like, and, sure, he could relate to a lot of the traits. And, yes, he didn’t mind killing another human, but, it did bother him when they suffered. All he wanted was the death to occur and when it did he was fine that he’d been the cause—whatever. But, sorry, he didn’t get off on seeing people suffer, it just wasn’t his thing, okay? All that gasping and crying and moaning. Very unpleasant to watch and hear.

The hard part was getting away clean, getting away with no chance of the body being found, no chance if it was found that it was ever connected back to Lancaster. And, most importantly, the hardest thing of all was getting away with all the cash sucked out of the woman’s life with no trace that Lancaster Messier was the cause of the financial liquidation.

Florence didn’t have much, which was a drag. It was a lot of work to get someone’s trust, to get them to let you in on all their secrets (especially secrets concerning bank accounts and ATM card passwords), and he’d really thought she was good for way more when he managed to get himself invited into her house.

Two weeks earlier, he’d finally gotten access to both her ATM card and the password. She had fourteen thousand dollars in the bank, and he intermittently—hoping to keep the bank from getting suspicious—withdrew up to one thousand dollars per day, until he had almost ten grand collected. He also had her Chase and CitiBank visa cards and the password to make a cash advance withdrawal of up to $2500 in each.

After slitting Florence’s throat and cleaning off and putting the razor-sharp Buck knife in his jeans’ pocket, he began loading up her Ford pickup with every valuable item in the house. The first couple of times he walked through with a load of gold and diamond jewelry, or a flat screen TV, or a lap top Apple computer, he’d check on Florence. The first two times, she seemed to be still breathing, which meant he hadn’t blocked her airflow and she was slowly bleeding to death, which Lancaster didn’t think was such a bad way to die. He’d researched it and found out it was just like slowly falling to sleep—and never waking up. Then, when he went into the kitchen to get the china and the nice silverware, he checked again and she was finally dead, thank god.

He finished loading up the truck. He’d already contacted a local fence named Chester Theodore with a detailed inventory, and they’d already agreed on a basic price. They were meeting on a country road nearby in about two hours. So Lancaster needed to work fast to make a clean exit.

He dragged the body out to the garage. Luckily, Florence’s dead husband Dean had a great set-up out there: work bench and power saws. In about 30 minutes Flo was in about 20 small pieces, all wrapped and duct-taped tightly in black plastic garbage bags. These pieces went into the back of the truck as well.

Then, the real work started. He’d often laughed to himself at how much he hated this part. The one time in his life he’d perform actual physical labor just like most straight people did all day long every day. He hated it. But, it had to be done, because, like, who else was going to do it? Someone had to be the last person standing and that person had to clean shit the fuck up, right?

He’d bought all the necessary cleaning supplies and they were all ready. He donned plastic gloves and scrubbed all the blood from the floor where he’d killed her and from everywhere it had leaked out of the body as he took it to the garage. He cleaned all the blood and other bits of body parts from the power tools and all over the garage. He cleaned up all his prints that were still lingering. He was a little OCD that way.

He collected all his possessions, anything that could be ID’d as his, and put them all into a trash bag. This wasn’t much, just a few pieces of clothes—an extra pair of pants, some t-shirts, four pairs of underwear and two pairs of socks. This went into the truck as well. Then, he went through the house one last time and vacuumed and scrubbed every square inch.

The house was on ten acres in the Hill Country outside of Austin, Texas. More than a mile from neighbors on either side, he felt certain no one had noticed his presence there the last two months. He’d laid very low, and Florence did not have any close friends or relatives who came by or called—he’d made sure of that before he’d moved in.

He left with the valuables, the body parts, and his possessions, and drove to meet Chester Theodore.

 

The fence was exactly where he said he’d be: a mile up a dirt road that was just off the feeder for Westbound Highway 290. It was a perfect spot. Hidden from the main road by hills and a thick stand of trees, there was no one around and very little chance of anyone surprising them. When their business was concluded all Lancaster had to do was get back on the feeder, enter the highway, and in no time Austin would just be a sweet memory.

Lancaster still felt wary. He had a network of fences all over the US, but this was the first time he’d worked with Mr. Theodore. Their transaction should be simple and brief, but every time money and valuable merchandise changed hands in a criminal setting, there was a chance that one or both parties would decide to cheat the other. Also, this was a rare moment when Lancaster had to expose himself in a way that tied him to the stolen possessions of a murdered woman.

Chester must’ve been waiting a while. His bright red brand-new Dodge Ram 3500 was pulled over to the right and parked in a small clearing of grass and gravel. A couple of feet in front of the truck’s hood the man sat in a large foldable camp chair. He was smoking a pipe. He looked about 50, with grey hair and beard. He wore cargo shorts, hiking boots, and some kind of camo army shirt out of the first Gulf War.

Shit, please don’t be weird. Let’s just do this and go our separate ways with the minimum of bullshit. Please.

Lancaster pulled the truck past Chester’s chair to park and as he did he saw that there was some kind of assault rifle in the guy’s lap and that his right index finger was on the trigger.

Fuck.

Why can’t things just be easy? I bring a fence stolen shit and he takes it off my hands and gives me some cash—what is so fucking complicated about that?

Lancaster pulled up beside Chester Theodore. He pushed the button to lower the passenger window.

“I don’t like seeing that gun,” Lancaster Messier said.

“It gives me comfort,” said Chester Theodore.

