Tussinland is Live on Amazon

7 Oct

FINAL COVER

Get it here.

Here is the fancy press release:

Point Blank Public Relations and Book Promotion
Modesto, CA 95355

For immediate release

 Mike Monson’s first full-length novel, Tussinland, highlights DM/cough medicine abuse

The hero of Tussinland, Paul Dunn, is at a low point when he discovers DM, or dextromethorphan, the main ingredient in Robitussin and many other over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.

“He’s walked off his new job as a high school English teacher,” said Tussinland writer Mike Monson, “his wife is having an affair with a dangerous man, and he is confined all day to a cramped cubicle at a dull temp job in California’s Silicon Valley.”

Struck with a bad cough and cold, Monson said, Dunn finds something amazing in the first aid kit in the employee break room: a medication called Extra Strength Cold Remedy. “Paul Dunn is one of those people who feels like if a little bit is good, then a lot must be great. He begins taking the little white pills six at a time and finds that not only does he stop coughing, but he becomes quite high as well—an effect that just gets better and better the more he takes.”

Soon, Dunn is taking all of the pills on his floor and raiding the break rooms on the other floors as well. “When he loses the job and access to the pills,” Monson said, “he does some research and finds that the magic ingredient in the pills is DM, and that Robitussin as well as the many generic copies of the medication are a much more efficient delivery system of the drug.

“He beings swigging cough medicine by the extra-large bottle-full and finds not only a certain euphoria, but strong hallucinogenic effects as well. As the novel opens Dunn has his first bad experience with the drug and then wakes up to find that he is the major suspect in the early-morning shotgun murders of his wife and her lover. The book tells the story of how he tries to deal with this predicament while in the middle of deadly depression made much worse by his DM abuse.”

Tussinland, like Monson’s two crime and noir novellas, The Scent of New Death and What Happens in Reno, is primarily set in Modesto, a growing city of 200,000 in California’s Central Valley.

“The time is the summer of 2012 and the recession and real estate slump has hit the city hard,” Monson said. “And California’s Proposition 8, an attempt to define marriage as strictly between a man and a woman, is about to be debated in the U.S. Supreme Court. Tussinland touches on how all of these things affect the lives of Paul and his extended family.

“But, the book is not only about the economy and same-sex marriage. It’s also about murder and drugs, it’s about smart phones, Facebook and YouTube, it’s about religion and right-wing homophobic Christian-fundamentalist militias, it’s about 12-step groups, it’s about marriage and families, it’s about digital cable and reality TV, and it’s about disease and death. Love is a big theme also, although it’s a pretty twisted kind of love for sure.”

Tussinland releases as an eBook on October 8, and in print by October 13. It is second book to be published by All Due Respect Books, a brand-new independent publisher specializing in crime and noir fiction.

-30-

Sneak Peak of Tussinland — Coming October 7 From All Due Respect Books

22 Sep

My first full-length novel will be released October 7. At 52,000 words it is just barely full length, but  since that is more than anyone’s definition of a novella — it qualifies as a novel. I can’t imagine writing one any longer.

It is called Tussinland. It is being published by All Due Respect Books, the company that Chris Rhatigan and I recently formed. It will be available as an ebook and a paperback.

Here is the cover:

FINAL COVER

Isn’t it pretty? Rebecca Monson took the photo at Nino’s, a bar that is a location in the book. She also used her photoshop skills to manipulate the colors in that awesome way.

Here is the back cover synopsis:

Addicted to cough syrup, television, and Sugar Frosted Flakes, Paul Dunn is living in a state of torpor while staying at his mother’s house after the humiliating ending of his third marriage. His inertia is broken when he becomes the chief suspect in the murders of his soon-to-be ex-wife and her new lover. Set in the town of Modesto, deep in California’s Central Valley, Tussinland is about sex, drugs, addiction, smart phones, Facebook and the internet, digital cable, anti-government militias, reality TV, fundamentalist homophobic Christians, families, 12-step groups, pornography, marriage, death, disease, and love. 

Here are the first ten pages or so:

Miranda stared at the images of Tina and Mark’s corpses on the video screen of her iPhone. She didn’t understand how they could be so, like, dead.

Five minutes before, they both walked around like regular humans, yelling and screaming their asses off. Two minutes before, they were still breathing, but with great difficulty since Logan shot them each twice in the torso with a sawed-off shotgun.

