Sunday night, a group of writers convened in Greenwich Village, like their kind had many times before. Not at the Lion’s Head (it’s long gone) but at Shade, on Sullivan Street, a cozy corner snug where Big Daddy Thug- also known as Todd Robinson, editor of ThugLit and a fine writer himself- holds reign. He and Glenn Gray, the Doctor Demento of Noir- called on me and a cadre of New York area noir-tistes to shake down the house with hardboiled tales, and we packed the place, to the proprietor’s delight.
Taking the cue from Jed Ayres & Scott Phillips fantastically successful Noir at the Bar in St. Louis- which spawned one of the best story collections to come out last year- Todd & Glenn invited us to read, rub elbows and shoot the unholy shit. A great time was had by all, and with the weather keeping the pub’s shutters wide open, passersby peeked in and listened while we shot the place up with short hard tales and gripping excerpts from these square objects made of bound paper that we old folks call ‘books.’ Speaking of books, Glenn Gray raffled off copies of the original Noir at the Bar collection, Scott Phillips novel Rut, Lucius Shepard’s A Handbook of American Prayer, Todd raffled copies of the ThugLit collection Blood, Guts & Whiskey, and Jason Starr gave away copies of The Pack.
I was late thanks to this new atmospheric phenomenon known as ‘rain,’ which the public transportation systems of the New York tri-state area are still struggling to cope with. I missed Justin Porter reading his story “The Headstone,” but we did get to chat. We train with the same MMA animal, Phil Dunlap at Advanced Fighting Systems. From one look at Justin, he’d kick my monkey ass six ways to Sunday unless I sat on him first. I came in while Cindy Rosmus- editor of Yellow Mama- read a bloody tale involving puttanesca sauce, which made me hungry.
We had quite a lineup- Jason Starr read from his novel Tough Luck, which has been optioned as a feature film. A Brooklyn tale of a kid caught up with mobsters and bookies, this one looks like a winner. Jason’s second novel of The Pack, entitled The Craving, hit the streets today. If you’re looking for a gripping take on the werewolf tale, look no further.
Next up was Jonathan Hayes, reading from his novel A Hard Death. I went home and ordered it. He reads the opening scene, where a kid biking along the Everglades runs into two bad men, and my beer went warm in my hand as I paused to listen to it. If you know me, you know I can give no higher praise.
Wallace Stroby read a poem of his that appeared in The Lineup, the crime poetry site; he has a followup to A Cold Shot to the Heart out, entitled The Kings of Midnight, starring Crissa Stone, whom Kirkus Reviews called “crime fiction’s best bad girl ever.” Matt Melitta, an Iraq vet and journalist, read a chilling excerpt of a novel in progress, about a soldier recovering from a comrade’s suicide. I hope we get to read the rest soon.
Todd Robbins- no relation- and author of The Modern Con Man, read several excerpts of his book on the grift, all good stuff. Who doesn’t love a good con? Jen Conley read her fantastic story of Metalhead Marty in Love, which really brought me back to my high school days. You’ve read her in Shotgun Honey, Needle, and Beat to a Pulp, where my favorite tale of hers, “Cannibals,” appears.
I read my story “Black-Eyed Susan,” which first appeared in Aldo Cacagno’s Powderburn Flash, then Johnny Shaw brought down the house with his hilarious homage to the men’s adventure tales of the ’70s, Chingón: The World’s Deadliest Mexican. If you liked Machete, you can read that at Blood & Tacos. He kindly gave me an ARC of his next novel, Big Maria, which sounds even wilder and more fun than his first, Dove Season. I loved that one, and I look forward to reading this one.
Todd finished up the night, and it took serious cojones to follow Johnny, but Todd knocked it out of the park. Todd just released a short story collection, Dirty Words, and I suggest you check it out. Todd crafts down dirty noir tales that capture New York blue collar fatalism and riddle it with humor, and often, gunfire. Great stuff.