“It’s not right,” Lancaster said. “It shows a lack of trust, and reveals a possible violent intention. I’m just here to sell some goods.”

“I don’t know you,” said Chester.

“And I don’t know you,” said Lancaster. “That’s the way it always is at first. But we each have to make a leap of faith if we are going to do business now and in the future. You didn’t make that leap. You didn’t have the nerve.”

Lancaster’s snub nose revolver was on the passenger seat. It was loaded and the safety was off. Chester’s head was only about five feet away.

“So now I have to kill you and deal with your body and all the shit,” Lancaster said as he picked up the pistol and shot the man in the left temple. The dude didn’t even have time react and aim his gun. He just didn’t get it, he didn’t understand about commitment and faith, and he didn’t get that the only reason you brought a gun to a party is if you fully intend to use it. Chester Theodore didn’t get it that he was dead the minute Lancaster Messier saw him with the rifle on his lap.

Lancaster was pissed. So pissed. They’d agreed on fifteen hundred dollars for the merch, contingent on Chester’s inspection and some haggling. That was supposed to be it. Lancaster would’ve settled for 1200 give or take, he would’ve helped the guy put the shit in his truck, then, he’d be long gone. And, he’d have a trustworthy person to work with if he was ever in the Texas Hill Country again.

Fuck. What a drag.

He got out of his truck. He knew Chester was dead, or close enough to it. Who wouldn’t be? He approached  the chair with his gun pointed just in case, but the piece of shit had a golf ball size hole in the side of his head and Lancaster could see skull and brain matter and blood  slowly seeping out. He looked real closely at the guy’s brain to see if there was something there to show how or why he was such an idiot, but, it looked the same as every other shot up brain he’d seen. He always looked though. There was rarely a good reason to get shot in the head.

He found a roll of cash in Chester’s shirt pocket: $1200. Of course. He stripped him down and found another $1000 in his right boot. He put all of Flo’s stuff in the back of the Dodge Ram. He didn’t know what else to do, he didn’t have the time to find another fence.

God, he hated working with amateurs.

He decided not to deal with the corpse, just let it sit there rotting on the chair. Sonfofabitch. He left Chester, the assault rifle and everything else behind and drove away.

 

As planned, he kept going west on 290 until he came to the 281, which he took north up until it met the Colorado River. At this point he found dozens of spots miles apart from each other to drop the plastic bags of Flo’s body as well as his clothes and gun and other stuff into the river. He kept his knife (he always kept the knife).  He was very careful, and felt certain he wasn’t seen.

Then, he kept driving until he met the eastbound highway to Waco. On the outskirts of town, just a couple of miles from the Greyhound Station, he torched the truck on another dirt road. Once he was satisfied it was burning up nicely, he walked into town.

He went to a bank and got the rest of the cash in Flo’s checking account and he managed to get advances from the Chase and Citibank Visa cards. Went to the bus station and paid cash for a ticket to Los Angeles—the farthest destination available with a bus soon to depart. He needed to be as far away from Texas as he could be as soon as possible with as little a traceable record of his movements available to law enforcement.

He now had more than twenty grand in cash in his wallet. Not bad for six weeks work.

 

Thoughts about reading and writing after reading a Joe R. Lansdale book

19 Jul

hot

As I said, he and his son looked a lot alike, but now that I could see Pye more clearly, I should add that though their resemblance was strong, the elder Anthony’s face seemed to hold his past in it, and by that I mean there was something about that face that made me feel even weaker and more lost than I had a moment before. In the dark it was hard, in the light it was a place of ruin. There were bad deeds there, embedded in his flesh like scars; in fact, there were actual scars, and I had seen enough wounds to know that most likely they had come from a knife fight. They stitched little patterns across his cheeks and forehead, like maybe Dr. Frankenstein had put him together in a hurry.

From Hot in December by Joe R. Lansdale

So, that’s pretty good, right? Wow. This is from a very simple and effective novella-length crime thriller I read yesterday. The book is nothing fancy–just a fast-moving story of a normal guy whose family is suddenly in great danger from a gang of vicious criminals led by this Anthony father and son. For the most part, Lansdale doesn’t mess around with all kinds of fancy sentences and paragraphs with descriptions and thoughts and crap. But, every once in a great while he will stop the incredible momentum of his narrative to give a sentence or two like the one I just quoted. Just enough, just enough words to really give us the perfect idea of what kind of people and situations and stakes we are dealing with. When I read that passage, I actually felt scared myself for a moment.

Okay then, this is what I like, what I like to read and write. Entertaining fast-moving unpretentious crime fiction. Books where I don’t have to feel that horrible effort of reading, but instead, am fascinated from the first sentence and paragraph by what is being told, and just can’t stop reading to find out what happens next.

I guess that means I’m low or middle-brow in my basic taste (though I’ve read and enjoyed a lot of fiction considered ‘literary’ and high quality), and in my artistic/creative ambitions. However, no one can tell me that what Lansdale does here isn’t creative, artistic, original, and, somehow, new, and that it doesn’t help us to look at the world around us with a little more clarity, a little more light. Don’t even try to tell me that cause I’ll just get all prickly.

I get this experience all the time  in my genre reading, even the most pulpy and trashy. I mean, how can one ever write with the clarity and skill it takes to compel a reader to keep turning pages without also being able to say what needs to be said in exactly the right way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

New review of both The Scent of New Death and What Happens in Reno

6 May

The review is from Craig T. McNeely from his site Craig’s Book-Ends. I really like it. Not only because it is so enthusiastically favorable, but because he really seems to get what I am trying to do, which is very gratifying. I have to share it here in order to get it onto my Author page due to some Facebook glitch that has no solution.