Just a few seconds previously they were both gasping, gulping, screeching for air. Mark died first, with a slight smile on his face, then Tina went, as she glared up at Miranda and Logan.

Loud, then quiet, then nothing.

Blood everywhere. And piss and shit. Awful smells—the worst of it seemed to be coming from Mark. Miranda filmed close-ups of Mark’s slimy guts slipping out and his cracked rib bones and other stuff she didn’t recognize but found fascinating. Tina’s face still looked pretty, but just below it she was nearly severed in half. Miranda zoomed in just as Tina’s left saline breast implant popped out and oozed onto the floor beside her armpit.

Wow.

“Are you kidding me right now?” she said.

“I know, right?” Logan said.

“This is so completely awesome. You killed them. You fucking destroyed them.”

“That’s what you wanted?”

“Hell. Yes. God, I love you so much.”

Logan put down the shotgun and reached out to Miranda for a hug. She didn’t notice. She’d turned off the video and moved closer to the bodies. She stared at Tina. She reached out to touch her aunt’s face, then quickly pulled her hand back.

“Logan. Get a trash bag from the kitchen for all the shit. And one for the shotgun. I’ll start the cleanup. We need to move fast.”

She heard sniffling and looked up, saw Logan standing with his arms out. Trying not to cry.

Ashamed at ignoring him, Miranda sat down on the couch. Held out her arms.

“I’m sorry, baby,” she said, as soothingly as possible. “Come on over, sweetie.”

The large young man crawled into the petite Miranda’s lap. He curled up against her like a baby and buried his face in her neck. He slowly stopped crying as she stroked his thick hair.

“There, there, baby,” she said. “I love you so much, you’re such a good boy. You make me so so proud.”

“I do?” Logan said.

“Are you being serious right now?” she said. “Of course you do. You are the best boy ever.”

Logan pulled back and looked Miranda in the eyes.

“So everything is going according to plan?”

Miranda looked back at the corpses, at the more than a dozen bricks of heroin stacked up on the coffee table.

“Yes,” she said. “Everything is going great. Thanks to you.”

“I’m glad,” Logan said. He got up off the couch. “I’ll get the trash bags.”

Miranda Fish grabbed a Rayovac she’d brought, along with a spray bottle of disinfectant, and a roll of paper towels. The two left twenty minutes later with a shit load of heroin, hoping they’d removed all traces of their visit.

***

Even though it cost nearly double the price of Walgreen’s generic version, Paul went for the Robitussin Extra-Strength DM in the largest possible size—twelve fluid ounces. DM stood for dextromorphan and the Robitussin had 30 mls of DM in each recommended dose.

He didn’t have a cough or a cold, just a strong desire for as much DM as possible. For some reason (maybe, he’d always wondered, for the same kinds of reasons wines had such varying tastes and effects—perhaps there was a terroir of DM recipes?), Robitussin was just better than any other DM-type cough syrup. Other name brands and even most generics all had a decent effect if he took enough, and lots of little DM-containing pills also had their various potencies and variations, but the Robitussin Extra Strength was the best and the fastest method to go all the way to Tussinland—a fucked-up place of intense euphoria and colorful, rhythmic hallucination.

It was just past eight on a Monday night in June 2012 at the Walgreen’s near the old Modesto downtown district on McHenry Avenue, the main drag that years before had inspired native George Lucas’ movie American Graffiti.

Modesto had recently become somewhat notorious for various bloody scandals, such as the murder of Laci Peterson by her husband Scott, the murder of native Sandra Levy while working in D.C. at the same time she was the mistress of local U.S. Congressman Gary Condit, and the finding on the street of the wallet of one of the four female murder victims of Cary Stayner—who wasn’t caught until he’d severed the head of a naturalist in nearby Yosemite National Park. Paul’d often wondered why the shit wasn’t spread more evenly around all the towns in California’s Central Valley. Why was it always Modesto?

He took the Robitussin to the counter and examined the clerk closely to make sure he hadn’t bought DM from her before. He’d recently gotten Coricidren DM at another Modesto Walgreens and the clerk scanned the bar code on his driver’s license. Not a good feeling. Still didn’t know what that was all about.

He stared at her name tag as she scanned the purchase: Dayna. She didn’t even glance at him until she grabbed his debit card.

