Shockwave by Andrew Vachss


Fans of Burke should know that Andrew Vachss has two new series- the hardboiled Cross and Crew books (Blackjack, Urban Renewal) and the newer Aftershock series,  in which Dell and Dolly–a Legionnaire and a nurse with Medecins Sans Frontieres--make a new life in a bucolic Pacific northwest town with a seamy underbelly and a feckless D.A. In Aftershock, Dell and Dolly had to do the DA’s work for him vs. a serial rape group; in Shockwave, the latest, they help a homeless schizophrenic after he’s arrested for a crime he couldn’t possibly have accomplished, the execution-style murder of a white supremacist bootboy. 

Dell and Dolly needed rest from their battlefield lives but can’t keep from doing what they do best. One healing, the other blending into the “jungle” to eliminate the enemy and protect his chosen comrades. Real and unforgettable characters in a domestic life that operates like a resistance cell, rooting out the invaders in their midst.  I enjoyed both these books for the home life of two warriors recovering from damage to their souls, and for the frank look at how the criminal justice system cherry-picks cases, whether they be sexual assault or murder. Part thriller, part investigative journalism, all hard-hitting fiction, as you’d expect from Vachss.

Click here to read an excerpt, and here to pre-order.


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Bury the Hatchet

When Jay Desmarteaux walked out the gates of Rahway Prison, the sun hit his face like air on a fresh wound. The breeze smelled different, charged somehow. He had spent twenty-five years as a monk locked inside a dank Shaolin temple dedicated to violence and human predation, while the men who put him there lived free from fear.

Men who needed killing.

For the rest, you’ll have to wait until I find an agent and a publisher.

Onto the next novel, a boozy caper about craft beer, decrepit old bars, Bon Scott’s secret lyric notebook, Nazis, cat farts, and hipster invasions.


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This Be the Verse

This Be The Verse

By Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

This poem lures you in with profanity gleeful cynicism, but loses steam like a childish rant; by the end we see that blaming all our problems on our progenitors makes self-extinction the only proper solution, taken to its logical extreme. It’s difficult to steer out of the ruts they’ve carved in the road for us. It’s easier to say “I turned out all right,” and hand it down. Or to cop out and not have any kids yourself, perhaps out of fear or spite. Larkin packs a lot into this little poem. Which is what the best poetry can do. Distill an epic saga into a few paragraphs, or the whole history of humanity.

Rachel Hadas, my poetry teacher at Rutgers (and a fine poet in her own right) introduced me to this one. She tolerated my bombastic and colorful poems, written before I had a clear vision of what I was actually trying to say. Thankfully they are buried on a hard drive somewhere, never to see the light of day. One you can read is over at Gerald So’s excellent Crime Poetry site, The 5-2.

It’s called “Just Ice,” and whatever resonance it may have is owed to Gerald’s patience and skill as an editor. Some of the best hardboiled fiction, or minimalism—whatever you want to call the hard-edged grit song that rose from ashes of the Great War through Hammett, Hemingway, Jim Tully, and others—has the ring of poetry, and Gerald writes and curates some fine modern verse that keeps that song alive.


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Suing to Protect Rape Culture

I wrote an article about the Department of Justice’s investigation of the Missoula Prosecutor’s Office, where it found bias against victims of sexual assault, and the office’s response- suing the DOJ.

Suing to Protect Rape Culture


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Available now: Hoods, Hot-Rods, and Hellcats

My father used to race his ’53 flathead Ford back in the day, and I built an impressive mythology in my childhood mind after learning that. Part of that went into my entry for Chad Eagleton’s swell collection of ’50s-era crime fiction, Hoods, Hot-Rods, and Hellcats.

My story is called “Red Hot,” novella length hardscrabble blue-collar fiction in the vein of Hubert Selby, Jr. and set in the class struggle of northern New Jersey, between the “Nickie Newarks” and the upscale Bergen county folks across the river, races between super Studebakers and rich boy ‘Vettes, a love story between a mechanic who’s gotten the short end all his life and a woman done bad by her kin rescuing each other until a figure from his past threatens to blow it all apart. It’s one of the stories I’m most proud of, and having it in this excellent collection makes me even prouder.

The only place to get “Red Hot” is in Hoods, Hot-Rods, and Hellcats. Available on Kindle for a mere dollar–a steal if there ever was one–and under seven bones for the beautiful trade paperback. It includes a searing introduction by rock legend Mick Farren, may he rest in peace, and powerful fiction by Chad Eagleton, Matthew Funk, Christopher Grant, David James Keaton, Eric Beetner, Nik Korpon, and Heath Lowrance.

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Tommy Gun

I’m not half bad with a Chicago typewriter.

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March 21, 2014 · 9:43 am

Jungle Red! Lipstick, Adventure, and a Chance to Win

I was just jawing with Julia-Spencer Fleming about what a great book title “Jungle Red” would be, and how come no one’s written it yet? Everyone uses song titles, album titles, snippets of poetry… I think lipstick colors are neglected. Cherries in the Snow? Monaco Glaze. Silver City Pink. They all sound like thriller titles to me.

Anyway, I don’t talk lipstick over at Jungle Red Writers today. I crack my whip and talk about adventure tales and treasured swords. Drop on by and leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of BLADE OF DISHONOR.


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