Thanks for reading. I love you.

MONSON DARC COVER.

 

reno-book

Happy release day to The Scent of New Death

1 May

Though The Scent of New Death has been available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback versions for about a week, today, May 1, is the official release day of the book.

MONSON DARC COVER.

So far, it has consistently been in the top 20 to 30 sellers in the Kindle crime/noir category, and as of last night, it was the number six “Hot New Release” in that category. Plus, it has received six reader reviews on Amazon, all 5-star ratings. While I know all six of these readers in various ways — online or otherwise — I believe that each truly did love the book.  And, it has gotten a positive review on a real website, from Kevin Tipple, of Kevin’s Corner.

During the past several weeks, I sent copies of the book to a large amount of people and websites, with the hope of getting high-profile positive reviews. I’ve kept a chart of all of these recipients. Since I told each of them that the release date is today, I do not know yet which of them will be nice enough to read and mention the book and which of them will end up hurting my feelings. It’s a good thing I have the chart in order to forever keep track of this important data.

In case you don’t know anything about this pulpy crime novel, here is the synopsis from the back cover:

 

For twelve years Phil Gaines has managed to pull off bank job after bank job with Zen-like precision, occupying his time between robberies meditating in his nondescript Modesto, California apartment. His quiet and controlled criminal life ends abruptly, however, when he makes the fatal error of marrying a young, wild, and very kinky local bar maid. 

Phil discovers too late that his new bride is unsuited for domestic tranquility when he learns not only that she’s left him, but that she’s run off with his business partner and his life’s savings. Now the stickup man is pursuing his ex-cohorts across the countryside as they lose themselves in a psycho-sexual killing spree—all three on a collision course with a bloody destiny beyond anything their criminal pasts could have prepared them for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shill: bookxy book preview #4

11 Apr

I’ve now read six of the recent novellas releases from Stark Raving Group and bookxy.com. Click here to see all the other previews, information about the publisher, and an explanation about why these are previews rather than reviews. Okay? Great.

 

ShillCover2000x3000_1024x1024

 

I really enjoyed The Shill by John Shepphird (get it here from bookxy or here from Amazon). I read it about a week ago all in one sitting but since my computer crashed recently and I just now got a new one, I’ve had to wait to do my preview.

The novella, like all the bookxy books I’ve read so far, wastes no time in getting to the point of the story and then sticks completely to telling that story as briskly, entertainingly, and consistently as possible. It is the tale of a con told from the perspective of a young aspiring actress in Los Angeles. She gets lured into a complicated ‘long con’ by a handsome older man. The plot of the book and the con is fascinating and intricate  and the entire time I was reading I kept thinking “How the hell did Shepphird think of all this? There is no way could write something like this.”

The book is full of violence and sex and surprises from all over. It is the very definition of a ‘fun read.’

Snow Falls: bookxy book preview #3

1 Apr

Okay, I’ve read my fifth  of the new releases from The Stark Raving Group at bookxy.com. Scroll down to see my previous reviews and my disclaimer about why this should be called a preview rather than a review.

SnowFallsCov2000x3000_1024x1024

 

Snow Falls, by Bobby Nash (available from bookxy.com here, and from Amazon for Kindle here), is what I would call a high-tech thriller. The main character Abraham Snow is a spy who has worked undercover for the government for many years. After getting double-crossed and shot, he returns to his family to convalesce and ponder his next move. Turns out his family is deep in the high-tech security business and Abraham begins embroiled in international intrigue and adventure along with intense family drama and rivalry.

The book is full of action and is very well-plotted. Check it out.

 

 

Swimming Electric Blue Water (get it here from bookxy and here from Amazon) is not the kind of book I’d ever normally read. It is speculative and set in the future, in Russia, and it is all about political and corporate espionage, and high tech weapons and enhanced humans like in the guy in the Six Million Dollar Man (not exactly like that, way more cool than that, but that might help you get the idea). So, it’s just not the stuff I’m usually interested in. I don’t like Sci Fi or Fantasy, I don’t like James Bond or other spy movies (though I love the Bourne movies), and I don’t like the futuristic high tech stuff that is so popular today, especially in movies. I like gritty crime set somewhere in the US — rural, urban, or suburban, I don’t care. As long there are criminals and crime and maybe policeman and guns and a little or a lot of violence done in a recognizable setting and time. I’m not very imaginative, I guess.

But, still, wow, I’m glad I read this book. It’s all about Yuri, a young man who in the beginning is hoping to represent Russia in the next Olympics as a swimmer. He is a good person, a likable guy. Just before a big swim meet he is viciously attacked by a horrible gang of evil criminals. His barely alive body, rather than being brought to a hospital is taken to some lab where he is altered into some kind of super-human. They make him bigger. Way bigger. They make him strong. Very very strong. Plus, they make his skin really tough so that stuff like shotgun blasts barely effect him. Then, they train him to hurt and maim and kill. He becomes, basically, a weapon employed by an evil corporation.

I don’t really understand the setting of the novel. It is Russia, I know that, and it is in the future, that is clear. And, it is in a future in which it seems like corporations might actually run things. I think. But the coolest thing about the setting and what is so cleverly done by Holmes is how she creates all this new technology that is tightly interwoven into people’s lives. I mean, I think what she does is basically use her imagination to think up what could happen in some possible future and then she just went wild. It’s fascinating, really.