He hated that, hated feeling like he wasn’t even worth looking at. Figured Dayna looked him in the eye briefly only because he’d held the card back for a moment, forcing her to reach for it. Surely Walgreens had some kind of rule or something, like: “Greet each customer with a pleasantry such as ‘hello’ or ‘how are you today?’ while also making a point to smile and look each of the assholes in the eyes.”

Something like that, for sure.

When she handed over the plastic bag, she smiled big and said, “Have a great evening!” This made him fell like an asshole. And she was pretty cute too.

It’d been a long shitty boring stupid day, like the last hundred or so. He looked forward to sitting around and watching TV with his mother, then spending some quality time in Tussinland before drifting off to a long-ass sleep.

When he got home, Mavis had started that night’s episode of The Bachelorette. She sat in her easy-chair, sipping vodka on the rocks and smoking a Virginia Slim. The place, as usual, was cold as a walk-in refrigerator because Mavis kept the AC cranked down to like 60 degrees all summer long. Also, as usual, it reeked of weed. Smoke still drifted out the top of the bong on the coffee table.

Emily Maynard and her bachelors were in London. Mavis rewound the show to the beginning and fast-forwarded through the commercials to get Paul caught up with the episode. Digital cable—one of the many joys of living with Mavis.

When Emily found out bachelor Kaylon had called her daughter Ricky “baggage,” she said she was going to go all “West Virginia” on him. Paul laughed when Kaylon admitted to what he said and refused to apologize, and Maynard said to him, “Then get the fuck out.”

“I thought she was from North Carolina,” Mavis said.

“Maybe that’s how North Carolina people talk when they’re trying to say they’re going to get all violent and mean. But, if that’s true, it’s kind of a dis on West Virginia.”

“I don’t like this side of her. Such a beautiful girl, though.”

After the Rose Ceremony, Paul grabbed some water and went to the hall bathroom to down his Robitussin. A serious, subtle, careful process. Had to get it all down (slowly, to prevent vomiting), and get into bed under the covers with the bedroom door locked and the lights out (and all the evidence hidden), before Tussinland really hit. Because once he entered, he was in another world and no longer had the motor or mental skills necessary to handle regular reality.

It took about an hour if he got the dosage right. Back when he first took large quantities of DM, he’d often miscalculate dosage, time, and place and wind up somewhere he was expected to act or communicate and be totally incapable. Once he sat in a locked car, parked alongside the 99 Freeway outside of Merced during evening rush hour, unable to drive or even move (he could barely see) for almost an hour while the entire world and all its colors and objects seemed to be pounding and flashing like a giant combination human heart beat and strobe light—terrified that at any second a police car would pull up and an officer straight out of Cops would tap on his window.

Another time he picked up his stepson Tyler at a Cub Scout meeting. As he walked down the steps to the basement, he lost all depth perception and could no longer walk without lifting and moving each of his legs with both hands. Tried to make it seem like he wanted to be silly for the kids, but no one laughed and he felt sure the other dads thought he was some kind of nut. Luckily, he managed to drive home that night, but he never again mixed DM and driving and children. At least on purpose.

Now, as long as Mavis didn’t need or want anything, he should be okay. He’d hidden the empty Robitussin bottle in its plastic Walgreens bag under the bed. In the morning, he’d throw it in some parking lot trash bin in a different part of town.

He made himself aware of the rising and falling of his abdomen as he breathed in and out. He waited. Felt nauseous and resisted the urge to vomit. Also tried to resist the urge to think. Still, as usual, his mind wandered to images of soon-to-be-latest ex-wife Tina in her tight jeans, nasty black boots, long brown hair, and AC/DC t-shirt dancing with that asshole used car salesmen slash drug dealer Mark Pisko at Nino’s that night when things became so fucking clear. Missed her so much and hated her so much and so fucking hoped to never see her again ever, which wasn’t easy since they only lived about a mile away. He avoided all her usual places. Especially since Pisko’d put out a restraining order against him for threatening to kill them both. Asshole had no sense of humor. Besides, there was no way Mark was afraid of him. Unlike Mark, Paul wasn’t a violent person, and Mark had to know that he intimidated the shit out of Paul. Dude just wanted to fuck with him because he could.