But, the main thing, and the main reason I bet why I enjoyed the book so much, is that it is just a really good story. Holmes is obviously a gifted plotter and she knows how to keep those pages turning.

A couple of notes. Swimming Electric Blue Water is part I of a two-part book. Part two, The Courtship of Spiders, will be out soon. And, as far as I can remember, there is nothing in the book that is related to the image on the cover.  I’m nearly positive there are no mechanical fishes in the story.

 

Following are very brief reviews of three of the novellas recently put out by bookxy.com

White Hot Pistol by Eric Beetner, Keeping the Record by Travis Richardson, and Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow.

Bookxy.com is a publishing company with a new concept. They are part of the Starking Raving Group, a company self-described as “A Shameless Purveyor of Titillating Short Novels at Ridiculously Low Prices.”

From the Stark Raving Group website:

Each of our books is geared to be quick read novellas, 25,000 to 35,000 words or so (around 70 to 120 pages) and will retail for $2.99. Never higher. We intend to publish one book a month in our first year, two books a month in our second year and one book a week in our third year and thereafter. 

As has been written about in various venues, this e-book era has ushered in a new pulp renaissance, pulp 2.0 if you will, in taut, terse, plot-driven, witty, sensuous, sexy, action-packed character-centric writing harkening back to the days of the ‘30s pulps and the paperback adventure fiction of the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

Through our distribution arrangement with Consortium Book Sales and Distribution (Perseus Books), our books will be available for every eRreader as well as distributed through e-book wholesalers primarily serving the library market. You will also be able to purchase our books through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. 

But perhaps best of all, our books will be available by subscription through our own sales and distribution portal, Bookxy.

Now, before I go further, please understand that I have a contract as a bookxy author. I have one book out (What Happens in Reno) and two coming over the next couple of years. Clearly, I have a stake in the success of Bookxy, right? So, for that reason, maybe it would be best to think of these reviews more as previews, or as a buying guide. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I think these three books are exactly as advertised: short, action-packed stories that are fun to read.

WHP

In White Hot Pistol, by Eric Beetner, the action really never stops. I know that ‘non-stop action’ is a cliche that usually means nothing, but in this case it is correct. At the beginning of the book a young man, Nash, has a goal: to help his stepsister Jacy escape from her evil and abusive stepfather and their hometown of Noirville. The stepfather is also the a crooked sheriff who is involved with the local drug-dealing gang.  Beetner cleverly sets up a plot in which Nash’s goal is inevitably thwarted time and again by both the sheriff and the criminal gang. Each step of the way something awful and exciting happens that raises the stakes steadily higher. Nash and Jacy are always in danger and always moving, and Beetner gives neither of them or the reader a chance to catch their breath. Sound like fun? It is, definitely. Beetner says he plans on writing more books set in his fictional town of Noirville and I can’t wait for the next one.

Keeping_The_Record-final_1024x1024

Travis Richardson’s book, Keeping the Record, for me, was a unique read. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It is definitely a comedy and is completely hilarious, but it is also graphically (and sometimes almost sickeningly) violent with killings and shootings and knifings and beatings on nearly every page. And, it is definitely a crime novel, because nearly every character is a criminal and crimes are committed constantly throughout. And, it is about major league baseball and the world of professional sports and performance-enhancing drugs, so it is kind of a sports novel. And, since most of the action takes place while the main character is charging across the country from Oakland, California to St. Louis, Missouri, using every mode of transportation imaginable, it is also a road story.

So what does that make it? A violent-criminal-road-trip-sports-comedy? Maybe.

As with Beetner’s book, the goal of the main character is clear from the beginning and the action starts right away and never stops till the last pages. Roy Banks was once a baseball hero who held the record for the most home runs in a season. Then, his steroid use was revealed, which tainted his record and made him a hated public figure. Years later, Roy is broke and in hiding. Due  to the side-effects of the drugs, he has large breasts and and a high voice and has taken to dressing as a woman (a very large, badly-dressed, homely woman) in order stay hidden from creditors and the public. He learns that another player is about to break his precious record, so he embarks on a quest to stop his rival in whatever way he can. I’ve never read anything like it.

LYG

Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow, is the story of Logan, a sort of free-lance vigilante. His life’s work is to punish men who harm and abuse members of the opposite sex.  While looking for the perpetrator of a recent beating of a woman, he stumbles upon something much bigger. In his quest to right several wrongs, Logan hooks up with three young people who share his motivations. The four become a team.  Like Beetner and Richardson, Walpow is quite skilled at creating a plot in which the stakes constantly increase from the very beginning. Also striking is that Walpow manages to show significant character development in such a short novella–this is quite an accomplishment I think and helps to make the book particularly satisfying.

Hustle, by Tom Pitts, coming April 1

29 Mar

Actually it is available on Amazon for Kindle right now, see here.

hustle

Maybe April 1, is the day it comes out in print? I don’t know. Whatever, Hustle is here, Hustle is coming, Hustle kicks fucking ass.

I’m a very busy pimp, so I’ll cheat a little bit. Here is how it is described on Amazon: Two young hustlers, caught in an endless cycle of addiction and prostitution, decide to blackmail an elderly client of theirs. Donny and Big Rich want to film Gabriel Thaxton with their cell phones during a sexual act and put the video up on YouTube. Little do they know, the man they’ve chosen, a high-profile San Francisco defense attorney, is already being blackmailed by someone more sinister: an ex-client of the lawyer’s. A murderous speed freak named Dustin has already permeated the attorney’s life and Dustin has plans for the old man.

So that sounds wonderfully seedy, of course. Two young men, Donny and Rich, drug addicts, living and working in the notorious Tenderloin section of downtown San Francisco. They aren’t gay, but being young and male and willing to do almost anything — hustling gay men is how they keep the cash coming so they can stay high and stave off the horrible sickness of withdrawal as long as possible.

At one point early in the book Donny asks Rich why he isn’t up in Oregon with his wife and two-year-old daughter. Rich answers: “What do you think? Fuckin’ drugs, man. I’ll be with them again. Just gotta get off of this shit.”

And yes, Hustle will get a lot of attention for the extreme creepiness of its characters, their activities, and various settings. That’s great, of course, because hopefully that’ll get people curious and cause them to read, buy, and talk about the book, and Mr. Pitts will make a lot of money and Hollywood will buy the rights and make a really cool movie.

But, none of that is why Hustle is, in my opinion, such a good book, such an absolutely fun read. The reason why Hustle is so good is this: Pitts is a wonderful storyteller. Hustle is a great story, told very well. It’s like Tom Pitts created and then perfectly painted about a dozen characters who, if thrown into just the right situations (the ones in this book), naturally and inevitably do dramatic, suspenseful things. Constantly. Like Piggyback, Pitts’ novella published last year, the book is never dull, something is always happening, the stakes are always high and getting higher, and it all comes together at the end — just right.

pig

See what I mean? Yes, maybe, the book might be considered groundbreaking due to the subject and setting, but if the story didn’t rock like it does it wouldn’t break shit, it would never get published and you would never get a chance to read it and have the time of your life.

 

Swimming Electric Blue Water: bookxy book preview #2

22 Mar

Okay, I’ve read my fourth of the new releases from The Stark Raving Group at bookxy.com. Scroll down to see my first review and my disclaimer about why this should be called a preview rather than a review.

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Swimming Electric Blue Water (get it here from bookxy and here from Amazon) is not the kind of book I’d ever normally read. It is speculative and set in the future, in Russia, and it is all about political and corporate espionage, and high tech weapons and enhanced humans like in the guy in the Six Million Dollar Man (not exactly like that, way more cool than that, but that might help you get the idea). So, it’s just not the stuff I’m usually interested in. I don’t like Sci Fi or Fantasy, I don’t like James Bond or other spy movies (though I love the Bourne movies), and I don’t like the futuristic high tech stuff that is so popular today, especially in movies. I like gritty crime set somewhere in the US — rural, urban, or suburban, I don’t care. As long there are criminals and crime and maybe policeman and guns and a little or a lot of violence done in a recognizable setting and time. I’m not very imaginative, I guess.

But, still, wow, I’m glad I read this book. It’s all about Yuri, a young man who in the beginning is hoping to represent Russia in the next Olympics as a swimmer. He is a good person, a likable guy. Just before a big swim meet he is viciously attacked by a horrible gang of evil criminals. His barely alive body, rather than being brought to a hospital is taken to some lab where he is altered into some kind of super-human. They make him bigger. Way bigger. They make him strong. Very very strong. Plus, they make his skin really tough so that stuff like shotgun blasts barely effect him. Then, they train him to hurt and maim and kill. He becomes, basically, a weapon employed by an evil corporation.

I don’t really understand the setting of the novel. It is Russia, I know that, and it is in the future, that is clear. And, it is in a future in which it seems like corporations might actually run things. I think. But the coolest thing about the setting and what is so cleverly done by Holmes is how she creates all this new technology that is tightly interwoven into people’s lives. I mean, I think what she does is basically use her imagination to think up what could happen in some possible future and then she just went wild. It’s fascinating, really.

But, the main thing, and the main reason I bet why I enjoyed the book so much, is that it is just a really good story. Holmes is obviously a gifted plotter and she knows how to keep those pages turning.

A couple of notes. Swimming Electric Blue Water is part I of a two-part book. Part two, The Courtship of Spiders, will be out soon. And, as far as I can remember, there is nothing in the book that is related to the image on the cover.  I’m nearly positive there are no mechanical fishes in the story.

Next up: Snow Falls by Bobby Nash.

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Following are very brief reviews of three of the novellas recently put out by bookxy.com

White Hot Pistol by Eric Beetner, Keeping the Record by Travis Richardson, and Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow.

Bookxy.com is a publishing company with a new concept. They are part of the Starking Raving Group, a company self-described as “A Shameless Purveyor of Titillating Short Novels at Ridiculously Low Prices.”

From the Stark Raving Group website:

Each of our books is geared to be quick read novellas, 25,000 to 35,000 words or so (around 70 to 120 pages) and will retail for $2.99. Never higher. We intend to publish one book a month in our first year, two books a month in our second year and one book a week in our third year and thereafter. 

As has been written about in various venues, this e-book era has ushered in a new pulp renaissance, pulp 2.0 if you will, in taut, terse, plot-driven, witty, sensuous, sexy, action-packed character-centric writing harkening back to the days of the ‘30s pulps and the paperback adventure fiction of the ‘60s and ‘70s. 