Out of habit, his right hand wandered down to his penis as he thought of Tina and her adulterous seductive dancing, but there was no erection as DM completely interfered with sexual stimulation. Made the mistake of thinking about Mavis and the four hundred dollars he owed her every month, but hadn’t paid for three months. Thought about the list of household projects Mavis kept demanding: lawn mowing and edging, tree pruning, watering. Fix the faucet, fix the ceiling fan, repair the patio roof, and on and on and on. Fuck! Why couldn’t she understand he still needed to recover from the slip and fall injury in the kitchen at Denny’s that fucked up his back? Plus, he was incompetent as a fix-it man, a fact to which all three of his exes would gladly testify.

He didn’t know why Mavis cared so much; bitch was rich as fuck. So rich she didn’t even need to live in her old house in the old neighborhood that got shittier and shittier every year.

He’d spent nearly all the workers’ comp money. After the lawyer took his cut (all expenses, then forty percent of what remained), he only netted nine grand. Had just under three left, but he was still unemployed and had alimony and child support in addition to the rent to Mavis (and it was a good thing Mavis paid the digital cable and the internet, and let him on her family plan for his iPhone).

His back was okay most of the time, but every once in a while—with no warning—it would seize up, preventing Paul from walking or standing or even sitting. This condition could last anywhere from a couple of seconds to several weeks. There was no telling.

Finally, things began to change. Thoughts of Tina and Mavis and household chores and money were gone—poof. He felt warm and fuzzy, mostly in his chest, neck, shoulders, face, and scalp. Noticed a rhythmic pattern of sound and light in the darkness of the room. Began to relax, become a little excited. Thrilled. (Finally.) Kept his eyes closed and saw patterns of shapes and colors. The patterns, the colors, and the shapes became more and more complex and more and more rapid. He let go. Surrendered to this new environment that was all in his brain, all behind his eyes.

Usually at this point, he’d begin to interact with certain entities that only existed in this state of mind. Like a veil lifted so he could see a world that was always there but could only be seen after ingesting just the right amount of DM. While very strange, it all seemed familiar and real. He never remembered any of it clearly afterwards (just that it was amazing and cool), but every time he went back in he thought, of course, this is it.

Tonight, though, just when things were supposed to get wonderful and freaky, he began to feel sick. The patterns and colors, instead of being fascinating and beautiful, seemed dark and sinister. Evil, even. He needed to vomit—quick.

He rushed to the hall bathroom. Saw Mavis’ face illuminated by the TV screen. She was watching Dateline (she saved all the crime and murder shows like Dateline and 20/20 and 48 Hours on her DVR queue and watched them over and over). It was one he’d already seen, about a husband and wife who preyed on other couples at vacation resorts, stealing their valuables and money after partying with them, before stabbing them to death. He got inside the door, locked it, and tried to vomit as quietly as possible. Soaking wet from sweat. It looked like the bathroom walls were breathing. He didn’t dare look in the mirror.

He kneeled on the carpeted floor in front of the toilet between each wave of sickness. These came again and again for what seemed like hours. He’d recently seen an episode of Two and a Half Men in which Charlie watched Alan vomit into the toilet and told him to put the seat down to give his forearms a place to rest. Paul tried it and was glad to find that it worked.

Just before Walgreens, Paul ate several servings of hot wings and fries along with a pitcher of Coca-Cola at Wing Stop, and now he could see bits and pieces of chicken meat and chicken skin floating in the toilet. Some of what came up seemed like it was not food, but pieces of organs or muscle. Some of it looked like grey pieces of paper. Over and over he saw mental images of himself bent over his food at Wing Stop eating eating eating and in his mind he looked like a huge slobbering pig with pig’s feet instead of hands, and a snout instead of a nose.

When there was no more to throw up and he’d had dry heaves for about ten minutes, he peeked outside the door. The TV was off, so Mavis had gone to bed. It was two a.m. He cleaned things up as best as he could and careened back to his bedroom.

Several hours passed. All he wanted to do was sleep. Had more disgusting visions—of himself, his ex-wives, his kids, his shrinking bank account. And jobs. (Fucking jobs.)

Just before five a.m. he drifted off, and dreamt of monsters and lizards and rivers of shit. Several minutes later he heard a banging banging banging at the front door screen. Decided that whatever it was would go away if he paid no attention to it.

Eventually, Mavis came to his door and banged on that. So, he got up and went with his mother to see what shitty thing waited for them on the porch.

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.

 

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