Through our distribution arrangement with Consortium Book Sales and Distribution (Perseus Books), our books will be available for every eRreader as well as distributed through e-book wholesalers primarily serving the library market. You will also be able to purchase our books through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. 

But perhaps best of all, our books will be available by subscription through our own sales and distribution portal, Bookxy.

Now, before I go further, please understand that I have a contract as a bookxy author. I have one book out (What Happens in Reno) and two coming over the next couple of years. Clearly, I have a stake in the success of Bookxy, right? So, for that reason, maybe it would be best to think of these reviews more as previews, or as a buying guide. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I think these three books are exactly as advertised: short, action-packed stories that are fun to read.

WHP

In White Hot Pistol, by Eric Beetner, the action really never stops. I know that ‘non-stop action’ is a cliche that usually means nothing, but in this case it is correct. At the beginning of the book a young man, Nash, has a goal: to help his stepsister Jacy escape from her evil and abusive stepfather and their hometown of Noirville. The stepfather is also the a crooked sheriff who is involved with the local drug-dealing gang.  Beetner cleverly sets up a plot in which Nash’s goal is inevitably thwarted time and again by both the sheriff and the criminal gang. Each step of the way something awful and exciting happens that raises the stakes steadily higher. Nash and Jacy are always in danger and always moving, and Beetner gives neither of them or the reader a chance to catch their breath. Sound like fun? It is, definitely. Beetner says he plans on writing more books set in his fictional town of Noirville and I can’t wait for the next one.

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Travis Richardson’s book, Keeping the Record, for me, was a unique read. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It is definitely a comedy and is completely hilarious, but it is also graphically (and sometimes almost sickeningly) violent with killings and shootings and knifings and beatings on nearly every page. And, it is definitely a crime novel, because nearly every character is a criminal and crimes are committed constantly throughout. And, it is about major league baseball and the world of professional sports and performance-enhancing drugs, so it is kind of a sports novel. And, since most of the action takes place while the main character is charging across the country from Oakland, California to St. Louis, Missouri, using every mode of transportation imaginable, it is also a road story.

So what does that make it? A violent-criminal-road-trip-sports-comedy? Maybe.

As with Beetner’s book, the goal of the main character is clear from the beginning and the action starts right away and never stops till the last pages. Roy Banks was once a baseball hero who held the record for the most home runs in a season. Then, his steroid use was revealed, which tainted his record and made him a hated public figure. Years later, Roy is broke and in hiding. Due  to the side-effects of the drugs, he has large breasts and and a high voice and has taken to dressing as a woman (a very large, badly-dressed, homely woman) in order stay hidden from creditors and the public. He learns that another player is about to break his precious record, so he embarks on a quest to stop his rival in whatever way he can. I’ve never read anything like it.

LYG

Logan’s Young Guns, by Nathan Walpow, is the story of Logan, a sort of free-lance vigilante. His life’s work is to punish men who harm and abuse members of the opposite sex.  While looking for the perpetrator of a recent beating of a woman, he stumbles upon something much bigger. In his quest to right several wrongs, Logan hooks up with three young people who share his motivations. The four become a team.  Like Beetner and Richardson, Walpow is quite skilled at creating a plot in which the stakes constantly increase from the very beginning. Also striking is that Walpow manages to show significant character development in such a short novella–this is quite an accomplishment I think and helps to make the book particularly satisfying.

What Happens in Reno: Now available on Amazon

17 Mar

What Happens in Reno, my recent noir novella recently published by Bookxy.com (Stark Raving Group publishing) is now available on amazon.com. Click here to get it

And, please, if you’ve already read it, please post a review on the amazon site, okay? And, it is now on Goodreads here. Again, if you’ve read it and have time, write a review there, too, okay?

Also, below, I’ve posted the first chapter. Which might make you more likely to buy it, or, to sever all ties with me on social media and in real life. It could go either way, I’m open.

reno book

Too drunk to drive home, Matt Hodges spent Monday night in the Denny’s parking lot, just north of downtown Modesto.

The old Denny’s. The one across from the pathetic American Graffiti Monument at George Lucas Plaza. Bronze statue of two 50’s-looking teenagers leaning on the left front fender of some old Chevy or something. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, Matt stared closely into the eyes of the boy and the girl, and the emptiness he saw frightened him. Other times, when he really needed a drink and the inevitable delirium tremens approached, the two looked like clothed reptiles.

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After a long night of lonely bar-hopping, Matt had washed down a Grand Slam Breakfast with eight cups of coffee, trying to get focused enough to drive home. He would’ve driven if he could, he wasn’t being all ‘don’t drink and drive.’ But, once he vomited the eggs, sausage links, and pancakes all over the driver’s side window and door of his 1971 silver Mercedes Benz 280 SE, he could only crawl onto the backseat and pass out.

He awoke at 7 a.m., the already bright August sun in his eyes, barf all over the front of his shirt, piss in his pants and an ache behind his left eye like the slash of a box cutter. Used to greeting the day this way, Matt couldn’t muster up the energy for the obligatory shame attack.

He drove home, stripped off his clothes at the foot of the bed where Lydia lay, and took a long shower. Made sure to stay in until he used all the hot water. His headache dissipated some as he let the stream hit his forehead, but he still felt nauseous.

“Did you hog all the hot water again, asshole?” Lydia said. She stood naked in the bathroom doorway, watching him dry off. Make-up smeared and curly red hair wild. After dieting and going to the gym obsessively for months, his wife had gotten way too skinny. Sure, she looked hot as hell in her new sexy clothes, but it didn’t do Matt any good, her pussy was off limits to him. Her naked body, with all the extra skin hanging, and the stretch marks, just looked … weird.

“Did you fuck that sonofabitch Hunter Manning again?”

“Maybe …”

“Cause you look like you’ve been screwing all night.”

Lydia squeezed by him to piss, both of them avoiding the touch of each other’s bare skin. Matt dropped his towel on the floor and went into the bedroom. Lydia hated it when he left his wet towels on the floor.

They’d barely spoken to each other the past several weeks. She was pissed at his drinking and intermittent employment. And, until recently, he’d been in a rage that she kept fucking other guys to get back at him for being a marginally employed drunk. Lately, though, he’d stopped caring so much about all of that. He just hated the worthless bitch. He couldn’t recall any feelings of love.

Plus, this new one, Hunter, scared the shit out of Matt. He looked exactly like what he was: a shaved-headed tatted-up baddass ex-con with Aryan Brotherhood associations. Matt didn’t understand why Lydia couldn’t have an affair with a CPA, or an engineer, or one of the lawyers she worked for, someone whose ass he could kick. If it ever came to that, which it wouldn’t. Matt wasn’t a very tough guy.

“Whatever, man,” Lydia said. She dabbed at her vagina with a piece of toilet paper, stood, and flushed the toilet. “The closing is today, right? I mean, fuck, please tell me that you’re finally going to bring home some money.”

“The closing’s at nine. Soon as the title company opens. You don’t need to be there.”

“Don’t worry. Wouldn’t think of intruding on your big emotional moment. Gag.”

In addition to the Mercedes, Matt’s dead mother left him the piece-of-shit house out on Rumble Road where he’d grown up. A 1700-square-foot lime green stucco ranch-style built in 1966 as part of a then high-status subdivision. Ankle-high brown weeds now dominated the yard. The back and side fences barely stood. Vandals broke most of the windows and Matt replaced them with sheets of plywood. It sat on a street surrounded by similar structures, most in various stages of foreclosure or short sale. Shocked to get an offer for a hundred and sixty thousand, he accepted immediately before the dumbasses changed their mind.

Delores Hodges died of liver cancer just before Matt and Lydia married. A large debt remained on the second mortgage she’d gotten during the peak of the real estate boom. After paying off the bank, and the closing fees, and the sales commissions, little profit remained. Still, Matt felt fortunate to actually be making some money.

Lydia studied herself in the mirror. With both hands she tugged at the skin above her waist.

“Did you find out how much you’re going to get?”

God, he knew that today would be the day he’d suddenly become fascinating again.

“Twelve thousand, six hundred and fourteen dollars. And ninety eight cents.”

“That’s it? I still can’t believe you didn’t hold out for more. That house is worth at least one ninety.”

“Yeah, right. Eight years ago. Maybe.”

“The market is improving. In six months you’ll look like an idiot. Fuck, in two weeks you’ll look like an idiot.”

He dressed quickly in shorts and a black t-shirt. All he wanted was to get away from Lydia. In her presence he hated himself even more than usual.

Lydia turned sideways and stared at her profile. She sucked in her belly.

“Don’t you dare forget our deal,” she said.

“I know, Jesus.”

“Five grand of that cash goes for my tummy tuck and the rest pays off your credit card debt. I’m sick of my salary going to finance your drinking and trips to every goddamn Indian casino between here and the Donner fucking Pass.”

Matt went into the bathroom and stood behind Lydia.

“Jesus. How could I ever forget?”

“And if there is anything left over, it’s mine. You owe me for supporting your ass for two years. Shit, this marriage might be the worst investment in history.”

“You’re just going to get fat again, and waste that five grand. Talk about a bad investment.”

Lydia turned around. She started to slap Matt. He was ready and caught her right wrist with his right hand.

“Fuck you,” she said.

“Fuck you,” he said.

She tried to free her hand, but Matt held tight.

“You’re such a fucking joke,” she said.

She reached out with her left hand and twisted Matt’s right nipple.

“Ouch, shit,” Matt said. He let go of her wrist. “Fucking slut whore.”

“Oh. And don’t think I’m going to let you off the hook and forget your promise of going to rehab ‘as soon as all the stuff with my mom’s estate is settled.’”

Lydia recited the last part in a pathetic sing-song whine.

Matt looked away.

“Remember? Re. Hab?”

He walked out of the bathroom and out of the bedroom.

“Right! That’s what I thought. You get that money into the bank right away. Today. In case there’s a hold. My procedure is Friday and since it’s not covered by insurance I have to pay upfront.”

In the hallway he bumped into Tanner, Lydia’s son from her marriage before last. The tall, slender, and handsome 18-year-old’s morning erection had emerged through the slit in his boxer shorts. Matt felt himself blush as he noticed the impressive length and thickness of his stepson’s uncircumcised cock.

“Hey dumb shit,” Tanner said.

“What’s up, douchebag?” Matt said.

“Eat me.” Tanner stumbled into the bathroom.

“Okay,” Matt said to the shut and locked door. “Have a nice day.”

Tanner seemed even more aggressive and belligerent than his usual frightening self ever since Lydia had been seeing Hunter. Coincidence?

He heard Lydia shouting something at him as he went out the front door. His nipple stung like freaking hell. It felt like she’d pulled the thing off. Thinking back, he realized she’d stopped wearing her engagement and wedding rings. No surprise. Who cared, anyway?

He started the car and turned on the AC full blast, but the sweat still poured down his face. Already 80 degrees, the temperature would hit 108 by noon.

God, he loved the Mercedes. For years it sat in the garage. His mother never let him drive it, so, as soon as she got too sick to notice he made it his own.

Matt had been around a lot of divorces and separations. His own and those of his various exes. So, he knew a thing or two about California community property law. He knew that, technically, Lydia had no legal claim to whatever money Matt got from his mother’s estate. But, it was true that since a couple of weeks into their marriage, Lydia almost completely carried the financial load. He couldn’t blame her for being so pissed. He wanted to even things up somehow. It was the right thing to do. Still, why did she have to be such a cheating bitch?

Matt drove to the White Elephant Lounge for some hair of the dog. Still an hour before the closing. He hated the place because the morning regulars always laughed and joked and shouted as if no one ever had a freaking hangover. Plus, they ignored him like he was diseased or something. Even the total-slut flirty bar maid treated him like shit. He didn’t get it. But, the bar opened early and was on the way to the title company offices. And, it was cheap.

The Elephant sat between a liquor store and a nail salon on Standiford Avenue. In the middle of the oldest strip mall in Modesto. At one time the little island of buildings had been a mile out of town.

The 24-hour store also sold gas and milk and candy and lottery tickets. Taped to the clear glass doors were video stills of recent armed robberies and shopliftings. Getting in and out of the nameless place required passing through a soiled and smelly gauntlet of panhandlers, talkative tweakers, and inert splayed-out bodies.

As far as Matt could tell, the always-packed nail salon also never closed. Owned and operated by a Vietnamese immigrant along with her daughter and granddaughter, just inside the door was a Buddhist shrine covered with offerings: oranges, cantaloupe slices, cigarettes, chewing gum, antacid pills.

On the outside, the bar looked like the worse kind of dive. Old sign with chipped paint, a white cement wall, and a black bullet-hole-ridden wooden door. Inside, though, it looked like all Modesto neighborhood bars: fake wood-paneled walls, pool tables, posters and pennants of the Giants, the A’s, the 49ers, and the Raiders, an electronic dart board, and six large-screen TVs set to ESPN channels. The owner recently spent some money on renovations, and the White Elephant actually looked pretty good.

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Thank god the place was at least a little cool when Matt walked inside. He ignored the usual crowd at the left side of the joint, and took a seat at the far end of the bar to the right.

A bartender he did not recognize walked up and met him across from his stool. She actually smiled. Matt figured her for early 40s, like him. She wore black high-heel boots, tight black pants, and an unbuttoned lacy black blouse over a pink bikini top. Her hair a 70s-style shag, dyed jet black. She turned Matt on, especially because of the way a bit of her gut spilled over the tight jeans, and the way one of her top left teeth over-lapped the tooth behind it. The best part: she didn’t know he was an asshole yet.

“What can I get you, sweetie?”

“Can you make me a bloody Mary? Except with tequila?”

“Sure, darlin.’”

“Double tequila, please.”

“You got it, double bloody Maria, coming right up.”

Matt watched her big ass jiggle as she made the drink. He put the last twenty from his wallet on the bar. Watched her make change as he swallowed the drink in one gulp.

“One more please.”

“Are we celebrating or trying to cure a hangover?”

“A little of both, I guess.”

He drank the next a little slower. Two swallows instead of one.

The bartender went to the other end of the bar to serve the shouting regulars.

When she came back she poured them both a shot of Jose Cuervo.

“This is on me.”

Wow, he could get to like this new addition to his least favorite dive. Maybe he’d become a regular, after all.

“I’m Beth,” she said, extending her right hand.

“Matt.”

They shook. She smiled.

“What are we celebrating?”

“I’m about to leave town with a bundle of money. Maybe do a little gambling.”

So what if it was a lie? Who the fuck cared?

He drank his shot. She drank hers. She looked him straight in the eye. Big sexy smile.

“Oh, that’s always nice. Getting out of dodge with a big fat wallet.”

Matt felt great, drunk as hell. The White Elephant glowed. Bright, shiny, and beautiful. The liquor bottles behind his new friend sparkled and hummed. He saw his reflection in the mirror. He looked good, handsome even. Full head of blond hair, blue eyes, hardly a wrinkle. His eyes only looked a little puffy.

He pictured himself in a casino, playing poker, wearing a black silk bowling shirt, crisp khaki shorts and brown leather slip-on Italian shoes. Big pile of chips. Beth stood beside him, running her nails up and down his arms. Two aces in his hand and the dealer dealt two more—one in the flop and one on the river. He went all in.

Back in his reality, he put his right hand on Beth’s left.

“Why don’t you come with me?”

Beth laughed.

“I’m serious. I promise we’ll have a great time.”

“I don’t think my husband would like that.” She pulled her hand back. Moved back down the bar to the right and started washing beer mugs. Matt stared. She didn’t look back. Eventually, Beth went to serve and flirt with the regulars on the other side of the bar.

Whatever. Her loss. He remembered Lydia and the tummy tuck and everything else.

Shit.

Checked his watch: 8:50. The room spun as he got off his stool. He looked at the back of Beth’s head on his way out. Noticed Hunter Manning standing against the wall. Never seen him in the Elephant before this morning. Dude stared at him with vicious cold eyes. He wasn’t drinking.

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